« AnteriorContinuar »
afterwards, released him from his rash and criminal engagement. John was their first child after this separation.
In the reign of Queen Anne Mr. Wesley's prospects appeared to brighten. A poem which he published upon the battle of Blenbeim pleased the duke of Marlborough, and the author was rewarded with the chaplainship of a regiment. A further and better reward was held out to his expectations ; and he was invited to London by a nobleman who promised to procure him a prebend. This the Dissenters, with whom he was engaged in controversy, were at that time powerful enough to prevent. No enmity is so envenomed as that of religious faction. The Dissenters hated Mr. Wesley cordially, because they looked upon him as one who, having been born in their service, had cast off his allegiance. They intercepted his preferment: “ they worked him out of his chaplainship, and brought several other very severe sufferings upon him and his family.
During the subsequent reign, the small living of Wroote was given him, in the same county, with Epworth.
John, his second son, the founder of the Methodists, was born at Epworth on the 17th of June, 1703. Epworth is a market-town in the Lindsay division of Lincolnshire, irregularly built, and containing at that time in its parish about two thousand persons. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the culture and preparation of hemp and flax, in spinning these articles, and in the manufactory of sacking and bagging. Mr. Wesley found his parishioners in a profligate state ; and the zeal with which he discharged his duty in admonishing them of their sins, excited a spirit of diabolical hatred in those whom it failed to reclaim. Some of these wretches twice attempted to set bis house on fire, without success : they succeeded in a third attempt. At midnight some pieces of burning wood fell from the roof upon the bed in which one of the children lay, and burnt her feet. Before she could give the alarm, Mr. Wesley was roused by a cry of fire from the street: little imagining that it was in his own house, he opened the door, and found it full of smoke, and that the roof was already burnt through. His wife being ill at the time, slept apart from him, and in a separate room. Bidding her and the two eldest girls rise and shift for their lives, he burst open the nursery door, where the maid was sleeping with five children. She snatched up the youngest, and bade the others follow her; the three elder did so, but John, who was then six years old, was not awakened by all this, and in the alarm and confusion he was forgotten. By the time they reached the hall, the flames had spread every where around them, and Mr. Wesley then found that the keys of the house-door were above stairs. He ran and recovered them, a minute before the stair-case took fire. When the door was opened, a strong north-east wind drove in the flames with such violence from the side of the house, that it was impossible to stand against them. Some of the children got through the windows, and others through a little door into the garden. Mrs. Wesley could not reach the garden door, and was not in a condition to climb to the windows: after three times attempting to face the flames, and shrinking as often from their force, she besought Christ to preserve her, if it was his will, from that dreadful death: she then, to use her own expression, waded through the fire, and escaped into the street naked as she was, with some slight scorching of the hands and face. At this time John, who had not been remembered till that moment, was heard crying in the nursery. The father ran to the stairs, but they were so nearly consumed, that they could not bear his weight, and being utterly in despair, he fell upon his knees in the hall, and in agony commended the soul of the child to God. John had been awakened by the light, and thinking it was day, called to the maid to take him up; but as no one answered, he opened the curtains, and saw streaks of fire upon the top of the room.
stood near the window, and he was then seen from the yard. There was no time for procuring a ladder, but it was happily a low house : one man was hoisted upon the shoulders of another, and could then reach the window, so as to take him out: a inomcnt later and it would have been too late : the whole roof fell in, and had it not fallen inward, they must all have been crushed together. When the child was carried out to the house where his parents were, the father cried out, “ Come, neighbours, let us kneel down: let us give thanks to God! he has given me all my eight children : let the house go, I am rich enough." John Wesley remembered this providential deliverance through life with the deepest gratitude. In reference to it he had a house in flames engraved as an emblem under one of his portraits, with these words for the motto, “ Is not this a brand plucked out of the burning ?”
The third son, Charles, the zealous and able associate of his brother in his future labours, was at this time scarcely two months old. The circumstances of his birth are remarkable. His mother was delivered of him before the due time, and the child appeared dead rather than alive, neither crying nor opening its eyes : in this state it was kept, wrapt up in soft wool, till the time when he should have been born according to the usual course of nature, and then, it is said, he opened his eyes and made himself heard.
Mr. Wesley usually attended the sittings of convocation : such attendance, according to his principles, was a part of his duty, and he performed it at an expense of money which he could ill spare from the necessities of so large a family, and at a cost of time which was injurious to his parish. During these absences, as there was no afternoon service at Epworth, Mrs. Wesley prayed with her own family on Sunday evenings, read a sermon, and engaged afterwards in religious conversation. Some of the parishioners who came in accidentally were not excluded; and she did not think it proper that their
presence should interrupt the duty of the hour. Induced by the report which these persons made, others requested permission to attend ; and in this manner frorn thirty to forty persons usually assembled. After this had continued some time, she happened to find an account of the Danish missionaries in her husband's study, and was much impressed by the perusal. The book strengthened her desire of doing good: she chose " the best and most awakening sermons," and spake with more freedom, more warmth, more affection to the neighbours who attended at her evening prayers; their numbers increased in consequence, for she did not think it right to deny any who asked admittance. More persons came at length than the apartment could hold ; and the thing was represented to her husband in such a manner that he wrote to her, objecting to her conduct, because, he said, “it looked particular,” because of her sex, and because he was at that time in a public station and character, which rendered it the more necessary that she should do nothing to attract censure; and he recommended that some other person should read for her. She began her reply by heartily thanking him for dealing so plainly and faithfully with her in a matter of no common concern. “ As to its looking particular,” she said, “ I grant it does; and so does almost every thing that is serious, or that may any way advance the glory of God, or the salvation of souls, if it be performed out of a pulpit or in the way of common conversation ; because in our corrupt age the utmost care and diligence has been used to banish all discourse of God, or spiritual concerns, out of society, as if religion were never to appear out of the closet, and we were to be ashamed of nothing so much as of confessing ourselves to be Christians.” To the objection on account of her sex she answered, that as she was a woman, so was she also mistress of a large family ; and though the superior charge lay upon him as their head and minister, yet in his absence she could not but look upon every soul which he had left under Why any
her care, as a talent committed to her under a trust by the great Lord of all the families of heaven and earth. ** If,” she added, “ I am unfaithful to Him or to you, in neglecting to improve these talents, how shall I answer unto Him, when he shall command me to render an account of my stewardship?" The objections which arose from his own station and character she left entirely to his own judgment. 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. " For my own part,” she says, “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 judgment, 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 bigh 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 necessary 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