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when they got into the hall, found themselves surrounded with flames, and the roof just on the point of falling in. When the street door was opened the north-east wind drove the flames inwards with such violence that Mrs. Wesley alone forced her way through. Mr. Wesley and the children escaped through the back windows, and by the garden door. As he was helping the children out, he heard one of them cry out miserably for help in the nursery, and then it was discovered that John had been left behind. The father finding it impossible to get near him, for the stairs being then on fire would not bear his weight, he knelt down, commended the child's soul to God, and left him as he thought to perish in the flames. Mr. John Wesley says*, “I believe it was just at the time when they thought they heard me cry that I waked : for I did not cry, as they imagined, until it was afterwards. I remember all the circumstances as well as if it were yesterday. Seeing the room was very light, I called the maid to come and take me up; but none answering, I put my head out of the curtains, and saw streaks of fire on the top of the room. I got up and ran to the door, but could get no farther, all the floor beyond it being in a blaze. I then climbed upon a chest which stood near the window ; one in the yard saw me, and proposed running to fetch a ladder : another answered, there will not be time; but I have thought of another expedient-here, I will fix myself against the wall, lift a light man, and set him on my shoulders. They did so, and he took me out of the window. Just then the roof fell: but it fell inward, or we had all been crushed at once. When they brought me into the house where my father was, he cried out, “Come, neighbours, let us kneel down ! let us give thanks to God! he has given me all my eight children ; let the house go, I am rich enough! The next day, as he was walking in the garden, and surveying the ruins of his house, he picked up part of a leaf of his Polyglot Bible, on which just these words were legible, Vade, vende omnia quæ habes, et attolle crucem, et sequere me.” John Wesley remembered this providential deliverance through life with the deepest gratitude. In reference to
* Armenian Magazine.
it, he had a house on fire engraved as an emblem under one of his portraits, with these words for the motto, “ Is not this a brand plucked out of the burning*.” It had the same effect on the mind of his mother. In the private meditations which were found among her papers, was one in which she expressed in prayer her intention to be more particularly careful of the soul of this child, which God had so mercifuly preserved, that she might instil into him the principles of true religion. “Lord,” she said, “ give me grace to do it sincerely and prudently, and bless my attempts with good success.” The peculiar care which was thus taken of his education, the habitual fervent piety of both his parents, and his own surprising preservation, at an age when he was perfectly capable of remembering all the circumstances, combined to foster in the child that disposition, which afterwards developed itself with such force, and produced such important effects; and which caused the celebrated William Law to exclaim, on an interview which he had with him when a young man, “Sir, I perceive, you would fain convert the world.”
All the children of this remarkable family received the first rudiments of learning from their mother; and it does not appear that the boys were sent to any school in the country. In 1714, John was placed at the Charter House, and became distinguished for his diligence and progress in learning. At the age of seventeen he was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, and was then the very sensible and acute collegian, a young fellow of the finest classical taste, and of the most liberal and manly sentiments. His perfect knowledge of the classics gave a smooth polish to his wit, and an air of superior elegance to his compositions. In this year, 1724, Mr. W’esley began to think of entering Holy Orders, which appeared to his serious mind a step of the utmost importance, so that he became more serious than usual, and applied himself with more attention to subjects of divinity. He was ordained Deacon, on Sunday, the 10th September, 1725, by Dr. Potter, Bishop of Oxford. In the following year he was elected Fellow of Lincoln College.
His parents now invited him to spend some time with them in the country. Accordingly he left Oxford in April, and stayed the whole summer at Epworth and Wroot. In September he returned to Oxford, and resumed his
usual * See page 171.
usual course of studies. His literary character was now established in the University; he was acknowledged by all parties to be a man of talent, and an excellent critic in the learned languages ; his compositions were distinguished by an elegant simplicity of style, and justness of thought; his skill in logic was universally known and admired. The high opinion which was entertained of him in these respects was soon publicly expressed, by his being chosen Greek Lecturer and Moderator of the Classics; though he had only been elected Fellow of the College a few months, and had not yet proceeded Master of Arts.
The elder Wesley was now, from age and infirmity, become unequal to the duty of both his livings, especially as the road was bad, and sometimes dangerous in winter. John, therefore, at his desire, went to reside at Wroot, and officiated as his curate. Though a native of the county, he did not escape the ague, which was then its endemic malady; and perhaps it was fortunate for him, that after two years, he was summoned to his College, upon
the regulation that the junior Fellows, who might be chosen Moderators, should attend in person the duties of their office. In consequence of this summons, he once more took up his abode at Lincoln College, became a tutor there, and presided as Moderator at the disputations which were held six times a week in the Hall; an office which exercised and sharpened his habits of logical discrimination. During his residence at Wroot, his brother Charles, who had been elected from Westminster to Christ Church, meeting with two or three under-graduates whose inclinations and principles were as serious as his own, they associated together for the purposes of religious improvement, lived by rule, and received the sacrament weekly. The greatest prudence could not have saved men from ridicule, who, in such a dissolute age, professed to make religion the great business of their lives : they were called in derision the Sacramentarians, Bible Bigots, Bible Moths, the Holy or the Godly Club; and one person, with less irreverence and more learning, observed, in reference to their methodical method of living, that a new sect of Methodists was sprung up, alluding to the ancient school of physicians known by that name. This became the designation of the sect
of which Wesley was the founder : and it was to Charles Wesley and his few associates to whom the name was first given. When John Wesley returned to Oxford, they gladly placed themselves under his direction ; their meetings acquired more form and regularity, and obtained an accession of numbers. These meetings were continued for some time with no other view than their own benefit, until one of the members, Mr. Morgan, went to see a man in the Castle, who was condemned for killing his wife, and he suggested to the others the good which might arise from occasionally visiting the prisoners, who, with the exception of those condemned to die, were entirely destitute of any spiritual instructor. Having obtained the sanction of the Bishop, they commenced this pious undertaking, and prosecuted it with great dili. gence. A similar visit, by the same person, to a poor woman in the town who was sick, led to similar exertions, and they spent several hours every week in that species of charity; and that they might have wherewith to relieve distress, they abridged themselves of all the superfluities and of many of the conveniences of life. The outcry, however, against them increasing, they thought proper, by way of self defence, to propose to their friends and opponents the following questions.
Whether it does not concern all men, of all conditions, to imitate Him, as much as they can who went about doing good ?
Whether all Christians are not concerned in that command, while we have time let us do good unto all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith ?
Whether we shall not be more happy hereafter, the more good we do now ?
Whether we may not try to do good to our acquaintance among the young gentlemen of the University ?
Particularly, whether we may not endeavour to convince them of the necessity of being christians, and of being scholars ?
May we not try to do good to those who are hungry, or naked, or sick ? If we know any necessitous family may we may not give them a little food, clothes, or physic as they want ?
If they can read, may we not give them a Bible, or a Prayer Book, or a Whole Duty of Man? May we not inquire now and then how they have used them, explain what they do not understand, and enforce what they do?
May we not enforce upon them the necessity of private prayer, and of frequenting the church and sacrament ?
May we not contribute what we are able towards having their children clothed and taught to read ?
May we not try to do good to those who are in prison ? May we not release such well-disposed persons as remain in prison for small debts ?
May we not lend small sums of money to those who are of any trade, that they may procure themselves tools and materials to work with ?
May we not give to them who appear to want it most a little money, or clothes, or physic?
No one who had a spark of religion or humanity could answer these questions in the negative, nor did any one attempt it; but several, when they understood their design, increased their little fund for the relief of the prisoners and the poor by quarterly subscriptions. The fault of Wesley and his associates was, that they carried some of their opinions and principles to excess, and excited injurious suspicions against themselves, by affecting singularity in things which were of no importance.
Wesley's mind seems at this time to have been in a turbid and restless state, and he began to doubt the utility, and even the lawfulness of carnal studies. “I once desired,” says he, in a letter to his mother, “ to make a fair show in languages and philosophy, but it is past: there is a more excellent way; and if I cannot attain to any progress in the one, without throwing up all thoughts of the other, why fare it well. Yet a little while and we shall all be equal in knowledge if we are in virtue.” He would not be at the ex, pense of having his hair dressed ; and in order that the money which would otherwise have been employed in that vile passion might be given to the poor, he wore it remarkably long, and flowing loose upon his shoulders.
During the last two years (1732 and 1783), Mr. Wesley made frequent excursions to London and different parts of the country; besides his jour3 F