Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

such supposition, nor by any legerdemain, nor by ventriloquism, nor by any secret of acoustics. The former argument would be valid, if the term miracle were applicable to the case; but by miracle Dr. Priestley evidently intends a manifestation of Divine power, and in the present instance no such manifestation is supposed, any more than in the appearance of a departed spirit. Such things may be preternatural and yet not miraculous: they may be not in the ordinary course of nature, and yet imply no alteration of its laws. And with regard to the good end which they may be supposed to answer, it would be end sufficient if sometimes one of those unhappy persons who, looking through the dim glass of infidelity, see nothing beyond this life, and the narrow sphere of mortal existence, should, from the well-established truth of one such story, (trifling and objectless as it might otherwise appear,) be led to a conclusion that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.

John suffered at the Charter-house under the tyranny which the elder boys were permitted to exercise. This evil at one time existed very generally in English schools, through the culpable negligence of the masters; and perhaps may

still continue to exist, though if a system were designed for cultivating the worst dispositions of human nature, it could not more effectually answer the purpose. The boys of the higher forms of the Charter-house were then in the practice of taking their portion of meat from the younger ones, by IN kof the strongest ; and during great part of PR me that Wesley remained there, a small daily jaetion of bread was his only food. Those theoAntical physicians who recommend spare diet for the human animal, might appeal with triumph to the length of days which he attained, and the elastic constitution which he enjoyed. He himself imputed this blessing, in great measure, to the strict obedience with which he performed an injunction of his father's, that he should run round the Charter-house garden three times every morn

. ing. Here, for his quietness, regularity, and application, he became a favourite with the master, Dr. Walker ; and through life he retained so great a predilection for the place, that on his annual visit to London he made it a custom to walk through the scene * of his boyhood. To most men every

*

« How

* Good old Izaak Walton has preserved a beautiful speech of that excellent man Sir Henry Wotton, when, in his old age, he was returning from a visit to Winchester, where he had been educated. useful,” he said to a friend, his companion in that journey, “ how useful was that advice of a holy monk, who persuaded his friend to perform his customary devotions in a constant place, because in that place we usually meet with those very thoughts which possessed us at our last being there. And I find it thus far experimentally true, that my now being in that school, and seeing that very place where I sate when I was a boy, occasioned me to remember those very thoughts of my youth which then possessed me: sweet thoughts, indeed, that promised my growing years numerous pleasures, without mixtures of cares; and those to be enjoyed when time (which I therefore thought slow-paced) had changed my youth into manhood: but age and experience have taught me, that those were but empty hopes: for I have always found it true, as my Saviour did foretell,' sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Nevertheless, I saw there a succession of boys using the same recreations, and questionless possessed with the same thoughts that then possessed me. Thus one generation succeeds another, both in their lives, recreations, hopes, fears, and death.”

year would render a pilgrimage of this kind more painful than the last; but Wesley seems never to have looked back with melancholy upon the days that were gone; earthly regrets of this kind could find no room in one who was continually pressing onward to the goal.

At the age of seventeen he was removed from the Charter-house to Christ Church, Oxford.

SO

CHAPTER II.

WESLEY AT OXFORD.

Before Wesley went to the university, he had acquired some knowledge of Hebrew under his brother Samuel's tuition. At college he continued his studies with all diligence, and was noticed there for his attainments, and especially for his skill in logic, by which he frequently put to silence those who contended with him in after life. No man, indeed, was ever more dexterous in the art of reasoning. A charge was once brought against him that he delighted to perplex his opponents by his expertness in sophistry; he repelled it with indignation : “ It has been my first care," said he, “ to see that my cause was good, and never, either in jest or earnest, to defend the wrong side of a question; and shame on me if I cannot defend the right after so much practice, and after having been so early accustomed to separate truth from falsehood, how artfully soever they are twisted together." Like his father, and both his brothers, he was no inexpert versifier in his youth: this, however, was a talent which he forbore to use, when ascetic opinions began to influence him,-and the honour of being the sweet singer of Methodism was reserved for his brother Charles.

While he was an undergraduate, his manners were free and chearful ; and that activity of disposition which bore him afterward through such uninterrupted labour, displayed itself in wit and vivacity. But when the time of life arrived at which he might have taken orders, he, who was not a man to act lightly upon any occasion, and least of all upon so solemn a one, began to reflect seriously upon the importance of the priestly office, and to feel some scruples concerning the motives by which the person ought to be influenced who determines to take upon himself so aweful a charge. These scruples he communicated to his father, who answered them sensibly; but agreed with him in not liking " a callow clergyman;" and hinting that he thought it too soon for him to be ordained, exhorted him to work while he could. The letter was written with a trembling pen: “ You see,” said the old man, “ Time has shaken me by the hand, and Death is but a little way behind him. My eyes and heart are now almost all I have left, and I bless God for them.” The mother, however, was of opinion, that the sooner he entered into deacon's orders the better, because it might be an inducement to greater application in the study of practical divinity. “ And now," said she, in good earnest resolve to make religion the business of your life : for, after all, that is the one thing that, strictly speaking, is necessary; all things beside are comparatively little to the purposes of life. I heartily wish you would now enter upon a strict examination of yourself, that vou

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »