« PreviousContinue »
Martin Luther, again and again, with the aid and concurrence of his fellow-Presbyters, ordained Bishops for the Protestant Church of Germany.
To answer all Mr. Sidney's aspersions upon Mr. Wesley, and all his misrepresentations of Mr. Wesley's principles and acts, would be an endless task. The fact is, he seems to have gathered all his knowledge concerning this venerable man from the pamphlets of the Messrs. Hill and Toplady, written under the excitement of unsanctified controversy, without listening for a moment to Mr. Wesley's own statements and reasonings. The Jewish law condemned no man before he was heard, and it was known what he had done; neither was it “the manner of the Romans” to pass sentence upon any one till he had been confronted with his accuser ; but Mr. Sidney is bound by no such formalities. If justice between man and man be a matter of mere opinion, his allegation, that Mr. Wesley was destitute of even heathen honesty might well provoke a smile ; but if “God spake these words, and said, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” the subject assumes a very different character. Many of this great man's revilers have already gone with him to give an account to the “one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” Mr. Sidney must also meet him before the judgment-seat of Christ. If it should then appear, that John Wesley really was a man of God, and an instrument of good to the world, it will afford no pleasure to Mr. Sidney that he has so often spoken of him without any regard for either candour, charity, or truth.
One of the most affecting incidents connected with advancing life is the loss of early friends, who successively retire to “the house appointed for all living.” They are seen no more in the domestic and social circle, and in the sanctuary of God. Their advice is no longer available in cases of difficulty, and their sympathy in affliction. The post ceases to bring their desired and welcome epistles; and when they are remembered in the closet, where for years they were daily commended to the divine mercy, the solemnly-affecting thought recurs, that they cannot now be benefited by our prayers. “I shall go to him; but he will not return to me.”
Mr. Charles Wesley survived most of his early religious companions. Before he left the world, many even of his spiritual children died in the Lord. Of the death of Hervey, Grimshaw, and Whitefield, mention has already been made; and others followed; so that he was at length left in the midst of a new generation. Many of these he loved and esteemed; but his tenderest friendships were dissolved ; and they had indeed been deep and sincere.
The Rev. Henry Piers, the pious Vicar of Bexley, appears to have died in the year 1769. He was, as we have seen, Mr. Charles Wesley's son in the Gospel, and a cordial friend to him and his brother. It is probable that he was an Irishman; for he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. Before he obtained the vicarage of Bexley, he held the curacy of Winwick, in Lancashire. He was a member of the first Conference, and shared in the glorious dishonour of early Methodism ; though there is no evidence that he ever violated canonical order. His spirit was timid and gentle ; yet he bore a noble testimony to the truth before the Clergy at their visitation; and when Mr. Wesley went to Oxford, to preach for the last time before the University, Mr. Piers accompanied him thither, and publicly walked from the church of St. Mary's, with him, his brother Charles, and Mr. Meriton, (four meek and fearless confessors !) when “ of the rest durst no man join himself to them.” Lady Huntingdon's biographer states, that soon after the first Methodist Conference, Mr. Piers was presented to a living in Ireland ;* but this we believe to be a mistake. According to the parish register of Bexley, he ended his life and labours in that village, the vicarage of which he held for thirty-three years. The register of christenings bears his signature to the close of the year 1767; and in the beginning of the year 1770 his successor entered upon his office. Mr. Piers published three sermons, and a biographical account of the men who compiled the book of Common Prayer. From these productions of his pen it would appear that he was a great admirer of the formularies of the English Church, the devout and evangelical spirit of which he had thoroughly imbibed.
Ebenezer Blackwell, the faithful and undeviating friend of the Wesleys, closed his upright life, April 21st, 1782, at his house in Lewisham. Mr. Charles Wesley was doubtless present on the occasion; for among his manuscripts are two hymns, which bear the same date, one, a “Prayer for Mr. Blackwell, departing;” and the other, “On the Death of Mr. Ebenezer Blackwell.” These compositions are equally pious and affectionate. The subjoined stanzas are a specimen :
A Miction's kind, unfailing friend,
He wisely used his growing store,
To God, by giving to the poor :
Who paid him back the blessings given,
More treasure he laid up in heaven.
Through life inviolably just,
He his integrity maintain’d,
An upright man of truth unfeign'd:
The polish smooth, the courtier's art,
He spoke the language of his heart.
• Vol. ii., p. 155.
Happy the souls he leaves behind,
If following him as he his Lord,
They hear the last transporting word;
When all the storms of life are o'er,
And grasp their friend to part no more !
To ask his death shall I presume?
Saviour, in me thyself reveal ;
His penitence and faith to feel :
His cup of torture to decline ;
And let his final state be mine!
On the 24th of August following Mr. John Wesley made the following touching entry in his Journal :-"My brother and I paid our last visit to Lewisham, and spent a few pensive hours with the relict of our good friend Mr. Blackwell. We took one more walk round the garden and meadow, which he took so much pains to improve. Upwards of forty years this has been my place of retirement, when I could spare two or three days from London. In that time, first Mrs. Sparrow went to rest; then Mrs. Dewal; then good Mrs. Blackwell; and now Mr. Blackwell himself. Who can tell how soon we may follow them ?"
The holy life of the venerable Perronet now began to draw towards a close. After the death of his afflicted wife, his daughter Damaris sustained the care of his family, and was his tender friend and companion. She was a most faithful and upright woman, truly devoted to God, and zealous of good works. Her life was spent in acts of benevolence, and in persevering efforts to advance the cause of true religion ; yet her health was delicate, and such as subjected her to considerable mental depression. On the 9th of September, 1782, this excellent lady suddenly expired in a fit of apoplexy. No trial could perhaps have been more severe to her aged father; yet his resignation surprised all who witnessed it. When he found, after every means had been tried for her recovery, that her sanctified spirit had actually taken its flight, he rose up, and with deep and solemn emotion exclaimed, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty : just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?” This was a scene never to be forgotten by those who were present. On the Sunday after her funeral, he preached from Mark xiii. 33: “Take ye heed: watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”
Mr. Charles Wesley, whose heart was ever charged with generous sympathy, addressed a letter of condolence to the bereaved Vicar of Shoreham; who thus acknowledged his kindness :
“Oct. 23d, 1782. My very dear Brother, -As I cannot personally thank you, for your late Christian condolence, I take the first opportunity of doing it by letter. My loss indeed is very great; but her gain, I am certain, is much greater. Nor has the Lord left me destitute; for He has graciously raised up to my help my dear grandaughter, Elizabeth Briggs; one of much grace, prudence, and discretion. All glory be to his holy name!
“My heavenly Father entered me very early into the school of Christ; and has more or less continued me in it (adored be his goodness !) for full fourscore years. I was not more than eight years old when I began to taste of grief and sorrow; but I know that every bitter cup proceeded from divine love; and therefore what abundant reason have I to be thankful! May God preserve you and yours, and me and mine, through all the paths of suffering grace here, to his eternal kingdom of glory hereafter! Love to all.
“ Thine affectionately.” A few weeks afterwards he addressed another letter to his friend Mr. Charles Wesley; in which he says, “It is a most certain truth, that God is not limited to times, places, or persons. On the contrary, how often has He mercifully disappointed our most anxious fears! So that we must leave all events to his divine wisdom ; see his hand in everything ; and ever bow down before Him with the deepest reverence.
“Behold, my dear brother, the astonishing signs of the times ! Babylon is destroying herself with her own hands. That infernal court, the Inquisition, that perfect emblem of hell upon earth, is tottering to the ground. The infallible Pope himself, with Catholic Kings and Princes, seem all to