Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

it a pity that a man of so excellent a character should lie hid under a heap of rubbish, which envy had thrown upon him. A part of this rubbish, at least, I have removed, and he will again stand forward to the view of the public. I doubt not but his friends will recognize him in the following sheets; and I hope will be introduced to his company with pleasure and profit.

As the Life of Mr. John Wesley comprehends a great variety of subjects, on which men think very differently, it cannot be expected that it should be so written, as to obtain universal approbation. But my leading object in writing this Life, has not been, either general approbation or profit; but truly and fairly to delineate Mr. Wesley's character, in doing which, I hoped to promote religion and virtuc.

I return my warmest thanks to those persons who have communicated to me any private papers or letters, that were in their possession; and also to those who have assisted me in the present work, by their advice. In the carly part of Mr. John Wesley's Life, I have made use of the original papers relating to him, published by Dr. Priestley. His collection alone is defective; and so was that in my possession, without his. Dr. Priestley tells us in his preface, “The following letters were given to me by the late Mr. Badcock, as great curiosities of their kind, with a view to their publication after the death of Mr. John Wesley. They were given to him by the grand-daughter of Mr. Samuel Wesley, the eldest brother of John, and I believe with the same view. Mr. John Wesley, as I learned from Mr. Badcock, was very desirous of getting these letters into his possession, but the daughter and grand-daughter of Mr. Samuel, being offended at his conduct, would never deliver them to him.” Thus far Dr. Priestley. I am not at all disposed to call Dr. Priestley's veracity question, but it appears to me there is some mystery in the affair, which I wish to see removed, and which is the reason of bringing the matter forward. Mr. Badcock wrote to Mr. Wesley on the subject of his brother Samuel's manuscripts, and at the same time sent him one, which he had obtained. His letter is dated South-Moulton, Devonshire, April 22, 1780; and the part of it that relates to the manuscripts, is as follows: " Rev. Sir,

"The MS. which accompanies this address, will, I doubt not, carry its own authenticity with it, to you. It fell into my hands some time since, by means of the departure of Mr. Mansell, for Ireland, on account of debts contracted at Barnstaple. This person married a daughter of your niece, Mrs. Earle. They both died soon after he absconded. Of these particulars, it is likely you are not ignorant. A gentleman of Barnstaple, was for some time in possession of the books and MSS. Many of them were sold : and others, together with some papers of a family nature, were sent to Mansell; who, if I mistake not, lives with his mother, at or near Dublin.

“I have seen some other MSS. of your mother's; and wish I could have secured them for you. I think they have much intrinsic excellence : and to a son, they must be doubly acceptable. If I should have it in my power to get more of these papers, I will take care to send them to you."

The attentive reader will perceive, that these two accounts, not only differ, but in one instance flatly contradict each other. After Mr. Bad. cock's letter, there certainly was a fault somewhere in Dr. Priestley's obtaining possession of the manuscripts; but where the fault lay, I do not pretend to determine.

!

THE

LIFE OF THE REV. JOHN WESLEY.

BOOK FIRST.

CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAMILY.

CHAPTER I.

Of his Great Grandfather, and Grandfather Wesley.

So far as we can trace back any account of the family, Mr. Wesley's ancestors appear respectable for learning, conspicuous for piety, and firmly attached to those views of Christianity which they had formed from the sacred Scriptures. Bartholomew Wesley, his great grandfather, was educated in one of our universities, and afterwards held the living of Allington in Dorsetshire. When the act of uniformity took place in 1662, he was ejected from his living, and enrolled on the list of fame with those illustrious names, who chose rather to suffer the loss of all things than violate conscience. If we judge from the circumstances of the nation, and the temper of the people at this time, we shall be led to conclude, that the act of uniformity originated with a party; that it was founded in revenge, and had cruelty and oppression for its object. It was however, the means under God, of raising up a cloud of witnesses, who testified to the world by their sufferings, that religion is not a mere engine of the state, but something real, in comparison of which those who feel its influence count all other things but dung and dross. While in the university, Mr. Wesley had applied himself to the study of physic as well as divinity; a practice which had been frequent, and not then fallen wholly into disuse. He was often consulted as a physician while he held his living, and after his ejectment applied himself chiefly to the practice of physic, though he still preached occasionally. It is said that he used a peculiar plainness of speech, which hindered him from becoming a popular preacher. He lived several years after he was silenced; but the death of his son, John Wesley, of whom I shall next speak, affected him so much, that he afterwards declined apace, and did not long survive him.*

* See Nonconformist's Memorial, vol. i. p. 442.

John Wesley, M. A., of New-Inn Hall Oxford, son of the above mentioned gentleman, was grandfather of the late Rev. John Wesley. We have no certain account of the time of his birth, nor of the year when he died. It pleased God to incline him to remember his Creator in the days of his youth, a circumstance which always affords comfort in the future part of life. He had a very humbling sense of sin, and a serious concern for his salvation when a school-boy; and soon after began to keep a diary, in which he recorded the remarkable instances of providential care over him, the method of God's dealings with his soul, and how he found his heart affected under the means of grace, and the occurrences of providence, whether prosperous and pleasing, or afflictive. This method he continued, with very little intermission, to the end of his life.*

During his stay at Oxford, he was taken notice of for his seriousness and diligence. He applied himself particularly to the study of the oriental languages, in which he made great progress. Dr. John Owen, who was at that time vice-chancellor, had a great regard for him, which affords strong evidence both of his abilities and piety at this early period of life. He began to preach occasionally at the age of twenty-two, and in May, 1658, was sent to preach at Whitchurch in Dorsetshire. Soon after the restoration, some of his neighbors gave him a great deal of trouble, because he would not read the common prayer. They complained of him to the Bishop of Bristol, and laid many heavy things to his charge. Mr. Wesley being informed that the bishop desired to speak with him, he waited on his lordship, and has recorded in his diary the conversation that took place on this occasion.

Mr. Wesley's defence of himself turns chiefly on two points, his allegiance to the king; and, his right to preach the Gospel without being ordained according to the rites of the established church. With respect to the first, he solemnly assures the bishop, that the things alleged against him were either invented or mistaken: that, whatever his bitter enemies might say against him, there were others who would give a different character of him; that Mr. Glisson had done it; and that Sir Francis Fulford, being his hearer, would acquaint his lordship concerning him: that he did not think the old Nonconformists were his Majesty's enemies; and that he had conscientiously taken the oath of allegiance, and had faithfully kept it.

With respect to the second point, the bishop informs Mr. Wesley, that if he preached, it must be upon ordination, according to the order of the church of England. "Mr. Wesley answers, that, if he meant by ordination the sending spoken of Rom. x., he had it; that he had a mission from God and man; but he was not satisfied in his conscience concerning the ordination in the church of England. As to his abilities, he offers to submit to any examination his lordship would appoint; to give him a confession of his faith, or to take any other method that might be required. He

*1 have taken some pains to discover whether this manuscript be anywhere preserved; but I have not obtained any satisfactory information concerning it. The extracts from it have been preserved by Calamy.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »