THE HOLY CLUB BEGINS

QUOTE: Such was Wesley’s life during the last six years be spent at Oxford… 

John Wesley came in June and spent two months with his brother. During his stay he passed almost every evening with the little Society which had gathered round Charles. The call from Dr. Morley must have given no small pleasure to these friends. Charles Wesley, who was nearly twenty-two, had taken his degree, and become a college tutor. He was now fairly launched, as his father reminded him in an affectionate letter written in January, 1730. Beside the Wesleys, William Morgan, a commoner of Christ Church, and Robert Kirkham, of Merton, seem to have been the principal members of this little Society. When Wesley came to Oxford he was at once recognised as their head. Gambold, who was introduced to him a few months after his return, and who joined the Methodists, says, “Mr. John Wesley was always the chief manager, for which he was very fit; for he not only had more learning and experience than the rest, but he was blest with such activity as to be always gaining ground, and such steadiness that he lost none. What proposals he made to any were sure to charm them, because they saw him always the same. What supported this uniform vigour was the care he took to consider well of every affair before he engaged in it, making all his decisions in the fear of God, without passion, humour, or self-confidence; for though he had naturally a very clear apprehension, yet his exact prudence depended more on humanity and singleness of heart. To this I may add that he had, I think, something of authority in his countenance, though, as he did not want address, he could soften his manner, and point it as occasion required. Yet he never assumed anything to himself above his companions. Any of them might speak their mind, and their words were as strictly regarded by him as his were by them.”

 

The name of “Methodists” was given to the friends before John Wesley came into residence.’ A young gentleman of Christ Church, struck with the exact regularity of their lives and studies, said, “Here is a new sect of Methodists sprung up.” In December, 1730, Wesley tells his parents, that he expected the following night to be in company “with the gentleman who did us the honour to take the first notice of our Society. I have terrible reasons to think he is as slenderly provided with humanity as with sense and learning. However, I must not let slip this opportunity, because he is at present in some distress, occasioned by his being about to dispute in the schools on Monday, though he is not furnished with such arguments as he wants. I intend, if he has not procured them before, to help him to some arguments that I may at least remove that prejudice from him, ‘that we are friends to none but those who are as queer as ourselves.” t The name “Methodist” was quaint, and not inappropriate. The members of the little Society were soon known by it throughout the University. The title was not new. It was used to describe an ancient school of physicians who thought that all diseases might be cured by a specific method of diet and exercise. In 1639, there is a reference in a sermon preached at Lambeth to “plain packstaff Methodists,” who despised all rhetoric.* About forty years before it found its most famous application it was given to Dr. Williams and other Nonconformist divines to describe their views on the method of man’s justification before God.t “Methodist” was not the only name given to the Society. The Reforming Club, the Godly Club, the Holy Club, Sacramentarians, Bible Moths, Supererogation men, and Enthusiasts were all in used John Wesley was called the Curator, or Father of the Holy Club.

 

At first the four friends met every Sunday evening, then two evenings a week were passed together, and at last every evening from six to nine. They began their meetings with prayer, studied the Greek Testament and the classics, reviewed the work of the past day, and talked over their plans for the morrow. They met either in John Wesley’s room, or in that of some other member of the Society. After prayers, the chief subject of which was charity, they had supper together, and John Wesley read some book. On Sunday evening they read divinity. They fasted on Wednesday and Friday, and received the Lord’s Supper every week, coming to Christ Church when the Sacrament was not given in their own colleges A system of self-examination brought all their conduct under searching review. On Sunday they examined themselves as to the “Love of God and simplicity,” on Monday on “Love of Man.” A glance at the entire scheme will show how carefully the Oxford Methodists sought to order their lives. They studied to do the will of God in all things, to pray with fervour, to use ejaculations or hourly prayers for humility, faith, hope, love, and the particular virtue they set themselves to seek each day. The members repeated a collect at nine, twelve, and three, and had their stated times for meditation and private prayer. The “Love of Man” led them to inquire whether they had been zealous in doing good, had persuaded all they could to attend the means of grace and to observe the laws of the Church and the University, or had shown all kindness and used all prayer for those around them.

 

The 24th of August, 1730, was a memorable day for the little Society. Up to this time they had quietly pursued their studies and their devotional exercises, doing all the good that lay in their power. Now they entered upon that work of charity which was to bear such blessed fruit. Mr. Morgan, the son of a gentleman in Dublin, led the way. He had visited a man lying at the jail under sentence of death for the murder of his wife, and had spoken to one of the debtors there. What he jaw convinced him that much good might be done by any one who would take pains to teach the prisoners. He spoke so often of this that John and Charles Wesley went with him to the Castle. They now agreed to visit there once or twice a week. Morgan also led the way in the visiting of the sick. The friends were soon busy enough. They resolved to spend an hour or two a week in looking after the sick, provided that the minister of the parish in which any of these lived should not be opposed to it.

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The quote above is from The Life of John Wesley by John Telford – 5, OXFORD METHODISM and is found at http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-life-of-john-wesley-by-john-telford/the-life-of-john-wesley-by-john-telford-chapter-5/. Copyright © 1993-2011. Wesley Center for Applied Theology, c/o Northwest Nazarene University. All Rights Reserved.

 

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