Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Wesley on the Clergy and Learning.

63

given in previous chapters; but it may be added here, that 1749 Wesley's “Plain Account” immediately evoked the following: Age 46 "An Answer to a late pamphlet, entitled, ‘A Plain Account of the People called Methodists.' Addressed to the Rev. Mr. Wesley. By a Clergyman of the Church of England. London: 1749.” 12mo, 31 pages. The reverend pamphleteer tells Wesley, that he has read his letter to Perronet, and considers “it to be as weak a performance as ever he met with”; and therefore, that he cannot allow “it to pass uncensured” "; especially as by this “weak performance" Wesley was “sapping many of the truths and principles of Christianity, like other sectarists, under the specious pretence of greater sanctity and holiness.” If Wesley's "performance" was "weak," this of his opponent was feebleness itself.

10. “A Serious Answer to Dr. Trapp's Four Sermons on the Sin, Folly, and Danger of being Righteous Overmuch. Extracted from Mr. Law.” 12mo, 48 pages. This production of the genius, piety, and pen of William Law was as grand a piece of writing as can be found in the English language. It is somewhat remarkable, however, that Wesley, in republishing that part of it which contains Law's account of the ground of the Christian religion, should have put into the hands of his Methodist readers the author's mystical views concerning the primeval kingdom of Lucifer and his angels, and the results of their rebellion and ruin. It is true, that Wesley, in a foot note, observes : “This is the theory of Jacob Behmen, but quite incapable of proof;" but then, in the same note, he says that, though the theory "is not supported by Scripture, it is, notwithstanding, probable.”

Of course, by republishing the writings of other men, Wesley made their sentiments his own, except in cases to which he himself makes objection. On this ground, we give the two extracts following. The first will help to exhibit one of the guiding principles of Wesley's life; the other will show his estimate of the office and the use of human learning.

Addressing the younger clergy, he remarks : "Lay this down as an infallible principle, that an entire, absolute tenunciation of all worldly interest, is the only possible foundation of that virtue which your station requires. Without this, all attempts after an exemplary piety are vain. Detest

1749 Age 46

therefore, with the utmost abhorrence, all desires of making your fortunes, either by preferments or rich marriages, and let it be your only ambition to stand at the top of every virtue, as visible guides and patterns, to all that aspire after the perfection of holiness.”

The other extract is not of trifling importance. “ Human learning is by no means to be rejected from religion ; but if it is considered as a key, or the key, to the mysteries of our redemption, instead of opening to us the kingdom of God, it locks ús up in our own darkness. God is an all-speaking, all-working, all-illuminating essence, possessing the depths of every creature according to its nature; and when we turn from all impediments, this Divine essence becomes as certainly the true light of our minds here, as it will be hereafter. This is not enthusiasm, but the words of truth and soberness; and it is the running away from this enthusiasm, that has made so many great scholars as useless to the church as tinkling cymbals, and Christendom a mere Babel of learned confusion.”

11. “The Manners of the Ancient Christians, extracted from a French Author." 12mo, 24 pages.

The French author, from whose works this was taken, was the renowned Claude Fleury, the associate of Bossuet and Fenelon ; the preceptor of the Dukes of Burgundy, Anjou, and Berry; the friend of Louis XIV.; the author of an Ecclesiastical History, the fruit of thirty years of devoted study; a man of great learning and simplicity, of high integrity, and ardent piety; who died in 1723, at the age of 83.

12. "A Roman Catechism, faithfully drawn out of the allowed writings of the Church of Rome. With a Reply thereto." 12mo, 79 pages. This was a republication of a work bearing the following title: “A Catechism truly representing the Doctrines and Practices of the Church of Rome, with an Answer thereunto. By a Protestant of the Church of England. London: 1686.” 12mo, 104 pages. On one page is the catechism, and on the opposite page the answer, throughout. Wesley neglects to acknowledge that the pamphlet was not an original production; and it has improperly been placed in the last edition of his collected works.

13. “A Letter to a Roman Catholic.” 12mo, 12 pages. Its object is to mollify the papist, by showing, that he and the

Wesley's

Christian Library.”

65

protestant equally hold most of the great truths of the

1749 Christian religion ; and that they therefore ought to live in

Age 46 peace and love. Wesley writes : “O brethren, let us not still fall out by the way! I hope to see you in heaven. And if I practise the religion above described, you dare not say I shall go to hell. You cannot think so. None can persuade you to it. Your own conscience tells you the contrary. Then, if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least, we may love alike. Herein we cannot possibly do amiss."

