John Wesley.

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Preface ........... 5

A Sketch of Mr. Wesley's Character, by the Rev. Samuel Bradburn 7


1. To his Father ....
2-5. To his Mother ....
6, 7. To his Brother Samuel

8. To the Rev. William Law

9. To Count Zinzendorf, at Marienborn
10. To the Church in Hernhuth
11-16. To Mr. Ebenezer Blackwell

17-36. To Miss Furley, afterward Mrs
37, 38. To Mrs. Sarah Ryan
39, 40. To Mr. Joseph Cownley
41,42. To Miss

43. To Miss H

44. To ....

45. To

46. To Sir

47. To Miss Elizabeth Hardy

48. To Lady .

49. To Mr. Alexander Coates

50. To Mr. S. F

51. To the Rev. Dr. John Taylor

52. To Ix)rd

53. To the Rev. Mr. Hartley .

54. To the Rev. Mr. Plenderlieth

55. To Mr. S., at Armagh

56. To . . . .

57. 58. To Mr. John Trembath
69. To Mr. Knox




60. To Mrs. Maitland ....

61. To Mr. Hart

62. To Miss T ....

6-3. To Miss L

64. To the Rev. Mr. G .

6.5. To the Rev. Mr. D

66. To Mrs. R ....

67. To the Rev. Mr. Wauley, Dean of Ripon

68. 69. To Mrs. Emma Moon, of Yarm .
70-99. To a Member of the Society .

100. To Mrs. A. F

101-118. To Lady Maxwell

119. To Lady M ....

120-122. To Miss Pywell ....

123. To the Rev. Mr. F .

124. To the Rev. Mr. ....

125. To Lady ....

126-137. To Miss Jane Hilton, afterward Mrs. Barton

138-152. To Mrs. Elizabeth Bennis, of Limerick

153-165. To Mr. Joseph Benson .

166, 167. To Mr. Walter Churchey, of Brecon

168-182. To a Young Disciple

183, 184. To Mr. John Mason .

185-187. To Miss Briggs ....

188. To Lady Huntingdon

189. To the Rev. Dean D

190-192. To Mr. Richard Tompson .
193-195. To Samuel Sparrow, Esq. . .
196-207. To Miss Bolton

. 101
. 103
. 107
. 109
. 110
. Ill
. 112
. 143
. 145
. 165
. 169
. 170
. 171
of Beverley 172
. 179
. 190
. 202
. 204
. 215
. 216
. 217
. 218
. 220
. 247
. 252




To every one who carefully studies Mr. Wesley's cha-
racter and history, it must appear that for nothing was this
great man more distinguished than simplicity of purpose.
From the time at which he obtained the salvation of the
gospel, to the close of his eventful life, he was eminently
a man of one business. He preached vith almost unex-
ampled diligence, he employed the press upon an extensive
scale, during more than half a century, for the exclusive
purpose of turning men from sin to Christ, and of building
them up in holiness. To the same pious and benevolent
objects his correspondence was directed. Notwithstanding
the multiplicity of his engagements, he found time to write
numerous letters to persons who solicited his advice, and
cultivated his friendship. Many of these have been pre
served. They consist not of idle gossip ; nor are they
intended to nourish a sickly sentimentality ; but to urge
forward his correspondents in the divine life, that they
might attain all the mind that was in Christ, and make
their calling and election sure. With the same design the
following selections are published. They present an agree-
able variety of subjects ; and it is hoped will prove accept-
able to a numerous class of readers to whom the entire
works of the venerable writer are inaccessible. To the
use of the closet, and of private reading, it is presumed,
they are especially adapted.

The " Sketch of Mr. Wesley's Character," by which
the letters are introduced, was published in Manchester,


in the year 1791. It was appended to a sermon by
Mr. Rodda, which was preached in that town on the occa-
sion of Mr. Wesley's death. It is in Mr. Bradbum's best
manner, and contains several interesting notices concern-
ing the founder of Methodism which are not generally
known. They are presented in an authentic form, as the
result of personal knowledge and observation. For many
years this valuable document has been out of print ; and its
repubhcation cannot but be acceptable to the devout and
intelligent reader.

Thomas Jackson.
London, May 15, 1837.






Such is the character of the Rev. Mr. Weslev, that it
would require his own abilities to do it justice. His me-
mory is dear to many thousands, who will gladly receive
any testimony in his favour that comes well authenticated.
Those who know me will not doubt my veracity ; and
charity will incline those who do not to believe the best :
and I promise to write nothing but what I know to be true.

I am not going to write Mr. Wesley's history. My
chief design is to give a short sketch of those leading vir-
tues which were so uniformly exemplified in the conduct
of this truly great man.

I judge it necessary to do this without delay, because
(though many encomiums have been given him in the
public prints, yet) several falsehoods have been circu-
lated respecting that part of his character which, of all
others, is the most blameless, namely, his having left
great sums of money to his friends. This is not to be
wondered at : for many years ago he was accused of lay-
ing up riches ; his income was calculated, and no bishop
in England was supposed to have such a revenue ! It is
true, this was done by persons totally ignorant of him and
his concerns. Nevertheless, as the belief of such a report


might hinder his usefulness, he thought proper to reply to
it. In his " Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion," he
clears himself from this slanderous accusation in the
strongest terms. He declares that if he left ten pounds
behind him, after his debts were paid, the world might
call him a thief and a robber. Now the question is. Has
he left ten pounds behind him, when his debts are paid ?
In considering this question, a circumstance must be kept
in view which will clearly and fully determine it : that is,
his stock of books on s • i has of late years greatly increased.
And when he repeated the above declaration in public,
which I have heard him do many times, he added, "except
my books." These were the only property worthy of note
that he had. The library in his study is very small ; and
is to remain where it is, for the use of the preachers who
may at any time be stationed in London.

The house he lived in when in London was, in reality,
as much mine, or any other preacher's, when stationed
there, as it was his. The furniture as well as the house,
and all the houses and furniture, in London and every-
where else, belong to the connection at large ; and are
committed to the care of trustees in each place, for the use
of the preachers for the time being, who never stay more
than three years successively in one circuit.

Mr. Wesley's other personal effects were very trifling.
Till lately he kept very few clothes by him. I myself
have been constrained by my own feelings to speak to
some friends to clothe Hm, he has been so bare ; and so
have other preachers to my knowledge. His gowns, cas-
socks, and bands were mostly given to him ; and he has
left them for the use of the clerg}^men who officiate at the
New Chapel. Within a few years past, his wearing ap-
parel has increased by particular friends making him pre-
sents of such things as they thought he wanted, but would
not buy for himself. After all, some of the preachers, and
most ministers in England, have more clothes than he had
at his death ; and the London assistant is appointed to"


divide them among those four of the travelling preachers
that w^ant them most.

He was always very backward to lay out any money on
his own account. He could not bear to see the poor in
want, if he could possibly relieve them. He sold the very
pictures off the walls, and even mourning rings, which had
been left him, to get money for them. When it became
necessary for him to travel in a chaise, his particular friends
defrayed all the expense of it, by voluntary subscriptions.
He has left the chaise and horses to two gentlemen, in
trust, to be sold, and the money to be divided among a
number of poor people in London. His watch he has left
to Mr. Bradford, to whose care he owed, under God, his
very life many times, and to whom the Methodist connec-
tion is under great obligations. He has served it many
years with zeal and fidelity, from the most disinterested
motives. May God reward him !

Real estate Mr. Wesley had none. Many years ago he
was enabled, by a charitable donation, to build the school
at Kingswood, for the benefit of the sons of the travelling
preachers ; and it has hitherto been supported by public
collections. Whatever right or title he had to this, or
any thing in it, or belonging to it, he conveyed, by a
regular deed, dated the 25th of February, 1786, to three
of the preachers, in trust, for the rest, to be employed
as usual.

