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Maxfield's Whinings, and Bell's Ending. 441
usefulness; complains of Wesley keeping scores, if not hundreds, of his spiritual children from him; declares that, while he disapproved of Bell's proceedings, Wesley encouraged them; taunts him with having been guilty of the same enthusiasm as Bell by his gloomy prophecies concerning Dr. Halley's comet; asserts, that the reasons Bell assigned for leaving Wesley were his "double dealings and unfaithful proceedings"; and says that, in a society meeting at the Foundery, Wesley boastfully glorified himself, with the following epitaph of Philip of Macedon :—
"Here Philip lies, on the Dalmatian shore,
Yet, if there's one who boasts he more hath done,
Maxfield lived twenty years after this separation. He took with him about two hundred of Wesley's London society, and preached to a large congregation in a chapel in Ropemaker's Alley, Little Moorfields. Towards the close of life he again became friendly with the Methodists; and Wesley visited him in his last illness, and also preached in his chapel.1 In 1766, Maxfield published a hymn-book of more than four hundred pages, many of his hymns being selections from those published by his old friends, the Wesleys. In the preface, he still complains of persecution, in being represented as "heading a party of wild enthusiasts"; but says, "such a groundless charge deserves no answer," and appeals to his hymn-book as a proof.
George Bell, for many years, was Maxfield's survivor, but made no pretension to religion. "He recovered his senses," says Southey, "to make a deplorable use of them; passing from one extreme to another, the ignorant enthusiast became an ignorant infidel; turned fanatic in politics, as he had done in religion; and, having gone through all the degrees of disaffection and disloyalty, died, at a great age, a radical reformer."
We only add that, in 1762, Charles Wesley, who had been laid aside by ill health from preaching, published, in two volumes, his "Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy
1 1 Wesley's Works, vol. iv., p. 232.
1762 Scriptures," in the preface to which he says: "Several of the Age 59 hymns are intended to prove, and several to guard, the doctrine of Christian perfection. I durst not publish one without the other. In the latter sort I use some severity; not against particular persons, but against enthusiasts and antinomians, who, by not living up to their profession, give abundant occasion to them that seek it, and cause the truth to be evil spoken of."
Mr. Jackson writes:
"Until this time, it had been understood, that Mr. Charles Wesley agreed with his brother on this as well as every other doctrine of Christian verity; although he had repeatedly used unguarded expressions in his hymns, which could not be justified. But now his views on this subject appear to have undergone a change, in consequence of the extravagance and pride of which he was a distressed witness. He did not, from this time, contend, as do many, for the necessary continuance of indwelling sin till death; but he spoke of Christian perfection as a much higher attainment than either he or his brother had previously regarded it. In his estimation, it is not to be obtained by a present act of faith in the mercy, truth, and power of God; but is rather the result of severe discipline, comprehending affliction, temptation, long continued labour, and the persevering exercise of faith in seasons of spiritual darkness, when the heart is wrung with bitter anguish. By this painful and lingering process, he believed that the death of 'the old man' is effected, and a maturity is given to all the graces of the Christian character. Hence, he condemned 'the witnesses,' as he called them; that is, the persons who testified of the time and manner in which they were delivered from the root of sin, and made perfect in love, regarding them as self deceived. In some of his Short Hymns,' he has given considerable importance to these peculiarities of opinion.
"This change in Mr. Charles Wesley's manner of speaking on the subject of Christian perfection, as might be expected, gave considerable uneasiness to his brother, who felt it to be very undesirable that they should even seem to contradict each other in their ministry and writings. In a letter, therefore, to Miss Furley, he says, 'Take care you are not hurt by anything in the "Short Hymns," contrary to the doctrines you have long received.' And, on the same subject, he also says, in a letter to Charles, That perfection which I believe, I can boldly preach; because I think I see five hundred witnesses of it. Of that perfection which you preach, you think you do not see any witness at all. Why, then, you must have far more courage than me, or you could not persist in preaching it. I wonder you do not, in this article, fall in plumb with Mr. Whitefield. For do not you, as well as he, ask, "Where are the perfect ones?" I verily believe there are none upon earth; none dwelling in the body. I cordially assent to his opinion, that there is no such perfection
Wesley, on Christian Perfection.
here as you describe; at least, I never met with an instance of it; and I doubt I never shall. Therefore I still think, to set perfection so high is effectually to renounce it.'
"At a subsequent period, he again addressed Charles on the same subject. Some thoughts,' says he, 'occurred to my mind this morning, which, I believe, it may be useful to set down; the rather, because it may be a means of our understanding each other clearly; that we may agree as far as ever we can, and then let all the world know it.
"I was thinking on Christian perfection, with regard to the thing, the manner, and the time.
"1. By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God and man, ruling all the tempers, words, and actions; the whole heart, and the whole life.
"I do not include a possibility of falling from it, either in part or in whole. Therefore, I retract several expressions in our hymns, which partly express, partly imply, such an impossibility. And I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object against it. Do we agree or differ here? If we differ, wherein ?
