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munity. Such a policy, however, was in direct opposition to the practice of those times. The Clergyman and his duties were looked upon as things per se. The duties were for the man and the man for the duties, with which none else should interfere. In defiance of such ideas Wesley and his associates courted the assistance of the humblest of the laity. An organization was formed which makes us wonder how such a complete and powerful machinery could so suddenly be called into existence. Not scorning to learn from the policy of the Church of Rome, these men found ways to utilize and supply outlets for every kind of zealous service. The younger members of their congregations were employed as volunteer teachers, the elder as superintendents of the various parts of the rapidly increasing scheme. Instead of repelling with coldness any earnest spirit, as had long been the practice both of the Church and the Sects, these men invited all to come, and all who would serve might serve.
One great result of this course of action realized what they most earnestly desired. They were enabled to reach the middle and lower classes of society more effectually than had been done in England for centuries before. Like the begging friar of old times, but with even greater intensity of purpose, these lay emissaries could penetrate where preacher and clergyman could not come. The mine, the quarry, the workshop, the warehouse became each a small centre whence radiated the influence of constant religious precept, and, what is still more potent, religious example. When a power like this spread itself throughout the land can we wonder that great results followed its diffusion ?
It may perhaps be urged that by the adoption of lay preaching, the founder of the Wesleyan Society broke away from that allegiance which he professed toward the Church of England. But it must ever be borne in mind that he was driven to use the means which came first to his hand. There was a large harvest to reap, and some one has well said of him he saw no chance of gathering any great part of it, unless he adopted the motto, “ Christianity first and Law afterwards." To his employment of lay-agency in any other form no exception will in our day be taken. He found the need before him of penetrating farther than the existing Church machinery could reach, and he therefore organized extensions
thereof. For many of the institutions which he in time introduced among his adherents, warrant can be found in the writings of the early Fathers and for some things even in the Scriptures themselves.
Such a sudden outburst of energy was viewed by the slumbering Church of the time with feelings of dread and dislike. These men met, indeed, with kind reception and even encouragement from some of the Bishops and Clergy, yet in the eyes of the Church at large, and of the older dissenters also, their name began to be cast out as evil. They were tested to the utmost of what spirit they were. To nerve men to pass through all the trials they underwent it needs the stimulus of some high and mighty purpose. It was long the fashion to say that the strangeness of field-preaching caused the spread of Wesleyanism, and that the love of popularity had much to do with the activity of these men. Let those who may be tempted to think so read of the journeyings, the preaching early and late, the ill-treatment received over and over again from the mob, the arrests, the false accusations to which they were subjected, and then, setting against these trials a popularity greatest among the lower classes, while it was accompanied with estrangement from those to whom most of their earliest sympathies turned, let them say whether any petty desire for such a popularity would induce them to lead a life like this.
My sketch would not be as full as it ought to be, nor answer the purpose for which I intend it, did it not notice the errors into which on some points these men fell. Many of them, and notably their leader, seem to have developed what we cannot but term a presumption in holy things. It was no unusual thing for to decide in his own mind on some arbitrary test of what he should do or decline to do, and be guided by the result. He seemed to expect the Almighty to be ready to reveal His will on the most trivial occasions. Of a like character is the language he uses in speaking of immediate answers to prayer. Nothing was too insignificant for him to make a subject of prayer, and look for an immediate response. Bodily fatigue, or a change in the weather is a sufficient warrant for an appeal to the power of the Almighty. Nothing is too little for him to expect to be heard in, and nothing more probable to his mind than that God should vouchsafe an instant miracle for his comfort or satisfaction. Of a kindred nature was the stress he laid on the manifestation when he preached of bodily agitation among his hearers. Towards the end of his life, indeed, he seems to have in some degree altered his opinion about the value of such excitement, but for a long period encouragement was given to the exhibition of it both by himself and his followers. Nor is the evil effect of such encouragement obliterated at this day. It has been the cause of much scandal and has given rise to much hypocrisy.
These errors and others of a similar kind were the results of a success which must ever fill us with wonder. We may pardon a great deal in those who were the agents thereof. They were working for God, and were permitted to see great fruits of their labours. We must admit that this, which we have called presumption, was a grievous fault in them, but their fault has some palliation, for it was no more than human that, seeing how their exertions were blessed, they should grow to consider themselves constantly the objects of a special Providence.
It was long before the pious fervour which these men excited could awaken the energies of the other religious bodies. In the end however