So much for Mr. Wesley's temporal affairs. Now let
any man of reason and religion, taking all things into the
account, judge whether he has not kept his word. Con-
sider the property the preachers have in the stock of books,
and the heavy debt it is subject to, and, in the strictest
sense that his words will bear, he has not left ten pounds
behind him ! And I ask with amazement, considerintr the
thousands of pounds that passed through his hands, most
of which he might have saved, what man, in such a situa-
tion, could have acted, from first to last, better than he did?
For more than fifty years his labours in the ministry have



astonished the world ; and to the close of his life he could
boldly declare, without fearing to be confronted, —

" The things eternal I pursue,
A happiness beyond the view

Of those who basely pant
For things by nature felt and seen ;
Their honours, wealth, and pleasures mean,

I neither have nor want.'^

I can scarcely refrain from exclaiming, —

" for a clap of thunder, as loud
As to be heard throughout the universe,
To tell the world the fact, and to applaud it !"

My feelings have carried me forward farther than I
intended. I meant to give an accomit of Mr. Wesley's
property when I came to speak of his charities ; but I
shall leave it where it is, and proceed with the account
of his character.

To form a great man, there must be great powers,
exerted in an uncommon manner, producing extraordinary
effects. Education draws forth these powers, and mostly
determines their application. Some, whose abilities have
only been great in one particular way, have nevertheless
been famous by their talents being happily suited to their
fetation, and the part they had to act. Had their situation
been changed, they would have sunk into obscurity.
Others have possessed such extensive parts, that they
would have shone in any sphere of action. Such was
Mr. Wesley. He had strong intellectual powers : a mind
comprehensive and vigorous in all its faculties, a pene-
trating judgment, a capacious and retentive memory, a
lively imagination, and a sublime genius. He was edu-
cated from his very infancy in the various branches of
literature which were necessary to form the scholar and
the gentleman ; and he pursued, through the whole of his
life, the attainment of still higher degrees of such accom-
plishments as generally excite esteem and admiration. So


that had divine Providence placed him in any other rank
in life, I have no doubt but he would have excelled. Had
he been called to the bar, or the senate, his extensive
knowledge and powerful eloquence would have signalized
him among the greatest statesmen and orators. He was
fond of history and philosophy. His publications are suf-
ficient proofs of his abilities as a writer. He had a fine
taste for poetry, and composed himself many of our hymns;
but he told me that he and his brother aoreed not to dis-
tinguish their hymns from each other's. He frequently
chose to express his thoughts, either in conversation or
preaching, in verse, and even in rhyme. It would be no
unpleasing task to me (if my plan would have admitted it)
to insert in this place, what I think would be pleasing to
many, namely, hundreds of lines on various subjects,
which he used to repeat ; but this must be left to his his-
torian. Some have thought him, in preaching, too poetical,
because he often used bold and figurative expressions.
He considered words as poor, ill-drawn pictures of our
thoughts. I remember, in conversation with him once on
this very head, he told me that he heard his father say, " One
certain proof of a man's having little real genius was his
being difficult and nice in choosing his words." Mr. Wes-
ley never appeared greater in my esteem than when the
vast conceptions of his towering soul seemed to beggar all
the extravagance of hyperbole. Yet he knew how " to
contain the fury of his fancy within the bounds of reason."
He was no enthusiast. He was not a random preacher.
I recollect his bringing a public charge, in our conference>
against a preacher for preaching, in the strict sense of the
word, extempore, that is, without premeditation. In his
Notes on the New Testament he has the following re-
markable passage : — " Through this whole discourse we
cannot but observe the most exact method which can pos-
sibly be conceived. Every paragraph, every sentence is
closely connected both with that which precedes and that
which follows it And is not this the pattern for eveiy


Christian preacher ? If any, then, are able to follow it,
without premeditation, well ; if not, let them not dare to
preach without it. No rhapsody, no incoherency, whether
the things spoken be true or false, comes of the Spirit of
Christ." Matt, v, 10. I wish all those who talk of saying
in public "what God gives them," (as their phrase is,)
would attend to Mr. Wesley in this particular.

