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JOHN WESLEY
1703–1791

A vast force had its abiding-place in this son of an English clergyman of the Established Church; though it was not till he had passed his first youth that he himself comprehended the extent of his powers and influence. His mental and religious development was gradual, as is often the case with men of strong character; he was to live eighty-eight years, and there was time for him to arrive at an understanding with himself; and he had the steadfastness and courage to do the work which he believed the Lord laid upon him, when he understood what it was, and what it involved. There was at all times a calmness, and perhaps a coldness, in Wesley; a deliberation and persistence, which produced their effect in the long run; so that to the end of his long life he continually increased in sway over the minds of his followers. Many preachers were more impassioned in the pulpit than he, and effected more striking immediate results; but they lacked his sustained and relentless power. His love of order and method in all things was one of his leading traits, and led to the name which was bestowed by outsiders upon his sect, and which he accepted as a suitable one. He perceived the value of discipline and regularity, and the church which he founded gained immense strength from this source. There was none of the military parade and nomenclature which characterize the present Salvation Army; no uniforms, and war-cries, and sensational camso. but the organization was none the less rigid and effective.

e impressed his own personality upon it; and it has retained the stamp ever since.

Wesley was born in 1703; and if he ever had a boyhood, nothing is known of it; so far as we know, he was always sedate and disposed to seriousness; there is no symptom of a passionate nature subdued by a vigorous will; none of those terrific spiritual experiences which toss a soul between heaven and hell. Wesley went to Charterhouse School, and thence to Christ Church, Oxford, afterwards being elected fellow of Lincoln College, and graduating master of arts in 1726. At this time he had not contemplated taking any advanced part in religious or theological matters; but the reading of Law’s “Serious Call"—a devotional work of the period—prompted him to assume stricter devotional observances; and having associated some young men of his own grave complexion with himself, they adopted the habit of meeting together for systematic religious study. Everything was methodical with these pious and solemn youths, and it was at this time that their frivolous fellows dubbed them “Methodists.” Wesley now imagined himself converted as thoroughly as a man could be; though in this idea he afterwards declared himself to have been egregiously mistaken. But his assurance, of grace at this juncture was such that when an opportunity offered to go out to the newly founded colony of Georgia, in America, to convert the Indians, he felt himself to be just the person for the emergency. Thither, therefore, brimming over with sanctified self-complacency, he went; but his success was § no means equal to his anticipations. In the first place, the Indians could not be approached; they had not yet satisfied themselves that white men had any business in their hunting-grounds; and they would in the meanwhile have none of his religion. The settlers were at first amenable enough; but ere long Wesley's strict High Church notions, and what seemed the grotesque fanaticism of his life, offended the people; and their hostility was confirmed by his refusing the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to a young lady whom he had designed to marry, but who preferred a more human husband. He returned to England in consequence of this affair; and it was then that he realized that he, who was so ready to convert others, had never been really converted himself. After a period of self-examination, he experienced, at a quarter before nine o'clock on the evening of May 24, 1738, the mystic change of heart which called him to a true divine life and ministry. His memorandum of the precise hour of the occurrence is characteristic of him. From that time, at all events, his entire attitude, and the direction of his energies, were altered. He began to travel from place to place, preaching often several times a day, visiting prisons and country villages, and gaining followers at every step. His exhortations, in spite of their rigid calmness, produced effects upon his audiences such as have become familiar under the efforts of revivalists in our day; swoonings, outcries, sudden receptions of grace, and public confessions of sin. Whitefield, the Calvinistic Methodist, had already taken up open-air preaching, and for a time he and Wesley joined forces; but differences afterwards arose, and they separated. The Wesleyan Methodists grew stronger, as an organization, every day, and gained a great number of followers; but they also excited a good deal of popular odium, as has uniformly been the lot of new sects. In 1749 Wesley married a rich widow, but could not agree with her, and they soon separated. When the war of the American Revolution began, he wrote “A Calm Address to the American Colonies,” which had some temporary influence on his own followers at least. After the end of the struggle, Wesley ordained preachers for America % imposition of hands, and consecrated a bishop for the Methodist piscopal Church; thus openly renouncing the principles of orthodox Episcopalianism. This step alienated many, among them Wesley's own brother, Charles. “He had,” says a contemporary, “a countenance wherein mildness and gravity were very pleasingly blended, and which, in old age, appeared extremely venerable. In manners he was social, polite, and conversable, without any gloom or austerity. In the pulpit he was fluent, clear and argumentative, often amusing, but never reaching the eloquence of passion.” His labors continued unremittingly up to the last week of his life; he died on March 2, 1791.

FREE GRACE

OW freely does God love the world! While we were yet sinners, “Christ died for the ungodly.” While we were “dead in sin,” God “spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” And how freely with Him does He “give us all things!” Verily, free grace is all in all. The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is free in all, and free for all. First, It is free in all to whom it is given. It does not depend on any power or merit in man; no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in any wise depend either on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or anything he is. It does not depend on his endeavors. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God; they are the streams only, not the fountain. They are the fruits of free grace, and not the root. They are not the cause, but the effects of it. Whatsoever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and doer of it. Thus is His grace free in all; that is, no way depending on any power or merit in man, but on God alone, who freely gave us His own Son, and “with Him freely giveth us all things.” But is it free for all, as well as in all? To this some have answered, “No; it is free only for those whom God hath ordained to life; and they are but a little flock. The greater part of mankind God hath ordained to death; and it is not free for them. Them God hateth; and, therefore, before they were born, decreed they should die eternally. And this He absolutely decreed, because so was His good pleasure—because it was His sovereign will. Accordingly, they are born for this—to be destroyed body and soul in hell. And they grow up under the irrevocable curse of God, without any possibility of redemption; for what grace God gives, He gives only for this, to increase, not prevent, their damnation.” This is that decree of predestination. But methinks I hear one say, “This is not the predestination which I hold: I hold only the election of grace. What I believe is no more than this —that God, before the foundation of the world, did elect a certain number of men to be justified, sanctified, and glorified. Now, all these will be saved, and none else; for the rest of mankind God leaves to themselves. So they follow the imaginations of their own hearts, which are only evil continually, and, waxing worse and worse, are at length justly punished with everlasting destruction.” Is this all the predestination which you hold? Consider; perhaps this is not all. Do not you believe God ordained them to this very thing? If so, you believe the whole decree; you hold predestination in the full sense which has been above described. But it may be you think you do not. Do not you then believe God hardens the hearts of them that perish? Do not you believe He (literally) hardened Pharaoh's heart; and that for this end He raised him up, or created him? Why, this amounts to just the same thing. If you believe Pharaoh, or any one man upon earth, was created for this end—to be damned—you hold all that has been said of predestination. And there is no need you should add that God seconds His decree, which is supposed unchangeable and irresistible, by hardening the hearts of those vessels of wrath whom that decree had before fitted for destruction. Well, but it may be you do not believe even this; you do not hold any decree of reprobation; you do not think God decrees any man to be damned, nor hardens, irresistibly fits him, for damnation; you only say, “God eternally decreed that all being dead in sin He would say to some of the dry bones, Live, and to others He would not; that, consequently, these should be made alive, and those abide in death—these should glorify God by their salvation, and those by their destruction.” Is not this what you mean by the election of grace? If it be, I would ask one or two questions: Are any who are not thus elected saved? or were any, from the foundation of the world? Is it possible any man should be saved unless he be thus elected? If you say, “No,” you are but where you was; you are not got one hair's breadth further; you still believe that, in consequence of an unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, the greater part of mankind abide in death, without any possibility of redemption; inasmuch as none can save them but God, and He will not save them. You believe He hath absolutely decreed not to save them; and what is this but decreeing to damn them? It is, in effect, neither more nor less; it comes to the same thing; for if you are dead, and altogether unable to make yourself alive, then, if God has absolutely decreed He will make only others alive, and not you, He hath absolutely decreed your everlasting death; you are absolutely consigned to damnation. So then, though you use softer words than some, you mean the self-same thing; and God's decree concerning the election of grace according to your account of it, amounts to neither more nor less than what others call God's decree of reprobation. Call it, therefore, by whatever name you please, election, preterition, predestination, or reprobation, it comes in the end to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this—by virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, one part of mankind are infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly damned; it being impossible that any of the former should be damned, or that any of the latter should be saved. But if this be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching —to save souls—is void with regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved. They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned. The end of preaching is, therefore, void with regard to them likewise; so that in either case our preaching is vain, as your hearing is also vain. This, then, is a plain proof that the doctrine of predestination is not a doctrine of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against Himself. A second is that it directly tends to destroy that holiness which is the end of all the ordinances of God. I do not say none who hold it are

1 “He that spared not His own Son, but things?" (Rom. viii. 32.) This sermon was delivered Him up for us all, how shall He preached at Bristol, in the year 1740. not with Him also freely give us all

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