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fear lest the meeting called should be concerning something that might affect their temporal interests, heard the proposal with not a little surprise; and the well meaning pastor was obliged to dismiss them without obtaining a promise of compliance from any one of the assembly.
Some time after, meeting with one of our society whom he knew, he expressed his painful disappointment, and asked with much feeling, “0! where did Mr. Wesley find such a people, who are thus willing to act as he advises ?"_“You are mistaken, Sir,” said his friend; “ Mr. Wesley did not find them: He made them, or rather God by him. You must do the same. You must preach as he does. You must show them their true condition, and their danger of eternal perdition. Those who believe your word will receive every Scriptural advice you may be disposed to give them.”
Mr. Jowett's statement will satisfy every reader who desires to know the mind of the Lord concerning his Church, that Christian discipline is essential to it. But will any submit to it who do not come under the law to Christ ?' Legal coercion, whether Papal or Protestant, is out of the question with every Bible Christian. The true mark, therefore, of a Church of Christ is, the members having this willing fellowship one with another, -all being under the law to Christ,' as a rule of life, both personal and collective ; and the discipline necessary to this, being executed in love, and without respect of persons.
But a higher and more intimate fellowship belongs to those who have like precious faith,--the one true faith of the Gospel, and which is emipently the gift of God. As all who receive this are devoted not only in life, but in heart; so they feel what that high Apostolic precept means : Having purified your souls, by obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with
pure hearts fervently.' This love is founded on the love of God,' which comes only by faith. •We love him, says St. John, because he first loved us.' This unfeigned love issues in a confidence which the world knows not of. Our Lord's intercessory prayer, John xvii, 20, 21, • That they may all be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world
believe that thou hast sent me,' has this high consummation of the life of faith in view. The world will never truly believe till they see this love, and consequently this oneness.
Mr. Wesley, as he felt the power of this faith and love, so he discerned it in others. Accordingly, he appointed that higher mean of this sacred fellowship, which is called meeting in band.” Where this faith is not found, this mean cannot be used to any spiritual profit. Where the faith is given, this help will be found edifying beyond all calculation : and, from the experience which I have had in the work of God, I most sincerely doubt, if any believer ever knew, and yet neglected this precious help, without the loss of the first love, Revelations ii, 4, being the consequence.
Unless this love be recovered, verse 5, perfect love,' the great preparation for the day of judgment, i John iv, 17, cannot be attained. We need not wonder, therefore, at so many that once run well, having become as 'salt without savour.'
Those who lived in the enjoyment of this faith, Mr. Wesley observes in his letter to Mr. Perronet, already mentioned, “had still to wrestle both with flesh and blood, and with principalities and powers ;'
, so that temptations were on every side ; and often temptations of such a kind as they knew not how to speak of in a class ; in which persons of every kind, young and old, men and women, met together.”
- These, therefore,” he observes, “ wanted some means of closer union : They wanted to pour out their hearts without reserve, particularly with regard to the sin which did still easily beset them, and the temptations which were most apt to prevail over them: And they were the more desirous of this when they observed it was the express advice of an inspired writer, · Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed.'
“ In compliance with their desire, I divided them into smaller companies ; putting the married or single men, and the married or single women, together. The rules of these bands, (i. e. little companies, so that old English word signifies,) run thus :--That they were to speak each in order, freely and plainly, the true state of their souls; with the faults of which they are conscious, in thought, word, or deed; and the temptations they have felt since the last meeting. The leader of the band was to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning sins, and temptations."
The dignified author of “ The Enthusiasm of the Methodists and Papists compared," with his usual ingenuity, terms this fellowship of believers “a private confession ;” and cries out, no doubt with holy indignation, “ What a scene is hereby disclosed! What a filihy jakes opened, when the most searching questions are answered without reserve !”—“Hold, Sir,” says Mr. Wesley in his reply, “ unless you are answering for yourself. This undoubtedly you have a right to do. You can tell best what is in your own heart ; and I cannot deny what you say.
may be a very filthy jakes for aught I know. But pray do not measure others by yourself. The hearts of believers are 'purified through faith. When these open their hearts to each other, there is no such scene disclosed. Yet temptations to pride or desire, of various kinds ; to self-will; to unbelief in many instances, they often feel in themselves, (whether they give any place to them or no,) and occasionally disclose to their brethren.”
