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We left John WESLEY, after his return from America, engrossed with the new convictions which he had derived from the Moravians. His brother Charles embraced them earlier and was the first to teach them. But John Wesley had no sooner returned from Germany, than his ardour compelled him to preach. Churches soon became closed against him, but in London, in the meetings of his followers, in such societies as admitted him, and in the prisons, he preached. At last he addressed the multitude in the open air in Moorfields. The urgency of Whitefield, who had resumed his duties at Bristol, and was about to leave it for America, drew Wesley to Bristol in 1739. There he entered on the system of open-air preaching which he afterwards practised. He had much to overcome in his own mind and in that of others, for sermons in the open air were as strange in the days of George the Second, as they had been, when begun by George Fox, in the reigns of the
Stewarts. To such a practice the ecclesiastical authorities were opposed, and the clergy regarded it with the same aversion. Archbishop Potter, indeed, treated the Wesleys with a forbearance worthy of his character ; Bishop Gibson with more sharpness. The Bishop of Bristol openly declared his hostility, and his tone was adopted by the clergy. Nor can we wonder at this excited state of opinion, when a man, so upright and affectionate as Samuel Wesley, spoke of his brother's proceedings with strong reprobation.
Substantially the Archbishop's Christian counsels were not forgotten by Wesley. He had said ; "If you desire to be extensively useful, do not spend your time and strength for or against such things as are of a disputable nature, but in testifying against open notorious vice, and in promoting real essential holiness.”
With this great object before him, Wesley was not of a temper to be shaken by opposition. He met attacks with unflinching resolution. Excluded from churches, he took to the fields. Driven from the sphere of a parochial ministry, he plunged into a wide itinerancy. Into that sphere both Charles and John Wesley were naturally carried by their own impulse, by the depth of their convictions, and the apathy of the times. Their respect indeed for the Church was great, and their love for its rules and order was sincere. Through life these feelings exercised over them great influence, and withheld them from many practices to which they
were urged. But their feelings yielded to their convictions. To maintain the order of the Church was their wish. To withhold from the indifferent, to refuse to the anxious, truths which had satisfied their own minds, seemed to them inhuman. At all hazards they felt bound to preach, and if authority traversed their efforts, they broke away from it.* “My business on earth,” says Wesley, “is to do what good I can. Wherever I think I can do most good, there must I stay.” At Bristol therefore, when Whitefield left it for his second visit to America, John Wesley began the labours which have made his name famous.
He found the practice, already established by Whitefield, of addressing multitudes, in the streets, highways, and fields. He met with thousands anxious to hear him, roused by Whitefield and asking to be taught. Into scenes of strong emotion he entered, and to masses of eager auditors he addressed his discourses. It is worth our notice that in these scenes the oratorical Whitefield was of a calmer temperament, than the acute Wesley The eloquence of Whitefield had admitted restraints, which Wesley's energy threw aside. For the ebullition of popular feeling, which the appeals of Whitefield drew forth, had never passed the bounds of natural emotion. Tears, grief, and remorse had marked the course, and proved the power of the preacher. But there were no paroxysms, or convulsions, or screams, or
* Moore's Life, i. 465.