Page images

had already attained this faith! By its fruits we shall know. Do we already feel 'peace with God, and joy in the Holy Ghost?' Does his Spirit bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God ?' Alas, with mine he does not. Nor, I fear, with yours. O thou Saviour of men, save us from trusting in any thing but thee! Draw us after thee! Let us be emptied of ourselves, and then fill us with all peace and joy in believing; and let nothing separate us from thy love in time or eternity."

His prayer was heard. On Wednesday evening, says he, “I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation ; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

“I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me, and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there, what I now first felt in my heart."

From this time the two brothers were new men. An experimental application of the blood of Christ to their consciences rendered them cheerful and happy, and produced in their hearts an intense love to their Saviour. Having obtained, by the simple exercise of faith in Christ, not only the abiding witness of the pardoning and adopting mercy of God, but also that purity of heart which they had long

* Works, vol. i. p. 103.

[ocr errors]

unsuccessfully endeavoured to obtain hy works of righteousness and law, they were astonished at their former errors, and longed to make known the great salvation which is thus attainable by all. Before this period they served God because they feared him; now they loved him from a joyous assurance that he had first loved them. They confessed that up to this period they had been mere servants of God : now they stood in a filial relation to him; and because they were sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father. They had laboured with all fidelity to benefit mankind, because they felt this to be their duty ; but now the love of Christ kindled in their breasts a generous and yearning affection for the whole human race, and a willingness even to lay down their lives, if others might only be converted and saved.

Charles, with his bodily strength impaired by illness, immediately began, in private conversations wherever he went, to recommend to others the salvation which he had so happily experienced, and with most encouraging success. In one month no fewer than thirty persons professed to have received the peace and joy of faith in the several private meetings at which he was present. Among these was the Rev. Henry Piers, the Vicar of Bexley, with whom he had become acquainted in consequence of his visits to the Delamotte family at Blendon, who regularly attended Bexley church on the Lord's day. Mr. Piers introduced the Wesleys to the Rev. Vincent Perronet, the pious Vicar of Shoreham, who became one of the most valued and faithful of their friends. Mr. Piers was present at the first Methodist Conference, which was held in London. He also published a very faithful sernion, which he addressed to the Clergy at Sevenoaks about the same period.

Before he left Georgia, Mr. John Wesley had resolved, if possible, to visit the Moravian settlement at Hernhuth, in Upper Lusatia; a place which is situated on the borders of Bohemia, and about thirty English miles from Dresden ; and he availed himself of this opportunity to fulfil his purpose. On his arrival he was deeply impressed with the order and godly discipline of the Church as there presented to his view, and still more with the discourses which he heard from the pulpit, and the religious experience of the brethren with whom he conversed. They all declared, as with one voice, that they had been made permanently happy and holy by believing in Christ; so that he was greatly strengthened and confirmed in those views of the truth which he had now received, and which he was unconsciously preparing to preach to others with almost unexampled publicity and effect.

[blocks in formation]

FIELD PREACHING. WHEN Mr. Wesley returned from Germany, he immediately began to preach justification by faith ; with the penitential sorrow by which it is preceded, and the peace and holiness which invariably follow it. He did this in some of the churches of London, but more frequently in what he calls "societies," which then met in various parts of London and its vicinity. They are well described by Dr. Woodward, and had long been very useful in different parts of the land. It was at one of these “societies," in Aldersgate-street, that he had, some months before, found rest to his soul; and as they consisted almost entirely of professed members of the established Church, he seemed, as a matter of course, to claim relationship to them. In these small assemblies, which appear to have generally met in private houses, he declared what God had done for his soul, and exhorted the people also to taste and see that the Lord is gracious. Many beliered the report, and were made happy in the God of their salvation.

He was thus employed when he received a letter from his friend, Mr. Whitefield, recently returned from America, and now in Bristol, earnestly pressing him to come to that city without delay.

On his arrival, he says, “I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me the example on the Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church.” On the following day, Mr. Whitefield having left Bristol, Mr.

" At four in the afternoon I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city to about three thousand people.”

This was not the first time that Mr. Wesley had preached in the open air. He did this in Georgia, before Mr. Whitefield was ordained ; + but it does

* Works, vol. i, p. 185. † Ibid. vol. x. p. 447.

Wesley says,

not appear that he had any intention of resuming the practice in England, till he was stimulated by the example and urgent advice of his friend. But having once adopted this mode of imparting religious instruction to the neglected classes of the community, he never abandoned it to the end of his life, being deeply convinced of its utility, and strenuously recommending the frequent use of it to all the Preachers who laboured in connexion with him. He confined not these labours to Bristol, but extended them to Bath, and especially to the colliers at Kingswood; being often surrounded by many thousands of willing and attentive hearers.

On his return to London, in June following, he accompanied Mr. Whitefield to Blackheath, where about twelve or fourteen thousand people were assembled to hear the word. At Mr. Whitefield's request, Mr. Wesley preached in his stead; and afterwards for many years addressed similar, and even larger, multitudes in Moorfields and at Kenningtoncommon, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and other parts of England, as also in Wales, and Ireland.

Ås Mr. Charles Wesley recovered his strength, he preached in different churches, and frequently to the felons in Newgate, to whom he paid a most anxious and compassionate attention. He often visited them in their cells, composed hymns for their use, explained to them the way of salvation through faith in Christ, and exhorted them to trust in his atonement for pardon and eternal life. Not a few appeared, through his instrumentality, to be brought to repentance, and to a due preparation for the death to which they were appointed. Having recovered his strength, and being strenuously urged by Mr. Whitefield, on the 24th of June, 1739, he says, “I

« PreviousContinue »