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books, his record of books read with comments prove he had the student mind and improved his opportunities well.
This student of twenty-six at work with his books as he speeds across the great Atlantic is worthy of a place with that greater scholar, Thomas Coke, on his first voyage to America, in his thirty-seventh year. Coke had "a little secret corner in the ship” called his “study,” where he read the lives of Xavier and Brainerd, The Confessional, Hoadley's Reasonableness of Conformity to the Church of England, and Augustine's Meditations. Hours were spent with his Greek Testament. He would unbend now and then, he tells us, by reading the pastorals of Vergil. Asbury is no less diligent. He read Sellon's God's Sovereignty Vindicated against Elisha Coles with this comment: “I think no one that reads it deliberately can afterward be a Calvinist.” Then he read Wesley's Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, De Renty's Life, part of Norris's Works, Edwards on the Work of God in New England, Pilgrim's Progress, the Bible, and Wesley's Sermons. He afterward became the great exemplar to circuit riders, with no side plea of “revivals” for lack of time to study. There was not a year in his earlier ministry that he did not read more than is required of our younger men. If to-day there are examiners and syllabi, his full “compends ” and comments show careful study in his day. Without noting the many rereadings, in the space of thirty-five years we find him averaging six large books a year. In that trying period of the Revolutionary struggle, from 1774 to 1781, more than one hundred volumes were mastered by him, many of them large and weighty-an average of thirteen volumes each year. In spite of the incessant traveling, the poor lodging, the almost constant sickness, the carefully written though brief outlines of sermons, the thought preparation for preaching, his daily reading went on, while at times he mined for Greek and Latin terms and digged for Hebrew roots.
There was good proportion in his study, and we may best show his mind by the character of the books read. In blanket fashion he covered the ground of a theological seminary. Let us take the great departments, note some books, and mark his comments that prove the reading more than cursory:
1. Exegetical theology. Asbury's was a heart-study of the Scriptures in the original languages. It was a searching for the meat of the word, and not for a taste of tongues. “Applied myself to the Greek and Latin Testaments,” “ reading the Bible and Greek Testament,” “running through the Hebrew Bible,” “read the first part of the Hebrew Bible”euch notes occur through the whole course of his Journal. Practicing Hebrew tones and points he called his “horseback study.” He drilled himself in these riding through the swamps of South Carolina with the water op to his knees. In a trying journey through Virginia he noted one day, “I do little except reading a few chapters in my Hebrew Bible.” Hebrew had better ventilation on big rides, especially through Georgia, than at other times. He lodged with a Jew, read Hebrew part of the night, and said, “I should have been pleased to have spent the night thus occupied with so good a scholar.” He read Clarke's Commentary, Doddridge's Paraphrase, Notes of Wesley, Hammond, Whitby; Guyse's. Paraphrase, Luther's Galatians, and Langdon on Revelation. Five of these works were read before he was thirty-three years of age. Here is a sample comment: “Dr. Doddridge's critical notes and improvements are excellent, instructive, beautiful -well calculated for forming the minds of young preachers, to prevent wild and unwarranted expositions." All four volumes are read; he “admires his spirit, sense, and ingenuity." Guyse's Paraphrase afforded him “great delight ... a pity that such a man ever imbibed the Calvinistic principles.” And again, “Reading the Revelation, with Mr. Wesley's Notes, was made a particular blessing to my soul.”
2. Systematic theology embraced about twenty authorsamong them Watson's Divinity, Osterwald's Christian Theology, Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, Flavels and Norris's Works, Prideaux's The Connection of the History of the Old and New Testament, Ogden's Revealed Religion, and Barclay's An Apology for the True Christian Divinity. Of Fletcher's Checks he writes, “ Ages to come will bless God for his writings, as I have done for those of Baxter and other ancient divines.” “There is,” says he, “a certain spirituality in his [Wesley's] Works, which I can find in no other human
4-FIFTH SERIES, VOL. XV.
compositions. And a man who has any taste for true piety can scarce read a few pages in the writings of that great divine
a without imbibing a greater relish for the pure and simple religion of Jesus Christ.”
