« PreviousContinue »
'Twas love ordain'd so short a date,
So light a load of penal pain,
Put on and burst his fleshly chain;
But we, by faith's illumined eye,
Beyond the cloud of death behold
Which gilds and turns the cloud to gold;
In a new world of light and bliss,
An angel now our child appears;
His looks have dried our selfish tears ;
Father of lights, and God of love,
Thy call we joyfully obey,
Who for their old companions stay;
Blessing, and love, and thanks, and praise,
Wisdom, and majesty, and power,
To God, who, at the destined hour,
Of the severity of Mrs. Wesley's sufferings from the smallpos, ample proof has already been given. Her husband said, that there was no sound part in her entire frame, from the soles of her feet, to the crown of her head. Some private letters state, that, after the disease had generally disappeared, it was a considerable time before her nose was healed. The consequence was, that, after her recovery, her features were 80 completely changed, that her most intimate friends could not know her, by merely looking at her countenance; so deep was the impress which the malady had left of its virulence. Her husband showed the tenderness and strength of
his affection by declaring, that he admired her more than he had ever done before. She was about twenty years younger than himself; and now that she had lost her beauty, she had also lost her very youthful appearance; so that the unseemly disparity between their ages was no longer perceptible. This delicate remark, which he often repeated, was highly characteristic of the man, and well calculated to remove any uneasy feeling that might perchance have arisen in her mind.
Mr. Charles Wesley had another ground of grateful joy, besides that of his wife's recovery. His brother also began to regain his lost strength, and was likely soon to resume his wonted labours. Under the advice of his Physicians, Mr. John Wesley retired to the Hotwell, near Bristol; and being for a time unable either to travel or preach, he applied himself to writing explanatory notes upon the New Testament: a work which he had long meditated; but which, in all probability, he would not have undertaken, had it not been for this unexpected sickness. When he had made some considerable progress in his work, he was visited by Charles from London; and they spent several days together, comparing the translation of the Gospels with the original Greek; and reading Dr. Heylyn's Lectures, and Doddridge's Family Expositor, of which important use was made in the publication. Charles, who was an excellent critic, and possessed a fine taste in composition, afforded his brother more assistance in this work than in any other with which John's name was connected. The revisal of the book, some years after it had been printed, was greatly indebted to his piety, taste, and judgment.
As the spring and summer advanced, John was able to resume his ministry, and he went forth to his labour with increased spirituality and power. At the same time Charles Skelton, an Itinerant Preacher of some standing, and of useful talents, resigned his connexion with the Wesleys, and became an Independent Minister. This awakened considerable jealousy among his brethren, lest others should follow his example. They therefore entered into a written agreement at the ensuing Conference, not to act independently of each other; so that the breach which had caused uneasiness among them, served to put them upon their guard, and unite
them more closely together. Skelton appears to have begun his course as an Independent Minister at Bury St. Edmund's. He afterwards became the Pastor of a small congregation in Southwark, which is said to have become extinct long before his death. As an Itinerant Preacher he was very useful ; and his secession was a cause of deep regret. When he left his old friends, he changed his creed; but from that period he appears to have been of little benefit to the world. His light was hid under a bushel, and his influence scarcely felt.
In the month of July, 1754, Mr. Charles Wesley accompanied his brother to the neighbourhood of Norwich, where he continued several weeks, preaching in the open air with superior zeal and effect. John remained in a delicate state of health, so as to be unable to bear either a rapid journey, or frequent preaching. He therefore soon left Charles, to prosecute his work with such help as he could obtain, and retired again to the Bristol Hotwell, by the advice of Dr. Fothergill. Their design in leaving London together at this time appears to have been, partly the improvement of John's health; and partly that they might unitedly revise and transcribe the Notes on the New Testament, at the house of their friends, Captain and Mrs. Galatin, of Lakenham, who were both pious, and their personal friends. At this period the Wesleys had no place of worship in Norwich; and if they had any society, it was very small.
Norwich was at this time in a state of violent excitement. When the Wesleys expelled James Wheatley from their community, he came to this city, where he appears to have been an entire stranger. He began to preach in the midst of bitter opposition, but succeeded at length in collecting a considerable number of people, whom he called his " lambs," and became somewhat honourable. His doctrine and manner were smooth and soft, addressed to the tender passions of the people, rather than to their understandings and consciences; and in his private conduct he was a perfect libertine. Hitherto he had succeeded in the concealment of his wickedness; but it was now brought to light, and the successive disclosures that were made awakened the public indignation, and armed the mob with tenfold fury. The populace understood not the niceties of theological controversy ; but they knew that a teacher of Christianity ought not to be a wholesale adulterer.
Such was the state of things when Mr. Charles Wesley arrived. The following brief notices, which he wrote at the
time, will show the situation in which he was placed. They prove, too, that his spirit as a field-Preacher was unimpaired. He was still able to brave the noise of the waves, the madness of the people, and maintain the truth of God amidst the fiercest opposition. There was in him a living energy which nothing from without could either subdue or intimi. date. He usually preached twice a day during his stay in Norwich; and the result was, the opening of a Methodist chapel in that city.
“ July 8th, 1754. At four I took horse for Norwich, with my brother, Charles Perronet, and Robert Windsor. We were in fear for my brother, lest the heat and the journey should be too great for him; but the rain which God sent down all yesterday had laid the dust, and cooled the air. The clouds also were ordered to attend us all the day ; so that we had an easy and a pleasant ride to Braintree.
“ July 9th. Still God, in the weather, favoured us, and brought us safe to Bury, and ten miles beyond it.
“ July 10th. Our leisurely travelling allowed us many hours for writing. Between seven and eight we set out, and by eleven reached Attleborough. Here our brother Edwards met us, and brought us in the evening to Captain Galatin's, at Lakenham, a mile and a half from Norwich. The Captain brought us news that the whole city was in an uproar about poor Mr. Wheatley, whose works of darkness are now brought to light, whereby the people are so scandalized and exasperated, that they are ready to rise, and tear him to pieces. We therefore do not wonder that the Clergy are not forward to show their friendly inclinations toward us. Yet one has sent us a civil message, excusing his not visiting us till the tumult is over.
“ July 11th. Captain Galatin dined with the Mayor, a wise, resolute man, who labours for peace; but greatly apprehends the rising of the people. We thought it best to lie by till the storm should a little subside. Still the waves rage horribly. The streets ring all day with James's wickedness. From morning till night, the Captain informs us, the Mayor has been employed in taking the affidavits of the women whom he has tried to corrupt. These accounts are printed, and cried about the city.
“ What could Satan or his apostles do more, to shut the