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conversations with him as to the ground of peace with God. After talking with Wesley, Boehler exclaimed, “My brother, my brother ! this philosophy of yours must be purged
Boehler advised him to rely upon Christ with more simplicity and confidence, and insisted upon the efficacy of implicit faith in giving pardon and peace. May 24, 1738, was the day which Wesley regarded as the time of his first being brought to stand on true gospel ground, and of his exchanging legal formalism for spiritual faith. The morning had been spent in the study of the Bible, and in the evening," he says, “I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, whilst he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, - in Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
After a short visit to the Moravians of Germany, to avail himself of their counsels, Wesley returned to England, and commenced the career in which he continued for upwards of
Now he had a constant and engrossing theme, present salvation through faith with the witness of the spirit. Speaking from an experience so full and dearly bought, he preached with a power that seemed as surprising to himself as to his hearers. Whitefield was in advance of him in the work; but even that noted revivalist, — afterwards leader of the Calvinistic branch of the Methodists, as Wesley was of the Arminian branch, — Whitefield, gifted perhaps in voice and manner as no preacher ever was before, soon found himself second in influence to one by no means conspicuous for personal graces, or noted for native eloquence. Induced at first, by Whitefield's urgency, to break through the decorum deemed binding upon a minister of the English Church, Wesley preached first in the open air at Bristol, in 1739, and soon found himself obliged to continue the practice from necessity, since the pulpits of his Episcopal brethren were generally closed against him, and moreover no edifice would have been sufficient to hold the vast assemblies which he frequently addressed.
We thus see the train of influences that made him what he 1847.]
was when he appeared in the village of his birth, and preached with such power, standing upon his father's tomb. Yet it was not until two years after his alleged conversion, that Methodism appeared in the form of a distinct organization. In 1740, Wesley separated from the Moravians, and to that date Methodists ascribe the rise of their great denomination. In 1744, four years afterwards, the first conference of Methodist preachers was held ; and in 1784, the articles were drawn up which provided for the discipline of the order after the founder's death, and the decisive steps were taken which gave to the American branch of the fraternity distinct superintendents, or bishops, as they were afterwards called.
The period of Wesley's noted public ministry is before us,
a subject of intense interest. Yet we can but glance over its eventful scenes. Think as we may of the wisdom of his system or the truth of his doctrines, we must all allow that he was a true soldier of the cross, and shrank from no opportunity of serving his Master's cause. Nothing in history is more remarkable than his conduct in the midst of mobs that sought his life ; and no scenes in the progress of Christianity are more touching than some that may be chosen from his career of itinerancy. He never quailed before the most infuriated mob, and almost always lulled the storm to rest. Upon these transactions Southey is more eloquent in the preacher's praise than even Moore or Watson.
In one case, when the house was beset by a great crowd, who cried out for him and declared that they would have him,
-“ Bring out the minister, we will have the minister !” – he simply desired one of his friends to invite the captain of the mob into the house. The fellow came, and was so worked upon whether soothed or awed as to seem an entirely different person ; and by the charm of Wesley's address, two or three of the man's companions went through the same change. Wesley afterwards went out, and, standing upon a chair, addressed the mob. The cry was now very unlike the former one : -" The gentleman is an honest gentleman, and they that seek for his blood must spill ours first.” In another instance, he had been seized and bruised by a mob. He appealed to them to give him a hearing, and, obtaining at length a moment's silence, immediately in that clear and moving voice of his began to pray. The man who had headed the rabble, and who had been prize-fighter at a bear-garden, was so wrought upon as to turn and say :
“ Sir, I will spend my life for you! Follow me, and not one here shall touch a hair of your head."'. .
Why should the populace have been so enraged at a movement so pacific as that of Methodism? In part, probably, on account of the rebuke applied to prevalent sins, and in part from the novelty and strangeness of the meetings. There was undoubtedly some offence against good taste in the exciting method of the preachers; but an English mob has never shown any great horror of bad rhetoric or of overmuch vehemence. It was the conversion of their friends and neighbours that stirred up the wrath of the crowd. Once in a while, moreover, some strait-laced Tory was found conniving at the outrages of the rabble. Wesley tells a curious story of the arrest of a score of Methodists, who were immediately put into a wagon, and dragged to the justice's. Their accusers were asked to state the ground of the complaint, and seemed at this to be struck dumb. At last, one of them cried out, — “Why, they pretend to be better than other people ; and besides, they pray from morning till night.” The magistrate asked if they had done nothing else. “ Yes sir,” said an old man, “ they have convarted my wife, an 't please your worship. Till she went among them, she had such a tongue! And now she is quiet as a lamb." “Carry them back, carry them back," said the magistrate, 66 and let them convert all the scolds in town.'
