Изображения страниц

Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law's demands :
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress ; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the Fountain fly; Wash me, Saviour, or I die.




The Church of England



“A grain of mustard seed, when it is sown, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth, but it groweth."


its Clubs.

VANGELICAL Churchmen trace their pedigree to the Puritans, the Reformers, and the Lollards, to all within the National Church who have learned to love a simple worship and a Oxford and spiritual religion; but as a party their existence dates from the Great Revival of the eighteenth century. The story opens at Oxford in 1729; George II was on the throne, but the University ignored him; she illuminated her windows every year on the birthday of the Pretender, and drank the health of James III by the light of blazing bonfires. Undergraduate life was very different from that which we know to-day; there were no examinations, no athletics, hardly any


lectures, and very little learning. Gentlemen-commoners in powdered wigs lounged in Lyne's Coffee House, or talked sentiment to tradesmen's daughters in the Merton Walks. Dissipated young squires divided their time between the cockpit and the tavern. The few serious students declared with disgust1 that the resident fellows considered their work as teachers to be fully accomplished when they had gravely handed their pupils the key of the College Library; like Gibbon's tutor, who "remembered that he had a salary to receive, and forgot that he had a duty to perform.' Intellectually it was the darkest age in the University history. "Pride and peevishness, sloth and indolence, gluttony, sensuality, and a proverbial uselessness," seemed to Wesley the seven predominant features of common-room life. Three subjects, and three subjects alone, were able to stir the interests of the senior men-the virtue of the college port, the progress of the college lawsuit, and the latest fashion in dilettante treason.

The younger men, left to themselves, organized innumerable clubs, and, as the dinner hour was eleven in the morning, the whole evening was free for these gatherings. The exquisite sipped his arrack punch at the Poetical or the Amorous. For the country lads a Drinking Club roystered in every alehouse. The quieter men also had their own little gatherings. "Having brought with me the character

1 Cf. Gibbon's Autobiography; Terrae Filius, by N. Amhurst ; Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, v. I.

2 Scriptural Christianity: a sermon before the University, 1744.

The "Holy



of a tolerably good Grecian," wrote Richard Graves,1 who matriculated at Pembroke on the same day as Whitefield, "I was invited to a very sober little party, who amused themselves in the evening with reading Greek and drinking water. We read over Theophrastus, Epictetus, Phalaris' Epistles, and such other Greek authors as are seldom read at school." And a Club with whose doings we are concerned, which was destined to develop in very unexpected ways, was at first nothing but just such a social club as this. "In November, 1729," wrote John Wesley,2 "four young gentlemen of Oxford, Mr. John Wesley, Fellow of Lincoln, Mr. Charles Wesley, Student of Christ Church, Mr. Morgan, Commoner of Christ Church, and Mr. Kirkham of Merton College, began to spend some evenings in a week together in reading chiefly the Greek Testament." The two Wesleys were sons of a country clergyman, that vehement, peremptory, impracticable, little man, the High Church Rector of Epworth. John, the elder brother, was almost a typical Oxford scholar, exact, fastidious, logical; for two years he had been acting as his father's curate, but a passing spasm of University reform had just recalled him to Lincoln to resume his duties as Greek Lecturer. Charles, the real founder of the Club, was five years his junior. Kirkham was a frank, jovial young fellow, who knew the Wesleys at home, and Morgan a warm-hearted, enthusiastic Irishman. At first the Club much re

1 Recollections of the Life of Wm. Shenstone, by R. Graves, 1788. 2 A Short History of Methodism, by J. Wesley.

sembled that described by Graves; several evenings a week were devoted to the study of classical authors; but gradually their interest in religious questions crowded out everything else. William Law's Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life had been published that year, and every one was reading and discussing it. "The short of the matter is this," wrote the great Nonjuror,1 "either reason and religion prescribe rules and ends to all the ordinary actions of life, or they do not; if they do, then it is as necessary to govern all our actions by those rules, as it is necessary to worship God." Nowhere did he find more eager disciples than around Wesley's table. This was the problem that they discussed night after night,-By what rules ought a Christian to regulate his life? They tried to map out for each week a sort of railway time-table, having a fixed and definite duty for every moment of the day; and the revision and perfection of their time-tables occupied much of their evenings. As the rumour of what they were doing spread through the colleges, it appealed to the looseliving men around them as a tremendous joke. Dozens of nicknames were coined-"Bible Moths," "Holy Club," "Godly Club"-but one "young gentleman of Christ Church" unearthed for them an old name2 which was destined to become historic. "Here is a new sect of Methodists," he sneered. "The name,"

1 Law's Serious Call, chap. I.

The original Méthodistes were a school of French Calvinists in the seventeenth century. There was also a small English sect of this name during the Commonwealth.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »