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VARIOUS Lives, or Memoirs, of the founder of Methodism have already been laid before the public. But it has been frequently remarked that such of these as contain the most approved accounts of Mr. Wesley, have been carried out to a length which obstructs their circulation, by the intermixture of details comparatively. uninteresting beyond the immediate circle of Wesleyan Methodism. The present Life, therefore, without any design to supersede larger publications, has been prepared with more special reference to general readers. But, as it is contracted within moderate limits chiefly by the exclusion of extraneous matter, it will, it is hoped, be found sufficiently comprehensive to give the reader an adequate view of the life, labors and opinions of the eminent individual who is its subject; and to afford the means of correcting the most material errors and misrepresentations which have had currency respecting him. On several points the author has had the advantage of consulting unpublished papers, not known to preceding biogra. phers, and which have enabled him to place some particulars in a more satisfactory light.
LONDON, May 10.
LIFE OF THE REV. JOHN WESLEY.
tebe non-conformists, whose views of discipline they John and CHARLES WESLEY, the chief founders had renounced. They had parted with Calvinism; of that religious body now commonly known by the but, like many others, they renounced with it, for name of the Wesleyan Methodists, were the sons of want of spiritual discrimination, those truths which the Rev. Samuel Wesley, rector of Epworth, in were as fully maintained in the theology of Armini. Lincolnshire.
us, and in that of their eminent son, who revived, Of this clergyman, and his wife, Mrs. Susannah and more fully illustrated it, as in the writings of Wesley, who was the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Annes- the most judicious and spiritual Calvinistic divines ley, as well as the ancestors of both, an interesting themselves. Taylor, Tillotson, and Bull, who beaccount will be found in Dr. Adam Clarke's “Me- came their oracles, were Arminians of a different moirs of the Wesley Family,” and in the "Life of class. Mr. John Wesley," by Dr. Whitehead, and in the The advantage of such a parentage to the Wes more recent one by Mr. Moore. They will be no- leys was great. From their earliest years they had ticed here only so far as a general knowledge of an example in the father of all that could render a their character may be necessary to assist our judg- clergyman respectable and influential; and, in the ment as to the opinions and conduct of their more mother there was a sanctified wisdom, a masculine celebrated sons.
understanding, and an acquired knowledge, which The rector of Epworth, like his excellent wife, they regarded with just deference after they became had descended from parents distinguished for learn- men and scholars. The influence of a piety so ing, piety, and non-conformity. His father dying steadfast and uniform, joined to such qualities, and whilst he was young, he forsook the Dissenters at softened by maternal tenderness, could scarcely fail an early period of life; and his conversion carried to produce effect. The firm and manly character, him into high church principles, and political tory- the practical sense, the active and unwearied habits ism. He was not, however, so rigid in the former of the
father, with the calm, reflecting, and stable as to prevent him from encouraging the early zeal qualities of the mother, were in particular inherited of his sons, John and Charles, at Oxford, although by Mr. John Wesley; and in him were most hapit was even then somewhat irregular, when tried pily blended. A large portion of the ecclesiastica) by the strictest rules of church order and custom; principles and prejudices of the rector of Epworth and his toryism, sufficiently high in theory, was yet was also transmitted to his three sons; but whilst of that class which regarded the rights of the sub- Samuel and Charles retained them least impaired, ject tenderly in practice. He refused flattering in John, as we shall see, they sustained in future life overtures made by the adherents of James II., to in considerable modifications. duce him to support the measures of the court, and Samuel, the eldest son, was born in 1692; John, wrote in favor of the revolution of 1688; admiring in 1703; and Charles, in 1708. it, probably, less in a political view, than as rescu Samuel Wesley, junior, was educated at Westing a protestant church from the dangerous influ- minster School; and in 1717 was elected to Christ ence of a popish head. For this service, he was Church, Oxford. He was eminent for his learning, presented with the living of Epworth, in Lincoln- and was an excellent poet, with great power of shire, to which, a few years afterwards, was added satire, and an elegant wit. He held a considerable that of Wroote, in the same county.
rank among the literary men of the day, and finally He held the living of Epworth upwards of forty settled as head master of the free school of Tiveryears, and was distinguished for the zeal and fidelity ton, in Devonshire, where he died in 1739, in his with which he discharged his parish duties. Of his forty-ninth year. talents and learning, his remaining works afford Mrs. Wesley was the instructress of her children honorable evidence.
in their early years.