14. “Minutes of Several Conversations between the Rev. Messrs. John and Charles Wesley and others.” Dublin: 1749.

15. It was also in this, or in a former year, that Wesley published his threepenny tract, entitled, "An Extract of the Life and Death of Mr. John Janeway," a young man of remarkable piety, who died at the age of twenty-three, in the year 1657

16. "A Christian Library. Consisting of Extracts and Abridgments of the Choicest Pieces of Practical Divinity. which have been published in the English Tongue. In Fifty Volumes. By John Wesley, M.A., Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. Bristol : printed by Felix Farley.”

This work was begun in 1749, and completed in 1755. A prodigious number of books were read. Folios and quartos had to be reduced to 12mo volumes. Some were abridged on horseback, and others at wayside inns and houses where Wesley tarried for a night. During the six years spent in finishing his task, he suffered a long and serious illness; had to provide his school at Kingswood with necessary books; wrote his " Explanatory Notes on the New Testament"; and was laboriously engaged in preaching Christ, and governing his societies. The work was Herculean. Such an enterprise had never before been attempted. It was a noble effort to make the masses—his own societies in particularacquainted with a galaxy of the noblest men the Christian church has ever had. His design was to leave out whatever might be deemed objectionable or unimportant in sentiment, and superfluous in language; to divest practical theology from logical technicalities and unnecessary digressions; and to separate the rich ore of evangelical truth from the base alloy of Pelagian and Calvinian error. In some VOL. II.

F

"1

1749 instances

instances he failed in doing this. He writes :-"I was Age 46 obliged to prepare most of these tracts for the press just as

I could snatch time for it; not transcribing them; none
expected it of me; but only marking the lines with my pen,
and altering or adding a few words here or there, as I had
mentioned in the preface. Besides, as it was not in my power
to attend the press, that care necessarily devolved on others;
through whose inattention a hundred passages were left in,
which I had scratched out. It is probable too, I myself might
overlook some sentences which were not suitable with my
own principles. It is certain, the correctors of the press did
this in not a few instances.' This was written in 1772, as a
reply to the charge, that, in his writings, he had contradicted
himself. “If," says he, "there are a hundred passages in the
* Christian Library' which contradict any or all of my doc-
trines, these are no proofs that I contradict myself. Be it
observed once for all, citations from the Christian Library'
prove nothing but the carelessness of the correctors." 2

This is an important fact to be borne in mind by those who are possessors of the first edition only. After the attack just mentioned, Wesley read the whole of the Christian Library' with careful attention, and marked with his pen the passages which he deemed objectionable in sentiment; and, from this corrected copy, the new edition, in thirty vols., octavo, issued in 1819–26, was printed.

Wesley wrote not for pecuniary gain, but for the profit of his people. Three years before the work was finished, he had already been a loser to the amount of £200, no inconsiderable sum for a man like him. Still the publication went on, and, in due time, one of the grandest projects of his life was finished.

The first volume was published in 1749. elapsed before the second was given to the public. In the preface, he affirms his belief, “ that there is not in the world a more complete body of divinity, than is now extant in the English tongue, in the writings of the last and present century; and that, were a man to spend fourscore years, with

Two years

1 Wesley's Works, vol. x., p. 367.

2 Ibid. vol. X., p. 403. 3 Methodist Magazine, 1827, p. 314.

Wesley's Christian Library.

67

1749

Age 46

the most indefatigable application, he could go but a little way, toward reading what had been published within the last hundred and fifty years."

His endeavour was “to extract such a collection of divinity as was all true; all agreeable to the oracles of God; all practical, unmixed with controversy ; and all intelligible to plain men."

The opening volume contains--1. The Epistles of the apostolical fathers, Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, whom he believed to be "endued with the extraordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit,” and whose writings, “though not of equal authority with the holy Scriptures," he considered to be ' worthy of a much greater respect than any composures that have been made since." 2. The Martyrdoms of Ignatius and Polycarp. 3. An Extract from the Homilies of Macarius, born about the year 301. 4. An Extract of John Arndt's "True Christianity”; Arndt was an eminent protestant divine, who died in 1621.

« ZurückWeiter »