John Wesley.

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when the melted snow has in many places been over our
shoes, so that I have been forced to desist by taking vio-
lent colds. Should this paper fall into the hands of any
of those to whom he applied, I doubt not but it will cause
them to drop a tear by bringing to their remembrance the
times they have seen him rejoicing at his success in this
labour of Christian love. O, ye widows and orphans ! ye
aged and infirm ! witness how often he has banished care
and sorrow from your dreary habitations, and caused the
voice of gladness and thanksgiving to be heard in your
garrets and cellars ! Who now shall lift up the hands that
hang down, and confirm the feeble knees ? He whose
bowels yearned over you with tender compassion, — your
amiable, benevolent benefactor, is no more ! May God
raise you up many to supply his place !

Mr. Wesley's diligence to serve the poor by these me-
thods was not to save his own money. He gave all he
could, which was no inconsiderable sum. In the year
1781 I travelled with him through several circuits; by
which means I had an opportunity of knowing how his
accounts stood : and I know that he gave away within the
year from the Bristol conference, 1780, to the Leeds con-
ference, 1781, in private charities, above fourteen hundred
pounds ! I do not mention that year as if he never did the
like before or since, but because I know he did it then.
He told me himself in London, in the year 1787, that he
never gave aWay out of his own pocket less than a thou-
sand pounds a year. To enable him to do this, he had,
first, the profits of the books which the preachers sold, —
(except ten per cent., which some of them took for about
eighteen years past.) This proves (let him have died
worth what he may) that all he had in strict justice be-


longed to the body of the preachers. These kept them-
selves low to put it into his power to be thus liberal,
because they loved him ; but for them he could not have
done it. He had, secondly, from London and Bristol, on
an average, about one hundred and fifty pounds per annum
by private subscriptions. Thirdly, the society in London
gave him thirty pounds a year ; which was all the fixed
stipend he had. Fourthly, every year almost there were
legacies left him. Fifthly, as he went his journeys, the
friends in each large society where he preached generally
gave him a few pounds when he was going away. Thus,
literally having nothing, he possessed all things ; and
though poor, he made many rich. His manner of bestow-
ing his charity was truly pleasing : he never relieved poor
' people in the street, but he either took off or moved his
hat to them when they thanked him. And in private he
took care not to hurt the most refined feelings of those he

He was ever attentive to a particular providence. His
Works at large, especially his Journals, furnish many
proofs of this. He took God into his account in every
thing. He was not ashamed to pray concerning any thing
that he took in hand. This was living Scripturally.

He never, comparatively speaking, suffered much bodily
pain, at least not long together, though his constitution
was exceedingly delicate. This he frequently mentions
in his Journals. When he was eighty-one years old, he
wrote thus of himself: "I find myself just as strong to
labour, and as fit for any exercise of body or mind, as I
was forty years ago. I do not impute this to second causes,
but to the sovereign Lord of all." At the same time he
never neglected second causes. He was as temperate as
any Christian need to be in meat, drink, and sleep. He
was remarkably clean in every thing : his clothes, his
study, and his books were not only free from dirt, but they
were kept in the most exact order. He often said, " Clean-
liness is next to godliness." This neatness in everj' thing



contributes more to health than people in general imagine ;
and regularity prevents uneasiness of mind, which is more
hurtful to the body than many are aware of. But though
he would not suffer any thing slov^enly about him, he had
an utter aversion to any thing gaudy.

Nothing could displease him more than want of exact-
ness in any that he had to do with. He was regular in
every thing, and particularly punctual to his appointments.
He was very observing wherever he went, and thought
nothing beneath his notice in which he could improve
either himself or others ; yet no one could be more quiet
in the house, or give less trouble to servants.

In the redemption of his time he excelled all I ever
knew. He took the advice which he gave the preachers :
" Never be unemployed a moment. Never be triflingly
employed. Never while away time." But though he was
always diligent, he never seemed in a hurry. He mostly
wrote standing, and to look at he was a very slow writer ;
yet by his close application and unremitting perseverance
what volumes has he produced ! He added to his industry
an amazing patience of fatigue. Where almost any one else
would have failed, his active, enterprising spirit enabled
him unweariedly to pursue his purpose till he succeeded.

