Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII.: the religious revival. - A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. III
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CHAPTER VIII.: the religious revival. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. III 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. III.
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the religious revival.
Although the career of the elder Pitt, and the splendid victories by land and sea that were won during his ministry, form unquestionably the most dazzling episodes in the reign of George II., they must yield, I think, in real importance to that religious revolution which shortly before had been begun in England by the preaching of the Wesleys and of Whitefield. The creation of a large, powerful, and activesect, extending over both hemispheres, and numbering many millions of souls, was but one of its consequences. It also exercised a profound and lasting influence upon the spirit of the Established Church, upon the amount and distribution of the moral forces of the nation, and even upon the course of its political history.
Before entering into an account of the nature and consequences of this revolution it will be necessary to describe somewhat more fully than has been done in a preceding chapter the religious condition of England at the time when the new movement arose. The essential and predominating characteristics of the prevailing theology were the prominence that was given to external morality as distinguished both from dogma and from all the forms of emotion, and the assiduity with which the preachers laboured to establish the purely rational character of Christianity. It was the leading object of the sceptics of the time to assert the sufficiency of natural religion. It was the leading object of a large proportion of the divines to prove that Christianity was little more than natural religion accredited by historic proofs, and enforced by the indispensable sanctions of rewards and punishments. Beyond a belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, and a general acknowledgment of the veracity of the Gospel narratives, they taught little that might not have been taught by disciples of Socrates or Confucius. They laboured to infuse a higher tone into the social and domestic spheres, to make men energetic in business, moderate in pleasure, charitable to the poor, upright, honourable, and dutiful in every relation of life. While acknowledging the imperfection, they sincerely respected the essential goodness of human nature, dwelt much upon the infallible authority of the moral sense, and explained away, or simply neglected, all doctrines that conflicted with it. Sobriety, moderation, and good sense were their cardinal virtues, and they looked with great disfavour upon appeals to the feelings and upon every form of enthusiasm. The course of life which most promotes happiness in this life was represented as securing it in the next, and the truth of Christianity as wholly dependent upon a chain of reasoning and evidence differing in no essential respect from that which is required in ordinary history or science.
A great variety of causes had led to the gradual evanescence of dogmatic teaching and to the discredit into which strong religious emotions had fallen. The virulence of theological controversy had much subsided after the Revolution, when the Act of Toleration secured to most sects an undisturbed position; and the Nonjuror schism, the abandonment of the theological doctrine of the divine right of kings as the basis of government, the scandal resulting from the adhesion of many who had held that doctrine to the new government, the suspension and afterwards the suppression of Convocation, and lastly the latitudinarian appointments of the early Hanoverian period, had all in their different ways contributed to lower the dogmatic level. At the same time the higher intellectual influences tended with a remarkable uniformity to repress mysticism, to diminish the weight of authority, and to establish the undivided supremacy of a severe and uncompromising reason. The principles of inductive philosophy which Bacon had taught, and which the Royal Society had strengthened, had acquired a complete ascendency over the ablest minds. They were clearly reflected in the sermons of Barrow. Chillingworth had applied them with consummate skill to the defence of Protestantism, proving that no system can escape the test of private judgment, and laying down with an admirable force the proper moral and intellectual conditions for its exercise. The same movement was powerfully sustained by the greatest writers of the succeeding generation. The tendency of the metaphysics of Locke, whatever ambiguity and even inconsistency there might be in their expression, was to derive our ideas from external sources; his unsparing analysis of enthusiasm was peculiarly fatal to all those systems of belief which elevate unreasoning emotions into supreme criteria in religion; while in his ‘Letters on Toleration,’ and his treatise on ‘The Reasonableness of Christianity,’ he maintained more directly the purely rational character of theological belief. Tillotson, who was long the great model of English preachers, was latitudinarian in his opinions, and singularly mild and tolerant in his disposition, and he set the example of concentrating public teaching almost exclusively on the moral aspect of religion.
At the same time the national intellect had been turned to the study of physical science with an intensity that had hitherto been unknown, and in a few generations the whole conception of the universe was changed. The discovery that our world is not the universal centre, but is a comparatively insignificant planet revolving with many others around a central sun, altered the whole measure of theological probability, and as the bewildering vastness of the universe was more fully realised, many beliefs which once seemed natural and probable, appeared difficult, incredible, and even grotesque. The conception of a world governed by isolated acts of interference began to wane. Each new discovery disclosed the wide range and uniformity of law, and the theory of gravitation proving that its empire extended over the most distant planet had a mental influence which can hardly be overrated. From this time astrology, witchcraft, and modern miracles, which a few generations before presented no difficulty to the mind, began silently to vanish, not so much in consequence of any controversy or investigation, as because they no longer appeared probable, no longer harmonised with the prevailing conception of the government of the world. At the same time, as the inductive spirit grew more strong, the difficulty of reconciling the actual condition of things with the scheme of Providence was more keenly felt, and it began to occupy a prominent place in literature. It appears in the sceptical writings of Bayle, and it was the subject of the ‘Theodicy’ of Leibnitz, the ‘Essay on Man’ by Pope, and the ‘Analogy of Butler.
There was undoubtedly a large amount of complete and formal scepticism, but this was not the direction which the highest intellects usually took. The task which occupied them was rather to reconstruct the theology of the Church in such a way as to harmonise with the principles of government established by the Revolution, and, without weakening any of the bulwarks of morals, to rationalise Christianity and to reduce the sacerdotal elements to the narrowest limits. Locke, Hoadly, and Clarke marked out the line of action much more than Collins or Toland. The intensely political character of the English intellect was in itself sufficient to divert public opinion from views which threatened to convulse society and destroy existing organisations without exercising any practical benefit; and the Whig spirit of compromise, which became ascendant at the Revolution, extended far beyond the limits of politics. The habit of estimating systems not according to their logical coherence, but according to their practical working, is extremely valuable in politics, but it is not equally so in philosophy or theology, and it is remarkable how large a part of the Deistical controversy turned much less upon the question of the truth or falsehood of received opinions than upon the question of their necessity to the wellbeing of society. Latitudinarianism was favoured in high places. It led to great dignities in Church and State, and flourished in the midst of the Universities; but the Deist was still liable to some persecution and to great social contempt. He was vehemently repudiated by those theologians who laboured most strenuously to lighten the weight of dogma within the Church, and in the writings of Addison, Steele, Pope, and Swift he was habitually treated as external to all the courtesies of life.
It must be added, too, that few of the grounds upon which the more serious scepticism of the nineteenth century is based then existed. One of the most remarkable differences between eighteenth-century Deism and modern freethinking is the almost entire absence in the former of arguments derived from the discoveries of physical science. These discoveries had unquestionably a real though indirect influence in discrediting many forms of superstition, but the direct antagonism between science and theology which appeared in Catholicism at the time of the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo was not seriously felt in Protestantism till geologists began to impugn the Mosaic account of the creation. South, it is true, and some other divines had denounced the Royal Society1 as irreligious; and Leibnitz afterwards attacked, on theological grounds, the Newtonian theory of gravitation, though he consoled himself, in one of his letters, by the reflection that it might furnish an argument for the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation.2 John Hutchinson, a professor of Cambridge, who died in 1737, published a system of philosophy in 1724 and 1727, in which he assailed the Newtonian theory as tending to atheism, and endeavoured, by a large use of metaphorical interpretation, to extract a complete system of natural philosophy from the Bible. He founded a small sect of writers, who were called by his name. His principal followers were Bishop Horne, the eminent Scotch statesman Duncan Forbes, Jones of Nayland, and a writer named Pike, who published a treatise called ‘Philosophia Sacra,’ which appears to have had a considerable influence in the Dissenting bodies. But for the most part divines in England cordially accepted the great discoveries of their time, and freethinkers appear to have had no suspicion that men of science were their natural allies. When Collins ascribed the decay of witchcraft to the growth of freethinking, Bentley retorted that it was not due to freethinkers, but to the Royal Society and to the scientific conception of the universe which that society had spread. Nearly all the early members of the Royal Society, nearly all the first teachers of the Newtonian philosophy, were ardent believers in revelation. Newton himself devoted much time and patience to the interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy. Boyle established a course of lectures for the defence of Christianity. Probably the earliest public and important adhesion to the Newtonian philosophy was that of Bentley, who promulgated it from the pulpit in 1692, when preaching the first series of Boyle lectures.1 It was defended against Leibnitz by Clarke, who was regarded as the first English theologian of his time. Ray and Derham, anticipating the method so skilfully pursued by Paley in his ‘Natural Theology,’ collected the evidence of design revealed by the scientific study of nature. Bishop Wilkins, who in his youth had been the defender of Galileo, was one of the earliest and most ardent supporters of the Royal Society. Its historian, Spratt, became an eminent bishop, and among its members was Glanvil, the ablest writer in defence of the belief in witchcraft. The story of the Deluge was believed to be conclusively proved by the fossil shells which were found on the tops of the mountains. If the chronology which limited the past existence of the world to about 6,000 years was occasionally impugned, it was only on the uncertain ground of Egyptian or Indian traditions, and it is remarkable that no less a reasoner than Berkeley pronounced that chronology to be essential to the faith.2 The doctrine of evolution, which plays so great a part in modern science and in modern philosophy, was of course unknown. No modern philosopher indeed, has described more strongly than Locke the continuity of the chain of organisms extending from the highest to the lowest; but the only inference he draws from it is the probability of the existence of higher beings ranging between the Deity and ourselves.1
Nor was this neglect of physical science the only respect in which the Deism of the eighteenth century differed from modern scepticism. The ‘Tractatus Theologico-Politicus’ of Spinoza had indeed laid the foundation of rationalistic Biblical criticism; and Dodwell, in his treatise ‘On the Small Number of the Martyrs,’ had very recently furnished an admirable example of the application of acute criticism to historical documents; but as a general rule it may be truly said that critical history was still in its infancy, while comparative mythology was as yet unborn. The laws that govern the formation of opinions, the different degrees of evidence required to establish natural and supernatural facts, the manner in which, in certain stages of society and under the influence of certain conceptions of the nature of the universe, miraculous histories spontaneously grow up, the correspondence between the root-doctrines of different religions, the large amount of illusion which in these matters may coexist with perfect purity of intention—all these subjects were as yet undiscussed. Mohammedanism was invariably treated as a work of unmixed imposture. Buddhism was scarcely known even by name, and no less a writer than Waterland still maintained the old patristic theory that Paganism was the creation of demons, who had persuaded men to worship them as gods.1 It was one of the many consequences of the exaggerated value attached to the ancient languages that the higher critical intellects were almost all absorbed in their study, to the great neglect of the most important questions relating to the history of opinions.
It is not surprising, under these circumstances, that the greater part of the Deistical controversy was very crude and superficial. The favourite topics were the improbability of a religion, intended to be universal, being based on a long train of perplexed historical evidence, and revealed only to a single obscure people; the moral difficulties of many parts of the Bible; the doubtfulness of the text, arising from the multitude of different readings and of apocryphal documents; the imperfection of the evidence from prophecy; the sufficiency of natural religion; the immorality of making rewards and punishments the supreme motives of virtue and of bribing the judgment by hope and fear. These topics were urged with no great power or skill, and there was manifested a strong sense of the incredibility of miracles, and a profound disbelief in the clergy, which was largely due to their political conduct since the Restoration.1 The frequency of pretended miracles in the early centuries of the Church was brought into relief by the ‘Life of Apollonius of Tyana,’ which was translated by Blount in 1680, and the whole question of the nature of inspiration by the pretended revelations of the French prophets from the Cevennes in 1706; while the speculations of Locke about the possibility of matter being endowed with thought gave rise to some materialistic thinking.
But on the whole the English constructive Deism of the eighteenth century has hardly left a trace behind it, and three only of the more negative writers can be said to have survived. Hume and Gibbon have won a conspicuous place in English literature, and Middleton—who, though a beneficed clergyman, must be regarded as a freethinker of the most formidable type—opened out the whole question of the historical evidence of miracles with extraordinary power in 1748, in his attack upon the miraculous narratives of the Fathers. With these exceptions English scepticism in the eighteenth century left very little of enduring value. Bolingbroke is a great name in politics, but the pretentious and verbose inanity of his theological writings fully justifies the criticism, ‘leaves without fruit,’ which Voltaire is said to have applied to his style.1 Shaftesbury is a considerable name in ethics, and he was a writer of great beauty, but his theological criticisms, though by no means without value, were of the most cursory and incidental character. Woolston was probably mad. Chubb was almost wholly uneducated; and although Collins, Tindal, and Toland were serious writers, who discussed grave questions with grave arguments, they were much inferior in learning and ability to several of their opponents, and they struggled against the pressure of general obloquy. The history of the English Deists of the eighteenth century is indeed a very singular one. At a time when the spirit of the theology of the Church was eminently rationalistic, they were generally repudiated, and by the middle of the eighteenth century they had already fallen into neglect. But Voltaire and his coadjutors fully acknowledged their obligation to their writings. The arguments, so feebly urged in England, were reproduced in France with brilliant genius. They were advocated in a country where the national intellect is always prone to push principles without regard to consequences to their extreme logical results. They were directed against a Church which had neither the power nor the disposition to modify its theology in the direction of Hoadly or Clarke, and they contributed very largely to the triumph of the Revolution.
In England the course of events was very different. But although a brilliant school of divines maintained the orthodox opinions with extraordinary ability and with a fearless confidence that science and severe reasoning were on their side, yet a latent scepticism and a widespread indifference might be everywhere traced among the educated classes. There was a common opinion that Christianity was untrue but essential to society, and that on this ground alone it should be retained. The indifference with which the writings of Hume and of Middleton were received was as far as possible from arising from a confident faith. I have already in a former chapter quoted several illustrations of the sceptical indifference that was prevalent, and many others might be given. The old religion seemed everywhere loosening around the minds of men, and it had often no great influence even on its defenders. Swift certainly hated freethinkers with all the energy of his nature; his ridicule did not a little to bring them into contempt; he appears to have been quite prepared to suppress by force the expression of all opinions which he regarded as injurious to the Constitution in Church and State,1 and several facts in his life show that he had very sincere personal religious convictions. Yet it would be difficult to find in the whole compass of English literature a more profane treatment of sacred things than ‘The Tale of a Tub,’ and one of his most powerful poems was a scandalous burlesque of the Last Judgment. Butler, in the preface to his ‘Analogy,’ declared that ‘it had come to be taken for granted that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry; but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious.’ In another work1 he speaks of ‘the general decay of religion in this nation; which is now observed by everyone, and has been for some time the complaint of all serious persons.’ ‘The influence of it,’ he adds, ‘is more and more wearing out of the minds of men, even of those who do not pretend to enter into speculations upon the subject; but the number of those who do, and who profess themselves unbelievers, increases, and with their numbers their zeal. … As different ages have been distinguished by different sorts of particular errors and vices, the deplorable distinction of ours is an avowed scorn of religion in some and a growing disregard of it in the generality.’ Addison pronounced it an unquestionable truth that there was ‘less appearance of religion in England than in any neighbouring state or kingdom,’ whether it be Protestant or Catholic;2 Sir John Barnard complained that ‘it really seems to be the fashion for a man to declare himself of no religion,’3 and Montesquieu summed up his observations on English life by declaring, no doubt with great exaggeration, that there was no religion in England, that the subject, if mentioned in society, excited nothing but laughter, and that not more than four or five members of the House of Commons were regular attendants at church.4
As is always the case, the habits prevailing in other spheres at once acted on and were influenced by religion. The selfishness, the corruption, the worship of expediency, the scepticism as to all higher motives that characterised the politicians of the school of Walpole; the heartless cynicism reigning in fashionable life which is so clearly reflected in the letters of Horace Walpole and Chesterfield; the spirit of a brilliant and varied contemporary literature, eminently distinguished for its measured sobriety of judgment and for its fastidious purity and elegance of expression, but for the most part deficient in depth, in passion, and in imagination, may all be traced in the popular theology. Sobriety and good sense were the qualities most valued in the pulpit, and enthusiasm and extravagance were those which were most dreaded. The habit of extempore preaching almost died out after Burnet, and Tillotson set the example of written discourses which harmonised better with the cold and colourless theology that prevailed. Clarke, who was at one time much distinguished as an extempore preacher, abandoned the practice as soon as he obtained the important and fashionable pulpit of St. James's,1 and the extraordinary popularity which was afterwards won by the sermons of Blair is itself a sufficient index of the theological taste. Voltaire, who was one of the most accurate observers of English manners, was much struck by the contrast in this respect between the English and French pulpits, and also between the English pulpit and the English stage. ‘Discourses,’ he says, ‘aiming at the pathetic and accompanied with violent gestures would excite laughter in an English congregation. For as they are fond of inflated language and the most impassioned eloquence on the stage, so in the pulpit they affect the most unornamented simplicity. A sermon in France is a long declamation, scrupulously divided into three parts and delivered with enthusiasm. In England a sermon is a solid but sometimes dry dissertation which a man reads to the people without gesture and without any particular exaltation of the voice.’2
In the dark picture which was drawn up by the Upper House of Convocation in 1711 of the state of religion in England,1 we find a complaint of a great and growing neglect of Sunday; but, as far as I can judge from the few scattered notices I have been able to discover, this neglect was very partial. In the upper classes the obligation of Sunday observance had undoubtedly been greatly relaxed, and the whole history of Methodism shows that a large proportion of the poor lay almost wholly beyond the range of religious ordinances; but the rigid Sabbatarianism of the middle classes, and especially of the Dissenters, was but slightly modified. By a law of Charles II., all hackney coaches were forbidden to ply their trade on Sunday, and although this measure gradually fell into disuse, it was for a short time enforced after the Revolution.2 In 1693, however—greatly, it is said, to the displeasure of Queen Mary—175 out of the 700 hackney coaches in London were allowed to appear in the streets on Sunday.3 Defoe, who usually represented very faithfully the best Dissenting opinion of his time, pronounced this measure ‘the worst blemish’ of the reign of William, and he complained bitterly that by the close of the reign of Anne ‘all the coaches that please may work on the Sabbath day.’4 Still, the severity of the observance was such that no less a person than the Chancellor Harcourt was stopped by a constable for driving through Abingdon at the time of public worship on Sunday,5 and the travelling of waggons and stage coaches on that day was during the first half of the eighteenth century almost, if not altogether, unknown in England. Bishop Watson, in a letter written to Wilberforce in 1800, described it as an evil which had chiefly grown up in the preceding thirty years,1 and it was probably due to the growth of the manufacturing towns increasing the necessity for rapid and frequent communications. At the time of the institution of the militia in 1757, it was proposed by the Government that the new force should be exercised on Sundays. It was important on account of the war that it should be speedily disciplined, and the ministers were anxious to interfere as little as possible with the private affairs of its members. The bishops appear to have made no opposition, and Pitt warmly supported the plan, but it created such indignation among the Dissenters that it was speedily abandoned.2 Nearly at the same time we find societies of tradesmen formed for the purpose of denouncing to the magistrates all bakers who were guilty of baking or selling bread on Sundays.3
The complaints, however, of the neglect of Sunday by the upper classes were loud and frequent, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the tone of fashionable manners was in this respect very different from what it became under George III. ‘It cannot escape the notice of the most superficial observer,’ wrote an eminent Dissenter, ‘that an habitual neglect of public worship is becoming general among us, beyond the example of former times.’4 ‘People of fashion,’ said Archbishop Secker, ‘especially of that sex which ascribes to itself most knowledge, have nearly thrown off all observation of the Lord's day … and if to avoid scandal they sometimes vouchsafe their attendance on Divine worship in the country, they seldom or never do it in town.’1 It was noticed that the behaviour of congregations, and especially of those members of them who were esteemed most polite and well-bred, had undergone a marked deterioration. The essayists continually complain that irreverence in church was fast becoming one of the distinguishing characteristics of such persons; that ‘bows, curtesies, whisperings, smiles, winks, nods, with other familiar arts of salutation,’ usually occupied their attention during a great part of the service; and that an English fashionable congregation formed in this respect a shameful contrast to Roman Catholic congregations on the Continent.2 Sunday was rapidly losing with these classes its distinctively religious character. Cabinet councils and Cabinet dinners were constantly held on that day.3 Sunday card-parties during a great part of the eighteenth century were fashionable entertainments in the best circles.4 Sunday concerts were somewhat timidly introduced, but they soon became popular. Burney, who came to London in 1744, notices a certain Lady Brown, ‘a persevering enemy to Handel, and protectress of foreign musicians in general, of the new Italian style;’ who ‘was one of the first persons of fashion who had the courage at the risk of her windows to have concerts on a Sunday evening.’5 The influence of the Court under the first two Georges was not favourable to a strict Sabbatarianism. There were usually Sunday levees. Whiston complained bitterly of the irreverence shown by Queen Caroline at public worship, and Lady Huntingdon refused to permit her daughter to be maid of honour on account of the Sunday card-parties at Court.1
The universities, which were the seed-plots of English divinity, had fallen into a condition of great moral and intellectual decrepitude. The pictures of Oxford life by Wesley and Amhurst may be open to some question, for the first writer was a vehement religious enthusiast, and the second a professed satirist. But other authorities not liable to these objections fully corroborate them. Gibbon, who entered Oxford in 1752, tells us that the months he spent there ‘proved the most idle and unprofitable in his whole life;’ that except for the candidates for fellowships ‘public exercises and examinations were utterly unknown;’ and that college discipline was so relaxed that it can scarcely be said to have existed. The tutors, like the professors, grossly neglected their duty. There was no supervision, no serious religious instruction, no measure taken to enforce the attendance of the pupils at the lectures, or even their steady residence within the walls of the university. ‘From the toil of reading or thinking, or writing, the fellows had absolved their conscience. … Their conversation stagnated in a round of college business, Tory politics, personal anecdotes and private scandal, while their dull and deep potations excused the intemperance of youth.’2 The language of Adam Smith, who, like Gibbon, had graduated at Oxford, is equally emphatic. ‘In the University of Oxford,’ he said, ‘the greater part of the public professors have for these many years given up altogether the practice of teaching.’ ‘The youth neither are taught, nor always can find any proper means of being taught, the sciences, which it is the business of these incorporated bodies to teach.’1 The impression which the gross abuses at Oxford left on the mind of Adam Smith was indeed so profound that it led him in his ‘Wealth of Nations’ to exaggerate greatly the case against all educational endowments, and to underrate very seriously the benefits they may produce.2
Chesterfield, when writing to an Irish friend in 1749 about Dublin University, added: ‘Our two universities at least will do it no hurt unless by their examples, for I cannot believe that their present reputations will invite people in Ireland to send their sons there. The one (Cambridge) is sunk into the lowest obscurity, and the existence of Oxford would not be known if it were not for the treasonable spirit publicly avowed and often exerted there.’3 In 1729 the heads of Oxford issued a notice complaining of the great spread of open Deism among the students; and in the following year three students were expelled, and a fourth had his degree deferred on this ground.4 In 1739 several students at Cambridge were convicted of a similar infidelity.5
The theological apathy which had fallen over the universities was probably one reason of the neglect of old theological literature, but the stronger and more abiding reason was that this literature was completely out of harmony with the prevailing spirit of the English mind. The spell of tradition and of Church authority was broken, and in an age wedded to inductive reasoning and peculiarly intolerant of absurdity, writers who were once the objects of unbounded reverence lost all their charm. For many years after the Reformation the patristic writings continued to be regarded in the English Church with a deference little less than that which was paid to the Bible; but after the reign of Queen Anne they were rarely read, and the few who still studied them disinterred them only to subject them to the most unsparing criticism. The many absurdities and contradictions they contained had already been exposed upon the Continent by Daillé and Barbeyrac, and in England Jortin and Middleton continued the work with eminent ability and success. From this time the patristic writings fell into a complete contempt, from which they were only partially rescued by the Tractarian movement of the present century.
The only department of dogmatic discussion which retained a great interest was that relating to the Trinity. It was natural that an age very hostile both to mystery and to ambiguity should have revolted against this doctrine, and that divines who valued beyond all other things clear thinking and accurate expression, should have been keenly sensible of the extreme difficulty of drawing the fine line between Tritheism on the one side and Sabellianism on the other. For about three generations the subject stood in the forefront of polemics; and Arianism, or at least that modified form known as semi-Arianism or Eusebianism, spread widely among the divines of the Church. Without venturing to apply the term creature to the Son, without denying His preexistence, His participation in the Divine nature, or His part in the creation of the world, these divines were accustomed to make at least a broad distinction of dignity between the persons of the Trinity. They maintained that whatever pains may be taken to disguise it, the belief in three independent, self-conscious, and coequal Divine Beings could be nothing but Tritheism; that to speak of ‘the Father and the Son,’ or of the Son as ‘begotten by the Father,’ is absolutely unmeaning and an abuse of language, unless the Being designated as the Father existed before the Being designated as the Son; that there is one unoriginated, independent, self-existing, and supreme Divine Being, and that there are two derived and dependent ones. The passages in Scripture which appear to speak of the subordination of the Son to the Father were continually dwelt on, and it was contended that what is termed the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was never formulated till the Council of Nice, and is mainly based on a text which is notoriously a forgery. In the reign of Queen Anne when patristic studies were still in vogue, the controversy was chiefly carried on in that field, and Bishop Bull obtained the singular honour of a vote of thanks from the French Bishops, headed by Bossuet, for his defence of the orthodoxy of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. Under Waterland, South, Sherlock, and Clarke the controversy assumed a more popular character, and spread widely through all classes.1 In the beginning of the reign of George I. the Government, fearing the political consequences of theological agitation, issued directions to the Archbishops and Bishops for restraining all novelties of expression and all violent discussion on the subject, but the measure seems to have had little result.2 Not only divines of great ability, but even prelates of the Church, were gravely suspected of leanings to Arianism. The charge was frequently brought against Hoadly, and at a later period against Law, the Bishop of Carlisle, though in each case it appears to rest rather upon omissions in their teaching and upon the sympathies they showed than upon any distinctly heretical statement. Rundle, a friend of Whiston and Clarke, and for some time the domestic chaplain of Bishop Talbot, was accused of a latent Deism; and Bishop Gibson, on that ground, prevented him from obtaining the bishopric of Gloucester, but in 1735 he was presented to the see of Derry, which he is said to have adorned with many virtues. Clayton, who for nearly thirty years occupied a place in the Irish Episcopate, openly attacked Athanasianism, moved in the Irish House of Lords in 1756 that the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds should be expunged from the Prayer Book, and was at last threatened with a prosecution in 1757. He died in the following year, while the case was still pending, and his death was generally attributed to the anxiety he underwent.1
Among the Dissenters, and especially among the Presbyterians and in the seminaries, Arianism, in many cases slowly deepening into Socinianism, was still more widely spread. An able school of Arian teachers arose among the Dissenting ministers of Exeter about 1717, and their views advanced rapidly over Devonshire and Cornwall, and gradually extended to the metropolis.2 A similar doctrine took deep root in Edinburgh, and it was especially prominent in the University of Glasgow, where many of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland and most of those of Ireland were educated. The chair of theology at Glasgow from 1708 to 1729 was held by Simson, one of the ablest of the party, and for two generations that of Edinburgh was occupied by divines who at least countenanced Arianism by the omissions in their teaching. Simson, after a long period of litigation, was censured and suspended from his ministerial functions, but the hesitation or indulgence shown by the General Assembly in its dealings with him was one great cause of the secession of the Associate Presbytery in 1733.1 Though inspired by the most intense and narrow orthodoxy, this secession was a symptom of the growth of the opposite spirit, for it was essentially a protest against the increasing laxity, both in dogma and practice, which was displayed by some sections of the Scotch Presbyterians. The liberal movement was greatly strengthened by Francis Hutcheson, who held the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow from 1729 till his death in 1747. Hutcheson adopted for the first time the custom of lecturing in English, and his eloquence, his zeal, and his singularly attractive character combined with his high philosophical reputation to give him a complete ascendency over the students. He formed an intellectual atmosphere in which the old theological conceptions of God and of the Universe silently faded. Teaching that all virtues are modes of benevolence, he exalted the amiable qualities in man to a dignity altogether inconsistent with the Calvinistic theory of human nature, while his admirable expositions of the function of beauty in the moral world, as well as his strong assertion of the existence and supreme authority of a moral sense in man, struck at the root of the hard asceticism and the systematic depreciation of human nature which were so deeply ingrained in the Scottish Kirk. Without impugning any theological doctrine, he never concealed his dislike and his contempt for dogmatic discussions and definitions, and he encouraged the divinity students, over whom he exercised an especial influence, to drop them altogether from their sermons. His indirect influence was very great, both in Scotland and in Ireland; and among the Presbyterians of Ulster, after about the middle of the eighteenth century, Arian, or, as they were called, ‘New Light’ opinions were completely in the ascendant.1
Accompanying these tendencies, we find a growing repugnance to articles of faith. This, like the preceding movement, appeared almost equally among Churchmen and Dissenters. Among the latter an important movement against subscription arose in connection with the Exeter controversy, and at a great meeting held at Salters' Hall, in 1719, the Dissenting ministers decided by a small majority not to meet the growing heresy by a test.2 At a still earlier period, Abernethy, in conjunction with a small group of friends, founded in Ireland ‘The Belfast Society,’ whose members taught that the first conditions of acceptance with the Deity are moral virtues and sincere conviction; that the honest error of a good man can never exclude from salvation; that positive doctrines are either uncertain or nonessential, and that Churches have no right to require subscription to human formularies.1 In the Anglican Church Hoadly, in 1720, raised the famous Bangorian controversy by a sermon on the kingdom of Christ, in which—following out a line of argument which he had already laid down in his ‘Preservative against the Principles of the Nonjurors’—he struck a severe blow, not only against the theory of apostolical succession and of a visible and divinely constituted Church, but also against the whole system of authoritative confessions of faith.2 His principles spread far and fast. A deep conviction of the duty of a disinterested and unbiassed search for truth, of the innocence of honest error, and of the evil of all attempts to deflect the judgment by hope or fear, or to prescribe the conclusions at which it must arrive, characterised that small body of divines who took their principles from Locke and Chillingworth, and it is the best feature of eighteenth-century theology. The letter of Hare, Bishop of Chichester, ‘to a young clergyman on the difficulties and discouragements in the study of Scripture,’ is a curious example of the language on this subject which could be employed by a man who was actually raised to two bishoprics, and who was even thought of for the see of Canterbury. He strongly justified the writings of Whiston and Clarke on the Trinity, and maintained that the absence of real liberty of discussion among the clergy was the great obstacle to the serious study of Scripture. ‘The man,’ he added, ‘whose study of the Scriptures has betrayed him into a suspicion of some heretical opinions, must be blackened and defamed … insulted by every worthless wretch as if he had as little learning and virtue as the lowest of those who are against him. … Orthodoxy will cover a multitude of sins, but a cloud of virtues cannot cover the want of the minutest particle of orthodoxy. It is expected, no matter how unreasonably, that a man should always adhere to the party he has once taken. It is the opinion of the world that he is all his life bound by the subscriptions he made in his first years, as if a man were as wise at twenty-four, and knew as much of the Scriptures and antiquity, and could judge as well of them as he can at fifty. ‘Name me any one,’ he continued, ‘of the men famed for learning in this or the last age who have seriously turned themselves to the study of Scripture. And what is it that all this can be imputed to? … To be plain, the one thing which turned them from so noble a study was the want of liberty, which in this study only is denied men. … A happy emendation on a passage in a pagan writer that a modest man would blush at, will do you more credit and be of greater service to you than the most useful employment of your time upon the Scriptures, unless you resolve to conceal your sentiments and speak always with the vulgar.’
