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HARLES Wesley was still preaching, alternately, in London and in Bristol; and was writing and publishing his magnificent "Hymns on the Trinity," and his "Hymns for the Use of Families."
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."4 At Newcastle, he writes: "I have a blessed Methodist field street preaching plan before me. You may 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." 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. 2 Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 345. 4 Ibid. p. 351.
5 Ibid. p. 353.
3 Ibid. p. 348.
6 Ibid. p. 354.
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 believer's only resting place. There we shall not be disturbed." 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,-
( worse than death my God to love,
"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.
Wesley and Dr. Dodd.
instantaneous sanctification between justification and death? I say, yes.
You often seem to say, no.
"There is one question more, if you allow me there is such a thing ; can one who has attained it fall? Formerly I thought not ; but you, with Thomas Walsh and John Jones, convinced me of my mistake.
"On Monday I am to set out for Norwich. Divide the men and women at once: so we do in London. I shall not be in town again till this day fortnight.
'Oh for a heart to prais y God!" “What is there beside ? Παντα γελως και παντα κονις. Adieu ! "JOHN WESLEY.”1
At this period the versatile Dr. Dodd was a large contributor to the Christian Magazine, for which service he received £100 per annum. Eleven years previous to this, Wesley had condescended to enter into a long correspondence with him, on the subject of Christian perfection.2 Dodd, under a fictitious name, now revived the subject; and Wesley says, "I at length obliged Dr. Dodd by entering into the lists with him." Wesley's letter was published in Lloyd's Evening Post, of April 3, 1767.
"March 26, 1767.
"SIR,-Many times, the publisher of the Christian Magazine has attacked me without fear or wit; and, hereby, he has convinced his impartial readers of one thing, at least, that (as the vulgar say), 'his fingers itch to be at me;' that he has a passionate desire to measure swords with me. But I have other work upon my hands: I can employ the short remainder of my life to better purpose.
"The occasion of his late attack is this: five or six and thirty years ago, I much admired the character of a perfect Christian drawn by Clemens Alexandrinus. Five or six and enty years ago, a thought came into my mind, of drawing such a character myself, only in a more scriptural manner, and mostly in the very words of Scripture. This I entitled the Character of a Methodist,' believing, that curiosity would incite more people to read it, and, also, that some prejudice might thereby be removed from candid men. But, that none might imagine I intended a panegyric either upon myself or my friends, I guarded against this in the very title page, saying, in the name of both myself and them, 'Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.' To the same effect, I speak in the conclusion: These are the principles and practices of our sect; these are the marks of a true Methodist' (that is, a true Christian as I immediately after explain myself). By these alone, do those, who are in
1 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 123. 2 See p. 232 of this volume.
derision so called, desire to be distinguished from other men. By these marks, do we labour to distinguish ourselves from those whose minds or lives are not according to the gospel of Christ.'
"Upon this, 'Rusticulus,' or Dr. Dodd, says: 'A Methodist, according to Mr. Wesley, is one who is perfect, and sinneth not in thought, word, or deed.'
66 Sir, have me excused. This is not according to Mr. Wesley. I have told all the world, I am not perfect; and yet, you allow me to be a Methodist. I tell you flat, I have not attained the character I draw. Will you pin it upon me in spite of my teeth?
"But Mr. Wesley says, the other Methodists have.' I say no such thing. What I say, after having given a scriptural account of a perfect Christian, is this: By these marks the Methodists desire to be distinguished from other men; by these we labour to distinguish ourselves.' And do not you yourself desire and labour after the very same thing?
"But you insist: Mr. Wesley affirms the Methodists, that is, all Methodists, to be perfectly holy and righteous.' Where do I affirm this? Not in the tract before us. In the front of this, I affirm just the contrary; and that I affirm it anywhere else is more than I know. Be pleased, sir, to point out the place; till this is done, all you add, bitterly enough, is brutum fulmen; and the Methodists, so called, may still 'declare,' without any impeachment of their sincerity, that they do not come to the holy table trusting in their own righteousness, but in God's manifold and great
The above is an important letter, were it for nothing else than showing that Wesley preached a doctrine he himself did not experience. For above thirty years, he had taught the doctrine of Christian perfection; but he here flatly declares, that, as yet, he had not attained to it: he taught it, not because he felt it, but because he believed the Bible taught it.
Wesley was anxious to visit his societies in the sister island. Ireland sorely needed his societies, and his societies needed him. As an instance illustrative of Ireland's ignorance and superstition, at this period of Wesley's history, it may be stated, that there was then a lake, in the county of Donegal, visited by about four thousand pilgrims, from all parts of Ireland, every year, many of them being the proxies of wealthier people, who, at a small expense of cash, discharged their sins, by employing the feet and knees of their poorer neighbours. The lake was about a mile and a half square, and had, in the centre of it, a small island, on which were built two chapels,
A Holy Lake, in Ireland,
and fifteen thatched dwellings for the accommodation of priests 1767 and penitents. The stay of each pilgrim in the holy island Age 64 was from three to nine days, and his diet, during his visit, oatmeal and water. His penance was, to walk; without shoes and stockings, on a path of sharp and rough stones, not daring to pick his steps, for this would prevent the remission of his sins at the soles of his feet, the proper outlet; and would also divert his attention from the ave marias and pater nosters which he had to mumble in his piercing pilgrimage. Besides this pedestrian penance, he had to make the same sort of journey on his uncovered knees; and then to take his position in a narrow vault, and there sit with his head bowed down, for the space of four-and-twenty hours, without eating, drinking, or sleeping, and all the while repeating the prayers prescribed by his father confessor. To prevent the danger of a nap, each pilgrim penitent was furnished with a pin, to be suddenly inserted into his neighbour's elbow, at the first approach of a drowsy nod; and, to complete the whole, each one was taken to a flat stone in the lake to undergo a scouring; after which, the priest bored a hole through the top of the pilgrim's staff, in which he fastened a cross peg; and gave him as many holy pebbles from the lake as the poor dupe cared to carry for amulets among his friends. Thus scoured and fitted out, the man, with priestly and pious pomp, was then dismissed; and, with his shillalah converted into a pilgrim's cross, became an object of veneration to all who met him.1
A journey to Ireland now is thought a trifle; but in Wesley's days it was otherwise. Wesley's purpose was to embark from Bristol; but, on arriving there, he found that there was no ship large enough to take his horses. Accordingly, he had to hurry from Bristol to Liverpool, where the same disappointment awaited him that he had met at Bristol. A third time he started, and now hastened from Liverpool to Portpatrick in Scotland; and here, on March 29, he was fortunate enough to find a vessel of sufficient size to carry him and his equine friends across the channel. Three weeks elapsed, however, from the time he left London to the time he left Portpatrick. Of course the interval was not spent without preaching. At
1London Magazine, 1766, p. 90.