« AnteriorContinuar »
Those who have perused the former Volume with attention and candour, will have made acquaintance with so many of the company, and have been so much delighted with their society, as to require little further introduction. As, however, the great object of Biography is to teach by example, and to embody principles in living forms; and as the original Compiler of The Life and Times of the Countess of Huntingdon, with astonishing industry and success, has collected facts, and left them to speak for themselves—the Writer of this paper may be allowed to trace these facts to their proper sources, and to endeavour to ascertain the principles which actuated and characterised those who took the lead in the Revivals of the last century. In this exercise, however, little aid is to be obtained from their general name; for, as in individuals, so in societies, terms of denomination are more commonly accidental than intended, and seldom, therefore, indicative of the great principles of the classes which they designate. It would, indeed, be curious and amusing to examine the names of the most distinguished of the species, and to see how they agree with the master-quality of their wearers; though it would generally end in the same uncertainty as the etymological disputes on the name of CicerO: for whether we determine on it as an indication of agriculture or of a nasal mark, we must learn from other quarters the philosophy and the eloquence by which this Roman was distinguished.
Without adverting to the ancient use of the term Methodist,
or to its employment either in France or in England, it is enough to say, that it little more expresses the peculiarities of the creed and practice of any class of Christians than does that of Swaddlers—a name given to the followers of WESLEY by a drunken Irishman: nay, in some respects, however orderly and methodical their private deportment, there was an evident disregard of method in Wesley and WHITEFIELD and their followers : thus they had to deviate from the rules of the Established Church, on the one hand, and were unwilling to submit to the order of what are called regular Dissenters, on the other; they were especially under the guidance of circumstances, and were determined to further the Gospel in every possible way, however irregular and unmethodical it might appear. We must look, therefore, to other means of information to ascertain the leading principles of Methodism. .
It may not be improper, in this place, to remark, that men of the world have unintentionally raised this term to a pitch of distinguished honour, and, at the same time, given a clue to its right interpretation : they have agreed to brand those persons who have shown more than ordinary concern for the interests of morality and piety with the name—Methodist. If a man of quality has avoided scenes of dissipated amusement, or a statesman been regular at Church, and philanthropic and zealous in the cause of enslaved and suffering humanity—he has been called a Methodist ! The most rigid Churchmen, if they have advocated the distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel, have been considered Methodists. Even in our day, let the gay become serious, and the formal penitent and practical Christians, and they are Methodists! Could greater homage be paid to a name ? Could a more unequivocal avowal be made, that Methodism, in the estimation of the irreligious, is identical with true Christianity? It is not, indeed, asserted that this estimate is perfectly correct, only that it will be difficult for those who feel hostility towards Methodism to point out any thing, in modern times, more like primitive Christianity than much of that which is recorded in the accompanying pages.
The term Methodist, correctly applied, includes both the
followers of Wesley and those who, with the late Countess of HUNTINGDON and WHITEFIELD, receive the Calvinistic doctrines. The Life and Times of the Countess has, of course, to do with the latter, and the following remarks are more especially applicable to this division ; yet, granting a considerable difference in the views of the two great sections, it may be asserted that the characteristic principles of Methodism are, in both, essentially the same.
As the principle of the Reformation, next to the paramount authority of the Word of God, was justification by faith, and not by works; so it is evident, that early Methodism was distinguished by the prominence which it gave to this and other kindred doctrines. It loved Christ more than it loved either Plato or Aristotle, and disdained to urge even social duties by hea thenish arguments, or to consider these duties as the whole o godliness; it presented the facts of human sinfulness and of Divine redemption in a relief so bold as to startle many into observation, alarm, and earnestness. The Apostolic topics of Repentance toward God, and Faith toward our Lord JESUS Christ, were the themes of those holy men who were its first promoters; and gracious, though not miraculous, signs and wonders followed their ministrations. Man's ingenuity is ever inventing new subjects of public discussion, and these, though often not only beautiful, but likewise in strict accordance with the Gospel itself, yet being very subordinate, or nice and metaphysical deductions, their exhibition has but a feeble influence on the heart, while “the foolishness of preaching” the same few, simple truths, which characterised the Apostolic addresses, becomes a lever, by which society is not only moved but elevated—the power of God unto salvation. The Church may, through zeal not accordant with knowledge, or through less respectable means, injure this instrument or employ it unskilfully; but when will she learn that the abuse of Evangelical preaching must be corrected, not by the substitution of another Gospel, which is not another—but by a better use of that which God has appointed to save them who believe? “ He is a Rock, his work is perfect," and his