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The following little Tract, with the subjoined Letters, was circulated a number of years ago, and is by this time probably almost forgotten. Coming from a man of so much piety and religion as Charles Wesley certainly was, it is entitled to notice. And if in this shape, it should not fall into the hands of many of those for whom it was primarily intended, it is thought it may be of service to settle and confirm the faith of some, who already profess the same sentiments with its author.
WESLET'S REASONS FOR NOT SEPARATING FROM THE CHURCA.
BECAUSE it would be a contradiction to the solemn and repeated declarations which we have made in all manner of ways, in preaching, in print, and in private conversation.
Because, on this, as well as many other accounts, it would give huge occasion of offence to those who seek and desire occasion ; to all the enemies of God and truth.
Because it would exceedingly prejudice against us many who fear, yea, who love God; and thereby hinder their receiving so much, perhaps any further benefit from our preaching.
Because it would hinder multitudes of those who neither love nor fear God, from hearing us at all.
Because it would be throwing balls of wildfire among them that are now quiet in the land. We are now sweetly united together in love. We mostly think and speak the same thing. But this would occasion inconceivable strife and contention between those who left, and those who remained in the Church, as well as between those who left us, and those that remained with us: nay, and between those very persons who remained, as they were variously inclined one way or the other.
Because, to form the plan of a new Church would require infinite time are care, (which might be far more profitably bestowed) with much more wisdom, and greater depth and exteniveness of thought, than any of us are masters of.
Because, from some having barely entertained a distant thought of this, evil fruits have already followed ; such as prejudice against the clergy in general, and aptness to believe ill of them; contempt, not without a degree of bitterness, of clergymen, as such; and a sharpness of language towards the whole order, utterly becoming either gentlemen or Christians.
Because we have melancholy instances of this, even before our eyes. Many have, in our memory, left the Church, and formed themselves into distinct bodies. And certainly some of them from a real persuasion, that they should do God more service. But have any separated themselves and prospered? Have they been either more holy, or more useful than they were before?
Because by such a separation we should not only throw away the peculiar glorying which God hath given us, “ That we do and will suffer all things for our brethren's sake, though the more we love them, the less we be loved ;" but should act in direct contradiction to that very end, for which we believe God hath raised us up. The chief design of his providence in sending us out, is udoubtedly
302 Wesley's Reasons for not separating from the Churchi to quicken our brethren. And the first message of all our preachers is, to the lost sheep of the Church of England. Now would it not be a flat contradiction to this design, to separate from the Church? These things being considered, we cannot apprehend, (whether it be lawful in itself or no) that it is lawful for us ; were it only on this ground, that it is by no means expedient.
It has indeed been objected, that till we do separate, we cannot be a compact, united body.
It is true, we cannot till then be a compact, united body, if you mean by that expression, a body distinct from all others; and we have no desire so to be.
We look upon ourselves, not as the authors or ringleaders of a particular sect or party; it is the farthest thing from our thoughts; but as messengers of God to those who are Christians in name, but heathens in heart and life; to call them back to that from which they are fallen, to real, genuine Christianity. We are therefore debtors to all these, of whatever opinion and denomination ; and are consequently to do all that in us lies, to please all for their good to edification.
We look upon the Methodists, so called, in general, not as any particular party ; (this would exceedingly obstruct the grand design for which we conceive God has raised them up-but as living witnesses in, and to every party, of that Christianity which we preach; which is hereby demonstrated to be a real thing, and visibly held out to all the world.
We look upon the clergy, not only as a part of our brethren, but as that part whom God, by his adorable Providence, has called 10 be Watchmen over the rest, for whom therefore they are to give a strict account. If these men neglect their important charge ; if they do not watch over them with all their power, they will be of all inen most miserable, and so are entitled to our deepest compassion. So that to feel, and much more to express either contempt or bitterness towards them, betrays an utter ignorance of ourselves and of the spirit which we especially should be of.
