Wesley, John (2)
Wesley, John (2)
the founder of Methodism was born at Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, June 17, 1703 (O. S.). His father, Samuel Wesley, rector of Epworth, belonged to an ancient family of high respectability. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Aneslel, a man nobly connected, anti the possessor of a very exalted character. To this remarkably endowed lady, Wesley was chiefly indebted for his admirable early trailing and his elementary education. His commonly file traits of character, and his narrow, not to say marvelous, escape from the burning rectory he was six years old, gave birth in her mind to an impression that this child was destined to an extraordinary career. She therefore consecrated him to God with special solemnity, resolving "to be more particularly careful... to instill into his mind the principles of religion and virtue." The fruit of her fidelity to this high purpose was the grand and beautiful life of her consecrated by.
I. School and College Life. — When Wesley as in his eleventh year, the patronage of the duke of Buckingham secured his admission to the Charterhouse School, London, of Which Dr. Thomas Walker was then master and the — Rev. Andrew Tooke, author of the Pantheon, usher. To such a grave and gentle-mannered boy as was this poor son of a village rector, his removal from the peaceful rectory and the companionship of his firm but loving mother to the cloisters of a large "foundation" school, and to forced association with numerous rude boys, whose cruelty to their juniors was equal to their thoughtlessness, must have been a very sore trial; but he stood it bravely, and soon won a very high reputation for good behavior, devotion to study, and superior scholarship. When sixteen years old he was elected to Christ Church College, Oxford. Here he pursued his studies with the same exemplary diligence as at the Charterhouse. So highly were his classical attainments esteemed by the heads of the university that he was elected fellow of Lincoln College, March 17, 1726. He was then but twenty three years of age yet such was his reputation as a classical scholar, a thoughtful and polished writer, and a skilful logician that he was chosen Greek lecturer and moderator of the classes, only eight months after his election to a fellowship, and before he had proceeded master of arts, to which academic honor he was admitted in February, 1727.
II. Ordination and Work in America. — After much hesitation, caused by grave doubts as to whether the ministry of the Gospel was his proper vocation, Wesley had sought and obtained ordination as a deacon by the hands of bishop Potter in September, 1725. The same prelate ordained him priest in 1728. From 1725 to 1729 his time was, spent partly at Epworth, as his father's curate, and partly at, Oxford; but in the latter year his college authorities insisting on his residence at Oxford, he returned thither and devoted himself to the duties of his fellowship. In 1735, on the death of his father, he was strongly urged by his relatives to take the necessary steps for securing the vacant Epworth rectorship. Believing that he could be more useful at Oxford than at Epworth, he only yielded to the wishes of his friends so far as to make an indirect application for the living (Tyerman, Wesley, 1, 102, 103). He was probably pleased to learn that it was given to another. Yet in October of the same year his convictions respecting his duty to remain at Oxford were so modified that he was persuaded to go with general Oglethorpe as a missionary to Georgia.
Wesley spent two years and almost four months in Georgia, faithfully preaching to the colonists; but finding no opportunity to reach the Indians, as he had hoped to do, and seeing but scant fruit from his labors in Savannah and adjacent settlements, he returned to England in 1738. His ascetic habits, his extreme ritualistic practices, his rigid administration of Church discipline, his vigorous method of eating with prevailing vices in the pulpit, and his highly cultivated and refined nature were not suited to win the sympathy of those rude, self-seeking colonists. Had his character and preaching been softened by that evangelical experience which he subsequently obtained, his missionary work in America would probably have been more productive. Nevertheless, it was eminently beneficial to himself; and after is departure the people of Savannah, reflecting on what he had said and done among them, generally admitted his great worth, and lamented his absence as a serious loss to the colony.
Wesley was now nearly thirty-five years of age, and, except in academic circles at Oxford, was almost an unknown man. No signs of the great celebrity to which he was destined had yet appeared; but his hour was at hand. He was about to receive that spiritual baptism which was the pivotal fact in his career, but for which it is quite probable he would have spent his life in the gratification of his scholastic tastes, quietly performing the duties of his fellowship within the walls of Lincoln College, at Oxford. Wesley's special work was the fruit of his religious experience, to which we will now direct the reader's attention.
III. His Religious Experience. From his earliest childhood Wesley was uncommonly susceptible to religious impressions. He was reverential, conscientious, reflective, and grave, far beyond his years. .These qualities were developed by the religious atmosphere which pervaded the Epworth rectory, by the methodical instruction and judicious training of his affectionate and highly gifted mother, and by the influence of his learned and devoted father. Reared in this home, consecrated to the domestic affections, to intellectual culture, and spiritual pursuits, his mind and heart drank in the sweet influences of the spirit of truth so precociously that his father, impressed by the consistency of his child life, admitted him to the communion when he was only, eight years old. And he himself declared that until was about ten years old I had not sinned away that washing of the Holy Ghost which was given me in baptism." When he was sent to the Charterhouse School, he was like a plant suddenly removed from the genial warmth of a greenhouse to the cold air of an unsheltered garden. The form of religion was maintained in its halls, but the spiritual atmosphere and the personal guidance to which he had been accustomed were not there. Hence the piety of his childhood wilted. He still adhered to the outward duties of religion, but his heart lost the consolations of the Spirit; and though he avoided scandalous sins, he fell into practices which his conscience condemned.
In this state he entered the university, where, for five years, while treating his religious duties with outward respect, he continued to sin against his convictions in spite of the castigations of his conscience. These were so severe at times as to induce transient fits of unfruitful repentance. His love of learning was too strong to suffer his pleasures to interfere with his studies; his poverty: held him back from the costly vices which enslaved many of his college companions, but did not prevent him from becoming a lively and witty, though not an immoral, sinner. When twenty-two years of age his thoughts were drawn to more serious views of life by his father's pressing letters, urging him to enter into holy orders, and by the light which broke upon his conscience while reading the Christian's Pattern, by Thomas Kempis. The conversation of a religious friend, and, after his removal to Lincoln College, the perusal of Law's Christian Perfection and Serious Call; deepened these convictions, and led him to devote himself, soul, body, and substance, to the service of God. The completeness of this self-devotion, combined with his rare moral courage and superior strength of character, caused him to, be recognised as the leader of a group of undergraduates which was nicknamed the "Holy Club" by the ungodly students and dons of the university, who also derided its members for, their rigid adhesion to ritualistic rules and charitable practices by calling them "Methodists." From this unreserved dedication of himself to God Wesley never receded. Henceforth he sought to do the divine will with all the force of his energetic nature. But, owing to his failure to comprehend the scriptural doctrine of salvation by faith only, he groped in the dark through thirteen years of ascetic self-denial, ritualistic observances, unceasing prayer, and works of charity, before he gained an assurance that God, for Christ's sake, had pardoned his sins. No stronger proof of sincerity and earnestness cal be found in human history than is contained in Wesley's absolute and complete devotion to religion through those long, wearisome, comfortless years of, seeking God without finding him. Perhaps there is no fact more surprising in his marvelous career than that, with his singularly large perceptive powers and his familiarity with Scripture and with the writings of the English divines, he lived so long without gaining a right conception of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. And when, on his voyage to Savannah, he saw some pious Moravians rejoicing, while he was shaken with fears of death, amid the fury of a storm which apparently was driving them into the jaws of destruction, he did not suspect that his fear was the fruit of his erroneous views. Nevertheless, his attention was thereby directed to the unsatisfactory features of his experience. He talked much with some of the Moravian brethren after his arrival in Savannah; but it was not until after his return to England, in 1738, that Peter Bobler, a Moravian preacher in London, after much conversation, aided by the testimonies of several 'living witnesses, convinced him that to gain, peace of mind he must renounce that dependence upon his own works which had hitherto been the bane of his experience, and replace it with a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for him. To gain this faith he strove with all possible earnestness. And at a Moravian society meeting in Aldersgate Street, while one was reading Luther's statement of the change, which God works in the heart through faith, Wesley says, "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 sills, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Wesley was now the possessor of "constant peace;" but, his faith being yet weak, was subject to many fluctuations through manifold temptations. He therefore devoted all the forces of his mind to the culture of his, faith. He sought association with the spiritually minded Moravians; journeyed to Germany; visited count Zinzendorf; made himself familiar with the religious life of the Moravians at Herrnhut; conversed freely with many of their most distinguished men; and, in September, 1738, returned to London, strong in faith and prepared to enter with unbounded zeal upon the duty of calling men to repentance as Providence might give him opportunities. "I look," he said to a friend, shortly after his return to England, "upon all the world as my parish; thus far, I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear the glad tidings of salvation."
IV. Beginning, of his Evangelistic Work. — This conviction, the offspring of his faith and love, was the germinal principle of organic Methodism, though Wesley did not then recognize it in that light. At this time he had not the feeblest conception that he was about to become the builder.. of a vast ecclesiastical structure. Never, perhaps, was a learned clergyman at thirty-five years of age so utterly without a plan of life as was John Wesley in 1738. He knew that his heart was ablaze with love for Christ and for human souls, and that he was possessed by a passionate desire to proclaim the doctrine of present salvation by faith alone, and that he was determined, cost what it might, to be guided by that desire. Beyond this his intentions did not reach. He was a stanch, even a High, Churchman, and very naturally supposed that the fruit of his labors would contribute to the spirituality of the Established Church. Hence Methodism must be regarded as an accident rather than the result of a purpose deliberately formed in the mind of its great founder. It was the outgrowth of a sublime principle wrought into organic form by circumstances which could not be controlled, except by the surrender of the principle itself. The facts in Wesley's career subsequent to 1738 scarcely admit of any other satisfactory interpretation. Let us briefly review them.
There were several "societies" in London, chiefly composed of persons who were desirous of spiritual fellowship and instruction. Some of them were under Moravian teachers, others were made up of Churchmen. Wesley very naturally associated with these societies, and preached to them and to such, Episcopal congregations as were open to his ministrations. But his exceeding earnestness, his theory of instantaneous conversion. through faith, and, above-all, the remarkable spiritual results of his preaching gave such offense to the vicars and rectors of the churches that, after a few months he found his further access to church-pulpits very generally refused; and his sphere of operations limited, in the main to the rooms of the societies, to prison chapels, and to hospital wards. Neither was there any probability that he would be presented to any church living. At this critical moment his friend, Whitefield sent him a very pressing invitation-to visit Bristol. After some hesitation lie went thither; and his High-Church sensibilities were shocked by seeing that eloquent evangelist preach to an immense congregation in the open-air. "I could scarcely reconcile myself at first," he observes, "to this strange way of preaching in the fields having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been in a church." But seeing Whitefield's field preaching divinely blessed, he conquered his life-long prejudices, and, standing on an eminence near the city of Bristol, preached for the first time in the open air to about three thousand souls. Thus the problem of his evangelistic career was solved. The great purpose of his life could be accomplished in spite of closed church doors. He did not know it then, but he really made organic Methodism, with its itinerant ministry, possible on that memorable Monday, April 2, 1739, when, with a courage which in his circumstances was truly sublime, he crossed the Rubicon by becoming a field preacher.
The success of his outdoor ministrations soon made it necessary to erect a chapel for the accommodation of his converts at Bristol. Lack of ability on the part of the people compelled him to assume the financial responsibilities of this enterprise. To protect his pecuniary interests thus acquired, and to secure the use of its pulpit to himself or his representatives, he felt obliged to vest the title to the chapel in himself. All this, to his mind, bore the aspect of an undesirable burden forced upon his shoulders by unsought circumstances. But it proved to be the inception of that system of vesting his chapel titles in himself but for which the organic unity and growth of the Wesleyan societies could not have been secured. In adopting it, Wesley was unconsciously working on the foundations of a Church the ideal of which had not as yet arisen even in his imagination.
