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THE

LIITE OF WESLEY.

THE

HE sect, or Society, as they would call themselves, of Methodists, has existed for the greater part of a century; they have their seminaries and their hierarchy, their own regulations, their own manners, their own literature: in England they form a distinct people, an imperium in imperio : they are extending widely in America ; and in both countries they nutnber their annual increase by thousands. The history of their founder is little known in his native land beyond the limits of those who are termed the religious public; and on the continent it is scarcely known at all. In some of his biographers the heart has been wanting to understand his worth, or the will to do it justice ; others have not possessed freedom or strength of intellect to perceive wherein he was erroneous.

It has been remarked with much complacency, by the Jesuits, that in the year of Luther's birth Loyola was born also: Providence, they say, having wisely appointed, that when so large a portion of Christendom was to be separated from the Catholic Church by means of the great German heresiarch, the great Spanish saint should establish an order by which the Catholic faith would be strenuously supported in Europe, and disseminated widely in the other parts

VOL. 1.

of the world. Voltaire and Wesley were not indeed in like manner, children of the same year, but they were contemporaries through a longer course of time; and the influences which they exercised upon their age and upon posterity, have been not less remarkably opposed. While the one was scattering, with pestilent activity, the seeds of immorality and unbelief, the other, with equally unweariable zeal, laboured in the cause of religious enthusiasm. The works of Voltaire have found their way wherever the French language is read; the disciples of Wesley wherever the English is spoken. The principles of the arch-infidel were more rapid in their operation; he who aimed at no such evil as that which he contributed so greatly to bring about, was himselfstartled at their progress : in his latter days he trembled at the consequences which he then foresaw; and indeed his remains had scarcely mouldered in the grave, before those consequences brought down the whole fabric of government in France, overturned her altars, subverted her throne, carried guilt, devastation, and misery into every part of his own country, and shook the rest of Europe like an Earthquake. Wesley's doctrines, meantime, were slowly and gradually winning their way; but they advanced every succeeding year with accelerated force, and their effect must ultimately be more extensive, more powerful, and more permanent, for he has set mightier principles at work. Let it not, however, be supposed that I would represent these eminent men, like agents of the good and evil principles, in all things contrasted: the one was not all darkness, neither was the other all light.

The history of men who have been prime agents in those great moral and intellectual' revolutions, which from time to time take place among mankind, is not less important than that of statesmen and conquerors. If it has not to treat of actions wherewith the world has rung from side to side, it appeals to the higher part of our nature, and may perhaps excite

A

more salutary feelings, a worthier interest, and wiser meditations. The Emperor Charles V., and his rival of France, appear at this day infinitely insignificant, if we compare them with Luther and Loyola; and there may come a time when the name of Wesley will be more generally known, and in remoter regions of the globe, than that of Frederick or of Catharine. For the works of such men survive them, and continue to operate, when nothing remains of worldly ambition but the memory of its vanity and its guilt.

CHAPTER I.

FAMILY OF THE WESLEYS.-WESLEY'S CHILDHOOD AND

EDUCATION.

The founder of the Methodists was emphatically of a good family, in the sense wherein he himself would have used the term. Bartholomew Wesley, his great-grandfather, studied physic* as well as divinity at the university, a practice not unusual at that time: he was ejected, by the act of uniformity, from the living of Allington, in Dorsetshire; and the medical knowledge which he had acquired from motives of charity, became then the means of his support. John, his son was educated at New-Inn Hall, Oxford, in the time of the Commonwealth; he was distinguished not only for his piety and diligence, but for his

progress in the oriental tongues, by which he attracted the particular notice and esteem of the then vice-chancellor, John Owen, a man whom the Calvinistic dissenters still regard as the greatestt of their

* “Let me,” says the humble moderator, (Bishop Croft) “speak a word to those of the inferior clergy who take upon them to study and practise physic for hire : this must needs be sinful, as taking them off from their spiritual employment. Had they studied physic before they entered holy orders, and would after make use of their skill among their poor neighbours out of charity, they were commendable : but being entered on a spiritual and pastoral charge, which requires the whole man, and more, to spend their time in this, or any other study not spiritual, is contrary to their vocation, and consequently sinful ; and to do it for gain is sordid, and unworthy their high and holy calling. But necessitas cogit ad turpia : the maintenance of many ministers is so small, as it forces them even for food and raiment, to seek it by other employment, which may in some measure excuse them, but mightily condemns those who should provide better for them."

† “ The name of Owen,” say Messrs. Bogue and Bennet, the joint historians of the Dissenters, “has been raised to imperial dignity in the theological world by Dr. John Owen.”—“A young minister," they say, " who wishes to attain eminence in his profes

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