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21

WESLEY PAPERS.
No. XX.-PASTORAL VISITATION.

(To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) “ JOHN WESLEY's course,” says Mr. Knox, “ was marked with strange peculiarities ; for had his prudence been greater, or his ardour less, he would not have accomplished the same work, nor risen to the same eminence. Even in his parentage,* and earliest training, a concurrence of circumstances singularly fitted him for such purposes as seem by Providence to have been his peculiar destination.” +

In January, 1725,his father, the Rev. Samuel Wesley, favoured him with the perusal of a letter written, two years previously, to a young Clergyman about to become his Curate. He desired that it might be returned to him again; adding, “Let none see it but yourself.” At his father's death, the original copy fell into his hands, which, as it contained many important advices, he published in the same year, (1735,) under the following title :-“Advice to a young Clergyman. By a Divine of the Church of England.” 12mo., pp. 76. Mr. Jackson has reprinted it in an Appendix to his Life of Charles Wesley. This letter was made useful to both Whitefield and Wesley ; for in a postscript to a letter from the former to the latter, and inserted in the “ Arminian Magazine,” vol. xxi., p. 359, he says, “I received benefit by your father's' Advice to a young Clergyman.”” As the subject of pastoral visitation has been so strongly enjoined on the Wesleyan Ministers at their late Conference, in Bristol, it may not be uninteresting to transcribe that part, coming from one who had resided twenty-five years among his “own people,-a longer period than any Clergyman, except one, since the Reformation :”—

« The more conversant,” says he, “ you are with the middle and meaner sort of people, the more likely you are to do good among them. This would be most effectually done by a regular visiting of your whole parish, from house to house, even the men and the maid servants. For a good shepherd 'knows his sheep by name,' which is the way for them to follow him. And if you take the name and age of every person, housekeepers, children, and servants, you will, by degrees, become acquainted with them and their circumstances. Though it be a work of time, yet it will be of vast advantage if you have but the constancy and happiness to accomplish it. This method I began twice or thrice myself; but was so diverted, that I could never go quite through it since the last fire (1710). There is one sort of visiting which I hope you will never omit, whenever there is occasion; I mean, the sick. I have no doubt you will find many inexcusably careless in this matter; and the first notice you will have that they have been sick, will be their passing-bell; but hereunto you will have a notable help by your former visiting them from house to house, and serious dis

* “If of parents I came

Who honour'd thy name,
'Twas thy wisdom appointed it so.”

(Wesleyan Hymns, p. 223, hymu 231.) + Southey's Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 481, 3d edit. I Wesley Family, vol. i., pp. 296, 297. Š Vol. ii., p. 499.

course there with them ; whereby, in a great measure, you are let into their circumstances and manner of life.”

This letter made a great impression on Wesley's mind : hence, in the preface, he advises all who desire faithfully to discharge pastoral duties, that they would pray the great Head of the church to " send forth more such labourers, and, in particular, to enable him to spend his life in gathering the poor sheep that are scattered abroad ; and, if needs be, in pouring out his blood for them.” * The advice here given was immediately followed by Wesley on his arrival in Georgia, as appears by the following entry :“ Monday, May 10th, 1736. I began visiting my parishioners in order from house to house ; for which I set apart the time when they could not work, because of the heat ; namely, from twelve to three in the afternoon.” to

“ December 29th, 1758. I reached Colchester, and found the society had decreased since - - went away ; and yet they had full as good Preachers. But that is not sufficient. By repeated experiments we learn, that though a man preach like an angel, he will neither collect nor preserve à society which is collected, without visiting them from house to house.”

In the Large Minutes, No. 13, he says, “Every Travelling Preacher must instruct from house to house.” He asks, “Can we find a better method of doing this than Mr. Baxter's? If not, let us adopt it without delay. His whole tract entitled, 'Gildas Salvianus,' is well worth a careful perusal.” § He then gives an extract from the work, page 351. This was a work the Rector of Epworth greatly admired. Speaking of Baxter, he says, “ I wish I had his “Gildas Salvianus' again : Directions to the Clergy for the Management of their People ;' which I lost when my house was last burnt, among all the rest. He had a strange pathos and fire in his practical writings, but more in his preaching ; and, as I remember, spoke well.” || “For, after all our preaching, many of our people are almost as ignorant as if they had never heard the Gospel. I have found by experience that some of them have learned more from one hour's close discourse, than from ten years' public preaching." He further adds, “ Before you leave, engage every head of a family to call his family together every Sunday before they go to bed, and hear what they have learned.” ** See the same duty enjoined on Mr. Costerdine in a letter dated November 26th, 1767, and inserted in the Methodist Magazine for June, 1845, page 577. Writing to the late Mr. Joseph Benson, he says, in a letter dated London, January 8th, 1774 :-“Wherever you are, take up your cross, and visit all the society from house to house. Do this according to Mr. Baxter's plan, laid down in the Minutes of the Conference. The fruit which will ensue, (perhaps in a short time,) will abundantly reward your labour. Fruit, also, we shall have, even in those who have no outward connexion with us." ** Four days after, he makes the following entry in his Journal, Tuesday, January 12th, 1774 :-“I began at the east end of the town to visit the society from house to house. I know no branch of the pastoral office which is of greater importance than this. But it is so grievous to flesh

