Abbildungen der Seite

Wesley's " Address to the Clergy.


(2) an eminent measure of love to God, and to all his 1756 brethren; (3) he must be an example to his flock, in his

Age 53 private and public character.

The second part of the pamphlet is devoted to the inquiry, Are ministers what they ought to be? Wesley strongly denounces the old adage: “The boy, if he is fit for nothing else, will do well enough for a parson.” Acting upon this had introduced " dull, heavy, blockish ministers; the jest of every pert fool, and of every airy coxcomb that they met.” Men entering the ministry for honour, or for income, are pronounced many degrees beneath Simon Magus, who instead of seeking the gift of God to get money, offered money to obtain the gift. “What a creature," he writes, “is a covetous, an ambitious, a luxurious, an indolent, a diversion loving clergyman! Is it any wonder that infidelity should increase, where any of these are found ?”

In the publication of this pamphlet, Wesley probably aimed at a twofold object :-1. To give a new impulse to the Church of England, to awaken its dormant zeal, to infuse life into its lifeless ministers; and thus prevent the necessity of a separation. 2. To curb the ambition of his own lay preachers, by setting before them a ministerial standard, of which, in some respects, most of them fell immeasurably short. Was this object realised? This is a question which succeeding chapters will help to answer. At present, it is only fair to add, that it is somewhat difficult to reconcile Wesley's pamphlet with Wesley's letter already given, bearing date, August 31, 1756.

Wesley's “ Address to the Clergy” was not left to pass unchallenged.

William Law, still smarting from Wesley's castigation, remarks in a letter, dated April 10, 1757: “Wesley's Babylonish 'Address to the Clergy' is empty babble, fitter for an old grammarian, who has grown blear eyed in mending dictionaries, than for one who has tasted the powers of the world to come, and has found the truth as it is in Jesus.” 1 Alas! William Law !

An unknown clergyman also issued a sixpenny pamphlet,

“ Collection of Letters by W. Law.” London : 1760. P. 198.

1756 entitled, “A Letter to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, occasioned Age 53 by his Address to the Clergy. By one of the Clergy.” The

writer accuses Wesley of spiritual pride and presumption, and adduces extracts to support his charge; but, in all other respects, the production is unimportant. Another tract, however, of the same size, was published a few months later, and is more puzzling. "An Expostulatory Letter to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, occasioned by his Address to the Clergy," begins thus :-“We, W. B., G. C., J. M., etc., do, in behalf of ourselves and many others, who, by your appointment, instigation, or encouragement, have undertaken to preach the gospel of Christ, beg leave, in the spirit of meekness and love, to expostulate with you." And then these pretending disciples proceed very shrewdly to attack, not only the

Address," but likewise Wesley's late translation of the New Testament. Was this a genuine production ? We cannot tell. If not spurious, it was of great importance.



His Age 54

N 1757, Charles Wesley seems to have ceased, to a great

extent, to itinerate as a Methodist preacher. journeys became less frequent and extensive, till his ministrations were chiefly confined to Bristol and London, with occasional visits to some intermediate and surrounding places. Why was this? The answer must be conjectural. It is a curious fact, that no document in his handwriting, bearing the date of 1757, is known to be in existence; nor even the fragment of a letter, of the same period, addressed to him by his brother. Some have attributed the cessation of his itinerancy to his marriage; and there is doubtless some truth in this. A regard for the feelings and society of his noble wife, with the care of his infant children, probably contributed to the change which now took place;' but the principal cause of his settling down was, unquestionably, the state of feeling which existed in many of the societies and preachers with regard to the Established Church. His brother thought, that separation was inexpedient, but could not regard it in the heinous light in which it appeared to Charles. Wesley was inclined to treat the disaffected with gentleness and persuasiveness ; Charles was for the adoption of strong and compulsory measures. Their policy was different, and this was an obvious difficulty. Charles could not visit the societies as a mere friend, or as one of the ordinary preachers. He must appear as possessing a co-ordinate authority with his brother; and, their views being so widely different, it became impossible for them to regulate the societies in perfect concert. Hence, he doubtless thought it best to exercise a more settled ministry, and to