“I can find," says Dr. WhiteMrs. Susannah Wesley, the mother of Mr. John head," no evidence that the boys were ever put to Wesley, was, as might be expected from the emi- any school in the country; their mother having a nent character of Dr. Samuel Annesley, her fa- very bad opinion of the common methods of instructther, educated with great care. Like her husband, ing and governing children.” She was particularly she also, at an early period of life, renounced non- led, it would seem, to interest herself in John, who, conformity, and became a member of the established when he was about six years old, had a providential church, after, as her biographers tell us, she had and singular escape from being burned to death, read and mastered the whole controversy on the upon the parsonage house being consumed. There subject of separation ; of which, however, great is a striking passage in one of her private meditaas were her natural and acquired talents, she must, tions, which contains a reference to this event;* and at the age of thirteen years, have been a very im- | indicates that she considered it as laying her under perfect judge. The serious habits impressed upon a special obligation " to be more particularly careful both by their education, did not forsake them ;- of the soul of a child whom God had so mercifully "they feared God, and wrought righteousness;" provided for.” The effect of this special care on but we may perhaps account for that obscurity in the part of the mother was, that, under the divine the views of each on several great points of evan-blessing, he became early serious; for at the age of gelical religion, and especially on justification by eight years, he was admitted by his father to parfaith, and the offices of the Holy Spirit, which hung take of the sacrament. In 1714, he was placed at over their minds for many years, and indeed, till the Charter House, “where he was noticed for his towards the close of life, from this early change of diligence and progress in learning." "Here, for their religious connections. Their theological read- his quietness, regularity, and application, he became ing, according to the fashion of the church people of that day, was now directed rather to the writings
* The memory of his deliverance, on this occasion, is of those divines of the English church who were preserved in one of his early portraits, which has betinctured more or less with a Pelagianized Armini-with the motto, "Is not this a brand plucked from the
low the head, the representation of a house in flames, anism, than to the works of its founders; their suc- burning ?" cessors the puritans, or of those eminent men among + Whitehead's Life.
a favorite with the master, Dr. Walker; and I lor's "Rules of Holy Living and Dying;" and his
where he pursued his studies with great advan- mind, and far superior as a directory to true Chris-
is, that " we must be sure, in some sense or other, io
, above all things, to make their the point of the possibility of obtaining a comfortaown calling and election sure; lest, after they have ble persuasion of being in a state of salvation, through preached to others, they themselves should be cast the influence of the Holy Spirit; which he alaway."
ready discerned to be the privilege of a real believer, This excellent advice was not lost upon him; and though as yet he was greatly perplexed as to the indeed his mother's admirable letters were among means of obtaining it. At this period too he makes the principal means, under God, of producing that the important distinction between assurance of prestill more decided change in his views which soon sent, and assurance of future, salvation; by conafterwards began to display itself. He was now founding which, so many, from their objection to about twenty-two years of age.
the Calvinistic notion of the infallible perseverance The practical books most read by him at this pe- of the saints, have given up the doctrine of assurance riod, which was probably employed as a course of altogether. "That we can never be so certain of the preparation for holy orders, were, “The Christian's pardon of our sins, as to be assured they will never Pattern,” by Thonias a Kempis; and Bishop Tay-rise up against us, I firmly believe We know that
they will infallibly do so if ever we apostatize ; and • Southey's Life + Westminster Magazine I am not satisfied what evidence there can be of our * Whitehead's Life.
final perseverance, till we have finished our course.
But I am persuaded we may know if we are now in took that opportunity of conversing with them at a state of salvation, since that is expressly promised large upon those serious topics which then fully ocin the Holy Scriptures to our sincere endeavors; cupied his mind. In September, he returned to Oxand we are surely able to judge of our own sin- ford, and resiimed his usual studies. “His literary cerity."
