Page images
PDF
EPUB

join in the confederacy. But what wonder? It is only a preparation for the grand kingdom of Christ upon earth. Lord, hasten the time!

“Fear not for your dear son Charles. I trust he will pass through the court untainted, like Daniel and his three companions.

“If I live till the 23d of December, I enter into my ninetieth year; and if the prayers of such an old Divine can be of any service, he and his worthy family may depend upon them.

“The divine blessing be with all of us, and all belonging to us! My love to all, and in particular to the dear companion of your life. We shall one day meet.”

Such was the spirit of this "very aged man.” He spent most of his time in his study, in reading and devotion, abstracted from the world, and thinking mostly of heaven. His communion with God was sanctifying and joyous, and his intercourse with his family cheering and benevolent. To the future prosperity of the church, as described in the prophetic scriptures, his attention was much directed; and with even rapturous emotions he anticipated the final overthrow of idolatry, and every form of anti-Christian error, and the universal extension of evangelical truth, holiness, and peace. His bodily infirmities increased; his deafness rendered him almost incapable of conversation ; but his intellect retained its vigour; and, as in the case of St. John, divine love seemed to be the very element of his being.

Thus he was found when the heavenly summons came. The winter of the year 1784-5 was perhaps one of the severest ever known in England. The first fall of snow happened Oct. 7th, and the last April 3d. The extreme cold lasted five months and twenty-four days. During all that time, with the exception of about twelve days in January, the frost continued, and the earth was covered with snow. Every precaution was taken to preserve Mr. Perronet from cold ; but the weather affected him, so that he began visibly to decline. On Saturday, May 7th, 1785, he was remarkably cheerful. In the afternoon he desired his grandaughter to leave him alone. When she returned, she observed a peculiar sweetness and animation in his countenance. As she entered the room he smiled upon her, and tears of joy

ran down his face. He had been reading the last three chapters of the Book of Isaiah, which he recommended to her perusal; and said he had such a view from them of the great things which the Lord was about to do upon the earth as had filled him with joy and wonder.

During the next day he was in the same heavenly disposition, and conversed with several of the people who came to attend the public worship of God. His pain appeared to be gone, and his spirits were lively. His grandaughter attended him, as usual, after he was in bed; and when she took leave of him for the night, he said to her, “The Lord bless you, my dear, and all that belong to you! Yea, He will; I know He will ! ” Many times he repeated these words with great emphasis; and after she had left the room, she distinctly heard him utter them. The next morning, when she entered his chamber, the spirit was fled! On the following Saturday his remains were interred in the same grave with his wife and daughter, attended by a large concourse of people. Mr. Charles Wesley read the funeral service, and preached the next day on the appropriate text, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.”

It has been already observed that Mr. Perronet was the confidential adviser of the two Wesleys through the greater part of their public life : so that Charles used to call him “the Archbishop of the Methodists." In his own practice, as a Clergyman, he appears to have been quite regular; but two of his sons were Travelling Preachers. Both of them, it will be recollected, were anxious to introduce the sacraments into the Methodist chapels; and with this the current phraseology of their father was in full accordance. Even in his letters to Mr. Charles Wesley he speaks of "the Methodist Church." In one of those letters he says, “Honest brother Mitchell is my assistant, once a fortnight, at the water-house, where he preaches to a very quiet audience. I make no doubt Methodism, notwithstanding all the wiles of Satan, is designed by divine Providence to introduce the approaching millennium.” When the Preachers visited Shoreham, Mr. Perronet's house was their home; and in a room which he fitted up under his own roof, they regularly ministered the word of life. In his spirit and manners he was a perfect gentleman, and a Christian ; and a more spotless and upright character has seldom adorned any section of the universal church. He wrote several able and edifying tracts in defence of those views of divine truth which the Wesleys so successfully taught. These valuable productions of his pen well deserve to be republished.

Mr. Charles Wesley's respect for the Perronet family did not end with the funeral of its revered head. It extended to the posterity of that blessed man, especially to Miss Elizabeth Briggs, for whom her grandfather had cherished so sincere a respect. She remained for some time at Shoreham, where she was very useful and highly esteemed in the village. Mr. Charles Wesley encouraged her in her labours of love. The following letter he addressed to her twelve months after the death of the holy man whom she had served :

“April 28th, 1786. My dear Betsy,—You are once more in your proper place, and experience that word: 'He that watereth others shall be watered also himself. I expect Shoreham will be like Epworth. After my father's departure, the whole town was taken. If the Lord give me strength, I hope to see you and your flock in the summer.

