Page images
PDF
EPUB

4. Mr. Wesley was not only proof against labour, persecution and reproach, he was proof also against the soiter and finer feelings of human nature, when they stood in the way of the great work in which he was engaged. I mean those feelings only, which are apt to effeminate the mind, or warp a man from a un form and steady attention to his duty. He had a peculiar pleasure iv reading and study; and every literary man knows the force of this passion, and how apt it is to make him encroach on the time which ought to be employed in other duties. But Mr. Wesley had the resolution to say aside any subject, whenever the hour came that he was to set out on his journey, or was to preach or visit the sick. He had a high relish "for rational and polite conversation ; but whatever company might happen to come where he was, to converse with him during supper, he would constantly retire to rest at his usual hour, that he might rise at four o'clock in the morning, which was his constant practice winter and summer for more than sixty years together. He was far from being insensible to the feelings of friendship; but whenever any friendship he had fornied, interfered with the good of the work he was called to, he could immediately break it off. The work to which God had called him oce cupied all his time and attention : he considered is as the business of his life, and sacrificed every pleasure and gratification to it. How much do all of you owe to him, who has sacrificed every thing dear to

flesh and blood for so many years together to benefit you. It appears quite astonishing and more than human, to see a man pursuing the public good with so much ardour and steadiness for so long a time, deuying himself every gratification and pleasure, except that of doing good. You know well I do not exaggerate his character ;

you know this has been his general character for the number of years he has been engaged in this work.

5. The industry of Mr. Wesley was almost incredible. From four o'clock in the morning till eight at night bis time was employed in reading, writing, preaching, meeting the people, visiting the sick, or travelling. Before the infirmities of age came upon him, he usually travelled on horse-back, and would sometimes ride thirty, forty, or fifty miles in a day, and preach two, three, or sometimes four times. He had a constant correspondence with some persons in the different Societies all over the three kingdoms, and with the Preacher in every part, and would answer their letters with great punctuality. He knew the state of the Societies in general, and of many individuals in each of them. He read most publications that were deemed valuable, if they related to

religion

religion or natural philosophy, and often made extracts from them. If we consider the whole of his labours, and compare them with what most men of industry have done, we may say that he has lived life two or three times over.

6. The effects of Mr. Wesley's labours have been much more extensive than any person would at first imagine. He was at the head of the little company first formed at Orford. And if we consider the state of these kingdoms, when the two Mr. Wesleys and Mr. Whitefield first went out to preach publicly, we must acknowledge that experimental religion was almost lost, at least among the common people. Without being censorious, I apprehend we may say, that religiou was little more than loose opinions, and modes and form of worship among the people in general.* It appears to me evident, that the preaching of these three men of God has had a very extensive influence on all denominations of religious people; it has been the means of awakening their attention to the grand and leading principles of the Gospel; and of making them consider the experimental part of it. Their labours also have had a happy influence on the ministers of the Gospel of every denomination, although some may have been ashamed to own it. With respect to the whole body of the people commonly called Methodists, they have been the means of raising them up. What were you, Oye Methodists, before ye heard these three servants of God, and those associated with them declare the glad tidings of peace and salvation ? You were scattered in the world, ignorant of God, and of the things that belong to your peace and salvation ; but you that were not a people, are now become the people of God, by their instrumentality. And what shall I say to you my brethren, who have been more immediately connected with him who is now no more with us? You have been knit together by him in the bonds of Christian fellowship : you have been growing up under his paternal care for many years. He has nourished and cherished you as a tender father : he has watched over you with anxious care, as a faithful shepherd prer his flock. Consider now the effects of his labours on different bodies of people who have no immediate connexion with us; consider the numerous Societies spread over the three kingdoms in connexion with him, and over whom he exercised the care of a father ; extend your views to America, and consider the thousands and tens of thousands, I had almost said millions, wito have felt the influence of his

labours * Dr. Watcs, Dr. Doddridge and several others, were excellent men, and well acquainted with experimental religion. The author does not intend any reflection on these, and other good and able Ministers of the Gospel. He rejoices to mention their excellencies.

labours in the course of sixty years ; and it seems an extent of usefulness beyond what one could imagine any one man capable of. But the hand of God has been in it; the Providence of God has been over it and it is evident that he was raised up of God for this great work.

7. The effects of Mr. Wesley's labours on civil society have been, and still will be very considerable. Not only particular parts of the kingdom have received benefit from the preaching of the Methodists, but society in general must feel some beneficial influence from them. If you consider the whole body of people usaally called Methodists, and the immense numbers who attend their places of worship and are benefited by them, they will amount to several hundred thousands. These are dispersed through the three kingdoms, and occupy almost every situation in life : they are become more conscientious in all their ways; more sober and regular in their behaviour ; more true to their word, and more attentive to every social duty than they were before. They are better husbands and wives, better masters and servants, and better neighbours and friends than before they heard the preaching of the Methodists. Society in general therefore has received benefit from them.

8. There is another view in which we may consider his usefulness ; a view which I should not perhaps have taken any notice of, but for the sake of a pamphlet just now published ; in which it is observed, that the Methodists are become so large a body of people, that they ought to attract the notice of government. You all know that the Rev. Mr. Wesley was a friend to the King; that he loved him, and was a warm and steady friend to the government; you know that he enforced these principles as far as ever he could, on the minds of all that heard him, The Methodists then, are not only made better citizens, but better subjects also. It is a rule, in the Society, that all the members of it shall submit themselves to the laws, and not defraud the King of his just dues. If it be known that any one acts contrary to this rule, he is put away from the Society. Now if you consider a large body of people, increasing on every side, spreading themselves through the whole kingdom, who are friends to the King and government, friends in every point of view, and from principle; you will acknowledge, that whatever infinence these people may have upon government, it must be friendly and have a tendency to peace and good order. And if all the people were Methodists, no times of difficulty could come; but if such times should arrive, the more numer. ous this body of people is, the better it will be for this country.

Thus

Thus our dear and aged father in Christ, spent near sixty years in the labour and work of the Lord, going about from place to place, convincing gainsayers, comforting the mourners, building up and strengthening those that believed, and the Church of God increased daily under his paternal care. 'l hus he spent his life: and bis labours lasted very nearly to the close of it. Oh how happy a life to be spent in doing good; to bave no attachnient but to God and bis work; to forsake all for it. And his conduct in private Jite was conformable to his public character. How many persons have been ready to say, that Mr. Wesley had private ends in view : that he was accumulating money and jould die rich. All that knew him, knew how false these accusations were; but all did not know him ; thousands bowever did, who have been witnesses of his integrity and disinterestedness: and thousands of the poor have experienced his benevolence. He constantly made a rule of giring all that be had 10 the poor: this was a favourite practice wita hiin. He attended to the words of Christ; Foraşmuch as ye hure done it into these, ye have done it unto me. He considered the poor as left here upon earth, that the followers of Christ may shew their benevolence to them as they would to the person of Christ himself, were he upon earth. How niany have said, how gladly would I have entertained Christ, had I lived in that country where he appeared, and at the time of his appearance.

But he has left the poor behind bim, that you may exercise your benevolence towards them, as you would have done to him. Mr. Wesley took a pleasure and delight in doing this, and sometimes left himself so destitute, that he had hardly sufficient to defray his travelling expences.

I shall only mention one circumstance more, I was asked the other day whether Mr. Wesley had not many meetinghouses and chapels that were his property, and whether he did not die rich ? I answered, 'Sir, Mr. W'esley had not one house of his own in the three kingdoms, neither a private house nor a preaching house; therefore be did not die rich. What noney he had, which was the produce of his books, and what charitable persons gave him to distribute to the poor, he constantly gave away : and as he observes, it only went through his bands, but none of it remained with him.

We must naturally suppose that a person só devoted to the work and service of God and for so long a time, must be an object of divine as probation; it is impossible to conceive of him otherwise. And God shewed marks of approbation to him even in his last momi nts; which was a reat colo furt born in him and to his numerous friends.

IV.

IV. I was called to Mr. Wesley on Friday the 25th of February. When I entered the room he cheerfully said, “ Doctor they are more afraid than hurt." I found great oppression on the brain, an universal tremor, great debility of the whole nervous system, and a fever, which I considered as symptomatic, depending wholly on the state of debility. I wrote for him; but he neither took medicine nor nourishment in a quantity sufficient to be of any use. Friday niglit and Saturday foremoon the lethargic symptoms increased. It now appeared to me that the powers of nature were exhausted: and I was so certain of his approaching dissolution, that I desired Mr. Brudford to ask him if he had any affairs which he wished to settle ; or if there was any person either in London or in the country, whom he desired to see. To these questions he gave no answer. We were all extreniely anxious that the lethargy might be removed before his de parture hence; and on Saturday evening the means made use of were successful : the lethargic symptoris abated, and on Sunday morning he seemed quite in possession of his faculties, and to feel his situation. His debility however increased, and the fever continued with alternate changes of flushings and paleness. On Monday the 21st, I desired he might be asked if he would have any other physician called in to attend bim: but this he absolutely refused. On Tuesday it appeared to me that death was approaching, and in the evening this was very evident. I was with him till past twelve o'clock that night. I asked him, before I left the room, if he knew me, he answered, Yes, and pressed my hand with all the littie strength he had. From this time he gradually sunk, and about twenty minutes before ten on Wednesday morning, the 2d of March, he died without a 'struggle, or a groan, and went to receive the glorious reward of his labours.

From the outlines which I have now drawn of the illustrious character of the late Rev. Mr. Wesley, I hope it will appear, that he did not follow cunningly devised fables, but the evidence of Gospel truth. I trust also, that they who are candid, will perceive, that we have not adopted these opinions merely because Mr. Wesley taught them, but because they appear to us to be true.

Let us then my brethren hold fast the beginning of our confidence stedfast to the end; and prove to the world that our doctrines are true, not only by reason and argument, but by our tempers and our conduct, Let us be careful to act worthy of our holy vocation, and persevere to the end in well doing, and we shall receive, with him who is now gone before us, the promised reward. Which may God of his infinite

mercy grant, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

SECT,

« PreviousContinue »