As an Englishman, Mr. Wesley was true to his king
and country. As a minister, he loved the Established
Church. His sentiments on these subjects are printed,
and I must refer to his Works. His religious opinions
you have seen in the first part of this pamphlet. In these
he steadily lived and died; but he was no bigot. His ser-
mon on a Catholic Spirit, published many years ago, and
an article (in a late number of the Magazine) called, " A
new Phenomenon," show his candour and the liberality of
his mind. I mention these two, because so many years
passed between the times of their being published. Who-
ever reads his various tracts will find the most determined
adherence to the principles of universal toleration, from
his beginning to his death.


His modesty prevented his saying much of his own
experience. In public he very seldom, hardly ever, spoke
of the state of his own soul. Sometimes he indirectly
mentioned a conscientious regard for sundry things, and
that his conscience would not let him do the opposites.
But still he did not, when speaking of doctrines, produce
himself as an evidence. He knew that " the truth of a
doctrine, and the rectitude of a character, had no neces-
sary connection." Yet he was sufficiently explicit among
his friends. He told me, when with him in Yorkshire, in
the year 1781, that "his experience might almost any time
be found in the following lines : —

*0 Thou who earnest from above,

The pure celestial fire t' impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart !
There let it for thy glory bum

With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,

In humble love and fervent praise.' "

A sold that in general could express its feelings in these
verses could not but be happy. And that he thought so
himself is plain to me, for he often would stop when we
were writing together, and, looking up with a pleasant
countenance, would say, —

" Lord, how happy is the heart,
After thee while it aspires !"

He would add some text of Scripture, or a short sentence
from some favourite author, and then pursue his business.
In the year 1783 I heard him say in Leeds chapel (when
preaching on, " I will take the cup of salvation, and call
upon the name of the Lord") that, after all his travelling
in the service of God, and all his preaching and praying,
he saw nothing to depend upon but, " God be merciful to
\ me a sinner !" The same I heard him repeat at Sheffield
last summer. This to me was very satisfactory, and his
latter end well agreed with such a habit of living. I could



\iere indulge a melancholy pleasure in expatiating on his
humility, his love, his communion with God, and all the
graces of the Holy Spirit which he so fully possessed ;
but I have already exceeded the bounds I had set when I

Should any one object to so short an account of him
being published, I answer : A short account is better than
none, (and I have seen none yet, save that about his death,
and what has been in the newspapers.) Besides, hun-
dreds can buy this account who cannot buy a larger ; and
short as it is, it contains the great outlines of his portrait.
In fine, I had not time to publish a large volume, though I
thought it right, as a son, to say something of my father in
the gospel- And very few of his sons have had greater
opportunities of being thoroughly acquainted with him,
during the last seventeen years. I have slept with him
hundreds of nights : I have travelled with him thousands
of miles : I lived in what he reckoned more immediately
his own family, in London and Bristol, five years together :
I have conversed freely with him on a variety of subjects:
I knew his opinions, his disposition, and the very secrets
of his heart. Had he not discovered that he was man by
a few instances of human frailty, those who knew him
would have been in danger of idolatry. His life showed
to what a degree of greatness man may be raised ; and his
death shows that the glory of virtue alone is solid and eter-
nal. The pomp and pageantry of state, wealth, and titles
of dominion have contributed to gain some the name of
great. These would have been useless appendages to
him. He was great in himself; great in the energy and
powers of his own mind ; great in the superiority and sove-
reignty of his soul over most other men.

In this imperfect memorial I have endeavoured to .show
my love to this venerable saint : now none can suspect
me of flattery; but all his worth will not, cannot be known
till mortality shall be swallowed up of life. The sun can-
not be seen but by its own light ; and when it shines, all


Other lights are as darkness, compared with its transcend-
ent effulgence. Mr. Wesley has had his day. He shone
with distinguished lustre for many years. He has been a
means of dispelling the darkness of ignorance and error
from the minds of thousands. He has often cheered the
drooping spirits of such as were ready to perish. He has,
in the hands of God, revived genuine piety over this land,
and made thousands fruitful in good works. But, alas !
he is eclipsed for a season ! and his absence causes a dark-
ness which is most acutely felt ! What a solemn scene
presents itself to our view ! human nature exalted almost
beyond human belief, and sunk almost below human no-
tice ! But he hath left behind him proofs of his greatness,
which will last till the visible creation shall be no more !
Whoever reads his Works, and contemplates his charac-
ter, will easily allow that his extraordinary natural powers,
improved by a liberal education, and employed to their
utmost extent in the service of God, for the good of man-
kind, are deserving of the highest praise we dare give to
a mortal. His disinterested love to the poor, his unabat-
ing zeal in setting forth the Lord Jesus Christ to perish-
ing sinners, his deep acquaintance with divine things, and
his amazing labours in the chm*ch, rendered him the de-
light of his friends, the glory of his family, and the wonder
of the age he lived in ! Allow him but the unavoidable
infirmities of humanity, and he was a rare ornament to the
British empire, a striking pattern to all Christian ministers,
and a bright exemplar of religious excellence.

The chief point in which the death of Mr. Wesley will
affect the Methodist connection is, the preachers thereby
lose their " centre of union." They considered themselves
as his sons in the gospel, and to his direction they freely
submitted. But they owe no such submission to any other
man. It is therefore impossible that there should ever be
another king in our Israel. But it does not follow that our
union will be destroyed. The preachers never called
Mr. Wesley, Rabbi, in the sense which our Lord forbids.


They never acknowledged any head of the Christian
church, but Jesus Christ; and he is "the same yesterday,
and to-day, and for ever." Under his gracious influence
the preachers are well qualified to govern themselves.
Their plan is, in part, not only fixed, but published in their
enrolled deed and the minutes of the conference. It is
probable they wilLappoint a president and a general com-
mittee every year, to act in concert during the conference
only ; their office and power to end with the conference.
While they are assembled, they can divide the three king-
doms into districts (a given number of circuits to form a
district.) They can then choose a committee out of every
district, and each committee can choose its own president
for the year, who can convene the committee in case of
any business that cannot be done in a single circuit. Thus
it will be easy to preserve our union indissoluble, and to
perpetuate the itinerant plan in the good old way. That
this may be the case, and that God may give us a right
spirit, that with a single eye we may aim at his glory in
a)] things, is the earnest prayer of,

The church's servant for Christ's sake,






June 13, 1^33.

The effects of my last journey, I believe, will make me
more cautious of staying any time from Oxford for the
future ; at least till I have no pupils to take care of, which
probably will be within a year or two. One of my young
gentlemen told me at my return, that he was more and
more afraid of singularity ; another, that he had read an
excellent piece of Mr. Locke's, which had convinced him
of the mischief of regarding authority. Both of them
agreed that the observing of Wednesday as a fast was an
unnecessary singularity; the catholic church (that is, the
majority of it) having long since repealed, by contrary
custom, the injunction she formerly gave concerning it.
A third, who could not yield to this argument, has been
convinced by a fever and Dr. Frewin. Our seven and
twenty conununicants at St. Mary's were on Monday
shrunk to five ; and the day before, the last of Mr. Clay-
ton's pupils who continued with us informed me that he
did not design to meet us any more.

