Are you a Christian?
AN EXTRACT OF THE REV. MR. JOHN WESLEY’S JOURNAL
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FROM HIS EMBARKING FOR GEORGIA, TO HIS RETURN TO LONDON
1.IT was in pursuance of an advice given by Bishop Taylor, in his “Rules for Holy Living and Dying,” that, about fifteen years ago, I began to take a more exact account than I had done before, of the manner wherein I spent my time, writing down how I had employed every hour. This I continued to do wherever I was, till the time of my leaving England. The variety of scenes which I then passed through, induced me to transcribe, from time to time, the more material parts of my diary, adding here and there such little reflections as occurred to my mind. Of this journal thus occasionally compiled, the following is a short extract: It not being my design to relate all those particulars, which I wrote for my own use only; and which would answer no valuable end to others, however important they were to me. 2. Indeed I had no design or desire to trouble the world with any of my little affairs: As cannot but appear to every impartial mind, from my having been so long “as one that heareth not;” notwithstanding the loud and frequent calls I have had to answer for myself. Neither should I have done it now, had not Captain Williams’s affidavit, published as soon as he had left England, laid an obligation upon me, to do what in me lies, in obedience to that command of God, “Let not the good which is in you be evil spoken of.” With this view I do at length “give an answer to every man that asketh me a reason of the hope which is in me,” that in all these things “I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men.” 3. I have prefixed hereto a letter, wrote several years since, containing a plain account of the rise of that little society in Oxford, which has been so variously represented. Part of this was published in 1733; but without my consent or knowledge. It now stands as it was wrote; without any addition, diminution, or amendment; it being my only concern herein nakedly to “declare the thing as it is.” 4. Perhaps my employments of another kind may not allow me to give any farther answer to them who “say all manner of evil of me falsely,” and seem to “think that they do God service.” Suffice it, that both they and I shall shortly “give an account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.”
SIR, OXON, Oct. 18th, 1732. THE occasion of my giving you this trouble is of a very extraordinary nature. On Sunday last I was informed (as no doubt you will be ere long) that my brother and I had killed your son: That the rigorous fasting which he had imposed upon himself, by our advice, had increased his illness and hastened his death. Now though, considering it in itself, “it is a very small thing with me to be judged by man’s judgment;” yet as the being thought guilty of so mischievous an imprudence might make me the less able to do the work I came into the world for, I am obliged to clear myself of it, by observing to you, as I have done to others, that your son left off fasting about a year and a half since; and that it is not yet half a year since I began to practice it.
I must not let this opportunity slip of doing my part towards giving you a juster notion of some other particulars, relating both to him and myself, which have been industriously misrepresented to you.
In March last he received a letter from you, which, not being able to read, he desired me to read to him; several of the expressions whereof I perfectly remember, and shall do, till I too am called hence. I then determined, that if God was pleased to take away your son before me, I would justify him and myself, which I now do with all plainness and simplicity, as both my character and cause required.
In one practice for which you blamed your son, I am only concerned as a friend, not as a partner. That, therefore, I shall consider first. Your own account of it was in effect this: — “He frequently went into poor people’s houses, in the villages about Holt, called their children together, and instructed them in their duty to God, their neighbor, and themselves. He likewise explained to them the necessity of private as well as public prayer, and provided them with such forms as were best suited to their several capacities: And being well appraised how much the success of his endeavors depended on their goodwill towards him, to win upon their affections, he sometimes distributed among them a little of that money which he had saved from gaming, and the other fashionable expenses of the place. This is the first charge against him; upon which all that I shall observe is, that I will refer it to your own judgment, whether it be fitter to have a place in the catalogue of his faults, or of those virtues for which he is now “numbered among the sons of God.”
If all the persons concerned in “that ridiculous society, whose follies you have so often heard repeated,” could but give such a proof of their deserving the glorious title which was once bestowed upon them, they would be contented that their “lives” too should be “counted madness, and their end” thought to be “without honor.” But the truth is, their title to holiness stands upon much less stable foundations; as you will easily perceive when you know the ground of this wonderful outcry, which it seems England is not wide enough to contain.
