« ForrigeFortsæt »
place." On his departure he makes this reflection, “ when shall this Christianity cover the earth, * as the waters cover the sea ??" After visita ing Professor Franck at Halle, (son of the great Professor Franck,) and viewing the schools at Jena, founded by Buddæus, he arrived at Rotterdam, where he took ship and sailed for England. He was now strength ened to do and suffer whatever the wise and holy God, whom he “served with his spirit in the Gospel of his Son," should permit to come upon him in the prosecution of his great design of spending his life in testifying the Gospel of the grace of God.
THE PROGRESS AND LABOURS OF THE BROTHERS, IN MAINTAINING
THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL.
While Mr. John Wesley was seeking spiritual strength among the believers in Germany, his brother Charles was maintaining " the good fight of faith” among the formalists and unbelievers at home. He had obtained satisfactory evidence that he was a pardoned sinner, accepted of God in Christ Jesus, and quickened by his Spirit. He enjoyed constant peace, was extremely watchful over the motions of his own heart, and had a degree of strength to resist temptation, and to do the will of God, which he had not found before his justification. But he felt na great emotion of mind or transport of joy in any of the means of grace. He now intended to receive the sacrament, and was fearful lest he should be as flat and comfortless in this ordinance as formerly: He received it without any very sensible effect on his mind more than usual, but with this difference from his former state, that he found himself, after it was over,
calm and satisfied with the goodness of God to his soul, and free from doubt, fear, or scruple of his interest in Christ. In this way he was early taught by experience, not to place too much confidence in any of those sudden and transient impressions, which are often made on the mind, in public or private acts of devotion. The life of faith was now become more natural to him, and his heart was kept in peace, stayed upon God, and watching into prayer. The Lord was now also evidently teaching him the deep lessons contained in the first Epistle of St. John, concerning little children, young men, and fathers ; lessons wholly unknown to those who have not this faith.
May 28, 1738, he observes that he rose in great heaviess, which neither private nor joint prayer with others could remove. At last he betook himself to intercession for his relations, and was greatly enlarged therein, particularly for a most profligate sinner. He spent the remainder of the morning with James Hutton in prayer, singing, and rejoicing. In the afternoon his brother came, having arrived from Germany; and after
prayer for success on their ministry, Mr. John Wesley set out, intending to go to Tiverton, and Mr. Charles began writing his first sermon after his conversion, “In the name of Christ his prophet.” A severe exercise of faith and patience soon followed." June 1st, he found his mind so exceedingly dull and heavy, that he had scarcely any power to pray. This state increased upon him for several days, till at length he became unconscious of any comfort, or of any impression of good
upon his mind in the means of grace. He was averse to prayer, and though he had recovered strength sufficient to go to church, yet he almost resolved not to go at all. When he did go, the prayers and sacrament were a grievous burden to him : instead of a fruitful field, he found the whole service a dreary barren wilderness, destitute of comfort and profit. He felt what he calls, “a cowardly desire of death,” to escape from his present painful feelings. He began to examine himself, and to inquire wherein his present state differed from the state he was in before he professed faith. He soon found there was a difference in the following particulars : He observed, the present darkness was not like the former ; there was no guilt in it; he was persuaded, therefore, that God would remove it in his own time ; and he was confident of the love and mercy of God to him in Christ Jesus. The former state was night, the present only a cloudy day : at length the cloud dispersed, and the Sun of righteousness again shone with brightness on his soul. This was a most instructive exercise : It showed him his own utter helplessness in the work of his salvation. He found by experience, that he could not produce comfort, or any religious affection in himself
, even when he most wanted it, and that the work is really the Lord's ; and that, therefore, whenever these affections were experienced by others under his ministry, the work was also the Lord's, and he only the mean humble instrument in his hand. Thus God prepared him for great usefulness, and guarded him against pride.
June 7th, Dr. Byrom* called upon him. Mr. C. Wesley had a hard struggle with his bashfulness before he could prevail on himself to speak freely to the Doctor on the things of God. At length he gave him a simple relation of his own experience : This brought on a full explanation of the doctrine of faith, which Dr. Byrom received with wonderful readiness. This was similar to the case of the celebrated Dr. Cheyne, who, hearing a young woman relate her own experience, cried out, "O
God! I have been studying Divinity many years, and now the boys and girls know more of it than I do !!!—“Why then," said Mr. J. Wesley, when he related the anecdote, “ let the boys and girls praise God!"
Mr. C. Wesley having recovered strength, began to move about among his friends. He went to Blendon and to some other places in the country, and found, that the more he laboured in the work of the ministry, the more his joy and happiness in God increased. In his journey he met with the Rev. Mr. Piers; and, on the 9th of this month, in riding to Bexley, spake to him of his own experience, with great simplicity, but with confidence. He found Mr. Piers ready to receive the faith. The greatest part of the day was spent in the same manner. Mr. Bray, who was with Mr. C. Wesley, related the dealings of God
* John Byrom, an ingenious poet of Manchester, was born in 1691. His first poetical Essay appeared in the Spectator, No. 603, beginning, “My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent;" which, with two humorous letters on dreams, are to be found in the eighth volume. He was admitted a member of the Royal Society in 1724. Having originally entertained thoughts of practising physic, he received the appellation of Doctor, by which he was always known; but reducing himself to narrow circumstances by a precipitate marriage, he supported himself by teaching a new method of short-hand, of his own invention, until an estate devolved to him by the death of an elder brother. He was a man of a ready lively wit, of which he gave many humorous specimens, whenever a favourable opportunity tempted him to indulge his disposition. He died in 1763; and a collection of his Miscellaneous Poeins was printed at Manchester, in two volumes, octavo, 1773.
with his own soul, and showed what great things God had done for their friends in London. Mr. Piers listened with eager attention to all that was said, made not the least objection, but confessed that these were things which he had never experienced. They then walked and sung, and prayed in the garden : He was greatly affected, and testified his full conviction of the truth, and desire of finding Christ. said he, “I must first prepare myself by long exercise of prayer and good works.” What a mixture ! He men as trees walking.”
The day before Mr. C. Wesley and Mr. Bray arrived at Blendon, Mr. Piers had been led to read the Homily on Justification, by which he was convinced, that in him, " by nature, dwelt no good thing.” This prepared him to receive what these messengers of peace related concerning their own experience. He now saw, that all the thoughts of his heart were evil, and that continually, forasmuch as “ whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
June 10, Mr. Piers became earnest for present salvation; he prayed to God for comfort, and was encouraged by reading Luke v,
, 23 : “ Whether is it easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Rise up and walk ? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go unto thine house,” &c. Mr. C. Wesley and Mr. Bray now conversed with him on the power of Christ to save, and then prayed with him ; they afterwards read the 65th Psalm, and were animated with hope in reading,—“ Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and receivest unto thyself ; he shall dwell in thy courts, and shall be satisfied with the plenteousness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. Thou shalt show us wonderful things in thy righteousness, O God of our salvation ! Thou art the hope of all the ends of the earth,” &c. In the continuance of these exercises alternately, of conversing, reading, and praying together, Mr. Piers received power to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and had “ peace and joy in believing."
The next day Mr. Piers preached on death ; and in hearing him, Mr. C. Wesley observes, “I found great joy in feeling myself willing, or rather desirous to die.”—This, however, did not now proceed from impatience, or a fear of the afflictions and sufferings of life, but from a clear evidence of his acceptance in the Beloved. After sermon they went to the house of Mr. Piers, and joined in prayer for a poor woman in deep despair :* Then going down to her, Mr. C. Wesley asked whether she thought God was lovė, and not anger, as Satan would persuade her? He showed her the gospel plan of salvation; a plan founded in mercy and love to lost perishing sinners. She received what he said with all imaginable eagerness. When they had continued some time together in prayer for her, she rose up a new creature, strongly and explicitly declaring her faith in the blood of Christ, and full persuasion that she was accepted in him.
Mr. C. Wesley remained weak in body, but grew stronger daily in faith, and more zealous for God and the salvation of men, great power accompanying his exhortations and prayers. On the evening of this day, after family prayer, he expounded the lesson, and one of the ser* Rather in deep conviction, and having only heard a legal ministry, as the event fully vants testified her faith in Christ and peace with God. A short time afterwards, the gardener was made a happy partaker of the same blessing. Mr. Piers also began to see the fruit of his ministerial labours. Being sent for to visit a dying woman in despair, because she “had done so little good, and so much evil ;" he declared to her the glad tidings of salvation by grace, and showed her, that if she could sincerely repent and receive Christ by a living faith, God would pardon her sins and receive her graciously. This opened to her view a solid ground of comfort; she gladly renounced all confidence in herself, to trust in Jesus Christ, and she expressed her faith in him by a calm, cheerful, triumphant expectation of death. Her fears and agonies were at an end; “ being justified by faith, she had peace with God,” and only entered farther into her rest, by dying a few hours after. The spectators of this awfully joyful scene, were melted into tears, while she calmly passed into the heavenly Canaan, and brought up a good report of her faithful pastar, who under Christ saved her soul from death.
The next day, June the 14th, Mr. C. Wesley returned to London, He staid there only two days, and then returned with T. Delamotte to Blendon, and from thence to Bexley. Here his complaints returned upon him, and he was obliged to keep his bed.
“ Desires of death," says he, “ often rose in me, which I laboured to check, not daring to form any wish concerning it.” His pains abated; and on the 21st, I find him complaining, that several days had elapsed and he had done nothing for God; so earnestly did he desire to be incessantly labouring in the work of the ministry.
In this excursion, Mr. C. Wesley was very successful in doing good; but he met with strong opposition to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, from William Delamotte, whom he calls his scholar, and from Mrs. Delamotte, who was still more violent against it than her son ; both were zealous defenders of the merit of good works. Mr. Delamotte supposed, that if men were justified by faith alone, without any regard to works, then sinners obtaining this justification and dying soon after, would be equal in heaven with those who had laboured many years in doing good and serving God. “ But,” said he, “it would be unjust in God to make sinners equal with us, who have laboured many years." The Jews of old reasoned in a similar manner concerning the reception of the Gentiles into the gospel church, on the same conditions, and to the same privileges with themselves. This disposition is beautifully described, and gently reproved, in the parable of the prodigal son. Mr. Delamotte's conclusion, however, does not follow from the doctrine of justification by faith. As all men have sinned, so all men must be justified, or pardoned, as an act of mere grace or favour. Our state in heaven will be regulated by a different rule. All who are saved will not be treated as equal : “ Every man will be rewarded according to his works,” that is, according to his improvement in practical holiness, on Gospel principles.
Mr. Delamotte, however, thought his conclusion good, and was animated with zeal against this new faith, as it was then commonly called. He collected his strong reasons against it, and filled two sheets of paper with them : But in searching the Scripture for passages to strengthen his arguments, he met with Titus, iii, 5: “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he hath saved
This passage of Scripture cut him to the heart,
destroyed all confidence in the specious reasoning he had used on this subject, and convinced him he was wrong. He burned his papers, and began to seek in earnest that faith which he had before opposed.
June the 30th, Mr. C. Wesley received from him the following letter.
“ DEAR SIR,—God hath heard your prayers. Yesterday about twelve, he put his fiat to the desires of his distressed servant; and, glory be to Him, I have enjoyed the fruits of his holy Spirit ever since. The only uneasiness I feel, is, want of thankfulness and love for so unspeakable a gift. But I am confident of this also, that the same gracious hand which hath communicated, will communicate even unto the end. 0 my dear friend, I am free indeed! I agonised some time between darkness and light; but God was greater than my heart, and burst the cloud, and broke down the partition wall, and opened to me the door of faith."
Upon Mr. John Wesley's arrival in London, it was his desire to preach in a church, rather than any other place. But this he seldom could do. The same obstructions were in the way that had before shut the doors of so many churches against him. Rather, the offence was now increased : The people flocked to hear him more than ever. Present salvation by faith, which he now preached every where with zeal, though a principal doctrine of the Church of England, was little understood and less approved. But as he had the will, so the providence of God
him the means of testifying the Gospel. His own little society was now increased to thirty-two persons; and many other religious communities, in various parts of the town, received him gladly. Newgate was not yet shut against him. He made excursions into the country also, visited Oxford, and preached to the prisoners in the castle. Being thus, to use St. Paul's words, "instant in season, and out of season ;" embracing every opportunity that offered, of publicly declaring the truth and of enforcing it also, in every company, and to every individual with whom he conversed ; it could not be, but many reports would be spread concerning him, in every place. The effect, as of old, was
some said, He is a good man; and others said, Nay, but he deceiveth the people : And the multitude was divided."
The points he chiefly insisted on, were four: First, That orthodoxy, (or right opinions,) is, at best, but a very slender part of religion, if it can be allowed to be any part of it at all : That neither does religion consist in negatives, in bare harmlessness of any kind : nor merely in externals, doing good, or using the means of grace, in works of piety, (so called) or of charity: That it is nothing short of, or different from, is the mind that was in Christ,” the image of God stamped upon the heart, inward righteousness attended with the peace of God," and "joy in the Holy Ghost."-Secondly, That the only way under heaven to this religion, is, to “repent and believe the Gospel,” or (as the Apostle words it) “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”. THIRDLY, That by this faith," he that worketh not, but believeth on hine that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is imputed for righteousness :" He is “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ.”—And, LASTLY, That, “being justified by faith,” we taste of the heaven to which we are going: we are holy and happy : we tread down sin and fear, and “ sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.”