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snow. There is not a breeze stirring. The brief twilight is just about to close in night. The wing of the last loitering bee has been folded in its hive. The beetle has droned his sonorous vesper hymn. All is silence, uninterrupted by a sound, except perchance at distant intervals the faint bleat of the goat on the rock high overhead, or the whistle of some shepherd-pipe in the hand of the rustic returning from his labour :
for here the patriarchal days
Mix with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd.' Then on the startled ear that has been learning wisdom at the feet of silence bursts a crack, like the sharp instantaneous report of a rifle, followed and drowned on the moment by a confused rustle, hoarse rumble, and afterwards a heavy thunderous sound of fall and concussion comparable to nothing so much as the cadence of ten thousand woolpacks dropped together upon a boarden floor. The danger is not near, but the vibrations of the air and the almost breathless hush of the evening make it seem so. A mountain of snow and commingled ice has fallen up some gorge that debouches into our valley, and a spray of snowy particles,
, which rises cloudwise into the darkening sky, shows the scene and the nature of the ruinous visitation. The tranquillity of the hour makes the crash more loud, the devastation more appalling. Amid lightning, tempest, and thunder, the chief effect had been lostthe avalanche had been unnoticed—the crown of majesty had fallen unheeded from the monarch mountain's head.
A phenomenon with like effect appealing to a different sense will show itself in other scenes. As the traveller approaches Rome from the south, leaving Naples with its charms and its cheats, its lazzaroni and its liveliness, its exquisite sky and sea, with its execrable superstition, dirt, and frivolity behind ; but notwithstanding all its drawbacks, where
Simply to feel that we breathe, that we live,
Is worth all the joys that life elsewhere can give,' and passing the sounding sea, and the dismal marish, lofty Terracina, and lowly Fondi, at length tops the range that encloses the Campagna southward, what object is it chiefly arrests the eye? In that great ocean of a plain, a hundred miles by fifty, the seeming crater of some gigantic volcano with its sulphur streams and its noisome stenches, like a barque upon the waters floats imperial Rome, the object most conspicuous in the eternal city the wondrous cupola, which speaks her the queen of architectural grandeur, resting like a diadem upon her brow, and bearing no remote resemblance to the tiara of her pontiff ruler ;--nothing besides can
arrest the gaze.
eye takes in in its sweep the mountain line of the northern and eastern horizon, Soracte empurpled by distance with its sister ridges on the right, the silver sea with Ostia on the left. It marks the ruins that here and there stud the plain, the tombs, the towns, the towers, the arches, and the aqueducts, the long reaches of which last stretch in picturesque continuity here and there, like a caravan of mules winding over the sierras of Granada. We stand on the brow of Albano, sheltering ourselves from the midday sun under the shade of some broad planetree, or luxuriant elm, or embowering vine, and see—we cannot but see-the tomb of Pompey, the ruins of Bovillæ, Frattochie, Torre di Mezza Via, perhaps even Metella's tomb, and catch glimpses now and then of the unequalled Via Appia, its geometrical rectitude in striking contrast with the serpentining Tiber ; but above all, and beyond all, we look upon that group in the centre of the picture, that lone mother of dead empires, the Niobe of nations '-Rome. All objects besides are unattractive; the mountains too distant, the ruins too bare, the wild flowers of this huge prairie too minute and commonplace for special attention ; all things near the soil, too, quiver in the dazzling light and burning heat of noon; but high above the undulating vapour, and towering in its Parian whiteness up into an angelic sky, rises the colossal creation of Buonarotti's genius. We glance at other objects; we gaze at this. It breaks the line of our northern horizon with a pomp and pretension that nothing besides can dare. It looms out of the bosom of the 'weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable' foreground, a pleasant and most exciting landmark, an ecclesiastical Eddystone, in the unbillowy sea of the Campagna. This greatest of man's works, which would be insignificant beside the works of God—the Alps or the nearer Apennines, is here great, comparatively so, just as a man of five feet stature would be a giant among Lilliputians of one. We speak not of its moral interest, that is superlative and enchaining, but of its material inches, whereby it overtops almost every object within a circuit of twenty miles. Look from any extremity of the Campagna to the centre, and St. Peter's, like a stone Saul, overmeasures all competing altitudes by the head and lofty shoulders.
And this brings us, by a roundabout way possibly, to the point at which we aim-a comparative estimate of the greatness of John Wesley by the littleness of the times in which he lived. Our purpose has been too obvious, we trust, to need the application of our figures. We mean simply to imply that Wesley was that waterspout and snowy spray-jet, roaring in the stillness of morning, and arched over the calm surface of the sea on the grey canvas of the horizon ; – Wesley that ice-crash rasping down the
mountain-side, startling the ear of silence in Helvetian solitudes, upsetting the equilibrium of all things, shaking the earth and air and the listener's frame, like the spasm of an earthquake ;Wesley, in fine, that dome, 'the vast and wondrous dome,' lofty in proportions, perfect in symmetry, suspended in mid-air, by the happy conception of him whose great thought, like all great thoughts, was manifestly inspired, a heavenly guest, a ray of immortality,' and which aërial pile, wander where we will within its range, is the attracting centre of vision, the cynosure of all eyes.
