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THE RELATIVES OF THE REV. JOHN WESLEY. so that I must not say my joys are interrupted: For although heaviness endures for a night, unspeakable joy cometh in the morning. I am always in a habitual disposition for prayer, though I have not always the same fervency in prayer. I can in every thing, without exception, give thanks ; especially as troubles and afflictions have abounded, so, in an extraordinary degree, consolations in Christ have abounded also. My dear friend, bear with my narration after what manner I was born of God. It was an instantaneous act. My whole heart was filled with a divine power, a joy unspeakable, drawing all the faculties of my soul after Christ, which continued three or four nights and days. It was as a mighty rushing wind coming into the soul, enabling me from that moment to be more than conqueror over those lusts and corruptions which, before that time, I was enslaved to. It is a salvation beyond what we can express. I know I dwell in Christ and Christ in me. I am bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And what shall I say? O that I were dissolved, that I might be with him where he is ! But I will wait till he summons me hence; for his time is best. O that I might have my request, and that God would grant the thing that I long for! viz. that
and all that desire · The Beloved,' may be espoused to him, and receive the earnest of that inheritance which is incorruptible and fadeth not away, reserved for those who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in these last times. “ Your sincere friend and brother in Christ,
« WILLIAM Fish." These letters must have greatly strengthened Mr. Wesley in the faith which he received after his return, from America, chiefly through the instrumentality of Peter Boehler. He saw by them, that the true faith of the Gospel was in England a long time before it was presented to him by the Moravian Missionaries. He saw also in these letters the reality of that faith, which is described in the Seventeenth Article of the Church of England, and in her Communion Service. They must also have greatly helped him to resist those Antinomian attacks, by which that faith was assailed soon after its reappearance. They show that the true witness of the Spirit, without which there can be no deliverance from guilt, always proves its divine origin by its holy fruits.
THE REV. JOHN WESLEY.
BOOK THE SECOND,
THE LIFE OF THE REV. JOHN WESLEY, FROM HIS BIRTH TO THE YEAR
1735 ; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HIS BROTHER, THE REV. CHARLES WESLEY.
MR. JOHN WESLEY was the second son of Samuel and Susannah Wesley, and born at Epworth in Lincolnshire, on the 17th of June, 1703, 0. S. There has indeed been some variation in the accounts given of his age by different persons of the family ; but the certificate of it, sent him by his father a little before he was ordained priest, to satisfy the Bishop concerning his age, puts the matter beyond a doubt.
· Epworth, August 23, 1728. “ John Wesley, M. A., Fellow of Lincoln College, was twenty-five years old the 17th of June last, having been baptized a few hours after his birth, by me,
66 SAMUEL WESLEY, Rector of Epworth."
When he was nearly six years old, a calamity happened which threatened him, and indeed the whole family, with destruction. By accident, as all that have written concerning it have supposed, but according to his own account, by the wickedness of some of his father's parishioners, who could not bear the plain dealing of so faithful and resolute a pastor, the parsonage-house was set on fire.
The following anecdote, related to me by Mr. John Wesley, will throw some light upon this event. Many of his father's parishioners gave him much trouble about the tithes. At one time they would only pay in kind. Going into a field, upon one of those occasions, where the tithe-corn was laid out, Mr. Wesley found a farmer very deliberately at work with a pair of shears, cutting off the ears of corn and putting them into a bag which he had brought with him for that purpose. Mr. Wesley said not any thing to him, but took him by the arm and walked with him into the town. When they got into the market-place, Mr. Wesley seized the bag, and, turning it inside out before all the people, told them what the farmer had been doing. He then left him, with his pilfered spoils, to the judgment of his neighbours, and walked quietly home.
A letter from Mrs. Susannah Wesley to the Rev. Mr. Hoole, gives the best account of this calamitous fire. It is dated August 24, 1709.
« RevEREND SIR, -My master is much concerned that he was so unhappy as to miss of seeing you 'at Epworth ; and he is not a little troubled that the great hurry of business, about building his house, will not afford him leisure to write. He has therefore ordered me to satisfy your desire as well as I can, which I shall do by a simple relation of matters of fact, though I cannot at this distance of time recollect every calamitous circumstance that attended our strange reverse of fortune. On Wednesday night, February the 9th, between the hours of eleven and twelve, our house took fire; by what accident God only knows. discovered by some sparks falling from the roof upon a bed, where one of the children (Hetty) lay, and burning her feet. She immediately ran to our chamber and called us ; but I believe no one heard her; for Mr. Wesley was alarmed by a cry of FIRE in the street, upon which he rose, little imagining that his own house was on fire ; but on opening his door, he found it was full of smoke, and that the roof was already burnt through. He immediately came to my room, (as I was very ill, he lay in a separate room from me,) and bid me and my two eldest daughters rise quickly and shift for our lives, the house being all on fire. Then he ran and burst open the nursery-door, and called to the maid to bring out the children. The two little ones lay in the bed with her ; the three others in another bed. She snatched up the youngest, and bid the rest follow, which they did, except Jacky. When we were got into the hall, and saw ourselves surrounded with flames, and that the roof was on the point of falling, we concluded ourselves inevitably lost, as Mr. Wesley in his fright had forgot the keys of the doors above stairs. But he ventured up stairs once more, and recovered them, a minute before the staircase took fire. When we opened the street door, the strong northeast wind drove the flames in with such violence, that none could stand against them : Mr. Wesley, only, had such presence of mind as to think of the garden door, out of which he helped some of the children; the rest got through the windows. I was not in a condition to climb up to the windows; nor could I get to the garden door. I endeavoured three times to force my passage through the street door, but was as often beat back by the fury of the flames. In this distress I besought our blessed Saviour to preserve me, if it were his will, from that death ; and then waded through the fire, naked as I was, which did me no farther harm than a little scorching [of] my hands and face.
“ While Mr. Wesley was carrying the children into the garden, he heard the child in the nursery cry out miserably for help, which extremely affected him; but his affliction was much increased, when he had several times attempted the stairs then on fire, and found they would not bear his weight. Finding it was impossible to get near him, he gave him up for lost, and kneeling down, he commended his soul to God, and left him, as he thought, perishing in the flames. But the boy seeing none come to his help, and being frightened, the chamber and bed being on fire, he climbed up to the casement, where he was soon perceived by the men in the yard, who immediately got up and pulled him out, just in the article of time that the roof fell in,
and beat the chamber
out, just in the article of time that the roof fell in, and beat the chamber to the ground. Thus, by the infinite mercy of Almighty God, our lives were all preserved by little less than miracle ; for there passed but a few minutes between the first alarm of fire, and the falling of the house."
Mr. John Wesley's account of what happened to himself
, varies a little from this relation given by his mother. “ I believe,” says he," it was just at that time (when they thought they heard him cry) I waked : for I did not cry, as they imagined, unless it was afterwards. I remember all the circumstances as distinctly as though it were but yesterday. Seeing the room was very light, I called to the maid to take me up. But none answering, I put my head out of the curtains and şaw streaks of fire on the top of the room. I got up and ran to the door, but could get no farther, all the floor beyond it being in a blaze. I then climbed upon a chest which stood near the window : one in the yard saw me, and proposed running to fetch a ladder. Another answered, there will not be time: but I have thought of another expedient. Here I will fix myself against the wall : lift a light man, and set him on my shoulders.' They did so, and he took me out of the window. Just then the roof fell, but it fell inward, or we had all been crushed at
When they brought me into the house where my father was, he cried out, • Come, neighbours ! let us kneel down ! let us give thanks to God! He has given me all my eight children: let the house go, I am rich enough!
“ The next day, as he was walking in the garden, and surveying the ruins of the house, he picked up part of a leaf of his Polyglott Bible, on which just these words were legible :-Vade ; vende omnia quæ habes, et attolle crucem, et sequere me.