V. His First Societies. — A still more important step in the same direction was taken in London, July 20, 1740. This was nothing less than the formation of a society, under his exclusive direction, at his chapel in London, then recently acquired, and known as the Foundery. Six months before he had organized a "United Society" in connection with the Moravians at Fetter Lane. But owing to errors in theory and wrongs in practice which had appeared among its members, Wesley thought proper to invite all who adhered to him to separate from the Moravians. Some eighteen or nineteen accepted his invitation. These persons he organized into a society, as stated above, which, though not intended to be a separation, either on his part or theirs, from the Church of England, must be regarded historically as a germ of the Wesleyan Church. It was the nucleus around which the societies that recognized Mr. Wesley as their ecclesiastical head subsequently clustered. The rapid increase of his United Societies, and his enforced absences from them while on his evangelical tours, soon made it apparent that some means of watching over their spiritual growth was needed. No plan presented itself to his mind until, in February, 1742, while his followers in Bristol were discussing ways and means of paying their chapel debt, one of them proposed that the society should be divided into bodies of twelve, one of whom should be a sort of leader to collect from each a penny per week. Wesley approved. The plan worked well. In reporting their receipts some of these leaders spoke of having disorderly members on their list. "It struck me immediately," wrote Wesley, "this is the thing, the very thing, we have wanted so long." Acting promptly and with characteristic energy on this suggestion, he requested all the collectors to make particular inquiry into the lives of the members on their respective lists. Six weeks later he divided his London society into similar classes, under the leadership of earnest and sensible men," who were instructed to gain "a sure, thorough knowledge of each member on his list." At first they did this duty by personal visitations; but this method being found inconvenient, the members were required to meet their leaders once a week for prayer and religious conversation. Thus the class-meeting originated. It immediately became a means of "unspeakable usefulness;" indispensable, indeed, to spiritual instruction and discipline in a system of itinerancy which made it impossible for its ministers to perform thorough pastoral work. Wesley illustrated his sagacity, if not his genius, in incorporating it into his scheme of Christian work. It is, perhaps, theoretically open to objections, which some think to be not entirely groundless; yet it is historically certain that it contributed greatly to the purity and spread of Methodism; and it is assuredly susceptible of such improvements, both on its intellectual and spiritual sides, as to justify its retention in the great churches which have grown out of Wesley's United Society.
VI. Originates the Wesleyan Itinerancy. — Obeying the unsought calls of Providence, Wesley visited other towns in the vicinity of London and Bristol. Wherever he preached, powerful awakenings and surprising conversions took place. This success begot new and weightier responsibilities. As the father of these spiritual children, he felt it to be his duty to see that they were properly nurtured. And when he saw many of his converts repelled from the sacramental table in national churches only because they were his hearers, he felt compelled to provide for their spiritual culture and oversight. His choice lay between making such provision or permitting the fruits of his labors to become a "rope of sand." Being as yet a strong Churchman, he could not fully approve of lay preaching; but, following numerous Church precedents, he did appoint Mr. Cennick at Bristol, and Mr. Maxfield at London, to take local supervision of the 'societies in their respective neighborhoods, to hold prayer-meetings, and to expound the Scriptures, but not to preach.
But circumstances soon arrayed themselves once more against his slowly declining ecclesiasticism. During his absence young Maxfield began to preach in London with such power and spiritual fruitage as demonstrated his divine call. Wesley hastened back to London, intent on putting a stop to this irregularity. His mother, then living in his house, said to him, "John, you know what my sentiments have been; you cannot suspect me of favoring readily any theory of this kind. But take care what you do with respect to that young man, for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are." Thus cautioned, Wesley heard Maxfield preach, carefully observed the fruits of his preaching, was convinced that he was called of God to the work of the ministry, and then authorized him to preach to Methodist congregations as his "lay helper." Yet he would not permit him to administer the sacraments, because he was not episcopally ordained.
