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outward change, they began to experience inward religion. The love of God was shed abroad in their hearts, which they enjoy to this day. They love him, because he first loved us; and this love constrains them to love all mankind, and inspires them with every holy and heavenly temper, with the mind which was in Christ; Hence it is that they are now uniform in their beha. v our, un blamable in all manner of conversation; and in whatsoever state they are, they have learned there. with to be content. Thus they calmly travel on through life, never repining, or murmuring, or dissatisfied, till the hour comes that they shall drop this covering of earth, and return to the Father of spirits.
“ This revival of religion has spread to such a de. gree as neither we nor our fathers had known. How extensive has it been! There is scarce a considerable town in the kingdom, where some have not been made witnesses of it. It has spread to every age and sex, to most orders and degrees of men ; and even to abun. dance of those who, in time past, were accounted monsters of wickedness.
“ Consider the swiftness as well as the extent of it. In what age
has such a number of sinners been recovered, in so short a time, from the error of their ways ? When has true religion, I will not say since the reform. ation, but since the time of Constantine the Great, made so large a progress in any nation, within so small a space ? I believe, hardly can ancient or modern history afford a parallel instance.
“ We may likewise observe the depth of the work so extensively and swiftly wrought. Multitudes have been thoroughly convinced of sin; and shortly after, so filled with joy and love, that whether they were in the body, or out of the body, they could hardly tell ; and in the power of this love they have trampled under foot what. ever the world accounts either terrible or desirable, having evidenced, in the severest trials, an invariable and tender good will to mankind, and all the fruits of holiness. Now, so deep a repentance, so strong a faith, so fervent a love, so unblemished holiness, wrought in so many persons in so short a time, the world has not seen for many ages.
“No less remarkable is the purity of the religiore which has extended itself so deeply and swiftly. I speak particularly as to the doctrines held by those who are the subjects of it. Those of the Church of England, at least, must acknowledge this; for where is there a body of people who, number for number, so closely adhere to the doctrines of the Church ?
“ Nor is their religion more pure from heresy than it is from superstition. In former times, wherever any unusual religious concern has appeared, there has sprung up with it a zeal for things which were no part of religion.
But it has not been so in the present case. No stress has been laid on any thing, as though it was necessary to salvation, but what is plainly contained in the word of God. And of the things contained therein, the stress laid on each has been in proportion to the nearness of its relation to what is there laid down as the sum of all, the love of God and our neighbour. So pure, both from superstition and error, is the religion which has lately spread in this nation.
It is likewise rational. It is as pure from enthusiasm as from superstition. It is true, the contrary has been continually affirmed ; but to affirm is one thing, to prove is another. Who will prove that it is enthu. siasm to love God ? yea to love him with all our heart? Who is able to make good this charge against the love of all mankind ? (I do but just touch upon the general heads.) But if you cannot make it good, own this religion to be sober, manly, rational, divine.
“ It is also pure from bigotry. Those who hold it are not bigoted to opinions. They would hold right opin. ions ; but they are peculiarly cautious not to rest the weight of Christianity there. They have no such overgrown fondness for any opinions, as to think those alone will make them Christians; or to confine their affection or esteem, to those that agree with them therein. Nor are they bigoted to any particular branch even of practical religion. They are not attached to one more than another. They aim at uniform, universal obedi
They contend for nothing circumstantial, as if it were essential to religion ; but for every thing in its own order.
“They dread that bitter zeal, that spirit of persecution, which has so often accompanied the spirit of reformation. They do not approve of using any kind of violence, on any pretence, in matters of religion. They allow no method of bringing any to the knowledge of the truth, except the methods of reason and persuasion : and their practice is consistent with their profession. They do not, in fact, hinder their dependents from worshipping God, in every respect, according to their own con. science.
