« 前へ次へ »
' Lady Margaret Hastings was the first who received the truth as it is in Jesus; and the change effected by the power of the Holy Spirit on her heart, soon became visible to all. Considering the obligations she was under to the sovereign grace of God, she felt herself called upon to seek the salvation of her fellow-creatures, and the promotion of their best and eternal interests. Next to her own soul, the salvation of her own family and friends became her care. She exhorted them faithfully and affectionately, one by one, to flee from the wrath to come;' and the Lord was pleased to make her the honored instrument of Lady Huntingdon's conversion, as well as of many others of her family.
Conversing with Lady Margaret one day on this subject, Lady Huntingdon was exceedingly struck with a sentiment she uttered, • that since she had known and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for life and salvation, she had been as happy as an angel.' To any such sensation of happiness, Lady Huntingdon felt that she was, as yet, an utter stranger. The more she examined herself, and considered the subject, the more she was convinced of the momentous truth. This conviction caused many reflections to arise in her mind ; and beginning also to see her sinfulness and guilt, and the entire corruption and de. pravity of her whole nature, her hope of being able to reconcile herself to God by her own works and deservings, began gradually to die away. She sought, however, by the most rigorous austerities, to conquer her evil nature, and dispel the distressing thoughts which continually engrossed her mind. But, alas ! the more she strove, the more she saw and felt that all her thoughts, words, and works, however specious before men, were utterly sinful before Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
• A dangerous illness having, soon after, brought her to the brink of the grave, the fear of death fell terribly upon her, and her conscience was greatly distressed. She now perceived that she had beguiled herself with prospects of a visionary nature; was entirely blinded to her own real character ; had long placed her happiness in mere chimeras, and grounded her vain hopes upon imaginary foundations. It was to no purpose that she reminded herself of the morality of her conduct ; in vain did she recollect the many encomiums that had been passed upon her early piety and virtue. Her best righteousness now appeared to be but filthy rags,' which, so far from justifying her before God, increased her condemnation. The remorse which before attended her conscience, on account of sin, respected only the outward actions of her life ; but now she saw her heart was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked—that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God ;' and that, the thoughts of man's heart are only evil, and that continually. When upon the point of perishing, in her own apprehension, the words of Lady Margaret returned strongly to her recollection, and she felt an earnest desire, renouncing every other hope, to cast herself wholly upon Christ for life and salvation. From her bed, she lifted up her heart to the Saviour, with this important prayer, and immediately all her distress and fears were removed, and she was filled with peace and joy in believing.
* Now the day began to dawn. Jesus the Sun of righteousness arose, and burst in meridian splendour on her benighted soul. The scales fell from her eyes, and opened a passage for the light of life which sprang in, and death and darkness fled before it. Viewing herself as a brand plucked from the burning, she could not but stand astonished at the mighty power of that grace which saved her from eternal destruction just when she stood upon its very brink, and raised her from the gates of hell to the confines of heaven ; and the depths from which she was raised, made the heights which she had reached only the more amazing ; she felt the rock beneath her, and from that secure position looked with astonishment, downward, to that horrible pit from which she was so mercifully delivered—and upwards, in ec. stacy, to that glory to which she should be raised. The sorrow of the world, which worketh death,' was now exchanged for that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto life; and joy unspeakable, and full of glory,' succeeded that bitterness that comes of the conviction of sin ; she enjoyed, already, a delightful foretaste of heaven. Her disorder from that moment took a favorable turn; she was restored to perfect health, and what was better, to newness of life. She determined thenceforward to present herself to God, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which she was now convinced was her reasonable service.'
-Vol. I. pp. 14, 15.
The subsequent life of the countess was a beautiful exemplification of the reality and nature of the change thus effected, and throws back in triumph, the sneer with which profane wits and mere religious formalists, are accustomed to regard such facts. But we must not indulge in reflections. The change wrought in her views was soon known throughout her circle, and persons were not wanting, under the guise of friendship,' to urge the earl to interpose his authority.
