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God and the poor he gave all that he possessed. The following affecting record, written with a tremulous hand, only a few months before his decease, closes his book of private accounts :
“N. B. For upward of eighty-six years I have kept my accounts exactly. I will not attempt it any longer, being satisfied with the continual conviction, that I save all I can, and give all I can ; that is, all I have.
6 JOHN WESLEY. “ July 16, 1790.”
For nothing was he more remarkable than his love to children. Often did he lay his hands upon them, and bless them in the name of his great Master. in the habit of selecting small silver coins of peculiar freshness, and of presenting them to the children of his friends, as memorials of his affection.
In the improvement of time he was, perhaps never exceeded. Through the greater part of his life he rose at 4 o'clock in the morning ; and every moment of his waking hours was devoted to some useful object. Admirably did he exemplify his own rule, intended for the guidance of his preachers :—“Never be unemployed; never be triflingly employed; never while away time." “ If any one,” says he, “ desires to know exactly what quantity of sleep his own constitution requires, he may very easily make the experiment which I made about sixty years ago. I then waked every night, about twelve or one, and lay awake for some time. I readily con. cluded that this arose from my lying longer in bed than nature required. To be satisfied, I procured an alarum, which waked me the next morning at seven ; (near an hour earlier than I rose the day before ;) yet I lay awake again at night. The second morning I rose at six ; but, notwithstanding this, I lay awake the second night. The third morning I rose at five; but, nevertheless, I lay awake the third night. The fourth morning I rose at four ; (as, by the grace of God, I have done ever since ;) and I lay awake no more.
His knowledge was comprehensive, and his converbational
powers of a high order. Dr. Samuel Johnson,
* Works, vol, ü, p. 295, Am. edit.
an unexceptionable judge who knew him intimately, said, “ He talks well on every subject.” Hence the following lines of Cowper :
“0, I have seen (nor hope perhaps in vain,
Ere life go down, to see such sights again)
But to treat justly what he loved so well.” The power which he possessed over the preachers and the societies was often a subject of remark during his life, and it has created surprise since his death. It was a power which he never sought, and which he never abused. He received it as involving great responsibility, and made it his constant business to use it for the advancement of the work of God. The government which he exercised was truly paternal; and both the preachers and societies felt it to be a blessing. His was no crooked and sinuous policy, but a straightforward, upright, and Christian course, without selfishness, and without guile.
But it is with reference to that revival of religion, of which he was the chief instrument, that his character will ever be principally considered. He deviated from the order of the church to which he belonged ; but only so far as he believed himself providentially called, and in those things where he felt that, in his case, the opposite conduct would be a sin. He saw impiety and wickedness everywhere prevalent; and he lifted up his warning voice, calling the people to repentance, that so iniquity might not be their ruin.
He learned from his own experience, as well as from the Bible, that peace of conscience and purity of heart are attainable only through faith in Jesus Christ; and he proclaimed a full and present salvation to all who would thus accept it as the free gift of God. The consequence was, that awakened multitudes asked his spiritual advice, and begged of him to take them under his pastoral care. Hence the formation of societies. Then among those very people, men who had never received a formal appointment to the Christian ministry began to preach to others the truth which they had themselves received. These he attempted to prevent; but finding that they possessed the requisite piety, knowledge, and talents for the work which they had undertaken, and that they were so far sanctioned by the divine blessing as that sinners were, by their means, reclaimed and converted, he was compelled to submit; being very much in the situation of St. Peter, when, in justification of his own proceedings with respect to Cornelius, he emphatically said, “What was I, that I could withstand God?”
Thus led into a course of usefulness which he had never contemplated, and to which, in the first instance, he had a strong aversion, he devoted his life to the one object of spreading true religion in the world. The things which he attempted to advance, were not the mere forms and circumstantials of Christianity, much less matters of doubtful disputation ; but solid virtue ; the love of God, and of all mankind; happiness in God, and entire conformity to his will. For these great purposes he preached, and wrote, and travelled, and sustained the charge of the numerous societies and preachers; adjusting their differences, solving their doubts, and directing their movements. From these all-absorbing enterprises of truth and charity nothing could draw him aside. Neither the caresses of friends, nor the occasional perverseness of individuals among his own people, nor the opposition of furious mobs, nor the incessant and bitter peltings of the press, could induce him to falter in his career, or suspend his labours for a single day. Weaknesses and infirmi ies he had, for he was a fallen man ; but who among his detract.
ors emulate his active zeal, and patient, laborious love? His spiritual children will ever bless God for raising up such an instrument of good, especially in an age of infidelity, lukewarmness, and irreligion ; for crowning his efforts and plans with such unexampled success ; and for supporting him under cares and discouragements which feeble human nature could never of itself have sustained.
THE PROGRESS OF RELIGION AFTER MR. WESLEY'S
To prevent any abuse of the “ Deed of Declara. tion," and secure the perpetuity of his plans of useful. ness when he should be no more, Mr. Wesley left the the following letter to to be read by the conference, at its first assembling after his death :“TO THE METHODIST CONFERENCE.
“ Chester, April 7, 1785. “MY DEAR BRETHREN,—Some of our travelling preachers have expressed a fear, that, after my decease, you would exclude them either from preaching in connection with you, or from some other privilege which they now enjoy. I know no other way to prevent any such inconvenience than to leave these, my last words,
“I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that you never avail yourselves of the • Deed of Declaration,' to assume any superiority over your brethren : but let all things go on, among those itinerants who choose to remain together, exactly in the same manner as when I was with you, so far as circumstances will permit.
6 In particular, I beseech you, if you ever loved me, and if you now love God and your brethren, to have no respect of persons, in stationing the preachers, in
choosing children for Kingswood school, in disposing of the yearly contribution, and the preachers' fund, or any other public money. But do all things with a single eye, as I have done from the beginning. Go on thus, doing all things without prejudice or partiality, and God will be with you to the end.
6 JOHN WESLEY." The preachers, having met at the time and place appointed, and this truly characteristic letter having been read, the following record was made :
“ The conference have unanimously resolved, that all the preachers who are in full connection with them shall enjoy every privilege that the members of the conference enjoy, agreeably to the above written letter of our venerable deceased father in the gospel.
It may be expected that the conference make some observations on the death of Mr. Wesley ; but they find themselves utterly inadequate to express their ideas and feelings on this awful and affecting event.
“ Their souls do truly mourn their great loss; and they trust they shall give the most substantial proofs of their veneration for the memory of their most esteemed father and friend, by endeavouring, with great humility and diffidence, to follow and imitate him in doctrine, discipline, and life."*
The death of its founder formed a crisis in Wesley. an Methodism. While he lived, he was a bond of union, both to the preachers and to all the societies ; but whether their unity could be preserved when bis personal influence was no longer felt, was a question of very difficult solution, concerning which there were great searchings of heart in many quarters. If the “ Deed of Declaration” could be acted upon, so that the governing power which that instrument created should be generally acknowledged, there could be no just ground of painful apprehension; but if these objects could not be gained, the breaking up of the connection was inevitable. The preachers felt the awful responsibility of their situation, and pledged them. selves to abide by the principles which had regulated
* Minutes of Conference, vol. i, pp. 233, 234.