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his slightest peculiarities were tinged with the odour of sanctity, that his words and actions, if he had himself omitted to record them, were none of them likely to fall to the ground and be for gotten. But though, within a few years after his death, his history was given to the world in more than one bulky publication, his biographers, prior to Mr. Southey, were more intent on forwarding the ends of religious faction, than on presenting to mankind an accurate picture of their hero. In some of them the heart was wanting to understand his worth, or the will to do it justice : others did not possess sufficient freedom or strength of intellect to perceive wherein he was erroneous.
There is, indeed, no description of history so difficult to write in a candid and historical temper, as the lives of those who have been the principal agents in a religious revolution, inasmuch as there are no revolutions to which the race of men are liable, which interest so deeply the strongest feelings of our nature, and leave behind them so lasting an impression on the moral and political frame of society. The Emperor Charles V. Mr. Southey observes, and his rival of France appear at this day infinitely insignificant, if we compare them with Luther and Loyola : and there may come a time when the name of Wesley will be more generally known, and in remoter regions of the globe, than that of Frederick or of Catherine. For the works of such men survive them, and continue to operate, when nothing remains of worldly ambition but the memory of its vanity and its guilt.'
But if the intensity of the interest excited by such men is, in general, the greatest obstacle to obtaining an accurate knowledge of their characters, it may be said that there were countervailing causes in the case of Wesley, which have enabled the world to judge of him with a greater and earlier impartiality than of most men whose sphere of action has been so extensive, and the effects which they have produced so iinportant. The very violence of that admiration which he received from his friends, and of that opposition which his enemies raised against him, had a natural tendency to work off itself more rapidly than if he and his proceedings had, in the first instance, been either censured or praised with more moderation. Men soon grow tired of calling their brother a perfect saint or an incarnate devil; and to this result the unusual lougevity of Wesley himself may be thought to have greatly contributed. The world became familiar with him and his ways; the one side learned to respect him more, and the other to worship him less, than if he had passed a shorter time ainong them: and, while the opinions of mankind were thus gradually changing, Wesley in his own character underwent some changes also. If his ambition and love of power grew stronger, if his credulity received, as was likely to happen,
some accession from old age, yet his enthusiasm, in the same proportion, became of a milder and less obnoxious character ; he grew doubtful or careless as to some of those doctrines on which, in his early career, he had laid the greatest stress, and by which his opponents had been most offended; and if he were more of a schismatic from the discipline of the Church of England at fourscore than at six and thirty, it is certain that his difference from her in doctrine had, in the mean time, greatly softened.
Nor were the exterior courtesy of his manners, the comeliness and gravity of his appearance, and the acquaintance which he through life kept up with learned men and general literature, without their efficacy in softening any personal prejudice which bis opponents might entertain or excite against him. He was not a bawling coarse-visaged fanatic: he was an enthusiast doubtless, but an enthusiast of a liberal temper and cultivated understanding; and the comparison between himself and the majority of his helpers' was too remarkable to be overlooked even by his enemies.
Accordingly, though the eloquence of Whitefield appears to have been greater than that of Wesley, though his disinterestedness was far more generally recognized, and though his overt acts of separation from the church were, after all, by no means so decisive, yet it was Whitefield and not Wesley who was principally assailed, both by the arrows of profane ridicule and by ihe animosity and invectives of his ecclesiastical brethren; while the dispute which soon arose between them on election and reprobation had a tendency to conciliate still more the majority of the Church of England to Wesley.
Few doctrines can be named which the clergy of that church have, for some centuries past, regarded with more vigilant and anxious, alarm, than that system which Augustine appears to have first introduced among Christians, but which, in modern times, we are generally content to refer to its most strenuous defender Calvin. Nor is this abhorrence to be wholly ascribed to the revolting character of the doctrine itself, or to the injurious consequences which it appears to most men to involve, as to the responsibility of man and the justice and mercy of his Maker. From the times of Elizabeth downwards, it had been one of the principal subjects of contention between the main body of the clergy and those whose avowed aims extended to the subversion of episcopal government and the purifying of the church from all those decent observances which their prejudice regarded as remnants of Babylonish corruption. The expulsion of six thousand episcopalians from their benefices during the civil war, and the bitter persecution exercised against all who still adhered to the ancient ceremonies, were not likely to diminish these feuds, or to render the Arminian part of the church more in clined to favour the system of their enemies. Nor can we wonder,
though we must regret, that their return to power was distinguished by a retaliation, more natural than Christian, of the same severities which they had themselves so recently tasted; or that a schism was thus perpetuated which a more tolerant line of conduct might, perhaps, have then healed for ever.
But it was with the dissenters only that the clergy, since the restoration of Charles II. had been called on to debate the points of grace and free will. The calamitous and injudicious expulsion of the non-conformists had, among many bad effects, this single good one, that those who remained were like-minded; and even the dissen. ters had, many of them, begun to speak with more reserve as to the offensive tenets in question, and to express themselves in a manner more conformable to the pacific system of Baxter; when predestination and reprobation were at once revived in the bosom of the church itself, by the indiscreet and fiery eloquence of Whitefield, and opposed by Wesley with a zeal and closeness of reasoning which the Calvinists never forgave, but the value of which was felt by those Arminians whom he had previously most offended.
The effects, indeed, of Whitefield's revived fatalism have been, if not so dangerous to the church, yet, perhaps, more annoying than all the watch-nights and band-meetings and rival hierarchy of which Wesley was the founder, inasmuch as the continuance of domestic broils is often less endurable than the actual separation of a family. The number of the clergy who eventually adhered to Wesley was small; the supremacy which he exercised and the homage which he required were such as to revolt most of those who were entitled to regard themselves as his equals in rank and education; and his measures so evidently conducted, in spite of his constant disclaimer, and, as it would seem, in spite of his own wishes, to separation from the national religion, that few of those who wished well to its continuavce were likely to proceed with bim to the utmost extent of his projects. His brother, Charles Wesley, at first his most attached and able coadjutor, had, for many years before his death, discontinued his habits of itinerant preaching; and his other clerical adherents by degrees sobered down into stationary and useful mivisters of a church, from the majority of whose members, this peculiarity once abandoned, they had little or nothing which could distinguish them. Even the lay-preachers, and those who entered most fully into their founder's views, as their visible connexion with the church was dissolved, were regarded (as open but moderate enemies) with more kindly feelings than those who were suspected of a hollow allegiance to her power and a secret alliance with the non-conformists.
With Whitefield the case was different. As he neither claimed nor exercised any supremacy, over his followers, and as the profesA 4
sion of his distinguishing principles, though contrary to the usual opinions of both clergy and laity, involved no necessary breach of allegiance to the church, and might even plead in its favour, witla considerable plausibility, the ambiguous and comprehensive wording of some of the articles, the clergy who adopted bis opinions were by far more numerous than those who followed Wesley; and, while they professedly remained in the church, were yet very effectually distinguished from their brethren by their adherence to a very unpopular doctrine, by their preference of a phraseology which had an air of ancient puritanism, and by the invidious appropriation, to themselves and their party, of the title of Evangelical Preachers. It is no part of our present business to exainine how far these sparks of difference might have been extivguished, or how far the flame might still be moderated, by a more tolerant and conciliatory treatment than these men have yet received from the high church party. But the fact is, we apprehend, unhappily notorious, that there is at present a numerous party in the church whose rise may be traced, in a great measure, to Whitefield's preaching, and that this party, though adorned with as much piety and virtue as any party of equal numbers can shew, and inferior to none, perhaps, in their fidelity to the civil and ecclesiastical establishments of their country, are yet more obnoxious and more formidable to many of their high church opponents than those professed methodists, who, however they may be reputed enemies to the church, have at least the merit of being hostile in an equal degree to Calvinism.
Accordingly, if we look at the titles of the various angry pamphlets, which appear from time to time to strut and fret their hour on the crowded stage of controversy, we shall find scarcely one in ten directed against the followers of Wesley; and even the few which are thus directed will be found, in general, to have been called out by some local abuse, or burst of unusual enthusiasm, except it be in the case of some of those rare and happy intellects who, in no instance, look further than the surface and the names of things; who, ignorant of the divisions among the methodists themselves, and confounding with methodists all to whom the vulgar apply the term, endeavour, like Mr. Polwhele, to avenge themselves on Calvinists by belabouring Arminians, and to stab Dr. Hawker of Plymouth through the cassock of old John Wesley.
And if those by whom Wesley was so warmly opposed during his life, are at present so little inclined to withhold from him his due share of panegyric, his own followers, it is hoped, (of whom the more distinguished have already shewn a disposition to discourage many of those excesses by which their founder gave 80 much offence to sober Christians) may now be less averse to a call
did examination, how far the good which Wesley is acknowledged to have done might have been effected with less incidental evil; or how far it is wise to adhere to those institutions which, themselves but of doubtful utility, have an inevitable tendency to perpetuate and embitter that separation from the church which they still profess to deprecate.
But as the period is now arrived when a sober and impartial estimate of Wesley's character and opinions is no longer unattainable, . few persons could have been found, we think, better qualified for the undertaking than Mr. Southey has shewn himself to be. With a deep practical knowledge of human nature, and of that science, which the Germans have taught him to call "psychology,' he is better read than most men now living in the general history of the church, and of those remarkable men who hold their place in its apnals, either as saints or heresiarchs. He has a larger share than Lavington possessed of that peculiar learning for which Lavington was most remarkable, and he has applied it, in a wiser and more Christian temper, to the explanation of the distinctive features of methodisns, and the discrimination of its good and evil. If some of his readers think hiin too partial to his hero, they have only to reproach him with the most natural and venial fault to which a biographer is liable; nor has his partiality blinded him to the enthusiasm and love of power which divided Wesley's character, and too often perverted the application and usefulness of talents and virtues which have been seldom surpassed. And as, in the collection of his facts, and the comparison of his evidence, he has displayed his usual industry and discrimination, his narrative, as the faithful record of singular and important occur rences, can hardly fail to be read with interest and instruction, eren by those who are little inclined to concur in his sentiments on Christian doctrine or ecclesiastical polity.
The founder of Methodism always professed himself a member of the church of England, and had been brought up from his infancy in a more than usual reverence for its forms and discipline. His parents had, in early life, abandoned, from conviction, and after diligent inquiry, the communion of the dissenters for that of the establishment; in which his father, a man of exemplary learning and piety, after struggling with many difficulties, and with the powerful ill-will of the body whom he had deserted, obtained two small livings in Lincolnshire. He had many daughters and three sons ; Samuel, the eldest, was first under-master of Westminster school, afterwards head of a free school at Tiverton, and distinguished himself as the intrepid friend and champion of Atterbury during his misfortunes. He appears to have been an excellent man, learned, pious, and of vigorous understanding, who, while