"2. As to the manner, I believe this perfection is always wrought in the soul by faith, by a simple act of faith; consequently, in an instant. But I believe a gradual work, both preceding and following that instant. Do we agree or differ here?
"3. As to the time, I believe this instant generally is the instant of death, the moment before the soul leaves the body. But I believe it may be ten, twenty, or forty years before death. Do we agree or differ here?
"I believe it is usually many years after justification; but that it may be within five years, or five months after it. I know no conclusive argument to the contrary. Do you?
"If it must be many years after justification, I would be glad to know how many. Pretium quotus arrogat annus? And how many days, or months, or even years, can you allow to be between perfection and death? How far from justification must it be? and how near to death?
"If it be possible, let you and me come to a good understanding, both for our own sakes, and for the sake of the people.'
"What answer Mr. Charles Wesley returned to this candid and sensible letter, we have no means of ascertaining." 1
The reader must excuse this long digression, on the ground, (1) That the enthusiasm of this period was one of the great events in Wesley's history, and issued not only in a disruption of the London society, but in serious results which were more than coeval with Wesley's life. John Pawson, in a manuscript letter, dated "London, January 13, 1796," remarks: "We have a very blessed work here; but the old people are so
'Jackson's Life of C. Wesley, vol. ii., p. 210.
1762 afraid of George Bell's work returning, that they can hardly be persuaded it is the work of God, because of a little disorder that attends it." And a month later, he writes: "The good work is not so lively as it was. This, I think, has been chiefly caused by the old members being so exceedingly afraid of George Bell's days. An excess of prudence has hindered it." We have here, thirty-three years after Maxfield and Bell's secession, one of the effects of their fanatical behaviour. Then, (2) it must be borne in mind, that it was not until now that the doctrine of Christian perfection, attainable in an instant, by a simple act of faith, was made prominent in Methodist congregations; but that, ever after, it was one of the chief topics of Wesley's ministry, and that of his itinerant preachers. Of this we shall have ample proof in succeeding pages.
We now return to Wesley's Journal, and follow him in his peregrinations, during the year 1762. "This year," says he, "from the beginning to the end, was a year never to be forgotten. Such a season I never saw before. Such a multitude of sinners were converted, in all parts both of England and Ireland, and so many were filled with pure love." 1
On January 2, he set out for Everton, to supply for Berridge, who was hard at work in London, and whose church and pulpit he occupied on two successive Sundays, preaching to large and lively congregations; but not now witnessing there any of the extravagances which had been so manifest a few years before. "Indeed," says Wesley, "the people were now in danger of running from east to west. Instead of thinking, as many did then, that none can possibly have true faith but those that have trances, they were now ready to think, that whoever had anything of this kind had no faith."
During his sojourn at Everton, Wesley visited many of the surrounding villages, and everywhere testified the gospel of the grace of God. of God. Though it was the depth of winter, he preached at Harston by moonlight. In every place, crowds flocked to hear him. Some cried out in great distress, others dropped down as dead; and several found peace with God. On January 12 he came to Norwich, where he excluded two hundred members, because they neglected to meet in
1 Wesley's Works, vol. xiii., p. 333.
Wesley and a Starving Player.
class; and left about four hundred remaining, "half of whom appeared to be in earnest."
Returning to London on January 23, he writes: “I had a striking proof, that God can teach by whom He will teach. A man full of words, but not of understanding, convinced me of what I could never see before, that anima est ex traduce, that all the souls of his posterity, as well as their bodies, were in our first parent."
On the 15th of March, Wesley left London for Ireland, taking Bristol and Wales on his way. He arrived at Dublin about three weeks afterwards. For the first time, he now saw Dublin chapel " throughly filled."
On April 19, he started on his tour through the Irish provinces. At Newry, the society had been reduced from nearly a hundred members to thirty-two. At Carrickfergus, he had to delay the morning preaching, because "the delicate and curious hearers could not possibly rise before ten o'clock." At Belfast, he preached in the market house. At Newtown, "the poor shattered society was reduced from fifty to eighteen members," which were doubled, however, before he left. At Lisburn he had "many rich and gentle hearers." At Lurgan he had, what he had long desired, an opportunity of conversing with Mr. Miller, who had executed a piece of mechanism "the like of which was not to be seen in Europe." At Clanmain, he opened the new chapel. At Enniskillen, "the inhabitants gloried, that they had no papist in the town." At Sligo, he preached to “abundance of dragoons, and many of their officers;" a company of strolling players acting in the upper part of the market house, while the Methodists sang hymns below.
It was either here, or somewhere else in Ireland, that Wesley met with an adventure worth relating. The scene is a public house, the spectators a number of Irish tipplers; the performers in the drama, Wesley, a termagant landlady, and a starving player. The last mentioned reclines on a wooden couch in the chimney corner, arrayed in a motley dress that, like its owner, seemed to have seen better days. The landlady, addressing him in furious tones, bawls rather than speaks: "Turn out, you pitiable ragamuffin; plenty of promises, but no money; either pay your way, or you and your