Might it not be at least a prudential rule, for every Methodist preacher, not to frequent any dissenting meeting? though we blame none who have been always accustomed to it. But if we do this, certainly our people will. Now, this is actually separating from the Church. If, therefore, it is, at least, not expedient to separate, neither is this expedient. Indeed, we may attend our assemblies and the Church too, because they are at different hours. But we cannot attend both the meeting and the Church, because they are at the same hours. If it be said, “ But at the Church, we are fed with chaff; whereas, at the meeting we have wholesome food :" We answer; Ist. The prayers of the Church are not chaff; they are substantial food for any who are alive to God. 2d. The Lord's supper is not chaff, but pure and wholesome for all who receive it with upright hearts. Yea; 3d. In almost all the sermons we hear there, we hear many great and important truths. And whoever has a spiritual discern ment may easily separate the chaff from the wheat therein. 4th: How little is the casc mended at the meeting? Either
the teachers are new-light-men, denying the Lord that bought them, and overturning his gospel from the very foundation; or they are predestinarians, and so preach predestination and final perseverance more or less. Now, whatever this may be to them who were educated therein, yet to thore of our brethren who have lately embraced it, repeated experience shows it is not wholesome food; rather to them it has the effect of deadly poison. In a short time it destroys all their zeal for God. They grow fond of opinions and strife of words. They despise self-denial and the daily cross; and to complete all, wholly separate from their brethren.
Nor is it expedient for any Methodist preacher to imitate the dissenters in their manner of praying: neither in his tone : all par. ticular tones, both in praying and preaching, should be avoided with the utmost care. Nor in his language; all his words should be plain and simple, such as the lowest of his hearers both use and understand. Nor in the length of his prayer, which should not usually exceed four or five minutes, either before or after sermon.
If we continue in the Church, not by chance, or for want of thought, but upon solid and well-weighed reasons, then we should never speak contemptuously of the Church, or any thing pertaining to it. In some sense, it is the mother of us all, who have been brought up therein.
In order to cut off all jealousy and suspicion from our friends, and hope from our enemies, of our having any design to separate from the Church, it would be well for every methodist preacher, who has no scruple concerning it, to attend the service of the Church as often as conveniently he can. And the more we attend it, the more we love it, as constant experience shews. On the contrary, the longer we abstain from it, the less desire we have to attend it at all.
To these reasons assigned by Mr. Wesley for not separating from the Church,
I shall subjoin a quotation from his Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.
Page 134. He thus addresses himself to the Members of the Church of England.
“ WE do not dispute concerning any of the externals or cir. cumstantials of religion. There is no room; for we agree with you therein. We approve of, and adhere to them all; all that we learned together when we were children in our catechism and common prayer book. We were born and bred up in your own Church, and desire to die therein. We always were, and are now zealous for the Church ; only not with a blind, angry zeal. We hold, and ever have done, the same opinions, which you and we received from our forefathers. But we do not lay the main stress of our religion on any opinions, right or wrong: Neither do we ever begin, or willingly join in any dispute concerning them. The weight of all religion, we apprehend, rests on holiness of heart and life. And consequently, wherever we come, we press this with all our might. How wide then is the difference between our case and the case of any of those [Dissenters] that are above mentioned? They avowedly separated from the Church: We utterly disavow any such design. They severely, and almost continually inveighed against the doctrines and discipline of the Church they left. We approve both the doctrines and discipline of our Church, and inveigh only against ungodliness and unrighteousness. They spent great part of their time and strength in contending about externals and circumstantials. We agree with you in both; so that having no room to spend any time in such vain contention, we have our desire of spending and being spent, in promoting plain, practical religion.”
Now what excuse can be offered for Mr. Wesley's separating from the Church, contrary to these solemn declarations and protestations -Charity whispers--He did it when he was eighty-two yeare of age.
[To be continued.]
A PRAYER FOR THE USE OF A CLERGYMAN.
The following truly excellent composition, which comprehends in a fervent
devotional address, the leading points of ministerial duty, is taken from the appendix to a translation of MASSILLON'S CHARGES ; just published by the Rev. T. ST. JOHN, LL. B.
GOD, and Father of mercy, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, who seest all our miseries, and knowest all our infirmities, I prostrate myself at they throne, beseeching thee to hear my prayer, and to receive the petitions which I now offer unto thee. I present myself in humble adoration before thee, ardently desirous of knowing thy will, and earnestly supplicating the assistance of thy powerful grace, that I may be enabled to fulfil it. To this end, correct and subdue in me all inordinate desires and unholy attachments; impress thy law on my soul, that it may both establish my princi. ples and influence my behaviour ; that both the thoughts of my heart and tenor of my life, may be such as “ become a minister of the Gospel of Christ.” Let no avocations withdraw me from entering daily into myself, that I may become more and more acquainted with my own heart; that its approbation may be my greatest comfort, and its reproaches my greatest dread. Engrave upon my mind the character which thou expectest me to sustain in society : the good which my example will produce, if it be irreproachable and amiable: the evil, if worthless or suspected. Guard me, there. fore, against levity of behaviour; against sudden passion, and riolent transports ; against bewitching pleasures, contemptible meanness, detestable avarice, and unlawful gain. Let no deviation from piety be encouraged by my demeanor ; but may my private life most efficaciously enforce my public preaching. May no soul sanc. tion its indiscretions, or extenuate its vices, by pleading the licence of my unworthiness.
As a minister of thy holy word, grant me an uniform and regular diligence, which may neither be overcome by indolence, nor enfeebled by relaxations. Let no indulgence in amusements, however innocent, nor attachment to studies, however enticing, seduce me from
an invariable application to the several duties of my calling; but may every pursuit, which is not an immediate part of it, be regulated by prudence, and restrained by severity, lest my mind should be alienated from the discharge of ecclesiastical functions, and divested from the attainment of evangelical holiness; lest I should forget that I am in thy holy Church, 2 guide to the blind, and a light to them that arc in darkness; and lest, after having preached to others, and warned them against the baits of temptation, and the allurements of sin, I myself should be treacherously overcome by the one, and everlast ingly ruined by the other. Grant me to be a watchful shepherd, preserving, by prudent advice and salutary counsels, the flock within The fold, which I have undertaken to instruct in faith, and deliver from danger. · Impress me with such a sense of the station which I am appointed to fill, that I may devote all the powers of my mind, and all the faculties of my soul, to a faithful discharge of it: let me never forget, that, whether it is obscure or exalted, I am equally an embassador of the King of Kings, and a servant of the Lord of Lords. Thus honoured, thus distinguished, may no temptations of interest, or allurements of pleasure, damp the vigorous exertion and unwearied diligence, inherent in the commission of thy ministers, to bring the souls of whom thou hast appointed me the spiritual overseer, to a knowledge of the truth; to an acquaintance with their moral condition; to a firm trust in thy goodness, and an uniform obedience to
May every discourse which I deliver, be calculated, by thy divine blessing, to awaken the thoughtless, and alarm the impenitent, or to establish the righteous in the ways of godliness, and comfort those that mourn. When I preach thy laws, and take thy covenant in my mouth, let me not be satisfied with the persuasion, that the discourse, which ought to excite, in every one who hears it, an ardent desire of salvation, is ingenious in its composition, solid in its arguments, or elegant in its style ; rather, O God, may it penetrate the hearts, and supply the wants of those very many in the open valley, who are very dry; and may thy spirit, in the delivery of it, say unto them, Oye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord, behold I will cause breath to enter into you; and may they stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army: put thy Spiril into them, and they shall live : awaken them, and all men, from the deadly torpor of insen. sibility; animate them with a lively sense, and a deep conviction of their deplorable condition ; and if it seem good unto thee, leave them no rest in their souls, until they see the danger, and anticipate the punishment, of their horrible ingratitude and daring rebellion. Open their eyes that they sleep not in death. Pour upon them the spir. it of grace and of supplication. May the temples in which we assemble to worship thee, exhibit congregations of men, not collected by the power of habit, but actoated with reverence and godly fear : And that they may not presume to present themselves before thee with unseemly levity, and with unprepared minds; anproaching thee with their lips, whilst their hearts are far from thee; do thou inscribe on their souls this awful sentiment; wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God!" may the parents,