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..THE FIVE FIRST NUMBERS OF HIS JOURNAL.
PRINTED AND SOLD BY J. & J. HARPER,
. NO. 327 PEARL-STREET.
Pabban Des. Associo, 11-26-1923
Oxon, October 18, 1730. Sir,—The occasion of my giving you this trouble is of a very extraordinary nature. On Sunday last I was informed (as no doubt you will be ere long) that my brother and I had killed your son: that the rigorous fasting which he had imposed upon himself, by our advice, had increased his illness and hastened his death. Now though, considering it in itself, “ it is a very small thing with me to be judged by man's judgment;" yet as the being thought guilty of so mischievous an imprudence might make me the less able to do the work I came into the world for, I am obliged to clear myself of it, by observing to you, as I have done to others, that your son left off fasting about a year and a half since; and that it is not yet half a year since I began to practise it.
I must not let this opportunity slip of doing my part toward giving you a juster notion of some other particulars, relating both to him and myself, which have been industriously misrepresented to you.
In March last he received a letter from you, which, not being able to read, he desired me to read to him ; several of the expressions whereof I perfectly remember, and shall do, till I too am called hence. I then determined, that if God was pleased to take away your son before me, I would justify him and myself, which I now do with all plainness and simplicity, as both my character and cause required.
In one practice for which you blamed your son, I am only concerned as a friend, not as a partner. That, therefore, I shall consider first. Your own account of it was in effect this :-" He frequently went into poor people's houses, in the villages about Holt, called their children together, and instructed them in their duty to God, their neighbour, and themselves. He likewise explained to them the necessity of private as well as public prayer, and provided them with such forms as were best suited to their several capacities : and being well apprized how much the success of his endeavours depended on their good will toward him, to win upon their affections, he sometimes distributed among them a little of that money which he had saved from gaming, and the other fashionable expenses of the place.” This is the first charge against him ; upon which all that I shall observe is, that I will refer it to your own judgment, whether it be fitter to have a place in the catalogue of his faults, or of those virtues for which he is now “numbered among the sons of God.”
If all the persons concerned in “ that ridiculous society, whose follies you have so often heard repeated,” could but give such a proof of their deserving the glorious title* which was once bestowed upon them, they would be contented that their " lives” too should be counted madness, and their end” thought to be s without honour.” But the truth is their title to holiness stands upon much less stable founda
* The Holy Club
tions; as you will easily perceive when you know the ground of this wonderful outcry, which it seems England is not wide enough to contain.
In November, 1729, at which time I came to reside at Oxford, your son, my brother, myself, and one more, agreed to spend three or four evenings in a week together. Our design was to read over the classics, which we had before read in private, on common nights, and on
Sunday some book in divinity. In the summer following, Mr. M. told · me he had called at the gaol, to see a man who was condemned for
killing his wife; and that, from the talk he had with one of the debtors, he verily believed it would do much good, if any one would be at the pains of now and then speaking with them. This he so frequently repeated, that on the 24th of August, 1730, my brother and I walked with him to the castle. We were so well satisfied with our conversation there, that we agreed to go thither once or twice a week; which we had not done long, before he desired me to go with him to see a poor woman in the town, who was sick. In this employment too, when we came to reflect upon it, we believed it would be worth while to spend an hour or two in a week; provided the minister of the parish, in which any such person was, were not against it. But that we might not depend wholly on our own judgments, I wrote an account to my father of our whole design; withal begging that he, who had lived seventy years in the world, and seen as much of it as most private men have eyer done, would advise us whether we had yet gone too far, and whether we should now stand still, or go forward.
Part of his answer, dąted September 21, 1730, was this :— And now as to your own designs and employments, what can I say less of them than, Valde probo:* and that I have the highest reason to bless God, that he has given me two sons together at Oxford, to whom he has given grace and courage to turn the war against the world and the devil, which is the best way to conquer them. They have but one more enemy to combat with, the flesh; which if they take care to subdue by fasting and prayer, there will be no more for them to do, but to proceed steadily in the same course, and expect the crown which fadeth not away. You have reason to bless God, as I do, that you have so fast a friend as Mr. M. who, I see, in the most difficult service, is ready to break the ice for you. You do not know of how much good that poor wretch who killed his wife has been the providential occasion. I think I must adopt Mr. M. to be my son, together with you and your brother Charles; and when I have such a ternion to prosecute that war, wherein I am now miles emeritus, t I shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
“ I am afraid lest the main objection you make against your going on in the business with the prisoners may secretly proceed from flesh and blood. For who can harm you if you are followers of that which is so good ;' and which will be one of the marks by which the Shepherd of Israel will know his sheep at the last day?- Though if it were possible for you to suffer a little in the cause, you would have a confessor's reward. You own none but such as are out of their senses would be prejudiced against your acting in this manner; but say
* I greatly approve. † A soldier past service.
• These are they that need a physician. But what if they will not accept of one who will be welcome to the poor prisoners ? Go on then, in God's name, in the path to which your Saviour has directed you, and that track wherein your father has gone before you! For when I was an under-graduate at Oxford, I visited those in the castle there, and reflect on it with great satisfaction to this day. Walk as prudently as you can, though not fearfully, and my heart and prayers are with you.
“ Your first regular step is, to consult with him (if any such there be) who has a jurisdiction over the prisoners; and the next is, to obtain the direction and approbation of your bishop. This is Monday morning, at which time I shall never forget you. If it be possible, I should be glad to see you all three here in the fine end of the summer. But if I cannot have that satisfaction, I am sure I can reach you every day, though you were beyond the Indies. Accordingly, to Him who is every where I now heartily commit you, as being
“Your most affectionate and joyful father.” In pursuance of these directions, I immediately went to Mr. Gerard, the bishop of Oxford's chaplain, who was likewise the person that took care of the prisoners when any were condemned to die : (at other times they were left to their own care :) I proposed to him our design of serving them as far as we could, and my own intention to preach there once a month, if the bishop approved of it. He much commended our design, and said he would answer for the bishop's approbation, to whom he would take the first opportunity of mentioning it. It was not long before he informed me he had done so, and that his lordship not only gave his permission, but was greatly pleased with the undertaking, and hoped it would have the desired success.
Soon after, a gentleman of Merton college, who was one of our little company, which now consisted of five persons, acquainted us that he had been much rallied the day before for being a member of The Holy Club; and that it was become a common topic of mirth at his college, where they had found out several of our customs, to which we were ourselves utter strangers. Upon this I consulted my father again, in whose answer were these words:
6 December 1. “ This day I received both yours, and this evening, in the course of our reading, I thought I found an answer that would be more proper than any I myself could dictate ; though since it will not be easily translated, I send it in the original. Toaan jos xauxnois Utep yuwv. TETanpwuas on tapaxinoel, UT EPT EPIO devou al on yapą :* 2 Cor. vii, 4. What would you be? Would you be angels ? I question whether a mortal can arrive to a greater degree of perfection, than steadily to do good, and for that very reason patiently and meekly to suffer evil. For my part, on the present view of your actions and designs, my daily prayers are, that God would keep you humble; and then I am sure that if you continue to suffer for righteousness' sake, though it be but in a lower degree, “the Spirit of glory and of God'shall, in some good measure, rest upon you.' Be never weary of well-doing : never look back; for you know the prize and the crown are before you : though
* Great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding.