Page images

The second chapter is devoted to the "early Life, and the Conversion of the two Wesleys." The leading facts of the history of the brothers are succinctly stated, and their early religious opinions, the changes which these underwent, the means by which the change was effected, and the results to which it led, are given with equal correctness and judgment. From this part of the work, however, it is not necessary to multiply quotations. We content ourselves with giving one, which will prepare the reader of the volume for all that follows.

"From this time the two brothers were new men. A sensible application of the blood of Christ to their consciences rendered them cheerful and happy, and produced in their hearts an intense love to their Saviour. Having obtained, by the simple exercise of faith in Christ, not only the abiding witness of the pardoning and adopting mercy of God, but also that purity of heart which they had long unsuccessfully endeavored to obtain by works of righteousness and law, they were astonished at their former errors, and longed to make known the great salvation which is thus attainable by all. Before this period they served God because they feared him; now they loved him from a joyous assurance that he had first loved them. They confessed that up to this period they had been mere servants of God: now they stood in a filial relation to him; and because they were sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying Abba, Father. They had labored with all fidelity to benefit mankind because they felt this to be their duty; but now the love of Christ kindled in their breasts a generous and yearning affection for the whole human race, and a willingness to lay down their lives if others might only be converted and saved."--Page 65.

Under the influence of this holy and potent feeling, mourning for the sins of men, and fully persuaded of the saving power of the truth and grace of God, they gave themselves up to the service of God, resolving to follow as his providence should lead. The next chapter opens out this most interesting portion of their history, and describes "the measures adopted by the Wesleys for the revival of religion." Mr. Jackson arranges his statements in seven classes:- Field Preaching;" "The Formation of Societies;" "Employment of Preachers who had not received Episcopal Ordination;""Institution of an Itinerant Ministry;" "The Erection of separate places of Worship;" "The Publication of Books;" "The Adoption of a simple and impressive mode of Preaching."

Even they who have been most accustomed to look at the various branches of labor in which the Wesley's engaged, when they have them thus arranged before them as in one scheme, and recollect the object which was contemplated, and the undecaying ardor, the unfatigued energy, the unswerving consistency, with which they were prosecuted to the very end of life, will be disposed to pause that they may adore the wisdom and love by which such efficient instruments of usefulness were raised up, employed, and directed. The first step in the great work was taken when Mr. Wesley, imitating Mr. Whitefield's example, engaged in the work which God has so signally marked with his approbation, that of field-preaching. By what process of Christian reasoning this can be called disorderly we are at a loss to conceive. Where is it said, whence even can it be inferred, that God can only be worshipped, (ordinarily at least,) in a place consecrated according to the Levitical idea of consecration? Even under the law such consecration was only required for what was properly the

typical department of service; and this was all done away in Christ, and so pronounced to be by himself in those solemnly significant words addressed to the Samaritan woman,-"The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth for the Father seeketh such to worship him." To commence the worship of God in a newly-erected building, and intended for that purpose, by solemn acts of devotion, is, no doubt, an impressive, and may be a very profitable, mode of proceeding. But the moment it is said, "These services are necessary for the consecration of the place, and till the place be consecrated, worship there is unlawful," then mis chievous superstition comes in the place of godly simplicity. And when this is carried so far that a minister of Christ is prevented from seeking that he may reclaim the wanderers from Christ's fold by Christ's appointed method, preaching to them, then does such superstitious order become deeply sinful. It was a happy day for England when Mr. Wesley first crossed the line which only superstitious practice had drawn. The reformers preached out of doors; and in the establishment of the reformed religion they made no law, they provided no formularies for these Levitical consecrations; and when Mr. Wesley preached out of doors he violated no order that the rulers of the Church had the legal power to prescribe. It is time that this question were sifted and decided. If field-preaching be unlawful, let the law be shown. Ancient Judaism condemned it not. The practice of the Lord Jesus, of his apostles, and of the early Christians, condemned it not. The Roman Catholic Church condemns it not. The Scotch Presbyterian Church condemns it not. The English Separatists condemn it not. The reformers whom Mary persecuted condemned it not, but practised it. Who first made it unlawful? And if unlawful it be, even for a clergyman, is it unlawful by contravention of some positive injunction, or only by inference?

