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persistence in his own views simply be- everybody did it. But, says Wesley, “I cause they were his own. Moreover, with told them plainly they must put this abomihis direct and logical cast of thought, it nation away, or they would see my face no was impossible that his opinions should be more.” The records of the excise show doubtful or befogged; that he should let that smuggling, thereafter, almost ceased his emotions run away

on the Cornish coast. with his reason; that

So, too, the universal he should ever main

practice of bribery at tain at the same time

elections Wesley detwo logically incon

nounced as impossible sistent positions.

for a Christian man; he had the satisfaction

to learn in many inHIS WISDOM AS A

stances that members RELIGIOUS LEADER

of his societies would WHATEVER the limi

not even eat or drink tations of his genius,

at the expense of the seldom has

men for whom they been better quali

voted, and that the fied to lead a great

Methodists came to popular religious

be recognized as almovement than John

most the only incorWesley. He knew that

ruptible class of voters truth, if it is to have

in England. effect upon the life of

Even upon the manmen, of whatsoever

ners of the English class, must find a re

people no man of his sponse in their feel

century had so much ings; but he never

influence. It was peaimed to arouse crass

culiarly fortunate that or undirected feeling.

the leader of a great It must be repeated

popular movement that he was

united with intense thusiast. As one of

religious earnestness his critics says, he was

the tastes of the intolerant of every

scholar and the inTHE PREACHERS' HOUSE, ADJOINING THE thing that had not

stincts of the gentlea practical bearing.

man. He never felt it The condition of membership in his necessary to vulgarize his teaching or to societies was always conduct. The Wes- make any concessions to coarseness. In his leyan movement, throughout its whole spotless linen, his cassock, his black hose course, was singularly free from empty and silver shoe-buckles, he was a model ardors, and fruitful in all the practical of scrupulous precision in personal attire; virtues of citizenship. Not only did it and his oft-quoted saying, “Cleanliness is diminish the more flagrant forms of vice, next to godliness," well expresses the albut it raised the standard of morals most fastidious habit of the man. His throughout society. Places like Wesley's dignified yet gentle courtesy, his refined own native parish of Epworth, once reek- self-possession, made his very presence an ing with drunkenness and loud with pro- example and an inspiration. fanity, in twenty years had grown sober And it should be said that Wesley used and quiet. Some prevalent forms of crime his immense personal influence with singuhad been almost eradicated. In his earlier lar wisdom and liberality. He had in his visits to Cornwall, for example, Wesley hands control of the whole system of found that nearly all the members of his Methodist discipline; but he did not atsocieties in that shire were in the habit of tempt to bind the members of his societies buying and selling goods that had not paid by narrow or rigid rules, still less to impose the duty. It was not thought immoral; upon them arbitrarily his own judgments.




Drawn by Katharine Kimball





He was anxious only that Methodists should be good Christians. On doubtful matters he did not prescribe or prohibit, but left the decision in such cases where it belongs-with the individual conscience. In an admirable sermon on amusements, after admitting that much may be said for the drama, he was a lover of dramatic literature himself, and used to advise his preachers to read plays that they might cultivate a natural mode of speech,-he decides that, for himself, he could not go to the theater or play at cards with a clear conscience; but he adds: "Possibly others can; I am not obliged to pass any sentence on them that are otherwise minded. I leave them to their own Master; to him let them stand or fall." His successors have not always been so wise.

Still more noteworthy was his liberality in matters of belief. Liberality is easy when you have no beliefs of your own that you are very sure of; but Wesley had a consistent set of theological opinions, which he held very stoutly. Yet the only requirement of those who sought admission to his societies was the purpose to lead a religious life. Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Quakers were welcome, "and none will contend with them as to their opinions." "Where is there," Wesley asks reasonably enough,


"such a catholic society? In Europe? In the habitable world? I know of none. Let no one talk of the bigotry of Methodists." To some Methodists themselves such liberality seemed excessive. But Wesley, while always ready to defend his own creed, was faithful to his favorite maxim, "Think and let think." "I am sick of opinions," he said in his last years; "let my soul be with Christians, wherever they



are, and whatsoever opinions they be of." Church of England, though by far the In fact, his tolerance extended quite be- greater number of them were without the yond the limits of Christianity. He not ministrations of any clergyman of that only had admiration and sympathy for such church. Wesley had twice applied to the heretics as Pelagius and Servetus, but was Bishop of London for the ordination of glad to think of Socrates and Marcus Au- one of his preachers who might visit the relius as among the many who come from American societies; but in vain. Now that the east and the west to sit down in the there was no longer an established church kingdom of God. History may be chal- in America, and the greater number of the lenged in vain to find another religious English clergy had left the country, the leader of equal prominence and equal posi- Methodists found themselves without any tiveness of personal opinion who showed form of church government, and with no such breadth of charity.

one to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. In these cir

cumstances, Wesley was confronted with THE DEED OF DECLARATION AND THE

the alternative either of leaving the

American societies in this desolate state WESLEY's whole elaborate system of so- to schism and disintegration, or of procieties, as we have seen, centered in him- viding them with some form of discipline self. As he drew near the close of life it and ministration even at the risk of viobecame evident that, if this organization lating ecclesiastical usage. was to hold together after his death, pro- After careful deliberation he made up vision must be made to transfer his per- his mind. He preferred the episcopal form sonal control to some properly constituted of church government, but he had long body. Accordingly, in 1784, he adopted been convinced that there was no differtwo important measures which should con- ence between bishop and presbyter. On solidate and secure the Methodist organi- this conviction he now acted. He sumzation in both England and America. In moned to Bristol his ablest preacher, Dr. England the many Wesleyan chapels were Thomas Coke, an Oxford graduate and held by trustees for the sole use of such ordained presbyter, and with him two of persons as might be appointed by the his lay preachers; and there, on the 2d yearly Conference of the people called of September, in his private room, he set Methodists." But this Conference had no apart the two lay preachers as presbyters, legal status, being merely a private meet- and laying his hands upon Coke,“ set him ing called by Wesley; it was without power apart to the office of Superintendent of the to acquire or hold property, and might Societies in America.” Coke was to procease to exist altogether at the death of ceed to America, and there in the same Wesley. He therefore drew up a docu- way designate as his Associate Superintenment naming one hundred of his preachers dent Francis Asbury, the heroic English as members of the Conference, and defining preacher who had been the Wesley of the its powers and duties. This “Deed of American Methodists. Coke sailed in OcDeclaration ” was enrolled in the Court tober; on his arrival he immediately conof Chancery, and the Conference was thus secrated Asbury, and in the last weeks of the given a permanent legal existence. It was year (1784), in a Conference of preachers thenceforth impossible for the property of held in Baltimore, the two laid the foundathe societies to revert to private use, or for tions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. the societies themselves to fall apart and Wesley's action in this matter has been become mere separate congregations. the subject of much controversy. Doubt

Wesley's other step was still more im- less, from a churchman's point of view, portant, and involved a wider divergence orders so conferred could have no validity. from ecclesiastical order. There were in Wesley himself, in his account of his ac1784 about fifteen thousand Methodists in tion, was careful to avoid the word “orthe new United States of America, and not dain," and some years later wrote to a single ordained minister among them. Asbury remonstrating with him for assumBefore the severance of the colonies from ing the title of bishop. It may suffice to the mother country, these American Meth- say that, in this case as in some others, he odists were theoretically members of the felt himself justified in breaking with usage

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and discipline when he deemed that only nery. He makes frequent mention of the so could the religious welfare of great beauty or sublimity of the outdoor surbodies of his fellow-men be conserved. It roundings in which he preached; and on is probable that, in the opinion of the dis- one of his later visits to Cornwall, in his interested historian, his decision will be eighty-third year, insisted on clambering justified by its results.

down the rugged cliffs at Land's End to

stand once more in the wild spot his broTHE CLOSING YEARS

ther Charles had commemorated in the

hymn: WESLEY's last years were blessed with “All that should accompany old age,

“Lo, on a narrow neck of land, As honor, love, obedience, troops of

'Twixt two unbounded seas I stand.” friends."

The death of Charles, in 1788, left Opposition had almost entirely ceased. His life of devotion to the highest good together through sixty years, and in spite

Wesley lonely, for the brothers had labored of men had won the respect of all who knew his name, and the reverent love of

of very pronounced differences in opinion,

their beautiful friendship was never disthousands who called themselves his friends. In his journeyings during these bereavement, began to weaken; but his

turbed. The strength of Wesley, after this later years it often happened that a com

remaining years were pany of his friends would follow him from out a town, walking beside his carriage

“serene and bright, till they met a similar company approach- And lovely as a Lapland night." ing to welcome him to his next station. But although venerable, he showed none Crabbe Robinson, then a young man, of the infirmities of age. His slight, short heard him preach in the last months, and figure was erect, his eye was keen, his step used to say that in all his after life he had elastic, and only the crown of silver hair never seen anything comparable to the betokened his years. On his eighty-third picture of this preacher of eighty-eight, birthday he wrote in his “ Journal”: “It is with the gentle voice, the reverend counnow twelve years since I have felt any such tenance, and the long white locks. To the sensation as weariness. I am never tired end he showed no slackening of interest (such is the goodness of God) either with in whatever may make men happier or writing, preaching, or traveling." Two better. His very last letter, penned with years later, when his friends urged him to failing hand only a week before he died, ride to a preaching-place six miles out of was addressed to William Wilberforce, bidBristol, “I am ashamed," replied this youth ding that young reformer God-speed in his of eighty-five,“ that any Methodist minis- great work of the abolition of slavery in ter in tolerable health should make a diffi- the British colonies. The wish he had so culty of this," and tramped away. On his often expressed, in the language of a fa birthday in that year, he admits that he vorite hymn, that he might “cease at once cannot run or walk quite so fast" as once to work and live," was almost literally he did, but he still feels no weariness, and granted him. He preached on a Tuesday has “not lost a night's sleep, sick or well, in the City Road Chapel, and the next on land or sea," since he was born. In day in the house of a friend; the following his eighty-first year he made a visit to Wednesday, after five days, which seemed Holland, which, as he says, opened to him rather days of rest than of illness, he died, a new world; and his curiosity is as eager March 2, 1791. His last distinctly audible as if he were just out of his teens. He words, thrice repeated with uplifted arm, records how one of his hosts spoke Latin as if in triumph, have become a watchword excellently, and another showed an easy of Methodism: "The best of all is, God is openness and affability almost peculiar to with us." Christians and persons of quality.” His At the time of Wesley's death there were own conversation in those years was more in England and America about one hunvivacious and wide-ranging than in earlier dred and twenty thousand of the people life. He retained all his love for books, called Methodists. To-day, if we include for music, and especially for natural sce- adherents as well as communicants, there


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