Berridge, in a letter to Lady Huntingdon, dated March 23, 1770, writes : “No trap so mischievous to the field preacher as wedlock. Matrimony has quite maimed poor Charles” [Wesley], " and might have spoiled John" (Wesley] " and George" (Whitefield]," if a wise Master had not graciously sent them a brace of ferrets." (" Life and Times of Lady Huntingdon," vol. i., p. 389.)


leave the people and the preachers generally in the hands of

John. Still, to the end of life, he retained his union with the Age 54

Methodists, and rendered important service, though in a more limited sphere than he had been wont to occupy. The effect of his retirement, so far as he was personally concerned, was the reverse of favourable. His mind was naturally of a somewhat melancholy cast; but, amid the excitement of the itinerancy, he had no time to indulge in morbid feeling. When he ceased to travel, he was at leisure to cherish his gloomy forebodings. Croakers and busybodies tormented him with letters, complaining of the ambition of the preachers, and of the alienation of the people from the Church. Often was he in agonies of fear lest the Methodists should become Dissenters; while his brother was as happy as an angel, flying through the three kingdoms, sounding the trumpet of the world's jubilee, and joyfully witnessing, every successive year, the steady advancement of the work of God.

Whitefield spent about half of the year 1757 in the metropolis, and the remainder in evangelistic tours in England, Scotland, and Ireland. He preached fifty times, in twentyfive days, in the city of Edinburgh ; attended the sittings of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ; and, by invitation, dined with the lord high commissioner. In Dublin he was well-nigh murdered. Attended by a soldier and four Methodist preachers, he repaired to Oxmanton Green, near the barracks, and sang, prayed, and preached, with no further molestation than the throwing of a few stones and clods. It being a time of war, he exhorted the people “not only to fear God, but to honour the best of kings, and then prayed for success to the Prussian arms." On leaving the ground, “hundreds and hundreds of papists” surrounded him; volleys of stones were thrown at him ; and, at every step he took, a fresh stone struck him, till he was red with blood. For a while, his strong beaver hat served to protect his head; but this, at last, was lost in the affray. Blows and wounds were multiplied ; and, every moment, he expected, like Stephen, “to go off in this bloody triumph to the immediate presence of his Master.” Providentially, the door of a minister's house

1 Jackson's Life of C. Wesley, vol. ii., pp. 135-137.

Whitefield mobbed in Ireland.



Age 54

was opened, and here he found a temporary refuge. On entering, he was speechless, but gradually revived, when the minister's wife desired his absence, fearing that his presence would lead to the destruction of her dwelling. What to do he knew not, being nearly two miles from Wesley's home for preachers. At length, a carpenter offered him his wig and coat to disguise himself; but, just at the same moment, a Methodist preacher and two other friends, brought a coach. "I leaped into it," he writes, "and rode in gospel triumph, through the oaths, curses, and imprecations of whole streets of papists. The weeping, mourning, but now joyful Methodists received me with inconceivable affection ; a Christian surgeon dressed my wounds; and then I went into the preaching place, and joined in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to Him, who stills the noise of the waves, and the madness of the most malignant people. Next morning, I set out for Portarlington, and left my persecutors to His mercy, who out of persecutors hath often made preachers.” 1

This was barbarous treatment, and suggests a sad idea of the political and religious bitterness of Irish papists a hundred years ago. Poor Ireland! Whitefield declares, that, so far as he could learn, there was not a single minister in the whole of Ireland, either among Churchmen or Dissenters, who was faithfully and boldly witnessing for God and Christ.

Wesley spent the first two months of 1757 in London, where, including the sacrament, one of his sabbath services usually lasted for about five successive hours. In fact, he considered his sabbath work, in London, equal to preaching eight sermons.

At the end of February, he paid a brief visit to Norwich, and made arrangements for the rebuilding of the Foandery, which the Norwich Methodists were using as a meeting-house, an unknown friend having given him money enough for that purpose.

After returning to London, he and Thomas Walsh visited the Methodist soldiers at Canterbury; and also made a preaching excursion to Beaconsfield and to High Wycombe. On Monday, the 11th of April, he held a covenant service at

1 Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 207. VOL. II.

Ibid. p. 206.


« ZurückWeiter »