* Jackson's Life of Charles Wesley, vol. ii., p. 500. + Wesley's Works, vol. xiii., p. 271. Third edition. # Ibid., vol. ii., p. 466. Ś Ibid., vol. viii., p. 302. | Advice, pp. 50, 51.

Wesley's Works, vol. viii., pp. 303. ** Ibid., p. 306. +Ibid., vol xii., p. 404.

and blood, that I can prevail on few, even of our Preachers, to undertake it.” *

None can fully comprehend the importance he attached to this duty who have not read his sentiments, as expressed in the Minutes of 1766, and printed in the octavo edition, vol. i., pp. 61–68,+ and which are, by order of the last Conference, to be reprinted in a separate form, and forwarded to every Minister in the Connexion at home and abroad. I

THE CHURCH: THE PERSONS COMPOSING IT: THEIR

TESTIMONY. THE Scriptures, containing a full account of all the concerns of the Christian religion, are exhibited to the layman, and put into his hand by the Church, as a revelation from God, wherein all his concerns for eternity are wrapped up. I do not plead that the testimony of the Church is a sufficient ground for bottoming his faith ; but this I say, that the testimony of the Church is a sufficient ground for any man to judge, and conclude firmly, that its pretensions are not contemptible, and that it deserves the most serious consideration imaginable. But when I speak of the Church, whose testimony this regard is to be paid to, we set aside, as of no consideration, a multitude of persons, whether of the Clergy or laity, who do in their practice visibly contradict the confessed rules of their religion. Such persons are scarce to be reckoned of any religion, and their testimony is of no consideration either for or against religion. Nor do we restrict the notion of the Church to the representatives of it; much less to the Church of Rome, that monopolizes this name. But I take for it that body of men, of whatever station or quality, who have received, and do act answerably to, the Christian religion they profess, in some good measure at least......... If we consider them, there are among them persons of unattainted reputation, enemies themselves being judges. Not a few of them are of unquestionable judgment, deep discerning, solid learning, and strict inquirers after truth. They are not a few, but many. Nor are they confined to one nation or age; but such there have been in all ages, in all nations, where Christianity has obtained free access. Many of them are persons whom envy itself cannot allege biassed by external gain of one sort or another. They are persons of different, nay, cross, civil interests, and of different outward conditions......... Again : if we consider their testimony, they bear witness to the Christian religion in all its concerns, its truth, sufficiency, usefulness to all the ends of religion, with respect to time and eternity; and its efficacy for beginning, carrying on, maintaining, reviving, and consummating such as sincerely receive it in godliness towards God, righteousness towards men, sobriety with respect to ourselves; and that both as to inward principles and outward acts. Further : if we consider in what they give in their testimony, the weight of it will appear. They bear witness to all this, not only by their words, but by their deeds ; living in a conformity to it, parting with all that is dearest to them for it, cheerfully undergoing the greatest hardships, patiently undergoing the most cruel torments, to the loss of life itself; and this they do neither upon mere constraint, nor on the other hand from a rash and inadvertent neglect of due regard to the

* Wesley's Works, vol. iv., p. 7. + Ibid., vol. viii., pp. 301_307, 315.

Minutes, 1846, p. 153.

unquestionable advantage of peace, health, life, and the other good things they part with ; but they venture upon doing and suffering freely, and of choice, upon a sober, rational consideration of the advantage of cleaving to their religion, and of its being such as will do more than compensate any loss they can sustain for it. Again : they bear witness to the concerns of this religion as to a thing that they have not received upon bare hearsay, but upon narrow scrutiny, as that whereof they have the experience. They do not only give this testimony when it is new to them, but after long trial, when they are most sedate and composed, when they can expect nothing of advantage by it, and when they must lay their account with contempt, opposition, and loss. They give this testimony in whatever place they are,—where it is honoured, or where it is opposed. They give it with the greatest concern, and recommend this religion to those whom they would least deceive, even with their dying breath, when they dare not dissemble; and that after a long trial, in the course of their lives, in the great variety of outward condition, sufficient to have discovered the weakness of their religion, if it had any. They have made choice of this religion, and adhered to it, under the greatest outward disadvantages, who were not prepossessed in its favour by education, but prejudiced against it; and they have embraced it, where they had a free choice to accept or reject it, and advantages to tempt them to a refusal. T'hey do not require an exquisite belief, as Mahometans do ; but provoke to experience and trial.-Thomas Halyburton, on Deism. ,

