Gambar halaman

What miserable confounding the degrees of good and evil is this !” Vol. ii, pp. 86, 87.

It was resolved in several succeeding conferences, that it was not expedient to separate from the Church. In this conclusion the Methodists generally acquiesced. There were, however, several instances in which the preachers left the connection and became Independents, taking as many of the people as chose to follow them. It will, even now, admit of a question whether more was gained than lost by the course taken. Mr. Jonn Wesley was certainly in most delicate and difficult circumstances. He felt the weight of the arguments for dissenting : he saw the people driven from the churches, or obliged to receive the ordinances at the hands of a wicked priesthood; he saw the signs of a divine call evidently accompanying the ministrations of the preachers; he saw the hopelessness of any assistance from the bishops by way of dispensing ordinations; and he also saw the certain prospect of losing many of his valuable helpers, and many of his societies. And, on the other hand, he saw that a formal separation from the Church would alienate some of those efficient auxiliaries from the regular clergy which would still co-operate with him so long as he held on to the Church. His brother Charles, in a letter to Mr. Johnson, says, “You and they know, if my brother left the Church, I should leave him; and this alone would be sufficient to hold you back, that you would not part whom God hath joined.”— Vol. ii, p. 184.

Under these weighty pressures, on either hand, the prudent medium course was taken. This was not satisfactory to those who entertained extreme opinions on either side. The violent dissenters went off, and Mr. Charles Wesley, though he continued in connection with his brother to the end of life, henceforward labored in a comparatively limited sphere, and his usefulness was very materially curtailed.

Mr. Charles Wesley's zeal for the Church was further manifested in his letters both to his clerical friends and to the preachers, several of which are given us by Mr. Jackson. The Rev. Mr. Grimshaw sympathized deeply with Mr. C. Wesley in his views, as is evident from a correspondence on the subject between these two good, but somewhat prejudiced men. In relation to the views expressed in this correspondence, Mr. Jackson observes :

“When these excellent men contended that the Methodist preachers must either be clergymen or dissenting ministers, they were not aware of the design of Providence to raise up in the nation a middle party, not directly identified with either, but exerting a salutary influence upon both. In those times, indeed, no human sagacity could foresee how the Methodist succession could be secured. God, however, has taken care for this. The Wesleyan Methodists have never, as a body, either avowed or entertained the belief that an ecclesiastical establishment, Episcopacy, or the use of a liturgy, is unlawful. In the strict sense of the word, therefore, they are not dissenters. Separatists from the Established Church most of them unquestionably are ; and occupy an independent position between the two great bodies, with one of which Mr. Charles Wesley thought they must necessarily be identified. Yet even a regular attendance upon the religious services of the Church, by all who choose it, is not at all inconsistent with membership in the Methodist societies ; nor is it even discountenanced.”

“It is somewhat pleasant to read Mr. Charles Wesley's statement, that all the Methodists in London, to a man, were agreed in sentiment with him, and were resolved to live and die in the Church of England. The fact is, they had every thing that the Methodists in the country desired: divine service in church-hours, and the Lord's supper in their own chapels. They had even more.

These London favorites were almost continually indulged with the presence of one or other of the Wesleys, teaching them early and late from the pulpit, baptizing their children, and dispensing to them every sabbath-day the sacred memorials of redeeming mercy.

• Deep in rich pastures, will thy flocks complain ?' A Yorkshire Methodist might have addressed these metropolitan Church-folks, who seldom went near a church except at a wedding or a funeral, as Job did his healthy and loquacious friends : *I also could speak as ye do : if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.'

The project of Mr. Charles Wesley to procure episcopal ordination for Mr. Hopper and the other preachers appeared to him a matter of immense importance ; but it savors more of the anxious Churchman, than of the zealous Methodist, whose own movements had been notoriously irregular. His object in this was twofold. It was to prevent separation from the Church, and to secure a provision for the preachers in the time of old age. But the scheme was impracticable. It was not likely that any bishop would ordain the whole of these simplehearted and laborious men, who had never breathed the air of a college, and whose habits were alien from canonical order: and if any bishop were to ordain them, it would only be on condition that each of them should confine his ministrations within the limits of a parish. In this case, there would have been an end of that itinerant preaching which was everywhere so greatly sanctioned by the divine blessing; and most of the Methodist societies must have been dissolved. Painful as were the privations of the preachers, especially in the time of age and infirmity, few of them, had the proposal been made, could have been induced to accept a comfortable maintenance upon these terms. They chose rather to endure the severities of hunger, if such were the will of God, than abandon the people of their charge, and leave the uninstructed multitudes of their countrymen to perish for lack of knowledge. The fact is, Mr. Charles Wesley was a poet and a preacher ; but he had not, as he himself confessed, the practical wisdom which was requisite to superintend and conduct an extensive work of God, like that with which he was connected. Happily for the Methodists and the world, the preachers had entire confidence in the judgment of his brother, who kept them steadily engaged in the work of saving souls. In the exercise of a noble faith they persevered in their original calling; they sought not the clerical office for a morsel of bread ; and God in his providence took care of their temporal interests."-Vol. ii, pp. 193-195.

Another matter which gave Mr. C. Wesley much vexation was his brother's ordinations for America. Our author has given us the correspondence between the brothers, Charles's strictures upon the act in letters to his friends, and the animadversions of others : and accompanies the whole with appropriate remarks. The fact is here made most obvious, that the most of Mr. Charles Wesley's alarm, on the occasion of his brother's ordinations, originated in an apprehension that Dr. Coke would persuade the dissenting party in England to receive ordination at his hands, and so draw off the great body of the Methodists from the Establishment. These fears John believed totally groundless, and the issue proved them to be so. Upon a letter from Mr. C. Wesley to Mr. Latrobe, Mr. Jackson makes the following reflections :

“ From this letter it is manifest that Mr. Charles Wesley's jealousies of the preachers arose principally from his want of intercourse with them. They were scattered over the country, where he never went; and from the dissenting prejudices of a few he judged of the rest. Whereas when he met eighty of them in this conference, he found them, with few exceptions, one in mind and heart with himself and his honored brother. That they were not inclined to violent measures is demonstrated by their Christian moderation when he and his brother were no more. The government of the connection devolved upon them at the period of the French revolution; and under all the excitement connected with that event, and the passion for change which it created, the body of Methodist preachers maintained a steady adherence to the principles in which they had been nurtured by their venerated father in the gospel. Instead of seeking ordination from Dr. Coke or any other man,

and generally proceeding to the administration of the sacraments, as Mr. Charles Wesley apprehended, the majority of them firmly withstood all attempts to innovate upon their original plan, and denied the sacraments to the societies till all further resistance was unavailing. The preachers in general sought no ordination at the hands of Dr. Coke; nor did the doctor, after Mr. Wesley's death, attempt to introduce any of those changes in the body which Mr. Charles Wesley feared."— Vol. ii, p. 403.

We shall close our references to the work before us, upon this subject, with the last letter Mr. C. Wesley wrote to his brother in relation to it, accompanied by Mr. Jackson's introductory remarks :

“ It is not therefore surprising,” says our author, " that, as Mr. Charles Wesley drew near the close of life, he became less hostile to his brother's ordinations. As long as he was able to labor, he continued to serve the Methodist congregations with his wonted faithfulness. Within less than twelve months of his death, writing to his brother, he says, ' I served West-street chapel on Friday, and yesterday. Next Saturday I propose to sleep in your bed. Samuel Bradburn and I shall not disagree.

“Stand to your own proposal. Let us agree to differ. I leave America and Scotland to your latest thoughts and recognitions.' • Keep your authority while you live; and after your death detur digniori, or, rather, dignioribus.* You cannot settle the succession." Vol. ii, p. 409, 410.

From this whole controversy we may clearly see how illy qualified even a good and wise man may be to judge of a matter which he is either unable or unwilling fully to examine.

