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Church is traced with elaborate skill in “The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine” for 1829, in a series of papers generally understood to be from the practised
of Dr. Humphrey Sandwith, a short paragraph from which we venture to extract:
“Unequivocal as were Mr. Wesley's professions of fidelity to the Church, his actions, to a prejudiced mind, have the semblance of inconsistency. As a departure from strict churchmanship may be mentioned field-preaching, the employment of lay-preachers, the erection of chapels unconsecrated and not subjected to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the use of extempore prayers himself, and the encouragement of them in his societies, class-meetings, band-meetings, love-feasts, and watch-nights, under an economy exclusively his own; and the annual conferences of his preachers. When to these obvious innovations we add the commencement of a financial economy for the support of the preachers and the spread of religious truth, we perceive the rudiments of a system intended indeed to be auxiliary to, but partly independent of the Church of England. The true solution of the whole case, and one which obviates the charge of inconsistency, is Mr. Wesley's persuasion that he was bettering the Establishment by measures which he hoped would eventually be recog. nised. The apology for his numerous deviations is to be found in the settled conviction of his mind, that th tioned by the Divine blessing ; and that the adequate occasion of his mission was the total degeneracy of the Church. Acting from this impulse, and without any previous design or plan at all, everything arose just as the occasion offered.' And while his attachment to the Church was truly conscientious, equally so was his determination to innovate as Provi. dence should direct him. His language, equally with his actions, indicated the self-impelling convictions of the Reformer. “Nevertheless,' says he, “as the generality even of religious people, who do not understand my notions of acting, and who on the one hand hear me profess that I will not separate from the Church, and on the other, that I do vary from it
in these instances, they will naturally think I am inconsistent with myself. And they cannot but think so, unless. they bear in mind my two principles :—the one, that I dare not separate from the Church,—that I believe it would be a sin so to do; the other, that I believe it would be sin not to vary from it in the points above mentioned.'"
He was clearly not a nonconformist in his own apprehension, whatever he may be in ours. But he had embarked upon a sea of conscientious service, and he evidently did not much care whither it drifted him. Like Columbus, he was confident that it would land him in the proper place. He therefore looked out upon the waste before him, as fearless as the highsouled Genoese,
" Or like stout Cortes, when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific, and all his men
Silent upon a peak of Darien.” This is evidently the philosophy of the case, as felt by Mr. Wesley. But so completely had the venerable leader of the movement habituated himself to the independent action of his society, that nothing could have been more in accordance with the current of his life, principles, and anticipations (see "Minutes of Conference” for 1744, just cited), nor more certainly have secured his approval, than the distinctive position this body has since taken up, neither controlled by the Church of England, nor hostile to it. That body seems to have embodied in the happiest way the spirit and pattern of its founder, when it defined its general policy towards the Establishment in the following terms:- “ Methodism exists in a friendly relation with the Establishment. In all its official writings and sanctioned publications, though often called to defend itself against intemperate clergymen, it treats the Church itself with respect and veneration, and cordially rejoices in the advance of its religious character and legitimate moral influence.”
This in our judgment is right and dignified, and just what the founder of Methodism would have approved. We would not have any church in ITS CORPORATE CAPACITY exceed a simple protest in its opposition to the Established Church of the country. But our views on this head would be very imperfectly stated, if we did not add, THAT EVERY INDIVIDUAL OF EVERY RELIGIOUS BODY SHOULD BE LEFT AT PERFECT LIBERTY TO ENTERTAIN HIS PRIVATE CONVICTIONS, AND TO PUBLISH THEM IN ANY WAY HE MAY THINK BEST, EITHER BY THE PRESS OR OTHERWISE-UNHAMPERED EITHER BY THE CORPORATE ACTION OF HIS CHURCH, OR THE EXPRESSION OF ITS OPINION. The limit we assign to aggression by one ecclesiastical body upon another ecclesiastical body, we would be the last to impose as a fetter upon the spontaneous activities or the settled convictions of individuals. That may be imperative in them which would be highly inexpedient in a religious community.
In the unbending firmness of our hero we see much of the gracious man,—the man whose heart is established with grace,—but we see also in it largely the man John Wesley. We fancy we perceive in it no less somewhat of the sturdiness of the national character, John Bull will not be badgered and browbeaten any more than he will be coaxed and cajoled into what his strong determination opposes ; and Wesley in his nervous English, his practical wisdom, his steady good
sense, and his unconquerable will, displayed some of the most respectable and salient points of the Saxon character, belonging by unmistakeable evidence to that family of the Bulls, which, notwithstanding all its faults, has no few qualities to admire. There is in his rigid firmness, moreover, something of his puritan ancestry,--one point at least in which Bishop Warburton was right. His blood was vitiated with their stubborn humour, if it be a vice. He belonged to the tribe of Ishmael by both father's and mother's side at a single remove, and he could not be expected to turn out other than he did. But we pause; John Wesley was frank, generous, open, simple as a child, confiding, plastic and persuasible where a man had right upon his side, but where himself was right he was positive to a fault ?-no, to perfection; and it had been a less miracle to move a mountain into the sea than to move him from his purpose. This goes far to explain the man and his work.
One of his letters to a bishop may be quoted here, in proof of his fixed determination to let no trifles impede his course of imagined duty. It is almost epigrammatic in its brevity, and breathes in its very curtness the “Wha daur meddle wi' me?” of Scottish defiance. Objection was made, it would appear, to his occupying the pulpits of the Establishment after he had become fully committed to his spiritual knighterrantry, and the following is the laconic vindication of his right :
“My LORD,-Several years ago, the churchwardens of St. Bartholomew's informed Dr. Gibson, then Lord Bishop of London, My Lord, Mr. Bateman, our rector, invites Mr. Wesley very frequently to preach in his church. The Bishop replied, “And what would you have me do? I have no right to hinder him. Mr. Wesley is a clergyman regularly ordained, and under no ecclesiastical censure.'
“I am, my Lord,
" JOHN WESLEY."
To no one was Regent Murray's saying at the grave of John Knox ever more applicable than to our intrepid modern John:
“ There lies one who never feared the face of man.” UNBOUNDED BENEVOLENCE was another leading trait in his character. This was the basis of his life, the spring of his self-denial and his labours. A recluse at Oxford, musty folios, and metaphysics, could not extinguish the smouldering fire within
“He thought as a sage, but he felt as a man.” Afterwards the fire burst forth; he kindled, as he flew over the world, a flaming seraph of mercy to mankind.
At the University, his benevolence led him into frightful prisons and condemned cells, into hospital and lazar-house, from the society of the commonroom and beloved books, to converse with felons and miserable sufferers. It curtailed his bread and his dress, it debarred him of the comfort of a well-shorn head, it led to a course of self-sacrifice and effort for the benefit of the wretched and the sinful, which put his sincerity sorely to the test, and lasted with his life. His heart bled for the world; he beheld sin bursting out in blotches of sorrow all over the face of society, and he longed to purify, console, and heal. He could not look upon men drawn unto death, and