Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Sentimental Side of John Wesley

Methodism's leader could be curt. He once wrote in his Journal a terse review of a new book by William Law dated October 23, 1739:
In riding to Bradford I read over Mr. Law’s book on the new birth. Philosophical, speculative, precarious; Behemish, void, and vain!
He had opinions and he held them strongly. However, the Anglican priest had a soft side to himself, too. Consider this description of the man (not written by Wesley) from his published Journal:
Robert Southey, one of Wesley’s biographers, gives us a glimpse of his love for children. “I was in a house in Bristol where Wesley was. When a mere child, on running downstairs before him with a beautiful little sister of my own, whose ringlets were floating over her shoulders, he overtook us on the landing and took my sister in his arms and kissed her. Placing her on her feet again, he then put his hand upon my head and blessed me, and I feel as though I had the blessing of that good man upon me at the present moment.”

We are indebted to the daughter of Charles Wesley for the following glimpses of the man in his family relationships. She was aware that her famous uncle had been represented as stern and stoical. “It behooves a relative to render this justice to his private virtues and attest from experience that no human being was more alive to all the tender charities of domestic life than John Wesley. His indifference to calumny and inflexible perseverance in what he believed his duty have been the cause of this idea….”

His nephew was attracted in early life to an amiable girl of low birth. This was much opposed by his mother and her family, who mentioned it with concern to John Wesley. Finding that this was the chief objection, Wesley observed, “Then there is no family, but I hear the girl is good.” “Nor any fortune, either,” said the mother, “and she is a dawdle.” Wesley’s niece continues, “He made no reply, but sent my brother fifty pounds for his wedding dinner, and, I believe, sincerely regretted he was crossed in his inclination (as she married another). But he always showed peculiar sympathy to young persons in love.
This is a side of the man from Epworth that I enjoy; let us never wrong Wesley by losing his humanity in his legacy.