In November, 1729, at which time I came to reside at Oxford, your son, my brother, myself, and one more, agreed to spend three or four evenings in a week together. Our design was to read over the classics, which we had before read in private, on common nights, and on Sunday some book in divinity. In the summer following, Mr. M. told me he had called at the gaol, to see a man who was condemned for killing his wife; and that, from the talk he had with one of the debtors, he verily believed it would do much good, if any one would be at the pains of now and then speaking with them. This he so frequently repeated, that on the 24th of August, 1730, my brother and I walked with him to the castle. We were so well satisfied with our conversation there, that we agreed to go thither once or twice a week; which we had not done long, before he desired me to go with him to see a poor woman in the town, who was sick. In this employment too, when we came to reflect upon it, we believed it would be worth while to spend an hour or two in a week; provided the Minister of the parish, in which any such person was, were not against it. But that we might not depend wholly on our own judgments, I wrote an account to my father of our whole design; withal begging that he, who had lived seventy years in the world, and seen as much of it as most private men have ever done, would advise us whether we had yet gone too far, and whether we should now stand still, or go toward.
Part of his answer, dated September 21st, 1730, was this: — “And now, as to your own designs and employments, what can I say less of them than, Valde probo: And that I have the highest reason to bless God, that he has given me two sons together at Oxford, to whom he has given grace and courage to turn the war against the world and the devil, which is the best way to conquer them. They have but one more enemy to combat with, the flesh; which if they take care to subdue by fasting and prayer, there will be no more for them to do, but to proceed steadily in this same course, and expect ‘the crown which fadeth not away.’ You have reason to bless God, as I do, that you have so fast a friend as Mr. M., who, I see, in the most difficult service, is ready to break the ice for you. You do not know of how much good that poor wretch who killed his wife has been the providential occasion. I think I must adopt Mr. M., to be my son, together with you and your brother Charles; and when I have such a ternion to prosecute that war, wherein I am now miles emeritus, I shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate. “I am afraid lest the main objection you make against your going on in the business with the prisoners may secretly proceed from flesh and blood. For ‘who can harm you if you are followers of that which is so good;’ and which will be one of the marks by which the Shepherd of Israel will know his sheep at the last day? — though if it were possible for you to suffer a little in the cause, you would have a confessor’s reward. You own, none but such as are out of their senses would be prejudiced against your acting in this manner; but say, ‘These are they that need a physician.’ But what if they will not accept of one, who will be welcome to the poor prisoners? Go on then, in God’s name, in the path to which your Savior has directed you, and that track wherein your father has gone before you! For when I was an undergraduate at Oxford, I visited those in the castle there, and reflect on it with great satisfaction to this day. Walk as prudently as you can, though not fearfully, and my heart and prayers are with you. “Your first regular step is, to consult with him (if any such there be) who has a jurisdiction over the prisoners; and the next is, to obtain the direction and approbation of your Bishop. This is Monday morning, at which time I shall never forget you. If it be possible, I should be glad to see you all three here in the fine end of the summer. But if I cannot have that satisfaction, I am sure I can reach you everyday, though you were beyond the Indies.
Accordingly, to Him who is every where I now heartily commit you, as being “Your most affectionate and joyful father.”
In pursuance of these directions, I immediately went to Mr. Gerard, the Bishop of Oxford’s Chaplain, who was likewise the person that took care of the prisoners when any were condemned to die: (At other times they were left to their own care:) I proposed to him our design of serving them as far as we could, and my own intention to preach there once a month, if the Bishop approved of it. He much commended our design, and said he would answer for the Bishop’s approbation, to whom he would take the first opportunity of mentioning it. It was not long before he informed me he had done so, and that his Lordship not only gave his permission, but was greatly pleased with the undertaking, and hoped it would have the desired success.