“ But if these things are so, may we not well say, •What hath God wrought!' For such a work, if we consider the extensiveness of it, the swiftness with which it has spread, the depth of the religion so swiftly dif. fused, and its purity from all corrupt mixtures, we must acknowledge, cannot easily be paralleled, in all these concurrent circumstances, by any thing that is found in the English annals since Christianity was first planted in this island.” *
As Mr. Wesley declined into the vale of years, the perpetuity of that system of doctrine and discipline, which had been so signally owned of God in the con. version and salvation of men, became a matter of anx. ious concern both to himself and his people. The ap. pointment of the preachers to the various chapels, and to the consequent pastoral charge of the societies, presented the greatest difficulty. It had been agreed that, after the death of the two brothers, the power to sta. tion the preachers should be vested in the conference ; and hence arose the inquiry, “ Who constitute the con. ference ?” the men who had hitherto borne that name being simply such preachers as Mr. Wesley had personally invited to meet him once a year, to aid him with their advice, as to the most effectual means of carrying on the work of God. The preachers felt the im. portance of the case, and requested Mr. Wesley to consider what could be done in this emergency ; so that, in the event of his death, the connection might not be dissolved. He took legal advice, and drew up the . Deed of Declaration," constituting one hundred preachers by name, “ the Conference of the people call.
* Works, vol. i, pp. 493-496, Am. edit,
ed Methodists ;” at the same time defining their pow. ers, and making provision for the filling up of all vacan. cies occasioned by death, superannuation, or expulsion. This deed he caused to be enrolled in his Majesty's High Court of Chancery, in the year 1784. It created some uneasiness at the time, particularly among the preachers whose names were omitted; but that un. easiness soon passed away ; and the deed has unquestionably been the greatest benefit of the kind ever conferred upon the connection. From the time of Mr. Wesley's death, it has been strictly acted upon by the conference, and has preserved the unity of the body, by securing to the congregations and societies that itinerant ministry, for the exercise of which every Methodist chapel was originally built,
With respect to this document, Mr. Wesley says, “ Without some authentic deed, fixing the meaning of the term, the moment I died the conference had been nothing. Therefore any of the proprietors of the land on which our preaching houses were built, might have seized them for their own use ; and there would have been none to hinder them: for the conference would have been nobody, a mere empty name.
6 You see, then, in all the pains have taken about this necessary deed, I have been labouring, not for myself, (I have no interest therein,) but for the whole body of Methodists ; in order to fix them upon such a foundation as is likely to stand as long as the sun and moon endure. That is, if they continue to walk by faith, and show forth their faith by their works; otherwise, I pray God to root out the memorial of them from the earth.'
The maintenance of the conference in the full possession and exercise of the powers with which he invested it, Mr. Wesley believed to be the only means of effectually preserving the unity and purity of the body; and of this every one must be convinced who duly con. siders the subject. The conference was not entrusted with those powers for its own sake, as has sometimes
* Works, vol, vii, pp. 309, 310, Am. edit.
been insinuated, but for the benefit of the connection in all its departments. It is the centre of union to the body.
THE DEATH OF THE TWO WESLEYS, AND OF THEIR
PRINCIPAL CLERICAL FRIENDS.
MR. WESLEY was spared to a very advanced period of life ; so that he superintended the itinerant minis. try, and the societies which he had formed, till both had acquired an encouraging degree of stability. He survived all the clerical friends with whom he had been early connected in the work of God. Among these was the Rev. James Hervey, rector of Weston-Favell, in Northamptonshire. He was a member of the Me. thodist society in Oxford, being a commoner of Lin. coln College when Mr. Wesley was a fellow. During his residence at the University, he was under great obligations to Mr. Wesley, who taught him Hebrew, and showed him other marks of especial kindness ; which led him, on Mr. Wesley's departure to Georgia, to say, “My father, shall I call you, or my friend ? for indeed you have been both to me. He was a man of unquestionable piety, and very exemplary in the discharge of clerical duties in his parish. His writings, though disfigured by an artificial and inflated style, have been very useful, particularly in leading devout people to connect the love of nature, and admiration of the works of God, with evangelical sentiment. Hav. ing embraced the scheme of absolute predestination, he was induced, toward the close of life, to write against Mr. Wesley; but, on his death-bed, he directed the unfinished manuscript to be destroyed. It was, however, by Mr. Hervey's brother, placed in the hands of William Cudworth, a man of antinomian principles, who had separated from Mr. Whitefield. By him it was understood to be largely interpolated ; so that, * Arminian Magazine, vol. i, p. 131.