The influence of this wave of thought was shown in the latitude admitted in the interpretation of the Articles. A very considerable latitude may indeed be amply justified. The Church of England is a national Church, which can only mean a representative Church, representing, as far as possible, the forms of religious belief existing in the country. When its constitution was framed, English Protestants were divided into two widely different sections, the one leaning in most things towards Catholicism, while the other was substantially Puritan. The Church was intended to comprise them both. The Prayer Book was a compromise framed for the purpose of comprehension and peace. Ambiguities of expression were intentionally introduced into it, and its double origin is clearly reflected in the conflicting tendencies of its parts. The Church was designed to be a State Church, including the whole nation, governed by the national legislature, and disposing of vast revenues for national purposes. It may reasonably, therefore, be concluded that those who interpret its formularies in the widest and most comprehensive sense compatible with honesty are acting most faithfully to the spirit of its founders. It was argued, too, that a Church which proclaimed herself liable to err, which took her stand upon the right of private judgment, and not only repudiated the Roman claim to infallibility, but even declared that all preceding Churches actually had erred, could hardly be understood to claim for herself a complete exemption from error in all the many and complicated dogmatic questions on which she had pronounced. Were it otherwise, the advocacy of private judgment would be a mockery, and Steele would have been right when he maintained that the difference between the Roman and the Anglican Churches was merely that the former claimed to be infallible and the latter to be always right. Some divines contended that the Articles might be assented to in any sense they could grammatically bear; others that any person may agree to them if he can in any sense at all reconcile them with Scripture; others that nothing was required but a general acquiescence in their substantial truth; others that they were merely articles of peace, and that the sole duty of the clergyman was to abstain from attacking the doctrines they assert; others that it was sufficient if the clergyman believed them at the time when he was asked to sign them.
The practice of compelling boys fresh from school, on their arrival at the University, to subscribe them, and the exaction of a similar subscription at every stage of a University career, destroyed almost all sense of the solemnity and the reality of the obligation. Signing the Articles came to be looked upon as a mere antiquated official form, like the obligation of assenting to certain perfectly obsolete statutes, which was long maintained in at least one of our universities. The general disappearance of dogma from popular teaching, and the fact that the clergy were almost universally Arminian while the tendency of the Articles was clearly Calvinistic, contributed to this state of mind. It was contended that what was called the Arian subscription was at least as tenable as the Arminian one. Whiston, it is true, so boldly urged his Arian principles that he lost his professorship at Cambridge; and Lindsey and a few other clergymen resigned their preferments on account of their Arian or Socinian views; but many others acted with far less boldness. Clarke, when censured by Convocation for his work on the Trinity, merely promised to write no more on the subject. He refused a bishopric on the ground that it would oblige him again to sign the Articles, but he retained, apparently without scruple, his vicarage of St. James.1 Lord King was quoted as justifying subscription to the Articles when unaccompanied by belief, on the ground that ‘we must not lose our usefulness for scruples.’2 A shameful letter, written in 1736, by no less a person than Middleton, is preserved, treating with the utmost ridicule the Articles at the very time when the writer was signing them in order to take possession of a living.3 Hume, when consulted by a friend on the question whether a young clergyman whose opinions had become profoundly sceptical should remain in the Church and accept its preferments, answered decidedly in the affirmative. ‘Civil employments for men of letters,’ he said, ‘can scarcely be found. … It is putting too great a respect on the vulgar and on their superstitions to pique oneself on sincerity with regard to them. Did ever one make it a point of honour to speak the truth to children or madmen? … The ecclesiastical profession only adds a little more to an innocent dissimulation, or rather simulation, without which it is impossible to pass through the world.’1 It is not surprising that ‘The Confessional’ of Archdeacon Blackburne, which appeared in 1766, and which was directed against the whole system of clerical subscription, should have excited a wide interest and exercised a considerable influence. Many of the ablest pens in the Church were employed upon the subject,2 and in 1772 a considerable body of clergymen, in conjunction with some eminent laymen, petitioned Parliament to be relieved from the burden of subscription.
The grave defects of the religious condition I have described are very evident, and have been abundantly recognised. Yet cold, selfish, and unspiritual as was the religion of England from the Revolution till the Methodist movement had pervaded the Establishment with its spirit, it was a period that was not without its distinctive excellences. It was a period when many superstitions profoundly injurious to human happiness perished or decayed. It was a period when among the higher divines there were several who followed the lead of Hoadly, and warmly, steadily, and ably fought the battle of liberty and toleration in every field. It was a period when theological teaching was at least eminently practical, was characterised by a rare moderation and good sense, and was singularly free from everything that was fanatical, feverish, or mystical. The Church made it her peculiar mission to cultivate the decencies of life, to inculcate that ordered, practical, and measured virtue which is most conducive to the welfare of nations. The interests of men in this world were never lost sight of. The end of the preacher was to make good and happy men. The motives to which he appealed were purely rational. There were few saints, but among the higher clergy we find many who combined with unusually enlightened and tolerant judgments a very high degree of amiable and unobtrusive piety. There was little dogmatic exposition and still less devotional literature, but the assaults of the Deists were met with masterly ability. The attempt, indeed, which Pascal had made in the preceding century to establish Christianity on spiritual intuitions, and on the harmony of Revelation with the wants and conditions of our nature, was almost abandoned, but the evidences of Christianity were elaborated with a skill and power that had never before been equalled. In very few periods do we find so much good reasoning, or among the better class of divines so sincere a love of truth, so perfect a confidence that their faith had nothing to fear from the fullest and most searching investigation. To this period belong the ‘Alciphron’ of Berkeley, the ‘Analogy’ of Butler, the defence of natural and revealed religion by Clarke, the ‘Credibility of the Gospels’ by Lardner, as well as the ‘Divine Legation’ of Warburton, and the evidential writings of Sherlock, Leslie, and Leland. The clergy, as a rule, made little pretension to the prerogatives of a sacerdotal caste. Those of the great cities were often skilful and masculine reasoners. The others were small country gentry, slightly superior to their neighbours in education and moral conduct, discharging the official duties of religion, but mixing, without scruple and without question, in country business and in country sports. Their standard was low. Their zeal was very languid, but their influence, such as it was, was chiefly for good.
That in such a society a movement like that of Methodism should have exercised a great power is not surprising. The secret of its success was merely that it satisfied some of the strongest and most enduring wants of our nature which found no gratification in the popular theology, that it revived a large class of religious doctrines which had been long almost wholly neglected. The utter depravity of human nature, the lost condition of every man who is born into the world, the vicarious atonement of Christ, the necessity to salvation of a new birth, of faith, of the constant and sustaining action of the Divine Spirit upon the believer's soul, are doctrines which in the eyes of the modern Evangelical constitute at once the most vital and the most influential portions of Christianity, but they are doctrines which during the greater part of the eighteenth century were seldom heard from a Church of England pulpit. The moral essays which were the prevailing fashion, however well suited they might be to cultivate the moral taste, or to supply rational motives to virtue, rarely awoke any strong emotions of hope, fear, or love, and were utterly incapable of transforming the character and arresting and reclaiming the thoroughly depraved.
It is, of course, not to be supposed that spiritual or evangelical religion was absolutely extinct. As long as the Bible and Prayer Book were read, as long as the great devotional literature of the past remained, this was wholly impossible. The Independents are said to have been attached more generally to evangelical doctrines than any other sect, and in the Church of England itself we may find some traces of a more active religious life. They were, however, chiefly in the last years of the seventeenth century and the first quarter of the eighteenth century. The Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge was founded by a few private gentlemen in 1696. It began that vast dissemination of tracts, Prayer Books, and Bibles which still forms so prominent a feature of English life, encouraged the employment and education of the poor, and discharged several other functions of mercy. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was at first one of its branches, but it became a separate organisation in 1701. One of the most important functions of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge was the establishment of charity schools, which multiplied rapidly under Anne. ‘I have always looked on the institution of charity schools,’ wrote Addison, ‘which of late years has so universally prevailed through the whole nation, as the glory of the age we live in.’1 The clergy actively supported them. The movement for establishing them was stimulated by the accounts of a somewhat similar movement that had been going on at Halle. In the fifteen years ending in 1712 as many as 117 schools were set up in London and Westminster, and nearly 5,000 children were taught in them.1 A large proportion of the endowed schools now existing in England owe their origin to the enthusiasm for education in this period.2
The corruption of manners which had been general since the Restoration was combated by societies for ‘the Reformation of Manners,’ which in the last years of the seventeenth century acquired extraordinary dimensions. They began in certain private societies which arose in the reign of James II., chiefly under the auspices of Beveridge and Bishop Horneck. These societies were at first purely devotional, and they appear to have been almost identical in character with those of the early Methodists. They held prayer-meetings, weekly communions, and Bible-readings; they sustained charities and distributed religious books, and they cultivated a warmer and more ascetic type of devotion than was common in the Church. Societies of this description sprang up in almost every considerable city in England and even in several of those in Ireland. In the last years of the seventeenth century we find no less than ten of them in Dublin. Without, however, altogether discarding their first character, they assumed, about 1695, new and very important functions. They divided themselves into several distinct groups, undertaking the discovery and suppression of houses of ill-fame, and the prosecution of swearers, drunkards, and Sabbath-breakers. They became a kind of voluntary police, acting largely as spies, and enforcing the laws against religious offences. The energy with which this scheme was carried out is very remarkable. As many as seventy or eighty persons were often prosecuted in London and Westminster for cursing and swearing, in a single week. Sunday markets, which had hitherto been not uncommon, were effectually suppressed. Hundreds of disorderly houses were closed. Forty or fifty night-walkers were sent every week to Bridewell, and numbers were induced to emigrate to the colonies. A great part of the fines levied for these offences was bestowed on the poor. In the fortieth annual report of the ‘Societies for the Reformation of Manners’ which appeared in 1735, it was stated that the number of prosecutions for debauchery and profaneness in London and Westminster alone, since the foundation of the societies, had been 99, 380.
The societies about this time sank into comparative insignificance. The objections to them were of many kinds and came from many different quarters. Sacheverell, and some of the other High Churchmen, had denounced them as leading Churchmen to co-operate with Dissenters. Religious fervour had diminished throughout the nation, and what remained soon began to flow in the Methodist channel. To the mass of the people the character of informer and spy was intensely odious, and it was felt by many that swearing and abstaining from church were not fit grounds for judicial interference. The magistrates very wisely discouraged the prosecutions. Although the societies ordered their members to refuse to accept the sum which the law in certain cases awarded to the informer, great abuses sprang up. Corruption and private malice were detected in many of the prosecutions, much unpopularity was aroused, and about the middle of the eighteenth century the societies became extinct. They form, however, a curious episode in the history of their time, and in their earlier stages they were undoubtedly inspired by a fervid, though somewhat misguided, religious zeal.1
A few other instances may be given. In the colonies religious activity appears to have been greater than at home. About 1734 a religious revival, very similar to that of the Methodists, followed the preaching, and was afterwards described by the pen, of Jonathan Edwards; and a few years later the career of Brainerd furnished one of the purest and most touching pages in the history of missionary enterprise. At home the names of Wilson and Berkeley, of Gardiner and Watts, of Doddridge and Calamy, will at once occur to the reader. The writer, however, who exercised the deepest influence in this direction was probably the Nonjuror William Law. This very remarkable man was born in 1686. He had been Fellow of Emmanuel College at Cambridge, but having lost his Fellowship by his refusal to take the oath to George I., he became tutor to the father, and afterwards spiritual director to the aunt, of the historian Gibbon, and to another old lady, and he lived in great seclusion till his death in 1761. His opinions were of a High Church type much tinctured with asceticism, and latterly with mysticism, and he took an active part in most of the controversies of his time. He wrote a violent treatise on the absolute unlawfulness of the theatre. He attacked the opinions of Hoadly on Church government and on the Sacrament, the fable of the Bees by Mandeville, the Deism of Tindal, and the ‘Divine Legation’ of Warburton, and in his old age he enthusiastically embraced the mystical fancies of Jacob Behmen. He was a singularly skilful and brilliant controversialist, and in the opinion of many the most formidable of all the opponents of Hoadly; but his fame chiefly rests upon his purely devotional works—upon his treatise on ‘Christian Perfection,’ and above all, upon his ‘Serious Call.’ This book was for many years the standard devotional treatise which the more pious clergymen were accustomed to read to their parishioners, and the more pious masters to their households. To this book Dr. Johnson ascribed his first strong religious impressions. Gibbon has left an emphatic testimony to its merits, and Wesley not only recognised it as having had a powerful influence on his own mind, but even dates the whole religious revival of the eighteenth century from its appearance in 1730. It is indeed one of the most solemn and most powerful works of its kind in any literature, and is well fitted to exercise a deep and lasting influence upon the character. It is intended to demonstrate the necessity of a real Christian separating himself altogether in life and feelings from the world that is about him, to show how profoundly the modes of life and judgment, the aims, the ambitions, the amusements, the popular types of character in society are repugnant to the precepts and ideals of the Gospel; to prove that ‘all worldly attainments, whether of greatness, wisdom, or bravery, are but empty sounds;’ that ‘there is nothing wise or great or noble in a human spirit but rightly to know and heartily to worship and adore the great God who is the support and life of all spirits whether in heaven or earth.’1
The Methodist movement was a purely religious one. All explanations which ascribe it to the ambition of its leaders, or to merely intellectual causes, are at variance with the facts of the case. The term Methodist was a college nickname bestowed upon a small society of students at Oxford, who met together between 1729 and 1735 for the purpose of mutual improvement. They were accustomed to communicate every week, to fast regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays, and on most days during Lent; to read and discuss the Bible in common, to abstain from most forms of amusement and luxury, and to visit sick persons, and prisoners in the gaol. John Wesley, the master spirit of this society,1 and the future leader of the religious revival of the eighteenth century, was born in 1703, and was the second surviving son of Samuel Wesley, the Rector of Epworth, in Lincolnshire. His father, who had early abandoned Non-conformity, and acquired some reputation by many works both in prose and verse, had obtained his living from the Government of William, and had led for many years a useful and studious life, maintaining a far higher standard of clerical duty than was common in his time. His mother was the daughter of an eminent Nonconformist minister, who had been ejected in 1662, and was a woman of rare mental endowments, of intense piety, and of a strong, original, and somewhat stern character. Their home was not a happy one. Discordant dispositions and many troubles darkened it. The family was very large. Many children died early. The father sank slowly into debt. His parishioners were fierce, profligate, and recalcitrant. When John Wesley was only six years old the rectory was burnt to the ground, and the child was forgotten among the flames, and only saved at the last moment by what he afterwards deemed an extraordinary Providence. All these circumstances doubtless deepened the natural and inherited piety for which he was so remarkable, and some strange and unexplained noises which during a long period were heard in the rectory, and which its inmates concluded to be supernatural, contributed to that vein of credulity which ran through his character.
He was sent to the Charterhouse, and from thence to Oxford, where at the age of twenty-three he was elected Fellow of Lincoln. He had some years before acquired from his brother a certain knowledge of Hebrew, and he was speedily distinguished by his extraordinary logical powers, by the untiring industry with which he threw himself into the studies of the place, and above all by the force and energy of his character. His religious impressions, which had been for a time somewhat obscured, revived in their full intensity while he was preparing for ordination in 1725. He was troubled with difficulties, which his father and mother gradually removed, about the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian Creed, and about the compatibility of the Articles with his decidedly Arminian views concerning election; and he was deeply influenced by the ‘Imitation’ of Thomas à Kempis, by the ‘Holy Living and Dying’ of Jeremy Taylor, and by Law's ‘Serious Call.’ His life at Oxford became very strict. He rose every morning at four, a practice which he continued till extreme old age. He made pilgrimages on foot to William Law to ask for spiritual advice. He abstained from the usual fashion of having his hair dressed, in order that he might give the money so saved to the poor. He refused to return the visits of those who called on him, that he might avoid all idle conversation. His fasts were so severe that they seriously impaired his health, and extreme abstinence and gloomy views about religion are said to have contributed largely to hurry one of the closest of his college companions to an early and a clouded death.
The society hardly numbered more than fifteen members, and was the object of much ridicule at the university; but it included some men who afterwards played considerable parts in the world. Among them was Charles, the younger brother of John Wesley, whose hymns became the favourite poetry of the sect, and whose gentler, more submissive, and more amiable character, though less fitted than that of his brother for the great conflicts of public life, was very useful in moderating the movement, and in drawing converts to it by personal influence. Charles Wesley appears to have originated the society at Oxford; he brought Whitefield into its pale, and besides being the most popular poet he was one of the most persuasive preachers of the movement. There, too, was James Hervey, who became, one of the earliest links connecting Methodism with general literature. During most of his short life he was a confirmed invalid. His affected language, his feeble, tremulous, and lymphatic nature formed a curious contrast to the robust energy of Wesley and Whitefield; but he was a great master of a kind of tumid and over-ornamented rhetoric which has an extraordinary attraction to half-educated minds. His ‘Meditations’ was one of the most popular books of the eighteenth century.1 His ‘Theron and Aspasio,’ which was hardly less successful, was an elaborate defence of Evangelical opinions; and though at this time the pupil and one of the warmest admirers of Wesley, he afterwards became conspicuous in the Calvinistic section of the party, and wrote with much acerbity against his old master. There, too, above all, was George Whitefield, in after years the greatest pulpit orator of England. He was born in 1714, in Gloucester, in the Bell Inn, of which his mother was proprietor, and where upon the decline of her fortunes he was for some time employed in servile functions. He had been a wild impulsive boy, alternately remarkable for many mischievous pranks, and for strange outbursts of religious zeal. He stole money from his mother, and he gave part of it to the poor. He early declared his intention one day to preach the Gospel, but he was the terror of the Dissenting minister of his neighbourhood, whose religious services he was accustomed to ridicule and interrupt. He bought devotional books, read the Bible assiduously, and on one occasion, when exasperated by some teasing, he relieved his feelings, as he tells us, by pouring out in his solitude the menaces of the 118th Psalm; but he was also passionately fond of card-playing, novel-reading, and the theatre; he was two or three times intoxicated, and he confesses with much penitence to ‘a sensual passion’ for fruits and cakes. His strongest natural bias was towards the stage. He indulged it on every possible occasion, and at school he wrote plays and acted in a female part. Owing to the great poverty of his mother he could only go to Oxford as a servitor, and his career there was a very painful one. Thomas à Kempis, Drelincourt's ‘Defence against Death,’ and Law's devotional works had all their part in kindling his piety into a flame. He was haunted with gloomy and superstitious fancies, and his religion assumed the darkest and most ascetic character. He always chose the worst food, fasted twice a week, wore woollen gloves, a patched gown, and dirty shoes, and was subject to paroxysms of a morbid devotion. He remained for hours prostrate on the ground in Christ's Church Walk in the midst of the night, and continued his devotions till his hands grew black with cold. One Lent he carried his fasting to such a point that when Passion week arrived he had hardly sufficient strength to creep upstairs, and his memory was seriously impaired. In 1733 he came in contact with Charles Wesley, who brought him into the society. To a work called ‘The Life of God in the Soul of Man,’ which Charles Wesley put into his hands, he ascribed his first conviction of that doctrine of free salvation which he afterwards made it the great object of his life to teach.1
With the exception of a short period in which he was assisting his father at Epworth, John Wesley continued at Oxford till the death of his father in 1735, when the society was dispersed, and the two Wesleys soon after accepted the invitation of General Oglethorpe, to accompany him to the new colony of Georgia. It was on his voyage to that colony that the founder of Methodism first came in contact with the Moravians, who so deeply influenced his future life. He was surprised and somewhat humiliated at finding that they treated him as a mere novice in religion; their perfect composure during a dangerous storm made a profound impression on his mind, and he employed himself while on board ship in learning German, in order that he might converse with them. On his arrival in the colony, he abandoned after a very slight attempt his first project of converting the Indians, and devoted himself wholly to the colonists at Savannah. They were of many different nationalities, and it is a remarkable proof of the energy and accomplishments of Wesley, that in addition to his English services he officiated regularly in German, French, and Italian, and was at the same time engaged in learning Spanish, in order to converse with some Jewish parishioners.
His character and opinions at this time may be briefly described. He was a man who had made religion the single aim and object of his life; who was prepared to encounter for it every form of danger, discomfort, and obloquy; who devoted exclusively to it an energy of will and a power of intellect that in worldly professions might have raised him to the highest positions of honour and wealth. Of his sincerity, of his self-renunciation, of his deep and fervent piety, of his almost boundless activity, there can be no question. Yet with all these qualities he was not an amiable man. He was hard, punctilious, domineering, and in a certain sense even selfish. A short time before he left England, his father, who was then an old and dying man, and who dreaded above all things that the religious fervour which he had spent the greater part of his life in kindling in his parish should dwindle after his death, entreated his son in the most pathetic terms to remove to Epworth, in which case he would probably succeed to the living, and be able to maintain his mother in her old home. Wesley peremptorily refused to leave Oxford, and the reason he assigned was very characteristic. ‘The question,’ he said, ‘is not whether I could do more good to others there than here; but whether I could do more good to myself, seeing wherever I can be most holy myself, there I can most promote holiness in others.’ ‘My chief motive,’ he wrote, when starting for Georgia, ‘is the hope of saving my own soul. I hope to learn the true sense of the Gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen.’1
He was at this time a High Churchman of a very narrow type, full of exaggerated notions about Church discipline, extremely anxious to revive obsolete rubrics, and determined to force the strictest ritualistic observances upon rude colonists, for whom of all men they were least adapted. He insisted upon adopting baptism by immersion, and refused to baptise a child whose parents objected to that form. He would not permit any non-communicant to be a sponsor; repelled one of the holiest men in the colony from the communion-table because he was a Dissenter; refused for the same reason to read the burial service over another; made it a special object of his teaching to prevent ladies of his congregation from wearing any gold ornament or any rich dress, and succeeded in inducing Oglethorpe to issue an order forbidding any colonist from throwing a line or firing a gun on Sunday. His sermons, it was complained, were all satires on particular persons. He insisted upon weekly communions, desired to re-baptise Dissenters who abandoned their nonconformity, and exercised his pastoral duties in such a manner that he was accused of meddling in every quarrel, and prying into every family. As might have been expected, he soon became extremely unpopular in the colony, and a disgraceful episode terminated his stay. A connection, which was at first purely religious, between himself and a young lady of his congregation, gradually led to feelings of a different order. Considerable approaches—according to the lady's account they amounted to a distinct proposal—were made towards a marriage, but before finally deciding, he thought it necessary to consult the authorities of the Moravian Church, who ordered him to proceed no farther in the matter, and whose judgment he accepted as the command of God. The lady soon after married a Mr. Wilkinson—a ‘person,’ Wesley very bitterly complained, ‘not remarkable for handsomeness, neither for greatness, neither for wit, or knowledge, or sense, and least of all for religion.’ Wesley continued, in spite of her husband's express command, his pastoral attentions to her, forced himself repeatedly into her presence, and ended by repelling her from the communion. It was said among his followers that the lady had made the first overtures to Wesley and had feigned a greater devotion than was real to her in order to attract him; but the only specific charge alleged against her was that she had not communicated more than three times in three months, and had not intimated her intention to the clergyman before coming to the sacred table. Her husband was naturally and greatly incensed at the stigma thus publicly inflicted on his wife, and he brought an action against Wesley for defaming her character.
It is not surprising that the worst construction should have been put upon the motives of a clergyman who acted in such a manner. The grand jury were divided in their opinions, but the majority pronounced his conduct wholly unjustifiable, and took the opportunity of censuring the ritualistic innovations and severities which he had introduced. A trial was impending, but owing to different causes, and in spite of the ardent desire of Wesley, it was repeatedly and almost indefinitely postponed. In the meantime, popular feeling ran violently against him. His position had become intolerable, and his usefulness was almost destroyed. Under these circumstances, Wesley, by the advice of his friends, fled from Georgia, and arrived in England on February 1, 1737-8.1 At that very moment Whitefield was on his way to the colony.
A more unpropitious commencement for a great career could hardly be conceived. Wesley returned to England in bad health and low spirits. He redoubled his austerities and his zeal in teaching, and he was tortured by doubts about the reality of his faith. It was at this time, and in this state of mind, that he came in contact with Peter Böhler, a Moravian teacher, whose calm and concentrated enthusiasm, united with unusual mental powers, gained a complete ascendency over his mind. From him Wesley for the first time learned that form of the doctrine of justification by faith which he afterwards regarded as the fundamental tenet of Christianity. He had long held that in order to be a real Christian it was necessary to live a life wholly differing from that of the world around him, and that such a renewal of life could only be effected by the operation of the Divine Spirit; and he does not appear to have had serious difficulties about the doctrine of imputed righteousness, although the ordinary Evangelical doctrine on this matter was emphatically repudiated and denounced by Law.2 From Böhler he first learned to believe that every man, no matter how moral, how pious, or how orthodox he may be, is in a state of damnation, until, by a supernatural and instantaneous process wholly unlike that of human reasoning, the conviction flashes upon his mind that the sacrifice of Christ has been applied to and has expiated his sins; that this supernatural and personal conviction or illumination is what is meant by saving faith, and that it is inseparably accompanied by an absolute assurance of salvation, and by a complete dominion over sin. It cannot exist where there is not a sense of the pardon of all past and of freedom from all present sins. It is impossible that he who has experienced it should be in serious and lasting doubt as to the fact, for its fruits are ‘constant peace—not one uneasy thought,’ ‘freedom from sin—not one unholy desire.’ Repentance and fruits meet for repentance, such as the forgiveness of those who have offended us, ceasing from evil and doing good, may precede this faith, but good works in the theological sense of the term spring from, and therefore can only follow, faith.
