Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

shapes of its future calling and destiny. But in one sense he was more than an apostle. By miracle they were qualified with the gift of tongues, for missions to men of strange speech; but Wesley did not shrink from the toil of acquiring language after language, in order to speak intelligibly on the subject of religion to foreigners. The Italian he acquired that he might minister to a few Vaudois; the German, that he might converse with Moravians; and the Spanish, for the benefit of some Jews among his parishioners. Such rare parts, and zeal, and perseverance, and learning, are seldom combined in any living man. We have never seen nor heard of any one like Wesley in the capacity and liking for labour ; we indulge, therefore, very slender hopes of encountering such a one in the remaining space of our pilgrimage. In our sober judgment, it were as sane to expect the buried majesty of Denmark to revisit the glimpses of the moon as hope to find all the conditions presented in John Wesley show themselves again in England. We may not look upon his like again. His labours in a particular department—that of preaching—astound from their magnitude; although these, far from being the sum total of his occupations, were but a fraction of a vast whole, and a sample of the rest. During fifty-two years, according to his biographers, he generally delivered two sermons a-day, very frequently four or five. Calculating, therefore, at twice a day, and allowing fifty sermons annually for extraordinary occasions, which is the lowest computation that can be made, the whole number in fifty-two years will be forty thousand four hundred and sixty. To these may be added an infinite number of exhortations to the societies after preaching, and other occasional meetings at which he assisted. Add to these his migrations and journeyings to and fro, and none can say that his life was not well filled up. In his younger days he travelled on horseback, and was a hard but unskilful rider. With a book held up before his eyes by both hands, and the rein dropped on the horse's neck, he often travelled as much as fifty, sixty, or even seventy miles a-day; from the quickness of his pace and unguardedness of his horsemanship, endangering his own and the good steed's limbs by frequent falls. At a later period he used a carriage. Of his travels, the lowest calculation we can make is four thousand miles annually, which in fifty-two years will give two hundred and eight thousand miles; that is, if he had ridden eight times round the globe on which we dwell, he would have had a handsome surplus of miles remaining, to have done his achievement into Irish measure. Of the salutary effect of these abundant labours his frame we have his personal testimony at a very

advanced
age.

cruda viridisque senectus” to the last, and he himself a memorable instance of the worth of the OPEN-AIR-ANDHARD-WORK-CURE, a process of more certain value and ready application at all times than hydropathy, homeopathy, or any of the thousand quackeries of the present day. On his attaining his eighty-fifth year, he enters the following reflections in his Journal:

upon

His was a

“I this day enter on my eighty-fifth year; and what cause have I to praise God, as for a thousand spiritual blessings, so for bodily blessings also! How little have I suffered yet by * the rust of numerous years ?' It is true I am not so agile as in time past: I do not run or walk so fast as I did; my sight is a little decayed; my left eye is grown dim, and hardly serves

F

me to read. I have daily some pain in the ball of my right eye, as also in my right temple, (occasioned by a blow I received some time since), and in my right shoulder and arm, which I impute partly to a sprain, and partly to the rheumatism. I find, likewise, some decay in the memory, with regard to names and things lately past; but not at all with regard to what I have read or heard twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. Neither do I find any decay in my hearing, smell, taste, or appetite (though I want but a third part of the food I once did), nor do I feel any such thing as weariness either in travelling or preaching. And I am not conscious of any decay in writing sermons, which I do as readily, and I believe as correctly, as

ever.

“ To what cause am I to impute this, that I am as I am ? First, doubtless, to the power of God, fitting me for the work to which I am called, as long as he pleases to continue me therein; and next, subordinately to this, to the prayers of his children. May we not impute it, as inferior means, 1. To my constant exercise and change of air? 2. To my never having lost a night's sleep, sick or well, at land or sea, since I was born? 3. To my having sleep at command, so that, whenever I feel myself almost worn out, I call it, and it comes, day or night? 4. To my having constantly, for above sixty years, risen at four in the morning ? 5. To my constant preaching at five in the morning, for above fifty years ? 6. To my having had so little pain in my life, and so little sorrow or anxious care ? Even now, though I find pain daily in my eye, temple, or arm, yet it is never violent, and seldom lasts many minutes at a time.

“Whether or not this is sent to give me warning that I am shortly to quit this tabernacle I do not know; but, be it one way or the other, I have only to say

« • My remnant of days

I spend to his praise,
Who died the whole world to redeem;

Be they many or few,

My days are his due,
And they all are devoted to him !'

We shall not complete the picture of John Wesley "the aged," unless we draw upon Mr. Alexander Knox, the accomplished correspondent and faithful friend of Bishop Jebb, who furnishes us with the following portrait of his venerable acquaintance:

Very lately I had an opportunity for some days together of observing Mr. Wesley with attention. endeavoured to consider him not so much with the eye of a friend, as with the impartiality of a philosopher; and I must declare every hour I spent in his company afforded me fresh reasons for esteem and veneration. So fine an old man I never saw.

The happiness of his mind beamed forth in his countenance; every look showed how fully he enjoyed the gay remembrance of a life well spent;' and wherever he went he diffused a portion of his own felicity. Easy and affable in his demeanour, he accommodated himself to every sort of company, and showed how happily the most finished courtesy may be blended with the most perfect piety. In his conversation we might be at a loss whether to admire most his fine classical taste, his knowledge of men and things, or his own overflowing goodness of heart. While the grave and serious were charmed with his wisdom, his sportive sallies of innocent mirth delighted even the young and thoughtless; and both saw, in his uninterrupted cheerfulness, the excellency of true religion. No cynical remarks on the levity of youth imbittered his discourse; no applausive retrospect to past times marked his present discontent. In him even old age appeared delightful, like an evening without a cloud : and it was impossible to observe him without wishing fervently,

•May my latter end be like his ?""

After the view we have presented of the life and labours of our hero, it may be almost superfluous to attempt A DELINEATION OF HIS CHARACTER. recollect, however, a promise to this effect at the commencement of this sketch, we cannot quit ourselves of

As we

our obligation without touching upon this head. To enter

upon its minute analysis, or seek to delineate it in its more subtle lines or delicate shades, our purpose forbids. The time and space would be wanting, while there is no lack of liking for the task. We shall therefore confine our further remarks to an illustration of what we conceive to be the leading traits of John Wesley's character, never so specified, that we are aware of, before, yet lying so palpably on the surface, that they have only to be named to be recognised. Without the pre-eminent qualities in question, no one was ever great and good; and as we have no scruple in calling him great and good beyond easy comparison, so are these qualities to be found developed in him to an unusual degree. They made him what he became, the successful reformer of his age,

and one of England's noblest worthies, while his system will make him a benefactor to millions yet unborn.

The distinctive features of character we unhesitatingly ascribe to him, are AN INDOMITABLE FIRMNESS, and A BOUNDLESS BENEVOLENCE. John Wesley was a man in a singular measure tenax propositi. Where he thought himself certainly right nothing on earth could move him. In all such cases this quality is a great virtue, but in cases of a different complexion it is a great fault. In questions of doubtful propriety and prudence it will bear the ugly names of obstinacy and self-will. But stigmatise it as we please there never was a great man without a strong will, and an infusion of self-reliance sufficient to raise him above the dauntings of opposition and reliance upon props. It is a heritable quality, as transmissible from father to son, as the sage or “foolish face.” Wesley certainly

« AnteriorContinuar »