CHAPEL BUILDING, VIEWED IN RELATION TO

CONNEXIONAL INCREASE. (To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) The spiritual condition of our large towns, and especially of the metropolis, is now forcing itself on the attention of all serious and sensible men. Scarcely an Episcopal Charge is delivered, but we observe a pensive tone with regard to the difference of ratio between the continued and mighty increase of our urban population, and the accommodation afforded for worshipping God and hearing the Gospel. The rulers of the Church of England call for new churches, and new churches are built with a rapidity and zeal unknown in this country before ; and yet streets and peopled districts arise and stretch far beyond the tardy advances of God's people, in bringing and establishing among them the ministry of the word. Where the Gospel is truly preached in its fulness and freeness, and by a spiritual ministry, the churches are as certainly filled to overflowing, as they are built ; but where Tractarian and ultra High-Church teachers celebrate their cold service, the place is comparatively deserted ; and then the finger of scorn is so often pointed to the fact, that there are more places of worship than there are people who care to attend them. Thus have unbelief and Popery always played into each other's hands; but it is a pity that evangelical Christians should leave these cold-hearted and sceptical worldlings in quiet possession of their taunting argument. All ecclesiastical history proves that, in whatever place a vital Gospel has been tolerated and preached, there attendants and hearers have never been wanting. It seems to be a standing law of Christ's mediatorial government, that wherever the HEALING Sign is lifted up, there shall be abundance of the dying around who are

glad to look and live. Such men as Mr. Noel, Mr. M ́Neile, Mr. Stowell, in the Establishment; and Mr. Sherman, Dr. Leifchild, and Mr. James, among the Dissenters; never want deeply-interested hearers : while St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, and the Puseyite Bethnal-Green churches, only ring with hollow echoes. Alas! that there should be in our great towns, and especially in London, so many places of worship like these last mentioned ; which are altogether unattended by the poor, and only frequented at all by a scanty group drawn from the wealthy and the higher part of the middle class, whom a regard for the established decencies of life prevents from neglecting the form of religion utterly. We have to thank worldliness and Romanism for these half-empty churches, while a million and a quarter of human beings are living and dying around, absolute strangers to God and to his house.

When Methodism, however, has endeavoured to supply its quota towards meeting this spiritual destitution, it has never been hampered by this lastmentioned circumstance. Its pulpits have never given forth an uncertain sound; the great evangelical doctrines have always been delivered thence with clearness, power, and success; and, in consequence, its town chapels, especially if builded in open and public situations, have never wanted congregations. No matter how few serious people resided in the neighbourhood, hundreds of individuals have been drawn within their walls under the influence of various motives, who, though dark and worldly at first, were interested, impressed, and subsequently converted, and settled there for life. The writer hardly knows of an exception with which to modify or guard this general statement. Why, then, does not the Methodist body, encouraged by its own history, and by the sanction of God, follow this fruitful, this soul-saving, vocation, by building commodious, chastelyfinished, and moderately large chapels, with lighT DEBT, in the midst of our dense town-districts; thus leading the way for the extension of the Christian ministry, and the diffusion of truth and righteousness? The answer has been, that it wanted means ; but that answer may afford room for deep and painful meditation. Special societies or Circuits may have wanted means ; but the statement can hardly have been truly put in the universal form. When Mr. Watson wrote the Life of Mr. Wesley, he could say, that the Wesleyans possessed as many places of worship as amounted to nearly half the number of parish churches in the kingdom ; but, since that time, there is reason to believe that extension in the Establishment, as far as the building of places of worship is concerned, has been proceeding in a higher proportion. No one can seriously say, that the Wesleyans do not need more chapels. A century and more has rolled over since the great work of Methodism began; and yet we have no chapel in the City of London, but the neat little place in Jewin-street, which will scarce seat five hundred people, and which many pass without noticing. In the First Circuit, the chapels of City-road, Wilderness-row, and the above mentioned, can hardly allow of a tenth of their pew-room to strangers and noncommunicants, supposing all the society, with the Sunday-scholars, to be present. In the Sixth Circuit, which embraces the ever-extending western suburb, ranging from Kensington-gardens north-westward, with the dense streets and squares of the West-end,-a mass of cities,—the want of chapels is still more painfully felt. Hinde-street, Milton-street, Stanhope-street chapels, though consecrated by many hallowed circumstances and triumphs of grace, are all narrow and confined places, barely sufficient to accommo

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