This unpremeditated step, so reluctantly taken, contributed immensely to the structure which Wesley was still undesignedly rearing. In taking Maxfield as his helper, he in fact inaugurated the ministry of Methodism on the basis of a divine call. And as other men equally qualified and conscious of that call speedily appeared among his converts in numerous places, he could not consistently refuse to accept their aid, since the rapidly increasing number of his societies and congregations demanded the employment of more laborers. Having once admitted the principle, Wesley did not hesitate to apply it. Hence, in 1742, he had twenty-three helpers preaching under his direction; and in 1744, five years after his first sermon in the field at Bristol, we find him holding his first "conference" in London. It was composed of John and Charles Wesley, John Hodges, Henry Piers, Samuel Taylor, and John Meriton, clergymen in sympathy with Wesley; and Thomas Richards, Thomas Maxfield, John Bennett, and John Downes, lay helpers in all, ten persons. They remained in session five days, conversing freely on questions of doctrine, discipline, and ministerial duty. Among the rules adopted for assistants or lay helpers was one requiring them "to act in all things not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel to do that part of the work which we direct, at those times and places which we judge most for his glory." This rule recognized Wesley's authority to appoint his lay helpers to such fields of labor as he judged best; it made unqualified submission to this authority the, duty of every lay assistant; it put into the rising structure of Methodism the principle of authority which made .an organized itinerant ministry possible, and without which, in some form, it is difficult to see how it could be maintained. As exercised by Wesley, this authority was autocratic and practically irresponsible, and his acceptance and use of it cannot be justified except on the ground that he believed it was necessary, as it probably was, at first, to the growth of the great work, which Providence had thrust upon him. He saw no time when he deemed its surrender consistent with the peace and progress of his societies; but, whether one agrees with him or not on this point, one cannot fairly charge him with its improper use. From first to last he sought the highest good of his societies, the best fields of usefulness for his preachers, and the promotion of the glory of God in all his appointments. No doubt he made many mistakes, for he was human; but, if ever mortal man possessed of great power was unselfish and pure in its exercise, that man was John Wesley.
VII. Formulation of a Doctrinal Platform. — The doctrinal platform of the Wesleyan societies was formulated, at least in its essential outlines, at this first conference. Wesley himself had, after diligent study while at Oxford, conclusively accepted the Arminian theory of general redemption, and learned to regard the doctrines of election and reprobation, as held by Calvin, with very deep abhorrence. His adhesion to what he believed to be the teaching of Holy Writ had brought him into an unpleasant conflict with Cennick, his lay helper at Bristol, and with his friend and fellow evangelist Whitefield. The latter, having while in New England become enamored with its then prevailing Calvinism, took grave offence at a sermon preached by Wesley in 1740 on "free grace," and protested against it very severely in a letter to Wesley, which Whitefield's friends published in England. Cennick espoused the opinions of the letter, and, though in Wesley's employ, sowed the seeds of dissension in the Bristol society. The consequence was Cennick's separation from Wesley, Whitefield's temporary estrangement from his old friend, and the division of Methodism into two branches, the Calvinistic and the Wesleyan. Subsequently the two friends "agreed to differ," though they henceforth wrought in separate paths. But during this controversy the creed of the coming Wesleyan Church was practically settled; and when Wesley assembled his first conference, and its members conversed two days on "what to teach," they found themselves in substantial agreement on the atonement, election, justification by faith, the witness of the Spirit, entire sanctification, and other leading doctrines. Thus Wesley's theological views became the accepted platform of the great ecclesiastical system, which he was unconsciously organizing.
VIII. Development of Wesley's Work. — During the five years preceding this first conference great things had been accomplished. Starting from London and Bristol as the centers of his movement, Wesley had traversed the country from the Land's End to Newcastle, and had formed societies in numerous towns and cities. In London alone those societies numbered not less than two thousand souls. Their number elsewhere is not known, but it must have been several thousands. Forty-five preachers, including two ordained clergymen, were laboring under his direction. Unnumbered thousands were accustomed to listen to the quickening words, which fell with unwonted power from his lips, and from those of his devoted and laborious helpers. They had much bitter opposition and harsh persecution to contend with, and very little public sympathy to encourage them. The lower orders were steeped in brutality, the upper classes were hardened by, skepticism and devoted to pleasure. The clergy were frozen amid the formalities of the Establishment. The Dissenting churches, with their ministers, were too lukewarm to breast the swelling tide of immorality which overflowed the land. They were, as Isaac Taylor remarks, "rapidly in course to be found nowhere but in books." And the peculiar characteristic of the English nation was, to use the words of Wesley, universal, constant ungodliness." Against this triumphant wickedness Wesley, with his brother Charles, a handful of spiritual clergymen, and his little band of lay helpers, inspired by heroic faith, had entered the lists, determined to overthrow it and to establish the reign of scriptural holiness in its stead. It looked like an unequal and hopeless strife. But he threw himself with more than a hero's daring into the midst of the fray, and led the van of a host, which, if it did not wholly purify England, wrought. a great reformation in public morals, poured fresh tides of spiritual, life into both the Established and Dissenting churches, raised up that great body of spiritual men and women who finally constituted the Wesleyan Church, and effected a reformation which broke the scepter of ungodliness and made England a comparatively godly nation.
