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THE RISE OF METHODISM
The Methodist movement was the providential response to the moral and spiritual destitution of England. How far this destitution extended may be seen by reading any reliable history of the times like Lecky's “History of England in the Eighteenth Century," or Green's “History of the English People." Even an extreme Tory writer like Mr. Francis Hitchman, who writes in a spirit of violent hostility, has to acknowledge that when Wesley began his work the “Church of England had sunk into a torpor from which it was necessary that it should be aroused." Owing to the nature of the
Church of England as a compromise between the Church of Rome and Protestantism, owing to the convulsions of her history—partially reformed by Henry VIII, moderately Protestantized by Edward VI, Catholicized again by Mary, restored to a middle position by Elizabeth, Catholicized (this time without being Romanized) by Charles I, abolished by the Commonwealth, brought back to the Elizabethan condition by Charles II, touched up again in the Catholic direction by James II and Anne amid fierce protests and commotions -is it any wonder that when Wesley came to the scene enthusiasm in religion was regarded as the deadliest sin, and that when John and Charles Wesley and their companions in Oxford really tried to live according to Christ-in Bible study, in holiness of life, in works of mercy, they were looked upon as almost insane and ridiculed “Bible Methodists,” “The Holy Club,” “Methodists"? The clergy were too often
either worldly and fox-hunting, or immoral and licentious, and sometimes led or incited mobs against the preachers and their adherents. This latter fact is a sufficient index of the age.
Wesley (1703-91) had in his veins the best blood of England. Whatever heredity could do to make a saint and a religious genius, combined with coolness and sanity of judgment, that had been done for him. On both sides of the house he was descended from clergymen of remarkable piety and independence. His grandfather and great-grandfather were Puritan ministers of university training, and were bitterly persecuted by the Church of England and Charles II. His father had changed his Nonconformist views, suddenly determined to go to Oxford, walked thither, entered himself as a servitor and poor scholar at Exeter College, graduated in 1688, became rector at South Ormesby (1691-6) and at Epworth (1696 till his death in 1735), wrote