But the most remarkable step taken by Mr. Wesley was the "employment of preachers who had not received episcopal ordination." This, indeed, he never previously contemplated; and in nothing do his piety and magnanimity shine more conspicuously than in this surrender of some of his deepest convictions to what he had reason to believe was the will of God. Mr. Jackson thus states the commencement of what appeared to be, (rather than really was,) this new order of things:

"The first that was thus employed was Thomas Maxfield, a young man who had been converted under Mr. John Wesley's preaching at Bristol, in May, 1739. He became deeply pious; and prayed, exhorted, and expounded the Scriptures with uncommon power. Lady Huntingdon, who knew him well at this period of his life, speaks of him in terms of the highest admiration. He was appointed to assist in the society in London in the absence of the Wesleys, and there he began to preach. Complaint of this was forwarded to Mr. Wesley, who hastened to London with all speed to stop the alleged irregularity. His mother then lived in his house adjoining the Foundery. On his arrival she perceived that his countenance was expressive of dissatisfaction, and inquired the cause. 'Thomas Maxfield,' said he abruptly, ' has turned preacher, I find.' She looked attentively at him, and replied, John, you know what my sentiments have been. You cannot suspect me of favoring too readily any thing of this kind. But take care what you do with

respect to that young man; for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are. Examine what have been the fruits of his preaching; and hear him also yourself. He took the advice, and submitted to what he believed to be the order of God."-Page 91.

When he went forth "into the highways and hedges," he did that, though not himself foreseeing it, which rendered this ulterior measure necessary. By field-preaching, the outcasts, and they that were ready to perish, were gathered together, and wanted folding and shepherding. Besides, the harvest truly was plenteous, and the laborers were few. More laborers were wanted, and the Lord of the harvest raised them up. It is a remarkable circumstance that the first instrument in the great work was one who was "a faithful man, able to teach others;" and who, by the external appointment of a section of the church the evangelical orthodoxy of which is sufficiently declared by established formularies, was fully and regularly a presbyter of the catholic church of Christ. He belonged therefore to that body which possesses, we believe, the right of ordination, by whatever restrictions and limitations it may be necessary from time to time to guard the particular exercise of it. We are not now going to enter into this subject controversially. We shall content ourselves in expressing our settled conviction, (in which, we believe, most of our readers are united with us,) that the peculiar circumstances of the case justified Mr. Wesley in exercising that power of recognition and appointment which belonged to him as a presbyter of the church of Christ. He did not himself, we believe, clearly perceive the real character of the position in which he was placed. Even his powerful understanding was not quickly delivered from the influence of long-established opinions. Ultimately, however, he did yield; and by officially authorizing those whom he believed God had called to preach, he at once recognized that personal divine call, the necessity of which the Church of Eng. land had declared to be a fundamental doctrine, and preserved that order and regularity without which the church itself, as an organized and visible body, could not exist. By insisting on the first, order was prevented from degenerating into a dead and corrupting formalism: by insisting on the last, a barrier was set up against a wild and devastating enthusiasm.

One single extract is all we can make from the excellent section on "the Publication of Books," as one of "the measures adapted by the Wesleys for the revival of religion." After referring to his numerous theological writings, whether didactic or controversial, he says,—

"To him it was a matter of solid gratification that his ministry, and that of his fellow-helpers to the truth,' roused many a dormant mind to reflection and inquiry; and as it was his anxious wish to raise up an intelligent as well as a holy people, he published concise grammars of the English, French, Latin, and Greek languages; with an Epitome of the Roman History. To these he added an abridged History of England, and another of the Christian Church, in four volumes each; besides a Compendium of Natural Philosophy, in five volumes; that peasants, and persons of neglected education, might have the means of acquiring knowledge at the smallest possible expense of time and money. In providing cheap literature, he anticipated the movements of more modern times by many years; and in this kind of service he labored almost alone for nearly half a century. Moral and sacred poetry he strongly recommended, and published selections of this kind in three volumes; and

portable editions of Milton and Young, with notes explaining the difficult passages, and directing attention to the finest paragraphs.”—Page 114.

The truthfulness and power of 'the following description of Mr. Charles Wesley will be at once acknowledged by all who are qualified to form a judgment on the subject:—

"Above almost all men that ever lived, he was the child of feeling; and from the time of his conversion till his fires were quenched in death he thought and breathed in sacred verse. His was not made poetry,' but poetry that made itself. It flowed from the depth of his heart in a perennial stream, as clear as it was full and strong. He supplied the Methodists with hymns suited to every occasion, and on all possible subjects connected with their spiritual concerns, and that with an energy, a purity, a copiousness of diction, and with a richness of evangelical sentiment, of which the Christian Church had perhaps never before seen an equal example. There is scarcely a feeling of the heart in the entire process of salvation from the first dawn of light upon the understanding, and the incipient sorrows of penitence, to the joys of pardon, the entire sanctification of the soul, and its triumphant entrance into paradise, which he has not expressed in genuine poetry. All that he and his brother taught from the pulpit of the evil of sin, the glory of Christ, the efficiency of the atonement, the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, the good fight of faith, the peace and joy of believing, and the ecstatic anticipations of hope, he enabled the people to sing in strains worthy of the brightest days of the primitive church, when she had received the pentecostal baptism of fire. Never were people so favored with respect to the substance of their psalmody as the Wesleyan Connection has always been."-Page 116.