We see Asbury's putting of a theological statement in his criticism of Hervey's Dialogues :
I like his philosophy better than his divinity. However, if he is in error by leaning too much to imputed righteousness, and in danger of superseding our evangelical works of righteousness, some are also in danger of setting up self-righteousness and at least of a partial neglect of an entire dependence on Jesus Christ. Our duty and salvation lie between these extremes. We should so work as if we were to be saved by the proper merit of our works; and so rely on Jesus Christ, to be saved by his merits and the divine assistance of his Holy Spirit, as if we did no works, nor attempted anything which God hath commanded. This is evidently the Gospel plan of salvation: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God;” “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." But some, who see the danger of seeking to be justified by the deeds of the law, turn all their attention to those passages of Scripture which ascribe our salvation to the grace of God; and, to avoid the rock which they discover on the right hand, they strike against that which is equally dangerous on the left, by exclaiming against all conditions and doings on the part of man; and so make void the law through faith-as if a beggar could not cross the street, and open his hand (at the request of his benefactor) to receive his bounty, without a meritorious claim to what he is about to receive. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder. And he having joined salvation by grace with repentance, prayer, faith, selfdenial, love, and obedience, whoever putteth them asunder will do it at his peril. But it is likewise true that others, who see the danger of this, in order, as they imagine, to steer clear of it, go about to establish their own righteousness; and, although they profess to ascribe the merit of their salvation to Jesus Christ, yet think they cannot fail of eternal life because they have wrought many good deeds of piety toward God and of justice and mercy toward man; and they would think it incompatible with divine justice to sentence them to eternal punishment for what they call the foibles of human nature, after having lived so moral and upright a life. Happy the man who so studies the Holy Scriptures, his own heart, the plan of salvation, and daily prays with such earnest sincerity to Almighty God as to see that neither faith without works nor works without that faith which justifies the ungodly will suffice in the awful day of universal retribution!
This long paragraph shows no sign of loose thinking or extempore theology.
3. In the department of historical theology we would for convenience include all historical works. The twenty separate works which Asbury mentions run through some sixty vol. ames. He was laying the foundations for a great Church, he was building a great Church, and, as Wilbur Fisk declares, he had fine appreciation of history. Mosheim was “ too dry and speculative.” Haweis's History of the Church was
. “ among
the best,” “ but his partiality to good old Calvinism is too apparent.” Prince's Christian History was a “cordial” to his soul. “It is Methodism in all its parts. I have a great desire to reprint an abridgment of it, to show the apostate children what their fathers were.” Reading Burnet's History of His Own Times, he is “amazed at the intrigues of courts and the treachery of men.” The list holds such works as Sewels History of the Quakers, Neal's History of the Puritans, Jewish Antiquities, Whiston's Josephus, sixteen volumes of Universal History, Rollin's, Robertson's, Ramsey's histories, and Gordon's American Revolution.
4. Practical theology. Asbury was a student of sermons. He enjoyed, appreciated, absorbed. There was in him a vein of wholesome criticism; a search for knowledge and homiletical training, with nerve sufficient to mount and test the celestial trapeze of the great sermonizers. How he enjoyed preaching and groaned over “dumb Sabbaths !” In this blessed employment, if the world were not his parish, the whole heavens were (Eph. iv, 10). Out of the galaxy of ser
. ) monizers he read we select a few-Doddridge, Watts, Wesley, Walker, Taylor, Blair, Sherlock, Saurin. “I delighted myself,” said he, “in reading Doddridge's Sermons to Young People.” “Blair's sermon on Gentleness is worthy the taste of Queen Charlotte; and if money were anything toward paying for knowledge I should think that sermon worth two hundred pounds sterling—which some say the queen gave him." Taylor gives“ many instructing glosses on the Scriptures; Knox is “sublime, though not deep;” Sherlock, “a inan of great abilities, and it is a pity but he had been a more evangelical writer.” Attention was also given by Asbury to such works as Lowman's Jewish Government, Potter's Church Government, Whiston's An Historical Preface to Primitive Chris
tianity Revived, and Comber on Consecrating Bishops. Asbury's reading of devotional literature included Edwards on the Work of God in New England, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Holy War, Taylor's Rules for Holy Living and Dying, Thomas à Keinpis's Imitation of Christ, and the same author's Valley of Lilies, Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, Baxter’s Saints Rest, Law's Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life-in fact, the whole line of spiritual literature. He made an abridgment of Baxter's Cure for Church Divisions, and showed a fine hand at condensation. There were also miscellaneous works, but let two suffice: Principles of True Politeness, read in the swamps, and Salinon's Grammar of five hundred pages. “Read fifty pages in Salmon's Grammar," he says, and adds, “It is plain to me the devil will let us read always, if we will not pray; but prayer is the sword of the preacher, the life of the Christian, the terror of hell, and the devil's plague.” On that day he had read thirteen chapters of Revelation and one hundred pages in Comber on the Consecrating of Bishops. All this was on “blue Monday,” after a hard day of preaching.
Now consider the man, his conditions, limitations, methods, to get the full content of the student—“this man that rambles through the United States," sick almost unto death six months in the year for thirty-two years, with hereditary morbid temperament held only by the firm grip of a consecrated will power. He was in the truest sense a gentleman, knew the amenities of life, was at home in the mansions of wealth and culture, but lived in discomfort, crowded rooms-often in “filthy houses,” as he says—and knew little solitude. Seeking ' rest” at Berkeley Springs, he writes: “The house in which we live is not the most agreeable; the size of it is twenty feet by sixteen, and there are seven beds and sixteen persons therein, and some noisy children. So I dwell among briers and thorns; but my soul is in peace.” While here as a sick man he says: “My present mode of conduct is as follows: to read about a hundred pages a day, usually to pray in public five times a day, to preach in the open air every other day, and to lecture in prayer meeting every evening.” He calls these “my little employments.” Down South in the fields of cotton