The eighteenth century was a century mostly of religious calm, but of clouds of thick darkness overspreading the whole face of civilization, turning the risen day into the semblance of dead night--the darkness originating in England and extending to America, but becoming denser on the continent of Europe, and densest in France; these frightful clouds being occasioned by the thick and poisonous vapors arising from a vast number of the earthy, sickly wild flickering tapers and torches of human philosophy and human religion kindled by the wisdom of this world; but, rifting these clouds, the powerful and glorious beams of the Sun of righteousness irradiated some favored spots in Germany, and many more in the British Isles and in the British North American Colonies, known, in the latter quarter of the century, after a seven years' struggle for independence, as the United States of America; while in wretched France the darkness deepened into the lurid blackness of Tophet, and the deification of human reason, in the person of a harlot, culminated in a Reign of Terror unparalleled in the annals of human history.
During the eighteenth century, the low Arminianism and low morality of the latter part of the seventeenth century produced, largely in Europe and somewhat in America, the legitimate fruits of latitudinarianism, indifference, Arianism, Plagiarism, deism, naturalism, philosophism, illuminism, perfectionism, universalism, infidelity, aud materialism; and the seeds of these evils showed, especially in Europe, their ungodly origin and nature in the production of an extraordinary and terrible crop of worldliness, selfishness, avarice, venality, mild speculation, lotteries, gambling, intemperance, profligacy, political corruption, robberies, murders, and almost social chaos.('For a particular and unimpeachable confirmation of the above remark. see W. E. H. Lecky's "England in the Eighteenth Century, " vol. i.. latter part of the second chapter, and the third and fourth chapters.)
The notorious, ignorant, shallow, conceited, ambitious, avaricious and licentious infidel, Voltaire, who was the echo of the drunken English debauchee, Bolingbroke, and the influential companion of the German King, Frederick "the Great," was the leader of the public opinion of the eighteenth century. The disguised unbelief of the latter part of the seventeenth century became the blatant infidelity of the eighteenth century, denying the possibility and credibility of miracles and of a, Divine revelation and of everything supernatural, declaring all religion either merely natural or a nullity, find idolizing human reason and human morality or human benevolence. The infidelity of eighteenth century appeared first as deism in Protestant England and America, and afterwards as historical and ethical rationalism in Protestant Germany, and as materialistic atheism in irreligious, ecclesiastically and politically oppressed Roman Catholic France. The lurid and ghastly horrors of the French Revolution should, as a lofty and terrific beacon light, forever warn the world of the legitimate effects of the substitution of human reason and "free-thinking" for the religion of the Bible, or for even for a nominal adherence to the religion of the Bible. Immanuel Kant, of Germany (1724-1804), the greatest of all modern mental philosophers, is well called by Mr. John Cairns "the highest summit of rationalism." He idealized all the positive truths of Christianity, and reduced it to a perfect but were system of morality; and, while inconsistently admitting, beyond all other philosophers, the doctrine of human depravity taught in the third chapter of Genesis, and of the necessity of regeneration taught in the -third chapter of John, he, like all his rationalizing brethren, made this regeneration, not the work of God's Spirit, but the work of man's own will and free agency. He, like them, fondly quoted one-half of the Apostle's language-" Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," but carefully omitted the concluding remark of the Apostle, "For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philip. ii. 12, 13). Like many of his rationalizing followers in the nineteenth century, Kant "sees the progress of the kingdom of God in a kind of euthanasia (easy death) and ultimate disappearance of historical Christianity!" (The ablest books written in the eighteenth century against infidelity were Joseph Butler's "Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature," acknowledged by even John Stuart Mill to prove conclusively that the Christian religion is open to no objections, either moral intellectual which do not apply at least equally to the common theory of Deism; Nathaniel Lardner's "Credibility of the Gospel History;" William Pale's "Natural Theology" and "Horae Paulinae:" and Richard Watson's "Apology for Christianity" addressed to Edward Gibbon and "Apology for the Bible" addressed to Thomas Paine (the term "Apology" in these last two titles having its old meaning of Defense or Vindication).
The characteristics of the eighteenth century were a dead formalism, not only in the Catholic, but also, more or less, in all-the Protestant communions; the general discontinuance of doctrinal, experimental, spiritual and extemporaneous preaching, and the substitution, in its place, of cold, lifeless, written moral essays ( ''Never," says the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge--"Never were such elegant moral sermons preached, and never had immorality reached so high a point." "Moral essays," says Mr. Lecky, "were utterly incapable of transforming the character and arresting and reclaiming the thoroughly depraved.") read in the pulpit; the unconverted state. not only of most of the private members, but; also of most of the ministers of nearly all denominations; the immersion of the "clergy" in the gayeties [gaieties] and vanities of the world; the intolerable intrigues and corruptions of the Jesuits, and their almost total extermination from China, their overthrow in Paraguay, their expulsion from Portugal, France, Spain, Naples, Malta and Parma, and the suppression of their order by Pope Clement XIV. in 1773, he dying the next year by poison supposed to have been administered by them; the occasional persecution of Protestants in Catholic countries, and of dissenters in England and America, but the general prevalence of religious toleration occasioned by religious indifference, providence thus overruling evil for good, and establishing the original New Testament and Baptist principle of soul-liberty or freedom of conscience, more extensively than ever before in the world, and especially in the United States; the Particular or Predestinarian Baptist ministers, both in England and America, in this undoctrinal, indifferent, Arminian (The Methodist writer, Richard Watson, the prince of Arminians, in his "Observations on Southey's Life of Wesley," remarks of this age: "There was something of ultra-Calvinism, and much of frigid, unevangelical Arminianism.'',) Pelagian, corrupt, antichristian age, laying the axe at the root of the tree of human pride and corruption, and insisting upon the great radical reformatory Bible principles of total depravity, personal election, particular redemption, effectual calling and final perseverance--these Divine and eternal truths being stigmatized as "Hyper-Calvinism " and "Antinomianism" by those who erred because not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God; the publication, in 1784, of "The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation," by Andrew Fuller, of England, who may almost be considered the founder of the New School or so-called "Missionary" Baptists; and who in this work modernized and moderated Calvinism by maintaining a general atonement with special application, and consequently urging that the gospel should be offered freely and indiscriminately to all men, whether they had ears to hear or hearts to receive it or not,--this work involving him in a bitter controversy of nearly twenty years with his brethren, and resulting in the conversion of most of them to his views; many of the General or Arminian Baptists degenerating into Arianism and infidelity, and some of them being converted to the scriptural views of the Strict Particular Baptists; the success of pietism, under Spener and Francke, in Germany, containing, as it did, much legalism, but also some highly important evangelical truths, such as the indispensable necessity of a spiritual birth, and of the religion of the heart and life; the origin, in Germany, under Zinzendorf, and the most extensive spread over the world, by schools and zealous, self-denying missions, costing but little money (the first Protestant missions not undertaken in connection with the planting of colonies), of a new Moravianism, characterized at first by many gross excesses, but emphasizing the importance of a personal, vital, inward experience of religion, making the gospel, the grace and love and perfection of Christ, so prominent, tithe almost entire exclusion of the law, as to be accused of Antinomianism; the great religious awakening, in the British North American Colonies, under the fervent preaching, first, in 1734, of the intensely predestinarian Congregationalist, Jonathan Edwards, and then, in 1740 and afterwards, of the strongly Calvinistic Methodist, George Whitefield--the extraordinary spiritual blessings of their ministry permeating all the religious denominations, particularly the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians and the Baptists, in all the colonies, Edwards, the greatest theologian of America, being especially careful to promote and restore Bible purity of doctrine, and exercising a, great influence on Whitefield in this regard; the rise and rapid multiplication, in the British Isles and the United States, of Methodist Societies, under the preaching of Whitefield and the Wesleys, Coke and Asbury and others, Whitefield being Calvinistic and the Wesleys Arminian--all the true success of this extensive movement being due to the Holy Spirit's blessing the highly important, but generally forgotten, spiritual and evangelical truths fervently proclaimed by the first Methodist preachers, "the utter depravity of human nature, the lost condition of every man who is born into the world, the vicarious atonement of Christ, the necessity to salvation of a new birth, of living, sanctifying, justifying faith, of the constant and sustaining action of the Divine Spirit upon the believer's soul"--and the false success of the movement being due to the extreme Arminianism of the Wesleys, to an unequalled system of religious terrorism and the consequent ingathering of a large unconverted membership, to the attachment of the Wesleys to the Anglican Establishment, the retaining of infant baptism, and to an at first imperial and then oligarchical unscriptural organization.
The eighteenth was also the century of the rise of Swedenborgianism, or the so-called "New Jerusalem Church," established by Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swede (1688-1772), who professed to have been divinely inspired from 1743, and to have lived the remainder of his life in inter-course with the world of spirits, and to have seen the last General Judgment of the world in 1757,--the second coming of Christ and the setting up of the New Dispensation, the New Jerusalem Church, then taking place. He professed to preach a new gospel, which was not a gospel; he rejected or rationalized away (he called it spiritualizing) nearly all the fundamental principles of Christianity, as commonly understood, denying the tripersonality of God and the personality of the Devil, the vicariousness or reality of the atonement, the resurrection of the body, the future general judgment, and the destruction of the world; he claimed to understand the internal sense of the Scriptures better than the Apostles did; he taught, like Mohammed, that Heaven is material, and that marriage will be continued there, notwithstanding the declaration of Christ to the contrary (Matthew xxii. 30). He also taught that all religions, even those of the heathens, contain the essence of saving truth; that man's will is free; that God loves all alike, and gives Himself equally to all, but all do not receive Him; and the system of salvation inculcated by Swedenborg went beyond the last verge of Arminianism, and plunged into the depths of Pelagian darkness. It is mournful that this theosophic mysticism is gaining much ground, in various quarters, in the nineteenth century.
During the eighteenth century also arose the Shakers, a kind of off-shoot from the Quakers, originating in England, but emigrating and now confined to the Northern United States. These people worship Ann Lee (1736-1784), a very poor, uneducated Englishwoman, who married when very young, and lost four children in their infancy, and who became opposed to marriage, and left her husband, the latter then marrying another woman. Ann professed to be the manifestation or the second appearing of Christ in His glory; and she taught her followers celibacy (called by Paul a "doctrine of devils," Tim. iv. 1-3) and community of goods. The Shakers are mostly farmers, living together and having; all things in common, and worshipping their "Eternal Mother" with measured dance and song. They are spiritualists, and reject vicarious atonement, the resurrection of the body, a future general judgment, and predestination and election. Like the Swedenborgians, they are not only Arminians, but thorough-going Pelagians, maintaining that the will is free; that Heaven is opened by man's good deeds, and hell by his evil deeds; and that man will have a chance of saving himself, not only before, but after death. They are said now (1886) to number about five thousand members, in seventeen communities, and to be worth about ten million dollars, The sect called Glassites, in Scotland (from John Glass, 1695-1773), and Sandemanians, in England and America (from Glass's son-in-law Robert Sandeman, 1718-1771), sprang from the Presbyterians in the eighteenth century, advocating the independency, and voluntary support of churches, and that "faith is a bare belief of the bare truth;" though both Glass and Sandeman, with at least their immediate adherents, regarded faith as the fruit of Divine grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. They at first observed feet-washing, but have now discontinued it. Some of their peculiarities are weekly love-feasts, the kiss of charity, abstinence from blood and things strangled, plurality of Elders in every church, prohibition of games of chance and of college training, and an adherence to the most literal interpretation of Scripture. They have decreased in the nineteenth century, and now number less than 2,000 members.
Modern Protestant Missions originated in the eighteenth century. The English "Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts," established in 1701, devoted itself to the diligent dissemination of High-Church Episcopalianism. The Danish Government, under the influence of the German Pietist, A. H. Francke, sent out a few missionaries to India in 1705, to Lapland in 1716, and to Greenland In 1721. The Moravian Zinzendorf sent out from 1732 to 1750 "more missionaries than the combined Protestant Church in two hundred years--illiterate laymen, who were enjoined to practice rigid economy, labor with their own hands, use only spiritual means, and aim at the conversion of individuals." Thomas Coke, John Wesley's "right-hand," " the embodiment of Methodist Missionism," established in 1786 a mission among the Negroes in the West Indies. "The independent Protestant Missionary Societies formed in this century may be regarded as a substitute for the Orders of the Roman Church," says the able and accurate Schaff-Herzog Catholic Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge. The "Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel amongst the Heathen" was formed at Kettering, England, October 2d, 1792, under the influence of Andrew Fuller, William Carey, and others, and operated in India. The "London Missionary Society" was formed in 1795, soon passed under the control of the Independents, and began work in the South Sea Islands and South Africa. The "Society for Missions to Africa, and the East" was formed in 1799 by Episcopalians.
The modern system of Sunday Schools originated in the eighteenth century. The patriarchs, by Divine direction, taught religious truths to their own children. The prophets gave religious instruction to all, both old and young, who were prepared to receive it. Ezra and his assistants "read to all who could hear with understanding in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (Neh. viii.). After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews established synagogues, and religious schools in connection with them, in almost every town in Palestine. In the second century of the Christian era, Catechetical schools were established in connection with many churches to give religious instruction to the young and ignorant; and these schools were especially flourishing in the fourth and fifth centuries. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic ''Church" being engrossed with the wholesale "conversion" of nations by the sword, it is said that catechetical instruction was given by the so-called "heretics," the Cathari, Waldenses, Wycliffites, Bohemian Brethren, etc. In the sixteenth century the Reformers, to some extent, instituted catechetical instruction on Sundays. But Robert Raikes, of Gloucester, England, is generally admitted to have been the founder of modern Sunday Schools. In 1781 he hired teachers to instruct some poor children in Gloucester in reading and in the catechism on Sunday. His example was extensively imitated in the British Isles and the United States; and, by the end of the eighteenth century, the instruction had almost universally become gratuitous, and was said to be far superior in quality to what it was before, because now springing from pure benevolence. It is claimed by the Methodists that John Wesley, first in 1784, suggested that the instruction should be gratuitous, and also expressed the hope that Sunday Schools would become "nurseries for Christians" (See the Article on Sunday Schools in McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. x., p. 21). The writer of the Article just mentioned declares that, "within the last fifty years Sunday Schools have come to be regarded as an essential branch of church action, not merely in England and America, but throughout the Protestant world whether in home or mission fields;" and he intimates, at the conclusion of his Article, that, in the Sunday School, he sees "the problem of the conversion of the world in process of solution." It thus appears that, for nearly 1,800 years of the Christian era, the church was destitute of an " essential" requisite in its work, and the problem of the conversion of the world had not begun to be solved!
The extermination of the Jesuits from China was due to the success of their jealous brethren, the Dominicans, in finally prevailing on the pope to compel the Jesuits to abandon, in that country, their heathen customs and accommodations this step provoking the Chinese to destroy hundreds of thousands of them. The rationalistic Lutheran theologians (Johann Lorenz von Mosheim, the eloquent and learned Lutheran preacher and church historian, was born about 1694, and died 1755. "His noble character," says Hagenbach. "is just as lovely as his learning was thorough and comprehensive.",) Ernesti, Michaelis and Semler, declared that the Bible was to be explained and interpreted just like any other book; vainly substituted their own ideas for the thoughts of the inspired writers; set aside the great doctrinal truths of revelation as rhetorical types and bold metaphors, the Asiatic language of' emotion and imagination, and not the modern European language of strict scientific accuracy; distilled away the positive facts of Christianity in pretending to get at its essence; and founded schools of thought which have filled almost all the professors' chairs and pulpits in Protestant Germany during the nineteenth century.
The Anglican Establishment showed but few signs of spiritual life during the eighteenth century; it was nearly buried under the rubbish of formalism, skepticism and corruption. "In America it was a sickly exotic, striking no deep roots into the soil, and it almost withered away when scorched by the fervent heat of the Revolutionary epoch. Not only was it then regarded as disloyal to the Colonies, but it had long been looked upon as not promotive of piety." In the latter part of the eighteenth century, a very limited but genuine revival of spiritual life was manifested in the Anglican communion in the true conversions and godly lives and labors of William Romaine (1714-1793), whose sermon on "The Lord our Righteousness" excluded him forever afterwards from the pulpit of Oxford University, and who wrote three admirable works called "The Life of Faith," "The Walk of Faith," and "The Triumph of Faith;" of A. M. Toplady (1740-1778), who edited "The Gospel Magazine," combated the Arminianism of John Wesley, maintained the doctrinal Calvinism of the "Church of England," and published a volume of Psalms and Hymns, among which were his own excellent compositions, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me; Let me hide myself in Thee," "When languor and disease invade this trembling house of clay" "Prepare gracious God" and "Your harps, ye trembling saints, down from the willows take;" of John Newton (1725-1807), who was converted from infidelity and profligacy, and became curate of Olney in Buckinghamshire, was an able minister of the New Testament, and wrote charming spiritual letters, and published the "Olney Hymns," many of which were written by himself, among these being, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound," " In evil long I took delight," "Sweet was the time when first I felt," "Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat," "Come, my soul, thy suit prepare," "'Tis a point I long to know," "Mercy, O thou son of David," "Savior, visit Thy plantation "How tedious and tasteless the hours," " How sweet the name of Jesus sounds," and "Glorious things of thee are spoken;" of William Cowper (1731-1800), the best of English letter-writers. and the gentlest and purest of English poets, who was for several years of his life, at intervals, melancholic and insane but who had a profound religious experience, and who wrote sixty-eight of Newton's 280 Olney Hymns, including, "I thirst, but not as once I did," "God moves in a mysterious way," "The Spirit breathes upon the word," "'Tis my happiness below," "Sometimes a light surprises," "Hark, my soul, it is the Lord," "When darkness long has veiled my mind," "O for a closer walk with God," "The Lord will happiness Divine," " God of my life, to Thee I call," "Far from the world, O Lord, I flee," "There is a fountain filled with blood" and "Grace, triumphant in the throne;" of Joseph Milner (1744-1791) and Isaac Milner (1751-1820), who were brothers, and authors of an evangelical church history; of the eccentric, able and pious brothers, Richard Hill (1733-1808) and Rowland Hill (1744-1833); and of Thomas Scott (1747-1821), who is considered the expiring defender of Calvinism in the " Church of England," who wrote an account of his own experience in the "Force of Truth," and excellent Notes on Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and whose " Family Bible, with Notes," has probably been read more widely than any other. The marginal references to parallel passages in Scott's Bible are exceedingly copious and valuable. My father, Elder C. B. Hassell, owned, consulted and esteemed this work: and while under deep exercise of soul I was reading Scott's Practical Observations on verses seventeen to thirty in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, I was blessed with the first believing, melting and adoring view of the Lord Jesus Christ suffering on the cross and atoning for my sins. Though twenty-three years ago, I being then twenty-one years of age. I remember the time and place as distinctly as if the event had occurred but yesterday. It was Monday afternoon, August 17th, 1863 while I was alone