To William Law [3]


REVEREND SIR, -- I must earnestly beg your immediate advice in a case of the greatest importance. Above two years since, I was entrusted with a young gentleman of good sense, an even generous temper, and pretty good learning. [See letter of June 11, 1731, to his father. Wesley's anxiety about this student and also concerning Richard Morgan shows how faithfully he watched over them. At the end of July Charles Wesley tells his brother Samuel that John had spent the last week 'at London, chiefly in consulting Mr. Law about one of his pupils; but he found time, notwithstanding, to dispatch three sheets of Job while there, and still goes on with much more expedition than my father did while upon the spot.' This letter to Law evidently led to a personal consultation.] Religion he had heard little of; but Mr. Jackson's Practice of Devotion, [Lawrence Jackson (1691-1772), Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1716; Prebendary of Lincoln 1747.] your two treatises, and Thomas à Kempis, by the blessing of God, awakened him by degrees to a true notion and serious practice of it. In this he continued sensibly improving till last Lent; at the beginning of which I advised him to do as he had done the year before--viz. to obey the order of the Church, by using such a sort and measure of abstinence as his health permitted and his spiritual wants required. He said ' he did not think his health would permit to use that abstinence which he did the year before.' And, notwithstanding my reply, ' that his athletic habit could be in no danger by only abstaining from flesh and using moderately some less pleasing food,' he persisted in his resolution of not altering his food at all. A little before Easter, perceiving he had much contracted the time he had till then set apart for religious reading, I asked him whether he was not himself convinced that he spent too much time in reading secular authors. He answered he was convinced any time was too much, and that he should be a better Christian if he never read them at all. I then pressed him earnestly to pray for strength, according to that convic­tion; and he resolved to try for a week. When that was expired, he said his desire of classical reading was not inflamed, but a little abated; upon which I begged him to repeat his resolution for a week or two longer. He said it signified nothing; for he could never part with the classics entirely. I desired him to read what you say in the Christian Perfection on reading vain authors. He read it, agreed to every word of it, but still in his practice denied it; though appear­ing in most other particulars an humble, active, zealous Christian.

On Tuesday, April 3, being one of the days the statutes require us to communicate at St. Mary's, I called upon him just before church, being to set out for Lincolnshire as soon as the service was over. I asked whether he still halted between two opinions; and, after exhorting him as I could to renounce himself and serve his Master with simplicity, I left him. He did not communicate that day. On my return, May 21, I immediately inquired what state he was in, and found he had never communicated since, which he used to do weekly; that he had left off rising early, visiting the poor, and almost all religious reading, and entirely given himself up to secular. When I asked him why he had left off the holy eucharist, he said fairly, because to partake of it implied a fresh promise to renounce himself entirely and to please God alone; and he did not design to do so. I asked whether he was well convinced he ought to do so. He said, 'Yes.' Whether he wished he could design it. He answered, No, he did not design it.

From time to time, particularly a few days ago, I urged him to tell me upon what he grounded his hope of salvation. He replied, after some pause, that 'Christ died for all men; but if none were saved by Him without performing the conditions, His death would not avail one in a thousand, which was inconsistent with the goodness of God.' But this answer, and every part of it, he soon gave up; adding with the ut­most seriousness that he cared not whether it was true or no: he was very happy at present, and he desired nothing farther.

This morning I again asked him what he thought of his own state. He said he thought nothing about it. I desired to know whether he could, if he considered it ever so little, ex­pect to be saved by the terms of the Christian covenant. He answered, he did not consider it at all; nor did all I could say in the least move him. He assented to all, but was affected with nothing. He grants with all composure that he is not in a salvable state, and shows no degree of concern, while he owns he can't find mercy.

I am now entirely at a loss what step to take: pray he can't, or won't. When I lent him several prayers, he re­turned them unused, saying he does not desire to be other­wise than he is, and why should he pray for it? I do not seem so much as to understand his distemper. It appears to me quite incomprehensible. Much less can I tell what remedies are proper for it. I therefore beseech you, sir, by the mercies of God, that you will not be slack; according to the ability He shall give, to advise and pray for him and, reverend sir,

Your most obliged servant.

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