Such, as clearly as I can state it, was the fundamental doctrine which Wesley adopted from the Moravians. His mind was now thrown, through causes very susceptible of a natural explanation, into an exceedingly excited and abnormal condition, and he has himself chronicled with great minuteness in his journal the incidents that follow. On Sunday, March 5, 1738, he tells us that Böhler first fully convinced him of the want of that supernatural faith which alone could save. The shock was very great, and the first impulse of Wesley was to abstain from preaching, but his new master dissuaded him, saying: ‘Preach faith till you have it, and then because you have faith you will preach faith.’ He followed the advice, and several weeks passed in a state of extreme religious excitement, broken, however, by strange fits of ‘indifference, dulness, and coldness.’ While still believing himself to be in a state of damnation, he preached the new doctrine with such passionate fervour, that he was excluded from pulpit after pulpit. He preached to the criminals in the gaols. He visited under the superintendence of Böhler some persons who professed to have undergone the instantaneous and supernatural illumination. He addressed the passengers whom he met on the roads, or at the public tables in the inns. On one occasion, at Birmingham, he abstained from doing so, and he relates, with his usual imperturbable confidence, that a heavy hailstorm which he afterwards encountered, was a Divine judgment, sent to punish him for his neglect.
This condition could not last long. At length, on May 24—a day which he ever after looked back upon as the most momentous in his life—the cloud was dispelled. Early in the morning, according to his usual custom, he opened the Bible at random, seeking for a Divine guidance, and his eye lighted on the words, ‘There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the Divine nature.’ Before he left the house he again consulted the oracle, and the first words he read were, ‘Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.’ In the afternoon he attended service in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the anthem, to his highly wrought imagination, seemed a repetition of the same hope. The sequel may be told in his own words. ‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all, what I now first felt in my heart.’1
Pictures of this kind are not uncommon in the lives of religious enthusiasts, but they usually have a very limited interest and importance. It is, however, scarcely an exaggeration to say that the scene which took place at that humble meeting in Aldersgate Street forms an epoch in English history. The conviction which then flashed upon one of the most powerful and most active intellects in England is the true source of English Methodism. Shortly before this, Charles Wesley, who had also fallen completely under the influence of Böhler, had passed through a similar change; and Whitefield, without ever adopting the dangerous doctrine of perfection which was so prominent in the Methodist teaching, was at a still earlier period an ardent preacher of justification by faith and of the new birth. It was characteristic of John Wesley that ten days before his conversion he wrote a long, petulant and dictatorial letter to his old master, William Law, reproaching him with having kept back from him the fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and intimating in strong and discourteous language his own conviction, and that of Böhler, that the spiritual condition of Law was a very dangerous one. It was no less characteristic of the indefatigable energy which formed another and a better side of his nature, that immediately after his change he started on a pilgrimage to Herrnhut, the head-quarters of Moravianism, in order that he might study to the best advantage what he now regarded as the purest type of a Christian Church. He returned objecting to many things, but more than ever convinced of his new doctrine, and more than ever resolved to spend his life in diffusing it. In the course of 1738 the chief elements of the movement were already formed. Whitefield had returned from Georgia, Charles Wesley had begun to preach the doctrine with extraordinary effect to the criminals in Newgate and from every pulpit into which he was admitted. Methodist societies had already sprung up under Moravian influence. They were in part a continuation of the society at Oxford, in part a revival of those religious societies that have been already noticed as so common after the Revolution. The design of each was to be a church within a church, a seedplot of a more fervent piety, the centre of a stricter discipline and a more energetic propagandism than existed in religious communities at large. In these societies the old Christian custom of lovefeasts was revived. The members sometimes passed almost the whole night in the most passionate devotions, and voluntarily submitted to a spiritual tyranny that could hardly be surpassed in a Catholic monastery. They were to meet every week, to make an open and particular confession of every frailty, to submit to be cross-examined on all their thoughts, words and deeds. The following among others were the questions asked at every meeting: ‘What known sin have you committed since our last meeting? What temptations have you met with? How were you delivered? What have you thought, said, or done of which you doubt whether it be sin or not? Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?’
Such rules could only have been accepted under the influence of an overpowering religious enthusiasm, and there was much truth in the judgment which the elder brother of John Wesley passed upon them in 1739. ‘Their societies,’ he wrote to their mother, ‘are sufficient to dissolve all other societies but their own. Will any man of common sense or spirit suffer any domestic to be in a band engaged to relate to five or ten people everything without reserve that concerns the person's conscience how much soever it may concern the family? Ought any married persons to be there unless husband and wife be there together?’
From this time the leaders of the movement became the most active of missionaries. Without any fixed parishes they wandered from place to place, proclaiming their new doctrine in every pulpit to which they were admitted, and they speedily awoke a passionate enthusiasm and a bitter hostility in the Church. Nothing, indeed, could appear more irregular to the ordinary parochial clergyman than those itinerant ministers who broke away violently from the settled habits of their profession, who belonged to and worshipped in small religious societies that bore a suspicious resemblance to conventicles, and whose whole tone and manner of preaching were utterly unlike anything to which he was accustomed. They taught, in language of the most vehement emphasis, as the cardinal tenet of Christianity, the doctrine of a new birth in a form which was altogether novel to their hearers. They were never weary of urging that all men are in a condition of damnation who have not experienced a sudden, violent, and supernatural change, or of inveighing against the clergy for their ignorance of the very essence of Christianity. ‘Tillotson,’ in the words of Whitefield, ‘Knew no more about true Christianity than Mahomet.’ ‘The Whole Duty of Man,’ which was the most approved devotional manual of the time, was pronounced by the same preacher, on account of the stress it laid upon good works, to have ‘sent thousands to hell.’ The Methodist preacher came to an Anglican parish in the spirit, and with the language, of a missionary going to the most ignorant heathens; and he asked the clergyman of the parish to lend him his pulpit, in order that he might instruct the parishioners—perhaps for the first time—in the true Gospel of Christ. It is not surprising that the clergy should have resented such a movement, and the manner of the missionary was as startling as his matter. The sermons of the time were, as I have said, almost always written, and the prevailing taste was cold, polished, and fastidious. The new preachers preached extempore, with the most intense fervour of language and gesture, and usually with a complete disregard of the conventionalities of their profession. Wesley frequently mounted the pulpit without even knowing from what text he would preach, believing that when he opened his Bible at random the Divine Spirit would guide him infallibly in his choice. The oratory of Whitefield was so impassioned that the preacher was sometimes scarcely able to proceed for his tears, while half the audience were convulsed with sobs. The love of order, routine, and decorum, which was the strongest feeling in the clerical mind, was violently shocked. The regular congregation was displaced by an agitated throng, who had never before been seen within the precincts of the church. The usual quiet worship was disturbed by violent enthusiasm or violent opposition, by hysterical paroxysms of devotion or remorse, and when the preacher had left the parish he seldom failed to leave behind him the elements of agitation and division.
We may blame, but we can hardly, I think, wonder at the hostility all this aroused among the clergy. It is, indeed, certain that Wesley and Whitefield were at this time doing more than any other contemporary clergymen to kindle a living piety among the people. It is equally certain that they held the doctrines of the Articles and the Homilies with an earnestness very rare among their brother clergymen, that none of their peculiar doctrines were in conflict with those doctrines, and that Wesley at least was attached with an even superstitious reverence to ecclesiastical forms. Yet before the end of 1738 the Methodist leaders were excluded from most of the pulpits of the Church, and were thus compelled, unless they consented to relinquish what they considered a Divine mission, to take steps in the direction of separation.
Two important measures of this nature were taken in 1739. One of them was the creation of Methodist chapels, which were intended not to oppose or replace, but to be supplemental and ancillary to, the churches, and to secure that the doctrine of the new birth should be faithfully taught to the people. The other, and still more important event, was the institution by White-field of field-preaching. The idea had occurred to him in London, where he found congregations too numerous for the church in which he preached, but the first actual step was taken in the neighbourhood of Bristol. At a time when he was himself excluded from the pulpits at Bristol, and was thus deprived of the chief normal means of exercising his talents, his attention was called to the condition of the colliers of Kingswood. He was filled with horror and compassion at finding in the heart of a Christian country, and in the immediate neighbourhood of a great city, a population of many thousands, sunk in the most brutal ignorance and vice, and entirely excluded from the ordinances of religion. Moved by such feelings, he resolved to address the colliers in their own haunts. The resolution was a bold one, for field-preaching was then utterly unknown in England, and it needed no common courage to brave all the obloquy and derision it must provoke, and to commence the experiment in the centre of a half-savage population. Whitefield, however, had a just confidence in his cause and in his powers. Standing himself upon a hillside, he took for his text the first words of the sermon which was spoken from the Mount, and he addressed with his accustomed fire an astonished audience of some 200 men. The fame of his eloquence spread far and wide. On successive occasions, five, ten, fifteen, even twenty thousand were present. It was February but the winter sun shone clear and bright. The lanes were filled with carriages of the more wealthy citizens, whom curiosity had drawn from Bristol. The trees and hedges were crowded with humbler listeners, and the fields were darkened by a compact mass. The voice of the great preacher pealed with a thrilling power to the very out-shirts of that mighty throng. The picturesque novelty of the occasion and of the scene, the contagious emotion of so great a multitude, a deep sense of the condition of his hearers and of the momentous importance of the step he was taking, gave an additional solemnity to his eloquence. His rude auditors were electrified. They stood for a time in rapt and motionless attention. Soon tears might be seen forming white gutters down cheeks blackened from the coal-mine. Then sobs and groans told how hard hearts were melting at his words. A fire was kindled among the outcasts of Kingswood which burnt long and fiercely, and was destined in a few years to overspread the land.
It was only with great difficulty that Whitefield could persuade the Wesleys to join him in this new phase of missionary labour. John Wesley has left on record in his Journal his first repugnance to it, ‘having,’ as he says, ‘been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.’ Charles Wesley, on this as on most other occasions, was even more strongly conservative. The two brothers adopted their usual superstitious practice of opening their Bibles at random, under the belief that the texts on which their eyes first fell would guide them in their decision. The texts were ambiguous and somewhat ominous, relating for the most part to violent deaths; but on drawing lots the lot determined them to go. It was on this slender ground that they resolved to give the weight of their example to this most important development of the movement. They went to Bristol, from which Whitefield was speedily called, and continued the work among the Kingswood colliers, and among the people of the city; while Whitefield, after a preaching tour of some weeks in the country, reproduced on a still larger scale the triumphs of Kingswood by preaching with marvellous effect to immense throngs of the London rabble at Moorfields and on Kennington Common. From this time field-preaching became one of the most conspicuous features of the revival.
The character and genius of the great preacher to whom this most important development of Methodism was due demand a more extended notice than I have yet given them. Unlike Wesley, whose strongest enthusiasm was always curbed by a powerful will, and who manifested at all times and on all subjects an even exaggerated passion for reasoning, Whitefield was chiefly a creature of impulse and emotion. He had very little logical skill, no depth or range of knowledge, not much self-restraint, nothing of the commanding and organising talent, and it must be added, nothing of the arrogant and imperious spirit so conspicuous in his colleague. At the same time a more zealous, a more single-minded, a more truly amiable, a more purely unselfish man it would be difficult to conceive. He lived perpetually in the sight of eternity, and a desire to save souls was the single passion of his life. Of his labours it is sufficient to say that it has been estimated that in the thirty-four years of his active career he preached 18,000 times, or on an average ten times a week, that these sermons were delivered with the utmost vehemence of voice and gesture, often in the open air, and to congregations of many thousands, and that he continued his exertions to the last, when his constitution was hopelessly shattered by disease. During long periods he preached forty hours, and sometimes as much as sixty hours, a week. In the prosecution of his missionary labours he visited almost every important district in England and Wales. At least twelve times he traversed Scotland, three times he preached in Ireland, thirteen times he crossed the Atlantic. Very few men placed by circumstances at the head of a great religious movement have been so absolutely free from the spirit of sect. Very few men have passed through so much obloquy with a heart so entirely unsoured, and have retained amidst so much adulation so large a measure of deep and genuine humility. There was indeed not a trace of jealousy, ambition, or rancour in his nature. There is something singularly touching in the zeal with which he endeavoured to compose the differences between himself and Wesley, when so many of the followers of each leader were endeavouring to envenom them; in the profound respect he continually expressed for his colleague at the time of their separation; in the exuberant gratitude he always showed for the smallest act of kindness to himself; in the tenderness with which he guarded the interests of the inmates of that orphanage at Georgia around which his strongest earthly affections were entwined; in the almost childish simplicity with which he was always ready to make a public confession of his faults.
His failings were chiefly those of a somewhat weak nature, of overstrung nerves, and of a half-educated and very defective taste. He was a little irritable and occasionally a little vain. His theological opinions betrayed him into much narrowness of judgment, and his impulsive disposition into constant indiscretion and exaggeration of language. His letters, and indeed most of his writings, are intolerably tedious, and sometimes not a little repulsive. They are written for the most part with that exaggeration of sentiment, in that maudlin, ecstatic, effusive, and meretricious style which is so common among his co-religionists, and which appears to most cultivated minds to denote much vulgarity, not only of taste, but of feeling. It is a style crowded with ejaculations, interrogations, and quotations from Scripture, in which the simplest subject is expressed in strained Biblical language, in which the inmost and deepest feelings of the soul are ostentatiously paraded, and the most sacred subjects and the holiest names are treated with coarse familiarity. His devotional language is of the kind which Wesley designated as ‘luscious or amorous,’ and it is marked by an utter absence of reticence, dignity, or measure. Of the even profane imagery to which he could descend it is sufficient to say that he once spoke of Christ as ‘roasted, as it were, in the Father's wrath, and therefore fitly styled the Lamb of God.’ He was too fond of assuming the language of a martyr, and of publishing to the world accounts of the fluctuations of his feelings. Sometimes he writes in a strain of high spiritual pride, ‘I have a garden near at hand, where I go particularly to meet and talk with my God at the cool of every day.’ ‘I am filled, as it were, with the fullness of God. I am frequently at Calvary and frequently on Mount Tabor.’ ‘My heaven is begun indeed. I feast on the fatted calf.’ At other times he describes himself as ‘a worm,’ ‘a dead dog,’ ‘an outcast of the people.’ All this exaggeration of language, as well as his extraordinary propensity to tears, provoked much ridicule and led many very naturally, though very unjustly, to question his sincerity. In the latter part of his career he became chaplain to the Countess of Huntingdon and had frequent relations with members of the nobility, and although there is no evidence that this connection ever led him to relax his efforts for the benefit of the poor, or to conceal or neglect any known frailty of his hearers, it produced a vast amount of fulsome, florid, half-Scriptural adulation about ‘the elect lady,’ and the other ‘great ones of the world’ with whom he had come in contact. In this respect Whitefield differed remarkably from Wesley, who was absolutely inaccessible to the fascinations of rank.
His position with reference to the Church was a very singular one. He was an ordained clergyman cordially acknowledging all the Articles and sincerely attached to the liturgy of his Church, but at the same time altogether independent of ecclesiastical control. To Wesley's mind, the ecclesiastical aspect of things appeared always extremely important, and he was for much of his life greatly troubled about questions concerning the form of baptism, the propriety of rebaptising Dissenters, the functions and privileges of different orders of clergy, and the nature and danger of schism. At no period of his development do such questions appear to have had any interest for Whitefield. His one object was to save souls by propagating what he regarded as the cardinal truths of the Gospel, and he looked upon the framework of churches as altogether unimportant, except as far as they gave him facilities for this work. Travelling from place to place, he pursued his course without the slightest control, and he had not the smallest scruple in preaching in Dissenting meeting-houses, in receiving the communion with Dissenters, or, when in Scotland, baptising children according to the Scotch form. When an English bishop dilated upon the great and manifest irregularity of his proceedings, he answered with much force that he had never diverged on a single point from the doctrines of his Church, but had nevertheless been excluded from the great majority of its pulpits. ‘When I acted in the most regular manner, and when I was bringing multitudes, even of Dissenters themselves, to crowd the churches, without any other reason being given than that of too many followers after me, I was denied the use of them. Being thus excluded, and many thousands of ignorant souls, that perhaps would neither go to church nor meeting-houses, being very hungry after the Gospel, I thought myself bound in duty to deal out to them the bread of life.’ Canons were cited which he had infringed, but he answered that much that was in the Canons had been tacitly suffered to fall into desuetude, and that it would be hard if those parts should be especially enforced which limited a clergyman in his power of usefulness. ‘As good is done and souls are benefited, I hope your lordship will not regard a little irregularity, since at the worst it is only the irregularity of doing well.’1 In the same spirit, when in 1741 the Associate Presbytery, who had seceded from the Church of Scotland, invited him to preach, he utterly refused to enter into their petty quarrels, professed his complete readiness to communicate with them, but his firm resolution not to abandon the Church of England, and maintained in the face of Presbyterian as strongly as in the face of Episcopalian bigotry, that no particular form of Church government was of Divine obligation. When urged to preach only in the meeting-houses of the Associate Presbytery, he answered: ‘I come only as an occasional preacher to preach the simple Gospel to all that are willing to hear me of whatever denomination.… If I am quite neuter as to Church government in my preaching, I cannot see how it can hinder or retard any design you may have on foot.’ ‘If the Pope himself would lend me his pulpit, I would gladly proclaim the righteousness of Jesus Christ therein.’2
The position which Whitefield took on this subject is well worthy of attention, for it is typical of the whole course of the Methodist movement. As time rolled on, there were many clergymen who followed his example, and became at least virtually Dissenters, without having the smallest disposition to reject the doctrine or discard the liturgy of the Church. Their only objection to it was the severity of its discipline, which limited their powers for good. Had the Church of England, like the Church of Rome, possessed a sufficient variety or elasticity of organisation to find a place for her more enthusiastic disciples, it may be safely asserted that the Methodist movement would never have resulted in a schism.
The position of a roving evangelist was of all others that for which both the genius and the disposition of Whitefield were most suited. Great as was the success of John Wesley in the career which he adopted, it is difficult to observe his extraordinary powers both of organisation and of reasoning, without reflecting upon what he might have been if circumstances had made him a statesman or a lawyer, while his brother was clearly more fitted for the quiet life of a country clergyman. Whitefield, beyond all other men, was adapted for the boisterous vicissitudes of the itinerant life. To move the great masses of the populace by impassioned religious appeals, to travel from place to place, perpetually addressing new congregations and kindling to a flame the smouldering piety of the nation, was at once his peculiar talent and his supreme delight.
As a popular preacher, indeed, he appears never to have been equalled in England, and the information we possess concerning him is sufficient to enable us to realise very fully the elements of his success. His eloquence had nothing of that chaste and polished beauty which was displayed in the discourses of the great French preachers, and which in the present century has led so many men of fastidious taste to hang spell-bound around the pulpit of Robert Hall. It had none of that force of reasoning, that originality of thought, or that splendour of language, which constituted the great charm of the sermons of Chalmers. Yet, while exercising a power, which has probably never been equalled, on the most ignorant and the most vicious, Whitefield was quite capable of fascinating the most refined audiences in London, and he extorted the tribute of warm admiration from such critics as Hume and Franklin, from such orators as Bolingbroke and Chesterfield. His preaching combined almost the highest perfection of acting with the most burning fervour of conviction. No man ever exhibited more wonderfully that strange power which great histrionic talent exercises over the human mind—investing words which are in truth the emptiest bombast with all the glow of the most majestic eloquence, and imparting, for a moment at least, to confident assertions more than the weight of the most convincing arguments. His gestures were faultless in their beauty and propriety, while his voice was so powerful that Franklin, who was the most accurate of men, ascertained by experiment that it could be heard distinctly in the open air by 30,000 persons.1 It was at the same time eminently sweet, musical, and varied, and it was managed with a perfect skill. Garrick is reported to have said, with a pardonable exaggeration, that Whitefield could pronounce the word Mesopotamia in such a way as to move an audience to tears. With the exception of a slight squint of one eye, which was much dwelt on by his satirists, his person was unusually graceful and imposing, and, like Chatham, the piercing glance of a singularly brilliant eye contributed in no small measure to the force of his appeals.
To these gifts we must add a large command of vivid, homely, and picturesque English, and an extraordinary measure of the tact which enables a practised orator to adapt himself to the character and dispositions of his audience. We must add, above all, a contagious fervour of enthusiasm, which, like a resistless torrent, bore down every obstacle. Of no other preacher could it be more truly said that he preached ‘as a dying man to dying men.’ His favourite maxim was that ‘a preacher, whenever he entered the pulpit, should look upon it as the last time he might preach, and the last time his people might hear.’ To his vivid imagination Heaven and Hell, Death and Judgment appeared palpably present. His voice was sometimes choked with tears; he stamped vehemently on the pulpit floor; every nerve was strained; his whole frame was convulsed with passion.up>1 One who heard him, described how, during the whole remainder of his life, he was haunted by the recollection of the tone of piercing pathos with which Whitefield once interrupted the course of his remarks, as if overpowered by a sudden thought: ‘Oh, my hearers, the wrath to come! the wrath to come!’ One of the great peculiarities of the Methodist preachers was the personal application they gave to their exhortations. It was their main object, by gesture, by look, by the constant use of the singular pronoun, to preach so that each member of the congregation might imagine the whole force of the denunciations or of the pleadings of the preacher was directed individually to himself. In this art Whitefield especially excelled, and he sometimes carried it to strange lengths, and employed it with strange effects. On one occasion he saw the actor Shuter, who was then attracting much notice in the part of Ramble in the ‘Rambler,’ seated in a front pew of the gallery. He at once turned towards him and exclaimed, ‘And thou, too, poor Ramble, who hast rambled so far from him, oh! cease thy ramblings, and come to Jesus.’ On another, when appealing to a negro congregation he asked whether they did not desire to go to heaven, the audience was amused by an old negro audibly exclaiming ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘The gentleman put the question once or twice,’ he afterwards explained, ‘till at last he seemed to point to me, and I was ashamed that nobody should answer him, and therefore I did.’ Very frequently by his glance he singled out, or appeared to single out, one member of his vast congregation, and a great part of the tremendous power which his appeals exercised over some minds is ascribed to this habit.
He delighted in strokes of dramatic oratory, which with an ordinary man would have appeared simply ludicrous or intolerably tawdry, but to which his transcendent power of acting never failed to impart an extraordinary power. On one occasion—the scene is described by no less a person than David Hume—‘after a solemn pause he thus addressed the audience: “The attendant angel is just about to leave the threshold of this sanctuary and ascend to heaven. And shall he ascend and not bear with him the news of one sinner among all this multitude reclaimed from the error of his way?” To give the greater effect to this exclamation Whitefield stamped with his foot, lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven, and cried aloud, “Stop, Gabriel, stop ere you enter the sacred portals, and yet carry with you the news of one sinner converted to God!” This address,’ adds Hume, ‘was accompanied by such animated, yet natural action, that it surpassed anything I ever saw or heard in any other preacher.’1 He was fond of painting the denial by Peter, and when he came to describe the Apostle as going out and weeping bitterly, he had always ready a fold of his gown in which to bury his face. Sometimes he would visit a Court of Justice, and afterwards reproduce the condemnation scene in the pulpit. With his eyes full of tears, and his voice trembling with pity, he would begin, after a momentary pause: ‘I am now going to put on the condemning cap. Sinner, I must do it. I must pronounce sentence upon you.’ Then, changing his tone, he thundered over his awestruck congregation the solemn words—‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!’ Of the vehemence of his manner, and the extraordinary effect which that vehemence produced, it is difficult from any example of our own day to form a conception. ‘I hardly ever knew him to go through a sermon,’ wrote one who knew him well, ‘without weeping more or less, and I truly believe his were the tears of sincerity. His voice was often interrupted by his affection, and I have heard his say in the pulpit, “You blame me for weeping, but how can I help it when you will not weep for yourselves, though your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction, and for aught you know, you are hearing your last sermon?”’1 ‘God always makes use of strong passions,’ he was accustomed to say, ‘for a great work,’ and it was the object of his eloquence to rouse such passions to the highest point. Hume describes almost the whole assembly as weeping, and though himself one of the most delicate of critics and one of the coldest and most sceptical of men, he pronounced Whitefield the most ingenious preacher he had ever heard, and declared that it was worth going twenty miles to hear him.
The account which Franklin has given of the effects of the eloquence of Whitefield, though well known, is too characteristic to be omitted. Franklin, strongly disapproving of the scheme of building an orphanage in Georgia, which was but thinly populated and where workmen and materials were scarce, instead of at Philadelphia, determined not to support it. ‘I happened soon after,’ he tells us, ‘to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all. At this sermon there was also one of our club, who being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had by precaution emptied his pockets before he came from home. Towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong inclination to give, and applied to a neighbour who stood near him to lend him some money for the purpose. The request was made to perhaps the only man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. His answer was, “At any other time, friend Hopkinson, I would lend thee freely, but not now, for thee seems to me to be out of thy right senses.”’1
The effect of this style of preaching was greatly enhanced by an extreme variety of gesture, intonation, and manner. Considering the very small number of his ideas, it is a remarkable proof of the oratorical talents of Whitefield that his sermons were never charged with monotony. He frequently interspersed the more serious passages with anecdotes or illustrations. He sometimes even relieved them by a jest. Often, when the audience had been strung to the highest pitch of excitement, he would suddenly make a long, solemn and dramatic pause. He painted scenes as if they were visibly present to his eye, with all the fire and the animation of the most perfect actor. On one occasion, when illustrating the peril of sinners, he described with such an admirable power an old blind man deserted by his dog, tottering feebly over the desolate moor, endeavouring in vain to feel his way with his staff, and gradually drawing nearer and nearer to the verge of a dizzy precipice, that when he arrived at the final catastrophe, no less a person than Lord Chesterfield lost all self-possession, and was heard audibly exclaiming, ‘Good God! he is gone.’ On another occasion, preaching before seamen at New York, he adopted a nautical tone. ‘Well, my boys, we have a clear sky, and are making fine headway over a smooth sea before a light breeze, and we shall soon lose sight of land. But what means this sudden lowering of the heavens, and that dark cloud arising from beneath the western horizon? Hark! don't you hear distant thunder? Don't you see those flashes of lightning? There is a storm gathering! Every man to his duty! How the waves arise and dash against the ship! The air is dark! the tempest rages! Our masts are gone! The ship is on her beam-ends! What next?’ ‘The long boat, take to the long boat!’ shouted his excited hearers.
A very great part of his influence depended no doubt upon the matter of his discourses. He avoided all abstract reflections, all trains of reasoning, everything that could fatigue the attention, or rouse the intellect to question or oppose. His preaching was based upon the most confident assertions, and it dealt almost exclusively with topics which, if firmly believed. can hardly fail to have a deep influence upon men. The utter depravity of human nature—the eternal tortures which are the doom of every unconverted man—the free salvation by Christ—the imminence of death—the necessity to salvation of a complete, supernatural change of character and emotions, were the subjects upon which he continually dilated. It is easy to understand that such topics, urged by a great orator, at a time when some of them were by no means familiar, should have exercised a far deeper influence than any dissertation upon the duties of man or the authority of revelation. Besides this, Whitefield was perpetually changing his audience. His style was never suffered to pall upon his hearers. The same sermon was again and again repeated, and at every repetition passages which appeared ineffective were retrenched, and a greater perfection of emphasis and intonation was acquired. Garrick and Foote declared that he never reached his highest perfection till the fortieth repetition. The picturesque scenes and the striking contrasts which out-of-door preaching furnished added to the effect, and the great multitude who were attracted by his eloquence gave in turn to that eloquence an additional power. A contagion of excitement was aroused, and an irresistible wave of sympathetic feeling rolled through the mighty host.
I have dwelt at some length upon the preaching of Whitefield, for it was of vital importance to the religious revival of the eighteenth century. But for the simultaneous appearance of a great orator and a great statesman, Methodism would probably have smouldered and at last perished like the very similar religious societies of the preceding century. Whitefield was utterly destitute of the organising skill which could alone give a permanence to the movement, and no talent is naturally more ephemeral than popular oratory; while Wesley, though a great and impressive preacher, could scarcely have kindled a general enthusiasm had he not been assisted by an orator who had an unrivalled power of moving the passions of the ignorant. The institution of field-preaching by Whitefield in the February of 1739 carried the impulse through the great masses of the poor, while the foundation by Wesley, in the May of the same year, of the first Methodist chapel was the beginning of an organised body capable of securing and perpetuating the results that had been achieved. Dissensions, however, deep and lasting, speedily arose. In 1739 Methodism was merely an offshoot of Moravianism, but several causes combined to detach it from its parent stem. Wesley revolted against the more than episcopal authority which Count Zinzendorf exercised over the Brethren, and the Moravian teachers refused to acknowledge the supernatural character of the hysterical convulsions that now continually accompanied the preaching of Wesley. An Alsatian enthusiast, named Molther, whose mind was very uncongenial to that of Wesley, obtained great popularity among the Moravians, and led the sect into the wildest extravagances of mysticism and Antinomianism. ‘No soul,’ said one of their religious teachers, ‘can be washed in the blood of Christ unless it first be brought to one in whom Christ is fully formed. But there are only two such ministers in London, Bell and Molther.’ Another—a theological brazier—announced to his hearers that ‘it is impossible for anyone to be a true Christian out of the Moravian Church.’ The Moravian doctrine that no man is in a state of salvation if he has any doubt about his condition, which appears to have been at first accepted by Wesley, now became incredible to his mind. He preached openly against it, and taught that there were degrees of justifying faith. He protested against a kind of amorous, mystical, and sensuous language, something like that which Catholics have frequently employed in the devotions of the Sacred Heart, which under the influence of Molther became common among the Moravians. Above all, he protested strongly against the Antinomianism which was rapidly springing out of their doctrine that we are justified by faith alone, and that conversion is accomplished by an instantaneous supernatural process in which we have no part. For believers it was said the ordinances of religion were not a matter of duty, necessity, or injunction, but only of choice, while for those who were not believers in the Moravian sense of the word, it was criminal to partake in them. ‘For a man not born of God to read the Scriptures or come to the Lord's table is deadly poison.’ All who had not experienced the sudden conversion were exhorted to await it ‘in stillness.’ ‘To search the Scriptures, to pray or to communicate before we have faith, is to seek salvation by works, and such works must be laid aside before faith can be received.’ ‘A man,’ said one of these teachers, ‘may as well go to hell for praying as for thieving.’1
These extravagances do not appear to have formed part of the original teaching of the Moravians, and a few years later they were greatly qualified, but in 1740 they were at their height, and they precipitated the inevitable division. Wesley preached strongly against them. He was excluded from the Moravian pulpit in Fetter Lane. He then, accompanied by eighteen or nineteen followers, seceded from the society which he had himself founded, and which had been the centre of the movement, and formed, at a place called the Foundery, a new society, in July 1740. A fortnight later he addressed a long letter to the Moravian leaders in Germany enumerating and protesting against the extravagances of their followers. From this time the breach between Methodism and Moravianism was complete.
Shortly before this schism a Calvinist had, it is said, been excluded by order of Charles Wesley from the society meeting on account of his assertion of the doctrines of election and reprobation, and the differences between Wesley and Whitefield on this ground were rapidly deepening. The Calvinism of Whitefield was much strengthened by connections he formed in America, and he at the same time grew more and more hostile to the doctrine of perfection, to which Wesley appeared more and more attached. Both Wesley and Whitefield appear to have sincerely desired to avoid a rupture, but each had many friends who urged them on, and neither of them was very capable of reticence or forbearance. Wesley, galled by an anonymous letter accusing him of withholding a portion of the Gospel in his sermons, submitted the question whether he should preach and print on election, to the decision of a lot, and the answer being in the affirmative he delivered and subsequently published that sermon on free grace which is probably the most powerful production of his pen. Whitefield, though he had at one time promised not to preach on the contested point, thought that this resolution was a sinful one. He told Wesley that the Gospels they believed in were different ones, and he both wrote and preached in favour of his views. A subordinate, but zealous and devoted preacher named Cennick took a still more decided course, and Wesley, having discovered that he was introducing disputes into the society and continually accusing the Wesleys of mutilating the Gospel, expelled him from the society. About fifty seceded with him. The Calvinistic Methodists were subsequently organised chiefly under the influence of the Countess of Huntingdon, but after the death of Whitefield they never occupied a position at all comparable to that of the rival section. While Whitefield lived the rupture was never complete, and it was not until 1775 that a controversy broke out between the two sections, which was so virulent that it rendered reunion impossible. Whitefield to the last spoke of Wesley with a touching affection. On one occasion when a censorious Calvinist asked him whether he thought they would see John Wesley in heaven, ‘I fear not,’ said the great preacher; ‘he will be so near the throne, and we shall be at such a distance, that we shall hardly get a sight of him.’ He remembered him warmly in his will, and it was in obedience to the expressed wish of Whitefield that Wesley was selected to preach his funeral sermon.1
These internal dissensions, however, had but little effect upon the immediate prospects of the movement. Its success depended upon the zeal and abilities of its leaders, upon the evangelical doctrines which they had revived and which were peculiarly fitted to exercise a deep influence upon the people, and upon the institution of field-preaching, which brought those doctrines before vast multitudes who had scarcely before come into any contact with religion. The great difficulty was the small number of the teachers and the general hostility of the clergy, but this was remedied in the beginning of 1741 by the institution of lay preachers. Nelson and Maxfield were the two earliest. They had begun preaching in the preceding year without authorisation and apparently without concert, under the impulse of an overpowering missionary enthusiasm; and it was only very reluctantly, and chiefly in obedience to the advice of his mother, that Wesley consented to sanction the step.
From the time of the institution of lay preachers Methodism became in a great degree independent of the Established Church. Its chapels multiplied in the great towns, and its itinerant missionaries penetrated to the most secluded districts. They were accustomed to preach in fields and gardens, in streets and lecture-rooms, in market-places and churchyards. On one occasion we find Whitefield at a fair mounting a stage which had been erected for some wrestlers, and there denouncing the pleasures of the world; on another, preaching among the mountebanks at Moorfields; on a third, attracting around his pulpit 10,000 of the spectators at a racecourse; on a fourth, standing beside the gallows at an execution to speak of death and of eternity. Wesley, when excluded from the pulpit of Epworth, delivered some of his most impressive sermons in the churchyard, standing on his father's tomb. Howell Harris, the apostle of Wales, encountering a party of mountebanks, sprang into their midst exclaiming, in a solemn voice, ‘Let us pray,’ and then proceeded to thunder forth the judgments of the Lord. Rowland Hill was accustomed to visit the great towns on market-day in order that he might address the people in the market-place, and to go from fair to fair preaching among the revellers from his favourite text, ‘Come out from among them.’ In this manner the Methodist preachers came in contact with the most savage elements of the population, and there were few forms of mob violence they did not experience. In 1741 one of their preachers named Seward, after repeated ill-treatment in Wales, was at last struck on the head while preaching at Monmouth, and died of the blow. In a riot, while Wheatley was preaching at Norwich, a poor woman with child perished from the kicks and blows of the mob. At Wednesbury—a little town in Staffordshire—then very famous for its cock-fights—numerous houses were wrecked; the Methodists were stoned, beaten with cudgels, or dragged through the public kennels. Women were atrociously abused. The leaders of the mob declared their intention to destroy every Methodist in the county. Wesley himself appeared in the town, and the rioters speedily surrounded the house where he was staying. With the placid courage that never deserted him in danger, he descended alone and unarmed into their midst. His perfect calmness and his singularly venerable appearance quelled the most noisy, and he succeeded by a few well-chosen words in producing a sudden reaction. His captors, however, insisted on his accompanying them to a neighbouring justice, who exhorted them to disperse in peace. The night had now fallen, and Wesley was actually returning to Wednesbury protected by a portion of the very crowd which had attacked him, when a new mob poured in from an adjoining village. He was seized by the hair and dragged through the streets. Some struck at him with cudgels. Many cried to knock out his brains and kill him at once. A river was flowing near, and he imagined they would throw him into the water. Yet in that dreadful moment his self-possession never failed him. He uttered in loud and solemn tones a prayer to God. He addressed those who were nearest him with all the skill that a consummate knowledge of the popular character could supply, and he speedily won over to his side some of the most powerful of the leaders. Gradually the throng paused, wavered, divided; and Wesley returned almost uninjured to his house. To a similar courage he owed his life at Bolton, when the house where he was preaching was attacked, and at last burst open, by a furious crowd thirsting for his life. Again and again he preached, like the other leaders of the movement, in the midst of showers of stones or tiles or rotten eggs. The fortunes of his brother were little different. At Cardiff, when he was preaching, women were kicked and their clothes set on fire by fireworks. At St. Ives and in the neighbouring villages the congregation were attacked with cudgels, and everything in the room where they were assembled was shattered to atoms. At Devizes a water-engine played upon the house where he was staying. His horses were seized. The house of one of his supporters was ransacked, and bull-dogs were let loose upon him. At Dublin Whitefield was almost stoned to death. At Exeter he was stoned in the very presence of the bishop. At Plymouth he was violently assaulted and his life seriously threatened by a naval officer.
Scenes of this kind were of continual occurrence, and they were interspersed with other persecutions of a less dangerous description. Drums were beaten, horns blown, guns let off, and blacksmiths hired to ply their noisy trade in order to drown the voices of the preachers. Once, at the very moment when Whitefield announced his text, the belfry gave out a peal loud enough to make him inaudible. On other occasions packs of hounds were brought with the same object, and once, in order to excite the dogs to fury, a live cat in a cage was placed in their midst. Fire-engines poured streams of fetid water upon the congregation. Stones fell so thickly that the faces of many grew crimson with blood. At Hoxton the mob drove an ox into the midst of the congregation. At Pensford the rabble, who had been baiting a bull, concluded their sport by driving the torn and tired animal full against the table on which Wesley was preaching. Sometimes we find innkeepers refusing to receive the Methodist leaders in their inns, farmers entering into an agreement to dismiss every labourer who attended a Methodist preacher, landlords expelling all Methodists from their cottages, masters dismissing their servants because they had joined the sect. The magistrates, who knew by experience that the presence of a Methodist preacher was the usual precursor of disturbance or riot, looked on them with the greatest disfavour, and often scandalously connived at the persecutions they underwent. After the Wednesbury riots some Staffordshire magistrates issued a proclamation describing them as ‘disorderly persons who go about raising routs and riots,’1 and they enjoined the constables to search for and arrest them. At Cork, the grand jury formally presented Charles Wesley and some of his coadjutors as ‘persons of ill fame, vagabonds, and common disturbers of his Majesty's peace,’ and prayed that they might be transported.2 The press-gang was then in full force and was often employed as a kind of irregular police for the purpose of carrying off obnoxious characters against whom no legal offence could be proved, and some of Wesley's preachers were thus pressed and carried off to the war.
These facts represent a serious and formidable persecution, directed against men who, whatever may have been their faults, were at least actuated by motives of the purest philanthropy. It is not, however, difficult to discover the causes of the antipathy they aroused. To the great majority of the clergy, whose parishes were invaded, and who were often themselves abusively attacked by ignorant lay preachers, they were naturally extremely obnoxious, and the ‘Weekly Miscellany,’ which was the organ of clerical opinion, was steadily hostile to the Methodist movement. Bitter, but not unprovoked, denunciations from the pulpit were the origin of the riots at Wednesbury and of nearly all the savage outbursts in Cornwall; and not a few of those in other districts were directly instigated by Anglican clergymen. The example of the bishops encouraged the assaults. Gibson, indeed, wrote against the Methodists like a Christian and a gentleman, but Warburton and Lavington assailed them with the coarsest and most scurrilous invective. The first, ridiculing the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Ghost, was not ashamed to write that the devil was ‘man-midwife to the new birth;’1 and the second insinuated an infamous parallel between the Methodist societies and the obscene rites of Paganism.2 Usually the Methodists were denounced as Dissenters, but their leaders steadily repudiated the designation, and in England at least they met with little sympathy from the real Dissenters. The fierce fervour of Methodist devotion was as uncongenial to the spirit then prevailing in Dissent as it was to the spirit of the Established Church; and the Dissenters were at this time negotiating with a view to obtain full political privileges, and were therefore peculiarly indisposed to ally themselves with so unpopular a body as the Methodists. Watts, it is true, showed some courtesy to Whitefield, and Doddridge once admitted him to his pulpit, and preached himself once in Whitefield's tabernacle, but his conduct was severely and authoritatively censured by the leaders of his sect.3 On one occasion Wesley mentions three Dissenting ministers formally excluding from the sacrament all who consented to hear him.4
Another and very common charge was that of Popery. This accusation probably arose from the fact that Catholicism was of all forms of religion the most hated, and, at a time when Jacobitism was still formidable, the most dreaded by Englishmen; and it derived some consistency from the fasts and other ascetic practices of the first Methodists, from the real resemblance which their style of preaching bore to that of the Missioner friars, and their outbursts of fanaticism and credulity to those recorded in the Lives of the Saints, and from the indulgent language in which Wesley sometimes spoke of Catholic books of devotion. His language, indeed, about Catholics often forms a striking contrast to the usual tone of his followers,1 and it is a somewhat curious fact that one of his strongest and most persistent historical convictions was the innocence of Mary Stuart, and the eminent nobility of her character.2 Considering the immense doctrinal chasm between the Catholics and the Methodists, the pertinacity with which the charge of Popery was repeated against the latter is very remarkable. ‘Unless, as I apprehend,’ wrote Horace Walpole, ‘the Methodists are secret Papists—and no doubt they copy, build on, and extend their rites towards that model—Popery will not revive here.’3 Hogarth, in his caricature of the Methodist preacher, represents his wig as falling aside and revealing beneath, the shaven crown of the Popish friar. Warburton noticed the striking analogies between the ‘Journal’ of Whitefield and the visions of Loyola;4 and no less a writer than Archdeacon Black-burne, the well-known author of ‘The Confessional,’ countenanced the charge that the Methodists were secret Papists.1 Bishop Lavington, in his ‘Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists,’ made the resemblance the chief ground of his attack. The accusation was frequently brought from the pulpit, and it sank deeply into the popular mind. Cries of ‘Popery, Popery!’ interrupted the Methodist preachers.2 It was reported that Wesley was born and educated in Rome,3 and in 1744, when all Catholics were ordered to leave London, Wesley thought it advisable to delay his intended departure from the metropolis lest it should countenance the charge.4 His brother was once actually summoned before the magistrates at Wakefield for having, in the usual Methodistic phraseology, prayed that ‘God would bring home His banished ones,’ which was construed by some of his hearers into a prayer for the Pretender.5 The real sentiments of Wesley on the subject appear in several controversial tracts which he wrote, not only against the doctrines, but even against the toleration of Catholicism, in the earnestness with which he taught the Lutheran tenet of justification by faith, and in the emphatic sentence in his ‘Journal’ in which he pronounced his opinion about the position of Catholics. ‘I pity them much, having the same assurance that Jesus is the Christ, and that no Romanist can expect to be saved according to the terms of his covenant.’6
Other charges, however, were brought against the Methodists which were far more reasonable. A more appalling system of religious terrorism, one more fitted to unhinge a tottering intellect and to darken and embitter a sensitive nature, has seldom existed. The Methodist preached especially to the nerves. His favourite tenet was that according to the Christian creed a harmless and useful life, an orthodox belief, and a constant attendance on the ordinances of religion, were together utterly unable to save men from an eternity of torture. With the most impassioned tone and gestures, with every artifice that could heighten the dramatic effect of his words, he expatiated upon the certainty of death, upon the terrors of judgment, upon the undying agonies of hell, upon the lost condition of mankind. These were the almost constant subjects of his preaching, and he dwelt upon them till he scared his hearers to the verge of insanity, and engendered a nervous disease, which propagated itself rapidly through the congregation. Many fell to the ground convulsed with paroxysms of agony. Some lay without sense or motion; others trembled exceedingly, or rent the air with piercing screams, which continued for hours without intermission; others imagined that they were possessed by demons, shouted, clapped their hands, or burst into wild fits of hysterical laughter.
The sermons of Berridge, the Vicar of Everton, appear to have been attended to a very peculiar extent by these phenomena, and Wesley has inserted in his ‘Journal’ a graphic description of them by an eye-witness: ‘I heard many cry out, especially children, whose agonies were amazing. One of the eldest, a girl of ten or twelve years old, was full in my view, in violent contortions of body, and weeping aloud, I think incessantly, during the whole service. … While poor sinners felt the sentence of death in their souls, what sounds of distress did I hear! … Some shrieking, some roaring aloud. The most general was a loud breathing, like that of people half-strangled and gasping for life. And, indeed, almost all the cries were like those of human creatures dying in bitter anguish. Great numbers wept without any noise; others fell down as dead; some sinking in silence; some with extreme noise and violent agitation. I stood on the pew seat, as did a young man in an opposite pew—an able-bodied, fresh, healthy countryman. But, in a moment, when he seemed to think of nothing less, down he dropped with a violence inconceivable. The adjoining pews seemed shook with his fall. I heard afterwards the stamping of his feet, ready to break the boards as he lay in strong convulsions at the bottom of the pew. … Among the children who felt the arrows of the Almighty I saw a sturdy boy about eight years old who roared above his fellows, and seemed in his agony to struggle with the strength of a grown man. His face was red as scarlet: and almost all on whom God laid His hand turned either very red or almost black. … A stranger well dressed, who stood facing me, fell backward to the wall; then forward on his knees, wringing his hands and roaring like a bull. His face at first turned quite red, then almost black. He rose and ran against the wall till Mr. Keeling and another held him. He screamed out, “Oh! what shall I do? What shall I do? Oh for one drop of the blood of Christ!” As he spoke, God set his soul at liberty; he knew his sins were blotted out, and the rapture he was in seemed too great for human nature to bear.’1 While a preacher named Hicks was preaching, ‘fifteen or sixteen persons felt the arrows of the Lord, and dropped down. A few of them cried out with the utmost violence and little intermission for some hours; while the rest made no great noise, but continued struggling as in the pangs of death. I observed besides these, one little girl deeply convinced, and a boy nine or ten years old. Both these, and several others, when carried into the parsonage-house, either lay as dead or struggled with all their might. But in a short time their cries increased beyond measure, so that the loudest singing could scarce be heard. Some at last called on me to pray, which I did, and for a time all was calm. But the storm soon began again. … Though some received consolation, others remained in deep sorrow of heart. Upon the whole I remark that few ancient people experience anything of this work of God, and scarce any of the rich. These generally show either an utter contempt of, or enmity to it.’1
Scenes of this kind continually accompanied the preaching of Wesley in the first years of the movement, and he has himself recorded them in his ‘Journal.’ Thus—to give but a few examples—preaching on one occasion among the criminals at Newgate, he tells us that ‘they dropped on every side as thunderstruck. … One was so wounded by the sword of the Spirit that you would have imagined she could not live a moment.’ ‘At Baldwin Street my voice could scarce be heard amidst the groanings of some and the cries of others. … A Quaker who stood by was not a little displeased … when he himself dropped down as thunderstruck. The agony he was in was even terrible to behold. We besought God not to lay folly to his charge, and he soon lifted up his head and cried aloud, “Now I know that thou art a prophet of the Lord.”’ At Wapping ‘some sank down, and there remained no strength in them; others exceedingly trembled and quaked. Some were torn with a kind of convulsive motion in every part of their bodies, and that so violently that often four or five persons could not hold one of them. … One woman was offended greatly, being sure they might help it if they would … and was got three or four yards when she also dropped down in as violent an agony as the rest.’ On another occasion, ‘while I was speaking, one before me dropped down as dead, and presently a second and a third. Five others sank down in half an hour, most of whom were in violent agonies. … We called upon the Lord and He gave us an answer of peace. One, indeed, continued an hour in strong pain, and one or two more for three days. But the rest were greatly comforted.’1
It was frequently observed by Wesley that his preaching rarely affected the rich and the educated. It was over the ignorant and credulous that it exercised its most appalling power, and it is difficult to overrate the mental anguish it must sometimes have produced. Timid and desponding natures unable to convince themselves that they had undergone a supernatural change, gentle and affectionate natures who believed that those who were dearest to them were descending into ever-lasting fire, must have often experienced pangs compared with which the torments of the martyr were insignificant. The confident assertions of the Methodist preacher and the ghastly images he continually evoked poisoned their imaginations, haunted them in every hour of weakness or depression, discoloured all their judgments of the world, and added a tenfold horror to the darkness of the grave. Sufferings of this description, though among the most real and the most terrible that superstition can inflict, are so hidden in their nature that they leave few traces in history; but it is impossible to read the journals of Wesley without feeling that they were most widely diffused. Many were thrown into paroxysms of extreme, though usually transient, agony; many doubtless nursed a secret sorrow which corroded all the happiness of their lives, while not a few became literally insane. On one occasion Wesley was called to the bedside of a young woman at Kingswood. ‘She was nineteen or twenty years old,’ he tells us, ‘but, it seems, could not write or read. I found her on the bed, two or three persons holding her. It was a terrible sight. Anguish, horror, and despair above all description appeared in her pale face. The thousand distortions of her whole body showed how the dogs of hell were gnawing at her heart. The shrieks intermixed were scarce to be endured. But her stony eyes could not weep. She screamed out as soon as words could find their way, “I am damned, damned, lost for ever; six days ago you might have helped me. But it is past. I am the devil's now … I will go with him to hell. I cannot be saved.” They sang a hymn, and for a time she sank to rest, but soon broke out anew in incoherent exclamations, “Break, break, poor stony hearts! Will you not break? What more can be done for stony hearts? I am damned that you may be saved!” … She then fixed her eyes in the corner of the ceiling, and said, “There he is, ay, there he is! Come, good devil, come! Take me away.” … We interrupted her by calling again on God, on which she sank down as before, and another young woman began to roar out as loud as she had done.’ For more than two hours Wesley and his brother continued praying over her. At last the paroxysms subsided and the patients joined in a hymn of praise.
A few days later a similar case occurred in Bristol. The woman afflicted ‘lay on the ground furiously gnashing her teeth, and after a while roared aloud. It was not easy for three or four persons to hold her, especially when the name of Jesus was named. We prayed; the violence of her symptoms ceased, though without a complete deliverance.’ She apparently believed, and Wesley undoubtedly did, that she was possessed by a devil. When Wesley, some hours after his first interview, came into the room, ‘she began screaming, then broke into a horrid laughter, mixed with blasphemy grievous to hear. One, who from many circumstances apprehended a preternatural agent to be concerned in this, asking, “How didst thou dare to enter into a Christian?” was answered, “She is not a Christian. She is mine.”’ In this case the agonies continued more than thirty-six hours, when ‘her pangs ceased in a moment. She was filled with peace, and knew that the son of wickedness was departed from her.’1
On another occasion, while Wesley was conducting the public devotions, a poor woman, who was known to be no dissembler, attracted the attention of all. ‘One so violently and variously torn of the evil one did I never see before. Sometimes she laughed till almost strangled, then broke out into cursing and blaspheming, then stamped and struggled with incredible strength, so that four or five could scarce hold her. She cried out, “O eternity, eternity! O that I had no soul! O that I had never been born!” At last she faintly called on Christ to help her, and the violence of her pangs ceased.’2 Another patient—on this occasion it was a man—when reading one of Wesley's sermons, ‘changed colour, fell off his chair and began screaming terribly, and beating himself against the ground, … his breast heaving as in the pangs of death, and great drops of sweat trickling down his face.’3 A poor woman sitting reading the Bible, suddenly threw the book away, exclaiming, ‘I am good enough. I will never read or pray more.’ When afterwards questioned by Wesley as to whether she desired to be saved, ‘she replied, “I am saved; I all nothing; I am happy.” Yet it was easy to discern she was in the most violent agony of body and mind, sweating exceedingly notwithstanding the severe frost, and not continuing in the same posture a moment. Upon our beginning to pray she raged above measure, but soon sank down as dead. In a few minutes she revived and joined in prayer. We left her for the present in peace.’1
In these instances the paroxysms proved transient, but such was not always the case. Religious madness, which, from the nature of its hallucinations, is usually the most miserable of all the forms of insanity, was in this, as in many later revivals, of no unfrequent occurrence.2 Here, as in the preceding cases, I confine myself to the statements of the leader of the movement. He has recorded three cases in which persons were placed under medical supervision, or in lunatic asylums, on account of phenomena which Wesley regarded as simply the consequences of conversion.3 Another convert ‘was expelled out of his society as a madman, and being disowned by his friends, and despised and forsaken of all men, lived obscure and unknown for a few months, and then went to Him whom his soul loved.’4 A clergyman was called on to baptise a child. ‘It was observed his voice, which had been lost several years, was entirely restored. He read the office with great emotion and many tears, so as to astonish the whole congregation. But going home from church he behaved in so strange a manner that it was thought necessary to confine him. During the first week of his confinement he was for constraining every one that came near him to kneel down and pray, and frequently cried out, “You will be lost, you will be damned, unless you know your sins are forgiven.” Mr.—roundly averred that the Methodists had turned his head. After seven or eight days he grew much worse, though still with intervals of reason; and in about a fortnight, by a judgment mixed with mercy, God took him to Himself.’1 Another case is still sadder. ‘A gentlewoman of an unspotted character, sitting at home on May 4, 1747, cried out that something seized her by the side. Then she said it was in her mouth. Quickly after she complained of her head. From that time she wept continually for four months, and afterwards grew outrageous, but always insisted that God had forsaken her, and that the devil possessed her body and soul. I found it availed nothing to reason with her; she only blasphemed the more, cursing God and vehemently desiring, yet fearing, to die. However, she suffered me to pray, only saying it signified, not, for God had given her up.’2
It is easy to understand the opposition which a preaching attended by such consequences must have produced. Not only the peace of parishes, but also the harmony of households, was continually destroyed. Men were made morally, and sometimes even physically, incapable of discharging their ordinary duties, and were often thrown for long periods into a condition of religious despondency that made life almost unendurable. One man, after a religious conversation, ‘turned and hastened home, fancying he heard the devil hastening after him all the way. For forty hours he never closed his eyes, nor tasted meat or drink.’1 Another ‘had no rest day or night, feeling he was under the full power of the devil. He was utterly incapable of any business, so that he was obliged to shut up his shop. Thus he wandered up and down in exquisite torture for just eighteen months.’2 A poor woman, ‘in the bloom of youth, was brought, by mere anguish of soul, to the gates of death.’3 Another, ‘after many years’mourning, was filled with peace and joy in believing. In the midst of this, without any discernible cause, such a cloud overwhelmed her that she could not believe her sins were forgiven her at all, or that there was any such thing as forgiveness of sins.’4
In the intense religious enthusiasm that was generated, many of the ties of life were snapped in twain. Children treated with contempt the commands of their parents, students the rules of their colleges, clergymen the discipline of their Church. The whole structure of society, and almost all the amusements of life, appeared criminal. The fairs, the mountebanks, the public rejoicings of the people, were all Satanic. It was sinful for a woman to wear any gold ornament or any brilliant dress.5 It was even sinful for a man to exercise the common prudence of laying by a certain portion of his income.6 When Whitefield proposed to a lady to marry him, he thought it necessary to say, ‘I bless God, if I know anything of my own heart, I am free from that foolish passion which the world calls love.’ ‘I trust I love you only for God, and desire to be joined to you only by His commands, and for His sake.’7 It is perhaps not very surprising that Whitefield's marriage, like that of Wesley, proved very unhappy. Theatres and the reading of plays were absolutely condemned, and Methodists employed all their influence with the authorities to prevent the erection of the former.1 It seems to have been regarded as a divine judgment that once, when ‘Macbeth’ was being acted at Drury Lane, a real thunderstorm mingled with the mimic thunder in the witch scene.2 Dancing was, if possible, even worse than the theatre.3 ‘Dancers,’ said Whitefield, ‘please the devil at every step;’ and it was said that his visit to a town usually put ‘a stop to the dancing-school, the assemblies, and every pleasant thing.’ He made it his mission to ‘bear testimony against the detestable diversions of this generation;’ and he declared that no ‘recreations, considered as such, can be innocent.’4 A poor Kingswood collier was noted for his skill in playing the violin. He passed under Methodist influence, and at once consigned his instrument to the flames. Wesley was a man of powerful intellect and cultivated taste, yet we find him objecting to the statues at Stourton, among other reasons, ‘because I cannot admire the images of devils; and we know the gods of the heathens are but devils,’1 and his only comment upon the treasures of art and nature recently amassed in the British Museum was, ‘What account will a man give to the Judge of quick and dead for a life spent in collecting all these?’2 But perhaps the most striking illustration of this side of Methodist teaching is furnished by the rules he drew up for the school which he founded at Kingswood. The little children rose every morning, winter and summer, at four, and were directed in the first place to spend nearly an hour in private devotions. ‘As we have no play-days,’ he adds, ‘(the school being taught every day in the year but Sunday), so neither do we allow any time for play on any day; he that plays when he is a child will play when he is a man.’3
Accompanying this asceticism we find an extra-ordinary revival of the grossest superstition. It was a natural consequence of the essentially emotional character of Methodism that its disciples should imagine that every strong feeling or impulse within them was a direct inspiration of God or Satan. The language of Whitefield—the language in a great degree of all the members of the sect—was that of men who were at once continually inspired4 and the continual objects of miraculous interposition. In every perplexity they imagined that, by casting lots or opening their Bibles at random, they could obtain a supernatural answer to their inquiries. The sun shone oppressively on Wesley when he was preaching. He lifted up his thoughts to heaven, and at once a cloud obscured its ray.1 His horse was lame, his head was aching—he thought of the power of God to cure man and beast, and the lameness and the headache disappeared.2 In the neighbourhood of a racecourse near Sutton, in Yorkshire, an earthquake, accompanied by a considerable landslip, had occurred. Wesley assures us that it was impossible to account for it by any natural agency. It was effected directly by the Almighty, ‘who arose to shake terribly the earth; who purposely chose such a place, where there is so great a concourse of nobility and gentry every year … that all who travel one of the most frequented roads in England might see it almost whether they would or no.’3 His journals are full of histories of ghosts, of second-sight, of miracles that had taken place among his disciples. He tells us among other things how a preacher in an inland town in Ireland became suddenly conscious of the fact that at that moment the French were landing at Carrickfergus; how a painful tumour, which had defied the efforts of physicians, disappeared instantaneously at a prayer;4 how a poor woman, who appeared crippled by a severe fall, heard a voice within her saying, ‘Name the name of Christ, and thou shalt stand,’ and, on complying with the command, was at once cured;5 how a man at the point of death by a violent rupture, was restored by the prayers of the society, and continued for several years in health and in the love of God, till he relapsed into sin, when his disorder at once returned and soon hurried him to the grave.6
Among the miracles which he considered particularly well attested are the following: A man in a moment of passion exclaimed that he wished his right hand might burn off if he left a sixpence to his son; but he afterwards repented and left him his whole estate. After death, his body being laid out in a bed, a fire, without any visible reason, began to eat through it. His widow, attracted suddenly by the smell to the room where he was lying, found the corpse in the midst of smoke, the right arm and part of the head and ribs burnt, and the brains and entrails protruding. No natural cause could be discovered. On throwing water on the body it hissed like hot iron, and when the charred remains were inclosed in the coffin, a burning and crackling noise was heard within, and when the coffin was brought to the burial, the steeple of the church shook and fell. This anecdote, Wesley assures us he received from eye and ear witnesses.1 A Catholic girl, once reading the Mass-book, was struck blind. She continued in a state of partial blindness, unable to read one word, till she one day cast her eyes on the New Testament, and saw plainly; but whenever she turned to the Mass-book, her blindness, for the time, returned.2 A woman named Elizabeth Hobson, in whose accuracy Wesley had the most perfect faith, professed to live in daily and intimate intercourse with ghosts, who appeared to her enveloped sometimes in a celestial, sometimes in a lurid and gloomy light. The account of her many visions and her many conversations with spirits is extremely curious, but it is too long for quotation.3 It will be sufficient to say that, being engaged in a lawsuit about the possession of a house, the ghost of her grandfather, to whom it had formerly belonged, warmly espoused her cause, appeared to her to urge her to change her attorney, and gave her much other good advice in the prosecution of her suit.