His lordship, however, though differing from her ladyship's views of religion, spurned the unworthy counsel, and continued to manifest towards her the same respect and affection. Recourse, however, was had to one of the bishops of the Church, and the following is a brief account of the interview which took place.
• His lordship was too generous to yield to such insidious advice, but he recommended her to converse with Bishop Benson, who had been his tutor, and with this request she readily complied. The bishop was accordingly sent for, and he attempted to convince her ladyship of the unnecessary strictness of her sentiments and conduct. But she pressed him so hard with scripture, brought so many arguments from the Articles and Homilies, and so plainly and faithfully urged upon him the awful responsibility of his station under the Great Head of the Church, that his temper was ruffled, and he rose up in haste to depart, bitterly lamenting that he had ever laid his hands upon George Whitefield, to whom he attributed the change wrought in her ladyship. “ My lord, said the countess, ‘mark my words : when you are on your
dying bed, that will be one of the few ordinations you will reflect upon with complacence. The bishop's conduct at that solemn season veri. fied her prediction : for when near his death, he sent ten guineas to Mr. Whitefield, as a token of regard and veneration, and begged to be remembered by him in his prayers !'* -Ib. p. 18.
The countess at once avowed and acted on her convictions of religious duty. She had no reserve in this matter, but repaired to the places where Mr. Whitefield and other Methodists preached, and derived from their ministrations both instruction and pleasure. She promptly entered, with characteristic yet welltempered zeal, on that course of personal service to which religion invites its disciples; and as her previous attendance at Court, and the interest she had taken in the politics of the day, had associated her with a large circle of the chief nobility of the land, she now sought to render her intimacies subservient to the propagation of religious truth. Amongst other persons whom she invited to attend the preaching of the Methodists, was the celebrated Duchess of Marlborough, now far advanced in years, in open collision with her own children, and neglected, and, for the most part, hated by all. Two short letters from this remarkable woman are given, which are so characteristic, and at the same time, present her under an aspect so seldom contemplated, that we cannot refrain from transcribing them.
My dear Lady Huntingdon is always so very good to me, and I really do feel so very sensibly all your kindness and attention, that I must accept your very obliging invitation to accompany you to hear Mr. Whitefield, though I am still suffering from the effects of a severe cold. Your concern for my improvement in religious knowledge is very obliging, and I do hope that I shall be the better for all your excellent
* In connexion with this anecdote, an instance of Dr. Southey's partiality —to use no stronger term—is pointed out by the author, for which we must make room. It is as follows. Dr. Southey has, with a partiality little to his credit, related the former, but suppressed the latter portion of this anecdotc, and has prostituted his talents in order to heap sarcasın, ridicule, and contempt upon the countess. Her religious feeling, he insinuates, originated in a ' decided insanity in her family !'--an assertion as wicked as it is falseand tells us that all the arguments of Bishop Benson 'were ineffectual to bring her to a saner sense of devotion. In the next edition of his caricature of Mr. Wesley, it would be candour to notice the bishop's dying gift to Mr. Whitefield—İnis dying professions of regard for Mr. Whitefield-and his dying request for Mr. Whitefield's prayers; a luminous commentary on the almost prophetic language of Lady Huntingdon, and a decisive reproof to the Poor Laureate's fiction of hereditary insanity, which indeed is sufficiently disproved by her every act, her every letter, and her every word. How much it is to be deplored that so noble an intellect, capable of such varied and splendid achievements, should suffer itself to be so tampered with, and misled, by the prejudices and passions of the partizan.
advice. God knows we all need mending, and none more than myself. I have lived to see great changes in the world—have acted a conspicuous part myself—and now hope, in my old days, to obtain mercy from God, as I never expect any at the hands of my fellow creatures. The Duchess of Ancaster, Lady Townshend, and Lady Cobham, were exceedingly pleased with many observations in Mr. Whitefield's sermon at St. Sepulchre's Church, which has made me lament ever since that I did not bear it, as it might have been the means of doing me some good- for good, alas! I DO WANT: but where among the corrupt sons and daughters of Adam am I to find it? Your ladyship must direct me. You are all goodness and kindness, and I often wish I had a portion of it. Women of wit, beauty, and quality, cannot hear too many humiliating truths—they shock our pride. But we must diewe must converse with earth and worms ! Pray do me the favor to present my humble services to your excel
A more amiable man I do not know than Lord Huntingdon. And believe me, my dear madam, * Your most faithful and most humble Servant,
Your letter, my dear Madam, was very acceptable. Many thanks to Lady Fanny for her good wishes. Any communications from her and my dear good Lady Huntingdon, are always welcome, and always in every particular to my satisfaction. I have no comfort in my own family, therefore must look for that pleasure and gratification which others can impart. I hope you will shortly come and see me, and give me more of your company than I have had latterly. In truth, I always feel more happy and more contented after an hour's conversation with you, than I do after a whole week's round of amusement. When alone, my reflections and recollections almost kill me, and I am forced to fly to the society of those I detest and abhor. Now there is Lady Frances Saunderson's great rout to-morrow night-all the world will be there, and I must go. I do hate that woman as much as I do hate a physician; but I must go, if for no other purpose than to mortify and spite her. This is very wicked, I know, but I confess all my little peccadillos to you, for I know your goodness will lead you to be mild and forgiving, and perhaps my wicked heart may gain some good from you in the end.
Make my kindest respects to Lord Huntingdon. Lady Fanny has my best wishes for the success of her attack on that crooked perverse little wretch at Twickenham. Assure yourself, my dear good Madam, that I am your most faithful and most obliged humble servant,'
-Ib. pp. 25, 26.
The rise of Methodism is now matter of history, and the facts connected with it are well known. The agents chiefly concerned in its origination, were men of fervent minds, whose hearts had been renewed by divine grace. Their course was as simple as
their views were upright, and had its basis in a deep sense of the ignorance, slothfulness, and carnality of the professing church. At the commencement of their labors, nothing was further from their thoughts than the consolidation of a body, in practical dissent from the Established Church. Like Luther, they sought the reformation, not the overthrow of the existing system, and would at once have relinquished their enterprize had they perceived its ultimate tendencies. But the good providence of God gradually opened their way, and forced them, notwithstanding their prejudices as Churchmen, to the daily violation of ecclesiastical discipline. Their convictions of duty strengthened as difficulties multiplied around them, so that what at first would have terrified, was ultimately encountered as a necessary homage to religious truth. They were frequently reduced to a dilemma, involving painful and most protracted struggles, but the steps already taken, committed them to others, and these again led on by an unavoidable sequence, to an organization which betokened a permanent separation from the hierarchy. Both Whitefield and Wesley struggled hard against this tendency, but their efforts were unavailing. Concession after concession was wrung from them, and the farther they proceeded, the stronger became their conviction of the propriety of what they had previously done.
One of the points at which they long stumbled was the employment of lay agency, and in this the acute and unfettered mind of Lady Huntingdon took the lead. Mr. Maxfield having been left by Mr. Wesley to conduct the prayer-meetings of his flock in London, was encouraged by her ladyship to expound the Scriptures to the people. • The first time I made him expound,' she remarks in a letter to Mr. Wesley, "expecting little from him, I “sat over against him, and thought what a power of God must be with him, to make me give attention to him. But before he had gone over one-fifth part, any one that had seen me would have thought I had been made of wood or stone; so quite immoveable • I both felt and looked. His power in prayer is quite extraor
dinary. To deal plainly, I could either talk or write for an • hour about him.' From expounding to preaching was an easy step, and the Lord so blessed his word, that many were not only
deeply awakened and brought to repentance, but were also made ' happy in a consciousness of pardon.' John Wesley retained too much of the state priest to regard such proceedings with complacency. Complaints were forwarded to him by many of his friends, who urged his immediate return to London. With this request he complied. His mother, 'a woman of deep piety,
, strong sense, and sound judgment in the things of God, perceiving, on his arrival, that he was discomposed, inquired the cause, to whom he warmly replied, • Thomas Maxfield has turned preacher, I find.' The aged saint looking seriously at her son,