Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dr. Coke was a Presbyter, and Wesley was a Presbyter, but Wesley undertook to give Coke something higher than he held himself, and the only higher office to be given was that of a Bishop. (3.) Yet when Coke repeated Wesley's own act, and proposed to consecrate Asbury as Bishop, Wesley wrote to Asbury : “How can you, how dare you, suffer yourself to be called Bishop? I shudder, I start at the very thought! Men may call me a knave or a fool, a rascal or a scoundrel, and I am content, but they shall never call me Bishop. For my sake, for God's sake, for Christ's sake, put a full end to this. Let the Presbyterians do what they please, but let the Methodists know their calling better I?” (4.) Coke applied first to Bishops Seabury and White of the American Church to consecrate himself and Asbury as real Bishops, and later asked Lord Liverpool and William Wilberforce to get him promoted to an Indian Bishopric, which would of course entail consecration. He thus showed that he himself disbelieved in his Wesleyan Orders.

In America, as in England, Methodism had been formed in connexion with the Church : but through this misguided act of a High Churchman like Wesley the sect of Episcopal Methodists in America took its rise; by this indiscreet and inconsistent act he paved the way for a general secession from the

* Smith's Hist. of Methodism, i. 524.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Church, of which, after his death, his followers in
England were not slow in availing themselves.

In 1787 he went one step further, when he set apart three ministers for Scotland, where there were not only already Bishops, but Bishops who had consecrated a Bishop for the Church in America.

In 1788 his brother Charles, the "sweet singer” in the movement, died in his eightieth year. Charles Wesley was the more perfect character of the two brothers; a more consistent Churchman than his brother : and though he differed from John Wesley in some important points of discipline, was to the end his faithful helper. Had his advice been followed, it is probable that Wesleyan Methodism would be at this time what John Wesley meant it to be, the friend and not the opponent of the Church.

On March 2, 1791, John Wesley died in London, in the eighty-eighth year of his age. Probably no other man ever exercised an equal influence on the religion of England. The whole world he claimed as his parish; his mission was to preach to people who had no instructors, who were steeped in the deepest ignorance, and living the most degraded lives, often committing the most heinous sins with impunity, such as the Cornish wreckers and the colliers of Kingswood. As a preacher he was not the equal of Whitfield. Whitfield was not a learned man, but the manner of his preaching—such as England had never heard before-theatrical, often com

monplace, but exhibiting the most intense earnestness of belief, combined with the deepest sympathy for the sin and sorrow of his fellow-creatures; his powerful but musical voice, which Franklyn said could easily be heard by a congregation of 30,000; the manner of his delivery, at once marked him out as the first pulpit orator of the day. It was no common enthusiast who could extort admiration from the cold infidelity of Hume, or from the fastidious Horace Walpole, or who could wring gold from the close-fisted Franklyn'; or who in Gloucester, Bristol, and London, could attract such crowds as no other preacher is ever known to have brought together ?

We will end this chapter with a few remarks on John Wesley as a High Churchman.

A High Churchman, in the eighteenth-century meaning of the word, John Wesley never was. The High-Churchmanship of the eighteenth century took the form of an ecclesiastical Toryism, and was attached to a political rather than a theological creed ; it held in theory the exclusive orthodoxy of the English Church, and was opposed to all, especially Roman, dissent from it; but it let go the Catholic element of the English Church, and lost the fervour,

[ocr errors]

Green's Hist. of the English People.

George II. maintained to the last that the growth of Methodism was entirely owing to ministers not having followed his advice and made Whitfield a Bishop-Essays and Reviews, p. 323.

He was

the depth, the reference to antiquity which characterizes it.

John Wesley no doubt recognized the benefits that accrue to the State from its connexion with the Church, but to be a High Churchman in the sense described above, he never troubled himself. not a man to concern himself with the cry of the high and dry Churchmen of his day about the "Church in danger:" with those Churchmen he had little in common, but went back for his model in doctrine and worship to the primitive Church, before the divisions between East and West.

The Methodists of the present day, little appreciating the niany-sidedness of the man, allege that, though he was once a High Churchman, he had, before the end of his life (and the year 1746 is given as the exact date of his change), "thrown over-board the last of his High-Church leanings.” In contradiction to this he said himself, in 1778, “Fifty years ago I knew and preached every Christian doctrine which I preach now;" ten years later he said, “I have gone on for fifty years never varying from the doctrine of the Church at all.” In the language of his friend, Alexander Knox, "he was a Church-ofEngland-man even in circumstantials; there was not a service or a ceremony, a gesture or a habit, for which he had not an unfeigned predilection.” To the Primitive Church he always clung with fond attachment; thus he writes of Christmastide, 1774:

[ocr errors]

"During the twelve festival days we had the Lord's Supper daily - a little emblem of the Primitive Church a."

Against separation from the Church he from first to last spoke in the strongest language; in the minutes of the Conference of 1749 it is said, “Exhort those who were brought up in the Church constantly to attend its service.” In the minutes of 1766, “We will not, dare not, separate from the Church. ... We are not Seceders, nor do we bear any resemblance to them.” In his journal in 1768 : “I advise all over whom I have any influence readily to keep to the Church.” In 1768 the twelfth minute of the Conference advises, “Let us keep to the Church ; they that leave the Church leave the Methodists." In 1785 he writes in his journal, “I openly declared (at Bristol) I had no more thought of separating from the Church than I had forty years ago." Two years later, “I went over to Deptford. . . . After meeting the whole Society I told them, If you are resolved, you may have your Service in Church hours, but remember from that time you will see my face no more.” “This,” he adds, “struck deep, and from that hour I have heard no more of separating from the Church.” In 1789 he writes with reference to the Conference of that year: “The case of separation from the Church was largely considered, and we

[ocr errors]

Quoted from Abbey and Overton, ii. 68.

« PreviousContinue »