Page images

writings, were brought against them. And then first seeing the offensiveness, if not the danger of the loathsome and impious extravagancies into which they had been betrayed, they corrected their books and their language; and from that time they have continued not merely to live without reproach, but to enjoy in a greater degree than any other sect, the general good opinion of every other religious community.vol. i. pp. 204, 205.

But it is remarkable that, though the Moravians in Wesley's time were in the high tide of their enthusiasm, yet it was neither this abuse nor their other reprehensible customs which offended him. Mr. Southey attributes this to his ignorance of German; but he had acquired, one would think, in Georgia, a sufficient acquaintance with that language to detect a fault which lay on the surface of all their writings and daily conversation. The truth seems to be, that he was himself at that time in a state of mind which symbolized too well with such expressions to be much offended at them; though, in his latter days, and when mutual opposition had made him think ill of every thing which belonged to his former friends, he, with the same dismal want of candour which distinguished Augustine in his contest with the Manichees, added the weight of his own knowledge and authority to the calumnies circulated by Rimius. But, be this as it may, his complaints against them related chiefly to the supremacy exercised by Zinzendorf, a supremacy which Wesley was likely to brook in no man, though he afterwards, in his own person, was guilty of the very fault which he reprobated in another. The breach once made was widened after his return to London by the spirit of Mysticism which at that time prevailed among the Moravian congregation there, (a spirit of which Wesley justly complained,) and by the still stranger notion, which Wesley himself imbibed, of the possibility of sinless perfection being attained by man in his present state of existence. Zinzendorf, in a visit which he paid to England, laboured to convince him of this error with more learning and acuteness than success. They parted with mutual recriminations, and Wesley never afterwards mentioned the Count without some scornful allusion to his family pride or Jesuitical policy, though he always did justice to his talents and the variety of his attainments.

But while Wesley was thus gradually shaking off all dependance on any other religious leader, circumstances were rapidly preparing the way for the establishment of a society of which he himself was to be the founder and dictator. His brother Charles, of whom we have so long lost sight, had quitted America before him with dispatches from General Oglethorpe. His stay in Georgia had been chiefly remarkable for his quarrel with this last


named personage; who treated him, during a dangerous illness, with a brutal tyranny of which there are few examples. Yet shortly afterwards, when Oglethorpe was setting out on a military expedition, he evinced his regard for his secretary in an interview singularly characteristic of both parties.


'The governor began by saying he had taken some pains to satisfy his brother, but in vain. "It matters not," said he. “I am now going to death you will see me no more. Take this ring, and carry it to Mr. V. if there be a friend to depend on, he is one. His interest is next to Sir Robert's: whatever you ask within his power, he will do for you, your brother and family. I have expected death for some days. These letters show that the Spaniards have long been seducing our allies, and intend to cut us off at a blow. I fall by my friends on whom I depended to send their promised succours. But death is nothing to me he will pursue all my designs, and to him I recommend them and you." He then gave him a diamond ring. Charles Wesley, who had little expected such an address, took it, and replied, "If I am speaking to you for the last time, hear what you will quickly know to be a truth, as soon as you are entered on a separate state. This ring I shall never make use of for myself. I have no worldly hopes: I have renounced the world: life is bitterness to me; I came hither to lay it down. You have been deceived as well as I. I protest my innocence of the crimes I am charged with, and think myself now at liberty to tell you what I thought never to have uttered." The explanation into which he then entered, so satisfied Oglethorpe, that his feelings were entirely changed: all his old love and confidence returned; and he embraced Charles and kissed him with the most cordial affection. They went together to the boat, where he waited some minutes for his sword: a mourning sword was twice brought him, which he twice refused to take; at last they brought his own: it had been his father's. "With this sword," said he, "I was never yet unsuccessful." When the boat pushed off, Charles Wesley ran along the shore to see the last of him. Oglethorpe seeing him and two other persons run after him, stopt the boat, and asked if they wanted any thing. One of them, the officer, whom he had left with the command, desired his last orders: Charles then said, "God is with you go forth Christo duce et auspice Christo." Oglethorpe replied, you have some verses of mine: you there see my thoughts success." The boat then moved off, and Charles remained praying that God would save him from death, and wash away all his sins.