Wesley's Journal describes with graphic simplicity the scenes of his itinerant preaching. "At Gwenap, in the county of Cornwall,” he says, “I stood upon the wall in the calm, still evening, with the setting sun behind me, and almost an innumerable multitude before, behind, and on either hand. Many likewise sat on the little_hills, at some distance from the bulk of the congregation. But they could all distinctly hear, while I read, The disciple is not above his master,' and the rest of those comfortable words, which are day by day fulfilled in our ears.” To this spot he frequently came, and in his old age he says of it :-“I think this is one of the most magnificent spectacles to be seen this side heaven. And no music is to be heard on earth comparable to the sound of many thousand voices, when they are all harmoniously joined together, singing praises to God and the Lamb.”
At another time he speaks of preaching so near the sea in a high wind, as to make him fear that he could not be heard, 1847.]
yet “God gave me so clear and strong a voice,” says he,
that I believe scarce one word was lost.” Again he preached in a church-yard by the ruins of a cathedral, and a great congregation from the lead-mines knelt down in the grass among the tomb-stones. This scene might well have shaken the ashes beneath the sod, and brought out the ghosts of the old monks and devotees who bad once worshipped at that decayed altar, and carried blessings to the neighbouring poor. Again, at Gawksham he preached on the side of an enormous mountain, and “the congregation,” he says, “stood and sat row above row in the sylvan theatre.” Once he had the ground measured, and found that he had been distinctly heard at the distance of a hundred and forty yards. At the age of seventy, he preached in the open air to thirty thousand persons.
His labors were incredible alike in their amount and their character. Preacher, theologian, ruler, he was constantly at work. Every year he travelled many thousand miles, and even in his travels never slackened his studies. On horseback he was at his book, and at the stopping-places was ready with pen and voice. Twenty years before his death, an edition of his works in thirty-two volumes was published, embracing treatises upon a great variety of subjects. Religion was of course the absorbing theme, but history, natural philosophy, grammar, and even medicine, came in for their share of his time and pen. He was the father of the system of cheap books for the people. He was willing alike to compose and to compile whatever would instruct and elevate the many. Thus he exerted vast influence. From the sale of his books he derived the chief means for his great charities. To his honor be it spoken, the amount ascertained to have been given away by him exceeds a hundred thousand dollars. Consistently enough he might preach that close and judicious sermon on “ Money as a Talent,” under the three heads, “Gain all you can ; Save all you can ; Give all you can. Many go with the preacher in the first two heads, who would be much staggered by the third.
There is no sight more refreshing and instructive than a cheerful, active old man. Let us look in upon Wesley in his hale old age.
The excellent Alexander Knox met him a few fore his death, and declared that every hour spent in his company afforded him fresh reason for esteem and veneration.
years be" 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.' In him old age appeared delightful, like an evening without a cloud.”
It would not have been difficult to identify that old man anywhere, whether in London or either of the chief cities of his sojourn, or in his travels. Few, however, would have judged him to be what he was, from his external appearance merely. Little of the daring innovator was there in his mien. In some distant part of England, you might have seen a man pursuing his journey resolutely on horseback, and showing by the book in his hand that he grudged to lose a single moment of time.
You might see the same man walking with firm step through some town or village, giving proof in every motion that he had a work to do. His stature was under middle size, his habit of body thin, but compact. A clear, smooth forehead, an aquiline nose, an eye of piercing brightness, a complexion of perfect healthfulness, distinguished him among all others.
Even his dress was characteristic, - the perfection of neatness and simplicity, perhaps with a little touch of primness; a narrow, plaited stock, a coat with a small upright collar, — his clothes without any of the usual ornaments of silk or velvet, combined with a head white as snow to give the idea of a man of a peculiarly primitive character.
One book he always carries with him in his journeys, besides the Bible. It is his Diary. Would we learn what view of life the old man takes, we can seem to look over his shoulder on his eighty-sixth birthday, and read what he has written. June 28, 1788, he writes:
“I this day enter on my eighty-sixth year. And what cause have I to praise God, as for a thousand spiritual blessings, so for bodily blessings also! How little have I suffered yet by the rush of numerous years !
After mentioning a few marks of the infirmity of age, he declares that he feels no such thing as weariness either in travelling or preaching.
" And I am not conscious of any decay in writing serions, which I do as readily, and I believe as correctly, as ever.