Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1752

Age 49

field touching perseverance, at least, if not predestination too. Is it not highly expedient, that you should write explicitly and strongly on this head likewise ?

“Perhaps the occasion of this latter affirmation was, that both you and I have often granted an absolute, unconditional election of some, together with a conditional election of all men. I did incline to this scheme for many years; but of late I have doubted it more and more: First, because all the texts which I used to think supported it, I now think, prove either more or less ; either absolute reprobation and election, or neither. Secondly, because I find this opinion serves all the ill purposes of absolute predestination ; particularly that of supporting infallible perseverance. Talk with any that holds it, and so you will find.

“On Friday and Saturday next is our little conference at Limerick. We join in love.” 1

No one reading Charles Wesley's hymns will, for a moment, entertain the accusation, that he sympathised with the Calvinian tenets of his friend Whitefield; and yet, remembering, that he and the Countess of Huntingdon were now living in terms of the most intimate friendship; and, that he was frequently preaching and administering the sacrament in her ladyship’s house, it is not surprising, that such a report should have become current. As to the other point, that Charles Wesley did not approve of and enforce some of the rules of the society, we incline to think, that this was true; and that there was already an amount of shyness between the brothers, which soon afterwards threatened to become something serious.

The Limerick conference (the first in Ireland) was held on the 14th and 15th days of August. Oddly enough, there are in existence two manuscripts, written by preachers present at the conference, and containing its minutes and appointments. One of them, in my own possession, was given by an aunt of Philip Guier, to the Rev. Samuel Wood, who published a copy of it in the Irish Methodist Magazine for 1807. The other manuscript is in the handwriting of Jacob Rowell, and is now possessed by Mr. John Steele, of Chester. It is from Rowell's manuscript that the editor of the new edition of the minutes, published in 1862, printed the minutes of the Limerick conference contained in that volume.

From these important documents we learn, that there was

1 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 106.

Irish Conference in 1752.

145

a general decay of the societies in Ireland, partly occasioned 1752 by the teaching of antinomian and Calvinian doctrines; partly Age 49 by the want of discipline; and partly by the misbehaviour of preachers. All the itinerants present (ten in number) declared, that they did not believe in the doctrine of absolute predestination ; but three of them added : “We believe there are some persons absolutely elected ; but we believe, likewise, that Christ died for all ; that God willeth not the death of any man; and that thousands are saved that are not absolutely elected. We believe, further, that those who are thus elected cannot finally fall; but we believe other believers may fall, and that those who were once justified may perish everlastingly.”

Let Wesley's letter to his brother be read in the light of this extract from the Limerick minutes, and the one will help to explain the other. We have here an instance of Wesley tolerating a difference in doctrine among his preachers, so long as fundamental truths were not impugned. This might be wise or it might not; but the fact itself is a fact worth noticing

It was resolved, however, that, in future, no man should be received as a fellow labourer unless he thoroughly agreed to both Methodist doctrine and discipline; and that, if any preacher revolted from this agreement, letters should be sent to all the societies, disowning him.

It was, also, decided, that if a man was not able to preach twice a day, he should be only a local preacher ; that, of the two, it was better to give up the evening preaching in a place than the morning ; that the congregations must constantly kneel in prayer, and stand both in singing and while th was read, and be serious and silent while the service lasted, and when coming and going away. Persons not having band tickets were not to be permitted to be present at the public meeting of the bands, for this would make the tickets cheap, and would discourage those who had them. Preachers were to be allowed £8, at least, and if possible £10 a year for clothing; and £10 a year were to be allowed for the support of each preacher's wife. The preachers were to preach frequently and strongly on fasting; and were to practise it every Friday, health permitting. Next to luxury, they were to VOL. II.

L

1752 avoid idleness, and were to spend one hour every day in Age 49 private prayer.

Six preachers were admitted, one of whom was Philip Guier, concerning whom we must say a word.

It is well known, that a number of Palatines, driven from Germany, had settled in the neighbourhood of Ballingran; and that, though they were in the first instance a sober, well conducted, and moral people, they had, through having no minister of their own, and no German worship, degenerated into an irreligious, drunken, swearing community. Amidst this general degeneracy, Philip Guier breasted the wave, and, like Milton's Abdiel, proved faithful among the faithless. He was the master of the German school at Ballingran; and it was in his school, that Philip Embury (subsequently the founder of Methodism in the United States, now a young man thirty-two years of age), had been taught to read and write. By means of Guier, also, the devoted Thomas Walsh, of the same age as Embury, had been enlightened, and prepared to receive the truth as it is in Jesus. Philip Guier was made the leader of the infant society at Limerick, and now, in 1752, was appointed to act as a local preacher among the Palatines. He still kept his school, but devoted his spare hours to preaching. The people loved the man, and sent him, if not money, yet flour, oatmeal, bacon, and potatoes, so that Philip, if not rich, was not in want. It is a remarkable fact, that, after the lapse of a hundred years, the name of Philip Guier is as fresh in Ballingran as it ever was; for there, even papists as well as protestants are accustomed to salute the Methodist minister as he jogs along on his circuit horse, and to say, “There goes Philip Guier, who drove the devil out of Ballingran!”1 Under the date of May 7, 1778, Wesley writes: “Two months ago, good Philip Guier fell asleep, one of the Palatines that came over and settled in Ireland, between sixty and seventy years ago. He was a father both to this” [Newmarket]"and the other German societies, loving and cherishing them as his own children. He retained all his faculties to the last, and after two days' illness went to God.”

