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pass along, and hasten to a nearer approach to them, let me suggest to the Methodists, that all the liberty and protection, with which they have been favoured, and also the Gospel-light which they enjoy, was in a great measure, procured for them by the hardships, imprisonments, and other sufferings, of these same Puritans. It
proper to notice that though these observations may appear to be considerably remote from the avowed subject of this Book, they are more nearly. connected with it than may at first sight appear. I undertake to write the Life of Dr. COKE, chiefly with regard to his connexion with religion, and its promotion in the world. Religion cannot be extended without some measure of religious liberty. Besides, there is a wide difference between a corrupted superstitious religion, and the pure unadulterated truth as it is in Jesus. And as the Puritans had such an ample share in promoting both purity of religion, and true religious liberty, and as religious and civil liberty are very closely connected, it would have been almost criminal not to have taken the notice of these which I have.
There seems to have been a general and deep sense of Religion in England, and still more so, perhaps, in Scotland, before the war broke out between Charles the First and the Parliament. Some pious people espoused his cause, while the majority of them took the other side. And that their motives for making this choice were pure, at least as to the generality of them, I think there can be little doubt, However correct or incorrect their views might be, in political point of view, they wished to promote that which they thought would tend the most to promote the cause of truth - and holiness, or,
that would at least, do the least injury to real Christianity. If any further evidence was wanting upon
this point, that evidence might soon be furnished. But I proceed to observe, that when the licentious Monarch, Charles the Second, ascended the Throne of his Ancestors, the pious of the land were immediately persecuted, afflicted, and tormented. Even Mr. Wesley remarks, in his journals, after mentioning his reading an account of the sufferings of the church of Scotland during this reign, that he was far worse than bloody Queen Mary. Not less than eight thousand, it is confidently affirmed, died in prison, whose conscientious conduct had brought them thither, during his reign. And great multitudes who were immured in jail, were released, sooner or later; vast multitudes were more or less impoverished by the persecution of the times; while many more, as before mentioned, crossed the Atlantic ocean, and sought for an asylum in the woods of the New World. The Act of uniformity, which took place on the black and memorable Bartholomew Day, 1662, was the most fatal stroke that was ever given to true piety in England. By this act, nearly two thousand of the most pious, able, and faithful ministers in the land. were cut off from the Church of England in a single day. The act was such, and required such sacrifices and compliances, that very few truly conscientious ministers could comply with it. This lamentable event, made the pious and useful Mr. Richard Baxter exclaim, 60! that we had but the gift of tongues, to enable us to proclaim the gospel in other lands ; for then I should be satisfied !” And there cannot be a doubt, that if there had then been such openings for foreign Missions as we have lived to see, many of these good and eminent ministers of Christ,
would have taken their lives in their hands, and gone to whatever region Providence should have pointed out the way. And how thankful should we be, that we can not only enjoy religious liberty irr our own land, and which has lately received additional security and increase, but that the fields are white unto the harvest in many distant heathenish countries. One remarkable instance of this is, that the leading Subject of this book was taking six Missionaries to propagate true Christianity in India, when He, whose thoughts and ways, for wise but mysterious reasons, often differ from those of men, was pleased to call him most suddenly into another, and, I doubt not, a better world. Clouds and darkness rest upon this part of the dispensations of Divine Providence: but what we know not now we shall know hereafter. was dumb," said the Psalmist," because thou didst it." And perhaps one chief reason for this mournful Providence was, the more clearly to shew the world that the work is of God; to save us from attributing too much to man, and to convince us more than ever, that when the Lord has a work to do, he can never be at a loss for instruments. And if the labours of the men at whose head the Doctor was going to India, should he attended with success, in the Island of Ceylon and elsewhere, the Providence of God will not only be justified, but glorified. But to return. When Charles the Second had been instrumental in almost extirpating all serious godliness out of the nation, his brother James the Second succeeded him, and endeavoured to reestablish the superstition and darkness of popery, which he did very nearly accomplish. But the good hand of God was once more displayed in favour of Britain and the cause of true religion. Things had reached an alarming crisis; the Prince of Orange was invitel from Holland, and who had married a daughter of James. He arrived with a body of forces, and James fled to France, and lost his crown. William was much indebted to the Puritans, and he repaid them by securing to them liberty of conscience by the Act of Toleration. From that time, religion began again to revive. Some of the Bishops were good and useful men. And the remains of the Puritans, or the non-conformists, as they were now called, began to lift up their heads. They built meeting houses, or chapels, in many places, aud numerous congregations of them were established. But though they exerted themselves much, and with considerable success, in promoting the reformation and evangelization of the nations, it does not appear that they had any very great success. Religion, in a great measure, drooped and languished. There was a society which received the countenance and support of the Government, called the Society for the Reformation of Manners, which was of considerable service at this time: and the private religious societies, which were formed in many parts of England, under the patronage of the pious Dr. Horneck, did still more good. Many of these Societies seem to have occupied a place somewhat resembling the office of John the Baptist: I mean, they served to prepare the way for introducing Methodisın. Many of them were in existence in Bristol, and other places, when Mr. Wesley began his itinerant career, and gave him the most friendly reception and encouragement.
At this period, however, religion was at a deplorably low ebb, as to the nation at large. The sound orthodox principle of the Reformers still continued in the Prayer Books, the Articles, and Homilies; but in general, what was delivered from
the Pulpit, was of a very different description; and was withal, so delivered, and so little recommended by the general conduct of the main body of the clergy, that the public were but little affected by such a ministry. The Dissenters had a congregation here and there ; but except in a few places, comparatively speaking, these were not very large. And some of their ministers were getting into that way of refining upon the religion of their forefathers which has since led to Arianism, Socinianism, and the great desertion of their places of worship. But just when things were in this low and almost hopeless state, God arose to maintain his own cause, and to work for his own glory and the guod of mankind. And the way and manner in which he did this, afforded another proof, that his thoughts and ways are not as those of men. He began to accomplish great purposes by means apparently inadequate. In giving the reader the necessary information upon this head, I must here insert as a second part of the Introduction to the Life of Dr. Coke,
A CONCISE VIEW OF METHODISM,
Comprehending a narrative of the rise, progress, and present state of the Methodists, especially the Wesleyan Methodists, to whom Dr. Coke attached himself; and a brief yet full view of their Doctrines and Discipline. Of the rise of this now numerous denomination of Christians, I shall insert first the account which their founder, the Rev. John Wesley gave many years ago in his “ Short History of Methodism."
In November, 1729,” says he, "four young gentlemen of Oxford, Mr. John Wesley, Fellow of Lincoln-College; Mr. Charles Wesley, Student of