in my own bedroom in my father's house. The precious were blessed words thus blessed of God to me were the following: "We cannot wholly pass over this narrative of our Redeemer's crucifixion without again reflecting for a moment on the complicated cruelties and indignities to which He was exposed. and not for any fault of His own, nay; directly contrary to His deservings. But He was wounded and scourged, that we might be healed: He was arrayed with scorn in the purple robe that He might procure for us sinners the robe of righteousness and salvation. He was crowned with thorns, that we might be crowned with honor and immortality; He stood speechless, that we might have an all-prevailing plea: He Endured torture, that we might have a strong consolation; He thirsted. that we might drink of the waters of life: He bore the wrath of the Father that we might enjoy His favor; He was numbered with transgressors, that we might be made equal to angels; He died, that we might live forever! Let us then often retire to survey this scene, and to admire His immeasurable love; that we may learn to mourn for sin and hate it, and rejoice in our obligations to the Redeemer; and we may be constrained by love to live no longer to ourselves. but to Him who died for us and rose again." I felt that the language of Zechariah xii. 10 was fuIfilled in me: and I wished to weep forever shed an ocean of tears for my wretched sins that had slain the Lord of life and glory. From the subsequent and permanent effects of this exercise, I was led to believe that it was the gracious work of the Spirit of God.
Mr. Scott was, in early life, a poor farm-laborer, and had scarcely any educational advantages; yet his religious writings were sold (mostly in America) even during his life to the value of more than a million dollars, although they were sold at about the cost of publication. He was a moderate Pedobaptist and a moderate Calvinist, but a spiritual-minded, reverential, godly, humble and benevolent man. Multitudes of the poor deeply mourned his death, feeling that they had lost a devoted friend. He tenderly relates, in his autobiography, the evidences of the genuine conviction and conversion of his little daughter, who died at the age of four years and a half. In the preface to his sermon on Election and Final Perseverance, Mr. Scott remarks: "Perhaps speculating Antinomians abound most among professed Calvinists; but Antinomians, whose sentiments influence their practice, are innumerable among Arminians. Does the reader doubt this? Let him ask any of those multitudes who trample on God's commandments, what they think of predestination and election; and he will speedily be convinced that it is undeniably true; for all these, in various ways, take occasion from the mercy of God to encourage themselves in impenitent wickedness." At the close of this sermon occur the following observations: "And now in applying the subject I would observe that, while numbers argue with the greatest vehemence against the points in question. and groundlessly charge them with implying the most dishonorable thoughts of God, and tending to the most pernicious consequences others are ready to say in extravagant zeal, to any one of greater moderation, 'If you really believe these doctrines. why do you preach them so sparingly cautiously and practically? I would desire such a man carefully to study even St. Paul's Epistles, and to answer the objection himself. Perhaps he may find that there is not a less proportion on such subjects in our sermons and publications than in his writings; and that he as carefully guards them from abuse, and connects them as much with holy practice, as we can do. We generally meet with a few verses in an Epistle upon the doctrines in question; a much larger proportion upon the person. love and sufferings of Christ. and on faith in Him: and whole chapters upon a holy life and conversation; and, if we do not, in like manner, proportion, guard and connect them, hypocrites will abuse them, infidels will despise them, and the weak will be stumbled. Indeed, they are not at all proper subjects to dwell on when we preach to (unconverted) sinners. to prejudiced hearers, or newly-awakened persons: and are seldom if ever found in Scripture explicitly thus addressed: yet a great part of our more public ministry is exercised among such persons. Let it not then be thought carnal policy to adapt our discourses to the occasions and wants of the hearers, while nothing inconsistent with truth is spoken nothing profitable kept back. Our Lord Himself says, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now: and Paul writes to some who were prone to be wise in their own conceits, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat. for hitherto ye were not able to bear it; neither yet are ye now able; and he gives a reason for his conduct, which proves that many in most congregations are not able, namely, the prevalence of strife and contention among them." And, in the last year of his life, he remarked, in a letter to a friend: "Indeed, eager, vehement, speculating Arminianism is most nearly allied to Plagiarism, and the transition is almost imperceptible." Says Mr. Toplady: "I consider that Arminianism is the original of all the pernicious doctrines that are propagated in the world, and Destructionism will close the whole of them."
In the last year of his life Mr. John Wesley (1703-1791) published a letter in which he wrote: "I live and die a member of the Church of England, and no one who regards my judgment or advice will ever separate from it." He designed only to found a "Society" in the Anglican communion; and he declared he wished that the very name of "Methodists" "might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion." He was so staunch an Anglican that he not only wrote a pamphlet against the American cause, but also offered to raise troops for the British government against the Colonies; and all his preachers in America, except Francis Asbury, on the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, fled to England. In the matter of church polity, he conceded that the three orders of Deacons, Priests and Bishops early appeared in the church, but he denied that these three orders are enjoined in Scripture. He considered himself, though ordained only as a "priest" in the "Church of England," a. scriptural "Bishop;" and he ordained Thomas Coke as a superintendent of American Methodists, for the purpose, merely, of recommending his delegate to his followers in America--though "Coke, in his ambition, wished and intended the ceremony to be considered as an ordination to a bishopric." As for an uninterrupted succession of Bishops from the Apostles, Wesley declared that it was a "fable which no man ever did or could prove." Wesley governed his Societies with absolute power; and in 1784, towards the close of his life, he, by his famous "Deed of Declaration," vested similar power in an Annual Conference of a hundred preachers and their successors. He received into his Societies all persons who expressed "a desire to flee from the wrath to come and be saved from their sins." He taught that even the heathens, who do their duty according to their knowledge, are capable of eternal life. and have sometimes enjoyed communion with the spiritual world, instancing Socrates and Marcus Antoninus as examples.
He prepared, especially for his American Societies, his Articles of Religion, at first twenty-four in number, increased to twenty-five by the adoption, in 1804, of the twenty-third Article ("Of the Rulers of the United States of America"), and in 1832 placed beyond the power of the "Church" to "revoke, alter or change" them. These Articles were an abridgment of the "Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England," Wesley omitting the Calvinism of the Thirty-nine Articles, and not inserting his own Arminianism or other peculiar doctrines his design being to provide a broad and liberal platform for all professed Christians to stand upon. He believed in the inspiration both of the Scriptures and of himself, and therefore made the doctrines of his Sermons and his Notes on the New Testament (mostly adapted from Bengel's Gnomon) the legal basis of his Societies. He generally preached briefly and extemporaneously, often selecting a text after he entered the pulpit; but sometimes, on special occasions, he spoke from manuscript. He is said to have traveled 280,000 miles in his preaching tours, and preached, in the fifty years of his itinerant ministry, 42,000 sermons; also to have written, translated or edited 200 religious works, and for the latter to have received a hundred thousand dollars, which, however, with almost all his other receipts, he gave away in charities, so that he died poor. He left, in his Societies at his death, 541 itinerant preachers, and 135,000 members. "In general," says the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Wesleyan theology is to be described as a system of evangelical Arminianism. In particular, Wesleyan ministers insist on the doctrines of original sin, general redemption, repentance, justification by faith, the witness of the Spirit, and Christian perfection" by "the witness of the Spirit" meaning, they say, a sense of sins forgiven, but not necessarily final salvation; and, by "Christian perfection," meaning, not sinlessness, but the perfection of love, which they believe to be attainable in the present life. As Wesley "grew older, cooler and wiser, he modified and softened down his doctrine of Perfection, so as almost to explain it away."
The doctrinal essence of Methodism is thus well stated in the American Cyclopaedia: "Methodism holds that the salvation of each human being depends solely on his own free action in respect to the enlightening, renewing and sanctifying inworkings of the Holy Spirit (which this system holds to be universal). If, in respect to these inworkings, he holds himself receptively, he will be saved both here and hereafter; but if he closes his heart against these influences of the Spirit, he will continue in death both here and in eternity." Wesley taught that God made man holy, but that man, when he disobeyed the commandment of God, fell into spiritual death, became dead in the spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, his body then becoming corruptible and mortal, and he hastening on to death everlasting-, to the destruction both of body and soul, in the fire never to be quenched. He declared that the fall of man is the very foundation of revealed religion, and that it is a, scriptural, practical, rational, experimental doctrine; and from this utter corruption of man's nature, this death of the soul, he inferred the necessity of a New Birth, and Justification by faith. He declared that Christian or saving faith is not an opinion or any number of opinions, be they ever so true, but is a power wrought by the Almighty in an immortal spirit, inhabiting a house of clay, to see spiritual and eternal things; that faith is the eye of the new-born soul, whereby every true believer seeth Him who is invisible; that it is the ear of the soul, whereby the sinner hears the voice of the Son of God, and lives; the palate of the soul, whereby a believer tastes the good word and the powers of the world to come; the feeling of the soul, whereby, through the power of the Highest overshadowing him, he perceives the presence of Him in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being, and feels the love of God shed abroad in his heart. Why have not all men this faith? He asks. Because, he replies, no man is able to work it in himself; it is a work of omnipotence. It requires no less power, he says, thus to quicken a dead soul, than to raise a body that lies in the grave. It is, he adds, a new creation; and none can create a soul anew, but He who at first created the Heavens and the earth. You know this to be so by your own experience. Faith is the free gift of God, which He bestows not on those who are worthy of His favor, not on such as are previously holy, and so fit to be crowned with all the blessings of His goodness; but on the ungodly and unholy; on those who, till that hour, were fit only for everlasting destruction; those in whom was no good thing, and whose only plea was, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! No merit, no goodness in man, precedes the forgiving love of God. His pardoning mercy supposes nothing in us but a sense of mere sin and misery; and to all who see and feel and own their wants, and their utter inability to remove them, God freely gives faith, for the sake of Him in whom He is always well pleased. Without faith a man cannot be justified, even though he should have everything else; with faith he cannot but be, justified, though everything else should be wanting. This justifying faith implies not only the personal revelation, the inward evidence of Christianity, but likewise a sure and firm confidence in the individual believer that Christ died for his sins, loved him, and gave His life for him. And at what time so ever a sinner thus believes, God justifieth him. Repentance, indeed, must have been given him before; but that repentance was neither more nor less than a deep sense of the want of all good, and the presence of all evil; and whatever good he hath or doth from that hour when he first believes in God through Christ, faith does not find, but brings. What clear spiritual light Wesley seemed at times to have on these important subjects of the new birth, and faith, and repentance; and yet at other times, when speaking on these same subjects, especially in connection with the doctrine of predestination and election, with what gross spiritual darkness and bitterness is his mind filled! In the Conference of 1771 he said: "Take heed to your doctrine! we have leaned too much toward Calvinism. 1. With regard to man's faithfulness; our Lord Himself taught us to use the expression, and we ought never to be ashamed of it. 2. With regard to working for life; this, also, the Lord has expressly commanded us. Labor, ergazethe, literally, work for the meat that edureth to everlasting life. 3. We have received it as a maxim, that a man is to do nothing in order to justification. Nothing can be more false. Whoever desires to find favor with God should cease from evil, and learn to do well. Whoever repents, should do works meet for repentance. And if this is not in order to find favor, what does he do them for? [Just as though the forgiven penitent had not already found Divine favor, and would not now spontaneously and gratefully work from a new and living principle of love!] Is not this," he adds, "salvation by works? Not by the merit of works, but by works as a condition. What have we then been disputing about for these thirty years? I am afraid, about words. As to merit itself, of which we have been so dreadfully afraid, we are rewarded according to our works, yea, because of our works. How does this differ from for the sake of our works? And how differs this from secundum merita operum, as our works deserve? Can you split this hair? I doubt I cannot." Thus, ignoring the most important and essential fact of revelation, that salvation is entirely of grace, the natural, darkened reason of man reaches the deepest abysses of Pelagian darkness, and makes salvation entirely of works. The wonder is how a sane mind can believe two such utterly contradictory systems. Wesley's bitter opposition to the doctrine of predestination and election is most conspicuous in his sermon on "Free, Grace," a sermon which he decided by lot whether to preach and print or not, and a sermon which should have been entitled, not Free Grace, but Free Will; for, if human language means anything, it makes the salvation of every sinner depend, not on the free grace of God, which Wesley represents to be the same to the lost as to the saved, but on the free will of the sinner, which really carries him to Heaven. The carnal caricaturing and railing at God's eternal truth (grossly misunderstood and misrepresented) exhibited in this so-called sermon, instead of being forever perpetuated in the body of Methodist doctrine, should, as Wesley said of the name of Methodists, be "buried in eternal oblivion." If God be an eternal and unchangeable Being, Wesley's own language already quoted in reference to the spiritual death of all mankind since the fall, and the absolute need of omnipotent power to create the soul anew, and freely give if repentance and faith, necessitates the truth of the doctrine of predestination and election; ("The desideratum," says Mr. Alexander Knox, in his eulogistic "Remarks on the Life and Character of John Wesley"--"The desideratum was a precise distinction between the supposed irresistibility of Divine grace, maintained by Augustine and Calvin, and that effective energy, which is so clearly asserted throughout the New Testament, and so evidently accordant to man's moral exigencies." Now, who will supply this desideratum, and explain the difference between the irresistibility and the efficacy of Diving grace? ) insomuch that the acute S. T. Coleridge "pledges himself to apply every sentence of Wesley's declamation against election to Wesley's own creed," and Mr. Coleridge declares that "the only effective way of dealing with the Predestinarians is by demonstrating the inherent unreality and in consequence of all logic and all logical conclusions "--but this course would be fatal to all rationalistic religion. Even Mr. Daniel Curry, of New York, one of the leaders of American Methodism, admits that Wesley's Treatise on Baptism is a capital instance of blindness; the difficulty arising from a hopeless attempt to reconcile the Anglican catechism and ritual to the New Testament. I do not know of any eminent character in ecclesiastical history more full of doctrinal inconsistences than Mr. John Wesley; and I do not see how any child of God, with a knowledge of these facts, can substitute John Wesley's writings (or any other uninspired writings) for the Bible as his standard of faith and practice.--Charles Wesley (1708-1788), the younger brother of John, was the poet of Methodism, and the most voluminous of all English hymnists. Much of his poetry contains false theology, as "O Horrible Decree," and "A charge to keep I have;" hut some of his hymns are excellent, as "Jesus, lover of my soul," "Blow ye the trumpet, "Come, Thou Almighty King," "Blast be the dear uniting love," and " Come, let us join with saints above."
The Independents, or Congregationalists, rapidly multiplied in England during the eighteenth century; and they became the most numerous and influential denomination in America, being mostly confined to New England. A learned ministry was their pride and boast. In Connecticut, about 1735, a law was passed providing that no man should be entitled to recognition as a clergyman who was not a graduate of Yale or Harvard or of some foreign university. Their ministry had almost unrivaled authority and influence. President Quincy gives a graphic description of the Congregational pastor in Andover, Massachusetts, "issuing from his mansion, at the moment of service, on Sunday morning, with Bible and manuscript sermon under his arm, with his wife leaning on one arm, flanked by his negro man at his side, as his wife was by her negro woman, the little negroes being distributed, according to their sex, by the side of their respective parents; the other members of the family and visitors then following according to age and rank; the whole congregation rising and standing till the minister and his family were seated; and at the close :of the service the whole congregation rising and standing till the minister and his family had left the meeting-house." The clergy were very aristocratic, and also showed a marked predilection for political discussions.-- Isaac Watts (1674-1748), an almost life-long invalid, and never married, was an English Independent minister, and the inventor of English hymns. Besides versifying the Psalms, he wrote a large number of the best hymns in modern hymn books, including, "Eternal Power, whose high abode," "Keep silence, all created things," "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun," "When I survey the wondrous cross," "Come, we who love the Lord," " Sweet is the work, my God, my King," "The Heavens declare Thy glory, Lord," "How beauteous are their feet," "Am I a soldier of the cross," "Our God, our help in ages past," "How pleasant, how divinely fair," "Plunged in a gulf of dark despair," "Join all the glorious names," " My soul, repeat His praise," "Not to ourselves, who are but dust," "Let others boast how strong they be," '' How precious is the book Divine," "The law commands, and makes us know," "Blest is the man, forever bless'd," "Vain are the hopes the sons of men," "Go, worship at Emmanuel's feet," "Behold the sure foundation stone," "From all that dwell below the skies," "He dies, the friend of sinners dies," "Salvation, O the joyful sound," "Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove," "Alas, and did my Savior bleed," "Show pity, Lord, O Lord, forgive," "We are a garden wall'd around," "Lo, what an entertaining sight," "I'm not ashamed to own my Lord,'' "My God, my Life, my love," "When I can read my title clear," "So let our lives and lips express," "Twas on that dark, that doleful night," "Jesus is gone above the skies," "How sweet and awful is the place," "Lord, what is man, poor, feeble man," "Teach me the measure of my days," "There is a land of pure delight," "There is a house not made with hands," "And must this body die," and "That awful day will surely come."--Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), an English Independent minister, was a life-long invalid, a very conscientious man, and the author of "A Family Expositor" (of the New Testament), "The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul," and of 374 hymns, including, "Grace,'tis a charming sound," "Do not I love Thee, O my Lord," "Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve," "O happy day, that fixed my choice," "See Israel's gentle Shepherd stand," "Jesus, I love Thy charming name," "Jesus, I sing Thy wondrous grace," "Savior Divine, we know Thy name," "Dear Savior, we are Thine," "'Tis mine, the covenant of His grace," " What if death my sleep invade," "Salvation, O melodious sound," "Ye little flock, whom Jesus feeds," "My God, what silken cords are Thine," and "While on the verge of life I stand." --Matthew Henry (1662-1714), an English Non-conformist minister, preached through the whole Bible, in expository sermons, more than once; and his Exposition of the Bible, though not scientific or critical, is said to be still the most practical, devotional and spiritual of all English commentaries. "George Whitefield read it through four times, the last time on his knees." Matthew Henry's dying language was: "A life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most pleasant life that any one can live in this world."