Soon after, a gentleman of Merton College, who was one of our little company, which now consisted of five persons, acquainted us that he had been much rallied the day before for being a member of The Holy Club; and that it was become a common topic of mirth at his college, where they had found out several of our customs, to which we were ourselves utter strangers. Upon this I consulted my father again, in whose answer were these words: — “December 1. “This day I received both yours, and this evening, in the course of our reading, I thought I found an answer that would be more proper than any I myself could dictate; though since it will not be easily translated, I send it in the original. Pollh moi kauchsiv uper umwn peplhrwmai th| paraklhsei, uperperisseuomai th| cara| ( 2 Corinthians 7:4.) What would you be? Would you be angels? I question whether a mortal can arrive to a greater degree of perfection, than steadily to do good, and for that very reason patiently and meekly to suffer evil.
For my part, on the present view of your actions and designs, my daily prayers are, that God would keep you humble; and then I am sure that if you continue ‘to suffer for righteousness’ sake,’ though it be but in a lower degree, ‘the spirit of glory and of God’ shall, in some good measure, ‘rest upon you.’ Be never weary of well-doing: Never look back; for you know the prize and the crown are before you: Though I can scarce think so meanly of you, as that you would be discouraged with ‘the crackling of thorns under a pot.’ Be not high-minded, but fear. Preserve an equal temper of mind under whatever treatment you meet with from a not very just or well-natured world. Bear no more sail than is necessary, but steer steady. The less you value yourselves for these unfashionable duties, (as there is no such thing as works of supererogation,) the more all good and wise men will value you, if they see your actions are of a piece; or, which is infinitely more, He by whom actions and intentions are weighed will both accept, esteem, and reward you.”
Upon this encouragement we still continued to meet together as usual; and to confirm one another, as well as we could, in our resolutions, to communicate as often as we had opportunity; (which is here once a week;) and do what service we could to our acquaintance, the prisoners, and two or three poor families in the town. But the outcry daily increasing, that we might show what ground there was for it, we proposed to our friends, or opponents, as we had opportunity, these or the like questions: — I. Whether it does not concern all men of all conditions to imitate Him, as much as they can, “who went about doing good?”
Whether we shall not be more happy hereafter, the more good we do now?
Whether we can be happy at all hereafter, unless we have, according to our power, “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited those that are sick, and in prison;” and made all these actions subservient to a higher purpose, even the saving of souls from death?
Whether it be not our bounden duty always to remember, that He did more for us than we can do for him, who assures us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me?”
Whether, upon these considerations, we may not try to do good to our acquaintance? Particularly, whether we may not try to convince them of the necessity of being Christians?
Whether of the consequent necessity of being scholars?
Whether of the necessity of method and industry, in order to either learning or virtue?
Whether we may not try to persuade them to confirm and increase their industry, by communicating as often as they can?
Whether we may not mention to them the authors whom we conceive to have wrote the best on those subjects?
Whether, upon the considerations above-mentioned, we may not try to do good to those that are hungry, naked, or sick? In particular, whether, if we know any necessitous family, we may not give them a little food, clothes, or physic, as they want?
Whether we may not give them, if they can read, a Bible, Common-Prayer Book, or Whole Duty of Man?
Whether we may not, now and then, inquire how they have used them; explain what they do not understand, and enforce what they do?
Whether we may not enforce upon them, more especially, the necessity of private prayer, and of frequenting the church and sacrament?
Whether we may not contribute, what little we are able, toward having their children clothed and taught to read?
Whether we may not take care that they be taught their catechism, and short prayers for morning and evening?
Lastly: Whether, upon the considerations above-mentioned, we may not try to do good to those that are in prison? In particular, Whether we may not release such well-disposed persons as remain in prison for small sums?
Whether we may not give to them who appear to want it most, a little money, or clothes, or physic?
Whether we may not supply as many as are serious enough to read, with a Bible, and Whole Duty of Man?
Whether we may not, as we have opportunity, explain and enforce these upon them, especially with respect to public and private prayer, and the blessed sacrament?
