Page images


righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ? the only true religion under heaven. O cry unto Him that is mighty to save, for this one thing needful! Earnestly and diligently use all the means which God hath put plentifully into your hands ! Otherwise I should not at all wonder if God permit you also to be given up to a strong delusion. But whether you were or were not, whether you are Protestants or Papists, neither you nor he can ever enter into glory, unless you are now cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.

In the history of the unfortunate Samuel Wesley we have a striking illustration of the spirit of Popery. He was not pious when he was persuaded to enter into the Romish community; and during his stay there he was not at all improved either in his temper or morals. Yet the friends of the Papacy gloried in their convert ; and he himself was wishful to do something that should distinguish him among his new connexions. He therefore composed a high mass for the use of the chapel of Pope Pius the Sixth, who then wore the triple crown ; and for this service he received the thanks of the Pontiff, transmitted through the Vicar Apostolic. Popery, however, had never taken any deep hold upon his understanding and conscience. It was with him a matter of taste, opinion, and sentiment. For a few years he attended its fascinating ceremonial, without any solid benefit, either intellectual, spiritual, or moral, and then withdrew from the Papal Church, saying that he did not “care a straw for any excommunication that her priesthood could utter." To make proselytes, and thus extend her own secular dominion, is the leading design of the Church of Rome. The sanctification of her children is a very subordinate object, if any object at all. The devoted father and uncle of Samuel Wesley laboured for the one purpose of turning men from sin to holiness, that, like the Apostles of their Lord, they might "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus ;” and they felt that their ministrations were comparatively useless, if bad men were not converted into saints. In this respect Popery and Methodism are essentially different from each other; and it was a fatal mistake in Samuel Wesley when he turned his back upon the holy and happy

religion of his parents for the worldly blandishments of “ the mother of harlots.”

When this young man had ceased to "hear the instructions of his father,” and “forsaken the law of his mother," he was exposed to other evil influences besides that of Popery. He received quite as much injury from his godfather and patron, the Rev. Martin Madan, as from the agents of “the man of sin.” This Clergyman, who for many years was a popular Preacher in London, was the Chaplain of the Lock Hospital, founded for the benefit of penitent females, who had wandered from the paths of virtue. Commiserating their case, he endeavoured to lower the standard of Christian morality, so as to extenuate their sin, if not justify several of them in the profligate course which they had pursued. For this purpose he published a large and elaborate work, in which he attempted to prove that Christianity, as well as Judaism, tolerates polygamy. The unhallowed reasonings of this erring guide, conducted in the spirit and manner of a special pleader, and intended to adapt the standard of Christian morals to the taste of the sensual, there is reason to fear, inflicted a permanent injury upon many a youthful mind, not thoroughly disciplined in divine truth, and imbued with a love of holiness. The son of Mr. Charles Wesley unhappily did not escape uninjured by the speculative poison of this eloquent and plausible man, whose character and influence (happily for the world !) gradually declined from the time at which he proposed his unhallowed theory.

Miss Sarah Wesley was younger than her brother Charles, and a few years older than Samuel. She was born in Bristol, as were all the other children. For some time she attended the school of Miss Temple, in that city, but was taught Latin by her father, as was her brother Samuel also. Like both her parents, and her brothers, she was little of stature. She bore a striking resemblance to her father in her features, and especially in her profile. In mature life she was remarkable for the acuteness and elegance of her mind, as well as for the accuracy and extent of her information : so that she was qualified to move with advantage in the highest literary circles. Mrs. Hannah More, Miss Benger, Miss Hamilton, Miss Porter, Miss Aikin, Mrs. Barbauld, Dr. Gregory, and many other persons of distinction, were her VOL. II.


ashamed of her companionship. Her love and esteem for her father were very strong, and his regard for her was tender and enduring. He took great pains in the cultivation of her intellect; and his numerous private letters to her, written

interest which he took in her spiritual improvement. It was the intense desire of his heart that she should be a Christian indeed. One day, during her childhood, when she was repeating her Latin lesson to him, before she had sufficiently mastered it, he said, somewhat impatiently,“ Sarah, you are as stupid as an ass.” She said nothing, but lifted up her eyes with meekness, surprise, and imploring affection. On catching her look, he instantly burst into tears, and finished the sentence by adding, “And as patient !”

Miss Wesley, possessing the true philosophic spirit, had considerable power over the mind of her faithful brother Charles. Once, when he was somewhat dejected, feeling that his talents had not been adequately rewarded, he came to her, bringing some of his beautiful compositions, and requesting that she would tie them up for him. “All my works," said he, "are neglected. They were performed at Dr. Shepherd's, in Windsor, but no one minds them now!” She answered, in a sprightly tone, “What a fool you would be to regret such worldly disappointments! You may secure a heavenly crown, and immortal honour, and have a thousand blessings which were denied to poor Otway, Butler, and other bright geniuses. Johnson toiled for daily bread till past fifty. Pray think of your happier fate.” “ True,” said he, meekly, and took away his productions with sweet humility. Having recorded this anecdote, she adds, “Lord, sanctify all these mundane mortifications to him and me. The view of another state will prevent all regrets."