. In the particular field Wesley took upon him to cultivate, he stood alone, or almost alone, and his position adds magnitude to all his dimensions. He fills the picture. It were scarce exaggeration to travestie the Grand Lewis's terse egotism, The State ! that is I,' and put it into our reformer's mouth at the commencement of his career---Religion! that is I.' The religious sensibility of England lay dead or chained in the breathless, hushed, and stony sleep' of the Princess Dormita and her retinue in the fairy tale. He alone seemed awake to the exigencies of the times, the responsibilities of the ministry, the corruption of manners, and the value of souls. This statement will of course be understood with all the qualification truth demands on behalf of some exemplary parish clergymen who sparsely enlightened the darkness around them, but who never passed into the broad sunshine of general reputation or extensive influence. There were those, we gladly own, who bowed not the knee to the prevailing dissoluteness or indifference; but, like angels' visits, these were few and far between. And it is not to be denied that in many non-conformist places of worship, under the combined influence of the persecutions of earlier years, general contempt, and their close-borough constitution and government which took them out of the healthful and conservative current of public opinion, vital religion was becoming a name, and the doctrine of the Cross passing into another Gospel' in which the Cross had no place. Arianism, with stealthy steps, was creeping in upon the fold of Presbyterianism ‘for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,' while Independency either withered into a cold protest against the established episcopacy, shot into seed in the unhealthy luxuriance of hyper-Calvinism, or was too insignificant to be of any account whatever in an ecclesiastical notice of the period.
The general condition of the Church of England was deplorable. There was no lack of learning and respectability in many quarters, but as a whole its state could not satisfy a conscientious observer. The study of the Greek language and the introduction of the theology of the Greek school since the Reformation, together with various political causes, had combined to produce a latitudinarian and moderated style of preaching and acting amongst the clergy at large. The best men were most entirely under the influences we have named. Their learning, their enlightened hatred of the fanaticism under the Commonwealth, and an honourable sense of the advantages of their position, made them carefully shun the excesses of non-conforming zeal, and generously avoid giving offence to conscientious dissenters. The names of Tillotson and Tennison, Doctors Samuel Clark and Jortin, will tolerably fairly represent the reigning spirit of the better part of the clerical body about the commencement of the eighteenth century, while others were contented to be as devoid of evangelical unction as they, without their accomplishments and decent behaviour. But in the ministry of souls moderation is madness, and want of zeal death. Men betake themselves to a formal minister as they do to the gravedigger, an inevitable but unpleasant functionary, whose services they never relish, and whose inane moralities cannot edify. Such unfortunately was the ecclesiastical condition of England when the Wesleys arose, and it is no breach of charity to aver, that, weighed in the balances of heaven, the existing ministry throughout the country was found at that period, as to its most exalted aims and divine results, utterly wanting. We are not blind to the subordinate advantages a widely-established corporation of more or less educated men must entail upon a land, men by their profession the friends of order, decency, and humanity; but at the same time we cannot forget that the church is neither a police-court, a philosophical school, nor an almonry. Men may be mild magistrates, wise teachers, exemplary country gentlemen, without fear and without reproach on the score of morals and manners, and yet be destitute of the spirit of their office and ignorant of its claims. We draw the veil over anything worse which presents itself for comment in the clerical profession at that period. There was enough in the aspect of the times, even upon the most indulgent showing, to make the mission of some such agent as John Wesley a necessity as imperative as the mission of one of the judges in the straits and abjectness of Israel, or the requisitions of the economic law that the demand regulates the supply.
In such circumstances was Providence nurturing a man for the hour, while the hour was as divinely and obviously prepared for
And neither from kingly courts nor cloistered cells was the hero of this strange eventful history' to come—the man that was to work wider change upon the religious and social aspect of England than has ever been effected by any reformer since Christianity visited our shores. In truth, his sympathies were neither with the monk nor the monarch, but, a child of the people, as all
great reformers have been, his sympathies were with the masses, the men from whom he sprung. He was reared amid obscurity, poverty, and rebuke, -rebuke that implied no disgrace, poverty which piety hallowed, obscurity that bred no discontent-and he never forgot the discipline of his childhood nor the tradition of his poor but godly parentage, and his heart ever found its most genial soil amid the humble, holy, and enduring people of God. Of ambition, with which he has been most recklessly charged, he seems to have been absolutely incapable, except the ambition of doing good. He had rather suffer any day than shine. In fact, to suffer, if by that be meant to labour to fatigue, and self-denial to austerity, became a necessity of his nature, while to shine was as deliberately rejected as this was pursued. And it was this thorough oneness of mind, propension, and condition with the people which prompted and controlled his career. He looked at the Man through the frieze jacket of careful thrift and the looped and windowed raggedness' of abject penury ; yea, he looked at him in the haunts of vice and the prison-house of the criminal, and saw written upon him even there, in indubitable presence, the image, though sorely mutilated, of God, just as beneath the jewelled cap of maintenance and the purple of nobility he saw no more. Not knowing therefore, or not heeding the distinctions that obtain among men, the object of his ministry was Man. He was swayed by no class predilections, or unsocial partialities, save that his high sense of duty and the special demands of his mission made him prevailingly the friend of the friendless and the comforter of the lowly. In this aspect of his work his imitation of Christ was pre-eminent, that his labour of love was specially consecrated to seek and to save that which was lost.'
But we anticipate, and must glance at the boy Wesley, and the circumstances which proved the Campus Martius to train him for his lifelong conflict with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places.'
Close bordering on the winding Trent, in one of the richest portions of Lincolnshire, is the parish and manor of Epworth, the church standing upon an elevation reached by a gentle ascent about four miles from the river, but shaded from view by a shoulder of the hill. Right well do we remember our pilgrimage to that memorable spot a few short months ago, our readers may divine the day by consulting their almanacks for the birthday of our gracious Queen, in the year of our Lord 1848. This occasion, as we are loyalists to the very core of our nature, we never fail to observe as a holiday, we and all our house. The heavens smiled propitiously on our purpose, for never did a brighter spring sun pour gladness into the heart than that which shone upon us