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METHODISM had now taken root in the land. Meeting-houses had been erected in various parts of the kingdom, and settled, not upon trustees, (which would have destroyed the unity of Wesley's scheme, by making the preachers dependent upon the people, as among the Dissenters,) but upon himself, the acknowledged head and sole director of the society which he had raised and organised. Funds were provided by a financial regulation so well devised, that the revenues would increase in exact proportion to the increase of the members. Assistant preachers were ready, in any number that might be required, whose zeal and activity compensated, in no slight degree, for their want. of learning; and whose inferiority of rank and education disposed them to look up to Mr. Wesley with deference as well as respect, and fitted them for the privations which they were to endure, and the company with which they were to associate. A system of minute inspection had been established; which was at once so contrived as to gratify
every individual, by giving him a sense of his own importance, and to give the preacher the most perfect knowledge of those who were under his charge. No confession of faith was required from any person who desired to become a member: in this Wesley displayed that consummate prudence which distinguished him whenever he was not led astray by some darling opinion. The door was thus left open to the orthodox of all descriptions, Churchmen or Dissenters, Baptists or Pædobaptists, Presbyterians or Independents, Calvinists or Arkind any minians; no profession, no sacrifice of was exacted. The person who joined the new society was not expected to separate himself from the community to which he previously belonged. He was only called upon to renounce his vices, and follies which are near a-kin to them. Like the Free-mason, he acquired by his initiation new connections and imaginary consequence; but, unlike the Free-mason, he derived a real and direct benefit from the change which in most instances was operated in the habits and moral nature of the proselytes.
To this stage Methodism had advanced when Wesley lost his mother, in a good old age, ready and willing to depart. Arriving in London from one of his circuits, he found her "on the borders of eternity; but she had no doubt or fear, nor any desire but, as soon as God should call, to depart and to be with Christ." On the third day after his arrival, he perceived that her change was near. "I sate down," he says, " on the bed-side. She
was in her last conflict, unable to speak, but I believe quite sensible. Her look was calm and serene, and her eyes fixed upward, while we commended her soul to God. From three to four the silver cord was loosing, and the wheel breaking at the cistern; and then, without any struggle, or sigh, or groan, the soul was set at liberty. We stood round the bed, and fulfilled her last request, uttered a little before she lost her speech:
Children, as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God.'" He performed the funeral service himself, and thus feelingly describes it: "Almost an innumerable company of people being gathered together, about five in the afternoon I committed to the earth the body of my mother to sleep with her fathers. The portion of Scripture from which I afterwards spoke was, I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. It was one of the most solemn assemblies I ever saw, or expect to see, on this side * eternity.”
The epitaph which her sons placed upon her tomb-stone is remarkable. Instead of noticing the virtues of so extraordinary and exemplary a woman, they chose to record what they were pleased to call her conversion, and to represent her as if she had lived in ignorance of real Christianity during the life of her excellent husband.
This is the inscription:
Here lies the body of Mrs. Susannah Wesley, the youngest and last surviving daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley.
Mrs. Wesley had had her share of sorrow. During her husband's life she had struggled with narrow circumstances, and at his death she was left dependent upon her children. Of nineteen children she had wept over the early graves of far the greater number: she had survived her son Samuel, and she had the keener anguish of seeing two of her daughters unhappy, and perhaps of foreseeing the unhappiness of the third; an unhappiness the more to be deplored, because it was not altogether undeserved.
Among Wesley's pupils at Lincoln was a young man, by name Hall, of good person, considerable talents, and manners which were in a high degree
In sure and stedfast hope to rise
And claim her mansion in the skies,
True daughter of affliction she,
Mourn'd a long night of griefs and fears,
The Father then reveal'd his Son,
Meet for the fellowship above,
She heard the call, "Arise, my Love!"
And lamb-like as her Lord she died.
The third stanza alludes to her persuasion that she had received an assurance of the forgiveness of her sins at the moment when her son. in-law Hall was administering the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to her. See vol. i. p. 291.
prepossessing, to those who did not see beneath the surface of such things. Wesley was much attached to him; he thought him humble and teachable, and in all manner of conversation holy and unblameable. There were indeed parts of his conduct which might have led a wary man to suspect either his sanity or his sincerity; but the tutor was too sincere himself, and too enthusiastic, to entertain the suspicion which some of his extravagancies might justly have excited. He considered them as "starts of thought which were not of God, though they at first appeared to be;" and was satisfied, because the young man was easily convinced, and his imaginations died away." Samuel formed a truer judgement. "I never liked the man," says he, " from the first time I saw him. His smoothness never suited my roughness. He appeared always to dread me as a wit and a jester : this with me is a sure sign of guilt and hypocrisy. He never could meet my eye in full light. Conscious that there was something foul at bottom, he was afraid I should see it, if I looked keenly into his eye." John, however, took him to his bosom. He became a visitor at Epworth, won the affections of the youngest sister Kezia, obtained her promise to marry him, fixed the day, and then, and not till then, communicated the matter to her brother and her parents, affirming vehemently that "the thing was of God; that he was certain it was God's will; God had revealed to him that he must marry, and that Kezia was the very person." Enthusiastic as Wesley himself was, the declaration startled him,