IX. Wesley's Extensive Labors. — In leading this great reformation, Wesley did Herculean work. His evangelistic tours, annually enlarging, soon extended into all, parts of England, to Wales, to Scotland, and to Ireland. Ever on the wing, traveling some four thousand five hundred miles every year, he preached from twice to, four times nearly every day. His audiences were generally large, sometimes vast, and in many places were disturbed by riotous mobs, which, like hungry beasts, thirsted for his blood. He also met the societies, the classes and the official boards whenever opportunity offered or necessity required. The erection of thousands of chapels, the collection of funds to pay their cost, and the choice of suitable trustees constantly required his attention. The care of all his preachers was upon him. His correspondence was immense. He had a heavy publishing business to manage. His journeys, mostly on horseback until the feebleness of advanced age compelled him to use a carriage, were long, tedious, tiresome, often perilous, and were pursued in sunshine and in storm, through the heat and rain of summer, and the frosts, winds, and snows of winter. Not infrequently, especially during the beginning of his career, they involved many privations, severe hardships, and much physical suffering. He usually read while traveling, even when on horseback, and thus kept himself thoroughly acquainted with the current literature of his times. He also wrote several original books and numerous pamphlets on passing events. He edited, wrote, translated, or abridged not less than two hundred miscellaneous publications, which he published and sold through his preachers for the benefit of his societies. Every public movement for the improvement of society, such as the, Sunday-school, the abolition of slavery, the circulation of tracts, charitable associations, popular education, and the like, occupied his thoughts, moved his sympathies, called forth his co-operation, and exhausted his purse. His eyes were open to every detail, no matter how minute, that concerned the growth of his societies or the increase of the kingdom of God. He was always at work when awake, yet was never in a hurry. His industry and activity never were, never can be, exceeded. It is estimated that during the fifty years of his itinerant ministry he traveled over a quarter of a million miles, and preached more than forty- two thousand sermons.
Under this unexampled leadership, continued through half a century, the organization which was begun with the feeble society at Fetter Lane, London, in 1739, had developed in 1790 into a powerful body consisting of five hundred and eleven preachers, laboring on two hundred and sixteen circuits, which covered vast territories in Great Britain and Ireland, in the West Indies, and in America; and numbering in its fellowship over one hundred and twenty thousand souls. Besides this enrolled membership, there were at least four times as many persons worshipping in Methodist congregations. These swelled the number of his adherents, at the time of his death, to at least half a million of souls. But outside of this army of avowed adherents there was "a multitude which no man could number," who had been spiritually and morally benefited by the movement, which this truly marvelous man had inaugurated, and which, for half a century, he guided with almost unexampled wisdom and energy.
X. His Death. — Age could not chill the zeal of this apostolic man. Despite of its burdens and infirmities, he would not slacken his labors until the approach of death benumbed his powers. Eight days before his death he preached his last sermon at Leatherhead, near London. His physical nature then gave way. A gradual sinking of his physical forces followed, during which his mind was generally clear, his faith strong, his peace perfect, his hope triumphant. On March 2, 1791, he passed, "without a lingering groan," into the felicities of the blessed life, in the eighty-eighth year of his age. His remains were interred in the burial-ground of City Road Chapel.
Wesley left no children. In February, 1751, he had married the widow of a deceased London merchant named Vazeille. It was an unfortunate marriage. The lady could not, or at least did not, enter into sympathy with her husband's great life-work. She shrank from the toil which his incessant journeying involved, and, after a short time, refused to accompany him to his appointments. Neither would she cheerfully consent to his almost constant absence from home. Hence, after a few years, they lived apart. She died Oct. 8, 1781.
XI. Personal Appearance and Character. — When he was forty-one years of age Wesley was described by Dr. Kennicott as being "neither tall nor fat. His black hair, quite smooth and parted very exactly, added to a peculiar composure in his countenance, showed him to be an uncommon man." Tyerman says, "In, person Wesley was rather below the middle size, but beautifully proportioned, without an atom of superfluous flesh; yet muscular and strong, with a forehead clear and smooth, a bright penetrating eye, and a lovely face, which retained the freshness of its complexion to the latest period of his life." As a preacher Wesley was calm, graceful, natural, and attractive. "His voice was not loud, but clear and manly." He was not an orator like Whitefield, but his preaching was remarkable for unction, compactness and transparency of style, clear and sharply defined ideas, power over the conscience, impressiveness and authority.