My ill success, as they call it, seems to be what has
frightened every one away from a falling house. On Sun-
day I was considering the matter a little more nearly, and
imagined that all the ill consequences of my singularity
were reducible to three, — diniinulion of fortune, loss of
friends, and of reputation. As to my fortime, I well know,


though perhaps others do not, that I could not have borne
a larger than I have ; and as for that most plausible excuse
for desiring it, " While I have so little I cannot do the
good I would," I ask. Can you do the good God would
have you do ? It is enough ! Look no farther. Toy friends,
they were either trifling or serious : if triflers, fare them
well ; a noble escape : if serious, those who are most
serious are left, whom the others would rather have op-
posed than forwarded in the service they have done, and
still do us. If it be said, " But these may leave you too ;
for they are no firmer than the others were:" first, I doubt
that fact ; but, next, suppose they should, we hope then
they would only teach us a nobler and harder lesson than
they have done hitherto : " It is better to tnist in the Lord
than to put any confidence in man." And as for reputa-
tion, though it be a glorious instrument of advancing our
Master's service, yet there is a better than that, — a clean
heart, a single eye, a soul full of God ! A fair exchange,
if by the loss of reputation we can purchase the lowest
degree of purity of heart ! We beg my mother and you
would not cease to work together with us, that, whatever
we lose, we may gain this ; and that, having tasted of this
good gift, we may count all things else but dung and dross
in comparison of it.


January, 172/.
I AM shortly to take my master's degree. As I shall
from that time be less interrupted by business not of my
own choosing, I have drawn up for myself a scheme of
studies, from which I do not intend, for some years at
least, to vary. I am perfectly come over to your opinion,
that there are many truths it is not worth while to know.
Curiosity, indeed, might be a sufficient plea for our laying
out some time upon them, if we had half a dozen centu-
ries of life to come ; but methinks it is great ill-husbandry


to spend a considerable part of the small pittance now
allowed us in what makes us neither a quick nor a sure

Two days ago I was reading a dispute between those
celebrated masters of controversy, Bishop Atterbury and
Bishop Hoadly ; but must own 1 was so injudicious as to
break off in the middle. I could not conceive that the dig-
nity of the end was at all proportioned to the difficulty of
attaining it. And I thought the labour of twenty or thirty
hours, if I was sure of succeeding, which I was not, would
be but ill rewarded by that important piece of knowledge,
whether Biishop Hoadly had misunderstood Bishop Atter-
bury or no.

About a year and a half ago I stole out of company at
eight in the evening, with a young gentleman with whom
I was intimate. As we took a turn in an aisle of St. Mary's
Church, in expectation of a young lady's funeral with
whom we were both acquainted, I asked him if he really
thought himself my friend ; and, if he did, why he would
not do me all the good he could. He began to protest ;
in which I cut him short by desiring him to oblige me in
an instance which he could not deny to be in his own
power: to let me have the pleasure of making him a whole
Christian, to which I knew he was at least half persuaded
already ; that he could not do me a greater kindness, as
both of us would be fully convinced when we came to
follow that young woman.

He turned exceedingly serious, and kept something of
that disposition ever since. Yesterday was a fortnight he
died of a consumption. I saw him three days before he
died ; and, on the Sunday following, did him the last good
office I could here by preaching his funeral sermon, which
was his desire when living.



March 19, 1727.

One advantage, at least, my degree lias given me : I
am now at liberty, and shall be in a great measure for some
time, to choose my own employment. And as I believe I
know my own deficiencies best, and which of them are
most necessary to be supplied, I hope my time will turn
to somewhat better account than when it was not so much
in my own disposal.

The conversation of one or two persons, whom you may
have heard me speak of, (I hope never without gratitude.)
iirst took off my relish for most other pleasures, so far that
I despised them in comparison of that. I have since pro-
ceeded a step farther, — to slight them absolutely. And I
am so little at present in love with even company, — the
most elegant entertainment next to books, — ^that, unless
the persons have a religious turn of thought, I am much
better pleased without them. I think it is the settled tem-
per of my soul that I should prefer, at least for some time,
such a retirement as would seclude me from all the world,
to the station I am now in. Not that this is by any means
impleasant to me ; but I imagine it would be more improv-
ing to be in a place where I might confirm or implant in
my mind what habits I would, without interruption, before
the fiexibility of youth be over.

