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it is that the glory of God in Christ, the faith, joy, and zeal of Christians, are under such a cloud at this day. Is it not then high time to speak ?"*
DR. ISAAC WATTS, 1731. “ Among the papers published last year, there hath been some inquiry made whether there be any decay of the dissenting interest;' and what may be supposed to have been the occasion of it. So far as I have searched into that matter, I have been informed that whatsoever decrease may have appeared in some pla. ces, there have been sensible advances in others. And without entering into any debate about the particular reasons of its declension in any town whatsoever, I am well satisfied that the great and general reason is the decay of vital religion in the hearts and lives of men; and the little success which the ministrations of the gospel have had of late for the conversion of sinners to holiness, and the recovery of them from the state of corrupt nature, and the course of this world, to the life of God by Jesus Christ.
“ Nor is the complaint of the declension of virtue and piety made only by the Protestant dissenters. . It is a general matter of mournful observation amongst all that lay the cause of God to heart ; and therefore it cannot be thought amiss for every one to use all just and pro. per efforts for the recovery of dying religion' in the world.”+
THE REV. ABRAHAM TAYLOR, 1734. “When any man of a thoughtful, serious temper considers the great decay of practical religion in this nation, and, at the same time, calls to mind the con. tempt which has been for many years cast on the Holy Spirit and his operations, he must readily conclude that this is the grand cause of the corruptions and abomina. tions which abound among us. The Spirit has been grieved and offended, and he, in a great measure, is
* Sermons on the Holy Spirit, p. 21. Edit. 1734.
† Preface to An Humble Attempt toward the Revival of Prac. tical Religion. Edit, 1735.
withdrawn and gone. It is, therefore, no wonder that the religion of the closet and the family is so much neglected, and that public ordinances are of so little benefit to such as, in a formal way, engage in them.
“ There is scarce any method which could be taken to affront the Holy Spirit but has been fallen into by some or other in our present day of darkness. The errors formerly held and propagated by the Arians and Macedonians have been revived, and eager attempts have been made to rob him of his true divinity, and to make him pass for one of the creatures; and some, who would not be reckoned among his enemies, have gone so far as to recommend it to Christians to worship him directly only occasionally, as prudence and expedience may require, and not to bind it on their own consciences, or upon others, as a necessary thing. The detestable heresy of Sabellius has been raked out of the ashes ; for some have denied the Spirit's real personality, and have pleaded that he is only a divine power; the active, or the intelligent effective power of God, personalized by some idioms of speech. These oppositions made to the scripture doctrine of the Holy Spirit's supreme deity and real personality, are as outrageous insults as can well be offered him; and the treatment which he meets with, from the before-mentioned enemies of the truth, must be highly provoking to him.
“ His motions as a quickener, a convincer, an instructer, and a comforter, are frequently bantered by such as would not be thought to throw off all regard to the Christian institution. His sealing up believers to the day of redemption, or his witnessing with their spi. rits that they are the children of God, is treated with grimace by some who pretend the Bible is their reli. gion. All that profess to depend upon his aid and conduct are ridiculed as enthusiasts, by such as do not in words deny the authority of scripture. It must with sorrow be said-for though it is a sad truth, it is a real fact that it has been too common for the Holy Spirit to be left out in preaching upon duty; and it has been too general a thing to neglect putting such as are pressed to regard their salvation, on keeping up in
their minds a continual sense of their being able to do nothing aright without his aid and assistance."*
Testimonies of a similar kind might be multiplied to an almost unlimited extent; but these may at present suffice. They furnish melancholy proof of the fearful prevalence of infidelity, and of profligacy of manners, among the irreligious part of the community ; of the spread and withering influence of antichristian error among professing Christians; while the existing ministry, in the length and breadth of the land, with some honourable exceptions, was comparatively powerless. Churchmen carried on, from year to year, the Boyle Lecture, in opposition to infidelity and skepticism and the Lady Moyer Lecture, in defence of Christian orthodoxy. The dissenters also established their Lectures at Salters' Hall, Bury-street, and Lime-street, against popery, and other forms of heterodox opinion which were ra idly gaining ground among them; and many of the lecturers discharged their duty with very superior zeal and ability. Yet amidst all this effort, accompanied by the regrets of good men on account of the declension of spiritual and practical religion, it is undeniable that “iniquity abounded, and the love of many waxed cold.” The enemy triumphed, and Israel was faint-hearted. The alleged irregularities of Method. ism have often been a subject of loud complaint : so that when Mr. Wesley, accompanied by his fellow. helpers to the truth, appeared in the field of conflict, many an Eliah, both in the ranks of churchmanship and dissent, said to him, in angry tone, “ Why camest thou down hither? .... I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thy heart.” The appeal is now made to those who love Christ and his religion better than the interests of party, whether the answer of the stripling of Bethlehem is not justly applicable in this case : “ And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause ?”