I do not remember that we met with any person who answered any of these questions in the negative; or who even doubted, whether it were not lawful to apply to this use that time and money which we should else have spent in other diversions. But several we met with who increased our little stock of money for the prisoners and the poor, by subscribing something quarterly to it; so that the more persons we proposed our designs to, the more we were confirmed in the belief of their innocence, and the more determined to pursue them, in spite of the ridicule, which increased fast upon us during the winter. However, in spring I thought it could not be improper to desire farther instructions from those who were wiser and better than ourselves; and, accordingly, (on May 18th, 1731,) I wrote a particular account of all our proceedings to a Clergyman of known wisdom and integrity. After having informed him of all the branches of our design, as clearly and simply as I could, I next acquainted him with the success it had met with, in the following words: — “Almost as soon as we had made our first attempts this way, some of the men of wit in Christ Church entered the lists against us; and, between mirth and anger, made a pretty many reflections upon the Sacramentarians, as they were pleased to call us. Soon after, their allies at Merton changed our title, and did us the honor of styling us, The Holy Club. But most of them being persons of well-known characters, they had not the good fortune to gain any proselytes from the sacrament, till a gentleman, eminent for learning, and well esteemed for piety, joining them, told his nephew, that if he dared to go to the weekly communion any longer, he would immediately turn him out of doors. That argument, indeed, had no success: The young gentleman communicated next week; upon which his uncle, having again tried to convince him that he was in the wrong way, by shaking him by the throat to no purpose, changed his method, and by mildness prevailed upon him to absent from it the Sunday following; as he has done five Sundays in six ever since. This much delighted our gay opponents, who increased their number apace; especially when, shortly after, one of the seniors of the college having been with the Doctor, upon his return from him sent for two young gentlemen severally, who had communicated weekly for some time, and was so successful in his exhortations, that for the future they promised to do it only three times a year. About this time there was a meeting (as one who was present at it informed your son) of several of the officers and seniors of the college, wherein it was consulted what would be the speediest way to stop the progress of enthusiasm in it. The result we know not, only it was soon publicly reported, that Dr. — and the censors were going to blow up The Godly Club. This was now our common title; though we were sometimes dignified with that of The Enthusiasts, or The Reforming Club.”
Part of the answer I received was as follows: — “Good Sir,” “ A PRETTY while after the date, yours came to my hand. I waved my answer till I had an opportunity of consulting your father, who, upon all accounts, is a more proper judge of the affair than I am. But I could never find a fit occasion for it. As to my own sense of the matter, I confess, I cannot but heartily approve of that serious and religious turn of mind that prompts you and your associates to those pious and charitable offices; and can have no notion of that man’s religion, or concern for the honor of the University, that opposes you, as far as your design respects the colleges. I should be loath to send a son of mine to any seminary, where his conversing with virtuous young men, whose professed design of meeting together at proper times was to assist each other in forming good resolutions, and encouraging one another to execute them with constancy and steadiness, was inconsistent with any received maxims or rules of life among the members. As to the other branch of your design, as the town is divided into parishes, each of which has its proper Incumbent, and as there is probably an Ecclesiastic who has the spiritual charge of the prisoners, prudence may direct you to consult them: For though I dare not say you would be too officious, should you of your own mere motion seek out the persons that want your instructions and charitable contributions; yet should you have the concurrence of their proper Pastor, your good offices would be more regular, and less liable to censure.”
Your son was now at Holt: However, we continued to meet at our usual times, though our little affairs went on but heavily without him. But at our return from Lincolnshire, in September last, we had the pleasure of seeing him again; when, though he could not be so active with us as formerly, yet we were exceeding glad to spend what time we could in talking and reading with him. It was a little before this time my brother and I were at London, when going into a bookseller’s shop, (Mr. Rivington’s, in St. Paul’s Church-yard,) after some other conversation, he asked us whether we lived in town; and upon our answering, “No; at Oxford,” — “Then, gentlemen,” said he, “let me earnestly recommend to your acquaintance a friend I have there, Mr. Clayton, of Brazennose.” Of this, having small leisure for contracting new acquaintance, we took no notice for the present. But in the spring following, (April 20th,) Mr. Clayton meeting me in the street, and giving Mr. Rivington’s service, I desired his company to my room, and then commenced our acquaintance. At the first opportunity I acquainted him with our whole design, which he immediately and heartily closed with: And not long after, Mr. M — having then left Oxford, we fixed two evenings in a week to meet on, partly to talk upon that subject, and partly to read something in practical divinity.
