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EDITED BY JOHN KITTO, D.D., F.S.A.
C. COX, 12, KING WILLIAM STREET, STRAND. OLIVER AND BOYD, EDINBURGH; AND J. ROBERTSON,
GRAFTON STREET, DUBLIN.
No. V. JANUARY, 1849.
AND THE PRINCIPLES DEVELOPED IN HIS CAREER.
BY THE REv. 0. T. DOBBIN, LL.D., Trin. College, Dublin.
The Life of Wesley; and Rise and Progress of Methodism. By
Robert Southey, Esq., LL.D. Third Edition. With Notes by the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Esq. And Remarks on the Life and Character of John Wesley, by the late Alexander Knox, Esq. Edited by the Rev. Charles Cuthbert Southey, M.A., curate of Cockermouth. In Two Volumes.
London. Longmans. 1846. The length of time which has elapsed since the death of the founder of Methodism, together with the unusually full details of his personal history we possess, and a century's experience of the working of his system, put us in a fairer position than those who lived at an earlier period to pass an equitable judgment upon the merits of that extraordinary man. This opening remark is a keynote to the strain of the observations that will follow upon John Wesley. We are not blind to his faults, but even these will be found to have sprung from the sincerity, openness, and native simplicity of his character. Southey evidently did not understand him, although not wanting in a due share of admiration for the subject of his memoir ; while in all those qualities which make the expert craftsman he claims an eminence exclusively his own. Neither Hampson nor Whitehead, nor Coke and More, nor
VOL. III.-NO. V.
Watson himself, the rival and castigator of the more recent biographer, have produced anything comparable for enchaining interest to the work of the late accomplished Laureate. It stands alone, a life by which Wesley will be known to a wider extent and a more distant day than by any besides. Sectarian sensitiveness may be ruffled at the defectiveness of the representation ; yet we know not where, out of the circle of the Wesleyan body, the choice of a biographer could have more happily fallen than on Robert Southey. His Wesley has all the essentials of a good life. It is full and genial; brings out the best points with consummate skill, and cannot fail to leave the impression upon the mind of every unbiassed reader that a general appreciation of the great English Reformer animated his task, and shed a tolerably friendly hue over his delineation.
We regret that we cannot extend our encomium to the notes of Coleridge, more damaging certainly to their author from their coarsely and studiously depreciating strain than to Wesley. Familiar as we are with the incidents of a career that was notorious for unmanfully shirking all life's purposes sublime,' and for wasting in inglorious inaction the extraordinary powers with which he was endowed, we confess that nevertheless we never contemplated anything he has done or left undone with such pain as these discreditable annotations. Coleridge is the last man from whom the public will tolerate the censure of a life spent in selfdenying labour and devotion to the cause of the poor, to which England, humanity, and religion, are so greatly indebted.
We own that we are desirous to give Wesley the benefit of a fresh review of his career. We think there is one way of doing him justice, in which we have not been preceded by any critic. We would fain examine the philosophy of his history on his own principles, sum up the results, and thus take the measure of the man.There are salient points, as we conceive, in his belief, motives, publications, and actions, looming out from the general tenor of his course, on which it were well to take our stand for awhile, as affording an advantageous survey of the whole. Could we hope to carry our readers with us in our selection of these, we might promise ourselves something like a general agreement in our conclusions. We should be sanguine, however, beyond all warrant of history and precedent, did we anticipate an issue in our own case undisturbed by the passions of the present or reflections of the past. The premises will be denied, the processes vitiated by rampant prejudice on the part of others, even where the light of calm contemplation is not disturbed or dimmed by the presence of our own. We will to our task notwithstanding, pleasant but difficult, applying to it in all its breadth the poet's creed
• Full hard it is to read aright
Faërie Queene, ix. 6. The positive merits of John Wesley were distinguished, and will come in for discussion when we sum up his character; meanwhile we shall take occasion to dwell upon his comparative greatness.
The incidents of history and the objects of nature derive much of their impressiveness from the circumstances surrounding both. Contrast is essential to grand effects. The massacre at Bethlehem gathers blackness from the infant age of the victims; and the frantic leap of Niagara contrasts finely with the oily smoothness of the river above the Fall. The voyager near earth's central line' -the region of perpetual sun and frequent calm ; where the surface of the sea is unbroken with a billow, yet the bulk of the ocean moves together like some monster labouring under an oppressive load
in torrid clime Dark heaving, boundless, endless, and sublime;' marks the huge sweltering gambols of the whale, and hears the loud hiss and rush of the jet he projects into the air, best in the cool
grey and death-like stillness of the early dawn. The level and the quiet of all around convey the most vivid and instantaneous impressions to the watcher's eye and ear; and “There is that leviathan !' (Ps. civ. 26) bursts from the lips with an assurance and a rapture which its unwieldy pas seuls would not awaken amid the stirring activities of day and the distraction of stormier scenes and wilder moods. And having traversed under a burning summer sun the length of some Swiss valley, and encountered in your fatiguing march, knapsack on shoulder and staff in hand, the varieties of mid-winter temperature by the mer de glace, and the heat of the dog-days in deep, serene, and sheltered nooks, where air to breathe seems almost as great a rarity as wind to blow, where the fumes of the rank vegetation and the wild flowers are stifling and unhealthy,—what think you is the fittest time and place to hear the thunder of the avalanche, and trace and tremble at its fall? It is just at that cool hour when, refreshed at your hostelry, your sense of weariness is removed, but sufficient languor remains to tame down your mind into harmony with the scene, and you wander out some half-mile from your temporary home, like the orphan patriarch of old, to meditate at eventide. The sun has just set over the Jungfrau or Schreckhorn, and, liberal of its cosmetics, has laid its red upon the dead cheek of the everlasting