Mr. Wesley was not the only man who thought that, at the period in question, the English nation had nearly filled up the measure of its iniquities. The
* Preface to Hurrion's Sermons on the Holy Spirit, p. 5. edit. 1734,
very pious and intelligent Dr. Woodward expressed the same apprehension when preaching at the Boyle Lecture. " Whenever things are come to such extremity," says he, “ that the laws of God are trampled on with insolence and boasting, and the mysteries of our holy religion are made the scorn and laughter of profane men ;-if blasphemy and obscenity come into credit, and religion and virtue are pointed at as ridiculous ;-if it be thought a vain and mean thing to fear God, and to make serious mention of his name ;-if it even become unfashionable to praise our infinite Bene. factor at our tables, and to appear serious and devout in our churches ;-if the holy and tremendous name of the great and glorious God be not only vainly used, but vilely treated ; his sacred day levelled in common with the rest ; and his holy sacraments rejected by some and slighted by others ;-if these crying enormities are public and common, and there be no power or authority in church or state put forth to stem or control them ;-such a nation or people will, without a miracle, first become a horrible scene of atheism and impiety, and then of misery and desolation."*
THE EARLY LIFE AND THE CONVERSION OF THB
That form of Christianity to which the name o Wesleyan Methodism has been given arose, without any previous plan, out of the united labours of the bro. thers, the Rev. John and CHARLES WESLEY. These eminent men were born at Epworth, Lincolnshire, where their father, the Rev. Samuel Wesley, was the rector. He was a man of superior learning and of stern integrity; and having in early life left the dissenters, and connected himself with the Established Church, his attachment to her interests and order was very strong.
* Collection of Sermons preached at the Lecture founded by the Hon. Robert Boyle, vol. ii, p. 546, folio edit. 1739.
Their mother, Mrs. Susanna Wesley, was a woman of extraordinary sense and piety. She was a daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley, a truly devout nonconformist minister ; and, like her husband, when young she quit. ted the ranks of dissent, and became a worshipper in the national Establishment. In her subsequent life she expressed a decided aversion to what she called “the Presbyterian faith ;" and as the early training of her children devolved chiefly upon herself
, she was careful, as might have been expected, to imbue their minds with the same views and feelings. In this work she was successful ; and her two sons, when they entered upon their public career, were among the strictest of strict churchmen, and deemed it scarcely possible that salvation should be attained, at least in this country, in any religious community but their own.
Mr. John Wesley, the elder of the two brothers, was born June 14th, 1703. When about six years and a half old, he had an almost miraculous escape from death. One night it was discovered that the parsonage-house was on fire; and when the rest of the family had fled for their lives from the flaming mansion, they were distressed to find that he was missing, being asleep in one of the chambers, to which all access by the stairs was now cut off. In this terrible emergency he awoke and fled to the window, from which he was taken by one of the neighbours, who stood upon the shoulders of another. Just then the roof fell in ; so that had his de. liverance been delayed only for a few moments, he must have perished in the flames. Thus did a merci. ful Providence watch over the future heir of salvation, and spare him as the instrument of good to mankind. The grateful father, witnessing this singular interposition of the divine compassion, and finding himself surrounded by his wife and children, called upon
present to kneel down, and unite with him in grateful thanksgiving to God. “Let the house go," said he, “ I am rich enough.”*
The child thus signally preserved became remarkable, under the training of his excellent mother, for the seriousness of his spirit, and the general propriety of
* Arminian Magazine, vol. i, pp. 32, 33.