During Mr. Charles Wesley's residence in London, he lived in habits of intimacy with several persons of distinction, who honoured him with their friendship, notwithstanding his Methodism. He had free intercourse with Lord Mansfield, whom he had befriended in his boyhood, at Westminster School. He sometimes consulted his Lordship on questions affecting the Methodists in their relation to the established Church; and that eminent Lawyer declared his readiness to render any service in his power both to him and his brother. Dr. Boyce (one of the fathers of modern church music) and Mr. Kelway (the musical tutor of Queen Charlotte) were frequent visiters of the family in Chesterfield-street. Lord Dartmouth cultivated the friendship of Mr. Charles Wesley on a religious account; and Dr. Johnson mentions him as a person with whose views and habits he was familiar. Speaking of the case of Elizabeth Hobson, of Sunderland, he remarked, in reference to the brothers, “Charles Wesley, who is a more stationary man, does not believe the story." * Among Charles's papers are two notes in the handwriting of the Doctor, one addressed to the father, and the other to the daughter, inviting them to dine with him. The first of these is as follows:-“Sir,-I beg that you, and Mrs. and Miss Wesley, will dine with your brother and Mrs. Hall, at my house in Bolt-court, Fleet-street, to-morrow. That I have not sent sooner, if you knew the disordered state of my health, you would easily forgive me. I am, Sir,

“ Your most humble servant, “Wednesday."

“SAM. Johnson.Writing to Miss Wesley, the Doctor says, “Madam,-I will have the first day that you mention, my dear, on Saturday next; and, if you can, bring your aunt with you, to

“Your most humble servant, Oct. 28th, 1783.”

“Sam. Johnson.Among Mr. Charles Wesley's friends may also be ranked the late Mr. Wilberforce, then a young statesman, just rising into life. Their first interview took place at the house of Mrs. Hannah More; and is thus described by that pious and philanthropic man:-“I went, I think in 1786, to see her, and when I came into the room Charles Wesley/rose from the table, around which a numerous party sat at tea, and coming forwards to me, gave me solemnly his blessing. I was scarcely ever more affected. Such was the effect of his manner and appearance, that it altogether overset me, and I burst into tears, unable to restrain myself." +

Justly as Mr. Charles Wesley was esteemed on account of his piety and abilities, there are persons who indulge suspicions injurious to his religious character. They have supposed • Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. vii., p. 141. Edit. 1835. + Life of Wilberforce, vol. i., p. 248.

him to be the Sabbath-breaking Clergyman whom Cowper has strongly censured in his “ Progress of Error," under the fictitious name of Occiduus : and certainly if the poet's description were applicable to him, he would ill-deserve the admiration in which he has been held as a man of God. But there is, in fact, no just ground to believe that he was the person intended. If he was, the poet was grossly deceived, and wrote not satire, but direct slander. The passage is as follows :

“ Occiduus is a Pastor of renown;

When he has pray'd and preach'd the Sabbath down,
With wire and catgut he concludes the day,
Quavering and semiquavering care away.
The full concerto swells upon your ear;
All elbows shake. Look in, and you would swear
The Babylonian tyrant with a nod
Had summon’d them to serve his golden god;
So well that thought the employment seems to suit,
Psaltery and sackbut, dulcimer and flute.
• O fie! 'tis evangelical and pure :
Observe each face, how sober and demure !
Ecstasy sets her stamp on every mien;
Chins fallen, and not an eyeball to be seen.'
Still I insist, though music heretofore
Has charm’d me much, (not e'en Occiduus more,)
Love, joy, and peace make harmony more meet
For Sabbath evenings, and perhaps as sweet.

“Will not the sickliest sheep of every flock
Resort to this example as a rock;
There stand, and justify the foul abuse
Of Sabbath hours with plausible excuse : -
• If apostolic gravity be free
To play the fool on Sundays, why not we?
If he the tinkling harpsichord regards
As inoffensive, what offence in cards ?
Strike up the fiddles, let us all be gay!
Laymen have leave to dance, if Parsons play.'”

This passage must be taken in connexion with one of Cowper's letters, in which he speaks on the same subject; and both together contain direct proof that Occiduus and Charles Wesley were two very different persons. Writing to his friend Mr. Newton, under the date of Sept. 9th, 1781, the poet says, “I am sorry to find that the censure I have passed upon Occiduus is even better founded than I supposed. Lady Austen has been at his sabbatical concerts, which, it

« PreviousContinue »