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From this time forward, the history of Wesley's life offers little variety. He proceeded in the same tenour of unvaried and restless activity; divided between his labours as an itinerant preacher, as a voluminous author, almost de omni scibili,' as visitor of a large school, which he bad established on his own principles at Kingswood, and of which the discipline was perhaps the sourest and most tyrannical that ever poor children were subjected to, and, above all, as the sole and absolute sovereign of the doctrine, discipline, lives, and consciences of his sect, both in Britain, Ireland, and America. He was, at different periods of his life, considerably annoyed by dissensions among his people; which, however, he for the most part appeased with wonderful tact and sagacity. Antinomianism made several inroads into his societies, and the spirit of schism, once awakened, soon began to display itself in many minor sects, which branched off from his church, or which he himself repelled from it. Notwithstanding the many concessions he made to the Lay Preachers, he neither entirely satisfied them, nor does he appear to have been altogether pleased with his own conduct, inasmuch as while he professed to be convinced by the arguments of Lord King, and in opposition to the tenets of the Church of England, that a bishop and presbyter were originally the same office, he displayed considerable anxiety to get himself ordained a bishop by a Greek who was then in London, and who assumed the name of Bishop of Arcadia.* The Greek, however, knew better than Wesley the canons of the ancient church, and how necessary it was that more than one bishop should be present at such a ceremony.
There were other points in which Wesley was dissatisfied with his people, and in which he shewed some remainder of those feelings of allegiance to the Church of England which he had imbibed from his father and his education at Oxford. We find him exceedingly displeased with one of his meeting-houses because it resembled a Presbyterian Conventicle. “An omen, perhaps,' says he, of what it will be when I am gone. He was uniformly strenuous in his exhortations to remain in the communion of the Church of England; and when, at Deptford, the Methodists were anxious to have divine service in their chapel during church hours,
* This poor wan, whose naine was Erasmus, was unjustly accused of imposture by Toplady and the other enemies of Wesley. The reason they assigned for their suspicions only shewed their own excessive ignorance of the Eastern Church. The certificates of orders which he issued were not in modern but in ancient Greek! If Erasmus had been really an impostor, he would not bave acted with so much honesty as he did in refusing to consecrate Wesley. But there are some men who find the same difficulty in conceiving a Bishop without temporalities, as Martin Scriblerus did to conceive the abstract idea of a Lord Mayor. The Maronite Archbishop of Jerusalem was suspected by many people who ought to have known better, in spite of sundry credentials, for no other reason, that we know us, but his want of a coach and four.
he declared, that if they carried their intention into effect, they should see his face no more. Yet even this point he was, at last, induced to concede, by the same arguments of expediency, (than which no worse argument can be used for quieting a man's conscience,) to which he had recourse when, in opposition to all his former principles, he adınitted Laymen to exercise the office of ministers.
His political conduct was, on the whole, more consistent. In early life, and following the inclinations of his mother more than those of his father, he was a Jacobite; and gave offence at Oxford by a political sermon, the memory of which may have mingled itself with the opposition which the Methodists experienced, and contributed to the report which at one time prevailed, that Wesley was a Jesuit in disguise. In his latter days he was still a high tory. He went so far in the American war as to offer bis help in raising a regiment for the crown; and wrote a tract to justify the mother country in its right of taxation, which gave so much offence to his American converts that he soon after, if we believe Joseph Nightingale, was disingenuous enough to disavow his previous sentiments, and profess the having forgotten his own pamphlet. He shewed, however, his sagacity in discerning the signs of the times before the French Revolution, and in deducing his expectations of evil from a corrupt and disaffected press. And it has been ever since the honourable distinction of by far the greater number of the preachers in his connexion, that of all the sects there is none which has so clearly given warning, through its usual officers, of the guilt and danger of rebellion. But his busy life was now drawing to a close : though, in his extreme old age, he was blessed with a degree of vigour and vivacity of body and mind which, as he himself, with a pardonable degree of vanity, tells us, made him a wonder to himself and his acquaintance.' one who saw him, even casually,' Mr. Southey tells us, can have forgotten his venerable appearance. His face was remarkably fine; his complexion fresh to the last week of his life; his eye quick and keen and active. When you met him in the street of a crowded city, he attracted notice, not only by his band and cassock, and his long hair, white and bright as silver, but by his pace and manner, both indicating that all his minutes were numbered and that not one was to be lost. On completing his eighty-third year, he tells us of himself in his journals, I am never tired, (such is the goodness of God,) either with writing, preaching, or travelling. One natural cause, undoubtedly, is my continual exercise and change of air. How the latter contributes to health I know not; but certainly it does. Other persons, however, perceived his growing weakness before he was
himself aware of it; but the decay was gradual and without suffering, till in the middle of the year 1790, he confessed that though he felt no pain, yet nature was exhausted, and, humanly speaking, would sink more and more, till
' The weary springs of life stand still at last.' In the following February, he had still strength to write a long letter to America, in which he enjoined those who desired to say any thing to him to lose no opportunity,' for time,' he continued, • has shaken me by the hand, and death is not far behind:' words which his father had used in one of the last letters that he addressed to his sons at Oxford. He died, in fact, peaceably and without pain, in little more than a fortnight afterwards, in the eighty-eighth year of his age and the sixty-fifth of his ministry.