In social life Wesley never trifled, but he was always cheerful. He was an admirable conversationalist, full of anecdote, witty, courteous, gentle, serious, and at ease with both rich and poor. Though naturally irritable, he was master of himself, and was, in all respects, "a Christian gentleman." A more charitable man probably never existed. His benevolence was only limited by his resources. After reducing his personal expenses to the lowest point consistent with the maintenance of his health and respectable appearance, he spent the rest of his income in works of charity.
If a man's work is the measure of his mind, Wesley must be ranked among men of the highest intellectual order. A nature that could impress itself as his did on his generation, that could create and govern almost absolutely an organization such as he called into existence, must have been truly regal born to rule. Had he possessed a more philosophical imagination, and had he given himself to speculative thought, the world might have rated him higher among its profound thinkers than it does. There is, however, no valid reason for doubting his capacity to pursue successfully almost any department of human knowledge. His journals and other writings show that he had a rare aptitude and appetite for both reading and thinking; but the practical cast of his mind led him to avoid speculation, and to turn his knowledge to account in a multitude of channels running in the direction of the one chosen aim of his life. Yet the clearness of his thoughts, while it led men to underestimate their depth, showed the far reaching penetrativeness of his mind. His perception of things and their relations was rather intuitive than the resultant of a slow and tedious process of reasoning. His mind was therefore less a workshop than a window through which he viewed the facts of nature, the course, of human history, and the revelations of Holy Writ, with such clear vision as enabled him to present them to men with a mental force so logical and authoritative, and in a style so terse and direct, that their judgments were convinced, their affections won, and their wills subdued by the truths he uttered.
Wesley's mind was constructive in all its tendencies. Had it been destructive, he would have spent much of his force in efforts to pull down the National Church, which was nearly "dead in trespasses and sins" when he began his itinerant career. He did not do this, because his genius moved him to build, not to destroy. So strong was this tendency that it restrained his natural combativeness, which was large, limiting it to such vigorous defenses of what he believed to be vital truth as he deemed absolutely needful to prevent his work: from being hindered by the attacks of his many adversaries. This constructive instinct moved him to give organic form to a novel system of itinerant preaching; it led him to organize the fruits of his labor into societies, by which he hoped not to supersede or rival the Episcopal Church, but to fan its expiring spiritual life back to healthful action. But circumstances were stronger than his hopes, and the structure he erected became the Wesleyan Church.
Wesley's character was remarkable for its perfect unity and coherence. He was governed in all he thought, felt, and did by that single purpose which he avowed at the beginning of his evangelical career, when he affirmed his belief that God had called him "to declare unto all that are willing to hear the glad tidings of salvation." This conviction: shaped his life. It dwelt in his conscience; it absorbed his affections; it governed his will; it flowed into all the activities of his life; it sustained him under hardships and trials; it accounts for the peculiarities of his career. The most scrutinizing search finds nothing contrary to it, either in his private, social, or public life. Such absolute coherence is rarely found in human character. In Wesley it is so obvious that it goes far towards accounting for that marvelous degree of personal power by which he ruled so absolutely and yet so peacefully over his societies. Men submitted to his rule because they saw that he ruled not' for himself, but for the triumph of a great principle; that he held on to his great power, not because he was ambitious or loved power for its own sake, but because he believed the spiritual welfare of thousands required him to keep the reins in his own hands. That this belief amounted to a sincere conviction is evident from the fact that in 1773 he wrote to the saintly Fletcher begging him to prepare to succeed him, because he was sure that, after his death, his societies could be held together only by placing supreme power in the hands of one leader. But Fletcher's death led him, at a later period, to change his mind. Seeing no other man whom he could safely trust with his supreme power, he began to train the "Yearly Conference" to govern both itself and the connection. This he did, not by surrendering his power while living, but by permitting the conference to direct affairs under his supervision. When satisfied by this experiment that it would be safe to convey his power to that body, he executed a "Deed of Declaration," to take effect after his death, by which the government of his societies, the appointing power, and the use of his chapels and their properties, were placed in perpetuity in the hands of a hundred preachers, and their successors in office to be chosen from the body of Wesleyan preachers. Had Wesley deemed it safe to make this legal transfer of his power during his lifetime, he would, no doubt, have done so. The fact that he permitted his conference to exercise both legislative and executive powers for several years before his death is proof enough that he did not cling to power for its own sake. His aim was not his own honor, but the good of his beloved societies.
