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the natural facts—of human liberty and of divine interposition. It denies that God effects every thing in man, or that man is sufficient without the assistance of God; and thus establishes itself, with more of reason, perhaps, than of logical consequence, in those regions of good sense, the native clime of the human mind, to which it ever returns from its wanderings, (post longos errores.)
ARt. VI.—1. Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A. M., from A. D. 1735 to 1790. 2 vols., 8vo. New-York: Lane & Tippett.
2. The North British Review for August, 1847. No. 14.
In a well-written article upon “Simeon and his Predecessors,” published in a late number of the North British Review, the writer takes occasion to pay a fine tribute to the elder of the Wesleys. For this great reformer, “as a noble specimen of fervent diligence,” his admiration knows no bounds; but, “in Christian authorship,” he thinks, “he is not entitled to rank high; and though his direct and simple style is sometimes terse, it is often meagre, and very seldom racy. His voluminous journals,” he finds, “are little better than a turnpike log—miles, towns, and sermon texts.” This is evidently a salvo, thrown in to propitiate that class of readers whose equanimity might be disturbed by the truly eloquent eulogium already pronounced upon the founder of Methodism. It would certainly be an impeachment of the critical acumen of this reviewer to suppose that he had even read the “Journal.” This is clearly impossible. But had he never read Dr. Southey’s “Life?” After remarking, that to the practice of writing memoirs of one's self, the world is indebted for some of the richest materials for history and biography, the doctor adds, “Perhaps no person has in this manner conveyed so lively a picture of himself as Wesley. During a most restless life of incessant occupation, he found time to register not only his proceedings, but his thoughts, his studies, and occasional remarks upon men and books; and not unfrequently upon miscellaneous subjects, with a vivacity which characterized him to the last.” This surely is high praise; and, if we take into the account both the fine taste of the biographer and the strong prejudices which so illy qualified him to appreciate the peculiar excellences of the “Journal,” a sufficient offset against anything that ignorance or ill-nature may suggest. And yet how many even of the admirers of Wesley have yet to acquaint themselves with the
* See Southey's Wesley. Harper's edition, vol. i. p. 77.
richest, most curious, and most extraordinary production of the class of literature to which it belongs—a production, too, for which we hesitate not to predict a conspicuous place among those monuments of vanished minds which men will not willingly let die! But for the sake of skeptics upon this point we propose to inquire what may be gathered from these memoirs, besides “miles, towns, and sermon texts.” In the first place, then, we think it will strike every one that the “Journal” breathes throughout the spirit of universal charity and good will, and exhibits its author as far in advance of his age in almost every species of benevolent reform. Long before the commencement of his itinerant career, or the date of his spiritual conversion, we find that the “sighing of the prisoner” had reached his ears, and recognize in him the forerunner and model of one whose name has since become the synonym of disinterested benevolence. “I saw in him,” said John Howard, on one occasion, “how much a single man might achieve by zeal and perseverance, and I thought, why may not I do as much in my way as Mr. Wesley has done, if I am only as assiduous and persevering: and I determined I would pursue my work with more alacrity than ever.” During his second residence at Oxford, Mr. Wesley appears to have visited weekly the cells of the convicts in a “neighboring castle;” and a little later we find him expounding the Gospel of St. John, and daily reading the morning service of the Church in the Newgate, at Bristol. This was at a period when felons were almost universally looked upon as without the pale of human sympathy; and those who would be their spiritual guides and comforters met with many obstacles and repulses. “Twice,” says Mr. Wesley, Jan. 11, 1742, “I went to the Newgate at the request of poor R R—, who lay there under sentence of death, but was refused admittance.” In an “Appeal to the Public,” he boldly avers, that “of all the seats of woe on this side hell,” few exceed, in his opinion, or even equal, a certain prison in which he had been “taking the guage of human misery.” He then exults in the reform he had witnessed at Bristol, in respect to comfort, decency, and morals. “The prison has put on a new face. Nothing offends either the eye or ear; and the whole has the appearance of a quiet family.” This was more than twelve years before the subject of prison discipline came under the notice of the “Philanthropist.” Not less early Mr. Wesley appeared in the field as a tract writer and distributer. “Within a short time,” he writes in 1745, “we had given away some thousands of little tracts among the common * See Life of Henry Moore, p. 289.
