« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
time that a man sets himself to this business, very many even of those who travel the same road, many
of those who are before as well as behind him,- will lay stumbling blocks in his way.
One blames him for not going fast enough, another for having made no further progress, another for going too far, which, perhaps, strange as it is, is the more common charge of the two; for this comes from all people of all sorts; not only infidels, not only half Christians, but some of the best of men are very apt to make this reflection : he Jays unnecessary burdens upon himself; he is too precise; he does what God has no where required to be done.' True, all men are not required to use all means, but every man is required to use those which he finds most useful to himself. It will be said,” he pursued, “I am whimsical. If by whimsical be meant simply singular, I own it; if singular without any reason, I deny it with both my hands, and am ready to give a reason, to any that asks me, of every custom wherein I differ from the world. As to my being formal, if by that be meant that I am not easy and unaffected enough in my carriage, it is very true; but how shall I help it? If by formal be meant that I am serious, this, too, is very true; but why should I help it?!!
Wesley would not be at the expense of having his hair dressed, in order that the money which would otherwise have been employed in this vile fashion might be given to the poor : he wore it remarkably long, and flowing loose upon his
shoulders. “ As to my hair," he said, “ I am much more sure that what this enables me to do is according to the Scripture, than I am that the length of it is contrary to it.” His mother fancied that this fashion injured his health, for he was often indisposed; and therefore she urged him to have it taken off. To this he objected, because it would cause an additional expense, which would lessen his means of relieving the needy. Samuel proposed the middle course of cutting it shorter, by which means the singularity of his
appearance would be lessened, without entrenching upon his meritorious economy. This was the only instance in which he condescended, in any degree, to the opinion of others. Soon afterwards Samuel went to Oxford, that he might form a better opinion of his brethren’s demeanour upon the spot, than could be formed from the contradictory accounts which reached him. Their general conduct, and all their principles, received his unqualified approbation : but he perceived that Morgan was far gone in his fatal malady, was diseased in mind as well as body, and had fallen into that wretched state of weakness in which religion, instead of food and support, was, by a deplorable perversion of its nature, converted into poison. He perceived also that John was pursuing habits of austerity in such disregard of health, as if he were eager for death, and was an enemy to his own frail carcase. Morgan did not live long; and it appeared probable that Wesley would soon follow him to that world, the preparation for which they seemed to consider not merely as the most important, but as the sole business of this.
Hard study, exercise carried sometimes in his journies beyond his strength, the exertion of frequent preaching and earnest discourse, fasting upon all the appointed days of the Ancient Church, and a most abstemious diet at all times, had reduced him to an alarming condition. Frequent spitting of blood indicated the consequences which might be apprehended; at length he was awakened at midnight by the breaking of a blood-vessel; and he has recorded in his private diary, that thinking himself at that moment on the brink of eternity, he cried to God, “ Oh prepare me for thy coming, and come when thou wilt!” This attack compelled him to put himself under the direction of medical men, and after awhile he thoroughly recovered.
About this time Samuel finding that promotion at Westminster was hopeless, on account of his connection with a party who were deservedly obnoxious to government, accepted the mastership of Tiverton school. Before he removed so far westward, he went to visit his parents at Epworth, and there his two brothers met him, that the whole family might, for the last time in this world, be gathered together. Among the many solemn circumstances of human life, few can be more solemn than such a meeting. For some years their father had been declining; and he was very solicitous that the cure in which he had laboured faithfully during so long a course of years should be obtained for his son John, if possible, from an
anxious desire that the good which he had effected might not be lost through the carelessness of a lukewarm successor; and that his wife and daughters might not be dispossessed of the home wherein the one had lived so long, and the others had been born and bred. Wesley, who had not before thought ofsuch a proposal, gave no opinion upon it now; but in the ensuing year his father pressed him to apply for the next presentation, and Samuel urged him to the same effect. At first he seems to have hesitated how to decide. “I know,” says he, writing from Oxford upon the subject,
“ if I could stand my ground here, and approve myself a faithful minister of our blessed Jesus, by honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, then there would not be a place under heaven like this for improvement in every good work.” An absence of some little time from Oxford had shown how soon the effects of all his exertions might be counteracted. One of his pupils confessed that he was becoming more and more afraid of singularity; another had studied some of Mr. Locke's writings, which had convinced him of the mischief of regarding authority ; a third had been converted from fasting by a fever and a physician. The little body of his associates had diminished in number from seven-and-twenty to five. These things made him reflect closely: the ill consequences of his singularity were diminution of fortune, loss of friends and of reputation. “ As to my fortune,” said he, “ I well know, though perhaps others do not, that I could not have borne a larger than I have. For friends, they were either
trifling or serious: if triflers, fare them well, a noble escape; if serious, those who are more serious are left. And as for reputation, though it be a glorious instrument of advancing our Master's service, yet there is a better than that, a clean heart, a single eye, and a soul full of God. A fair exchange, if, by the loss of reputation, we can purchase the lowest degree of purity of heart."
These considerations led to the conclusion, that there was little prospect of doing any lasting good in his present situation ; and when the fitness of settling at Epworth, if the succession could be obtained, was pressed upon him, he considered it not so much with reference to his utility, as to his own well-being in spiritual things. The question, as it appeared to him, was not whether he could do more good to others there or at Oxford, but whether he could do more good to himself, seeing that · wherever he could be most holy himself, there he could most promote holiness in others; but he could improve himself more at Oxford than at any other place, and at Oxford therefore he determined to remain. This reasoning was well answered by his father; who told him, that even at Oxford he might have promoted holiness much more than he had done, if he had taken the right method, « for there is a particular turn of mind for these matters, great prudence as well as great fervour. I cannot,” he said, “ allow austerity or fasting, considered by themselves, to be proper acts of holiness, nor am I for a solitary life. God made us for a social life. We are to let our light shine be