Concerning the filthy jakes his Lordship seems to have been a competent judge : And so far he was sound in the faith. We may well believe, that he subscribed, ex animo, to the ninth article of the church, viz., of original or birth sin; and that, “ in every person born into the world,” this filthy jakes " deserves God's wrath and damnation.” But how to be delivered from it, appears from his whole book to have been a difficulty with the worthy Bishop. Would he say with Horace, (who had some notion of the jakes, according to his well known saying, Nemo vitiis sine nascitur, *) that “ length of time, the advice of friends, and my own reason, will effect a cure?” This might do with Jupiter, who seems to have been a god after the poet's own heart. But, could the Bishop believe that this process, even if the Father of mercies' should grant to him length of days, salutary advice, and the best rational powers, with all the rites of the church assisting, would conform him to the image of the Son of God ?' But we may hope, he considered the subject more maturely during the day graciously afforded him. I think we may thus hope ; for his mind seems to have been much changed respecting Mr. Wesley. In one of his visits to Exeter, several years after, the Bishop invited him to dine at the palace, where, in the presence of several of his clergy, he treated him with the greatest attention and respect.
* No man is born without vicious propersities.
Perhaps he also thought more seriously of those high descriptions of the life of faith, which he often read in the communion service : That “ those who spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood, dwell in Christ, and Christ in them : That they are one with Christ, and Christ with them !” He might perhaps also consider what the church says of "the godly consideration of our election in Christ,” as believers, " who are called according to God's purpose, by his Spirit working in due season : They, through grace, obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption ; they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity. That such as thus feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members, and drawing up their minds to high and heavenly things, as it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation, to be enjoyed through Christ, so it doth fervently kindle their love towards God. Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture. And, in our doings, that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared to us in the word of God."
Perhaps this admirable conclusion, so decisive of the whole doctrine laid down in the seventeenth article, might have led the Bishop to a more diligent study of his Bible : And it is not impossible that he might imbibe some fear, lest the poetical account of his work, by my friend Mr. Roberts,* was conclusive against him.
He might thus be prepared to hear the church, speaking by its most pious and learned ministers. He would see what they say concerning confession, notwithstanding all their zeal against the Church of Rome.
-In. the homily on repentance, it is said, “We ought to confess our weakness and infirmities,” (the infirmity of our faith in this conflict, and our need of being made strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,') “ to the end that, knowing each other's frailness, we may the more earnestly pray together to Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, that he will vouchsafe to pardon us our infirmities, for his Son Jesus Christ's sake.”
The excellent Bishop Taylor might also have helped him to discover his grievous error and fault, in thus ridiculing before an ungodly world, one of the most blessed means of combating, and being cleansed from, that filthy jakes of human corruption. That pious prelate not only enjoins the practice, but directs, that it should be much more explicit than the rules of the bands, drawn up by Mr. Wesley, require. In the Bishop's edifying book of Holy Living, chap. 2, sect. 4, he says, “To the same purpose
it is of great use, that he who would preserve his humility should choose some spiritual person,” (how much better if it were five or six, the usual number of the band !) “ to whom he shall oblige himself to discover his very thoughts and fancies, every act of his, and all his intercourse with others, in which there is danger; that, by such an
* See the preface, page 14.
openness of spirit, he may expose every blast of vain-glory, every idle thought, to be chastened and lessoned by the rod of spiritual discipline; and he that shall find himself tied to confess every proud thought, every vanity of his spirit, will also perceive that they must not dwell with him,
kindness from him.” Mr. Wesley used to say of the Methodist societies, alluding to St. Paul's account of the apostolic church,
Ephes. iv, “ The classes are the sinews ; the bands are the nerves." The solid parts of the body seem unimpaired ; and (by our trustees knowing their high duty and sacred responsibility) to have acquired greater solidity.
Our sinews seem also to have increased in strength ; and all are zealous to do good to all men ; but our nervous system seems to be much weakened. Life is not transmitted as it used to be ; and who can undertake for this ? We can do much towards • lengthening our cords and strengthening our stakes ;' but who can repair the waste of spiritual life? When Mr. Wesley found any society in a declining state, he usually noted in his journal, as a prominent cause, that “the bands had crumbled to pieces." Being impressed with this, he at one time sent a circular letter to all the Preachers, declaring, that in his next tour he would visit only those places where there were bands ; adding, “ for they only are Methodist societies.” This roused many to remember the happy times of mutual aid, whereby they were strengthened to “cast the world and Aesh behind,”—' to leave the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and to go on to perfection. He had comfort in meeting those who thus set out afresh, and rejoiced in the appearance of renewed life and vigour. It
may be thought that Mr. Wesley's declaration, that where there are no bands there is no true Methodism, is only an instance of his usual strong way of speaking ; but it is a sober truth. If the reader will turn to vol. i, page 320, he will find that the bands were the first in order in the Methodist fellowship. When the Lord afterwards thrust out his servants into the highways and hedges, and thus gathered together the halt and the blind, who desired to be made whole,' the classes were established, not only to teach, but to inquire and examine if the people walked according to the Gospel : Vol. i, page 321. When any • knew the Lord, (in the only way in which a sinner can know him,) as being merciful to their unrighteousness, and remembering their sins no more, then the bands were appointed to keep up the original design, that those who thus believed might be cleansed from all unrighteousness.'
Now, if those who thus . come to the knowledge of the truth' will still be found only among the catechumens, can we wonder if many should * lose the things which they have wrought, and not receive a full reward ?" Or ought we to be surprised if they should be found, like some in the days of the Apostle, “ever learning, yet never coming to the knowledge,' or the enjoyment, of the truth? Or if they should need to be taught again the first principles of the oracles of God: And who can effectually help them, if they should be thus content to walk in a circle, and never press
to the mark of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus ?' Yet what an invaluable blessing have the classes been to the Methodist societies! By this a hedge is formed about those who begin to
inquire their way to Zion,' and a fellowship obtained, that greatly helps to preserve them from turning back to the ungodly fellowship of the world. What a defence has it provided for those who have not yet
root in themselves,' and who might otherwise become a prey to those who inculcate the pernicious principles of modern infidelity! We have seen its salutary effects for many years. Could the ploughshare of destruction have passed through the continent, and have made it a field of blood,' if the truth as it is in Jesus' had been taught, and if the discipline of the Lord had preserved those who believed it ?
When the almost prophetic voice, contained in that wonderful publication, King's Morsels of Criticism, came forth in the year 1788, the year before the French Revolution broke out,--and which was so strikingly fulfilled in that abomination of desolation' wherewith the Lord visited the unfaithful professors of his holy and peaceful religion, -could any thing but true Christianity, both in its doctrine and discipline, have withstood the threatening ruin? Commenting on the twentyfourth chapter of St. Matthew, the twenty-ninth verse, that extraordinary writer says, “ If the words are spoken emblematically, then the images made use of are such as are well known to predict (consistently with their constant use in many other parts of prophecy,) a great destruction, and almost annihilation, of many of those lawful powers that at present rule on the earth, however beneficial any of them may be to the world ; and a dreadful lessening of the dignity and splendour of all greatness, and a subversion of all good order and of civil government; than which nothing can be expected more formidable.
“ Nevertheless, this conclusion is only too consistent with a similar intimation given to us in the book of Revelation, concerning the times immediately preceding the coming of our Lord. For therein we are informed, Rey. xvi, 21, that “a great hail, every hailstone about the weight of a talent, falleth out of heaven upon the men; and the men blasphemed God, because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof is exceeding great.'
“ Dreadful, indeed, must be a time, (if such a one is to come,) when men are let loose upon each other, possessed of all their present artificial improvements and advantages; but unrestrained either by law or principle ; scorning the admonitions and authority of those who ought to maintain justice ; and assisted by the more rude and barbarous parts of the world, whom they may find too ready to increase the universal uproar.”
What a picture is here given us of what really happened in that awful misrule, on account of which Europe smarts to this day! Can those who may be disposed to dispute the critical propriety of the commentary, deny the awful fulfilment ? Now, what preserved our nation in that day of rebuke and blasphemy ?' That the Lord had, in his gracious providence, given us much advantage by the Revolution of 1688, by which the nation was delivered from Popery and arbitrary power, just one hundred years before, I joyfully grant. But if our population had been found like that in France, or even like what it was in 1738, (see vol. i, pages 252, 253,) could even our admirable Constitution have saved us? What our great poet says of the tempestuous waves, may be said of the madness of the people,
What care these roarers for the name of king? But the roarings were checked, or a bulwark raised against them, not by the nobility or gentry,-(they were the object of their fury, and