A school in Yorkshire was proposed to me lately, oq
which I shall think more when it appears whether I may
have it or not. A good salary is annexed to it. But w^hat
has made me wish for it most, is the frightful description,
as they call it, which some gentlemen who know the place
gave me of it yesterday. " It lies in a little vale, so pent
up between two hills that it is scarcely accessible on any
side ; so that you can expect little company from without,
and within there is none at all." I should therefore be
entirely at liberty to converse with company of my own
choosing, whom for that reason I would bring with me ;


and company equally agreeable, wherever I hxed, could
not put me to less expense.

*' The sun that walks his airy w'ay
To cheer the world, and bring the day ;
The moon that shines with borrow'd hght ;
The stars that gild the gloomy night;
All of these, and all I see, *

Should be sung, and sung by me.
These praise their Maker as they can.
But want and ask the tongue of man."

I am full of business, but have found a way to write
without taking any time from that. It is but rising an hour
sooner in the morning, and going into company an hour
later in the evening; both which may be done without any


June 11, 1731.

The motion and sun together, in our last hundred and
fifty miles' walk, so thoroughly carried off all our super-
fluous humours that we continue perfectly in health, though
it is here a ver\' sickly season. And Mr. Kirkham assures
us, on the word of a priest and a physician, that if we will
but take the same medicine once or twice a j-ear, we shall
never need any other to keep us from the gout. When
we were with him, we touched two or three times upon a
nice subject, but did not come to any full conclusion. The
point debated was, What is the mevi.ning o^ being righteous
overmuch, or by the more common phrase of being too strict
in religion ? and what danger there was of any of us fall-
insf into that extreme \

All the ways of being too righteous or too strict which
we could think of, were these * cither the carrying some
one particular virtue to so great a height as to make it clash
with some others ; or the laying too much stress on the
instituted means of grace, to the neglect of the weightier
matters of the law \ or the multiplying prudential means


upon ourselves so far» and binding ourselves to the obser-
vance of them so strictly, as to obstruct the end we aimed
at by them, either by hindering our advance in heavenly
affections in general, or by retarding our progress in some
particular virtue. Our opponents seemed to think my bro-
ther and I [were] in some danger of being too strict in this
last sense ; of laying burdens on ourselves too heavy to be
borne, and, consequently, too heavy to be of any use to us.
It is easy to observe that almost every one thinks that
rule totally needless which he does not need himself; and
as to the Christian spirit itself, almost every one calls that
degree of it which he does not himself aim at, enthusiasm.
If, therefore, we plead for either, (not as if we thought the
former absoluetly needful, neither as if we had attained the
latter,) it is no great wonder that they who are not for us
in practice should be against us. If you, who are a less
prejudiced judge, have perceived us faulty in this matter,
too superstitious or enthusiastic, or whatever it is to be
called, we earnestly desire to be speedily informed of our
error, that we may no longer spend our strength on that
which profitcth not. Or whatever there may be, on the
other hand, in which you have observed us to be too
remiss, that likewise we desire to know as soon as pos-
sible. This is a subject which we would understand with
as much accuracy as possible, it being hard to say which
is of the worse consequence, — the being too strict, the
really carrying things too far, the wearying ourselves and
spending our strength in burdens that are unnecessary, —
or the being frightened by those temble words from what,
if not directly necessary, would at least be useful.


February S8, 1732.
One consideration is enough to make me assent to his
and your judgment concerning the holy sacrament, which
is, that we cannot allow Christ's human nature to be pre-


sent in it without allowing either co.v or TRAX-substantia-
tion. But that his divinity is so united to us then as he
never is but to worthy receivers, I firmly believe, though
the manner of that union is utterly a mystery to me.

That none but worthy receivers should find this eflfect
is not strange to me when I observe how small effect many
means of improvement have upon an unprepared mind.
Mr. Morgan and my brother were aftected, as they ought,
by the observations you made on that glorious subject; but
though my understanding approved what was excellent,

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Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 2 of 18)