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CHAPTER II.

EARLY YOUTH OF THE LEADERS.

JOHN WESLEY was born at Epworth, in Lincolnshire, on the 17th of June, 1703. He was the son of parents who presented, in their family history, traces of the opinions which had divided the Church of England. The grandfather, and great-grandfather of Mr. Wesley by the father's side, and his grandfather by the mother's side, Samuel Annesley, had been exiled from their livings in Dorsetshire for their Puritan offences and nonconformity. They lived as men of piety, and died in peace. Wesley's father had, in early life, separated from the Dissenters, whose opinions, in the reigns of Charles and James the Second, had excited his aversion ; he was an earnest Protestant, and had condemned the Romish policy of James. Occupying after the Revolution the living of Epworth, he thence attended the Convocations, held during the reigns of William and Anne; and, as an earnest high churchman, he held on his way, through a life distinguished for useful labours. He lived till

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1735, long enough to influence the character of his son and to observe his decision ; he died in peace, having preached, in the Church, the same rules of Christian faith, which his forefathers had exemplified as Nonconformists.

The mother of John Wesley had exercised a yet stronger influence on her son John. The decision of her character was shewn in holding religious meetings, during her husband's absence in London. Her letters to her son, when his mind was beginning to develope itself, mark her vigorous judgment, which enabled her to distinguish between enthusiasm and piety, and to reject the practice of asceticism as a substitute for the discharge of duty.

Under such counsels, the boy grew. He received his first instruction in the Charter-house, where he shewed the decision of his character, and where his scholarship was exercised in learning Hebrew, as well as Greek and Latin. At sixteen he went to Christ Church, Oxford, and acquired distinction; he studied with unbending determination before and after his degree, and became a proficient in mathematics; but, as he approached the time when he was to enter Orders, he began to regard with increasing seriousness his future profession. He then set himself to follow rules, which he laid down for the improvement of his character. He was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Oxford (afterwards Archbishop Potter) in 1725, in his 22nd year,

was elected fellow of Lincoln, and soon after was named Greek Lecturer. He was removed from these ascetic resolutions and from the labours of the University, to assist his father, whose strength was failing from age. While acting as his father's curate, in Lincolnshire, he received priest's orders at Oxford, and returned, at the injunction of his College, after two years of a curate's life, to preside, as moderator, at the disputations of the students: a practice which sharpened his wit and exercised his powers of reasoning.

It was after his return to Oxford, in the autumn of 1729, that the bent of his mind shewed itself. His first religious masters were Thomas á Kempis and Jeremy Taylor. From them he derived a disposition to asceticism, and the conviction, that it was by these practices and by unrelenting determination, that piety could be attained. His deference however for his parents, led him to seek their advice. His father, though admiring the piety of his favourite author Thomas á Kempis, and admitting that to our corrupt nature the denial of self was essential, corrected the undue rigor of ascetic tendencies, and presented to his son, as the result of his own experience,-“whom time had already shaken by the hand, and death was but a little way behind," that the best preparation for his pastoral work was to “Fast, watch, and pray, love, endure, and be happy.” His mother added her prudent suggestions; and shewed her son, that the best rule for life was, to avoid all “that

impaired the tenderness of conscience and obscured the sense of God.” In addition to these counsels, he received from a friend, whom he visited in Lincolnshire, a hint which sank into his mind, and served to moderate his tendency to the life of a recluse.

“Sir," said he, "you wish to serve God and go to heaven. Remember, you cannot serve him alone : you must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”

Companions of his religious course were now preparing for him. The most distinguished of these were two. His brother Charles, five years younger than himself, had been educated like Mr. Wesley's other children, by their mother, and sent to Westminster School. While there, he distinguished himself by a generous courage, which led him to protect a timid Scotch boy; bullied by his schoolfellows for his Jacobite connections, but afterwards known as the great Lord Mansfield. There was another curious incident of his school life : Garrett Wesley, a gentleman of fortune in Ireland, was looking for an heir, and finding that Charles bore his name, he assisted the boy's education, and offered, if he would go to Ireland, to adopt him. The simple-minded pastor referred the decision to his son. The boy declined the proposal, and the name and wealth of Mr. Wesley passed to a kinsman, who rose to distinction and to the peerage of Mornington, and bequeathed wealth and honors to his grandchildren, two of whom were destined

to achieve higher names, as the Marquis Wellesley and the Duke of Wellington. From Westminster, Charles Wesley was sent to Christ Church, Oxford, and led for the first year a life of idleness ;- but in 1728 the lad of nineteen turned to more serious study, and along with it to more earnest thought. He entered into communication with his brother John, which, up to that time, he had avoided; and, as John Wesley was then absent from Oxford, he sought his advice by letter. With his sanction he adopted a peculiar method of life, both in respect to study and religion, which, as two or three other lads associated themselves with him, procured for them the name of Methodists. When John Wesley returned to Oxford, in the autumn of 1729, he found a small society, noticed by their companions as eccentric, but fervent in devotion, earnest in study, active in benevolence, and united in feeling. They welcomed John Wesley as their chief.

To Charles, the aged father gave his counsels and prayers; he cheered his sons in their benevolent labours, but he added needful caution, “My daily prayers,” he says; are that God would keep you

humble. Be weary in well doing ; never look back, for you know the prize and the crown are before

you.

Preserve an equal temper of mind, whatever treatment you meet with from a not very just or well-natured world." The example of the father's piety was however more persuasive to the mind of his son than his words. Charles

never

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