« ПредишнаНапред »
issuing a “Calm Address" to the inhabitants of England, who by that time needed to be soothed and pacified almost as much as the inhabitants of the colonies. But the effect produced, by this his second message of peace, upon contending factions was weakened by an announcement that he himself would no more continue in fellowship with Methodists, who hated the King and Lord North, than with Sabbath-breakers, or thieves, or drunkards, or common swearers, or with another class of heinous sinners whom he described by an uncompromising epithet which modern delicacy has banished from ordinary use.)
Wesley was taunted by the Whig satirists for having borrowed from Johnson without acknowledgement; but no objection was raised by Johnson himself, who had some ground for serious annoyance. The shorter piece, which, by its vast sale, had superseded the pamphlet whereof it was an abridgement, brought into strong relief the worst defects of the original composition ; for the “Calm Address," (to employ an old simile,) was to "Taxation no Tyranny” as a bad hash is to a bad joint. So soon as any mention of plagiarism arose, Wesley hastened to place on record that his own publication was but a reproduction in little of Doctor Johnson's more elaborate work. His whole view of the American question, (he confessed,) had been fundamentally altered by a single perusal of that masterly and irresistible treatise. Such a conversion, instantaneous as any that Wesley wrought during the sixtyfour years of his ministry, was a practical compliment which no author could resist. Johnson warmly assured him that, to have won over a mind like his, outweighed a multitude of ordinary suffrages; and compared himself to the philosopher who, when he saw the rest of his audience slinking away from a lecture, refused to quit the chair as long as Plato stayed. In that tribute
1 The Life and Times of the Reverend John Wesley, by the Reverend L. Tyerman; Vol. III., sections headed 1775 and 1777.
2 Johnson to Wesley ; Feb. 6, 1776.
there was nothing forced or simulated. Johnson had long entertained a true regard and reverence for John Wesley, whose preaching he commended as that of a man oblivious of himself, and mindful only of delivering his message aright; and of whose conversation he never could get enough. He complained that Wesley, — with an appointment always awaiting him, and under obligation to depart at a fixed hour, — had not the leisure to fold his legs, and see the talk out. Wesley was, indeed, a companion after Johnson's heart; for his knowledge of men and their affairs was unrivalled, and his taste for letters was keen, unaffected, and, (so far as his command of languages extended,) Catholic. Reading while he travelled, and comparing what he read with what he saw and heard, he had a fresh, vivid, and unconventional appreciation of literature, such as no man can ever obtain who has worked exclusively among books.
The reception of Wesley's effort to instruct and convince his fellow-countrymen affords a notable proof that virtue and disinterestedness, public esteem and venerable age, will fail to avert the roughest of treatment from all who venture upon an incursion into politics. Gibbon, in the course of this very year, declared that the ministerial majority in the House of Commons, - when the month of May was half through, and the end of the Session in sight, — would not hear even the Archangel Gabriel on the subject of America ;2 and Wesley's experience showed that angry partisans, on the Whig side of the controversy, had neither consideration nor charity for one who, if ever man did, deserved to be called a saint. A score of lampoons charged him with being actuated
1 Some cases in point are his remarks on Voltaire's Henriade, on Rollin's Ancient llistory, and on Fénelon's Telemachus. Whatever might be the value of these comments, (and their interest is indubitable,) they were Wesley's own, and were not taken out of the Monthly or the Critical Reviews. Wesley's analysis of the effect produced upon him by poems and tunes is curious, and indicates a strong, and very genuine, relish for things of art and imagination. Journal for Oct. II, 1756; May 10, 1758; Jan. 7, 1760 ; and July 3, 1764.
2 Gibbon to J. B. Holroyd ; May 15, 1775.
by the vilest calculations of self-advancement. This, which formed the stock accusation brought against him, was adopted by a man of the world as little competent to interpret the thoughts of John Wesley as Festus and Gallio were to understand St. Paul. The artful patriarch of the Methodists, (so Horace Walpole wrote,) had produced the “Calm Address” in order to court his patron, Lord Dartmouth; since he probably hoped either for a deanery or a bishopric. Wesley refuted the imputation in phrases which most certainly were very unlike those of a courtier. He had published the tract, (he said,) not to please any man, high or low; for he knew mankind too well. He knew that they, who love you for your political service, love you less than their dinner; and they, who hate you, hate you worse than the Devil. The true and sufficient explanation of Wesley's action is not far to seek. He was a Tory, just as much as Doctor Parr, and Doctor Richard Watson, were Whigs; and most Englishmen will stretch a point in order to support their party when its fortunes are depressed, and its future dark and dubious. Wesley was much concerned by the aspect of politics. The ministers, (as he was not afraid to tell them, and that right bluntly,) were very generally detested by the nation, and the personal unpopularity of George the Third made his devoted subject seriously unhappy and profoundly apprehensive. Wesley was firmly convinced that the Throne, and even the Royal life, would be in danger if any fresh disasters occurred abroad, and if the ferment at home grew hotter. At such a crisis he was instinctively and irresistibly drawn to rally in defence of his party and his Sovereign; and, (as men in those circumstances will, he brought himself round to approve a policy which, in public and in private, he had been accustomed severely to condemn.
Wesley, moreover, was deeply moved and excited when once the fighting in America began. He had long been an army reformer, in his own way; and that
1 Horace Walpole's Last Journals ; Sept. 1775. Wesley's Journal ; Nov. 25, 1775
way the most praiseworthy, and by no means the least effective. When first, as a very young man, he awoke to the belief that religion was nearly dead everywhere, it was least of all alive in the army. Swift, in 1708, deplored the prevalence of infidelity in a tone of grave and thoughtful irony, inspired by anxiety for the future of Christianity, and, to a still greater degree, by fears for the stability of the Established Church. It was observed abroad, (the Dean said,) that no race of mortals had so little sense of religion as the English soldiers. He himself had been often told by great officers of the army that, in the whole compass of their acquaintance, they could not recollect three of their profession who seemed to regard, or believe, one syllable of the gospel. Old-fashioned colonels, many years subsequent to the period at which Swift wrote, were unwilling to allow the men under their command to attend either church or chapel. In 1745, when Wesley found himself in the midst of the army which was marching north to oppose the Pretender, he described himself as nothing pleased with the drunken, swearing soldiers who surrounded him on every side. Could they, (he asked,) succeed in anything they undertook, if there was a God that judged the earth ? His heart was hot within him. Soon after
1 An Argument to prove that the Abolishing of Christianity in England may, as things now stand, be attended with some Inconveniences, and per. haps not produce those many good Effects proposed thereby. This publication was closely followed by A Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners, addressed to the Countess of Berkeley. There are things in it which are queer reading for a lady ; but both those pieces do something to merit the praise which was given to the second of them in the Tatler. “The author," (Steele there wrote,)“must certainly be a man of wisdom as well as piety, and have spent much time in the exercise of both."
2 So late as 1766 Mr. Wallace, a merchant of Edinburgh, told the Earl of Dartmouth that a friend of his had inquired of a soldier, who was quartered in the Castle, whether he would read a Bible if he had one. The soldier replied that he would read it on Sunday, since he and his comrades were not allowed to go to any place of worship. Their officers, (he said, suspected that, if they were allowed out of the garrison, they might get drunk in ale-houses instead of going to church, and therefore thought it best to confine them altogether.
his arrival at Newcastle he addressed a very noble letter to the Mayor, Mr. Matthew Ridley, — the founder of a family which has ever since done good service in Parliament, — who was holding the city strongly on behalf of the Government, and whose activity and self-possession contributed in no small degree to check the spread of the rebellion. Wesley wrote that he had been pained day after day, while walking the streets of Newcastle, at the senseless wickedness of the poor men to whom the lives of all good citizens, and the safety of the country, were entrusted. “Is there no man,” he cried,“ that careth for these souls? Doubtless there are some who ought so to do. But many of these, if I am rightly informed, receive large pay, and do just nothing. I would to God it were in my power, in any degree, to supply their lack of service. I am ready to do, what in me lies, to call these poor sinners to repentance, once or twice a day, (while I remain in these parts,) at any hour, or at any place. And I desire no pay at all for doing this; unless what my Lord shall give at His appearing."
A promise was a promise with John Wesley. He preached, four days running, on the Town Moor; and, when he finished speaking on the second morning, a lieutenant, who had come to scoff, stood forward and told the soldiers that all which he had said was very good. His last sermon brought out from their tents a large crowd of hearers, of all ranks and of all arms, and not Englishmen only; for observing many of the German auxiliaries standing disconsolate in the skirts of the congregation, he proceeded to address them in their own tongue, and "immediately they gathered up close together, and drank in every word.” John Wesley, the best of patriots, always fondly remembered the city where, at a great crisis in his country's history, he played an honourable part at the front of danger. From that time forward he received marked courtesy at Newcastle. The townsmen uncovered to him in the streets; and his visits were expected by the whole community with an affectionate eagerness which on his part
PT. II.—-VOL. II.