On the fifth day, Oglethorpe returned in safety. An enemy's squadron of three large ships, and four smaller, had been for three weeks endeavouring to make a descent, but the wind continued against them till they could wait no longer. Charles returned him the ring. "When I gave it you," said the governor, "I never expected to see you again, but I thought it would be of service to your brother and I had many omens of my death, but God has been pleased to preserve a life which was never valuable to me, and yet in the conti



nuance of it, I thank God, I can rejoice." He then talked of the strangeness of his deliverance, when betrayed, as it appeared, on all sides, and without human support; and he condemned himself for his late conduct, imputing it, however, to want of time for consideration, and the state of his mind." I longed, Sir," said Charles," to see you once more, that I might tell you some things before we finally parted: but then I considered that if you died, you would know them all in a moment." Oglethorpe replied, "I know not whether separate spirits regard our little concerns; if they do, it is as men regard the follies of their childhood, or I my late passionateness." -pp. 104-106.

Charles was even an earlier convert to the doctrine of Boehler than his brother, and preceded him in obtaining those feelings of 'assurance' for which they both sighed so earnestly. He had, during John's absence in Germany, attended some condemned criminals in Newgate, and given to them that comfort and spiritual help which the ordinary (such as ordinaries were in those days) was not likely to administer. And in London, as formerly in Oxford, he had collected a small society of devout persons who were sufficiently disposed to place themselves under his brother's spiritual direction. But a far mightier instrument had also been at work to open the path before him. Among the original Methodists of Oxford was a youth named George Whitefield, of humble parentage in Bristol, whose mother had been enabled to gratify his zeal for learning, and ardent desire to become a minister of the church, through the help of the little profits afforded by a servitorship at Pembroke College, and some presents made him from time to time by a kind-hearted tutor. During the continuance of that society in the university which we have already described, he surpassed them all in the greatness of his austerities, the intensity of his devotion, and the vehemence with which he laboured after that religious peace, which, in one so truly pious as he was, would have been his portion from the beginning, but for the erroneous notion which he had formed of its nature.

'He describes himself as having all sensible comforts withdrawn from him, overwhelmed with a horrible fearfulness and dread, all power of meditation, or even thinking, taken away, his memory gone, his whole soul barren and dry, and his sensations, as he imagined, like those of a man locked "Whenever I knelt down," he says, "I in iron armour. up

It is, we believe, one of the Wesleys who is represented in Hogarth's execution of the idle apprentice, with long lank hair, praying in the cart with the criminal, while the ordinary follows in a hackney-coach. The poor ordinary, when Charles Wesley thus officiated, seems to have been willing to do his duty if he had known how. He would read prayers,' says Charles, and he preached most miserably.' And when he offered to get on the cart at the place of execution, the prisoners begged he would not and the mob prevented him. What kind of machine,' says Mr. Southey, a Newgate ordinary was in those days, may be seen in Fielding: the one who edines Jonathan Wild with a sermon before the punch comes in, seems to have been drawn from the life.'


felt great pressures both on soul and body; and have often prayed under the weight of them till the sweat came through me. God only knows how many nights I have lain upon my bed, groaning under what 1 felt. Whole days and weeks have I spent in lying prostrate on the ground in silent or vocal prayer." In this state he began to practise austerities, such as the Romish superstition encourages: he chose the worst food, and affected mean apparel; he made himself remarkable by leaving off powder in his hair, when every one else was powdered, because he thought it unbecoming a penitent; and he wore woollen gloves, a patched gown, and dirty shoes, as visible signs of humility. Such conduct brought upon him contempt, insult, and the more serious consequence, that part of that pay on which he depended for his support, was taken from him by men who did not chuse to be served by so slovenly a servitor. Other excesses injured his health: he would kneel under the trees in Christ Church Walk in silent prayer, shivering the while with cold, till the great bell summoned him to his college for the night he exposed himself to cold in the morning till his hands were quite black: he kept Lent so strictly, that, except on Saturdays and Sundays, his only food was coarse bread and sage tea without sugar. The end of this was, that before the termination of the forty days, he had scarcely strength enough left to creep up stairs, and was under a physician for many weeks.

At the close of the severe illness which he had thus brought on himself, a happy change of mind confirmed his returning health;—it may best be related in his own words. He says, "notwithstanding my fit of sickness continued six or seven weeks, I trust I shall have reason to bless God for it through the endless ages of eternity. For, about the end of the seventh week, after having undergone innumerable buffetings of Satan, and many months inexpressible trials, by night and day, under the spirit of bondage, God was pleased at length to remove the heavy load, to enable me to lay hold on his dear Son by a living faith, and, by giving me the spirit of adoption, to seal me, as I humbly hope, even to the day of everlasting redemption. But oh! with what joy, joy unspeakable, even joy that was full of and big with glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God, and a full assurance of faith, broke in upon my disconsolate soul! Surely it was the day of my espousals,—a day to be had in everlasting remembrance. At first, my joys were like a spring tide, and, as it were, overflowed the banks. Go where I would, I could not avoid singing of psalms almost aloud; afterwards, they became more settled, and, blessed be God, saving a few casual intervals, have abode and increased in my soul ever since.-vol. i. pp. 138-140.

He was ordained, at an unusually early age, by Benson, then Bishop of Bristol, an excellent man, who was inspired with much regard for him by his general character, his demeanour at church, and his attention to the poor and the prisoners. The bishop accompanied his ordination with a present of five guineas, a 'great supply,' says Whitefield, for one who had not a guinea in the



world.' His first sermon was preached to a crowded audience in the church of his native parish. He had, when a boy, been no contemptible actor, a circumstance which, in his journals, he wishes to be able to record in tears of blood, but which was, probably, of great advantage to him on his first appearance in the pulpit. He had, indeed, many natural advantages.

'He was something above the middle stature, well proportioned, though at that time slender, and remarkable for a native gracefulness of manner. His complexion was very fair, his features regular, his eyes small and lively, of a dark blue colour: in recovering from the measles he had contracted a squint with one of them; but this peculiarity rather rendered the expression of his countenance more rememberable, than any degree lessened the effect of its uncommon sweetness, His voice excelled both in melody and compass, and its fine modulations were happily accompanied by that grace of action which he possessed in an eminent degree, and which has been said to be the chief requisite of an orator. An ignorant man described his eloquence oddly but strikingly, when he said, that Mr. Whitefield preached like a lion. So strange a comparison conveyed no unapt a notion of the force and vehemence and passion of that oratory which awed the hearers, and made them tremble like Felix before the apostle. For believing himself to be the messenger of God, commissioned to call sinners to repentance, he spoke as one conscious of his high credentials, with authority and power; yet in all his discourses there was a fervent and melting charity, an earnestness of persuasion, an outpouring of redundant love, partaking the virtue of that faith from which it flowed, inasmuch as it seemed to enter the heart which it pierced, and to heal it as with balm.-vol. i. p. 150.

With all these engaging qualities he had neither the talents nor the learning, nor, we may add, the ambition of Wesley. His printed works are miserable trash, both in style and argument. In judgment he was, through life, a mere child; and it should be said to his honour, that, amid all his popularity, no desire of power, or self-aggrandizement, was ever discernible in him. It was, perhaps, this simplicity of character which mainly contributed to the success of his eloquence. His sermons, both in Gloucester, Bristol, and London, were attended by crowds, such as no other preacher ever brought together; he was invited to officiate in every church where a charity sermon was wanted, and when he delivered his farewell sermon, on being appointed chaplain in Georgia by the same patrons who had nominated Wesley, the whole congregation are said to have wept and sobbed aloud; while, as his connexion with the methodists of Oxford was well known, and as Wesley was universally regarded as the head of the community, the success of his oratory had a natural effect to excite the curiosity of the world, and to impress them favourably towards the master himself, whose

« PreviousContinue »