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Scriptures, as vouchers for his doctrine ; and they who could not decide upon the merits of the controversy, were witnesses of the effects of his labours; and they judged of the tree by its fruit. It is true he did not succeed much in the higher walks of life ; but that impeached his cause no more than it did the first planters of the Gospel. However, if he had been capable of assuming vanity on that score, he might rank among his friends some persons of the first distinction, who would have done honour to any party. After surviving almost all his adversaries, and
. acquiring respect among those who were the most distant from his principles, he lived to see the plant he had reared spreading its branches far and wide, and inviting not only these kingdoms, but the Western world, to repose under its shade.—No people, since the first ages of Christianity, could boast a founder of such extensive talents and endowments.
a If he had been a candidate for literary fame, he might have succeeded to his utmost wishes; but he sought not the praise of man; he regarded learning only as the instrument of usefulness. The great purpose of his life was doing good. For this he relinquished all honour and preferment; to this he dedicated all the powers of body and mind; at all times and in all places, in season and out of season, by gentleness, terror, by argument, by persuasion, by reason, by interest, by every motive and every inducement, he strove with unwearied assiduity to turn men from the error of their ways, and awaken them to virtue and religion. To the bed of sickness, or the couch of prosperity; to the prison, the hospital, the house of mourning, or the house of feasting ; wherever there was a friend to serve, or a soul to save ; he readily repaired to administer assistance or advice, reproof or consolation. He thought no office too humiliating, no condescension too low, no undertaking too arduous, to reclaim the meanest of God's offspring. The souls of all men were equally precious in his sight, and the value of an immortal creature beyond all estimation. He penetrated the abodes of wretchedness and ignorance to rescue the profligate from perdition. He communicated the light of life to those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death. He changed the outcasts of society into useful members ; civilized even savages ; and filled those lips with prayer and
praise that had been accustomed only to oaths and imprecations. But as the strongest religious impressions are apt to become languid, without discipline and practice, he divided his people into classes and bands, according to their attainments. He appointed frequent meetings for prayer and conversation, where they gave an account of their experience, their hopes and fears, their joys and troubles ; by which means they were united to each other and to their common profession. They became sentinels upon each other's conduct, and securities for each other's character. Thus the seeds he sowed sprang up and flourished, bearing the rich fruits of every grace and virtue. Thus he governed and preserved his numerous societies, watching their improvement with a paternal care, and encouraging them to be faithful to the end.
“ But I will not attempt to draw his full character, nor to estimate the extent of his labours and services. They will be best known when he shall finally deliver up his commission into the hands of his great Master."
I shall conclude this part of the review with the following beautiful picture of our honoured father, drawn by his friend Mr. Kạox, whom I
have already mentioned. I the more willingly present it to my readers, as it confirms some particulars which I have related, and happily expresses others which I have omitted :
“ Very lately* I had an opportunity, for some days together, of observing Mr. Wesley with attention. I endeavoured to consider him, not so much with the eye of a friend, as with the impartiality of a philosopher; and I must declare, every hour I spent in his company afforded me fresh reasons for esteem and veneration. So fine an old man I never saw! The happiness of his mind beamed forth in his countenance : every look showed how fully he enjoyed
The gay remembrance of a life well spent. Wherever he went he diffused a portion of his own felicity. Easy and affable in his demeanour, he accommodated himself to every sort of company; and showed how happily the most finished courtesy may be blended with the most perfect piety. In his conversation, we might be at a loss whether to admire most his fine classical taste, extensive knowledge of men and things, or his overflowing goodness of heart. While the
grave and serious were charmed with his wisdom, his sportive sallies of innocent mirth delighted even the young and thoughtless ; and both saw in his uninterrupted cheerfulness the excellency of true religion. No cynical remarks on the levity of youth embittered his discourses. No applausive retrospect to past times marked his present discontent. In him even old age appeared delightful, like an evening without a cloud ; and it was impossible to observe him without wishing fervently, · May my latter end be like his !!