Our author follows the documents upon this subject with an argument upon the validity of Mr. J. Wesley's ordinations, from which we should be happy to make extracts, did space permit.

On the controversy which arose upon the Minutes, involving “the five points," and in which Mr. Fletcher took so active a part, Mr. Jackson has bestowed considerable attention; in which poor Mr. Shirley and Lady Huntingdon meet with a castigation sufficiently severe.

Mr. C. Wesley principally excelled as a Christian poet. The following will give the reader a tolerable idea of the character of his poetry, and the obligations which the Methodists especially are under to him for his labors in this way:

“ It is as a writer of devotional poetry that Mr. Charles Wesley will be permanently remembered, and that his name will live in the annals of the church. In the composition of hymns, adapted to Christian worship, he certainly has no equal in the English language, and is perhaps superior to every other uninspired man that ever

lived. does not appear that any person besides himself, in any section of the universal church, has either written so many hymns, or hymns of such surpassing excellence. Those which he published would occupy about ten ordinary sized duodecimo volumes; and the rest which he left in manuscript, and evidently designed for publication, would occupy at least ten more. It would be absurd to suppose that all these are of equal value ; but, generally speaking, those of them which possess the least merit bear the impress of his genius.

*“Let it be given to one who is more worthy of it; or, rather, to those who are more worthy of it."


“ It is doubtful whether any man has written the English language with greater purity and strength than Mr. Charles Wesley. He introduces words derived from the Greek, Latin, and French languages, when they are necessary, because of the metre, or the rhyme, and to give a greater variety to his diction; otherwise he almost always uses words of Saxon origin, the force and beauty of which are universally felt. An opinion has prevailed that several of his hymns were greatly improved by his brother, who gave them an elegance and polish which they did not originally possess. But this is true only to a very limited

Mr. John Wesley shortened many of his brother's hymns, when he inserted them in his general collection ; in some instances he joined two or three short ones together; such allusions as were strictly personal and local he expunged, so as to adapt the stanzas in which they occurred to general use; but in other respects, the alterations which he introduced into Charles's compositions were very few. The correctness of Mr. John Wesley's taste will not be disputed ; and in logical clearness and arrangement he had few equals; but even in prose, while he excelled most men in simplicity and strength, Charles rivaled him in terseness, and surpassed him in spirit. Both in prose and verse, Charles's words and idioms are thoroughly English. Nor did John's taste in poetry always come up to Charles's standard. In his copy of the Arminian Magazine he has animadverted upon some pieces which John admired, and therefore inserted in that publication.

“To Mr. Charles Wesley it was a great advantage that he was so well trained in classical learning. Had he not been a sound scholar, he could never have fully exercised his high vocation as a devotional poet, and the church would not have derived the full benefits of his genius. Being familiar with the great poets of antiquity, he had a perfect knowledge of the laws of versification. While he possessed the true poetic spirit, he thoroughly understood 'the art of poetry ;' so that his compositions are not only free from the literary blemishes and defects which disfigure the works of many less-instructed writers, but in their numbers and general structure invariably display the hand of a master. Of him, as well as of an elder poet, it might be justly said, that he no sooner began to write, whether prosing or versing,' than it was apparent that the style, by certain vital signs it had, was likely to live. This the intelligent vicar of Shoreham at once perceived and declared.

“ The ease and freedom with which he wrote are very apparent. His brother has remarked, that whenever he detected a stiff sentence in any of his own prose writings he expunged it instantly, deeming stiffness in an author an unpardonable offence against good taste. Charles manifestly cherished the same feeling with regard to verse. It cannot be said of him, as Dr. Johnson said of Prior, that the words which he selects to express his meaning are reluctantly “forced into the situations which they occupy, and do their duty sullenly. They rather appear formed for the exact service which is assigned them; and seldom can one of them be either dispensed with or transposed without impairing the beauty or the sense. Many of his stanzas are as elegantly free in their construction as even the finest paragraphs

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »