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1766 the B—r—d Family, in a series of poetical Epistles;" the Age 63
whole of which are rakish, vile productions, and that on Methodism so pollutingly obscene, that it would be criminal to quote it.
And then, to crown the whole, there was “The Methodist. A poem. By the author of the Powers of the Pen,' and the
Curate.'" Two extracts may be given as fair specimens of the whole. After portraying Whitefield, the illustrious poet describes Wesley thus.
“A second agent, like the first,
How bright his inward candles shine.”
“ Salvation now is all the cant;
The fishermen no longer set
1766 For fish the meshes of their net;
Age 63 But catch, like Peter, men of sin,
For catching is to take them in." All the rest is in keeping with this, except that some of the lines are not only ribald, but obscene.
This was the sort of jeering which Wesley had to meet,jeering which he was often powerless to prosecute, and which it was beneath his dignity to answer. Besides this, he was too much occupied with his own great work to turn aside to chastise all the curs that availed themselves of the liberty to snarl and bark at him. His societies were now so numerous and important, that it was a gigantic task to visit them, and regulate their multifarious affairs once a year. In addition, he was bringing out his Notes on the Old Testament, a work, in itself, quite sufficient for the time and energies of any ordinary man; and, further, he had to enforce and to defend his doctrine of Christian perfection, a doctrine imperfectly understood, and bitterly assailed. Hence the publication of a small 12mo volume of 162 pages, entitled, “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as believed and taught by the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1765.” “What I purpose," says he, “is to give a plain and distinct account of the steps by which I was led, during a course of many years, to embrace the doctrine of Christian perfection." The book is really historical, rather than doctrinal, and is intended to show, that Wesley's present views were substantially the views which he had held for the last forty years. This was unquestionably true, with the one exception of his now teaching, that Christian perfection is attainable in an instant, and by faith only. When did Wesley begin to teach this ? He says, in 1741 ; but the only evidence he adduces, in support of his affirmation, is the hymn, then published, beginning with the line,
“Lord, I believe a rest remains;" and containing the following stanzas.
“Oh that I now the rest might know,
Believe and enter in !
And let me cease from sin !
Remove this hardness from my heart,
This unbelief remove;
The sabbath of Thy love!"
He writes: “Though Mr. Wesley had so long held the doctrine of Christian perfection, he had not always held, that this state of mind might be attained in one moment; much less, that a person might attain it in his novitiate; nor do I know, that there were any professors of it before 1760, except when death was approaching.” 1
Who will decide this question ? It is full of interest, and is not without importance.
1 Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 291.
HARLES Wesley was still preaching, alternately, in 1767
London and in Bristol ; and was writing and publish- Age 64 ing his magnificent “Hymns on the Trinity," and his “Hymns for the Use of Families."1
Whitefield's health was better, and he was able to spend most of the year 1767 in itinerating throughout England and Wales, and in preaching to assembled thousands. At Rodborough, he writes: "I was regaled with the company of some simple hearted, first rate old Methodists, of near thirty years' standing." At Haverfordwest, he says: "I am just come from my field throne. Thousands and thousands attended by eight in the morning. Life and light seemed to fly all around. Who knows but preaching may be our grand catholicon again? This is the good methodistical, thirty year old medicine.": Again : “Who knows but I may be strengthened to take a trip to Scotland ? This itch after itinerating I hope will never be cured till we come to heaven.' At Newcastle, he writes: “I have a blessed Methodist field street preaching plan before me. venture to direct for me at Mr. William Shent's, peruke maker, at Leeds; but send me no bad news, unless absolutely necessary. Let me enjoy myself in my delightful itinerancy. It is good, both for my body and soul." 5 At Thirsk, in another letter, and in the same strain, he remarks: “My body feels much fatigue in travelling; comforts in my soul overbalance. Every stage, more and more, convinces me that old Methodism is the thing-Hallelujah!” And, again, on his return to London, in October, he observes : "I am just returned from my northern circuit, which has been pleasant, and I trust profitable. Everywhere the fields have been white unto harvest. I am become a downright street and field preacher.
Jackson's “Life of Charles Wesley," vol. ii., p. 232.
3 Ibid. p. 348. 2 Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 345.
6 Ibid. p. 354. 4 Ibid. p. 351.
5 Ibid. p. 353.
1767 I wish the city, and want of riding, may not hurt me. No Age 64 nestling, no nestling on this side Jordan. Heaven is the be
liever's only resting place. There we shall not be disturbed."'l
Whitefield was again in his best beloved element. Alas ! not for long !
With the exception of a short visit to Colchester, Norwich, and Yarmouth, Wesley spent the first two months of 1767 in London; and, on Ash Wednesday, March 4, “dined at a friend's with Mr. Whitefield, still breathing nothing but love." The two Wesleys and Whitefield, three old friends, were now “a threefold cord not quickly broken.” Their opinions differed, but their hearts were one.
Ever and anon, means were used to create division; but the efforts failed. In some things, Wesley and his brother held conflicting sentiments so strongly, that it was difficult to work in harmony; but love not only ruled their hearts, but their speech and lives. The following letter, addressed to Charles Wesley, is illustrative of this.
LONDON, February 12, 1767. “DEAR BROTHER,—What I mean is, Bishop Lowth is sometimes hypercritical, and finds fault where there is none. Yet, doubtless, his is the best English grammar that is extant. I never saw 'Hermes'; the author of it is a rooted deist.
“ Pray take care that brother Henderson wants nothing. Sickness is an expensive thing.
“You are not yet (nor probably I) aware of pickthanks. Such were those who told you I did not pray for you by name in public; and they are liars into the bargain, unless they are deaf. “The voice of one, who truly loves God, surely is,
" 'Tis worse than death my God to love,
And not my God alone.' “Such an one is certainly as much athirst for sanctification as he was once for justification.' You remember, this used to be one of your constant questions. It is not now ; therefore, you are altered in your sentiments: and, unless we come to an explanation, we shall inevitably contradict each other. But this ought not to be in any wise, if it can possibly be avoided.
“I still think, to disbelieve all the professors ” [of sanctification] amounts to a denial of the thing. For if there be no living witness of what we have preached for twenty years, I cannot, dare not, preach it any longer. The whole comes to one point : is there, or is there not, any
Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 357.