XII. Wesley's Writings. — Wesley's writings and compilations were important factors in his evangelistic work. Knowing ignorance to be a sturdy foe to godliness, he used the press as an auxiliary of the pulpit from the very beginning of his itinerant career to the day of his death. He consecrated his pen to the great purpose of his life. He had the ability to win a high reputation as an elegant writer; but despising the mere praise of men, he wrote, as he preached, in the style and manner he believed best adapted to win men to Christ. His most important productions were his Sermons, numbering one hundred and forty-one. They are remarkable fir the terseness and purity of their style, in which not a word is wasted; the transparency and compactness of their thoughts; and a logical force which is not subtle, but the fruit of a "keen, clear insight." A first series of his Sermons was published in 1771; his Translation of the New Testament, with Notes (Lond. 1755), which won approval from many eminent scholars; the text for "many happy corrections of the Authorized Version;" the notes for conciseness, spirituality, acuteness, and soundness of opinion; his Journals, which portray, as in a mirror, the course of his remarkable life, and are exceedingly curious and entertaining. The first part was issued in 1739; nineteen more parts at irregular intervals; his appeals, entitled An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion (written in 1744), and A Further Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion (published 174445, 3 pts.). These masterly appeals are' acute, searching, and powerful in-thought, forcible in style, and singularly tender in spirit; his Treatise on Original Sin, in reply to Dr. Taylor, of Norwich, which was so conclusive that the doctor never attempted to answer it, though he promptly replied to every other writer who controverted his opinions. Besides these works, Wesley wrote many controversial articles, which were published separately. In 1778 he began a monthly magazine (The Arminian Magazine), which-he continued to the end of his life. He also wrote a Church History (in 4 vols.): — a History of England (in 4;vols.) a Compendium of Natural Philosophy: — a Dictionary of the English Language: — separate Grammars of the English, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages: a Compendium of Logic, etc. His original prose works filled fourteen closely printed volumes; his commentaries, compilations, and abridgments form a list of one hundred and nineteen publications in prose, one of which, entitled A Christian Library, contained fifty volumes. Besides these prose works, he published fifty-two separate works in poetry, the joint productions of himself and his brother Charles; and, lastly, five publications on music, and collections of tunes. That all this literary work should have been accomplished by a man whose life, for half a century, was a series of journeys, is an astonishing fact. "Looking at his traveling," remarks Tyerman, "the marvel is how he found time to write; and, looking at his books, the marvel is how he found time to preach." An edition of his principal prose works is published by the Methodist Book Concern (N. Y.) in seven octavo volumes..
XIII. Literature. — See The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley; Southey; Life of John Wesley, and the Rise and Progress of Methodism; Clarke, Memoirs of the Wesley Family; Whitehead, Life of John Wesley;
Crowther, Portraiture of Methodism; Watson, Life of Rev. John Wesley; Smith, History of Wesleyan Methodist; Moore, Life of Wesley' Taylor, Wesley and Methodism Stevens, The History of the Religious Movement of the Eighteenth Century called Methodism; Tyerman, Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, Founder of the Methodists; Jackson, Life of Rev. Charles Wesley; Myles, Chronological History of the Methodists; Drew, Life of Thomas Coke, LL.D.; Hampson, Life of Wesley. (D. W.) Wesley: John Thomas, an English Congregational minister and missionary, was born at Burton in 1844, and died Dec. 19, 1875. Mr. Wesley from early youth was a devoted follower of Christ; graduated at Hackney College in 1870, and was ordained at York Street, Dublin, where he secured the warm affection and esteem of the Church. In 1874, under the auspices of the London Missionary Society, he sailed for Madagascar; readily acquired the language; and, during his few years of labor, became a great power in the mission field, and an honor to the Church. See (Lond.) Cong. Year- book, 1877, p. 421.