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should meet all together. And by this means a more full inquiry was made into the behaviour of every person. Those who could not be visited at home, or no otherwise than in company, had the same advan. tage with others. Advice or reproof was given as need required, quarrels made up, misunderstandings removed. After an hour or two spent in this labour of love, they concluded with praise and thanksgiving.
“ It can scarcely be conceived what advantages have been reaped from this little prudential regulation. Many now happily experienced that Christian fellowship of which they had not so much as an idea before. They began to bear one another's burdens, and naturally to care for each other. As they had daily a more inti. mate acquaintance with, so they had a more endeared affection for, each other. And speaking the truth in love, they grew up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ ; from whom the whole body, fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplied, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, increased unto the edifying of itself in love.'»*
The title given by the Wesleys to the societies which were raised up by their instrumentality, describes their nature in one very important particular. They were not distinct and independent churches, but United So. cieties, being all governed by the same discipline, and placed under the same pastoral care. The adoption of the connectional principle from the very first has led to the most beneficial results. Not only has an identity of character been impressed upon all the societies, but those which have been strong in consequence of their numbers and property, have rendered seasonable help to such as were poor and feeble; and thus the work in many places has been perpetuated where it would otherwise have become extinct, and extended to neglected districts where the truth could not otherwise have been carried. What one or two societies uld not do has been easily accomplished by the combined exertions of the body. Its strength, under God, con. sists in its unity ; and were this dissolved, the Method
* Works, vol. v, pp. 179, 180, Am. edit.
ist societies would be comparatively powerless, both at home, and in the mission field. All attempts to invade the connectional principle Mr. Wesley strenuously resisted, and his sons in the gospel have hitherto wisely followed in the same course. Without adopting the principle in question, the Wesleys might have been very useful in large and populous towns; but neither they nor their successors could have carried the truth into the scattered villages and hamlets of the agri, cultural districts, where many hundreds of small chapels now stand, surrounded by the cottages of the poor, and frequented by thousands of devout and happy peasants. It is thus that the system of Methodism adapts itself to the necessities of the humbler classes of society.
“ It was by this means, ,” the formation of societies, says Dr. Adam Clarke, “ that we have been enabled to establish permanent and holy churches over th world. Mr. Wesley saw the necessity of this from the beginning. Mr. Whitefield, when he separated from Mr. Wesley, did not follow it. What was the conse. quence ? The fruit of Mr. Whitefield's labours died with himself. Mr. Wesley's fruit remains, grows, increases, and multiplies exceedingly. Did Mr. Whitefield see his error ? He did ; but not till it was too late. His people, fong unused to it, would not come under this discipline. Have I authority to say so? I have; and you shall have it. Forty years ago I travelled in the Bradford, Wilts, Circuit, with Mr. John Pool. Himself told me the following anecdote. Mr. Pool was well known to Mr. Whitefield, and having met him one day, he accosted him in the following man.
-Whitefield : · Well, John, art thou still a Wes. leyan ?' Pool : · Yes, Sir; and I thank God that I have the privilege of being in connection with him, and one of his preachers.' Whitefield: John, thou art in thy right place : my brother Wesley acted wisely. The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labour. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.' And what now remains of this great man's labours ? Mul.
titudes were converted under his ministry, and are gone to God but there is no spiritual succession."
This statement of Dr. Clarke, though substantially true, needs some qualification. The labours of Mr. Whitefield, it is presumed, were principally merged in those of Lady Huntingdon's connection, and in the dissenting churches. It is in these communities that the fruit of his most powerful and effective ministry is to be traced.
Some of the earlier societies formed by Mr. Wesley were severely persecuted, not only by riotous men, but in domestic life, and by their employers; being not un. frequently deprived of their only means of subsistence. The following is his own appeal to a persecutor of this class :—“You employed A. B. for several years. By your own account, he was an honest, diligent man. You had no objection to him but his following this way. For this reason you turn him off. In a short time, having spent his little all
, and having no supply, he wants bread. So does his family too, as well as himself. Before he can get into other business to pro. cure it, through want of convenient food to eat, and raiment to put on, he sickens and dies. This is not an imaginary scene. I have known the case, though too late to remedy it.
