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John Wesley
by [?]

John Wesley was sent to Charterhouse School when he was eleven years old, and he remained there for six years, when he went to Oxford. After his twelfth year he was denied the personal companionship of his mother, but every day he wrote to her–sometimes just a line or two, and then at the end of the week the letter was forwarded.

In his later years Wesley did not think that either the “Charity School” or Oxford, where he went on a scholarship, had benefited him except by way of antithesis: but the correspondence with his mother was the one sweet influence of his life that could not be omitted. Their separation only increased the bond. We grow by giving; we make things our own by reciting them; thought comes through action and reaction; and happy is the man who has a sympathetic soul to whom he can outpour his own. When Charles Kingsley was asked to name the secret of his insight and power, he paused, and then answered, “I had a friend!”

John Wesley had a friend; incidentally, that friend was his mother. She died when he was thirty-nine years of age, after he had learned to wing his way on steady pinions. And in the flight she was not left behind.

We are familiar with the lives of many great men, but where among them all can you name a genius whose mother’s mind matched his, even in his maturity?

* * * * *

The primitive Christian is a reactionary product of his time. Humanity continuing in one direction acquires success, and finally through an overweening pride in its own powers, relaxation enters, and self- indulgence takes the place of effort. No religion is pure except in its inception and in its state of persecution.

A religion grown great and rich and powerful becomes sloth and swag, its piety being performed perfunk; and then ceases to be a religion at all. It is merely an institution.

Religions multiply by the budding process. Every new denomination is an offshoot from a parent stem. “A new religion” is a contradiction in terms–there is only one religion in the world. A brand-new religion would wither and die as soon as the sun came out.

New denominations begin with a protest against the lapses and grossness of the established one, and the baby religion feeds and lives on the other until it has grown strong enough to break off and live a life of its own. Buds are being broken off all the time, but only a few live; the rest die because they lack vitality. That is why all things die–I trust no one will dispute the fact.

Christian Science, for instance, appropriated two great things from the parent stock: the word “Christian,” and the Oxford binding, which made “Science and Health” look just like the Bible. One could carry it on the street as he went to church without fear of accusation that he was on the way to the circulating-library. It fulfilled the psychological requirements.

John Wesley retained the word “Episcopal” for the new denomination, and he also retained the gown and tippet. And it was near a hundred years before the denomination had grown to a point where it could afford to omit the gown–and possibly its omission was an error then.

* * * * *

Of university education at this time let Miss Wedgwood speak:

We can hardly wonder that the time spent at Oxford was, to a man like Gibbon, “the most idle and unprofitable period of his life,” to use his own words. Even under the very different system which prevailed in the early portion of the present century, one of the most fertile thinkers of our day has been heard to speak of his university career as the only completely idle interval of his life. How often it may have proved not a mere episode, but the foundation of a life of idleness, no human being can tell. Nor was the evil merely negative. While the student lounged away his time in the coffeehouse and the tavern, whilst the dice-box supplied him with a serious pursuit, and the bottle a relaxation, he was called upon at every successive step to his degree to take a solemn oath of observance to the academical statutes which his behavior infringed in every particular. While the public professors received a thousand pounds a year for giving no lectures, the candidates for degrees were obliged to ask and pay for a dispensation for not having attended the lectures that never were given.