· Irish Evangelist, October 1, 1860.

[blocks in formation]

After the conference at Limerick, Wesley proceeded to 1752 Cork, where he examined the society, and found about three

Age 49 hundred, who were striving to have a conscience void of offence toward God and man. At Kinsale, he preached in a large, deep hollow, capable of containing two or three thousand people, the soldiers of the fort, with their swords, cutting him a place to stand upon. At Waterford, Thomas Walsh preached in Irish, and Wesley in English, the rabble cursing, shouting, and hallooing most furiously.

At length, after spending twelve weeks in Ireland, during which there were not two dry days together, Wesley set sail for England; and, on October 14, arrived safe at Bristol. Three weeks later, he came to London, and here he continued the remainder of the year, preparing books for the “Christian Library,” on which he had already lost more than £200.

During this interval, Whitefield wrote as follows to Charles Wesley, showing that distrust was creeping in among them :

“LONDON, December 22, 1752. “MY DEAR FRIEND,–1 have read and pondered your kind letter. The connection between you and your brother has been so close and continued, and your attachment to him so necessary to keep up his interest, that I would not willingly, for the world, do or say anything that may separate such friends. I cannot help thinking, that he is still jealous of me and my proceedings; but, I thank God, I am quite easy about it. I have seen an end of all perfection. God knows how I love and honour you, and your brother, and how often I have preferred your interest to my own. This I shall continue to do. More might be said, were we face to face.

Yours, etc.,

“ GEORGE WHITEFIELD." I It is far from pleasant to end the year with a note of discord; but we shall unfortunately have to hear more of this in future years.

In concluding the chapter with the usual list of Wesley's publications during the current year, there must be noticed :

1. The continuation of his "Christian Library." Twelve volumes had been given to the public already ; seven more were issued in 1752, containing extracts from the writings of Thomas Manton, Isaac Ambrose, Jeremy Taylor, Ralph Cudworth, Nathaniel Culverwell, John Owen, and others.

1 Whitefield's Works, vol. ii., p. 464.

1752

2. “Some Account of the Life and Death of Matthew Lee." Age 49 12mo, 24 pages.

3. Serious Thoughts concerning Godfathers and Godmothers.”

12mo, four pages. The tract was written at Athlone in Ireland, but was hardly worth publishing. Of course, Wesley approves of godfathers and godmothers; but acknowledges that baptism is valid without them.

4. “Predestination calmly Considered." 12mo, 83 pages. We have already seen, that three of the preachers, present at the Irish conference, expressed their belief, that some persons are absolutely elected, but that thousands are saved who are not elected. It was also rumoured, that Charles Wesley inclined to Whitefield's predestinarian views. Under such circumstances, Wesley's “Predestination calmly Considered " was a needed and opportune production. He writes (page 6): “There are some who assert the decree of election, and not the decree of reprobation. They assert, that God hath, by a positive, unconditional decree, chosen some to life and salvation ; but not that He hath, by any such decree, devoted the rest of mankind to destruction. These are they to whom I would address myself first.” This is one of Wesley's most cogent and exhaustive pamphlets, written in a most loving spirit, and yet utterly demolishing the Calvinistic theory. He shows conclusively, that no man can consistently hold the doctrine of election without holding the cognate doctrine of reprobation,-a doctrine wholly opposed to the plainest teachings of holy Scripture, dishonouring to God, overthrowing the scriptural doctrines of a future judgment, and of rewards and punishments, and “naturally leading to the chambers of death.” It is difficult to conceive how any one can read Wesley's treatise, and still remain a Calvinist. None of his Methodistic friends tried to answer it; but Dr. John Gill, the pastor of a Baptist church in Southwark, published, in the same year, the two following pamphlets :-“The Doctrine of the Saints' Final Perseverance, asserted and vindicated. In answer to a late pamphlet, called Serious Thoughts on that subject." Svo, 59 pages. And, "The Doctrine of Predestination stated and set in the Scripture light; in opposition to Mr. Wesley's Predestination Calmly Considered. With a reply to the exceptions of the said writer to the Doctrine

« ZurückWeiter »