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selves for religious improvement; which was an example to the elder people." "About this time, many who looked upon themselves in a Christless condition seemed to be awakened, with fear that God was about to withdraw from the land, and that we should be given up to heterodoxy and corrupt principles."
There were some things said publicly on this occasion, concerning justification by faith alone.' Although great fault was found with meddling with the controversy in the pulpit, by such a person, and at that time, and though it was ridiculed by many elsewhere; yet it proved a word spoken in season here, and was most evidently attended with a very remarkable blessing of Heaven to the souls of the people of this town. They received thence a general satisfaction with respect to the main thing in question, which they had been in trembling doubts and concern about; and their minds were engaged the more earnestly to seek, that they might come to be accepted of God, and saved in the way of the Gospel, — which had been made evident to them to be the true and only way: and then it was, in the latter part of December, that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us; and there were, very suddenly one after another, five or six persons who were to all appearance savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner." In particular, the conversion of a young woman, whose former character even rendered Mr. Edwards apprehensive of some mischief to the religion which she embraced, was so clear and decided, that he says, "The news seemed to be almost like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of the young people all over the town, and of many others." Presently upon this, a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion became universal among persons of all ages." "Other discourse but of the things of religion would scarcely be tolerated in any company; the minds of the people were wonderfully taken off from the world." "They seemed to follow their worldly business more as a part of their duty, than from any disposition they had to it." "There was scarcely a person about the town who was left unconcerned about eternity." "In the spring and summer of the year 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor so full of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then there were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. Strangers who came to the town felt the holy fervour; and it was extended from one end of the country to another, and many places of Connecticut partook of the same mercy." "When God, in so remarkable a manner, took the work
into his own hands, there was as much done in a day or two, as at ordinary times, with all the endeavours that man can use, and, with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year." This scene also Mr. Whitfield visited.
But it is remarkable, that the effects of this extraordinary dispensation in the town of Northampton, in the space of fourteen years should be so entirely extinct, that nine-tenths of the church should agree to dismiss the same learned and most eminent minister, for his resisting some improper practices in the next generation of young people who were growing up a sad specimen of the consequences of a democratical form of government in the church!
In the year before Mr. Whitfield arrived, there had also been several revivals in different parts of America; so that he who came to send fire in the land, found it in particular spots already kindled. But his ministry was wonderfully employed to cherish the flame, and to propagate it far and wide over the colonies, which, in many parts, were most defectively provided with religious instruction, and the means of public devotion. As in England, he was attended by thousands and ten thousands, wherever he travelled; and those who were able to judge, attested every where the great and lasting effects of his visits.
The point of view in which these American divines regarded the doctrine and preaching of Mr. Whitfield, we learn from their own pens1. "From the year 1738 we had received accounts of the Rev. Mr. Whitfield, as a very pious young minister of the church of England, rising up in the spirit of the reformers, and preaching their doctrines, first in England and then in America, with surprising power and success." "He speaks with a mighty sense of God, eternity, the immortality and preciousness of the souls of his hearers, of their original corruption, and of the extreme danger the unregenerate are in, with the absolute necessity of regeneration by the Holy Ghost; and of believing in Christ in order to our pardon, justification, and yielding an acceptable obedience."-"His doctrine was plainly that of the reformers, declaring against our putting our good works or morality in the room of Christ's righteousness, or their having any hand in our justification, or being indeed pleasing to God, while we are totally unsanctified, acting from corrupt principles, and unreconciled enemies to him; which occasioned some to mistake him as if he opposed morality. But he insisted on it, that the tree of
1 See Prince's Christian History.
the heart is by original sin exceedingly corrupted, and must be made good by regeneration, that so the fruits proceeding from it may be good likewise; that where the heart is renewed, it ought to be, and will be, careful to maintain good works; that if any be not habitually so careful, who think themselves renewed, they deceive their own souls; but even the most improved in holiness, as well as others, must entirely depend on the righteousness of Christ for the acceptance of their persons and services. And though now and then he dropped some expressions that were not so accurate and guarded as we should expect from aged and long studied ministers, yet I had the satisfaction to observe his readiness with great modesty and thankfulness to receive correction as soon as offered." "He addressed himself to the audience in so tender, earnest, and moving a manner, exciting them to come and be acquainted with the dear Redeemer, that it melted the assembly into tears."
This testimony appears the more valuable, as these ministers had been educated in the doctrines of the old Puritans, who, while they quarrelled with the church of England on questions of church government and discipline, never hesitated in avowing their assent to her doctrinal articles, as those articles were understood previous to the disastrous days of Charles I.
It soon appeared, however, that Mr. Wesley and his followers did not fully agree with Mr. Whitfield in their doctrinal scheme, and on the return of the latter to England, in 1741, a breach took place between them, which could never be thoroughly healed; and hence has arisen the division of the Methodists into two great branches, as we now behold them, the Arminian and the Calvinistic; for the measures pursued by both these reformers, of associating in their labours persons who had not received ordination in the church of England, and of forming societies independent of her jurisdiction, by a necessary consequence soon led to that separation from her communion, which both had so much deprecated. It should seem, however, that for some time there was a similarity in the manner in which both parties stated the doctrines of repentance and faith-doctrines on which they principally insisted in their public discourses; for the opponents of both could with great difficulty be made to understand that Mr. John Wesley and his followers were not Calvinists. The praise of consistency in his doctrinal statements, will hardly be challenged for Mr. Wesley.
A candid author of "An Inquiry into the Present State of Methodism," belonging to his connexion, observes, that " many of Mr. Wesley's first principles were those which rigid Armi
nians now call Calvinistic 1." "In a general point of view, however, it is certain that the principles of the Methodist societies are decidedly of an Arminian cast; and they have been gradually assuming more of this character, from the first formation of those societies down to the present day." "The fact seems to be," observes the same author, "that our principles want to be revised; to be more accurately defined, and more steadily fixed. Sometimes we acknowledge we lean too much towards Calvinism; and then, to avoid the rocks of antinoinianism, we vibrate to the extreme of Arminianism, or the borders of Pelagianism; and every thing bearing the resemblance of Calvinism is now scouted with detestation, as bordering on heresy. And in these alternate vacillations, we drop some of the precious jewels of the Gospel, which our intemperate zeal has identified with the dross of heresy and corruption. Nor do we discover our loss, until we see the noxious weeds of Pharisaism springing up in every corner of the Lord's vineyard."
Mr. Wesley was seen at a very protracted period of his life, presiding, as a venerated patriarch, at the head of his connexion, which he had moulded, by a peculiar form of discipline, into one uniform and intimately connected body, a measure which has added, no less than their rapidly increasing numbers, to their strength and importance, insomuch that the term Methodist is very fast becoming a term appropriated exclusively to his followers. The Calvinistic Methodists, or those who coincided with Mr. Whitfield in his views of doctrine, among whom are
"In 1745, one of the queries proposed at conference was, 'Does not the truth of the Gospel lie very near, both to Calvinism and antinomianism?' Answer. Indeed it does, as it were within a hair's breadth, so that it is altogether foolish and sinful, because we do not quite agree with either the one or the other, to run from them as far as we can.' These were the principles upon which methodism proceeded in perhaps its best and brightest days. An appearance of degeneracy in its professors afterwards induced the hazard of an attempt which is here styled 'foolish and sinful.' It was put in practice by the celebrated minutes of 1770, as the legitimate cure of the then prevailing declension in religion. Then the principles of methodism first assumed that rigidly Arminian aspect, which has often covered their face, as with a shield of brass, and (as they are sometimes delineated from our pulpits) has rendered them almost impervious to the heavenly rays of mercy and grace! Indeed it is a cause of thankfulness, that the full sentiments of those minutes are embraced by few, and promulgated by still fewer of our preachers."
*See "A Candid and Impartial Inquiry into the Present State of the Methodist Societies in Ireland, by a Member of the Society." Belfast, 1814.
to be reckoned the congregations belonging to a connexion formed by the late countess of Huntingdon, were never united into one body, in a manner resembling the Arminian Methodists. They are, however, found in great numbers in many parts of the kingdom; especially if we extend the name to all who maintain the doctrinal articles of the church of England, but from necessity, expediency, or conveniency, have dispensed with the laws of her community, and admit, as dispensers of the word and sacraments, ministers who have received no regular ordination; and who, for the most part, are not permanently attached to any particular congregation.
But the originating of these two great classes of religious professors, in whatever view we regard them, were not the chief fruits of that spirit of revival, which was kindled in the British nations towards the middle of the last century. Many of the ministers and people both of the established church of England, and that of Scotland, and many also among the orthodox dissenters and seceders from each, though they condemned the irregularity, and occasionally intemperate zeal of the Methodists, were about the same period stirred up to a more serious and cordial cultivation of that truth which they had received, in common, from their forefathers. The doctrines of the BLESSED REFORMATION have been in consequence, to a considerable extent, restored amongst us, and, by the blessing of Divine grace, not a few have felt their power; and although there are many "who have spoken evil of that way before the multitude," and "have gainsaid and contradicted," yet, in contemplating the scene now spread before us, in the midst of our injurious divisions, we have reason to conclude, that the truth and importance of these doctrines are more and more acknowledged; and we may feel encouraged to pray, that it may please God that, like the leaven hid in the three measures of meal, it may ferment there till the whole be leavened, and that all that do confess the holy name of Jesus, may agree in the truth of his holy word, and live in unity and godly love!
LONDON: PRINTED BY J. MOYES, BOUVERIE STREET.