Go: sell all that thou hast, and take up thy cross, and follow me.
The memory of Mr. John Wesley's escape is preserved in one of his early prints. Under his portrait there is a house in flames, with this inscription : “ Is not this a brand plucked out of the burning ?" He remembered this event ever after with the most lively gratitude, and more than once has introduced it in his writings.
The peculiar danger and wonderful escape of this child, excited a good deal of attention and inquiry at the time, especially among the friends and relations of the family. His brother Samuel, being then at Westminster, writes to his mother on this occasion in the following words, complaining that they did not inform him of the particulars. “ I have not heard a word from the country since the first letter you sent me after the fire. I am quite ashamed to go to any
relations. They ask me, whether my father means to leave Epworth? whether he is building his house? whether he has lost all his books and papers ? if nothing was saved ? 'what was the lost child ? a boy or a girl ? what was its name?' &c. To all which I am forced to answer, I cannot tell ; I do not know; I have not heard. I have asked my father some of these questions, but am still an ignoramus.”
All the children received the first rudiments of learning from their mother, who, as we have seen, was admirably qualified for this office in her own family. There is no evidence that the boys were ever put to any school in the country, their mother having a very bad opinion of the common methods of instructing and governing children. But she Vol. I.
was not only attentive to their progress in learning, she likewise endeavoured to give them, as early as possible, just and useful notions of religion. Her mind seems to have been led to a more than ordinary attention to her son John in this respect. In one of her private meditations, when he was near eight years old, she mentions him, in a man. ner that shows how much her heart was engaged in forming his mind for religion. I shall transcribe the whole meditation for the benefit of the reader.
“ EVENING, May 17, 1711.-Son John.
“ What shall I render to the Lord for his mercies? The little unworthy praise that I can offer, is so mean and contemptible an offering, that I am even ashamed to tender it. But, Lord, accept it for the sake of Christ, and pardon the deficiency of the sacrifice.
“I would offer thee myself, and all that thou hast given me ; and I would resolve, (O give me grace to do it,) that the residue of my life shall be all devoted to thy service. And I do intend to be more particularly careful of the soul of this child, that thou hast so mercifully provided for, than ever I have been ; that I may
endeavour to instil into his mind the principles of thy true religion, and virtue. Lord, give me grace to do it sincerely and prudently, and bless my attempts with good success.” Her good endeavours were not without the desired effect.
In the month of April, 1712, he had the smallpox, together with four others of the children. His father was then in London, to whom his mother writes thus : “ Jack has bore his disease bravely like a man, and indeed like a Christian, without any complaint ; though he seemed angry at the smallpox when they were sore, as we guessed by his looking sourly at them, for he never said any thing." In 1714, he was placed at the Charter-house, with that eminent scholar, Dr. Walker, the Head-Master, and became a favourite on account of his sobriety and application. Ever after, he retained a remarkable predilection for that place, and was accustomed to walk through it once a year during his annual visit in London. He had some reasons however to complain of the usage he received at the Charter-house. Discipline was so exceedingly relaxed, that the boys of the higher forms were suffered to eat up, not only their own portions of animal food, but those also which were allowed to the lesser boys. By this means he was limited, for a considerable part of the time he remained at that school, to a small daily portion of bread as his only solid food. One thing he observed, which contributed among others to his general flow of health, and to the establishment of his constitution,--and that was, his invariable attention to a strict command of his father, that he should run round the Charter-house garden, which was of considerable extent, three times every morning.
In 1719, when his father was hesitating in what situation he should place Charles, his brother Samuel writes thus concerning John : “My brother Jack, I can faithfully assure you, gives you no manner of discouragement from breeding your third son a scholar.” Two or three months afterwards he mentions him again, in a letter to his father: “Jack is with me, and a brave boy, learning Hebrew as fast as he can.”