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sesom vociferantur civitatem : in agris, in castellis, in insulis omnem sexum, ætatem, conditionem, et jam dignitatem transgredi ad hoc nomen, moerent!
If such expressions were applicable in their full extent to the present state of religion in our land, we certainly should be among the last to dissemble our opinion that it would be a state of things exceedingly to be lamented. Even if fewer objections were to be found (and the objections in our minds are many and grave,) to the doctrines which the Methodists particularly teach, and the discipline which they impose on their followers, yet is it no trifling evil in itself, (and one which could only be outweighed by an overwhelming necessity of reformation,) to unsettle the minds of men from the religion of their ancestors and of the state, and from those forms of worship which early associations have rendered venerable. Believing, as we do, that the present ecclesiastical establishment is the instrument the best qualified of all others which have been tried, to answer the purposes of religious instruction and public devotion, we have good reason to deprecate its removal or desertion in favour of systems which have as yet by no means stood the test of sufficient experience; nor can we consent that those rulers, whose office and authority we firmly believe to be derived from the Apostles themselves, should be displaced to make
way for the successors of Dr. Coke and Mr. Astbury. There can, however, be no advantage in harassing the minds of nien by an esaggerated alarm, or of swelling a danger-in reality sufficiently great to call forth the best energies of the defenders of the teniple,--to an amount which, if real, would leave them little else than the choice of submission or of martyrdom. It must be observed, in qualification of such forebodings, that if, by the success of Methodism, the numbers of those who are avowedly separated from the church is increased, a great proportion of their converts were previously, in fact, of no church and no religion; that no small number have been drawn from sects whose principles were more hostile to the Established Church than those of the Methodists; that in the natural advance of population during the last half century, a certain and progressive increase might have been counted on, even without the aid of converts; that, if the chapels of the Methodists are numerous, they are, on the other hand, mostly small; that, as their principal harvest has been reaped if not from the indolence of the clergy, yet from the insufficient supply of church room, so many of them return to the worship of their forefathers wherever they meet with a free church or a popular pastor; and that, from the annual reports of the Wesleyavs themselves, the number of their members, who constitute more than half the whole body of Methodists, is not, we believe, in all
above two or three hundred thousand; no very appalling amount in a population of sixteen millions.
But it is not, as we have already observed, by the numbers of the professed Methodists alone that we must estimate the moral effect which they have produced, and are producing among Christians. The religious ferment first excited by their preaching has extended far beyond the visible bounds of their society. It has stimulated the clergy to greater seriousness and activity in the discharge of their functions; it has set the laity on thinking for themselves; it has, as an incidental consequence of the rivalry of hostile sects, (roused by the new phenomenon to the practice of new means of popularity) forwarded, to a degree never previously contemplated, the education and religious instruction of the lower classes; it has opposed, among those classes, a mighty and countervailing principle to the poisonous flood of modern philosophy. It is obvious, even to a careless observer, that religion is more in the minds and mouths of men than formerly; that a greater curiosity is excited by its discussion. And, amid all the vices which a long war and a luxurious capital, and a renewed intercourse with foreign nations, have produced in the two extremes of society, the majority are, on the whole, less ashamed of, and more attentive to the outward appearances of piety than they seem to have been during the preceding century. Nor can it be doubted, from the crowded state of all our ancient places of Worship, and from the avidity with which every additional opportunity is seized which free churches or evening lectures afford, that the church has gleaned in this spiritual harvest a great, if not a proportionate, addition of intelligent and zealous members; and that, if the appetite for religion, however excited, can be gratified in the national establishments, a great proportion of the world will, in preference, seek their way to Heaven through those paths which their forefathers have trodden.
But if the incidental advantages are thus great to which Methodism has given rise, it is not to be dissembled that its incidental bad consequences have been neither few nor inconsiderable. Those evils are partly such as inseparably attend every great excitation of the public mind, by whatever cause originated, and directed to whatever object; and partly they arise from the peculiar circumstances under which Methodism was introduced, and the nature of some of its doctrines. It is impossible that such discussions should have taken place, in a world constituted like our own, without giving occasion to many breaches of Christian charity, and of national as well as ecclesiastical union. Religion has ceased, in many instances, to be a question between the conscience of men and iheir Maker; it has become a matter of party; and has been
made the pretence for all the odious passions and mutual aspersions with which every party is inclined to regard or assail its opponents. The dangers of the nation have been regarded, even by good men, with less sympathy than they would otherwise have been, because, in such dangers, they foresaw the downfal of those religious establishments which they had learned to regard as hostile to Christianity; while others have despaired too soon of the national safety, from a belief that the majority of their countrymen were unworthy of the Divine protection. In neighbourhoods and in families dissension has been sown among those who, till then, had followed the same spiritual guides, and walked to the same House of God in company. Parental authority, and the mutual affection of brothers and sisters, have been weakened or destroyed from differences which referred to no essential point of doctrine or practice. Needless scruples and ill-judged austerities of manner and deportment have agitated bosoms and darkened countenances which before were guileless, and innocent, and gay as the birds in the thicket; while a fresh argument has been furnished, by such excesses, to the enemies of piety, and a fresh and most injurious watch-word obtained to increase the odium which is too apt to follow any remarkable earnestness or activity in the cause of holi
And, what is, perhaps, the worst and most pervading evil of all, the degree in which the public mind has been led to religious discussion, and the indiscriminate manner in which that discussion has been mingled with the society, the business, and amusements of the world, has led many to restrict their views of holiness to little more than a kind of godly gossip, and to esteem religion itself as a thing rather to be talked about than to be carried into practice.
Of the extraordinary man, to whose labours so much good and so much evil may be attributed, the history had been, till now, almost unknown in foreign nations, and very imperfectly and partially appreciated by his
own countrymen. Few persons, however, had left behind them more abundant materials for their own biography. From the 23d to the 88th year of a most active and restless life, John Wesley had found time to keep a Diary, not only of his actions, but of his thoughts, his studies, his remarks on books, on men, and miscellaneous topics, with a minuteness and vivacity only possible to one who had sufficient vanity to believe all which respected himself worth recording, and sufficient ability to render all which he recorded interesting. In all his printed works, on whatever subject, (and these amount to sixteen volumes,) he has found a necessity or opportunity to speak of himself, his habits of life and modes of thinking ; and he lived so much and so long in the sight of men, and there were so many men to whom 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 bistory 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 wbo 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 important. 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 longevity 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 among 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 schisniatic 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, with out their efficacy in softening any personal prejudice which his 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 the 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 revoltiug character of the doctrine itself, or to the injurious consequences which it appears to most med 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 inclined to favour the system of their enemies. Nor can we wonder,