Supernatural interferences with such an object being in no degree incredible to the mind of Wesley, it is not surprising that he should have welcomed all accounts of visions with a distinctly religious end. One woman in a trance had a vision of Heaven and Hell very similar to those of many Catholic saints.1 Another was prepossessed against the Methodists, but Christ appeared to her in a dream, rebuked her frivolity and inconstancy, and told her that the new preachers were the servants of God.2 A third was converted by a vision of angels,3 and a fourth by a vision of the Crucifixion.4
In all matters relating to Satanic interference, Wesley was especially credulous. The abolition of the laws against witchcraft, which closed the fountain of an incalculable amount of undeserved suffering, would probably not have taken place without a violent struggle if the Methodist movement had had an earlier development. Wesley again and again reiterated, with the utmost emphasis, his belief in witchcraft, and again and again attributed its downfall to religious scepticism. ‘It is true likewise,’ he wrote, ‘that the English in general, and indeed most of the men of learning in Europe, have given up all accounts of witches and apparitions as mere old wives’ fables. I am sorry for it, and I willingly take this opportunity of entering my solemn protest against this violent compliment which so many that believe the Bible pay to those who do not believe it. I owe them no such service. I take knowledge that these are at the bottom of the outcry which has been raised, and with such insolence spread throughout the nation, in direct opposition not only to the Bible, but to the suffrages of the wisest and best men of all ages and nations. They well know (whether Christians know it or not) that the giving up witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible.’ ‘I cannot give up to all the Deists in Great Britain the existence of witchcraft till I give up the credit of all history, sacred and profane.’1 He had no doubt that the physical contortions into which so many of his hearers fell were due to the direct agency of Satan, who tore the converts as they were coming to Christ.2 He had himself seen men and women who were literally possessed by devils;3 he had witnessed forms of madness which were not natural, but diabolical,4 and he had experienced in his own person the hysterical affections which resulted from supernatural agency.5
On the other hand, if Satanic agencies continually convulsed those who were coming to the faith, divine judgments as frequently struck down those who opposed it. Every illness, every misfortune that befell an opponent was believed to be supernatural. Molther, the Moravian minister, shortly after the Methodists had separated from the Moravians, was seized with a passing illness. ‘I believe,’ wrote Wesley, ‘it was the hand of God that was upon him.’6 Numerous cases were cited of sudden and fearful judgments which fell upon the adversaries of the cause. A clergyman at Bristol, standing up to preach against the Methodists, ‘was suddenly seized with a rattling in his throat, attended with a hideous groaning,’ and on the next Sunday he died.1 At Todmorden a minister was struck with a violent fit of palsy immediately after preaching against the Methodists.2 At Enniscorthy a clergyman, having preached for some time against the Methodists, deferred the conclusion of his discourse to the following Sunday. Next morning he was raging mad, imagined that devils were about him, ‘and not long after, without showing the least sign of hope, he went to his account.’3 At Kingswood a man began a vehement invective against Wesley and Methodism. ‘In the midst he was struck raving mad.’4 A woman, seeing a crowd waiting for Wesley at a church door, exclaimed, ‘They are waiting for their God.’ She at once fell senseless to the ground, and next day expired.5 ‘A party of young men rowed up to Richmond to disturb the sermons of Rowland Hill. The boat sank, and all of them were drowned.’6 At Sheffield the captain of a gang who had long troubled the field-preachers, was bathing with his companions. ‘Another dip,’ he said, ‘and then for a bit of sport with the Methodists.’ He dived, struck his head against a stone, and appeared no more.7
By such anecdotes and by such beliefs a fever of enthusiasm was sustained. In many cases the devotions of the Methodists were almost or altogether delirious. Some of the Foundery Society professed to feel the blood of Christ streaming down their arms, backs, and throats. A man two or three days after his conversion rode into Newcastle shouting that God had revealed to him that he should be a king and should trample his enemies under his feet. Some persuaded themselves from the Book of Revelation that they were exempted from the common lot of men and would never die. A preacher named George Bell attempted to open the eyes of the blind, and prophesied the immediate destruction of the world. The strong spirit of superstitious terror which existed in England was most impressively shown on the occasion of the earthquake of 1750. The year was ushered in by an Aurora Borealis, which mantled the north-eastern sky in fire, and in February a terrific thunderstorm filled. Bristol with consternation. On February 8 and on March 8 severe shocks of earthquake were felt in London. No houses, indeed, were overthrown, and no lives were lost; but chairs rocked, church bells rang in the steeples, the porcelain rattled on the shelves, and a loud rumbling noise was heard. On the second occasion the shock was greater than on the first; it was especially felt in the western portion of the city. Several chimneys fell. Large collections of china were thrown down and broken in the house of a private collector in Piccadilly, and in a china, shop in St. James's Street. A maid in Charterhouse Square was flung out of her bed and broke her arm. The rarity of the event, and the fact that the shocks occurred with increasing violence on the same day of two successive months, added to the panic. A crazy soldier predicted that on April 8 the cities of London and Westminster would be destroyed. He was soon sent to Bedlam, but a wild terror was produced. Horace Walpole assures us that in three days 730 coaches of fugitives hastening to the country were counted at Hyde Park Corner. Women who were unable to leave London provided thick gowns, which obtained the name of ‘earthquake gowns,’ in order that they might pass the dreaded night in the open air. The churches were crowded with penitents; and open profligacy almost disappeared. Sherlock, the Bishop of London, called the people to repentance, in a pastoral of which no less than 100,000 copies are said to have been sold. He dilated especially upon the blasphemy that was everywhere heard, the multiplication of infidel works, the, innumerable brothels, the existence of unnatural vice, the lewd pictures that were exposed to view in the streets, the general neglect of public worship, the great and alarming increase of Popery. Romaine availed himself of the prevailing disposition to preach two of his most famous sermons, his ‘Alarm to a Careless World,’ and his ‘Duty of Watchfulness Enforced.’ On the evening of the fatal day the terror rose to its height. Thousands ran frantically through the streets. The Methodist chapels were thronged, and Charles Wesley preached for hours almost without intermission. Through the whole night the fields and open spaces about the metropolis were crowded, and towards midnight Whitefield took his stand in the middle of Hyde Park, preaching to a dense mass of awestruck and affrighted hearers upon the judgments of the Lord. It was not until the morning dawned that the panic subsided and the many streams of business and pleasure returned into their accustomed channels.1
It is not wonderful that, mixing with the passionate devotion I have described, there should have been a certain tincture of baser elements. So much enthusiasm and so much credulity could hardly exist without attracting some impostors; the violently emotional character of Methodist piety was liable to dangerous reactions, and the habit of attributing every sudden impulse to a spiritual inspiration, and of habitually depreciating good works, was not always favourable to morality. An Antinomian tendency had early appeared among the Moravians, and Wesley had during the greater part of his career to repress the same spirit among his own followers. He has preserved part of his dialogue with an Antinomian teacher at Birmingham, who assured him that being no longer under the law he was the heir to all things, and had a right to take whatever goods and to lie with whatever woman he pleased. The well-known Dr. Dodd, who was hanged for forgery, had been at one time looked upon as an Evangelical preacher, and it was from Wesley that he derived much comfort in the days before his execution. James Wheatley, who was one of the most popular preachers of Methodism, lapsed into the worst licentiousness, and was at last found guilty of adultery and gross indecency. In Wesley's own family the same evil appeared. A young man named Hall—a pupil and intimate friend of Wesley—succeeded in winning the heart of Wesley's youngest sister. He then announced his intended marriage to her father and brother, stating that God had revealed to him that he must marry, and that his wife was to be Keziah Wesley. The marriage was agreed upon, when shortly before its celebration, to the astonishment of Wesley, he abandoned his intended bride, professed his attachment to her elder sister, and boldly declared that his inconstancy was due to a new divine revelation. The supposed revelation was obeyed, and the deserted sister fell into a lingering illness and died of grief, while Hall speedily developed into an open profligate. In at least one case the conduct of Wesley himself towards a reputed convert was more than injudicious. He selected a woman named Sarah Ryan, who had three husbands living, who lived apart from them all, and was at this time only thirty-three, to be his Bristol housekeeper, the matron of his Kingswood school, and the object of a correspondence that was conducted on his part in a strain of the most high-flown religious admiration and affection. It is not surprising that some scandal should have been caused, or that the naturally jealous disposition of his wife should have been goaded almost to madness.t lg1
The movement was also marred by its full share of personal and sectarian antipathies. Whatever calumny, whatever injustice, whatever violence of language was displayed by the enemies of Methodism, they never equalled the ferocity exhibited by the saints in their internal quarrels. It was in 1770 that Wesley, alarmed at the progress of Antinomianism, and connecting it with the fatalism of the Calvinists, caused some minutes to be published reflecting on Calvinism, and censuring the general depreciation of good works. He was accused of teaching justification by works, and his speedy and emphatic disclaimer was not sufficient to prevent a schism between the Arminian and Calvinist Methodists. Whitefield, who had always laboured to heal divisions, and who alone could have prevented the scandal that ensued, had died a few months before. The Calvinistic party acknowledged Lady Huntingdon as their leader, and she excluded all Arminians from her chapels, and removed Fletcher of Madeley from his position at the head of her college of Trevecca. Soon after, the leaders of her party began an attack upon Wesley, which in its outrageous scurrility has never been surpassed. Berridge of Everton satirised him in doggerel verse as a fox
while Toplady and Rowland Hill assailed him in the most abusive prose. Their pamphlets, though utterly worthless in themselves, are not without a certain historic interest, as the writers were among the special saints of a sect which has always professed a special sanctity; and they will appear the more remarkable when we remember that Toplady was then a young man of thirty, while Wesley, besides his other claims to respect, was now verging on seventy. Among the pamphlets which rapidly succeeded each other we find such titles as ‘An Old Fox Tarred and Feathered,’ ‘Farrago Doubly Distilled,’ ‘Pope John.’ ‘I much question,’ wrote Toplady, ‘whether a man that dies an Arminian can go to heaven.’ ‘Arminianism lies within a bowshot of Socinianism and Deism.’ He pronounced his great opponent to be ‘without honour, veracity, or justice;’ to be ‘the most rancorous hater of the Gospel system that ever appeared in this land;’ to be ‘a low and puny tadpole in divinity,’ actuated by ‘Satanic shamelessness and Satanic guilt.’ In his more charitable moments he contented himself with what Robert Hall calls ‘presenting a prayer in the spirit of an indictment,’ praying that ‘He in whose hands the hearts of all men are may make even this opposer of grace a monument of His almighty power to save.’ ‘God is witness,’ he added, ‘how earnestly I wish it may consist with the divine will to touch the heart and open the eyes of that unhappy man.’ Of the language of Rowland Hill a very short specimen will be sufficient. In a pamphlet of not more than forty pages he calls Wesley, among other names, ‘a designing wolf,’ ‘a dealer in stolen wares,’ ‘as unprincipled as a rook, and as silly as a jackdaw;’ ‘a grey-headed enemy of all righteousness,’ ‘a wretch,’ guilty of ‘wilful, gross, and abominable untruth,’ ‘a venal profligate,’ ‘a wicked slanderer,’ and ‘an apostate miscreant.’ He dwells with much more than the zest of Lavington upon the alleged impurity of the ‘Perfectionists,’ describes the followers of Wesley as ‘a ragged legion of preaching barbers, cobblers, tinkers, scavengers, draymen, and chimney sweepers;’ and declares that ‘the sum and substance of John's whole preachment is I, I, I, and my brother, my brother and I have done all the work of God that has been done in these nations.’ This pious production is in the form of a letter, and the author concludes it in his usual sanctimonious fashion, ‘Yours sincerely for Christ's sake.’1
On the other side, it must be admitted that the tone adopted was very different. Wesley himself wrote but little in the controversy, and that little was written with great moderation. The task of supporting the Arminian side was chiefly thrown upon Fletcher, Vicar of Madeley, a Swiss naturalised in England. He was a man of a singularly sweet and gentle disposition, and his many writings against the Calvinists, though not a little tedious to a secular reader, are at least perfect models of controversial amenity maintained under extreme provocation.2 The Calvinists, however, collected a long string of violent and abusive expressions which the two Wesleys had at an earlier period hurled against their party, and after the death of Toplady they accused Wesley of having publicly asserted that Toplady died blaspheming, and in the horror of despair, and when the gross and glaring falsehood of this assertion was conclusively proved, of having kept a perfect silence, and refused to write a single line either denying the report of what he had said or expressing regret for the calumny which on his authority had been sedulously propagated through the sect.1
But with all its divisions and defects the movement was unquestionably effecting a great moral revolution in England. It was essentially a popular movement, exercising its deepest influence over the lower and middle classes. Some of its leaders were men of real genius, but in general the Methodist teacher had little sympathy with the more educated of his fellow-countrymen. To an ordinarily cultivated mind there was something extremely repulsive in his tears and groans and amorous ejaculations, in the coarse anthropomorphic familiarity and the unwavering dogmatism with which he dealt with the most sacred subjects, in the narrowness of his theory of life and his utter insensibility to many of the influences that expand and embellish it, in the mingled credulity and self-confidence with which he imagined that the whole course of nature was altered for his convenience. But the very qualities that impaired his influence in one sphere enhanced it in another. His impassioned prayers and exhortations stirred the hearts of multitudes whom a more decorous teaching had left absolutely callous. The supernatural atmosphere of miracles, judgments, and inspirations, in which he moved, invested the most prosaic life with a halo of romance. The doctrines he taught, the theory of life he enforced, proved themselves capable of arousing in great masses of men an enthusiasm of piety which was hardly surpassed in the first days of Christianity, of eradicating inveterate vice, of fixing and directing impulsive and tempestuous natures that were rapidly hastening towards the abyss. Out of the profligate slave-dealer, John Newton, Methodism formed one of the purest and most unselfish of saints. It taught criminals in Newgate to mount the gallows in an ecstasy of rapturous devotion.1 It planted a fervid and enduring religious sentiment in the midst of the most brutal and most neglected portions of the population, and whatever may have been its vices or its defects, it undoubtedly emancipated great numbers from the fear of death, and imparted a warmer tone to the devotion and a greater energy to the philanthropy of every denomination both in England and the colonies.
It is interesting to trace the successive stages of its progress. The colonial work devolved chiefly on Whitefield, who, in his many expeditions to Georgia, revived something of the old spirit of the Pilgrim Fathers. He made, however, no attempt to form a separate community, and the first Methodist society in America was created in 1766 at New York by some Irish emigrants under the direction of a local preacher named Embury. America, Whitefield regarded with a peculiar fondness; he became a fervent advocate of its independence, and he at last left his bones in its soil. The clergy in the colony were far more favourable to the Evangelical preaching than those in England; but, in the perhaps somewhat partial judgment of Wesley, the impression made upon the people was more transient.2 This judgment, however, was not justified by the event. Methodism in America grew and flourished beyond all its rivals, and it is now the largest religious body in that great country, which is destined to be the most important centre of the English race. The great part which the Evangelical party took in abolishing the slave trade will be shown in a future chapter, but on this subject the early Methodists were profoundly divided. Wesley was one of the earliest and strongest opponents of slavery, and the last letter he ever wrote was to Wilberforce encouraging him in his crusade.1 Whitefield, on the other hand, as strongly advocated slavery. His influence contributed largely to its introduction into Georgia. He purchased for his orphanage in Georgia a plantation which contained at the time of his death no less than seventy-five slaves;2 both Hervey and Lady Huntingdon sent him donations for the special purpose of purchasing negroes;3 and Newton, though he afterwards condemned the slave trade, declares that he never ‘knew sweeter or more frequent hours of divine communion’ than in his last two voyages as a slave-dealer to Guinea.4 Whitefield, however, devoted himself with praiseworthy energy to the conversion of the negroes, and Methodism speedily acquired that firm hold on the negro mind, which it has never lost. Watts's hymns produced a special enthusiasm among the converted slaves, and the missionaries noted with surprise their fine ear for music, and the ecstatic delight into which it threw them.5
In England, as we have seen, the most brutal scenes of violence occurred among the miners of Staffordshire and Cornwall, but their untaught and passionate natures soon felt the attraction of Methodism; and, before the close of his career, Wesley preached to overflowing multitudes, and amid perfect silence, at Wednesbury, Newcastle, Bolton, Wigan, and St. Ives. Early in the present century a severe censor of the Methodists acknowledged that ‘all mines and subterraneous places belonged to them.’1 In general in England the preachers made least impression in the agricultural districts, and were most favourably received in the seaport towns. Liverpool, especially, welcomed them. Wesley describes it as ‘one of the neatest, best built towns in England, full twice as large as Chester,’ and likely in another forty years to become almost the equal of Bristol; and he tells us that its inhabitants were distinguished for their courtesy to those who lived among them, whether they were Jews, or Catholics, or Methodists.2
In Wales Methodism became completely triumphant, but it triumphed only after a long and fierce struggle, attended with many striking and instructive incidents. In the beginning of the eighteenth century the Principality was in a condition of extreme and general religious languor. Scarcely any of the lower orders could read, and hardly any serious efforts were made to meet the difficulties arising from the language. ‘In many churches,’ according to the testimony of Howell Harris, ‘there was no sermon for months together; in some places nothing but a learned English discourse to an illiterate Welsh congregation.’ The gentry very generally abstained from church, and all classes were accustomed to spend Sunday afternoon in wrestling, dancing, playing on the harp, and other amusements equally heinous to a Methodist mind. Wesley pronounced the people to be ‘as little versed in the principles of Christianity as a Creek or Cherokee Indian.’ They were passionately musical, passionately wedded to tradition, and, like the Highlanders of Scotland, they preserved many relics of Catholicism, and even of Paganism. They crossed themselves in sign of horror; they blessed their beds in the name of the four Evangelists. When a dead man was lowered into the grave, his relations knelt upon its border and prayed that he might soon reach heaven. Many poetic legends were handed down from generation to generation, and were looked upon as almost as sacred as Scripture. Though now the very stronghold of Dissent, Wales was then almost wholly under the dominion of the Church. According to the largest estimate all the Nonconformists together did not form more than one-eighth of the population. In the south, it is true, there were many small congregations, and some zealous ministers, whose names have been carefully preserved, and whose importance has been probably somewhat magnified by the historians of Nonconformity. North Wales was almost wholly Anglican, and in 1735 it contained only ten, according to another account only six, congregations of Dissenters, most of them very small. In Wales, as in other parts of the kingdom, Arminian opinions had made much progress, and a great controversy arose, chiefly among the Non-conformists, between the Arminians and the Calvinists in 1729. In general, however, an extreme doctrinal and religious apathy prevailed, and the general tone of morals appears to have been very lax.
No people, however, from their excitable, and at the same time poetic, temperament, were more fitted for a religious revival than the Welsh, and their evangelists arose from among themselves at a time when the Methodist movement was yet unborn. The first, and perhaps the greatest, of these was Griffith Jones, a clergyman of the Established Church, who was born in 1684, and who received priest's orders in 1709. He appears to have been a man of the same type as the chief Methodist preachers of the next generation—a man of great popular eloquence, of admirable singleness of purpose, and of a zeal which was far too fiery to respect the discipline of his Church. He preached in the open air, itinerated, denounced fairs and wakes, was repeatedly arraigned before ecclesiastical courts for infractions of canonical discipline, and created a widespread religious excitement throughout the Principality. His special title, however, to the recollection of posterity is the system of ‘circulating schools,’ which he devised, and which forms one of the very few important steps in religious education that were taken in the empire during the early Hanoverian period. These schools were originated in 1730, and were intended chiefly to dispel the gross religious ignorance, that was prevalent among adults by the formation of a body of school-masters, who went from village to village teaching the people to read the Bible in Welsh, catechising them and instructing them in psalmody. The funds for their support were chiefly derived from the collections at the sacrament. A seminary was erected for the instruction of the teachers; and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge warmly supported the scheme, which soon attained very considerable dimensions. In ten years, more than 100 schools were established in Wales, and several thousands of scholars were under instruction. Twenty years later, as many as 10,000 scholars were taught in a single year. The schools continued steadily to multiply till 1779, when they were suspended in consequence of a lawsuit about some property, which had been bequeathed to them, and they were not revived till 1809.
Griffith Jones died in 1761. Another, and perhaps a better known Welsh revivalist was Howell Harris, who began to preach about 1736. He was a young, half-instructed layman, belonging to the Established Church, who had passed in silence through severe religious struggles, and whose fiery nature was at last fully kindled by a few chance words in a sermon by his vicar. He went to Oxford, but left after a single term, wearied, as he said, with ‘the irregularities and the wickedness that surrounded him;’ and from that time he devoted his whole life to the religious instruction of his countrymen. He was equally without fear and without discretion, and he began, without anyone to support or to encourage him, to itinerate through Wales, preaching the doctrine of justification by faith, the terrors of hell, and the sinfulness of the national amusements. He preached without any premeditation, usually three or four, sometimes five or six times a day. A letter from Whitefield, in 1738, warmly encouraged him, and he afterwards acted in full harmony with the Methodists. He seems to have given great provocation, and he certainly met with extreme hostility. He made it his special mission to inveigh against public amusements, and on one occasion during the races at Mon-mouth, when the ladies and gentlemen of the county were dining together in the town hall under the presidency of a Duke, Howell Harris mounted a table, which was placed against the window of the room where they were assembled, and poured forth a fierce denunciation of the sinfulness of his auditors. The people and clergy were furious against him. I have already noticed how Seward, who was one of his companions, was killed by the mob. On one occasion a pistol was fired at Howell Harris. On another, he was beaten almost to death; again and again he was stoned, with such fury that his escape appeared all but miraculous. He was repeatedly denounced from the pulpit. One clergyman was seen distributing intoxicating liquors among the mob in order to excite them. Another, who held no less a position than that of Chancellor of the diocese of Bangor, stirred up whole districts against him. Women in his congregation were stripped naked. Men were seized by the press-gang, and some of his coadjutors had to fly for their lives. But if he met with great opposition, Harris met also with passionate adherents. He preached everywhere to immense crowds, and created in most parts of Wales religious societies, like those which had been founded so abundantly in England at the time of the Revolution. Public diversions were suspended, the churches crowded, and family prayers, after a long desuetude, renewed. Though repeatedly refused ordination in the Church of England, he always remained attached to it, and towards the close of his career he made special efforts to draw the Nonconformists into its pale. In 1759, when there was a fear of invasion, he joined the Breconshire Militia, and afterwards preached much in regimentals.
Both Whitefield and Wesley passed frequently through Wales and preached with great effect, but they had naturally less influence than those who could address the people in their native tongue. It was in Wales that Lady Huntingdon established her missionary college, and the Calvinistic type of Methodism took the deepest root in the Principality. In 1742, Howell Harris wrote to Whitefield that there were then to his knowledge ten ‘awakened’ clergymen, and the number rapidly multiplied. Among others a curate of the Establishment, named Daniel Rowlands, who had begun his career almost at the same time as Howell Harris, obtained an extraordinary popularity and influence; he is said to have sometimes administered the sacrament on a single occasion to more than 2,000 communicants, and the folly of the Bishop of St. David's in withdrawing from him his licence on account of his itinerancy, was one of the causes that contributed most powerfully to precipitate Wales into Nonconformity.1 The excitable Welsh natures were often thrown by the new style of preaching into the wildest delirium. Strong men screamed and fainted under the preaching of Howell Harris. Rowlands, on one occasion, preached for no less than six hours without intermission to a spell-bound multitude. A sermon of a preacher named Morris, on the last judgment, is said to have created such a panic that numbers rushed wildly through the streets, imagining that the last day had arrived.2 But the most curious form which this fanaticism assumed was the sect of the Jumpers, who were accustomed to work themselves into a kind of religious madness and bound to and fro for hours during divine worship.
The change which was effected by the Methodist and Evangelical preaching in Wales had ultimately the very important effect of detaching the vast majority of the population from the Established Church. The Dissenters from the beginning welcomed, while the bulk of the clergy opposed, the new doctrines, and the advance of Nonconformity was, in consequence, steady and rapid. The complete severance of the Calvinistic Methodists from the Church took place in 1811, and the number of Nonconformist congregations in Wales, which in 1742 was only 105, amounted in 1861 to 2,927.3
In Scotland the Methodist movement was much less important than in other parts of the island. It had not there to dispel the same ignorance or the same apathy, and it found a people accustomed to a higher standard of dogmatic preaching than in England. Whitefield first visited Scotland in 1741, at the invitation of Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, the two leaders of the Associate Presbytery, and they hoped that he would confine his exertions solely to their small schismatic body. White-field, however, whose one object was to teach what he believed to be the truth to all who would hear him, speedily quarrelled with the Erskines. They found that he was very indifferent to that ‘Solemn League and Covenant’ which they esteemed the most valuable of human documents, and to that question of Church patronage which they regarded as transcendently important; and they saw with indignation that his preaching in connection with the ministers of the Establishment tended rather to strengthen than to weaken the body from which they had seceded. Their indignation knew no bounds. The language of grave, sanctimonious flattery, the professions of a more than worldly affection, were at once changed for a torrent of the fiercest abuse. The conduct of the English missionary was pronounced scandalous, and his success diabolical. He was represented as ‘roaming about far and near, casting forth floods of doctrine calculated for transmitting devils into the hearts of men.’ A public fast was appointed in atonement for ‘the fond reception given to Mr. George Whitefield, notwithstanding it is notoriously known that he has sworn the Oath of Supremacy, abjured the Solemn League and Covenant, and endeavours by his lax toleration principles to pull down the hedges of government and discipline which the Lord hath planted about His vineyard in this land;’ and a ‘Declaration, Protestation, and Testimony of the suffering remnant of the anti-Popish, anti-Lutheran, anti-Prelatic, anti-Whitefieldian, anti-Erastian, anti-Sectarian true Presbyterian Church of Scotland,’ was issued, in which all the epithets of theological vituperation were hurled upon Whitefield, and upon the ‘diabolical delusion’ that led so many to crowd to his sermons.1 Whitefield met the storm with an admirable good humour, and was not betrayed into a single offensive expression. His preaching at Cambuslang produced a great revival, accompanied by all the hysterical phenomena that were so common in England, and at a later period his preaching at Edinburgh is said to have had a considerable influence in checking the growth of the ‘Moderate’ party, whose large and tolerant views were gradually mitigating that narrow-minded and ignorant fanaticism which had made the Scotch Kirk notorious in Europe.2 But on the whole Methodism took no deep root in Scotland. As might have been expected from his Calvinism, Whitefield was more successful than Wesley. In his excursions to Scotland, Wesley, indeed, was everywhere received with a decorum, a courtesy, and a propriety that he rarely found in England or Wales, but no extraordinary consequences followed his preaching, and he complained bitterly of the coldness and insensibility of the people.3 Sir Walter Scott, when still a boy, heard him preach in Scotland, and he observes that his style was too colloquial for the Scotch taste.
Ireland, on the other hand, he found a soil preeminently suited for his seed. There were riots, it is true, in Cork and Kilkenny, and in the former town the magistrates showed themselves bitterly hostile to the Methodists; a Methodist chapel was wrecked in Dublin, and Joseph Healy, one of Wesley's itinerants, was nearly killed at Athlone; but for the most part Wesley met with little real opposition during his many journeys through that country, and he has left the most emphatic testimony to the manner in which he was received. ‘The people in general,’ he said, ‘are of a more teachable spirit than in most parts of England.’ ‘So civil a people as the Irish I never saw, either in Europe or America.’ ‘If my brother and I could have been here [at Dublin] for a few months, I question if there might not have been a larger society here than even in London.’ ‘So general a drawing I have never known among any people, so that as yet none even seems to oppose the truth.’ ‘What a nation is this! Every man, woman, and child (except a few of the great vulgar) not only patiently but gladly suffer the word of exhortation.’ ‘I have not seen in all the world a people so easy to be persuaded as the Irish.’1 During many successive years he preached in the streets and public market-places to vast and sympathising congregations, consisting chiefly of Catholics, who thronged to hear him, in spite of the opposition of the priests. But while speaking very warmly of the amiable qualities of the Irish people, he lamented the carelessness and instability of the national character and the religious ignorance prevailing among them, and he complained that the condition of the societies fluctuated violently from year to year. The opinion of so great a master of the art of government concerning the proper method of ruling Ireland is well worthy of quotation. ‘Nothing is wanted here but a rigorous discipline, which is more needful in this than in any other nation, the people in general being so soft and delicate that the least slackness utterly destroys them.’2
Wesley passed through most parts of Ireland at a time when the Whiteboy outrages were at their height, but yet his sympathies remained strongly in favour of the lower classes. ‘The poor in Ireland,’ he wrote, ‘in general are well behaved; all the ill-breeding is among well-dressed people.’1 He speaks on one occasion of some boisterous young officers as the ‘only wild Irish’ he had encountered, and he censures in strong terms the conduct of ‘the gentry, who are continually driving away hundreds, yea thousands, of those that remain, by throwing such quantities of arable land into pasture, which leaves them neither business nor food.’2 The foreign element was still very distinct. Wesley more than once attended the French service at Portarlington, there being still no English service in that town,3 and he mentions the surprise of the French prisoners at finding in Dublin as good French spoken as they could have heard in Paris.4 To the south of Limerick he found four villages still inhabited by the children of the German Palatines, who came over under Queen Anne. Having no minister among them, they had sunk into complete religious lethargy; but a revival took place under the preaching of the new evangelists, and the sobriety, honesty, and devotion of the German colonists distinguished them greatly from the wild population around them. A few years later Wesley found them rapidly dwindling, the exactions and tyranny of their landlords making it impossible for them, with all their diligence and frugality, to obtain the common necessaries of life. Some went to America, others were scattered up and down the kingdom, and only a small remnant remained in their old homes.5
Protestantism, he noticed, was making little or no progress, ‘At least ninety-nine in a hundred of the native Irish remain in the religion of their forefathers. The Protestants, whether in Dublin or elsewhere, are almost all transplanted lately from England; nor is it any wonder that those who are born Papists generally live and die such, when the Protestants can find no better ways to convert them than penal laws and Acts of Parliament.’1 His journals can hardly, however, be said to give a very unfavourable picture of the clergy of the Establishment in Ireland. He repeatedly chronicles the impressive sermons he had heard in the parish churches, commends the efforts of the Archbishop of Dublin to spread religious books among the poor of Dublin, and acknowledges the sympathy he had met with from more than one bishop. He notices the prevailing custom of beginning the morning service at midday when the morning had terminated, and also the scandalous neglect into which Irish churchyards were suffered to fall, and, like most modern travellers, he was impressed with the marked contrast in material civilisation between Ulster and the rest of the country, and with the opulence and architectural beauty of Belfast, which was then a town of about 30,000 inhabitants.
In several cases he met with bitter opposition from the clergy of the Established Church, but on the whole that opposition appears to have been less general than in England, and Wesley severely censures the tendency of his own followers in Ireland towards Dissent, and the invectives of Methodist preachers against the clergy of the Establishment. But though a Dissenting body which now numbers nearly 50,000 souls was created, the most important work of the Methodist revival in Ireland was its indirect influence on the Protestant Episcopalians. That influence, it is true, was not very seriously felt till after the death of Wesley.1 The Irish Church in the last years of the eighteenth century was singularly tolerant and undogmatic, and it was only in the early years of the nineteenth century that the Evangelical teaching acquired an ascendency. Political causes, which had revived the waning antagonism between Protestants and Catholics, predisposed the former in favour of a theology which was intensely anti-Catholic; and the Irish Establishment became by far the most Evangelical section of the Anglican Church. In Ireland, as elsewhere, the Evangelical movement produced many forms of charity, many holy lives, and many peaceful and triumphant deaths, but its general effects were, I think, very mixed. Stimulating the spirit of proselytism and deepening religious animosities, it added greatly to the social and political divisions of the nation, and its intellectual influence on the Protestants was extremely prejudicial. The popular preacher became the intellectual ideal, and the weakest form of religious literature almost the sole reading of large classes. Serious study and temperate and impartial thinking were discouraged, and a taste for empty and tawdry declamation, for false sentiment, and for confident and unsupported assertion, was proportionately increased.
The Evangelical movement not only spread over the surface of the Empire; it also more or less permeated every section of society. The school at Kingswood was not a hopeful experiment, but Methodism had ultimately a deep influence on the education of the young. Rowland Hill wrote hymns for children, which Cowper revised, and in the latter years of the eighteenth century the followers of Wesley bore a distinguished part in the great movement for the establishment of Sunday-schools. The Methodists appear to have preached especially to children, on whose sensitive nerves their highly coloured sermons often exercised a terrible influence. Many were thrown into convulsive paroxysms of agony; many others died in ecstasies of devotion; and Wesley speaks of great numbers ‘between the ages of six and fourteen’ who were deeply affected with religion, and whose piety had no small influence upon their parents. Having described, among other cases, a remarkable revival among children at Stockton-upon-Tees in 1784, he adds: ‘Is not this a new thing in the earth? God begins His work in children. Thus it has been also in Cornwall, Manchester, and Epworth. Thus the flame spreads to those of riper years.’1
Methodism also gradually acquired many disciples in the army. Whitefield himself, in 1745, preached at Boston to the colonial troops, who were about to set out for the expedition against Louisburg, and the malevolence with which the press-gangs singled out itinerant Methodists as their special victims scattered the seeds of religious revival through the regular forces.2 It may be first traced in the army of Flanders in 1743, the year of the battle of Dettingen, when a small society, numbering at first three, then twelve, and soon after more than 200 persons, was formed among the regiments at Ghent, and Wesley has preserved several letters from the soldiers, which throw a novel and attractive light over the campaign. One soldier was accustomed to preach in the open air, near the camp at Ask. His congregation often numbered more than 1,000; many of the officers attended, and he sometimes preached thirty-five times in seven days. The society had its stated hours of meeting, and commonly two whole nights in every week were passed in devotion; two small tabernacles were built in the camp, near Brussels, and rooms were hired at Bruges and at Ghent. One of the leading Methodists dated his conversion from the battle of Dettingen, when the balls were raining around him, and he ended his career at Fontenoy, where he was seen by one of his companions laid across a cannon, both his legs having been taken off by a chain-shot, praising God and exhorting those about him with his last breath.1 It was in order to meet the wants of this class of converts that the Methodists established their first Bible society, ‘the Naval and Military.’
Among the students of the universities the same spirit appeared. Oxford, though it had been the cradle, was the most virulent opponent of Methodism. In 1740, a student named Graves was compelled, in order to obtain his testimonial, to sign a paper formally renouncing ‘the modern practice and principles of the persons commonly called Methodists.’2 In 1757 Romaine was excluded from the university pulpit for having preached two sermons containing what would now be called the Evangelical commonplaces about justification by faith and the imperfection of our best works. In 1768 the Vice-Chancellor expelled six Methodist students from St. Edmund's Hall. Three of them, it is true, were uneducated tradesmen, who had come to the university for the purpose of qualifying for holy orders, and who were pronounced to be still ‘wholly illiterate and incapable of doing the statutable exercises of the Hall,’ but it is more than doubtful whether their ignorance would have led to their expulsion if it had not been connected with strong Evangelical principles. The other three cases were especially scandalous. There was no evidence that the students were idle, incompetent, or insubordinate. They had taken part in prayer-meetings in private houses or barns, but had immediately desisted from this practice on being informed that it was displeasing to those in authority, had promised to abstain from them for the future, and had actually done so for several months before their expulsion. They were expelled from the university, and their prospects in life seriously impaired, chiefly because they had taken part in these meetings, which the authorities pronounced to be illegal conventicles, and because they professed the doctrines ‘that faith without works is the sole condition of justification; that there is no necessity for works; that the immediate impulse of the Spirit is to be waited for; that the Spirit of God works irresistibly, and that once a child of God is always a child of God.’ They carefully guarded these doctrines in their explanations from every tendency towards Antinomianism, and they were expelled at a time when the discipline of the university had sunk to the very lowest point, and when blasphemy, gambling, and drunkenness were treated as the most venial offences.1 Among the expelled students was Erasmus Middleton, afterwards the well-known author of the ‘Biographia Evangelica.’
The conduct of the university authorities at Cambridge, under far greater provocation, was very different. In 1766 a group of Cambridge students embraced the new opinions in their most aggressive form. Their leader was the well-known Rowland Hill, a young man of good family, of considerable abilities, and of indomitable zeal, but of the most turbulent and eccentric disposition. Not content with diffusing his doctrines among the students, and visiting the prisoners in the gaol and the sick in the town, he began, while still an undergraduate, to preach in the streets of Cambridge and in the adjoining villages. The novelty of the spectacle attracted much notice, and mobs were collected and riots began. Such proceedings were severely condemned by the authorities of the university; they were entirely incompatible with the maintenance of college discipline, and they were the more censurable because the parents of Rowland Hill pronounced in the most emphatic manner their disapprobation of his proceedings. He was, however, extremely insubordinate, and both Whitefield and Berridge encouraged him to defy the wishes of his parents and the university statutes and authorities which he had promised to obey. Under the circumstances a severe sentence would have been amply justified. The authorities of the university acted, however, as Rowland Hill was afterwards compelled to confess, with signal moderation. Whether it be through respect for his conscientious motives, through fear of scandal, or through regard to the position of his family, they carefully abstained from pushing matters to extremities, and at last consented to leave him unmolested as long as he abstained from disturbing the town by public conventicles or teaching any doctrine contrary to the Thirty-nine Articles.1 His proceedings, however, were so irregular, and his character was so unruly, that no less than six bishops refused to ordain him, and he ultimately set up a chapel unconnected with any special religious denomination. Eighteen years later he was gratified by seeing Cambridge one of the great centres of Evangelical teaching. Among its prominent members were three Evangelicals of the most ardent type—Jowett, once well known as a devotional writer; Milner, afterwards Dean of Carlisle, and brother of the ecclesiastical historian; and Simeon, who for many years exercised an extraordinary influence at Cambridge, and who devoted a large fortune to purchasing advowsons in important towns, to be held by the members of his party.1
We may trace, too, the widening circle of the movement in general literature. As might easily have been expected, it at first seldom found favour with cultivated minds, and the many absurdities and superstitions that accompanied it laid it open to great ridicule. Pope satirised Whitefield in the ‘Dunciad;’ Anstey ridiculed Methodism in ‘The New Bath Guide;’ Foote retorted the Methodist invectives against the drama by bringing the sect prominently on the stage. In Fielding and Smollett the Methodist is represented as a canting hypocrite.2 In Horace Walpole he is a combination of a knave, a fanatic, and a Papist. Junius speaks of his ‘whining piety,’ and Dr. Johnson, though admitting that Whitefield had done good among the poor, describes his preaching as only noise and fury, and compares his popularity to that of a mountebank. But Methodism, or at least that Evangelical movement which grew out of it, soon left a deep impress upon the literature of its time. Cowper, the greatest English poet of the closing years of the eighteenth century, devoted his graceful and tender genius mainly to its service. It contributed powerfully to the popularity of the ‘Night Thoughts’ of Young; and it appeared prominently in the ‘Fool of Quality’ of Henry Brooke, and in all the writings of Hervey and of Hannah More. Its special literature has now probably few readers among the highly educated classes, and has scarcely obtained an adequate recognition in literary history. The ‘Ecclesiastical History’ of Milner, and the ‘Biblical Commentaries’ of Scott, are perhaps its most conspicuous monuments, but there was also a vast literature of purely devotional works which have awakened an echo in the hearts of thousands. The ‘Cardiphonia’ of Newton, the ‘Life of Faith’ of Romaine, the ‘Force of Truth’ of Scott, the ‘Devout Exercises’ of Jay, the ‘Village Dialogues’ of Rowland Hill, ‘The Complete Duty of Man’ by Venn, the ‘Olney Hymns,’ the ‘Practical View’ of Wilberforce, as well as innumerable sermons and religious biographies emanating from the same school, have exercised a deep and lasting influence upon the character and opinions of large sections of the English people. During the last years of the eighteenth century, and during the first decade of the nineteenth century, the overwhelming majority of the books which in England acquired a great and general popularity in the religious world, were deeply impregnated with the Evangelical theology. In hymns the movement was especially rich. Both of the Wesleys, as well as Newton, Berridge, Shirley, and Rowland Hill, were hymn-writers. Both Madan and Gambold sometimes showed traces of a high order of poetry, and Toplady has left two or three of the most beautiful hymns in the language. Owing, perhaps, to the remarkable musical talent of the Wesley family, the Puritanical feeling so conspicuous in Methodism never extended to music. Some of Handel's oratorios were performed in Methodist chapels. The singing and organ in Surrey Chapel, where Rowland Hill officiated, were famous for their beauty, and the great composer Giardini supplied tunes for some of the Methodist hymns.1
The progress of Evangelical opinions among the higher orders, though perhaps less sincere, and certainly less lasting, than among the poor, was also considerable. The success in this sphere was chiefly due to the Countess of Huntingdon. This very remarkable woman, who united no small mental powers with a most ardent and somewhat imperious character, was one of the members of the original Methodist society in Fetter Lane, and she devoted her whole life, and, after the death of her husband in 1746, her whole fortune, to organising the Calvinistic section of the Methodists. Her college at Trevecca was founded in 1768, and it sent forth missionaries to every part of the United Kingdom. Romaine and Whitefield were successively her chaplains. Her drawing-room in London was continually opened for Methodist preaching, and Whitefield there addressed brilliant but very incongruous assemblies, drawn from the fashionable world. Among his hearers we find Chesterfield and Bolingbroke. Chesterfield paid him a courtly compliment, and is said to have been deeply moved by his preaching. Bolingbroke assured him, in his stately manner, that ‘he had done great justice to the divine attributes in his discourse;’ and we afterwards find the old sceptical statesman perusing the works of Calvin, and expressing his warm admiration for his philosophy.2 Among the occasional hearers at Lady Huntingdon's assemblies was the old Duchess of Marlborough. Lady Suffolk, the mistress of George II., attended once, but was bitterly offended because Whitefield, who was ignorant of her presence, introduced a passage into his sermon which she construed as an attack upon herself. The brilliant and eccentric Lady Townshend for a time coquetted with Methodism as well as with Popery. The haughty Duchess of Buckingham consented to hear Whitefield, but expressed her opinion of his doctrines in a letter to Lady Huntingdon, which is amusingly characteristic both of the writer and of her time: ‘I thank your ladyship,’ she wrote, ‘for the information concerning the Methodist preachers. Their doctrines are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to level all ranks and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting, and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.’1
Several ladies and a few men of great position were deeply impressed with the new teaching. As early as 1741 Lady Mary Hastings, the sister-in-law of Lady Huntingdon, startled the fashionable world in London by her marriage with an itinerant Yorkshire preacher named Ingham. The half-brother of Bolingbroke was a sincere convert. Chesterfield and Horace Walpole have spoken in strong terms of the extreme avarice of Lord Bath, the old rival of Walpole, but he subscribed liberally to the orphanage at Georgia, and he was a frequent, and apparently devout, attendant at Whitefield's Chapel in Tottenham Court Road.2 Lady Chesterfield, Lady Fanny Shirley, Lady Glenorchy, Lady Betty Germain, and Lady Dartmouth, were ardent Evangelicals Lord Dartmouth, who took a conspicuous but very unfortunate part during the American war, was fervently attached to the sect, and his piety has been commemorated by Cowper in a well-known line.1 The Evangelical party also reckoned among its early members Sir C. Middleton, afterwards Lord Barham, who was First Lord of the Admiralty during the brilliant period of the triumphs of Nelson; Lord Buchan, the brother of the illustrious Erskine; and the rich merchant John Thornton, who expended an ample fortune in the most splendid charity, and who preceded Simeon in the practice of purchasing advowsons and bestowing them on Evangelical preachers.2
By the exertions of all these patrons, Methodism for a time became almost fashionable. ‘If you ever think of returning to England,’ wrote Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, ‘as I hope it will be long first, you must prepare yourself with Methodism. I really believe by that time it will be necessary; this sect increases as fast as almost ever any religious nonsense did.’3 Lady Fanny Shirley opened her drawing-rooms for preaching in London, and Evangelical opinions gradually spread to the fashionable watering-places. Wesley had repeatedly preached at Bath, and complained bitterly of the dull and worldly character of his congregations and of the little impression he made, but the social position of Lady Huntingdon at once introduced Methodism into Bath society. A chapel was erected, and Shirley, Venn, and Jay made many converts. Horace Walpole once visited this chapel when Wesley was preaching, and noticed its ‘true Gothic windows,’ and the ‘boys and girls with charming voices that sing hymns in parts.’1 Cheltenham, which was just rising into a great watering-place, became in time one of the most Evangelical towns in the kingdom. Lady Dartmouth opened her drawing-room there for preaching, but no chapel was erected till that founded by Rowland Hill in 1808. At Tunbridge Wells occasional preachings were held in the house of Sir Thomas I'Anson. A mission, under the immediate auspices of Lady Huntingdon, took place in 1763, and a chapel was opened in 1768. The eminently religious character of George III. favoured the movement in society; and the young King, though generally very inimical to everything approaching to Dissent, more than once spoke with warm admiration of the Methodists.
But the most important sphere of Evangelical progress was the Church of England. In 1738, at the beginning of the Methodist movement, Wesley observed, in a letter to Peter Böhler, that he knew ten clergymen in England who preached what he believed to be Evangelical doctrine. We have already seen how bitterly the majority of the English clergy at first opposed the movement, and we have seen, too, I think, that their opposition was not unnatural or altogether unwarrantable. Few things could be more irritating to a parochial clergyman than the Methodist preacher who invaded his parish, denounced him before his congregation as a Pharisee or a heathen, threw great numbers into convulsive paroxysms which he pretended to be supernatural, and never failed to leave behind him a long ground-swell of agitation. It is not surprising that High Church clergymen, filled with rigid notions about Church discipline, should have inveighed bitterly against proceedings that were so scandalously irregular, that wise and moderate men should have revolted against a preaching which produced so much fanaticism and so much misery, that young curates fresh from the boisterous life of the university or the public school should have been only too ready to encourage the riotous dispositions of their parishioners. Wesley, during almost the whole of his career, adopted a language that was studiously moderate and decorous; but Whitefield, as he himself assures us, in his early days ‘thought he had never well closed a sermon without a lash at the fat, downy doctors of the Establishment,’ and the coarse and virulent opposition of many of the lay preachers to the clergy was a perpetual subject of complaint. The seed, however, which was so abundantly cast abroad, germinated largely among the clergy. In 1764, when Wesley attempted to form an union of Evangelical clergymen, he addressed circulars to about fifty;1 the number continually and rapidly increased,2 and before the close of his career the violence of the opposition to him had almost ceased. His last journals are full of the most emphatic statements of the change that had occurred. The physical phenomena that had once so largely accompanied Methodist preaching had become very rare, and the great moral benefits that resulted from it were fully recognised. In 1777 Wesley had begun to ask, ‘Is the offence of the cross ceased? It seems, after being scandalous near fifty years, I am at length growing into an honourable man.’3 Two or three years later he found himself overwhelmed with invitations to preach in the pulpits of the Established Church.1 The extraordinary power of Whitefield naturally produced a school of imitators, and as early as 1756 an essayist complained bitterly that ‘a wild and intemperate delivery,’ copied from the orators of the Foundery and Tabernacle at Moorfields, had become common in the parish churches.2 The Evangelical doctrines, which for some generations had been almost excluded from Anglican pulpits, became once more commonplaces; and by the close of the century the Evangelical party, though still a minority, had become a large and important section of the English Church.
From the group of clergymen who most successfully co-operated with Wesley in effecting this great change a few names may be cited. The itinerant movement in the Church of England was chiefly represented by Berridge and Grimshaw. The first of these was Rector of Everton, in Bedfordshire. The son of a prosperous Nottingham grazier, he was sent to Cambridge, where he distinguished himself by his industry, became a Fellow of Clare Hall, and was presented to a living in the gift of his college. He was eccentric almost to insanity, born, as he himself said, with a fool's cap on his head, and accustomed to fill his letters, and sometimes his sermons, and even his prayers, with a strain of coarse and childish jesting. He wrote many hymns in doggerel verse and sometimes of a grotesque absurdity, and although the members of his party were accustomed to speak of him as a man of great natural genius, it would be impossible to find among his scanty remains a single page of real eloquence or a single thought of real originality. He brought, however, to the work of evangelising, an intense and a passionate earnestness, an unlimited supply of homely images, and occasionally a pithy humour, not altogether unlike that of Fuller.1 The eccentricities of his style and the vehemence of his manner attracted thousands, and under his preaching great numbers underwent the physical distortions I have described. Madan and Romaine, at the request of Lady Huntingdon, went down to Everton to witness them, and came to the conclusion that they were decidedly supernatural. The squire, who ‘did not like strangers, and hated to be incommoded,’ complained bitterly of the throngs that were attracted by this strange preaching to his quiet church. The zeal of Berridge, however, speedily outleaped the boundaries of his parish. He habitually traversed all Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire, and many parts of Hertfordshire, Essex, and Suffolk. His activity was truly amazing. ‘For twenty-four years,’ wrote one of his biographers, ‘he continued to ride nearly 100 miles and to preach some ten or twelve sermons every week.’ His whole fortune was expended in charity or in supporting lay preachers. The neighbouring clergymen, whose parishes he invaded and whose churches he emptied, repeatedly complained to the bishop, who frequently but vainly directed him to confine his preaching to the ordinary hours, to consecrated buildings, and to his own parish. Berridge answered that other clergymen were unmolested when they visited the bowling-grounds outside their own parishes, that whatever canon he might break he dared not break that which said ‘Preach the gospel to every creature,’ that he preached only at two times, in season and out of season. He began life as a violent Arminian, but afterwards identified himself completely with the Calvinistic Methodists, and in each stage of his career he abused frantically the party opposed to him. He had several powerful protectors, and probably owed something of his impunity to the firm friendship of Lady Huntingdon and of Thornton. One of his friends was on intimate terms with the elder Pitt, and that statesman is said on one occasion to have indirectly interposed to shield him from a prosecution. With all his eccentricities, and partly, perhaps, in consequence of them, Berridge made a deep and abiding impression over the large district which he traversed, and he appears to have been in a great degree the master and model of Rowland Hill. He remained unmarried, partly in order that he might devote his undivided energies to field-preaching, and partly because having opened his Bible at random, in order to learn, as he expressed it, ‘whether he should take a Jezebel,’ his eyes lighted on texts unpropitious to matrimony.1 He died at a great age, in 1793, and before his death, his mind, which was never very sane, appears to have been thoroughly disordered.2
Grimshaw was another example of an eccentric and irregular nature entirely dominated by religious zeal. He was born at Brindle, in Lancashire, in 1708, and having passed through Christ's College, Cambridge, he was ordained in 1731, and was for the next three years a clergyman of the ordinary eighteenth-century type: hunting, fishing, and playing cards without scruple, occasionally indulging in some convivial excesses, but in general discharging the ordinary clerical duties with respectable decorum. Religious impressions, however, made in childhood at last revived, and they were probably strengthened by the death of his wife, which destroyed the happiness of his home. For several years he continued in a morbid state of religious despondency. He imagined that he was damned, he was besieged by blasphemous thoughts, he was haunted by the dread of suicide. He abandoned every form of amusement. He persuaded himself that two distinct and vivid flashes of light proceeding from some pewter dishes directed his eye to a work of Owen on ‘Justification by Faith.’ On one occasion, as he afterwards related, when officiating in church, he was seized with a sudden dizziness, which prevented him from proceeding, his arms and legs grew cold as death, and he then passed into a strange trance. He found himself in a dark, narrow passage, divided by a wall from hell, and he heard above him God the Father and God the Son disputing about his fate. The former strenuously urged that he should be damned, as he had not yet relinquished his own righteousness. The latter took the opposite side, and at last thrust down into view His hands and His feet, and Grimshaw observed that the nail-holes were ragged and blue, and streaming with fresh blood. From this moment he revived, and ever after found perfect peace in the conviction of the utter worthlessness of all human works, and the complete and gratuitous salvation achieved by Christ.
