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me to render an account of my stewardship?" The objections which arose from his own station and character she left entirely to his own judgement. Why any person should reflect upon him, because his wife endeavoured to draw people to church, and restrain them, by reading and other persuasions, from profaning the sabbath, she could not conceive; and if any were mad enough to do so, she hoped he would not regard it.
. own part,” she says, 66 I value no censure on this account: I have long since shook hands with the world; and I heartily wish I had never given them more reason to speak against me." As to the proposal of letting some other person read for her, she thought her husband had not considered what a people they were; not a man among them could read a sermon without spelling a good part of it, and how would that edify the rest ? And none of her own family had voices strong enough to be heard by so many.
While Mrs. Wesley thus vindicated herself in a manner which she thought must prove convincing to her husband, as well as to her own calm judgement, the curate of Epworth (a man who seems to have been entitled to very little respect) wrote to Mr. Wesley in a very different strain, complaining that a conventicle was held in his house. The name was well chosen to alarm so high a churchman; and his second letter declared a decided disapprobation of these meetings, to which he had made no serious objections before. She did not reply to this till some days had elapsed, for she deemed it ne
cessary that both should take some time to consider before her husband finally determined in a matter which she felt to be of great importance. She expressed her astonishment that any effect upon his opinions, much more any change in them, should be produced by the senseless clamour of two or three of the worst in his parish ; and she represented to him the good which had been done by inducing a much more frequent and regular attendance at church, and reforming the general habits of the people ; and the evil which would result from discontinuing such meetings, especially by the prejudices which it would excite against the curate, in those persons who were sensible that they derived benefit from the religious opportunities, which would thus be taken away through his interference. After stating these things clearly and judiciously, she concluded thus, in reference to her own duty as a wife: “ If you do, after all, think fit to dissolve this assembly, do not tell me that
you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send me your positive command, in such full and express terms as may absolve me from guilt and punishment for neglecting this opportunity of doing good, when
and I shall appear before the great and aweful tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Wesley made no farther objections; and thoroughly respecting, as he did, the principles and the understanding of his wife, he was perhaps ashamed that the representations of meaner minds should have prejudiced him against her conduct.
John and Charles were at this time under their mother's caré : she devoted such a proportion of time as she could afford to discourse with each child by itself on one night of the week, upon the duties and the hopes of Christianity: and it may well be believed that these circumstances of their childhood had no inconsiderable influence upon their proceed. ings when they became the founders and directors of a new community of Christians. John's providential deliverance from the fire had profoundly impressed his mother, as it did himself, throughout the whole of his after life. Among the private meditations which were found among her papers, was one written out long after that event, in which she expressed in prayer her intention to be more particularly careful of the soul of this child, which God had so mercifully provided for, that she might instil into him the principles of true religion and virtue; -“ Lord,” she said, “ give me grace to do it sincerely and prudently, and bless my attempts with good success.” The peculiar care which was thus taken of his religious education, the habitual and fervent piety of both his parents, and his own surprizing preservation, at an age when he was perfectly capable of remembering all the circumstances, combined to foster in the child that disposition, which afterwards developed itself with such force, and produced such important effects.
Talents of no ordinary kind, as well as a devotional temper, were hereditary in this remarkable family. Samuel, the elder brother, who was eleven years older than John, could not speak at all till he was
more than four years old, and consequently was thought to be deficient in his faculties: but it seems as if the child had been laying up stores in secret till that time, for one day when some question was proposed to another person concerning him, he answered it himself in a manner which astonished all who heard him, and from that hour he continued to speak without difficulty. He distinguished himself first at Westminster, and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford, by his classical attainments. From Christ Church he returned to Westminster as an usher, and then took orders, under the
patronage of Atterbury. But he regarded Atterbury more as a friend than a patron, and holding the same * political opinions, he attracted the resentment of the ministers, by assailing them with epigrams and satires. On this account, when the situation of under-master became vacant, and he was proposed as a man eminently qualified to fill it, by experience, ability, and character, the appointment was refused, upon the irrelevant objection that he
The sons appear to have imbibed their mother's political opinions. Samuel was one of those wits who did themselves no honour, and their country no service, by assailing Sir Robert Walpole’s administration. There is a passage in one of Charles Wesley's letters which shews that John was of the same political school. Writing to Samuel from Oxford in the year 1734, be says, “ My brother has been much mauled, and threatened more, for his Jacobite sermon on the 11th June. But he was wise enough to get the vice-chancellor to read and approve it besore he preached it, and may therefore bid Wadham, Merton, Exeter, and Christ Church do their worst.” Wesley has asserted, and his biographers have repeated it after him, that Dr. Sacheverel's defence was composed by his father. It has been usually ascribed to Atterbury, and very possibly he may bave employed his young friend in the task, a task by no means consonant with the father's principles.
was a married man. Charles was placed under him at Westminster, and going through the college in like manner, was also elected to Christ Church. John was educated at the Charter-house.
While John was at school, certain disturbances occurred in his father's house, so unaccountable, that every person by whom they were witnessed believed them to be supernatural. At the latter end of the year 1715, the maid-servant was terrified by hearing at the dining-room door several dismal groans, as of a person at the point of death. The family gave little heed to her story, and endeavoured to laugh her out of her fears; but a few nights afterward they began to hear strange knockings, usually three or four at a time, in different parts of the house: every person heard these noises except Mr. Wesley himself, and as, according to vulgar opinion, such sounds were not audible by the individual to whom they foreboded evil, they refrained from telling him, lest he should suppose that it betokened his own death, as they indeed all apprehended. At length, however, the disturbance became so great and so frequent, that few or none of the family durst be alone, and Mrs. Wesley thought it better to inform her husband; for it was not possible that the matter could long be concealed from him; and moreover, as she says, she was minded he should speak to it. The noises were now various as well as strange, loud rumblings above stairs or below, a clatter among a number of bottles, as if they had all at once been dashed to pieces, footsteps as of a man going up