character was now established in the university; he Thu latter part of this extract will, however, show was acknowledged by all parties to be a man of tahow much he had yet to learn as to“ the way to the lents, and an excellent critic in the learned lanFather.” Mrs. Wesley also correous a defective de guages. His compositions were distinguished by finition of faith, which her son' letter had contain- an elegant simplicity of style, and justness of thoughi, ed, in the following sensible remarks; which are that strongly marked the excellence of his classical just, as far as they go, but below the true scriptural taste. His skill in logic, or the art of reasoning, was standard, and the proper conception of that saving universally known and admired. The high opinion faith after which her son was inquiring; “ You are that was entertained of him in these respects was somewhat mistaken in your notions of faith. All soon publicly expressed, by choosing him Greek lecfaith is an assent, but all assent is not faith. Some turer, and moderator of the classes, on the seventh truths are self-evident, and we assent to them be- of November; though he had only been elected felcause they are so. Others, after a regular and for- low of the college in March, was little more than mal process of reason by way of deduction from twenty-three years of age, and had not proceeded some self-evident principle, gain our assent. This master of arts." He took this degree in February, is not properly faith, but science. Some again we 1727; became his father's curate in August the same assent to, not because they are self-evident, or be-year; returned to Oxford in 1728, to obtain priest's cause we have attained the knowledge of them in a orders; and paid another visit to Oxford in 1729; regular method by a train of arguments, but because where during his stay, he attended the meetings of they have been revealed to us, either by God or a small society formed by his brother Charles, Mr. man; and these are the proper objects of faith. The Morgan, and a few others, to assist each other in true measure of faith is the authority of the reveal their studies, and to consult how to employ their er; the weight of which always holds proportion to time to the best advantage. After about a month, our conviction of his ability and integrity. Divine he returned to Epworth; but upon Dr. Morley, the faith is an assent to whatever God has revealed to rector of his college, requiring his residence, he us, because he has revealed it.”
quitted his father's curacy, and in November again Predestination was another subject touched upon settled in Oxford. He now obtained pupils, and bein this interesting correspondence. Mr. Wesley
was came tutor in the college; presided as moderator in probably led to it by his review of the articles of the disputations six times a week;
and had the chief the church previous to his ordination ; and he thus direction of a religious society. From this time he expresses himself on this controverted subject: stood more prominently forward in his religious "What then shall I say of predestination ? An ever- character, and in efforts to do good to others; and lasting purpose of God to deliver some from dam- began more fully to prove that they that will live nation, does, I suppose, exclude all from that deliv- godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution." It is erance who are not chosen. And if it was ineritably however necessary to turn to the history of Mr. decreed from eternity, that such a determinate part Charles Wesley, whose labors in the early periods of mankind should be saved, and none beside them, of Methodism were inferior. only to those of his a vast majority of the world were only born to eter- brother. nal death, without so much as a possibility of avoid Charles Wesley was, as above stated, five years ing it How is this consistent with either the divine younger than his brother John; and was educated justice or mercy? Is it merciful to ordain a crea- at Westminster school, under his eldest brother, ture to everlasting misery? Is it just to punish a Samuel, from whom he is said to have derived a man for crimes which he could not but commit? still stronger tincture of high church principles than That God should be the author of sin and injustice, was imbibed under the paternal roof.
" When he which must, I think, be the consequence of main- had been some years at school, Mr. R. Wesley, a taining
this opinion, is a contradiction to the clear- gentleman of large fortune in Ireland, wrote to his est ideas we have of the divine nature and perfec- father, and asked if he had any son named Charles; tions."
if so, he would make him his heir. Accordingly, a From these views he never departed; and the gentleman in London brought money for his eduterms he uses contain indeed the only rational state- cation several years. But one year another gentlement of the whole question.
man called, probably Mr. Wesley himself, talked He was ordained deacon in September, 1725, and largely with hiin, and asked if he was willing to go the year following was elected fellow of Lincoln with him to Ireland. Mr. Charles desired to write college. His previous seriousness had been the sub- to his father, who answered immediately, and reject of much banter and ridicule, and appears to ferred it to his own choice. He chose to stay in have been urged against him, in the election, by his England." + “Mr. John Wesley, in his account of opponents; but his reputation for learning and dili- his brother, calls this a fair escape. The fact is gence, and the excellence of his character, triumph- more remarkable than he was aware of; for the ed; and, what was probably to him the greatest person who inherited the property intended for pleasure, he had the gratification of seeing the joy Charles Wesley, and who took the name of Wesihis event gave to his venerable parents, and which ley, or Wellesley, in consequence, was the first earl was emphatically expressed in their letters. Seve- of Mornington, grandfather of Marquis Wellesley ral specimens of his poetry, composed about this and the duke of Wellington.”+ time, are given by his biographers, which show that, The lively disposition of Charles, although he had he cultivated that department of literature, hé pursued his studies diligently, and was unblamewould not have occupied an inferior place among able in his conduct, repelled all those exhortations the tasteful and elegant votaries of verse; but he to a more strictly religious course, which John sesoon found more serious and more useful employ- riously urged upon him, after he was elected to ment.
Christ's Church. During his brother's absence, as He spent the summer after his election to the fellowship, with his parents, in Lincolnshire, and Whitehead's Life.
+ Whitehead's Lite, vol. i. p. 98 Whitehead's Life