Imágenes de páginas

ready to be slain, without attempting their rescue. He saw no hope for their bodies or their souls but in the labours and voluntary gifts of Christians for their salvation. He felt for their fate, but, eminently practical, he felt in bed and board, in clothing and comfort. His was sumptuary sensibility more than tearful, active compassion rather than passive. Merely because more easy of illustration, and not for a moment putting it in comparison with the ardour of his soul to do good, we adduce his monetary benevolence in proof of our point-a benevolence which would give all, do all, reserve nothing, provided it could but win a revenue of glory to God and happiness to wretched men. Never did any man part with money more freely. His charities knew no limit but his means. He gave away all that he had beyond bare provision for his present wants. He began this procedure early, and never left off till he had done with earth. In his first year at college he received £30, and making £28 suffice for his necessities, he gave away in charities 40s. The next year he received £60, but still making £28 meet his expenditure, he gave away £32. The third year he received £90, and gave away £62. His receipts in the fourth year increased by the same sum as before, and out of £120 he gave away all but his primitive £28. And thus he acted through life, having given away in charities, it is believed, as much as £30,000, without a moment's thought for himself; his hands open as day, his heart the dwelling-place of kindness. His generous and unstinted liberality finds its most convincing proof in his circumstances at death. He had often and publicly declared that his own hands should be his executors,


and that, if he died worth £10 beyond the value of his books, and other inconsiderable items, he would give the world leave to call him a thief and a robber. He MADE all he could, and his publications were numerous and profitable; he SAVED all he could, not wasting so much as a sheet of paper; and then he GAVE all he could, with an angel's sublime disregard of gold and silver, and the wealth the world sets such store by. The notion that he must be enriching himself prevailed even among those who ought to have known better. Need we wonder, then, that he received a letter from the Board of Excise, telling him that the Commissioners could not doubt but that he had plate, of which he had neglected to make entry, and requiring him immediately to send a proper retum. The following was his answer :

Sir, I have two silver teaspoons at London, and two at Bristol. This is all the plate which I have at present; and I shall not buy any more while so many around me want bread. Your obedient servant, JOHN WESLEY.” His chaise and horses, his clothes, and a few trifles of that kind, were all, his books excepted, that he left at his death. Thus he laid not up treasure upon earth, but in heaven-a good foundation against the time to come, that he might lay hold upon eternal life. Free from the love of

and the impulse of ambition, the two most ordinary motives of action among civilized men, what powerful principle sustained him in his lifelong career of labour and endurance, self-denial and responsibility ? One that never entered into the calculation of his unfriendly critics and biographers—A STRONG SENSE OF DUTY SPRINGING FROM LOVE TO GOD. The stanza of the hymn, so much upon his lips on his dying bed, is the key that unlocks his heart, that opens up the mystery of a life otherwise inexplicable:


“I'll praise my Maker while I've breath,
And when my voice is lost in death

Praise shall employ my noblest powers :
My days of praise shall ne'er be past,
While life and thought and being last,

Or immortality endures."

And when the daughters of music were brought low, and the death-rattle was heard in his throat, when lip and limb were alike stiffening in the paralysis and collapse of death, the last feeble effort of his voice was put forth in syllabling

“I'll praise I'll praise.”

Thus died John Wesley,--an end in harmony with his life. Our Euthanasia shapes itself into resemblance to his dismissal :-“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !”

But we cannot leave our subject even here, without adverting to one of the finest forms in which the benevolence of this great man showed itself-one of the finest forms, in fact, which it can assume amid the war of parties and clash of religious discord-namely, HIS ENLARGED CHARITY TOWARD RELIGIONISTS OF

We believe there is no instance on record in which he was the assailant; and that it was only when covered with the blackest aspersions affecting his character and creed that he came forth to make his modest, and in most cases, convincing apologies. The unmeasured invectives of many a Thersites,


both in the church and in the world, he met with the philosophic gentleness and gravity of a Ulysses. He seldom forgot, in the heat of polemics, what was due to himself as a gentleman, a scholar, and a Christian.

His CATHOLICITY is seen in the constant object of his labours, which was not to raise a new sect among other sects, but to revive the languid spirit of religion in all, and especially in his own beloved church. That ever his work and people took another direction, was not owing to any crafty scheme, long a-hatching in his own bosom, but to the bent of circumstances and the preference of the people themselves. And here we feel bound to interpose another measure of the greatness of our hero, subordinate it may be, yet worthy of distinct observation-it was this. Not that with the skill of an architect he drew his elaborate plan before he set to work, perfect in its elevation and details, minute in its specifications, and accurately calculated as to cost in every particular. The only cost he ever counted was the amount of personal devotedness he was prepared to exhibit; and there, in truth, he knew no reserve. He was ready to lay down his life for the sake of the Lord Jesus. His greatness is rather seen in the wonderful adaptation of his plans to the surprising emergencies of his career; in meeting every difficulty as it rose, with the exact measure that relieved it; in looking, with the coolness of a consummate general, on every part of the field, and directing his forces, with the accuracy of a machine, rather than with the contingencies incidental to a mass of independent minds. I know not how, with sufficient strength, to express my admiration of Wesley's singular greatness in this point of view. To sketch a beautiful theory, and help to work it out, is an accomplishment within reach of most minds; but to meet emergencies with masterly measures, is the rare felicity of few. A crisis is usually met by temporary expedients, which often only complicate the distress, more perplexingly embarrass the difficulty, and, even where successful for the moment, are but of shortlived efficacy; but the eminence of John Wesley's talent is shown, and the beauty and perfection of his plans, in the flexibility and perpetuity of his system. Precisely the same machinery which he called into operation at the bidding of necessity, is in operation now, when the necessity that evoked it has ceased to exist, thus proved to be as adapted for the maturity of a great connexion, as for its infancy:-its governing conference, its itinerating ministers, its stewards for its temporalities, its classes, payments, love-feasts, for the nurture of the hopeful, the teaching of the ignorant, the edification of all. Like our unequalled British constitution, a positive blessing we will not consent to part with for the possible advantages of parchment constitutions and enthusiast theories, it is a system of wise adaptations and gradual growth. Such is the system of the founder of Method. ism, attaining a harmony and precision of working, during the forty years of its consolidation under his own eye, and exhibiting since then a power of development in proportion to any supposable demand upon it, which it were hard, perhaps impossible, to improve. Esto perpetua! Long may it remain a monument of his far-reaching wisdom, the creation of his pious zeal, a pattern to the church, and a blessing to the world! But to return to the catholicity of Wesley. Though

« AnteriorContinuar »