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JOHN WESLEY (1703–1791)
THE ZEALOUS ORATOR OF METHODISM
T the English University of Oxford, about 1729, a group of religious enthusiasts among the students, including John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, James Hervey, and others, associated themselves into an association so strict and methodical in its habits, that they were given the name of Methodists, and were also called, in ridicule, Bible Moths, the Godly Club, and Bible Bigots. John Wesley was recognized as their leader, and almost ruined his health by fasting and austerity. In 1735 he and his brother Charles went on a mission to Georgia, but were not very successful there. It was not until after his return to England that he broke from the ceremonies of the English Church and founded the sect since known as Methodists. The clergy of the Established Church then closed their churches against him, and he followed Whitefield's example of preaching in the open air. This he continued with extraordinary success. For half a century he continued these out-door ministrations, at times from 10,000 to 30,000 people waiting for hours to hear him. During this time he traveled about the country 250,000 miles and preached 40,000 sermons, doing also a great quantity of literary work. His preaching was chiefly among the working classes, and his life was frequently in danger from hostile mobs; but he escaped all perils, and in his old age his journeys became triumphal processions. Few religious teachers have done so much good as Wesley, especially among the lowest classes of the poor, whom he earnestly sought to bring into the fold of Christ.
IRRELIGION AMONG COLLEGE PEOPLE [On August 24, 1744, Wesley preached his last sermon before the University of Oxford, to a very large audience, composed of the authorities and students of the 570 John wesley
University, and others of note. This celebrated sermon, while deeply impressing many of his hearers, gave unpardonable offense to the authorities. The reasons for this sentiment, and the courage of the preacher in taking the professors and students so severely to account, are sufficiently evident in the extract here given.]
I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, if ye do account me a madman or a fool, yet as a fool bear with me. It is utterly needful that some one should use great plainness of speech towards you. It is more especially needful at this time; for who knoweth but it is the last 2 And who will use this plainness, if I do not ? Therefore I, even I, will speak. And I adjure you, by the living God, that ye steel not your hearts against receiving a blessing at my hands. Let me ask you, then, in tender love, and in the spirit of meekness, Is this city a Christian city ? Is Christianity, Scriptural Christianity, found here 2 Are we, considered as a community of men, so filled with the Holy Ghost as to enjoy in our hearts, and show forth in our lives, the genuine fruits of that Spirit 2 Are all the magistrates, all heads and governors of colleges and halls, and their respective societies, (not to speak of the inhabitants of the town) of one heart and soul ? Is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts 2 Are our tempers the same that were in Christ, and are our lives agreeable thereto 2 In the fear and in the presence of the great God, before whom both you and I shall shortly appear, I pray you that are in authority over us, whom I reverence for your office sake, to consider, Are you filled with the Holy Ghost? Are ye lively portraitures of Him whom ye are appointed to represent among men 2 Ye magistrates and rulers, are all the thoughts of your hearts, all your tempers and desires, suitable to your high calling 2 Are all your words like unto those which come out of the mouth of God? Is there in all your actions dignity and love? Ye venerable men, who are more especially called to form the tender minds of youth, are you filled with the Holy Ghost? with all those fruits of the Spirit, which your important office so indispensably requires? Do you continually remind those under your care that the one rational end of all our studies is to know, love and serve the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent? Do you inculcate upon them, day by day, that without love all learning is but splendid ignorance, pompous folly, vexation of spirit 2 Has all you teach an actual tendency to the love of God, and of all mankind for His sake 2 Do you put forth all your strength in the vast work you have undertaken ; using every talent which God hath lent you, and that to the uttermost of your power 2 What example is set them [the youth] by us who enjoy the beneficence of our forefathers; by fellows, students, scholars; more especially
those who are of some rank and eminence P Do ye, brethren, abound in the fruits of the Spirit, in lowliness of mind, in self-denial and mortification, in seriousness and composure of spirit, in patience, meekness, sobriety, temperance, and in unwearied, restless endeavors to do good, in every kind, unto all men? Is this the general character of fellows of colleges 2 I fear it is not. Rather, have not pride and haughtiness of spirit, impatience and peevishness, sloth and indolence, gluttony and sensuality, and even a proverbial uselessness, been objected to us; perhaps not only by our enemies, nor wholly without ground 2. Once more, what shall we say concerning the youth of this place? Have you either the form or the power of Christian godliness 2 Are you humble, teachable, advisable 2 or stubborn, self-willed, heady, and highminded ? Are you obedient to your superiors as to parents 2 Or do you despise those to whom you owe the tenderest reverence 2 Are you diligent in pursuing your studies with all your strength, crowding as much work into every day as it can contain 2 Rather, do you not waste day after day, either in reading what has no tendency to Christianity, or in gaming, or in—you know not what? Do you, out of principle, take care to owe no man anything 2 Do you remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? Do you know how to possess your bodies in sanctification and in honor 2 Are not drunkenness and uncleanness found among you ? Yea, are there not of you who glory in their shame? Do not many of you take the name of God in vain, perhaps habitually, without either remorse or fear 2 Yea, are there not a multitude of you that are forsworn ? Be not surprised, brethren ; before God and this congregation, I own myself to have been of that number; solemnly swearing to observe all those customs which I then knew nothing of; and those statutes, which I did not so much as read over, either then or for some years after. What is perjury, if this is not 2 May it not be one of the consequences of this, that so many of you are a generation of triflers ? triflers with God, with one another, and with your own souls 2 How few of you spend, from one week to another, a single hour in private prayer? How few of you have any thought of God in the general tenor of your conversation ? Can you bear, unless now and then, in a church, any talk of the Holy Ghost 2 Would you not take it for granted, if one began such a conversation, that it was either hypocrisy or enthusiasm 2 In the name of the Lord God Almighty, I ask, What religion are you of 2 Even the talk of Christianity ye cannot, will not, bear. O my brethren | What a Christian city is this? It is time for Thee, Lord, to lay to Thine hand.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770)
MAN of powerful voice and inspiring eloquence, George WhiteA field adopted the habit of preaching in the open air, drawing audiences so immense that it seemed impossible for any man to make himself heard by them. A fellow-student at Oxford with John and Charles Wesley, he entered into religious fellowship with them, and soon began speaking with great power and eloquence, crowded congregations listening to him with enthusiastic attention. It was his exclusion from the churches of Bristol that set him to preaching in the open air. For some five years he maintained the Wesleyan doctrine of Methodism, but about 1741 he adopted the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, and a break between him and Wesley took place. Much of Whitefield's ministrations took place in the American colonies, which he visited on seven different occasions, on some of which he stayed for several years. He died at Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1770, on his seventh visit. A WARNING AGAINST WORLDLY WAYS [It was not the creed of the Church of England to which Wesley aud Whitefield
objected, but its methods and ceremonies, and their title of Methodists referred to
their methodical strictness rather than to any doctrinal distinction. The sermons from which the following selections are taken, in which Whitefield openly denounces the Church of English Ministers for encouraging the wicked by their example, excited much feeling when delivered.] My brethren, if we will live godly we must suffer persecution. We must no more expect to go to Heaven without being persecuted, than to be happy without being holy. If you lead godly lives, all the sons of Belial, all the scribes and Pharisees, will hate you and have you in reproach. They will point to you and cry, “See, yonder comes another troop of his followers | There are more of his gang !'' You are counted as a parcel
GEORGE WHITE FIELD AND JOHN WESLEY
* These two orators of Methodism represent a peculiar style of pulpit oratory so powerful and effective i -> the 18th Century. They traveled much and were $o by immense audiences. The names of W. ! and Whitefield are honored by all Protestants, and their sermons are still read with profit. s