'At the desire of many of his friends, his body was carried into the chapel the day preceding the interment, and there lay in a kind of state becoming the person, dressed in his clerical .habit, with gown, cassock, and band; the old clerical cap on his head, a Bible in one hand and a white handkerchief in the other. The face was placid, and the expression which death had fixed upon his venerable features, was that of a serene and heavenly smile. The crowds who flocked to see him were so great, that it was thought prudent, for fear of accidents, to accelerate the funeral, and perform it between five and six in the morning. The intelligence, however, could not be kept entirely secret, and several hundred persons attended at that unusual hour. Mr. Richardson, who performed the service, had been one of his preachers almost thirty years. When he came to that part of the service, “ Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother,” his voice changed, and he substituted the word father; and the feeling with which he did this was such, that the congregation who were
shedding silent tears, burst at once into loud weeping.'-vol. ii. p. 563.
Charles Wesley had died three years before, leaving behind him the character of a man of accomplished mind, and holy and humble temper; who to an activity little less remarkable than that of his brother, added a taste for poetry and literature superior to that which John displayed; who had more discernment, less credulity, and who was totally free from that lofty spirit of rule and ambition which pervaded every thought and action of the other. Latterly their opinions had differed. Charles saw the evil tendency of some parts of the discipline established among the Methodists. He did not hesitate to say, that he abominated their band-meetings of which he had once approved; and adhering faithfully himself to the church, he regretted the separation which he foresaw, and disapproved of John's conduct in taking steps which manifestly led to it. But the mutual love of the brethren remained the same.
VOL. XXIV. NO. XLVII.
Charles acknowledged the excellence of his brother's motives, and appears to have been anxious that, as the Methodists were to exist as a separate society, that society should still be under the absolute controul of one so wise, so good, and who differed in so few points from that church which he had virtually deserted. He died without pain or disease, in the eightieth year of his age, and was buried, by his own desire, not in his brother's burying-ground, because it was not consecrated, but in the church-yard of Maryle-bone, and his pall was supported by eight clergymen of the Church of England.
Of John Wesley, and of the revolution which he effected in the religious world, our opinion may be collected from the manner in which we have already expressed ourselves. He was, unquestionably, a man of very eminent talents and acquirements. His genius, naturally clear and vivid, had been developed and matured during his residence at Oxford, by an unremitting attention to the studies of the place, studies to which he always looked back with pleasure; and which, during his long and busy life, he was careful to keep up by the aid of an industry and a management of time which none that we know of have excelled, and few indeed have equalled. He always rose, for above fifty years together, at four in the morning. He read even while on horseback; and, during the latter part of his life, when his long journies were made in a carriage, he boasted that he had generally from ten to twelve hours in the day which he could devote to study and composition. Accordingly, besides the ancient languages, he was competently skilled in many of the tongues of modern Europe, and his journals display throughout a remarkable and increasing familiarity with the general reading, the poetry, and ephemeral productions of his day. Dr. Johnson has borne witness to the vivacity of his conversation, and to the frugality with which his time was measured. He strictly adhered to his own rules in this respect, nor can better rules be devised for obtaining leisure, even amid the pressure of business the most varied and extensive. Though I am always in haste,' he said of himself, “I am never in a hurry; because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit.'
Unquestionably this well-arranged and preconcerted activity was one principal feature of his character, and mainly conduced to form and preserve in him that masterly spirit of government which has distinguished him from all other founders of sects or religious societies. Francis of Assissi was a tool in the hands of more artful followers, and the same may be suspected even of Mahomet. The vast structure which Benedict reared was not his own invention, but a revisal and reform of ancient institutions; and the Jesuits are indebted for theirs to wiser and more
worldly worldly heads than Loyola: but every thing in Methodism originated, every thing centred, every thing terminated in Wesley. His
supremacy, while he lived, was more absolute and undisputed than any thing of the kind which the world has seen. Whatever differences, whatever disaffection arose, only served, in the event, to strengthen his authority; and he left behind him, in full vigour, a system which, whatever be its other demerits, is more applicable to general purposes than the discipline of the Moravians; while not even that discipline is so well qualified to secure its own union, and the absolute submission of the members.
Of the sincerity of his piety, that his heart was really and entirely in the system which he established, and that he conceived it to be calculated, beyond all other institutions, to promote the glory of God and the virtue and happiness of mankind, the intensity of his labours would be alone no insufficient proof, if it were not still further attested by the greatness of his charity. When he entered at college, his income was 301. a year, of which he gave forty shillings in alms. As his circumstances improved by the improvement of his fellowship, he still spent only 28l. on himself, and bestowed the whole surplus on the poor. In his latter days he received very large sums of money as presents, and from the sale of his different publications, of which he was himself both printer and publisher; but whatever exceeded his own frugal maintenance and his travelling expenses, was immediately dispersed in benevolence. At his death, a memorandum was found in his cash account book, written with a tremulous hand, and dated some months preceding. For upwards of eighty-six years I have kept my accounts exactly: I will not attempt it any longer, being satisfied with the continual conviction that I save all I can and give all I can ; that is, all I have.' It is affirmed that, in the course of his life, he gave away not less than thirty thousand pounds in this manner !
The faults or infirmities of Wesley were by no means such as materially to detract from his many great and excellent qualities. Of these defects, the most striking was, perhaps, his anibition; which, if it always found its vent in benevolent and pious enterprizes, made him less scrupulous as to the means by which such enterprizes were to be carried on, and induced him to keep in view more steadily than even higher objects, the extension of his own renown, and the maintenance of his personal dominion. Through his whole life he endured no superior or equal, and his admirable brother, and saintly disciples Fletcher and Coke were, in all respects, not his coadjutors, but his instruments. The same character made him uneasy and restless while employed in a narrow sphere, and as cold and harsh in the performance of his domestic duties as D 2