• But I find myself unequal to the task of delineating such a character. What I have said may to some appear as panegyric; but there are numbers, and those of taste and discernment too, who can bear witness to the truth, though by no means to the perfectness, of the sketch I have attempted. With such I have been frequently in his company;
every one of them, I am persuaded, would subscribe to all I have said. For my own part, I never was so happy as while with him, and scarcely ever felt more poignant regret than at parting from him; for well I knew,
• I ne'er should look upon his like again!"" It was a sage remark of a Heathen, “ Count no man happy till you know his end.” With the Gospel of God our Saviour before us, we ay nevertheless infer, that to begin well affords the highest prospect of a happy termination. Mr. Wesley took very high ground when in early youth, as he informs us, the resolved to dedicate all his life to God; all his thoughts, and words, and actions ; being thoroughly convinced there was no medium ; but that every part of his life, (not some only,) must either be a sacrifice to God, or to himself,—that is, in effect, to the devil. How strange must such a character appear to the world ! Yet who can deny, that wherever it is found, it is the greatest under the sun ? How truly great is he, who, in such a world as this, ' lives not according to the desires of men, but to the will of God!' And how perfectly rational is such a determination! Can any man be truly accounted wise who lives not for eternity ? Or is any man so great a fool as he who fools away his soul ? We have considered that whole life; we have traced it from infancy
* In the year 1789. ^ See vol. i, page 95.
to the grave; long protracted, and astonishingly filled up; and may we not take, without fear, as strong ground on our part, and ask where is the deviation from the path so prescribed ? Where is the period in which he was left to himself, or in which we have seen him an unfaithful servant ? His enemies themselves being the judges, no blot remains upon his moral character; and in any attempts which they have made to lessen him in the esteem of men, they have been obliged to disobey the precept of our Lord, Matt. vii, 1, · Judge not, that ye be not judged ;' and to disregard what he allows in the same chapter, viz., . By their fruits ye shall know them. They have been thus obliged to judge his spirit, and to ascribe motives to such labours, privations, and sufferings, as are utterly at variance not only with Christian charity, but with reason and philosophy
Some writers, who could think deeply and write well on other subjects, have gravitated when speaking of Mr. Wesley, and have adopted the most common and uncultivated notions. They seem not to have been able to account for such exertions, so long continued, upon any higher principle than the gentleman in Ireland, that listened politely to a lady, who rather disturbed the hilarity of a large company by speaking of the great labours of Mr. Wesley, (then travelling through the kingdom,) and was concluding with a warm opinion of his disinterestedness; but he could hold no longer. “ Dear madam,” said he, "you spoil all! You would make him out a fool. We all know, Mr. Wesley is a great man,-a gentleman, a scholar, a philanthropist,-a very great man. But, depend upon it, he knows what he is about. Wait and see. Disin. terestedness! No, madam ; you may be certain he is no such fool !”. The company seemed to acquiesce in this sage remark. The gentleman was one of those who know the world.
We have waited the great teacher--death, and we have seen the fool for Christ's sake' finish his course. We have seen the consolations of God rest upon his dying servant, and giving him anticipations of glory, who left not behind him what would defray the expenses of his very plain funeral !
His God supports him in his final hour !
His final hour brings glory to his God! But these anticipations of glory-can these be explained away? We suppose, the attempt might be made by the ignorant, or the most careless minds. Alas! a learned and philosophical man, and who seemed to
. have a real respect for religion, after reading the twopenny tract, giving an account of Mr. Wesley's happy death, exclaimed to the person who put that tract into his hand, “ Well, this is the most astonishing instance that ever I knew of the power of habit! Here is a man who has been threescore years praying, preaching, and singing psalms, and, behold! he thinks of nothing else when he is dying !"- Risum teneatis, amici ? No, my friends ; we must not laugh, but rather weep and say, Poor human nature ! Poor, indeed, in its most imposing forms !
We have seen the struggles of this servant of God against the corruptions of his nature, else we should not have credited the victory which he obtained; and, perhaps, we should have seen them more largely detailed, if we had all his Journals. Mrs. Wesley carried off a considerable part of them.- If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we deny the disease, the remedy cannot
be applied. The same may be said , of the people raised up by his labours. The world find some relief in crying out for a spotless church. They think they are wise in rejecting any other. They may see, if they please, such a church in the Acts of the Apostles, chap. ii and iv. But we have never seen it since that day. Yet, the gates of hell have not prevailed. Those who belicve, and are thus conformed to the Son of God,' are still saved according to that standard. It would be very delightful to have them all thus strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might;' and that great grace should rest upon them all. But it is impossible that even such a church should continue to have only such members : For those, whose · faith thus worketh by love,' must strive to save others ; and, as soon as any have a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins,” they must receive them, and bear with all their ignorance, obstinacy, unbelief of heart, worldly mindedness, and evil tempers ; and never thrust them out till it is plainly seen, that they have turned back to perdition.