666 And what then ?' What then! you are a mur. derer! O earth ! cover not thou his blood ! No; it doth not. • The
thereof hath entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.' And God requireth it at your hands ; and will require it in an hour when you think not. For you have as effectually murdered that man, as if you had stabbed him to the heart.
“It is not I then who ruin and starve that family : it is you ; you who call yourself a Protestant ! you who cry out against the persecuting spirit of the papists! Ye fools and blind! What are ye better than they? Why, Edmund Bonner would have starved the heretics in prison ; whereas you starve them in their own houses !” *
* Works, vol, v, p. 91, Am, edit.
EMPLOYMENT OF PREACHERS WHO HAD NOT
RECEIVED EPISCOPAL ORDINATION. As the Wesleys were led through the force of what they conceived to be providential circumstances in adopting the practice of field-preaching, and in the formation of religious societies, so they were induced, in the same manner, to accept the assistance of preachers who had neither been educated with reference-to the Christian ministry, nor formally ordained to that holy service. The first that was thus employed was Thomas Maxfield, a young man who had been converted under Mr. John Wesley's preaching at Bristol, in May, 1739. He became deeply pious; and prayed, exhorted, and expounded the Scriptures with uncom. mon power. Lady Huntingdon, who knew him well at this period of his life, speaks of him in terms of the highest admiration. He was appointed to assist in the society in London, in the absence of the Wesleys, and there he began to preach. Complaint of this was forwarded to Mr. Wesley, who hastened to London, with all speed, to stop the alleged irregularity. His mother then lived in his house adjoining the Foundery. On his arrival she perceived that his countenance was expressive of dissatisfaction, and inquired the cause. “ Thomas Maxfield,” said he abruptly, “ has turned preacher, I find.” She looked attentively at him, and replied, “ John, you know what my sentiments have been. You cannot suspect me of favouring readily any thing of this kind. But take care what you do with respect to that young man ; for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are. Examine what have been the fruits of his preaching ; and hear him also yourself.” He took the advice, and submitted to what he believed to be the order of God. *
Maxfield, however, appears for a time to have been allowed only to officiate in private houses, and other subordinate places of worship; and Mr. Charles Wes. ley seems to have been less willing to admit of a divine call in this case than either his mother or his brother had been. He was thus addressed by his brother in April, 1741 : "I am not clear that brother Maxfield
* Moore's Life of Wesley, vol. i, p. 293, Am. edit
should not expound at Greyhound-lane ; nor can I as yet do without him. Our clergymen have miscarried full as much as the laymen; and that the Moravians are other than laymen, I know not.” *
Mr. Wesley's account of the origin of this kind of preaching, under his sanction is as follows :-“ After a time a young man, named Thomas Maxfield, came and desired to help me as a son in the gospel. Soon after came a second, Thomas Richards; and then a third, Thomas Westell. These severally desired to serve me as sons, and to labour when and where I should direct.”+
One of the most distinguished of all Mr. Wesley's early preachers was John Nelson, a stone mason of Birstal, in Yorkshire; a man of deep and fervent piety, of strong and manly sense, of ready and pungent wit, and of admirable firmness and resolution. His Journal, relating with beautiful simplicity the particulars of his conversion, of his ministry, and of his patient suffer. ings in the cause of Christ, (for he was unrighteously forced from his family, and sent to be a soldier, for the crime of calling sinners to repentance,) is one of the most interesting and instructive publications of the kind in the English language. Of this truly great, though comparatively unlettered man, Mr. 'Wesley gives the following account, having visited Nelson at Birstal, in the year 1742. Hearing he was at home, I sent for him to our inn; whence he immediately carried me to his house, and gave me an account of the strange manner wherein he had been led on since we parted in London.
• He had full business there, and large wages. But from the time of his finding peace with God, it was continually upon his mind that he must return (though he knew not why) to his native place. He did so, about Christmas, in the year 1740. His relations and acquaintance soon began to inquire what he thought of this new faith ; and whether he believed there was any such thing as a man knowing that his sins were forgiven. John told them point blank, that this new faith, as they called it, was the old faith of the gospel ; and that he himself was as sure his sins were forgiven,
* Works, vol. vi, p. 658, Am. edit. † Ibid., vol. ii, p. 541.