His first scenes of labour were Rochdale and the neighbouring village of Todmorden, and he was afterwards appointed perpetual curate of Haworth, a village in one of the most secluded districts of Yorkshire, which in our own century has acquired in the eyes of thousands a deep interest as the home of the Brontës, and the scene from which they derived some of the happiest touches of their inspiration. From this centre Grimshaw spread the Evangelical doctrines over the greater part of Yorkshire and of the adjoining counties. The soil was not altogether a virgin one, for a few years before his arrival, Ingham, who had been one of the original Oxford Methodists, and one of the companions of Wesley in Georgia, and Nelson, a Yorkshire stonemason, who was one of the most zealous of Wesley's lay preachers, had been itinerating through the county; but their success was marred by a violent quarrel which broke out between them on the subject of the Moravians. The influence of Grimshaw was far wider, and his extraordinary zeal, as well as his repudiation of all pulpit conventionalities, and his habitual use of what he called ‘market English,’ gave him unrivalled power with the poor. He acquired—apparently with much justice—the nickname of ‘the mad parson,’ and many characteristic anecdotes of his proceedings are preserved. During the hymn before the sermon he was accustomed to issue from the church, and drive—sometimes, it is said, with a horsewhip—all the loiterers in the village into the sacred precincts. On one occasion he pretended to be a mischievous boy, and teased a blind woman with a stick, in order to ascertain whether she had attained a complete command of her temper and her tongue. On another he tested the charity of an ostentatious professor of religion by appearing in the garb of a beggar at his door; on a third he attired himself as an old woman, and took his stand near the door of a cottage prayer-meeting, which was frequently interrupted by some boys, in order that he might detect the offenders. In his parish he established so severe a despotism that a man riding on an urgent mission of charity on Sunday could not induce the blacksmith to shoe his horse till he had obtained the minister's permission; and drinkers in the public-house are said to have taken flight through the window when Grimshaw appeared in the street. He was peculiarly anxious to prevent his parishioners from walking in the fields on Sunday, and went himself in disguise to the place where they were accustomed to meet, in order that he might detect and rebuke the culprits. On one occasion, when Whitefield, preaching in his pulpit, spoke of the piety that would doubtless be found in a congregation which enjoyed the ministry of so faithful a pastor, Grimshaw interrupted him, exclaiming: ‘Oh, sir, for God's sake do not speak so! I pray you do not flatter them; I fear the greater part of them are going to hell with their eyes open.’ His prayers against the Haworth races were so fervent that a violent downpour of rain, which once lasted during the three days of their continuance, was regarded by the parishioners as a direct answer, and led to the cessation of the sport. He heartily supported the mission of Wesley, built a Methodist chapel in his own parish, invited itinerant lay preachers to assist him, and was once found cleaning the boots of one of them. In his own parish he was accustomed, besides the ordinary services and sermons, to read the Homilies of the Church, to give expositions of the Articles, and to visit his vast parish, in twelve different places monthly, convening in each the surrounding inhabitants for an exhortation, inquiring minutely into the condition of each member, reconciling enmities, and rebuking vice. The religious revival which he produced was very great. When he came to Haworth there were not twelve communicants in the parish. Before the close of his mission there were nearly 1,200, and on one occasion, when Whitefield was present, no less than thirty-five bottles of wine were used at the sacred table.
His whole life was devoted to a single object. It was his boast that whenever he died he would not leave a penny behind him. He preached usually more than twelve, sometimes as much as thirty, times in a week. When he met a stranger on the roads he was accustomed to induce him to kneel down with him at once in prayer upon the grass. Not content with traversing every part of his own large parish, or even of his own county, he went on missionary tours through Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire. He met with much opposition from clergymen into whose parishes he intruded, with some mob violence, and with great ridicule; but his zeal and his humility were proof against all these, and he lived to see many thousands affected by his words. A short time before his death, standing with John Newton on a hill near Haworth, he observed that when he first came there he could ride for half a day to the east or to the west, to the north or to the south, without seeing or hearing of a single truly devout man, whereas many hundreds in his own parish were now fervent believers. He died in 1762, of a putrid fever caught in visiting the sick. His last words were, ‘Here goes an unprofitable servant.’1
Among the more regular clergy also, we speedily find representatives of Evangelical opinions. In London the most important was probably William Romaine, the son of a Protestant refugee who had fled to England upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. After a distinguished University career, followed by ten quiet and studious years in a curacy in Surrey, Romaine came to London in 1748, and he spent the remainder of his life in preaching the doctrine of justification by faith, with extraordinary power, in many different quarters of the metropolis. For five years he was assistant morning preacher in St. George's, Hanover Square—a church which, was then the very centre of the rank and fashion of England; and he was at last dismissed from his post for the characteristic reason that the crowds who were attracted by his sermons disturbed the parishioners, and made it difficult for them to find their way to their pews. He was also for many years lecturer at St. Dunstan's-in-the-West; but an attempt was made to deprive him of his pulpit, and when it was defeated by a legal decision in his favour, the churchwardens refused to open the church till the exact hour at which the judgment ordered the lecture to begin, or to light it when it was opened. Until the Bishop of London interposed to arrest the scandal, the extraordinary spectacle was often witnessed of the preacher preaching in a crowded church by the light of a single taper, which he held in his own hand. Romaine was a warm friend of Lady Huntingdon and her coadjutors, preached frequently in her chapels as long as they were not separated from the Church, and became at last, partly through her influence, rector of St. Anne's, Blackfriars. He was sincerely attached to the Anglican Church, and sometimes spoke with much bitterness of the Dissenters, and he never appears to have been guilty of the disregard of Church discipline for which the early Methodists were conspicuous. In the learned world he acquired some reputation as editor of the ‘Hebrew Dictionary and Concordance’ of Marius de Calasio, and he held the Gresham Professorship of Astronomy in 1752, but his lectures in this capacity produced great opposition and dissension, and he was accused of availing himself of his chair to depreciate the very science he professed, on the ground that astronomical observations have no tendency to make men Christians.1 His fame rests chiefly on the extraordinary popularity of his preaching and of his devotional writings, and on the conspicuous part which he took in opposition to the Jew Bill of 1753. His disposition appears to have been morose, unsocial, and intolerant, and he excited much hostility in every sphere in which he moved; but few contemporary clergymen exercised a deeper or wider influence, or displayed a more perfect devotion to the cause they believed to be true.1
Many other remarkable names may be cited. Among them was John Newton, the friend of Cowper, the curate of Olney, and the rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, who, having been for many years an insubordinate sailor, a slave-dealer, and an unbeliever, and having passed, in his wild and adventurous life, through the lowest depths of misery and oppression, had been touched by the Evangelical doctrines, had acquired by indomitable perseverance the attainments requisite for a clergyman, and continued for the space of forty-four years one of the most devoted and single-hearted of Christian ministers. Among them were Venn, the rector of Huddersfield, who inoculated with the Evangelical doctrines the great manufacturing populations of Yorkshire; Rowlands, the itinerant missionary of Wales; Cecil of Bedford Row, Simeon of Cambridge, and Walker of Truro. With much narrowness and fanaticism of judgment, with little range of learning, and no high order of intellectual power, all these possessed, in an eminent degree, the qualities of heart and mind that influence great masses of men; and they and their colleagues gradually changed the whole spirit of the English Church. They infused into it a new fire and passion of devotion, kindled a spirit of fervent philanthropy, raised the standard of clerical duty, and completely altered the whole tone and tendency of the preaching of its ministers. Before the close of the century the Evangelical movement had become the almost undisputed centre of religious activity in England, and it continued to be so till the rise of the Tractarian movement of 1833.
But beyond all other men it was John Wesley to whom this work was due. Few things in ecclesiastical history are more striking than the energy and the success with which he propagated his opinions. He was gifted with a frame of iron and with spirits that never flagged. ‘I do not remember,’ he wrote when an old man, ‘to have felt lowness of spirits for a quarter of an hour since I was born.’1 He was accustomed to attribute, probably with much reason, to his perpetual journeys on horseback, the almost superhuman flow of health and vigour which he enjoyed. He lived eighty-seven years, and he continued his efforts to the very close. He rose long before daybreak. He preached usually at five o'clock in the morning. When he was eighty-five, he once delivered more than eighty sermons in eight weeks. In the very last year of his life he went on a missionary journey to Scotland, and on one occasion travelled seventy miles in a single day. During the greater part of his career he was accustomed to preach about 800 sermons a year, and it was computed that in the fifty years of his itinerant life he travelled a quarter of a million of miles, and preached more than 40,000 sermons. Like Whitefield, he had the power of riveting the attention of audiences of 8,000, 10,000, and sometimes even 20,000 souls, and, like Whitefield, a great part of his success depended on the topics he habitually employed; but in other respects his sermons bore no resemblance to the impassioned harangues of his great colleague. His style was simple, terse, colloquial, abounding in homely images, characterised above all things by its extreme directness, by the manifest and complete subordination of all other considerations to the one great end of impressing his doctrines on his hearers, animated by a tone of intense and penetrating sincerity that found its way to the hearts of thousands. He possessed to the highest degree that controlled and reasoning fanaticism which is one of the most powerful agents in moving the passions of men. While preaching doctrines of the wildest extravagance, while representing himself as literally inspired, and his hearers as surrounded by perpetual miracles, his manners and his language were always those of a scholar and a gentleman—calm, deliberate, and self-possessed. He was always dressed with a scrupulous neatness. His countenance, to the very close of his life, was singularly beautiful and expressive, and in his old age his long white hair added a peculiar venerableness to his appearance. Great natural knowledge of men, improved by extraordinary experience, gave him an almost unrivalled skill in dealing with the most various audiences, and the courage with which he never failed to encounter angry mobs, as well as the quiet dignity of manner which never forsook him, added greatly to the effects of his preaching.
His administrative powers were probably still greater than his power as a preacher. Few tasks are more difficult than the organisation into a permanent body of half-educated men, intoxicated with the wildest religious enthusiasm, believing themselves to be all inspired by the Holy Ghost, and holding opinions that ran perilously near the abyss of Antinomianism. Wesley accomplished the task with an admirable mixture of tact, firmness, and gentleness; and the skill with which he framed the Methodist organisation is sufficiently shown by its later history. Like all men with extraordinary administrative gifts, he had a great love of power, and this fact renders peculiarly honourable his evident reluctance to detach himself from the discipline of his Church.
He has, it is true, no title to be regarded as a great thinker. His mind had not much originality or speculative power, and his leading tenets placed him completely out of harmony with the higher intellect of his time. Holding the doctrine of a particular Providence in such a sense as to believe that the physical phenomena of the universe were constantly changed for human convenience and at human prayers, he could have little sympathy with scientific thought. Assuming as axioms the inspiration of every word of the Bible and his own inspiration in interpreting it, throwing the whole weight of religious proof upon what he termed ‘a new class of senses opened in the soul to be the avenues of the invisible world, the evidence of things not seen, as the bodily senses are of visible things,’ he was simply indifferent to the gravest historical, critical, and ethical questions that were discussed about him, and difficulties that troubled some of the greatest thinkers were imperceptible for him. No class of opinions are less likely to commend themselves to a judicial and critical intellect than those which he embraced. His mind was incapable of continued doubt. His credulity and confidence on some subjects were unbounded, and his judgments of men were naturally strongly biassed by his theological views. Thus Hume appeared to him merely as ‘the most insolent despiser of truth and virtue that ever appeared in the world,’ and he regarded Beattie as incomparably superior both as a writer and a reasoner.1 Leibnitz he pronounced to be one of the poorest writers he had ever read.2 He could not pardon Reid for having spoken respectfully of Rousseau, or Robertson for having referred without censure to Lord Kames, or Smollett and Guthrie for having treated witchcraft as a superstition.3 Still even the literary side of his career is by no means contemptible. He was an indefatigable and very skilful controversialist, a voluminous writer, and a still more voluminous editor. His writings, though they are certainly not distinguished either by originality of thought or by eloquence of expression, are always terse, well reasoned, full of matter and meaning. Unlike a large proportion of his followers, he had no contempt for human learning, and in spite of the incessant activity of his career he found time for much and various reading. He was accustomed to read history, poetry, and philosophy on horseback, and one of the charms of his journals is the large amount of shrewd literary criticism they contain.
His many-sided activity was displayed in the most various fields, and his keen eye was open to every form of abuse. At one time we find him lamenting the glaring inequalities of political representation; that Old Sarum without house or inhabitant should send two members to Parliament; that Looe, ‘a town near half as large as Islington,’ should send four members, while every county in North Wales sent only one. At another he dilated on the costly diffusiveness of English legal documents, or on the charlatanry and inconsistency of English medicine. He set up a dispensary; and, though not a qualified practitioner, he gratuitously administered medicine to the poor. He was a strong advocate of inoculation, which was then coming into use, and of the application of electricity to medicine, and he attempted, partly on sanitary and partly on economical grounds, to discourage the use of tea among the poor. He was among the first to reprobate the horrors of the slave trade to call attention to the scandalous condition of the gaols, to make collections for relieving the miserable destitution of the French prisoners of war. He supported with the whole weight of his influence the Sunday-school movement. He made praiseworthy efforts to put down among his followers that political corruption which was perhaps the most growing vice of English society. He also took an active, though a very unfortunate part in some of the political questions of the day. He wrote against the concession of relief to the Catholics, and against the right of Wilkes to sit for Middlesex in 1768; and during the American struggle he threw into a more popular form the chief arguments in Dr. Johnson's pamphlet against the Americans, and had probably a considerable influence in forming the public opinion hostile to all concession.1 It is a curious illustration of his activity that when Pitt, having defeated the Coalition Ministry, obtained supreme power in 1784, Wesley immediately wrote to him suggesting a plan for the readjustment of taxation, and urging him to check suicide by hanging the bodies of those who were guilty of it in chains.
The influence of men bears no kind of proportion to their intellects. Were it otherwise, the small group of men who have effected great changes or developments of religious belief would deserve to rank as the intellectual leaders of the world. No other class have had an influence which has been at once so wide in its range and so profound and searching in its character, and very few have exercised an influence which is so enduring. In these matters, however, character and intellect, preceding and surrounding circumstances, curiously combine; and some of those who have effected the greatest revolutions of popular opinion owe their success quite as much to their weakness as to their strength. It is probably true of Mohammed himself, it is certainly true of such men as Loyola and George Fox, that a vein of insanity which ran through their natures was one great element of their power. If Wesley had not been very credulous and very dogmatic, utterly incapable of a suspended judgment, and utterly insensible to some of the highest intellectual tendencies of his time, it may be safely asserted that his work would have been far less. He does not rank in the first line of the great religious creators and reformers, and a large part of the work with which he is associated was accomplished by others; but it is no exaggeration to say that he has had a wider constructive influence in the sphere of practical religion than any other man who has appeared since the sixteenth century. He lived to see the sect which he founded numbering more than 70,000 souls upon British soil, and about 300 itinerant and 1,000 local preachers raised up from his own people. The different branches of Methodists in the world are said now to number twelve millions of souls.1 They have already far outnumbered every other Nonconformist body in England and every other religious body in the United States, and they are probably destined largely to increase, while the influence of the movement transformed for a time the whole spirit of the Established Church, and has been more or less felt in every Protestant community speaking the English tongue.
During the whole of his life Wesley looked upon himself as a clergyman of the Established Church. He began, as we have seen, with strong High Church opinions, and was long a fervent believer in Apostolical succession; and though he gradually modified his other doctrines, he continued to the end to profess his warm adherence to the creed and the worship of the English Church. Nothing can be more unjust than to attribute to him the ambition of a schismatic, or the subversive instincts of a revolutionist. Again and again he exhorted his followers to attend the services of the Church, to abstain from attacking the clergy, and to avoid connecting themselves with any Dissenting body. In the very last year of his life he published a letter, in which he wrote: ‘I live and die a member of the Church of England, and no one who regards my judgment or advice will ever separate from it.’2 But many circumstances—some of them not altogether in his control—tended visibly towards separation. It was, indeed, the inevitable destiny of a body which possessed a distinct and admirable organisation, and which, at the same time, was formed in defiance of the discipline of the parent Church. At first the Methodist services were held at such times as not to interfere with those of the parish church, but gradually they began to encroach upon the church hours. The lay preachers were a constant source of difficulty. Many of them were bitterly hostile to the clergy, and altogether indisposed to acknowledge the inferiority of their own ecclesiastical position. Wesley frequently but ineffectually endeavoured to obtain for them episcopal consecration. In 1763 he induced a Greek bishop who was visiting England to consecrate one of them; but the step caused so much discontent that it was not repeated, and when some other preachers without his consent obtained a similar consecration, Wesley was much displeased, and expelled them from the society. Some of the lay preachers began, without the consent or approval of Wesley, to administer the sacrament.
Charles Wesley was especially alarmed at these symptoms. His influence with his brother was always exerted in a conservative direction; he urged him to exercise much greater deliberation in the admission of lay preachers, and he gradually withdrew from all active participation in the movement. On the other hand, there were many urging Wesley to take more decided steps, and on one important question a great change had passed over his judgment. A careful study of Lord King's book on the constitution of the Primitive Church, and of the ‘Irenicon’ of Stillingfleet, had convinced him that bishops and presbyters were originally of one order, and that he had therefore as a presbyter as much right to ordain as to administer the sacrament. This right he hesitated to exercise until new circumstances arose which made the position of his body more difficult. The Toleration Act had given perfect liberty of worship to all Protestant Dissenters who admitted the Trinity, but it had made no provision for a body like the Methodists, who professed to be in full communion and agreement with the Established Church; and some of the clergy availed themselves of the advantage which this omission gave them to prosecute the Methodists, and thus reduce them to the alternative of closing their chapels, or having them licensed as Dissenting meetinghouses. One of the last important letters which Wesley wrote was a remonstrance with a bishop, who by taking this course was endeavouring to drive them into Dissent. A judgment given in 1781 against Lady Huntingdon placed her chapels legally in the position of Dissenting meeting-houses, and established that no Church of England clergyman had a right to officiate in them. From this time, Venn, Romaine, and other clergymen withdrew from the Methodist chapels.
Another serious complication speedily arose. Owing to some absurd jealousies on both sides, no American bishop had been consecrated before the revolution; and the Americans who desired episcopal ordination had to come over to England to receive it from an English bishop, and to swear in England the oath of allegiance. Bishop Butler had proposed, and Archbishop Secker had strenuously urged, the consecration of a bishop for America; but Dissenting jealousy interposed,1 and the absurdity continued of a diocese separated by 3,000 miles from its diocesan. With the severance of the political tie, this state of things became of course untenable; and after some difficulty a missionary belonging to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was selected by the Americans, and consecrated in 1784 by Scotch bishops. The Methodists, however, laboured under still greater difficulties than the other Episcopalians. Episcopal clergymen were very thinly scattered in the colony, especially since the revolution, which had induced many of them to emigrate. Of those who remained, a large proportion were bitterly hostile to the Methodists, who often found themselves without anyone to administer to them the sacrament, or to baptise their children. Under these circumstances Wesley took the bold step of consecrating Coke Superintendent or Bishop of the American Methodists. He did not do so until he had vainly sought assistance from the Bishop of London, and till the American Methodists had shown a strong disposition to take the matter, if much further delayed, into their own hands. This decisive step was taken in 1784; and in the following year Wesley ordained ministers for Scotland.
The somewhat ambiguous position which Wesley occupied towards the Church has for a long time been more or less perpetuated by the sect which he founded. Ultimately it is probable that the position of the Anglican Church as an Establishment will be injuriously affected by the great numerical secession from its pale, and especially by the Nonconformity of Wales; but hitherto the Methodist body has proved faithful to the spirit of its founder, and does not appear to have participated largely in the jealousy of Dissent. What the Church lost in numbers it more than gained in vitality. The Evangelical movement, which directly or indirectly originated with Wesley, produced a revival of religious feeling that has incalculably increased the efficiency of almost every religious body in the community, while at the same time it has not seriously affected party politics. On the great American controversy, as we have seen, the leading Methodists were divided, Wesley and Fletcher of Madeley being strongly opposed to the American claims, while the bulk of the Calvinistic Methodists were inclined to favour them. The many great philanthropic efforts which arose, or at least derived their importance, from the Evangelical movement, soon became prominent topics of parliamentary debate; but they were not the peculiar glory of any political party, and they formed a common ground on which many religious denominations could co-operate.
Great, however, as was the importance of the Evangelical revival in stimulating these efforts, it had other consequences of perhaps a wider and more enduring influence. Before the close of the century in which it appeared, a spirit had begun to circulate in Europe threatening the very foundations of society and of belief. The revolt against the supernatural theory of Christianity which had been conducted by Voltaire and the Encyclopædists, the material conception of man and of the universe which sprang from the increased study of physical science and from the metaphysics of Condillac and Helvetius, the wild social dreams which Rousseau had clothed in such a transcendent eloquence, the misery of a high-spirited people ground to the dust by unnecessary wars and by partial and unjust taxation, the imbecility and corruption of rulers and priests, had together produced in France a revolutionary spirit, which in its intensity and its proselytising fervour was unequalled since the days of the Reformation. It was soon felt in many lands. Millions of fierce and ardent natures were intoxicated by dreams of an impossible equality and of a complete social and political reorganisation. Many old abuses perished, but a tone of thought and feeling was introduced into European life which could only lead to anarchy, and at length to despotism, and was beyond all others fatal to that measured and ordered freedom which can alone endure. Its chief characteristics were a hatred of all constituted authority, an insatiable appetite for change, a habit of regarding rebellion as the normal as well as the noblest form of political self-sacrifice, a disdain for all compromise, a contempt for all tradition, a desire to level all ranks and subvert all establishments, a determination to seek progress, not by the slow and cautious amelioration of existing institutions, but by sudden, violent, and revolutionary change. Religion, property, civil authority, and domestic life, were all assailed, and doctrines incompatible with the very existence of government were embraced by multitudes with the fervour of a religion. England, on the whole, escaped the contagion. Many causes conspired to save her, but among them a prominent place must, I believe, be given to the new and vehement religious enthusiasm which was at that very time passing through the middle and lower classes of the people, which had enlisted in its service a large proportion of the wilder and more impetuous reformers, and which recoiled with horror from the anti-Christian tenets that were associated with the Revolution in France.
The revolutionary spirit was of foreign origin, and its opponents were able to appeal to a strong national antipathy; but in England itself a movement, not less momentous, and in some of its aspects scarcely less menacing, was about the same time taking place. The closing years of the eighteenth century witnessed the beginning of a series of great mechanical inventions, which changed with unexampled rapidity the whole course of English industry, and in little more than a generation created manufacturing centres unequalled in the world. Scarcely any event in modern history has exercised a wider social and political influence than this sudden growth of the manufacturing towns, and it brought with it some political and moral dangers of the gravest kind. It was in many respects a movement of disintegration, breaking the ties of sympathy between class and class, and destroying the habits of discipline and subordination that once extended through the whole community. Forms of industry which had hitherto been carried on in the domestic circle, or in small establishments under the constant supervision of the master, were transferred to the crowded manufactory. Labour became more nomadic. All the ties of habit and tradition were relaxed. Working men, drawn from the most distant quarters, were agglomerated by thousands in great towns, bound to their employers by no other tie than that of interest, exposed to the fever of an immensely stimulated competition, and to the trying ordeal of sudden, rapid, and unforeseen fluctuations in their wages and their employments. The gambling spirit produced by these fluctuations, the vast progress in means of locomotion and of information, the cosmopolitan spirit of free trade, all tended to produce among them a restless discontent. The inflammable elements in the nation were massed together to an unprecedented extent, and temptations were greatly multiplied while restraints were weakened. The war between capital and labour began. Wealth was immensely increased, but the inequalities of its distribution were aggravated. The contrast between extravagant luxury and abject misery became much more frequent and much more glaring than before. The wealthy employer ceased to live among his people; the quarters of the rich and of the poor became more distant, and every great city soon presented those sharp divisions of classes and districts in which the political observer discovers one of the most dangerous symptoms of revolution.
It would be a gross exaggeration to represent these as the sole consequences of the vast growth in manufacturing industry which took place in England in the closing years of the eighteenth century, and which has advanced with accelerated rapidity to our own time. This is not the place to show how greatly it has stimulated the progressive forces of English political life, in how many ways it has improved the material and intellectual position of the working classes, how many paths of ambition formerly closed to them it has thrown open, or how greatly it has added to the material resources which the nation can command in every conflict with her enemies. But few thinkers of any weight would, I believe, now deny that the evils and dangers accompanying these benefits were greatly underrated by most of the economists of the last generation. The true greatness and welfare of nations depend mainly on the amount of moral force that is generated within them. Society never can continue in a state of tolerable security when there is no other bond of cohesion than a mere money tie, and it is idle to expect the different classes of the community to join in the self-sacrifice and enthusiasm of patriotism if all unselfish motives are excluded from their several relations. Every change of conditions which widens the chasm and impairs the sympathy between rich and poor cannot fail, however beneficial may be its other effects, to bring with it grave dangers to the State. It is incontestable that the immense increase of manufacturing industry and of the manufacturing population, has had this tendency; and it is, therefore, I conceive, peculiarly fortunate that it should have been preceded by a religious revival, which opened a new spring of moral and religious energy among the poor, and at the same time gave a powerful impulse to the philanthropy of the rich.
But the chief triumph of a religious movement is not to be found in its action upon large classes of the community, or within the noisy arena of politics. It is to be found rather in those spheres and moments of life which beyond all others are secluded from the eye of history. Every religion which is worthy of the name must provide some method of consoling men in the first agonies of bereavement, some support in the extremes of pain and sickness, above all, some stay in the hour of death. It must operate, not merely or mainly upon the strong and healthy reason, but also in the twilight of the understanding, in the half-lucid intervals that precede death, when the imagination is enfeebled and discoloured by disease, when all the faculties are confused and dislocated, when all the buoyancy and hopefulness of nature are crushed. At such a time it is not sufficient for most men to rest upon the review of a well-spent life. Such a retrospect to all of us is too full of saddening and humiliating memories. It is an effort too great for the jaded mind. It can at best afford but a cold and languid satisfaction amid the bitterness of death. It is at this moment that priestly influence is most felt. The Catholic priest asserting with emphatic confidence a divine power of absolving the sinner, arresting and overawing the wandering imagination by imposing rites, demanding only complete submission at a time when beyond all others the mind is least disposed to resist, and professing, on the condition of that submission, to conduct the dying man into an eternity of happiness, can provide a stay upon which sinking nature can rest in that gloomy hour. The immense consolation which has been thus infused into innumerable minds at the time when consolation is most needed, can be hardly overstated. To secure the efficacy of this last absolution upon the imagination of the dying, has been a main end of all the teaching and of all the ceremonies of the Church. For the sake of this, men have endured all the calamities which priest-craft has brought upon the world, have bartered the independence of their minds, and shut their eyes to the light of truth. By connecting this absolution indissolubly with complete submission to their sacerdotal claims, the Catholic priests framed the most formidable engine of religious tyranny that has ever been employed to disturb or subjugate the world.
It is the glory of Protestantism, whenever it remains faithful to the spirit of its founders, that it has destroyed this engine. The Evangelical teacher emphatically declares that the intervention of no human being, and of no human rite, is necessary in the hour of death. Yet he can exercise a soothing influence not less powerful than that of the Catholic priest. The doctrine of justification by faith, which diverts the wandering mind from all painful and perplexing retrospect, concentrates the imagination on one Sacred Figure, and persuades the sinner that the sins of a life have in a moment been effaced, has enabled thousands to encounter death with perfect calm, or even with vivid joy, and has consoled innumerable mourners at a time when all the commonplaces of philosophy would appear the idlest of sounds.
This doctrine had fallen almost wholly into abeyance in England, and had scarcely any place among realised convictions, when it was revived by the Evangelical party. It is impossible to say how largely it has contributed to mitigate some of the most acute forms of human misery. Historians, and even ecclesiastical historians, are too apt to regard men simply in classes or communities or corporations, and to forget that the keenest of our sufferings as well as the deepest of our joys take place in those periods when we are most isolated from the movements of society. Whatever may be thought of the truth of the doctrine, no candid man will question its power in the house of mourning and in the house of death. ‘The world,’ wrote Wesley, ‘may not like our Methodists and Evangelical people, but the world cannot deny that they die well.’
These have been the great benefits which flowed from the Evangelical revival of the last century. The evils that resulted from it I have already indicated. The foregoing narrative will supply abundant evidence of the religious terrorism by which it clouded or embittered many sensitive natures; of its austere and sour enmity to some of the most innocent forms of human enjoyment; of the extreme narrowness of its conceptions of life; of its hostility to culture and free research. Some, indeed, of the Methodist leaders were men of no contemptible knowledge. Wesley and Berridge were distinguished members of their university. Romaine was an accomplished Hebrew scholar. Dr. Walker, who took a conspicuous part in the revival in Ireland, was a Senior Fellow of Trinity College. But the great majority of the preachers were half-educated men, and those who were not so, usually discouraged and decried secular learning. ‘Human science’ was, indeed, one of their favourite topics of abuse. Their theory of religion laid no stress upon the voice of antiquity. They believed firmly in an ever-present Divine Spirit illuminating an inspired page, and they looked with suspicion and dislike upon every voluntary pursuit which was not directly subservient to religious ends. They soon discovered, too, that the most cultivated minds were precisely those that were least susceptible to those violent and unreasoning religious emotions which they ascribed to the direct action of the Holy Ghost. Methodism has long since taken its position as pre-eminently and almost exclusively the religion of the middle and lower classes of society; and the Evangelical school that sprang from it, though it obtained a temporary ascendency in the Church of the upper classes, had never any real sympathy with the intellect of England. Regarding all doubt on religious matters as criminal, discouraging every form of study that could possibly produce it, deifying strong internal persuasion, and shutting its eyes on principle against every discovery that could impugn its tenets, it has been essentially the school of those who form their opinions rather by emotion than by reasoning, and who deliberately refuse to face the intellectual difficulties of the question. Its teaching lends itself admirably to impassioned rhetoric, and it has accordingly been rich in popular preachers, but in the higher forms of intellect it has every generation been more conspicuously barren. In the face of physical science, of modern Biblical criticism, and of all the light which history and comparative mythology have of late years thrown on the genesis of religions; the old theory of verbal inspiration, the old methods of Biblical interpretation, and the old prescientific conception of a world governed by perpetual acts of supernatural interference, still hold their ground in the Evangelical pulpit. The incursions of hostile science have been met by the barrier of an invincible prejudice—by the belief, sedulously inculcated from childhood, that what are termed orthodox opinions are essential to salvation, and that doubt, and every course of inquiry that leads to doubt, should be avoided as a crime. It is a belief which is not only fatal to habits of intellectual honesty and independence in those who accept it, but is also a serious obstacle in the path of those who do not. The knowledge that many about him will regard any deviation from the traditional cast of opinions as the greatest of calamities and of crimes, seldom fails, according to the disposition of the inquirer, to drive him into hypocritical concealments or into extreme and exaggerated bitterness.
The Evangelical movement has thus seriously aggravated the dangers of a period of great religious transition. It has weakened the love of truth and the spirit of inquiry wherever it has passed. It has also revived religious animosities, brought semi-theological questions into a renewed prominence in politics, and in many ways strengthened the spirit of intolerance. Members of this party were among the bitterest opponents of the attempt that was made in 1778 to relieve the clergy from the subscription to the Articles, and among the most active agents in the later prosecution of sceptical writings; and one of the first effects of their influence in Parliament was an increased stringency of Sabbatarian legislation. To the strength of Methodist and Evangelical opinion is mainly due the strange anomaly that, at the present day, after nearly fifty years of almost uninterrupted democratic legislation, the great majority of public museums and galleries in England are closed on the only day on which the bulk of the people could enjoy them. The working classes have thus been deprived of a source of amusement and instruction of pre-eminent value, and the public-houses of their most formidable competitors. The Evangelical movement anticipated, in many of its aspects, that great reaction which passed over Europe after the French Revolution, and it contributed powerfully to perpetuate and intensify it.
But it is especially on the Catholic question that the political influence of the party was injurious. The Evangelicals are not, indeed, responsible for the scandalously intolerant laws that were passed against the Catholics after the Revolution, but they contributed very largely to retard the full acknowledgment of their claims. Wesley, as we have seen, wrote against the relaxation of the penal code. Scott, who was perhaps the most popular writer of the school, maintained that the removal of Catholic disabilities would be a great sin;1 and from the time of the Lord George Gordon riots in 1780 to the time of Catholic emancipation in 1829 the bulk of the Evangelical clergy strained every nerve to prevent the concession of toleration and political power to the Catholics. Like all men who are endeavouring to oppose the main current of their age, they failed, but the evil they effected was not the less serious. They produced on both sides an enduring sectarian animosity, and an extreme exaggeration of distinctive doctrines, and they delayed the just and necessary settlement of this great question until the boon had lost all power of healing divisions and allaying discontent. Had the Catholic question been settled at the close of the last century, or even in the first decade of the present one, and had the settlement comprised a moderate endowment of the priests, Irish discontent might have long been a thing of the past. The most educated Catholic laymen were then the indisputable leaders of their co-religionists. The priests were by taste and profession almost wholly outside the circle of politics. Their interests might easily have been attached to those of the Government, and the prevailing spirit of the Vatican was singularly moderate and conciliatory. It is one of the great misfortunes of English history, that the emancipation of the Catholics was only conceded after a long and bitter agitation, which evoked the worst passions and principles that were dormant among them, broke the ascendency of the educated laymen, and, by forcing the priests into the forefront of the fray, introduced a new and dangerous element into English political life. Several causes concurred to produce the delay, but among them none was more powerful than that fierce anti-Catholic spirit which the Evangelical movement had maintained among the people of England.
See Perry's Hist. of the Church of England, ii. 445. Buckle, in his otherwise admirable sketch of the foundation of the Royal Society, has, I think, overstated the amount of clerical opposition it encountered. Hist. of Civilisation, i. 341.
He writes to the Princess of Wales: ‘Mr. Newton prétend qu'un corps attire l'autre à quelque distance que ce soit, et qu'un grain de sable chez nous exerce une force attractive jusques sur le soleil sans aucun milieu ni moyen. Aprés cela comment ses sectateurs voudront-ils nier que par la toute-puissance de Dieu nous pouvons avoir participation du corps et du sang de Jésus-Christ sans aucun empêchement des distances? C'est un bon moyen de les embarrasser—des gens qui par un esprit d'animosité contre la Maison d'Hanovre, s'émancipent maintenant plus que jamais de parler contre nostre religion de la Confession d'Augsburg, comme si notre Réalité Eucharistique étoit absurde.’—Kemble's State Papers, p. 529.
See Whiston's Memoirs, i. 93.
See Alciphron, 6th dialogue.
‘That there should be more species of intelligent creatures above us than there are of sensible and material below us, is probable to me from hence, that in all the visible corporeal world we see no chasms or gaps. All quite down from us the descent is by easy steps, and a continued series of things that in each remove differ very little one from the other. There are fishes that have wings. … There are some birds that are inhabitants of the water, whose blood is cold as fishes, and their flesh is so like in taste that the scrupulous are allowed them on fish days. There are animals so near of kin both to birds and beasts, that they are in the middle between both; amphibious animals link the terrestrial and aquatic together. Seals live at land and at sea, and porpoises have the warm blood and entrails of a hog, not to mention what is confidently reported of mermaids or sea men. There are some brutes that seem to have as much knowledge and reason as some that are called men; and the animal and vegetable kingdoms are so nearly joined that if you will take the lowest of one and the highest of the other, there will scarce be perceived any great difference between them; and so on till we come to the lowest and most inorganical parts of matter, we shall find everywhere that the several species are linked together, and differ but in almost insensible degrees.’—Locke, On the Understanding, bk. iii. c. 6. See, too, the Spectator, No. 519.
See his Charge to the Clergy of Middlesex in 1731.
‘Have you not for many years together heard the clergy preach up the Divine right and indefeasible authority of kings, together with passive obedience, as the chief distinguishing doctrines whereby their church approved itself apostolic beyond all churches? Nay, were not the doctrines of loyalty to the king insisted upon more than faith in Christ? And yet, when their particular interest required it, their doctrine of non-resistance was qualified by non-assistance—the whole stream of loyalty was turned from the king to the Church; the indefeasible right was superseded by a miraculous conquest without blood; the oath of allegiance to the Divinely rightful King James has its force allayed by another oath of the same importance to the de facto King William.’—An Account of the Growth of Deism in England (1696), p. 8. On the many rationalistic explanations of miracles that were current see Hickes' Prefatory Discourse in Answer to the Rights of the Christian Church.
See Martin Sherlock, Lettres d'un voyageur Anglois (1779), Lettre xxii
I do not think that anyone who has mastered the general tenor of his political writings, will question that Swift expressed his deliberate opinion in the following passage. ‘He [the King of Brobdingnag] laughed at my odd kind of arithmetic, as he was pleased to call it, in reckoning the numbers of our people by a computation drawn from the several sects among us in religion and politics. He said he knew no reason why those who entertain opinions prejudicial to the public should be obliged to change or should not be obliged to conceal them. And as it was tyranny in any Government to require the first, so it was weakness not to enforce the second; for a man may be allowed to keep poisons in his closet but not to vend them about for cordials.’—Gulliver's Travels.
Charge delivered to the Clergy in the Diocese of Durham (1751).
Freeholder, No. 37.
Parl. Hist. xiv. 1389.
Notes sur l'Angleterre. He elsewhere says: ‘Je passe en France pour avoir peu de religion; en Angleterre pour en avoir trop.’—Pensées Diverses
Hoadly's Life of Clarke.
Essay on Epic Poetry.
Harleian Miscellany, ii. 19–24.
See Gibson's Codex, i. 240; and Lord Dartmouth's note in Burnet's Own Times, ii. 101.
5 & 6 William and Mary, c. 2.
Wilson's Life of Defoe, i. 300.
Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, v. 409.
Watson's Anecdotes of his Life, ii. 113. Nichols says of a Mr. Goadby who died in 1808, that he lived to be shocked by the rattling of stage coaches on Sunday, ‘which when he was a young man was in this country devoted to rest and public worship.’—Nichols' Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century iii. 434. See, too, Andrews' Eighteenth Century, p. 165.
Walpole's Memoirs of George II. ii. 100,318. Stanhope's Hist. of England, iv. 89.
Walpole's Memoirs of George II. iii. 98.
Leland's View of the Deistical Writers, ii. 442.
Secker's Sermons. Works, i. 114, 115.
See Spectator, Nos. 53, 460, 630. Tatler, 140.
Stanhope's Hist. of England, vii. 320.
Rambler, 30; World, 179; Connoisseur, 109.
Burney's Hist. of Music, iv. 671.
Horace Walpole's Letters, ii. 147. Whiston's Memoirs, ii. 172. Bishop Newton's Life, Works, i. 108, 109.
Autobiography. See, too, for a very similar description of Oxford life in 1762–1765, The Correspondence of the first Earl of Malmesbury, i. p. ix.
Wealth of Nations, bk. v. ch. 1.
See on this subject the remarks of Sir C. Lewis, On Authority in Matters of Opinion, ch. ix.
Chesterfield's ‘Letters to Madden.’ Miscellaneous Works, iv. 100.
Tyerman's Life of Wesley, i. 66.
Monk's Life of Bentley, ii. 391–395.
Waterland says: ‘The controversy about the Trinity is now spread abroad among all ranks and degrees of men with us, and the Athanasian Creed become the subject of common and ordinary conversation.’—Introduction to the Hist. of the Athanasian Creed. Lady Cowper gives an amusing account of the vehemence of the discussion in Court circles. Diary, pp. 17–19. See, too, Buckle's Hist. of Civilisation, i. 389, 390.
Debarry's Hist. of the Church of England, pp. 458–460.
Bishop Clayton's speech has been reprinted, and much curious information collected about the bishop and his contemporaries, in a pamphlet called Bishop Clayton on the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, by a Vicar of the Church of Ireland (Dublin, 1876).
Calamy's Life, ii. 404–417. Wilson's Hist. of the Dissenting Churches. Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of the Dissenters, ii. 168–178.
Burton's Hist. of Scotland since the Revolution, ii. 314–335.
See Reid's Hist. of the Irish Presbyterians, v. 111. Porter's Life of Cooke, pp. 37–41. When a young man, Hutcheson once occupied his father's pulpit, and his latitudinarianism is said to have driven the rigid congregation from the meeting-house. ‘Your silly son Frank,’ said one of the olders to his father, ‘has fashed a’ the congregation wi’ his idle cackle; for he has been babbling this oor aboot a gude and benevolent God, and that the souls of the heathen themsels will gang to heaven if they follow the licht of their ain consciences. Not a word does the daft boy ken, speer nor say aboot the gude, comfortable doctrines of election, reprobation, original sin, and faith, Hoot man, awa wi sic a fellow.’ Reid, iii. 406.
Calamy's Life, ii. 404.
Hist. of Ireland in the Eighteenth Céntury, i. 437.
See on this controversy, Hist. of England in the Eighteenth Century, i. 312, 313.
Walpole's Last Journals, i. 8–12.
Whiston's Memoirs, i. 162.
‘These slumberers in stalls suspect one very unjustly of ill designs against their peace, for though there are many things in the Church that I wholly dislike, yet whilst I am content to acquiesce in the ill, I should be glad to taste a little of the good, and to have some amends for that ugly assent and consent which no man of sense can approve of. We read of some of the earliest disciples of Christ who followed him, not for his works, but his loaves. These are certainly blameable because they saw his miracles, but to us who had not the happiness to see the one, it may be allowable to have some inclination to the other. Your Lordship knows a certain prelate who, with a very low notion of the Church's sacred bread, has a very high relish for, and a very large share of the temporal. My appetite for each is equally moderate, and would be satisfied almost with anything but mere emptiness. I have no pretensions to riot in the feast of the elect, but with the sinner in the Gospel to gather up the crumbs that fall from the table.’—To Lord Hervey. Nichols' Literary Anecdotes, v. 421, 422.
Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 187, 188.
In the Gentleman's Magazine, May 1780, there is a catalogue of the writers in the controversies occasioned by the publication of the Confessional, and by the presentation of the clerical petition in 1772. It comprises seventynine names. See, too, on this subject Belsham's Life of Lindsey; Whiston's Memoirs; Doddridge's Diary, vol. v.; Lindsey's Historical View.
Guardian, No. 105.
Secretan's Life of Nelson, pp. 118–122. See, too, Wilson's Life of Defoe, i. 298, and Tyerman's Life of Wesley, i. 63.
Ninety-six grammar schools were founded in England from 1684 to 1727. Of endowed schools for the poor there were seventy distinct foundations established in London and its immediate vicinity during the same period, besides great numbers in other parts of the country.—Routledge's Hist. of Popular Progress, pp. 53, 54.
The history of the societies may be gathered from Secretan's Life of Nelson; An Account of the Societies for the Reformation of Manners in London and Westminster (1699), and many pamphlets and anniversary sermons connected with them. A curious letter from Thomas Burnet to the Electress Sophia, describing Dr. Horneck, will be found in Kemble's State Papers. pp. 191–196.
Conclusion of the Serious Call. See, too, Tighe's Life of Law; Overton's William Law. There is an admirable analysis of the works of Law in Mr. Leslie Stephen's very valuable Hist. of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century.
Wesley's Journals, his Thoughts on Methodism and his Hist. of the People called Methodist, form together a full autobiography; and besides the well-known Life of Wesley, by Southey, there are several biographies written by members of his sect. By far the fullest is that of Mr. Tyerman, who, in a succession of works, has collected, with great industry, nearly all extant facts relating to the early history of Methodism. In the following pages I have availed myself largely of his researches. I must also mention Miss Wedgwood's remarkably able Study on Wesley, which throws great light on many sides of the religious history of the eighteenth century.
‘No less than seventeen authorised editions (besides various piratical ones) of Hervey's Meditations were published in about seventeen years. Of his Theron and Aspasio (though it was in three volumes), nearly 10,000 copies were sold in England in nine months.’—Tyerman's Oxford Methodists, pp. 256, 304. See, too, Wedgwood's Wesley, p. 69. The popularity of Hervey was not confined to England. Coleridge says that for some years before the appearance of the ‘Robbers’ of Schiller, ‘three of the most popular books in the German language were the translations of Young's Night Thoughts, Hervey's Meditations, and Richardson's Clarissa Harlowe.’—Critique on Bertram, in the Biographia Literaria.
Philip's Life of Whitefield.
Tyerman's Wesley, i. 96, 115.
Tyerman, i. 146-156, 160-169. It appears probable from some curious letters printed by Tyerman (i. 76–79) that Wesley had some years before been under the spell of that very fascinating woman Mrs. Pendarves, afterwards Mrs. Delany.
See his Letters on the most important Subjects, especially Letters 4 and 5, and also his work on The Atonement.
Gledstone's Whitefield, pp. 458, 460.
Franklin's Autobiography, ch. viii.
Winter, in his very interesting description of Whitefield's preaching, said: ‘Sometimes he wept exceedingly, stamped loudly and passionately, and was frequently so overcome that for a few seconds you would suspect he could not recover.’—Winter's Letter to Jay. Gillies' Life of Whitefield, pp. 298—308.
Gledstone's Life of Whitefield, pp. 378, 379.
Letter of the Rev. Cornelius Winter. Gillies' Whitefield, p. 302.
Franklin's Autobiography, ch. viii.
See Tyerman's Life of Wesley, i. 302—305.
Wesley himself said of him, long after the differences had broken out: ‘Mr. Whitefield called upon me. He breathes nothing but peace and love. Bigotry cannot stand before him, but hides its head wherever he comes.’—Journal, 1766.
Warburton's Doctrine of Grace, bk. ii. c. iv.
Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists compared.
Doddridge's Diary, iv. 274–204. Philip's Life of Whitefield, pp. 252–263.
Thus—to quote one example from many—he mentions translating from the French ‘one of the most useful tracts I ever saw for those who desire to be fervent in spirit,’ and adds: ‘How little does God regard men's opinions! What a multitude of wrong opinions are embraced by all the members of the Church of Rome! Yet how highly favoured many of them have been!’—Journal, 1768.
He recurs to the subject again and again. See his Journal, May 1761, April 1768, Nov. 1769, Jan. 1776, Feb. 1786.
Walpole's Mem. of George III. iii. 47.
Tyerman's Life of Whitefield, i. 282.
Wesley's Journal, 1768.
See Lady Huntingdon's Memoirs, i. 68.
Wesley's Journal, 1739.
The immense amount of insanity produced by this kind of preaching is well known to those who have studied the subject. Archdeacon Stopford, in a very sensible little book, called The Work and the Counter-work, describing one of the recent revivals in the North of Ireland, says; ‘In a very brief space of time and in a very limited circle of inquiry, I saw or heard of more than twenty cases of insanity. I fear a little more inquiry would have extended it largely’ (p. 61).
Journal, 1739, 1740. Another convert, named Joseph Periam, having read a sermon by Whitefield on Regeneration, was so impressed by it that he ‘prayed so loud, and fasted so long, and sold “all he had” so literally, that his family sent him to Bethlehem madhouse. There he was treated as Methodistically mad.’ He was ultimately released on the condition of emigrating to Georgia. Philip's Life of Whitefield, pp. 84, 85. See, too, on the madness accompanying the movement, Leslie Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, ii. 430.
See Southey's Wesley (Bohn's ed.), pp. 546, 547.
Ibid. pp. 561–563.
Gledstone's Whitefield, pp. 207–209.
Tyerman's Wesley, ii. 514. Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, p. 187.
Journal, 1755. So Rowland Hill, in his Tract against Public Amusements, speaks of the theatre ‘presuming to mock the voice of God in His thunderings and lightnings.’
When Rowland Hill was still an Eton boy he was obliged to go to a birthday party where the guests amused themselves by this dreadful exercise. He has himself described his sensations. ‘They danced two hours before tea; enough to give me a surfeit of it although I did not dance at all, nor come till after they had begun some time. Oh, glory be to grace, free grace, I knew I was out of my element, for oh, what a fluctuation my poor soul was in! How hard a trial it is to see the honour of that God we love thrown down to the ground! How hard it is to see our poor fellow sinners glory in their perfection of wickedness!’—Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, p. 20.
See Lavington's Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists (ed. 1833), p. 15. Gledstone's Whitefield, p. 180.
See the account of the Kingswood School in Wesley's Works, vol. xiii. As might have been expected, such rules soon proved impossible to execute, and Wesley complained bitterly of the condition of the school. The pupils ‘mix, yea, fight with the colliers children. They ought never to play, but they do every day, yea, in the school.’ Tyerman's Life of Wesley, iii. 397.
See the remarks of Doddridge and Watts upon Whitefield. Tyerman's Life of Whitefield, i. 220, 221.
See this very curious history in the Journal, May 1768. The substance was taken down by Wesley from the lips of the visionary.
Journal, 1768, 1776. He elsewhere complains that ‘Infidels have hooted witchcraft out of the world, and the complaisant Christians in large numbers have joined with them in the cry.’—Ibid. (1770). So, too, he says in one of his letters: ‘I have no doubt of the substance both of Glanvil's and Cotton Mather's narratives.’—Tyerman's Wesley, iii. 171. See, too, Wesley's Letter to Middleton.
Ibid. 1746, 1759, 1764
Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.
Tyerman's Life of Wesley, iii. 606.
Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, p. 114.
Tyerman, ii. 561. See, too, some other cases collected by Warburton, Doctrine of Grace, bk. ii. e. xi
Gentleman's Magazine, 1750. Tyerman's Wesley, ii. 72, 73. Walpole's Letters to Mann. March and April 1750.
Tyerman's Life of Wesley, ii. 109. 285–289. Wesley actually published himself this most extraordinary correspondence. Mrs. Wesley soon after left her husband's house.
Rowland Hill's Imposture Detected. A vast number of similar flowers of rhetoric culled from other productions on the same side will be found in Tyerman's Life of Wesley, iii. 255–265.
He has himself made a curious catalogue of the abusive epithets Rowland Hill heaped upon him. See in Fletcher's Works ‘The Fourth Check to Antinomianism.’ In Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, there is an edifying collection of the terms employed by some on the leaders on the other side (p. 121).
See the particulars of this very grave accusation in the Life prefixed to Toplady's Works, i. 122–135. Nothing could be more conclusive than Sir Richard Hill's letter describing the perfect and saintly peace of Toplady's deathbed.
See a curious and not altogether edifying account of the saintly demeanour of the criminals going to execution in Newgate, in Wesley's Journal, 1748. Horace Walpole has noticed the sympathy of Whitefield for criminals. Memoirs of George III. iii. 193.
See a remarkable passage in Wesley's Journal, March 1753.
Tyerman's Wesley, iii. 650.
Ibid. ii. 132. Tyerman's Life of Whitefield, ii. 169, 205–6, 272.
Tyerman's Oxford Methodists, p. 277. Life of the Countess of Huntingdon, ii. 264–266.
Cecil's Life of Newton, p. 104.
Wesley's Journal, 1755, 1756.
Sydney Smith's Essay on Methodism.
Journal, 1755–1764, 1768.
See the interesting sketch of Rowlands' life, in Ryle's Christian Leaders of the Last Century. Many statistics of the progress of Welsh Nonconformity are collected in Rees' Nonconformity in Wales.
Rees' Hist. of Nonconformity in Wales, p. 417.
See Rees' Hist. of Nonconformity in Wales. The Auto-biography of Howell Harris (reprinted in Jackson's Christian Biographies). Lady Huntingdon's Memoirs. The Life of Griffith Jones in Middleton's Biographia Evangelica. Philip's Life of Whitefield, pp. 111–132. Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, pp. 115–117.
See the very curious collection of documents in Tyerman's Life of Whitefield, i. 509–514; ii. 10, 11.
Philip's Life of Whitefield, p. 249.
Journal, 1755, 1757.
Journal, 1747, 1748, 1759, 1769.
Ibid. 1756, 1758, 1765.
Ibid. 1760, 1765, 1767.
A great deal of information about the early history of the Evangelical movement in Ireland will be found in the Life of the Countess of Huntingdon.
Tyerman's Life of Whitefield, ii. 106, 150.
Wesley's Journal, 1744, 1745, 1746. Life of the Countess of Huntingdon, i. 93, 94.
See Wedgwood's Wesley, p. 293. Wesley's Journal, 1742.
See Sir Richard Hill's Pietas Oxoniensis, and Dr. No-well's (the Vice-Chancellor) answer to it. See, too, Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, pp. 48-52.
Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill.
See a letter from Venn in Sidney's Life of Rowland Hill, pp. 173, 174.
See Joseph Andrews, bk. i. ch. xvii.; Amelia, bk. i. chaps. iv. and v.; and the picture of the Methodist footman in Humphrey Clinker.
Life of the Countess of Huntingdon, i. 230. Tyerman's Wesley, ii. 499, 500. Newton, it is true, preached an impressive sermon on the profanity of treating the solemn words of the Passion merely as the subject of a musical spectacle. Cecil's Life of Newton, pp. 188–191. See, too, Cowper's Task, bk. vi.
This rests on the authority of Lady Huntingdon herself. See the curious anecdote in Top lady's Works, iv. 101.
Life of the Countess of Huntingdon.
Ibid. Bishop Newton in his Autobiography (Works, i. 51) also mentions the large charities of Bath. See, too, Pennington's Life of Mrs. Carter, p. 163.
‘We boast some rich ones whom the Gospel sways, And one who wears a coronet and prays.’—Cowper's Truth.
Life of the Countess of Huntingdon.
To Sir H. Mann (May 3, 1749).
To Mr. Chute (Oct. 10, 1766).
Tyerman's Wesley, ii. 509.
It is said that when Romaine first began to preach Evangelical doctrines he could only reckon up six or seven Evangelical clergymen. Before he died there were above 500 whom he regarded as such. Preface to Venn's Life, p. xiv.
Tyerman, iii. 326, 390.
The Connoisseur, No. 126. Newton said of Whitefield: ‘He was the original popular preaching, and all our popular ministers are only his copies.’ Life of the Countless of Huntingdon, i. 92.
E.g. ‘Jonah's whale will teach a good lesson as well as Pisgah's top, and a man may sometimes learn as much from being a night and day in the deep as from being forty days on the mount.’
He says that on one occasion when he was in this state of perplexity, a lady came to him and told him it had been revealed to her that she was to be his wife. He answered, with some shrewdness, ‘In that case it would have been revealed to me that I was to be your husband.’
See the Memoir prefixed to Berridge's Works (ed. 1864), and many curious particulars in Lady Huntingdon's Memoirs. See, too, Venn's Life, pp. 500, 501. There is a good sketch of Berridge in Ryle's Christian Leaders.
See Hardy's Life of Grimshaw. Wesley's Journal, 1762. Gled-stone's Whitefield, p. 486.
‘I should be glad to know what use or what benefit these observations have been to the world? … Were dying sinners ever comforted by the spots on the moon? Was ever miser reclaimed from avarice by Jupiter's belts? or did Saturn's rings ever make a lascivious female chaste? … The modern divinity brings you no nearer than 121 millions of miles short of heaven.’—Gentleman's Magazine, March 1752.
See Calogan's Life of Romaine. Life of the Countess of Huntingdon.
Ibid. 1770, 1774, 1781. We have an amusing illustration of the theological bias in literary judgments in Toplady. He boasts that England had produced the greatest man in nearly every walk of useful knowledge, the four greatest being ‘Archbishop Breadwardin, the prince of divines, Milton, the prince of poets, Sir I. Newton, the prince of philosophers, and Whitefield, the prince of preachers.’—Top-lady's Works, iv. 130.
A Calm Address to our American Colonies. From 50,000 to 100,000 copies of this pamphlet were sold. Tyerman's Wesley, iii. 237. It is remarkable that Wesley never makes the slightest acknowledgment of his obligation to the Taxation no Tyranny of Johnson.
Tyerman's Wesley, i. 11.
Ibid. iii. 635.
See Porteus's Life of Seeker, pp. li-lv.
See on this subject the admirable essay on ‘The Evangelical Succession,’ in Stephens' Ecclesiastical Biographies.