Imatges de pÓgina

read what I have casually opened upon: Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Still I felt a violent opposition, and reluctance to believe; yet still the Spirit of God strove with my own, and the evil spirit, till by degrees he chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced, I knew not how nor when; and immediately fell to intercession.'

"The fact is, this plain, illiterate woman had a deep and solemn conviction that she ought thus to address the afflicted penitent, who was weeping and praying for pardon, peace, and holiness; but recollecting that he was a scholar and a clergyman, she was afraid to do it. She durst not speak to him in this manner face to face, and with difficulty prevailed upon herself to utter these words as she stood upon the By this humble instrumentality it pleased God to produce in the heart of his servant the vital faith which he so earnestly desired. "On Sunday morning,' says Mr. Charles Wesley, 'she took Mr. Bray aside, burst into tears, and informed him of the matter; objecting, she was a poor, weak, sinful creature; and should she go to a minister! She could not do it, nor rest till she did. He asked her whether she had ever found herself so before. "No, never." "Why, then," said he, "go. Remember Jonah. You declare promises, not threatenings. Go in the name of the Lord. Fear not your own weakness. Speak you the words. Christ will do the work. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hath he ordained strength." They prayed together; and she then went up, but durst not come in till she had again prayed by herself. About six minutes after she had left him, he found and felt, while she was speaking the words, that Christ was with us.

"I never heard words uttered with like solemnity. The sound of her voice was entirely changed into that of Mrs. Musgrave. (If I can be sure of any thing sensible.) I rose, and looked into the Scripture. The words that first presented were, "And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly, my hope is even in thee." I then cast down my eye, and met, "He hath put a new song in my mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall put their trust in the Lord." Afterward I opened upon Isaiah xl, 1: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins."

"I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. My temper, for the rest of the day, was mistrust of my own great, but before unknown, weakness. I saw that by faith I stood; and the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin. I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness, (I humbly hope to be more and more so,) yet confident of Christ's protection.'

"When Mr. John Wesley left the sick-bed of his brother this morning, he went to one of the churches in London, to hear the celebrated

Dr. John Heylyn preach; and afterward assisted the doctor in the administration of the Lord's supper, the curate having been taken ill during the service. On leaving the church, says he, 'I received the surprising news, that my brother had found rest to his soul. His bodily strength returned also from that hour. "Who is so great a

God as our God?""

"When Mr. Charles Wesley first believed with the heart unto righteousness, his faith was weak; so that, to use his own expressive language, he held the Saviour' with a trembling hand.' But by prayer, spiritual conversation, and the practical study of the inspired volume, his confidence waxed stronger, and his evidence of the divine favor became increasingly distinct and vivid. He was now more sensible of his own weakness than he had ever been before, even when sin had the dominion over him. He felt that all his sufficiency was of the Lord; so that he realized the apostolic paradox, 'When I am weak, then am I strong.' Indeed, the very act of faith is a renunciation of self, and a laying hold upon Christ as our

'strength and righteousness, Our Saviour, and our all.'

"Mr. John Wesley was doubtless greatly encouraged, by his brother's happy experience, in the pursuit of the same salvation, for which he had long intensely hungered and thirsted; and with respect to him also the time of liberty drew near. On the day after Charles had found peace, he says, 'My brother coming, we joined in intercession for him. In the midst of prayer, I almost believed the Holy Ghost was coming upon him. In the evening we sung and prayed again.' They did not pray in vain.

"In the evening' of the following Wednesday, says John, 'I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther's "Preface to the Epistle to the Romans." About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

"I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me, and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, "This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?" Then I was taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them, according to the counsels of his own will.'"-Vol. i, pp. 133-137.

We have now reached a new and important era in the history of the Wesleys. The mighty change they had now experienced gave character to all their subsequent movements, and to the

whole of their affairs a new aspect. They now preached, from experience, a present salvation, and the assurance of pardon, with the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Some were "pricked in their hearts, and cried out, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" while others "contradicted and blasphemed."

But it was not long before these men of God were excluded from all the pulpits. Mr. John Wesley's account of this matter is as follows:-"I was forbidden, as by general consent, to preach in any church, (though not by any judicial sentence,) for preaching such doctrine.' This was the open, avowed cause; there was at that time no other, either real or pretended, except that the people crowded so." Here seem to be two reasons why Mr. Wesley was deprived the use of the churches: one the doctrines which he preached; and the other, the crowds which his preaching brought into the churches. This bringing a multitude of people to the church was an innovation upon the good old order of things that could not be endured; and especially when they came "to hear such doctrines" as justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law-and holiness of heart and life. It is doubtful whether St. Paul, had he been alive, would have been admitted to the British pulpits in the days of John Wesley. It is matter of some doubt whether there would not have been many of the sticklers for good order, and the doctrinal purity of the church of those times, who would have pronounced upon the Wesleys and the apostle, in common, the sentence, Hence, ye profane!

But the fire was not to be extinguished by proscription and persecution. These measures have usually been ineffectual when employed to stop the progress of light and truth. When, after the death of Stephen, the apostles and disciples were obliged to flee from Jerusalem, they were scattered abroad, and were like so many firebrands thrown into the stubble. For going in all directions, and preaching as they went, they soon set the world in a blaze. And when the Wesleys were excluded from the pulpits they commenced preaching in the streets and in the fields. And the novelty of this thing, of turning a vast common into a church, brought together multitudes, who heard the word of God to the saving of their souls, who, as far as human calculation can determine, would have remained in their sins had the labors of these men of God been bestowed in the ordinary way.

Field preaching, which was so grievous an offense against order and established usage, was not the result of a preconcerted plan, but was a necessary resort. And though it exposed the preachers to all sorts of abuse, it was eminently useful in awakening public

interest, and in bringing the means of salvation to all classes of people. John Wesley had a spirit that never cowered. While the rabble assailed him with hard stones and rotten eggs, and bishops and archbishops, with equal zeal, hurled at his devoted head hard names and rotten arguments, his zeal was unabated, his spirit unyielding as a wall of brass-he moved on in the name of the Lord. The great work in which he was engaged had taken too deep a hold upon his moral feelings to suffer him to fly from it on the approach of danger. A tide of obloquy, or a shower of stones, or the pointed steel, were all puny weapons, directed against the man whose great object was the conscientious discharge of his duty, and who felt that he was immortal until his work was done.

The penetrating truths delivered by the Wesleys, in the true apostolic spirit, were sent home to many hearts, and many pressed upon them for private instructions. These were finally organized into "societies," and were statedly met and instructed according to their wants. The first of these organizations, which proved permanent, took place in London "in the latter end of the year 1739." As the multiplication of these societies, and the abundant public labors of the Wesleys, would not permit them to meet the societies. always in person, they appointed some one of the most gifted of the number to lead the exercises in their absence, to receive the contribution of " a penny a week" to defray their small expenses, and to give them spiritual advice and instruction.

It soon became necessary that they should have places in which to meet the societies, and preach to such as wished to hear statedly the word from them. The first of these primitive Methodist chapels was a building erected for a "foundery," in the vicinity of London. Mr. Wesley leased the premises, and fitted up the building, which was large and unsightly, partly for a chapel, and partly for a residence. In this "old foundery," renovated and new modeled, ordnance was now to be cast which should shake the world, and do execution upon both hemispheres! Iron hearts would be melted down, and cast over; and an abundance of the precious ore would be wrought into "vessels to honor, and meet for the Master's use."

Several preaching places having been provided, the question now was, who should supply them? A young man, by the name of Thomas Maxfield, who had been brought to God by Mr. Wesley's instrumentality, in the absence of the Wesleys, prayed, exhorted, and expounded the Scriptures with great acceptability and usefulness. Finally, he began to preach regular sermons; and as Mr. Wesley had never contemplated instituting a ministry, and wished,

as much as possible, to conform to the usages of the Established Church, he found fault with this new measure, and was about to put a stop to it. His mother, then residing in his dwelling in the foundery, having heard Maxfield preach, wisely interposed. Said she, "John, you know what my sentiments have been. You cannot suspect me of favoring readily any thing of this kind. But take care what you do with respect to this young man; for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are. Examine what have been the fruits of his preaching; and hear him also yourself." The advice of this wise and godly woman was never lightly esteemed by her sons. John heard for himself, and after suffering him to preach for a while in private houses and the smaller chapels, he was received into the work as a regular helper. Several others were employed in the same way, among whom was John Nelson, a stone mason, but a man of uncommon force of character, who cared as little for a shower of stones as he would for so much chaff. Many of these laymen became, under the wise directions of the Wesleys, powerful and eloquent preachers, and able theologians. Such was Mr. Thomas Olivers, formerly a shoemaker and a man of profligate habits. He published a number of hymns, and several polemical tracts, which reflect the highest honor upon his taste and his reasoning powers.

The captious and sarcastic Mr. Toplady affected to despise Mr. Olivers, and reproached him with his former profession: a course, by the by, not very ingenuous, nor in the best manner evincing that self-respect, and that confidence in the goodness of his cause, which become a Christian polemic. Whether, indeed, Thomas Olivers was such a cobler in divinity as his contemptuous opponent would insinuate, any sensible person may easily judge by reading his argument upon the perseverance of the saints, founded upon the Epistle to the Hebrews. This masterly, and, as some think, unanswerable, work is too little known.

In all the great emergencies which arose, we see John Wesley eminently qualified to judge of the indications of Providence. It may be doubted whether he manifested any extraordinary amount of foresight, especially in the early stages of Methodism. He appears not always to have foreseen what he was coming to, and only to be concerned to meet existing emergencies. But when the exigency arrived, however unexpected, and contrary to his own prejudices, he judged of it accurately, and provided for it promptly. And that he was not mistaken in his leading measures, is evident from the fact that, after they had been fully tested, he found no occasion to retrace his steps.

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