The two points whereunto, by the blessing of God and your son’s help, we had before attained, we endeavored to hold fast: I mean, the doing what good we can; and, in order thereto, communicating as often as we have opportunity. To these, by the advice of Mr. Clayton, we have added a third, — the observing the fasts of the Church; the general neglect of which we can by no means apprehend to be a lawful excuse for neglecting them.
And in the resolution to adhere to these and all things else which we are convinced God requires at our hands, we trust we shall persevere till he calls us to give an account of our stewardship. As for the names of Methodists, Supererogation-men, and so on, with which some of our neighbors are pleased to compliment us, we do not conceive ourselves to be under any obligation to regard them, much less to take them for arguments. “To the law and to the testimony” we appeal, whereby we ought to be judged. If by these it can be proved we are in an error, we will immediately and gladly retract it: If not, we “have not so learned Christ,” as to renounce any part of his service, though men should “say all manner of evil against us,” with more judgment and as little truth as hitherto. We do, indeed, use all the lawful means we know, to prevent “the good which is in us from being evil spoken of:” But if the neglect of known duties be the one condition of securing our reputation, why, fare it well; we know whom we have believed, and what we thus lay out He will pay us again.
Your son already stands before the judgment-seat of Him who judges righteous judgment; at the brightness of whose presence the clouds remove: His eyes are open, and he sees clearly whether it was “blind zeal, and a thorough mistake of true religion, that hurried him on in the error of his way;” or whether he acted like a faithful and wise servant, who, from a just sense that his time was short, made haste to finish his work before his Lord’s coming, that “when laid in the balance” he might not “be found wanting.”
I have now largely and plainly laid before you the real ground of all the strange outcry you have heard; and am not without hope that by this fairer representation of it than you probably ever received before, both you and the Clergyman you formerly mentioned may have a more favorable opinion of a good cause, though under an ill name. Whether you have or no, I shall ever acknowledge my best services to be due to yourself and your family, both for the generous assistance you have given my father, and for the invaluable advantages you son has (under God) bestowed on, Sir, Your ever obliged and most obedient servant.
ON THE DEATH OF MR. MORGAN, OF CHRIST CHURCH.
BY THE REV. MR. SAMUEL WESLEY.
We fools counted his life madness. IF aught beneath them happy souls attend, Let Morgan hear the triumph of a friend, And hear well-pleased. Let libertines so gay With careless indolence despise the lay; Let critic wits, and fools for laughter born, Their verdict pass with supercilious scorn; Let jovial crowds, by wine their senses drowned, Stammer out censure in their frantic round; Let yawning sluggards faint dislike display, Who, while they trust tomorrow, lose today; Let such as these the sacred strains condemn; For ‘tis true glory to be hiss’d by them.
Wise in his prime, he waited not for noon; Convinced that mortal never lived too soon.
Fix’d, while unfading glory he pursues, No ill to hazard, and no good to lose:
No fair occasion glides unheeded by; Snatching the golden moments as they fly, He by few fleeting hours ensures eternity. Friendship’s warm beams his artless breast inspire, And tenderest reverence for a much-loved sire.
He dared for heaven this flattering world forego, Ardent to teach, as diligent to know; Unwrapped by sensual views or vulgar aims, By idle riches, or by idler names; Fearful of sin in every close disguise; Unmoved by threatening or by glozing lies. Seldom indeed the wicked came so far, Forced by his piety to defensive war; Whose zeal for other men’s salvation shown, Beyond the reach of hell secured his own.
Gladd’ning the poor where’er his steps he turn’d; Where pined the orphan, or the widow mourn’d; Where prisoners sigh’d beneath guilt’s horrid stain, The worst confinement and the heaviest chain; Where death’s sad shade the uninstructed sight Veil’d with thick darkness in the land of light.
To means of grace the last respect he show’d, Nor sought new paths, as wiser than his God:
He knew that works our faith must here employ, And that ‘tis heaven’s great business to enjoy.
Of sharpest anguish scorning to complain, He fills with mirth the intervals of pain.
Who but the Fiend, who once his cause withstood, And whisper’d, — “Stay till fifty to be good?”
Sure, if believed, to’ obtain his hellish aim, Adjourning to the time that never came.