« VorigeDoorgaan »
in the States* any other religious body; and if we exclude the Baptists, Methodism will be found to equal the combined numbers of Presbytery, Independency, Popery, Episcopacy, Lutheranism and Unitarianism.
* The Seventh Census of the United States' Religion and Church accommodation.
Total value of Number of Aggregate Denominations.
Church property Churches. accommodation.
12,467 8,791 4,584 1,674 1,422 1,112 1,203 2,113
14,636,671 10,931,382 14,369,889
7,973,962 11,261,970 8,973,838 2,867,886 3,268,122 1,767,015
The great instrument of the progress of Methodism, was the preaching talent of its founders. John Wesley was not equal as an orator to Whitefield; but the directness of his preaching often struck home, where Whitefield had failed. John Nelson, the stone-mason, listened to Whitefield's oratory as to a pleasant song ; he relished the words, and loved the preacher, but he was not satisfied; his convictions were strong, but his doubts prevailed. The sermon of Wesley at Moorfields struck him to the heart. His account of it gives us an idea of Wesley's manner and style.* "As soon as he got upon the stand, he stroked back his hair, and turned his face to where I stood, and I thought he fixed his eyes on me; his countenance struck such an awful dread upon me, before I heard him speak, that it made my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock ;
* Southey: i. p. 417.
and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me."
In his numerous sermons,* we trace the characteristics of his oratory: the sermons are short, expressed in terse language; he uses words of great plainness, presenting ideas which are not graphic, nor helped by the imagination, but impressive from their clearness. Sbort, sharp questions run like vollies of musketry along the line of argument, and the mind, startled, and struck, is at last overwhelmed by the discharge. The individual is addressed, as if he stood alone before the pulpit, looking up to the preacher, and receiving his counsels and warnings. “ Who art thou, that now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness ? . Thou art the man! I want thee for our Lord. I challenge thee for a child of God by faith. The Lord hath need of thee. Thou, who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance his glory. O, come quickly, believe in the Lord Jesus, and then, even thou art reconciled to God.”+
“Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words, thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner, I charge thee before God, the Judge of all, go straight unto Him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy not thine own soul, by pleading thy righteousness more or less. Go, as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost,
* See especially Sermon 121, Vol. vii. pp. 307, 308.
+ Southey: i. 407.
destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and then shalt thou find favour in His sight, and know that He justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the blood of sprinkling, as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus look unto Jesus! There is the Lamb of God, who taketh away thy sins ! Plead then no work—no righteousness of thine own-no humility, no contrition, no sincerity! In no wise! That were in very
deed to deny the Lord that bought thee. No. Plead thou singly the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful heart !
We can understand how, to the harassed and trembling conscience, such doctrine, in such clear, strong words, would bring comfort. Many drank it in, as did the stonemason, with delight. Many heard it, with the people of Newcastle, as tidings from another world. It opened to them a sudden revelation of new joy.
The same doctrine, in the mouth of Charles Wesley, produced like effects, and the most prominent preachers copied the characteristics of Wesley. Poetry was used to help this preaching; and hymns written by the Wesleys, especially by Charles, interspersed through the service, relieved the preacher, and subdued the audience.
We can enter into the surprize of those on whom, after a long season of heartless observances, religion at length burst with the interest of a new discovery, and the intensity of strong feeling.
“Twelve years ago,
says one, “I was going over Gulvan downs, and I saw many people together, and I asked what was the matter? They told me a man was going to preach ; and I said, To be sure, it is some 'mazed man.
But when I saw you, I said this is no ' ’mazed man. You preached on God's raising the dry bones, and from that time I could never rest, till God was pleased to breathe on me and raise my dead soul.”
Women, wretched and despairing, turned into the Foundry, heard the sermon and were comforted. Others, abandoned to vice, hardened by a life of shame, came from listless curiosity, were struck to the heart and reclaimed. The vilest scum of Moorfields, the rudest barbarians of Kingswood listened and were subdued.
Whatever we are pleased to think of the teachers or their theology, the results of the teaching are undeniable. Drunkards sobered—the vicious reclaimed the selfish made generous—the churl, liberal—the undutiful, obedient-the stern, gentle--the self-willed, docile, these results, springing up in abundance among colliers, miners, mechanics and tradesmen, attest the earnestness of the preacher, and the mastery of truth.
The only fault that could be charged against the Methodists, by their bitterest enemies, was, that they rose early, pretended to be better than others; sung psalms, and prayed from morning to night.* “Beside,” said * Southey ii. p. 55.
+ Ibid. p. 20.