No man living more firmly believed in, or attended to,
a diA'ine influence, than he did. And if ever man was
inspired of God, in delivering the sacred truths of Chris-
tianity, he was. I have seen him when his holy soul has
been elevated with heavenly joy, and drawn out by super-
natural assistance to a great degree of devout ardour. But
this did not so much respect what he said, as what he felt,
and his manner of saving it ; his matter was taken from
the oracles of God. He Avas different from himself at
different times. But this was when nature was almost
exhausted, either with preaching too often in a day, or
when he had been unavoidably engaged in company or
business till it was time to begin. But even then he had
not his subject to seek ; for as he constantly preached out
of some part of the scriptures for the day, as appointed in
the prayer book, and as he read these commonly the first
tiling he did in the morning, he then fixed upon the texts
he intended to preach on through the day, which were
frequently four. I was always sorry when 1 kncAV he was
to preach so often ; because, in general, one or two of his
sermons would be far beneath what he could have made
them had he preached but twice. But when he shone
least, what a gentleman in Edinburgh said (who had heard
him at an unfavourable time) was always true : " It was
not a masterly sermon, yet none but a master could have
preached it." As an orator he was a perfect model to
every Christian minister. His gestures were graceful and
harmonious. His style was delicately chaste ; yet he has
said, in a letter now before me, "As for me, I never think
of my st\4e at all, but just set down the words that come


first. Only when I transcribe any thing for the press, then
I think it my duty to see that every phrase be clear, pure,
proper, and easy. Conciseness (which is now, as it were,
natural to me) brings quantum sujficit of strength." In this
account there is every property of a good style ; and such
was his at all times. Indeed, all the graces of rhetoric,
uniting in the happiest combination, both in his action and
utterance, rendered him one of the most finished speakers
that ever adorned a pulpit. He was always accurate with-
out being stifle, and clear without ever being tedious : there
was an easy simplicity in his whole deportment, but no-
thing mean or childish : in his pathetic energy there was
no rant or wild fire ; nor was he ever pompous, though
mostly elegant, and often sublime.

He was a great reader from his very youth. Hence
his mind was richly stored with vast treasures of useful
and entertaining knowledge. He had an almost inex-
haustible fund of stories and anecdotes, adapted to all kinds
of people, and to every occurrence in life. These he re-
lated with a propriety peculiar to himself. Few men had
a greater share of vivacity when in company with those he
loved, especially on his journeys. If the weather or the
roads happened to be disagi'eeable, or if any little acci-
dent befel any of his fellow-travellers, without their be-
ing hurt, with what inimitable turns of wit would he
strive to keep up their spirits, feeling himself happy
in endeavouring to please ; so that it was almost impos-
sible to be dull or dissatisfied in hj^ company. The
first time I ever was introduced to him, I was greatly
struck with his cheerfulness and affability : and the opinion
I then formed of Kim on this head, I never altered to this
moment. From seeing him only in the pulpit, and consi-
dering his exalted station in the church of Christ, I sup-
posed he was very reserved and austere ; but how agree-
ably was I disappointed when, with a pleasant smile, he
took me familiarly by the hand, and said, " Beware of the
fear of man ; and be sure you speak flat and plain in



preaching !" It is not easy to express the good effect this
advice had on my mind at that time : it was a word in sea
son. I never saw him low-spirited in my hfe, nor could
he endure to be with a melancholy person. When speak-
ing of any who imagined religion would make people mo-
rose or gloomy, I have heard him say in the pulpit, " that
sour godliness is the devil's religion." In his answer to
a letter I had written to him, (in a time of strong tempta-
tion,) he has these words : " That melancholy turn is
directly opposite to a Christian spirit. Every believer
ought to enjoy life." He never suffered himself to be car-
ried away by extreme grief. I heard him say, " I dare no
more fret than curse and swear." That placid serenity
which so fully and constantly possessed his soul shone
w^ith ineffable sweetness through his expressive counte-
nance, and communicated its benign influences to the large
circles of his friends, who crowded together wherever he
went, to enjoy the benefit of his conversation. On such
occasions, he kindly condescended to a familiar equality,
and concealed the great philosopher and divine in the so-
cial companion. He was a truly well-bred man. Had he
lived in a court all his days, his address could not have
been more easy and polite ; yet he could be quite content
among the most homely tradesmen or peasants, and suit his
discourse to the meanest capacity. His courtesy to every
one was very engaging, especially to young people. I
have heard him repeatedly say, "I reverence a young man,
because he may b^ useful when I am in the dust !" He
was very fond of children, though he never had any of his
own. Hundreds of these will remember with pleasure,
perhaps with profit, the notice he took of them. Little
things often discover our real sentiments more than things
of importance. When he stooped to unbend his mind with
children he found an artless innocence, and a disinterested
love, which sweetly corresponded with the generous feel-
ings of his own heart. Our Saviour viewed them in this
light when he said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven "


What a tacit sliir is this upon all the deep designs of
human art !

He had an invincible attachment to truth and justice.
His abhorrence of dissimulation is sufficiently manifested
in his sermon on the character of Nathanael. From that
sermon alone it is easy to conclude in what light he viewed
everj" species of deception. And as he used no guile him-
self, neither did he suspect it in others. He was governed
by that charity which believeth all things. This some-
times laid him open to the crafty designs of insinuating
parasites, who took the advantage of his credulity, and
imposed upon his good nature. And if ever he acted
wrong, it was chiefly owing to the misplaced confidence
he had in such. It was not easy to make him allow that
any one had purposely deceived him. And when con-
vinced by facts, he endeavoured to cover the fault, and as
far as possible to excuse the offender. This is a distin-
guishing characteristic of a liberal soul, and is a sufficient
reason why great and holy men are so frequently exposed
to imposition. They walk in the integrity of their own

" And oft though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity
Resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill,
Where no ill seems."

In forgiving injuries, he evidenced to all who knew him
how much he lived under the power of divine love. Though
he was often critically situated, having to deal with men of
different principles and opposite interests ; and though he
had naturally a keen sense of honour, and a quick apprehen-
sion of what ought to be upon all occasions, consequently
must have been severely tried in his temper: nevertheless,
if ever he happened to drop a warm expression, however
great the provocation might be, he was humbled into the
dust in a moment, and would never rest till the party con-
cerned was reconciled to him. And as he was ever ready
to forgive a crime, so he was to forget it. He rose superior


to the timid caution of little minds, that can never make a
friend of one whom they have had cause to pardon :

" He held it cowardice
To rest mistrustful where a noble heart
Hath pawn'd an open hand in sign of love."

Were it proper, I could produce many instances, that are
fresh in my memor}'', in which his love to his enemies was
truly astonishing.

He did not love to reprove any one, not even the mean-
est domestic. This was the more surprising, because no
man was ever better qualified to reprove in every form.
He could be poignantly satirical when he thought it the
most proper method to expose the ridiculous singularity
of a pedant, or chastise the supercilious airs of a coxcomb.
But though I have known him successful in this way, yet
he considered it as meddling with edge tools, and gave
very little countenance to it, either in himself or others.
He did not love a trifler ; any thing like religious buffoon-
ery he abhorred ; above all, any lightness in the pulpit was
an abomination to hini. He considered the various ills of
life, and the awfulness of death, with that deep attention
which they deserve. The torments of hell, and the suf-
ferings of the Son of Gpd, he set forth in such an earnest
and serious manner as greatly affected both himself and
his hearers. He entered into the spirit of his subject, and
felt what he said. I have seen his lips quiver, and the
tears run down his cheeks, when with the most moving
language he has been entreating his congregation to live
for eternity. His power of persuasion was very great,
especially when engaged in behalf of the poor. Hence
frequent applications were made to him to preach charity
sermons in many of the churches in London. This was
a subject that exactly suited his own benevolent disposi-
tion. The poor lay veiy near his heart. Of this he gave
the most unequivocal demonstration through the whole
course of his life. He not only preached sermons in their
behalf, but contrived by various other methods to raise


contributions for them. I myself have gone with him from
house to house, both to our own people, and others that
were well disposed, to beg money to buy bread, coals, and
clothing for the poor in London : and that not when the
weather was warm and dry, but in the depth of winter,

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Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 1 of 18)