The fourth chapter, on "the Revival and Spread of Religion, through the Labors of the two Wesleys, and their Coadjutors," is one of the most interesting and instructive in the volume. Its subjects, however, are too consecutive, and too closely woven together, for separate quotation. We refer the reader to it with confidence. Success, we are aware, is not always a proof of the divine approbation. The wicked may prosper in the world, and even error may extensively prevail. "To the law and the testimony," therefore: "if men speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Nevertheless there are circumstances under which success may be appealed to subordinately, and in corroboration of other and more direct lines of argument. In the case of Mr. Wesley, we see a man of strong and cultivated understanding led to discover his own want of that religion in the heart which the Scriptures describe. He seeks for it, and obtains it. Looking around him, and judging of what he saw in the world from what he read in the Scriptures, his whole soul was moved with compassion; and, feeling himself the power of divine truth and love, and believing it to be his duty as a minister of Christ to call others to enjoy the salvation he had himself experienced, he went forth his only weapon, the word of God-his only dependence, the grace of God. He preached, because he believed; believed not. only that God had called men to repentance, faith, and holiness, but that he had promised to receive and bless all them that with true repentance and faith should turn unto him. He expected, therefore, that what he believed to be a ministry of truth, should likewise be a ministry of saving power. Many disregarded-some opposed-and some stood by in doubtful suspense as to the result. The appeal was made to God, not for miracles, but for the ordinary blessings of his

grace. The appeal was not made in vain. God answered as by fire; and through the length and breadth of the land was heard the cry, "The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God." And so loud was it, and so prolonged, and so evidently produced by an influence from above, that not only did many sleepers awake, but they who were awakened learned the lesson which we believe the providence of God intended to teach by this remarkable interposition, and a new style of preaching became common; that is, ministers, both in the Church and out of it, began to resort to a style from which there never should have been any departure.

We pass over the fifth chapter likewise with a single remark, and only making a single quotation from it. Its subject is "The Death of the two Wesleys, and of their principal Clerical Friends." We scarcely need remark that it is solemnly delightful; solemn, because it treats of death; delightful, because it admits us to the sanctuary of the Christian's dying hour, and shows us in Mr. Wesley's case how fully answered was the petition he had often presented at the throne of the heavenly grace:

"Till glad I lay my body down,
Thy servant, Lord, attend;
And O, my life of mercy crown
With a triumphant end."

We only quote the last paragraph of the chapter:

"Thus led into a course of usefulness which he had never contemplated, and to which, in the first instance, he had a strong aversion, he devoted his life to the one object of spreading true religion in the world. That which he attempted to advance was not the mere forms and circumstances of Christianity, much less matters of doubtful disputation; but solid virtue; the love of God, and of all mankind; happiness in God, and entire conformity to his will. For this he preached, and wrote, and traveled, and sustained the charge of the numerous societies and preachers; adjusting their differences, solving their doubts, and directing their movements. From this one object nothing could draw him aside. Neither the caresses of friends, nor the occasional perverseness of individuals among his own people, nor the opposition of furious mobs, nor the incessant and bitter peltings of the press, could induce him to falter in his career, or suspend his labors for a single day. Weakness and infirmities he had, for he was a fallen man; but who among his detractors emulate his active zeal, and patient, laborious love? His spiritual children will ever bless God for such an instrument of good, especially in an age of infidelity, lukewarmness, and irreligion; for crowning his efforts and plans with such unexampled success; and for supporting him under cares and discouragements which feeble human nature could never of itself have sustained."-Page 220.

The sixth chapter is devoted to "the Progress of Religion after Mr. Wesley's Death;" and the seventh, to "Concluding Remarks." Both are exceedingly important, and would furnish valuable extracts, especially on the peculiar character of Methodism; the singular and strongly marked position which the Methodists occupy, as they are persuaded, by a train of decidedly providential occurrences; and on the privileges enjoyed by the Wesleyan societies, and the duties which it is believed are incumbent upon them. But for all these, as we have already exceeded our limits, we must refer to the work itself; and we do this the less reluctantly as we venture to anticipate

« PreviousContinue »