Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

having as yet gone forth against the Methodists, the natural effect of their unusual conduct was not disturbed by any prejudices or vulgar prepossession. Some were attentive, some were affected, some were unconcerned; but all were astonished. A stranger hearing him address the ostler, followed him into the house, and said, “ I believe you are a good man, and I come to tell you a little of my life :" the tears were in his eyes all the while he spoke, and the travellers had good hope that not a word of their advice would be lost. At another place they were served by a gay young woman, who listened to them with utter indifference; however, when they went away, “ she fixed her eyes, and neither moved nor said one word, but appeared as much astonished as if she had seen one risen from the dead.” A man who sat with his hat on while Mr. Wesley said grace, changed countenance at his discourse during dinner, stole it off his head, and laying it down behind him, said, all they were saying was true, but he had been a grievous sinner, and not considered it as he ought: now, with God's help, he would turn to him in earnest. A Quaker fell in with him, well skilled in controversy, and “ therefore sufficiently fond of it.” After an hour's discourse, Wesley advised him to dispute as little as possible, but rather to follow after holiness, and walk humbly with his God.

Having returned to Oxford, and being at a meeting of his religious friends, his heart was so full that he could not confine himself to the forms of prayer which they were accustomed to use at such times; and from that time forth he resolved

[ocr errors]

to pray indifferently with or without form, as the occasion and the impulse might indicate. Here he met Peter Boehler again; and was more and more amazed by the account the Moravian gave of the fruits of living faith, and the holiness and happiness wherewith, he affirmed, it was attended. The next morning he began his Greek Testament, “ resolving to abide by the law and the testimony, and being confident that God would thereby show him whether this doctrine was of God.” After a few weeks they met once more in London, and Wesley assented to what he said of faith, but was as yet unable to comprehend how this faith could be given instantaneously as Boehler maintained; for hitherto he had had no conception of that perpetual and individual revelation which is now the doctrine of his sect. He could not understand “How a man could at once be thus turned from darkness to light, from sin and misery to righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost.” But seeing Boehler in a happier state of mind than himself, he regarded him as having attained nearer to Christian perfection; and the Moravians, from the hour that he became acquainted with them, had evidently obtained a strong ascendancy over him. He searched the Scriptures again, touching the difference between them, the point upon which he halted; and examining more particularly the Acts of the Aposa tles, he says, that he was utterly astonished at finding scarcely any instances there of other than instantaneous conversions,“ Scarce any other so slow as that of St. Paul, who was three days in the

: 13

[ocr errors][merged small]

pangs of the New Birth.”-Is it possible that a
man of Wesley's acuteness should have studied
the Scriptures as he had studied them, till the age
of five-and-thirty, without perceiving that the con-

4-
versions which they record are instantaneous ? and
is it possible, that he should not now have per-
ceived that they were necessarily instantaneous,
because they were produced by plain miracles ?

His last retreat was, that although the Almighty had wrought thus in the first ages of the church, the times were changed, and what reason was there for supposing that he worked in the same manner now ? « But,” he says, “ I was beat out of this retreat too by the concurring evidence of several living witnesses, who testified God had thus wrought in themselves; giving them in a moment such a faith in the blood of his Son, as translated them out of darkness into light, out of sin and fear into holiness and happiness. Here ended my disputing, I could now only cry out, Lord, help thou my unbelief!” In after life, when Wesley looked back upon this part of his progress, he concluded that he had then the faith of a servant, though not of a son. At the time he believed himself to be without faith ; Charles was angry at the language which he held, for Charles had not kept pace with him in these latter changes of opinion, and told him he did not know what mischief he had done by talking thus. '". And indeed,” says Wesley, as if contemplating with exultation the career which he was to run, “ it did please God to kindle a fire, which I trust shall never be extinguished,"

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

While he was in this state of mind, between forty and fifty persons, for so many, including the Moravians, were now collected in London, agreed to meet together weekly, and drew up the fundamental rules of their society “ in obedience to the command of God by St. James, and by the advice of Peter Boehler;" in such estimation did Wesley at this time hold his spiritual master. They were to be divided into several bands or little companies, none consisting of fewer than five, or more than ten persons; in these bands every one in order engaged to speak as freely, plainly, and concisely as he could, the real state of his heart, with his several temptations and deliverancés since the last meeting. On Wednesday evenings, at eight o'clock, all the bands were to have a conference, beginning and ending with hymns and prayer. Any person who desired admission into this society was to be asked, what were his motives, whether he would be entirely open, using no kind of reserve, and whether he objected to any of the rules. When he should be proposed, every one present who felt any objection to his admission, should state it fairly and fully : they who were received on trial were to be formed into distinct bands, and some experienced person chosen to assist them; and if no objection appeared to them after two months, they might then be admitted into the society. Every fourth Saturday was to be observed as a day of general intercession; and on the Sunday sevennight following, a general lovefeast should be held, from seven till ten in the evening. The last article provided that no member should be allowed to act in any thing contrary to any order of the society, and that any person who did not conform to those orders after being thrice admonished, should no longer be esteemed a member.

These rules were in the spirit of the Moravian institutions, for Wesley was now united with the Brethren in doctrine, as far as he understood their doctrine, and well disposed to many parts of their discipline. Charles also now yielded to Peter Boehler's commanding abilities, and was by him persuaded of the necessity of a faith differing from any thing which he had yet felt or imagined. The day after he had won this victory, Boehler left London to embark for Georgia. 66 O what a work,” says Wesley, “has God begun since his coming into England ! Such a one as shall never come to an end, till Heaven and earth pass away!" – so fully was he possessed with a sense of the im. portant part which he was to act, and of the extensive influence which his life and labours would produce upon mankind, that these aspiring presages were recorded even now, whilst he was in the darkest and most unsatisfactory state of his progress. In preaching, however, he was enabled to speak strong words, and his “ heart was so enlarged to declare the love of God,” that it did not surprize him to be informed he was not to preach again in those churches where he had given this free utterance to the fulness of his feelings.

M

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »