Wesley’s Letters: 1734

From Richard Morgan to his Father [1]

Oxon, January 14, 1734.

HONOURED SIR, -- I received your kind letter of the 22nd November, which came free. I perused yours to Mr. Wesley very carefully, then sealed it and delivered it to him. When he had read it over two or three times, he desired me to breakfast with him next morning. His whole discourse turned on the contents of your letter. He said he did not know what to make of it, and was surprised that a father should show so great concern lest his son should not be wicked enough, and went on after that odd manner, He endeavored to prove that my brother did not weaken his constitution by his great abstinence and strictness in religion; though my brasier's wife, an intimate of Mr. Wesley's, told me she has often heard Dr. Frewin [See letter of June 13, 1753.] say that, while he persisted in that rigid course of life, he could be of no service to him.

There is a Society of gentlemen, consisting of seven members, whom the world calls Methodists, of whom my tutor is President. They imagine they cannot be saved if they do not spend every hour, nay minute, of their lives in the service of God. And to that end they read prayers every day in the common jail, preach every Sunday, and administer the sacrament once every month. They almost starve themselves to be able to relieve the poor and buy books for their conversion. They endeavor to reform notorious whores and allay spirits in haunted houses. They fast two days in the week, which has emaciated them to that degree that they are a frightful sight. One of them had like to have lost his life lately by a decay, which was attributed to his great abstinence. They rise every day at five of the clock, and till prayers, which begin at eight, they [In another copy it reads 'spend in singing Psalms, and reading the Bible and Nelson's Works. They also receive the holy sacrament every Sunday. In short, they have made themselves so particular that they are the jest, not only of the scholars, but of the Fellows and the whole University. They meet at each other's rooms at six of the clock five nights in the week, the other two they spend in private.'] sing psalms, and read some piece of divinity. They meet at each other's rooms at six of the clock five nights in the week, and from seven to nine read a piece of some religious book. In short, they are so particular that they are become the jest of the whole University.

When I came to college, my tutor gave me two rules in writing, which he expected I should follow. The first was to have no company but what he approved of, and the second to read no books but of his choosing. In compliance with the first, I have spent every evening of their meeting from seven to nine in their company till I received your letter. From six to seven they read over the petitions of poor people and relieve their wants, dispose of pious books, and fix the duties of the ensuing day. They told me very solemnly that, when I had acquired a pretty good stock of religion, they would take me in as an assistant. When we are all met, my tutor reads a collect to increase our attention; after that a religious book is read all the time we are together. They often cry for five minutes for their sins; then lift up their heads and eyes, and return God thanks for the great mercies He has showed them in granting them such repentance, and then laugh immoderately as if they were mad. The greatest blessing next to that is being laughed at by the world, which they esteem a sufficient proof of the goodness and justness of their actions, for which they also return thanks as aforesaid. Though some of them are remarkable for eating very heartily on gaudy-days, they stint themselves to two pence meat, and a farthing bread, and a draught of water when they dine at their own expense; and as for supper, they never eat any. There is a text in the Revelation which says that a man had better be very wicked than lukewarm. This Mr. Wesley explained thus: that there is no medium in religion; that a man that does not engage himself entirely in the practice of religion is in greater fear of damnation than a notorious sinner. When I considered that I was in the middle state, I grew very uneasy, and was for several days in a kind of religious madness, till I was convinced by a sermon of Dr. Young's, which gives those words a quite different meaning.

Mr. Wesley often says that it is madness in any man to leave off reading at the end of the eleventh hour if he can improve himself by the twelfth. This rule he expects his pupils to observe. I have not been an hour idle since I came to college but when I walk for my health, which he himself advises. He also expects that I should spend an hour every day before prayers in reading Nelson's Works, which I have complied with. He has lectured me scarce in anything but books of devotion. He has given me a book of Mr. Nelson to abridge this Christmas. By becoming his pupil I am stigmatized with the name of a Methodist, the misfortune of which I cannot describe. For what they reckon the greatest happiness, namely, of being laughed at, to me is the greatest misery. I am as much laughed at and despised by the whole town as any one of them, and always shall be so while I am his pupil. The whole College makes a jest of me, and the Fellows themselves do not show me common civility, so great is their aversion to my tutor. In short, laboring under all these disadvantages, I am grown perfectly melancholy, and have got such an habit of sighing, which I cannot avoid, that it must certainly do me great mischief. Soon after I came to college the Rector favored me with his company and cautioned me against Mr. Wesley's strict notions of religion, and told me that the character of his Society prevented several from entering in the College. You are pleased in both your letters to express a great regard for my welfare; for which I hope you shall find a grateful return in me. And as I myself ought to contribute all in my power thereto, I think it incumbent upon me to inform you that it is my opinion that if I am continued under Mr. Wesley I shall be ruined.

For though you should caution him ever so much, he will endeavor to make me as strict as himself; and will say, as he did to part of your letter, that we are not obliged to obey our fathers in anything that contradicts the laws of God. We have but one tutor more in the College, who is reckoned one of the best tutors in the University; and my Lord Lichfield has so great an opinion of him, that he will send his eldest son to be taken care of by him. He has what few are in college (except one Gentleman Commoner and two servitors who are Mr. Wesley's pupils) under his tuition. The character which I presume Mr. Wesley has given of me will, I hope, convince you that I have no view of being idle to occasion this removal. I am so well assured that any prospect I can have of enjoying any part of your fortune depends so much on my good behavior, that I would not propose it if I thought I would not be as diligent under him as Mr. Wesley. Though I have the greatest desire to improve myself, I would choose to return to my office, and forgo the advantages of an University education, rather than suffer what I do at present by being his pupil.

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