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by Mr. Wollaston, Rector of Chislehurst, Dr. Percy, afterwards Bishop of Dromore, Dr. York, afterwards Bishop of Ely, and Dr. Porteus, appointed in 1777 Bishop of Chester, in 1787 of London. To quote Dr. Porteus' own words P: “This plan was not in the smallest degree connected with the Petitioners at the Feathers Tavern, but on the contrary was meant to counteract that and all similar extravagant projects; to strengthen and confirm our ecclesiastical establishment; to repel the attacks which were at that time continually made upon it by its avowed enemies; to render the Seventeenth Article on Predestination and Election more clear and perspicuous, and less liable to be wrested by our adversaries to a Calvinistic sense, which has been so unjustly affixed to it;... to diminish schism by bringing over to the National Church all the moderate and well-disposed of other persuasions." These Clergymen applied for his opinion to Dr. Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was at first inclined to look favourably upon their cause, but promised to consult the Bishops ; on Feb. II, 1773, he gave an adverse decision: “I have consulted severally my brethren the Bishops, and it is the opinion of the Bench in general, that nothing can in prudence be done in the matter that has been submitted to our consideration ;" and so it fell to the ground.
p Porteus' Life, by Hodgson, i. 39.
HE most important event in the religious life of
the eighteenth century was the rise and progress of Methodism. At the time when the Deistical Controversy was at its height; when the intellect of the Church was diverted in attacking the strongholds of infidelity; when a gross licentiousness was corrupting the morals of the nation; when Bishops were absent from their Dioceses, and a shameful system of pluralities existed amongst all ranks of the Clergy ; when a dry morality, instead of heart-stirring truths, formed the staple of the sermons of the day; John Wesley came, not to form a new Church, but to effect a revival in the Church of England, on the rules and principles of Catholic antiquity.
Nothing was further from Wesley's mind than to create a schism. His one object from first to last was to give an impulse to the dormant zeal of the Church; and to infuse life into a body where life was wanting. He lived at a time when the population was increasing with a rapidity till then unknown; when people were crowding from villages into towns, from towns into cities, and had neither churches to go to, nor Clergy to minister to them; and he thought to supply a need by establishing a “religious order," a "home-mission,” within the Church, to evangelise its neglected masses.
When he looked around for something to guide him in his scheme, he found it ready to his hand in the work which had been effected in Germany by Philip Jacob Spener, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, and about the saine time by the “Religious Societies" and the "Societies for the Reformation of Manners” in England. So that Wesley's scheme was no new thing in England ; to him it descended as an heirloom, for these societies had been warmly espoused by his father; Methodism, in fact, was nothing else than the rise of one more of the many "Religious Societies." In the early stage of the movement he was content to leave the good work done by his ministry (“ precisely as our Church of England Mission-Priests do") to the care of the parochial clergy b. And so at first the movement met with no disapproval from the Bishops or the Clergy; but, as all religious revivals have a tendency to enthusiasm and a neglect of the Church's system
Spener, in 1670, founded “Societies” at Frankfort, which he termed “ Collegia Pietatis” (whence the word " Pietism”), with the object of counteracting the profligacy which had been rife in Germany since the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), and to promote vital Religion.
b Watson's Life of Wesley.
and discipline, so, owing partly to circumstances over which he had no control, partly to Wesley's own conduct, and partly to the action of the Clergy, Methodism drifted away, first into extravagance, and eventually into separation.
The family of the Wesleys was a remarkable one both before and since the time of John Wesley The father, Samuel Wesley (1662–1735), was originally a Dissenter, and by becoming a Churchman he offended his family, who consequently withdrew from him all support, and left him to struggle on as best he could in poverty. Nothing daunted, he walked to Oxford, and entered himself as a “poor scholar” at Exeter College, beginning, with only £2 16s. in his pocket, and no prospect of any further supply, his University career. By doing their exercises for those undergraduates who had more money than brains, by giving private lessons, and by dint of the greatest frugality, he not only contrived to support himself, but to take his degree. After this, and having saved £10 15s., he went to London and was ordained, and after holding a London curacy with a stipend of £45 a year, he became in 1691 Rector of
e A gentleman of large fortune in Ireland, of the same name, offered to make Charles Wesley his heir. Charles, however, refused, and the person who consented, and who in consequence assumed the name of Wesley or Wellesley, was the first Earl of Mornington, grandfather to the great Duke of Wellington.Southey's Life of Wesley, p. 30.
South Ormsby, in Lincolnshire. Through means of a book which he wrote on the English Revolution, and which he dedicated to Queen Mary II., he so gained her favour that he was rewarded with the Living of Epworth, in Lincolnshire, and it was supposed that if the Queen had lived he would have received further preferment; with the Living of Epworth he afterwards held that of Wroth, in the same county. He rose to be a man of considerable reputation, and was Proctor in Convocation for the Diocese of Lincoln, in which capacity it is probable he bore a part in the controversies between the two Houses.
A man of good family himself, he married Susanna Annesley (1669—1742), a relative of the Earl of Anglesey, and a daughter of Dr. Annesley, who had been ejected on St. Bartholomew's Day, 1662, from the Living of St. Giles', Cripplegate. Though a Nonconformist by birth, she became at the age of thirteen a staunch Churchwoman; nineteen children (of whom only three sons and three daughters grew to maturity) were the fruit of this union; and it was the mother who chiefly superintended the education of the family, and who impressed her character on her three sons. The father, burdened as he was through the alienation of his friends, and crippled with the expenses of a large family, always had to struggle on with poverty ; being too conscientious to suit their taste, he incurred the abiding wrath of his