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obtained, and infidelity, a plague which had lately found its way into the country, was becoming so prevalent, that the vice-chancellor had, in a programma, exhorted the tutors to discharge their duty by double diligence, and had forbidden the undergraduates to read such books as might tend to the weakening of their faith. The greatest prudence would not have sufficed to save men from ridicule, who at such an age, and in such a scene, professed to make religion the great business of their lives and prudence is rarely united with enthusiasm. They were called in derision the Sacramentarians, Bible-bigots, Bible-moths, the Holy, or the Godly Club. One person, with less irreverence and more learning, observed, in reference to their methodical manner of life, that a new sect of Methodists was sprung up, alluding to the ancient school of physicians known by that name. Appellations, even of opprobrious origin, have often been adopted by the parties to which they were applied, as well as by the public, convenience legitimating the inventions of malice. In this instance there was neither maliciousness nor wit, but there was some fitness in the name; it obtained * vogue; and though long, and even still sometimes indiscriminately applied to all enthusiasts, and even to all who observe the forms of religion more strictly than their neighbours, it has
*The Rev. J. Chapman says, in a letter to Wesley, "The name Methodist is not a new name, never before given to any religious people. Dr. Calamy, in one of his volumes of the Ejected Ministers, observes, they called those who stood up for God, Methodists."
become the appropriate designation of the sect of which Wesley is the founder.
It was to Charles Wesley and his few associates that the name was first given. When John returned to Oxford, they gladly placed themselves under his direction; their meetings acquired more form and regularity, and obtained an accession of numbers. His standing and character in the university gave him a degree of credit; and his erudition, his keen logic, and ready speech, commanded respect wherever he was known. But no talents, and, it may be added, no virtue, can protect the possessor from the ridicule of fools and profligates. "I hear," says Mr. Wesley, 66 my son John has the honour of being styled the Father of the Holy Club: if it be so, I am sure I must be the grandfather of it and I need not say, that I had rather any of my sons should be so dignified and distinguished, than to have the title of His Holiness."
One of the earliest members of this little society, Mr. Morgan, seems to have been morbidly constituted both in body and mind: and by the practice of rigorous fasting, he injured a constitution which required a very different treatment. But if his religion, in this point erroneous, led him to impose improper privations upon himself, it made him indefatigable in acts of real charity toward others : his heart and his purse were open to the poor and needy; he instructed little children, he visited the sick, and he prayed with the prisoners. In these things he led the way; and the Wesleys, who were not backward in following, have commemorated
his virtues as they deserve. Morgan died young, after a long illness, in which the misery of a gloomy and mistaken religion aggravated the sufferings of disease. Wesley was accused of having been the cause of his death, by leading him into those austerities which undoubtedly had accelerated it: but in these practises Wesley had been the imitator, not the example; and the father, who had at first expressed great indignation at the extravagancies of his son's associates, was so well convinced of this at last, that he placed one of his children under his care. Two others of the party were men who afterwards acquired celebrity. James Hervey was one, author of the Meditations, a book which has been translated into most European languages, and for the shallowness of its matter, its superficial sentimentality, and its tinsel style, as much as for its devotional spirit, has become singularly popular. Whitefield was the other, a man so eminently connected with the rise and progress of Methodism, that his history cannot be separated from that of Wesley.
George Whitefield was born at the Bell Inn, in the city of Gloucester, at the close of the year 1714. He describes himself as froward from his mother's womb; so brutish as to hate instruction; stealing from his mother's pocket, and frequently appropriating to his own use the money that he took in the house. "If I trace myself," he says, "from my cradle to my manhood, I can see nothing in me but a fitness to be damned; and if the Almighty had not prevented me by his grace, I
had now either been sitting in darkness and in the
disposition, and a tender heart.
Whitefield's talents for elocution, which made him afterwards so great a performer in the pulpit, were at this time in some danger of receiving a theatrical direction. The boys at the grammarschool were fond of acting plays: the master "seeing how their vein ran," encouraged it, and composed a dramatic piece himself, which they represented before the corporation, and in which Whitefield enacted a woman's part, and appeared in girl's clothes. The remembrance of this, he says, had often covered him with confusion of face,
and he hoped it would do so even to the end of his life! Before he was fifteen, he persuaded his mother to take him from school, saying, that she could not place him at the university, and more learning would only spoil him for a tradesman. Her own circumstances, indeed, were by this time so much on the decline, that his menial services were required: he began occasionally to assist her in the public house, till at length he "put on his blue apron and his snuffers*, washed mops, cleaned rooms, and became a professed and common drawer." In the little leisure which such employments allowed, this strange boy composed two or three sermons; and the romances, which had been his heart's delight, gave place for awhile to Thomas à Kempis.
When he had been about a year in this servile occupation, the inn was made over to a married brother, and George, being accustomed to the house, continued there as an assistant; but he could not agree with his sister-in-law, and after much uneasiness gave up the situation. His mother, though her means were scanty, permitted him to have a bed upon the ground in her house, and live with her, till Providence should point out a place for him. The way was soon indicated. A servitor of Pembroke College called upon his mother, and in the course of conversation told her, that after all his college expenses for that quarter were
⚫ So the word is printed in his own account of his life; it seems to mean the sleeves which are worn by cleanly men in dirty employmentë, and may possibly be a misprint for scoggers, as such sleeves are called in some parts of England.