people. And it pleased God hereby to provoke others to jealousy, insomuch that the lord mayor had ordered a large quantity of papers, dissuading from cursing and swearing, to be printed and distributed.” Among those tracts was “A Word to a Drunkard ” written, he says, Nov. 28, 1745, one of the most startling, pungent, and thorough-going temperance papers that has ever seen the light. And yet it is within the memory of the present generation, that Drs. Beecher, Fisk, and their early coadjutors, were regarded, even by intelligent people, as the “setters forth of strange doctrines” and “novelties,” because they advocated the great principles which now form the basis of the American Temperance Union. But these were no new discoveries. Mr. Wesley, as his writings abundantly prove, proclaimed these grand truths, while the fathers of that “Union” were yet unborn. The well-known temperance clause, which appears in the Book of Discipline, bears the date of May 1, 1763; and for further proof of Wesley's claim to the leadership in this species of reform, we need only refer to his “Works,” and to a passage of remarkable eloquence which occurs in the fiftieth of his printed Sermons. That he did not apply those principles of union and organization, which constitute the peculiar glory of later movements, was no fault of his. On associations for moral and religious purposes no one could place a higher estimate than the author of the “Circular Letter,” of April 19, 1764, addressed to about fifty clergymen, in favor of Evange Lic.A.L. ALLIANCE. It was not identity of opinions, expressions, modes of worship, or ecclesiastical polity, that he sought, but “to remove hinderances out of the way,” and “to love as brethren.” But “who imagines we can do this? that it can be effected by any human power All nature is against it—every infirmity, every wrong temper, and passion, love of honor and praise, of power and pre-eminence, anger, resentment, pride, long-contracted habit, and prejudice, lurking in ten thousand forms.” In other words, the real difficulty in the case is not the antagonism of conflicting creeds, but that selfishness and pride of man which delight to introduce into the church of the Redeemer the distinctions of fashionable society, and thus virtually repeal the only basis of Christian union—“All ye are brethren.” The noblest practical exhibition of the true spirit, in one respect at least, we have met with in a Catholic land: Fas est et ab hoste doceri. Not soon shall we forget a scene we have repeatedly witmessed in the magnificent cathedral of an ancient and well-known South American city: its portals, and its altars, were to all alike
* “Touch no dram. It is liquid fire. It is a sure, though slow, poison.” A. D. 1769.
inviting. There were no sacred inclosures for the rich, and galleries for the poor; no spot in exclusive possession of purple and fine linen, and interdicted to poverty and rags. There we have seen the beggar and the outcast literally take rank with “heads of departments,” and merchant princes—for in the house and church of God “all were brethren.” Religion was a complete leveler. But in this “model” republic of ours, this fair domain of our Protestant faith, what do we hear and see continually! The distinctions kept up between the pious rich and the pious poor, between churches for gentle and simple, for the fashionable and the unfashionable, are unhappily but too marked and obvious; and few are at a loss to ascribe them to their true source, namely, that superciliousness and pharisaism which are the “worm i' the bud” of all Christian fellowship. Well, then, may it be inquired in what respect the projectors of the late London convention were in advance of the author of that Circular Letter, and the Sermon on “Catholic Spirit.” No one need be told how Mr. Wesley regarded missionary enterprises. Almost his first pastoral essay was among the Indian tribes of Georgia; and every page of the “Journal” may serve as a beautiful commentary upon the memorable saying, “I look upon the whole world as my parish.” The discourse he preached in behalf of the “Humane Society,” and his “Dispensary for the Sick”—that noble monument of Christ-like philanthropy—were alone sufficient to place him in the first rank of the world's benefactors. But in nothing, perhaps, did Mr. Wesley better show his profound sagacity and desire to be useful, than in the pains he took for the diffusion of “books that are books.” “Like Luther, he knew the importance of the press—he kept it teeming with his publications. He may, indeed, be considered the leader in those eacertions which are now being made for the popular diffusion of knowledge.” His own writings are so voluminous that we can hardly conceive how he found time for his still more voluminous editions, or rather compilations, of standard works, comprising treatises on almost every subject—divinity, poetry, music, history, and philosophy. For this purpose he “circumnavigated the world of literature and science;” and his selections extend back to the time of the apostolical fathers. Yet these were pastimes, or, as it sometimes happened, the recreations of an invalid. At a most critical period, when his constitution appeared to be broken, his health gone, and life despaired of, he “broke through the doctor's order not to write,
and began transcribing a journal for the press.” About the same time he began his “ Notes on the New Testament,”—a work, he says, “which he should scarce ever have attempted, had he not been so ill as not to be able to travel or preach; and yet so well as to be able to read and write.” The epoch of the first Sunday-school teacher in America, according to a late writer, dates back some fifty or sixty years. But early in 1737, Mr. Wesley, writing from Savannah, speaks of catechising all the children of the place on Sundays, “before the evening service.” To this he added Biblical instruction. No one was better prepared than he to appreciate such means of grace for children. It was under his auspices that the Sunday-school system first seems to have been fully developed and set on the tide of successful experiment. “At Bolton,” in July, 1787, he says, “there are eight hundred poor children taught in our Sunday schools by about eighty masters, who receive no pay but what they are to receive from the great Master. . . . . In the evening several of the children hovering round the house, I desired forty or fifty to come in and sing, “Vital spark of heavenly flame.” Although some of them were silent, not being able to sing, for tears, yet the harmony was such as, I believe, could not be equaled in the king's chapel.” A few months later we have a glowing description of a Sunday-school review in the same place, at which between nine hundred and a thousand scholars were present. The melody of those juvenile voices, he thought, could be exceeded only by the “singing of angels in our Father's house.” He adds:—“Such a sight I never saw before; all were serious and well-behaved. . . . . Frequently ten or more of them get together to sing and pray for themselves.” The “Journal” teems with similar proofs of his love and sympathy for the children; and in Kingswood school we have an endearing monument of his more than parental care for their best interests. It is delightful to see how he exults in its prosperity, and the gracious revivals of which it is so often the scene; and the casual record which shows him engaged at the same moment on a “Hebrew Grammar,” and “Lessons for Children,” speaks not less for the benevolence of his heart than the versatility of his genius. We know that his rules for the discipline and training of the young meet with little favor from the present generation. The strict habits and rigorous morality which he would inculcate are certainly far more in keeping with the “law and the testimony,” than with the popular and fashionable notions of the day. But even in this respect let us not be in haste to impeach the wisdom or sagacity of Wesley. Time may show, and, if we mistake