Sad anniversary of his translation,' do you call it ? and your loss irreparable?' The day was the most joyful and happy he ever knew; and your loss is momentary, and reparable in a happy eternity. We ought only to rejoice and give thanks for his having been lent to the world near a century. Therefore from this time, observe, I can allow you to

mourn no more.

I am always glad to hear of your affairs. You need take no thought for the morrow, but say, 'In all my ways I acknowledge thee; and thou shalt direct my paths. My wife and daughter join in true love for you, with, my dear Betsy,

“ Your faithful friend and servant." At a subsequent period, and in the prospect for her removal from Shoreham, he wrote to her as follows :

“For the short time I have to stay here, I shall be happy to assist, in any degree, a child of my blessed father, and yours, now waiting for us in paradise. You will not be discharged so easily. There is more work for you to do, and more affliction for you to suffer, before you are permitted to depart in peace. I shall strive hard to see you before you leave Shoreham. We depend upon your coming straight to us, after you have paid your duty to your mother. I stay in town on purpose to receive you. My wife and Sally long to * see you. My love to the whole society. Remember in your faithful prayers, dear Betsy,

*Your loving servant and friend.” On the removal of this pious and intelligent young lady from Shoreham, she took up her residence in Hoxton-square, where Mr. Charles Wesley addressed to her the following kind letter, on her arrival :

“Dear Betsy, I am a prisoner here by an inflammation in my eyes; or I should have met you more than half way: probably the last time we should meet on earth. Send me a line of information concerning your dear mother's health, and all your family. The enclosed account of them came from Ned Perronet. You have the best right to it.

How many of them in glory are expecting us! We shall have time enough for conversing with them when time is no more. My family affectionately salute you, particularly my secretary Sally. The Lord will give you, if it be best, a far more useful, if not more loving, friend than

“ Your faithful and affectionate C. W." In the spring of 1788 Miss Briggs was married to the Rev. Peard Dickenson, who had been the Curate of her grandfather at Shoreham. He had so approved himself by his piety, diligence, and zeal, that many of the parishioners united in a petition to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, with whom the right of presentation was vested, that he might be appointed Mr. Perronet's successor in the vicarage. But one of the Prebends claimed it for his eldest son, and the request was denied. After this Mr. Dickenson connected himself more closely with Mr. Wesley, and to the end of his life officiated as a Clergyman in the Methodist chapels of London. He was a sound scholar, a spiritual and exemplary Minister of the Lord Jesus; and with Mr. Creighton assisted Mr. Wesley in some of his latest ordinations.

Within little more than three months after the death of Mr. Perronet, Mr. John and Charles Wesley lost another of their ablest and most faithful friends, the devoted Vicar of Madeley, who died after an illness of a few days, caught in the discharge of his clerical duties. Few men have ever excelled

him in piety, and perhaps none were ever more honoured in their latter end. The particulars of his triumphant death, drawn up with inimitable simplicity and force by his estimable widow, are too well known to need repetition here. Being indulged with the richest manifestations of God's mercy in Christ, he called upon all around him to unite in the loudest ascriptions of praise. Such was the fulness of his spiritual joy, that he expressed a desire for a gust of praise that should go to the ends of the earth. Having the most elevated and impressive views of the atonement of Christ, he often exclaimed,

“ Jesu's blood, through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries !”

and added, in the full exercise of an appropriating faith,

[blocks in formation]

In this manner the holy Fletcher, the eloquent and successful advocate of the Wesleyan theology, closed his eyes upon every earthly object, and passed to the enjoyment of his endless reward, August 14th, 1785.

The account of his sickness, death, and funeral, Mrs. Fletcher transmitted to Mr. Charles Wesley, accompanied by the following note :-"Madeley, August 24th, 1785. Dear Sir,-Enclosed you have an account of my feelings when I thought myself dying, as did most about me. I prayed for strength to do justice to my dearest, dearest love. I wrote it in one day, but could not go over it a second time. Take it, then, as it flowed from my full heart, without a second thought, and pray for your deeply distressed friend.

“I cannot find your brother. I wrote to him at first, but have got no answer. I stay here, if I live, half a year, to get the people regularly settled in society. My cup is bitter indeed; but I shall be soon with him, and together we shall behold His glory.”

The time now began rapidly to approach when Mr. Charles Wesley perceived that he also must die. His removal into the world of spirits was not an event that came upon him unawares. To prepare for it had been the leading business of the greater part of his life. He expected it therefore, not

« PreviousContinue »