Here is the great, the divine work of a minister of Christ! And, hence, we see the absolute necessity of Christian discipline. “The soul and the body," said one of the fathers, “ make a man.
The spirit and the discipline make a Christian." There are times of pulling down, and there are times of building up. Mr. Wesley was appointed to pull down ungodly formality, and to found THE FAITH ; but Christian discipline must preserve it. Without this, we realize the old saying, “ Like priest, like people !" How great the duty, how awful the responsibility, of a minister of Christ !
The people of God have fellowship one with another : There can be no discipline where there is no such fellowship. What a butt for the ridicule, and even for the invectives of the world, has the fellowship of the Methodists been! Yet, there is no church, that has any pretension to be called Scriptural, that has not attempted something of the kind, or lamented the want of it. Hence, “ Christian congregations," as Mr. Wesley observes in his letter to Mr. Perronet, “ are a mere rope of sand." The serious reader will see the necessity of the members of a Christian church having this mutual help, that reproof, edification, and correction in righteousness,' may be administered to all : That
speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ ;' from whom the whole body, joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every member, maketh an increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love.'
The Reverend William Jowett, in his “ Christian Researches in the Mediterranean," published and recommended by the Church Missionary Society, has some excellent thoughts applicable to this subject.
“When,” says that pious and laborious minister, "we come into these countries, (the remains of the Greek empire in Europe,] we are forcibly led by what we see, and often by what we hear, to reconsider matters, which, at home, we took for established opinions. This should be done with candour, humility, and a patient spirit ; otherwise, we cannot expect, that the Spirit of God should lead to that wisdom which is from above,-first pure, then peaceable. There is no extreme of rigid bigotry on the one hand, or of lax and undisciplined liberty of thought on the other, into which Satan is not permitted to beguile specuVOL. II.
lative, curious, secular, and factious spirits: See Ephes. iv, 14; while the promise, in the words of the Psalmist, is, 'The meek he will guide in judgment: the meek will he teach his way.'
"You ask me, What is your opinion of the origin of auricular confession, which the Greek Church practises? Is it not an act of great humility? Is not commanded by our Saviour, and his Apostle James, in this sense?—In the primitive times of the Christian Church, when the members of it were few in number, united one to another by the common bonds of affection within, and sufferings without, the sin of one individual was sensibly felt as a matter of pain and scandal to all. Confession and some kind of penance were then required in the presence of the whole body of the particular church where the offence occurred. Traces of this appear in the Corinthian Church: See 1 Cor. v; 2 Cor. ii and vii. This kind of discipline is alluded to in the Preface to the Commination-Service of the Church of England; and where the members of a church are, indeed, in a spiritual manner, ‘knit together in love,' such discipline appears truly wholesome.
"It was in the fifth century that, on account of the weakness and corruption of the Church, Pope Leo Magnus gave permission to disuse the practice of public confession, and to confess to one priest; of so late a date appears to be the origin of auricular confession, which was afterwards made a Sacrament! By what strains upon texts of Scripture attempts have been made to support these tenets, I need not here explain.
"The celebrated passage in St. James's Epistle, ch. v, 16, seems to me to afford no support whatever to auricular confession, considered as a system. 'Confess your faults one to another,' implies mutual confession. But this auricular system makes confession flow all one way. Mutual confession implies that the persons among whom it is performed, are like-minded' respecting the subject of sin,-its real nature,—its hatefulness, its burden. In some situations, a man [thus impressed] may be alone. This duty, in such a case, ceases, in the very nature
"With regard to the benefit of this practice, it may be viewed in the following lights-1. It gives a taste to the loathsomeness of sin. If confession of it to our fellow sinners be so bitter, what must its nature be in the sight of a holy God?-2. It [confession] may operate in making useful the mischief which sin does to society.-3. Confession, accompanied with mutual prayer, has a special promise. (James v, 16.) -Another benefit is that of godly counsel, [suited] to the case of the sinner, together with the application of the promises, through Christ."
Such is the confession in a well regulated church, consisting of those who have believed the word,-who desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins. Such a church or society is that established by Mr. Wesley.
Mr. Wesley informed me, that some years after the commencement of this work of God, a pious minister of the Church of England, who admired the discipline of the Methodists, thought he would try to institute something similar to it in his parish. He accordingly convened the principal inhabitants; and, after laying his views and fears before them, proposed that they should thus meet together, and advise and pray for one another. The parishioners, who had come together with some