Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

his lodgings to lay open their souls; they begged religious books of him, and entreated him to write their names with his own hand : and when he preached his farewell sermon, here, as at Bristol, the whole congregation wept and sobbed aloud. At the end of the year he left London, and embarked at Gravesend for Georgia. · This unexampled popularity excited some jealousy in a part of the clergy, and in others a more reasonable enquiry concerning the means whereby it was obtained. Complaints were made that the crowds who followed him left no room for the parishioners, and spoiled the pews; and he was compelled to print the sermon on the Nature and Necessity of our Regeneration, or New Birth in Christ Jesus, through the importunity of friends, he says, and the aspersions of enemies. It was reported in London that the Bishop intended to silence him, upon the complaint of the clergy. In consequence of this report, he waited upon the Bishop, and asked whether any such complaint had been lodged. Being satisfactorily answered in the negative, he asked whether any objection could be made against his doctrine; the Bishop replied, no; he knew a clergyman who had heard him preach a plain scriptural sermon.

He then asked whether his Lordship would give him a licence; and the Bishop avoided a direct reply, by saying that he needed none, for he was going to Georgia. Evidently he thought this a happy destination for one whose fervent spirit was likely to lead him into extrava

gancies of doctrine as well as of life ; for sometimes he scarcely allowed himself an hour's sleep, and once he spent a whole night among his disciples in prayer and praise. His frequent intercourse with the more serious Dissenters gave cause of offence; for the evils which Puritanism had brought upon this kingdom were at that time neither forgotten nor forgiven. He “ found their conversation savoury,” and judged rightly, that the best way to bring them over was not by bigotry and railing, but by moderation, and love, and undissembled holiness of life. And on their part they told him, that if the doctrine of the New Birth and Justification by Faith were powerfully preached in the church, there would be but few Dissenters in England. On the other hand, the manner in which he dwelt

upon

this doctrine alarmed some of the clergy, who apprehended the consequences; and on this account he was informed, that if he continued in that strain, they would not allow him to preach any more in their pulpits.

Doubtless those persons who felt and reasoned thus, rejoiced in Whitefield's departure to a country where the whole force of his enthusiasm might safely expend itself. But in all stirring seasons, when any great changes are to be operated, either in the sphere of human knowledge or of human actions, agents enough are ready to appear ; and those men who become for posterity the great landmarks of their age, receive their bias from the times in which they live, and the circumstances in which they are placed, before they themselves * give the directing impulse. It is apparent, that though the Wesleys should never have existed, Whitefield would have given birth to Methodism :- and now when Whitefield, having excited this powerful sensation in London, had departed for Georgia, to the joy of those who dreaded the excesses of his zeal, no sooner had he left the metropolis than Wesley arrived there, to deepen and widen the impression which Whitefield had made. Had their measures been concerted, they could not more entirely have accorded. The first sermon which Wesley preached was upon these strong words : • If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;" and though he himself had not yet reached the same stage in his progress as his more ardent coadjutor, the discourse was so high strained, that he was informed he was not to preach again in that pulpit.

This was on the second day after his arrival in London. Two days afterwards he met, at the house of a Dutch merchant, three Moravian brethren, by name Wenceslaus Neisser, George Schulius, and Peter Boehler ; all these were just arrived from Germany, and the two latter were on their way to Georgia. He marks the day in his journal as much to be remembered on account of this meeting. On the next Sunday he preached at St. Andrew's, Holborn, and there also was informed that he was to preach no more.

* “ I have often observed,” says Cowley, “(with all submission and resignation of spirit to the inscrutable mysteries of Eternal Providence,) that when the fulness and maturity of time is come, that produces the great confusions and changes in the world, it usually pleases God to make it appear by the manner of them, that they are not the effects of human force or policy, but of the divine justice and predestination: and though we see a man, like that which we call Jack of the Clock House, striking, as it were, the hour of that fulness of time, yet our reason must needs be convinced, that the hand is moved by some secret, and to us from without, invisible direction.”

In the course of the week he went to Oxford, whither Peter Boehler accompanied him, and where he found only one of the little Society which he had formed there; the rest having been called to their several stations in the world. During these days he conversed much with the Moravian, but says, that he understood him not; and least of all when he said, Mi frater, mi frater, excoquenda est ista tua Philosophia. Ere long, being with his mother at Salisbury, and preparing for a journey to his brother Samuel, at Tiverton, he was recalled to Oxford by a message that Charles was dying there of a pleurisy : setting off immediately upon this mournful summons, he found him recovering, and Peter Boehler with him. Boehler possessed one kind of philosophy in a higher degree than his friend: the singularity of their appearance and manner excited some mockery from the under-graduates, and the German, who perceived that Wesley was annoyed by it chiefly on his account, said, with a smile, Mi frater, non adhæret vestibus,-“ it does not even stick to our clothes.” This man, a person of no ordinary powers of mind, became Wesley's teacher: it is no slight proof of his commanding intellect, that he was listened to as such; and by him, “ in the hands of the great God,” says Wesley, “ I was clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith

swered,

whereby alone we are saved.”. A scruple immediately occurred to him, whether he ought not to leave off preaching, for how could he preach to others who had not faith himself? Boehler was consulted whether he should leave it off, and anBy no means.”

< But what can I preach?" said Wesley. The Moravian replied, Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” je began to preach this doctrine, though, he says, his soul started back from the work.

He had a little before resolved, and written down the resolution as a covenant with himself, that he would use absolute openness and unreserve towards all whom he should converse with; that he would labour after continual seriousness, not willingly indulging himself in any the least levity of behaviour, nor in laughter, no, not for a moment; and that he would speak no word, and take no pleasure, which did not tend to the glory of God. In this spirit he began to exhort the hostess or the servants at an inn, the chance

with whom he was set at meat, and the traveller with whom he fell in on the road: if a passing salutation were exchanged, a word of religious exhortation was added. Mr. Kinchin, the good minister of Dummer, was one of his fellow travellers in a journey to and from Manchester ; and because they neglected to instruct those who attended them while they dined at Birmingham, Wesley says they were reproved for their negligence by a severe shower of hail. No clamour

company

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »