Wed 1 Feb 1738: At four in the morning we took boat, and in half an hour landed at Deal; it being Wednesday, February 1, the anniversary festival in Georgia for Mr. Oglethorpe’s landing there.
It is now two years and almost four months since I left my native country in order to teach the Georgian Indians the nature of Christianity. But what have I learned myself in the meantime? Why (what I the least of all suspected), that I who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God. ‘I am not mad’, though I thus speak, but ‘I speak the words of truth and soberness’; if haply some of those who still dream may awake, and see that as I am, so are they.
Are they read in philosophy? So was I. In ancient or modern tongues? So was I also. Are they versed in the science of divinity? I too have studied it many years. Can they talk fluently upon spiritual things? The very same could I do. Are they plenteous in alms? Behold, I gave all my goods to feed the poor. Do they give of their labour as well as of their substance? I have laboured more abundantly than they all. Are they willing to suffer for their brethren? I have thrown up my friends, reputation, ease, country; I have put my life in my hand, wandering into strange lands; I have given my body to be devoured by the deep, parched up with heat, consumed by toil and weariness, or whatsoever God should please to bring upon me. But does all this (be it more or less, it matters not) make me acceptable to God? Do all I ever did or can know, say, give, do, or suffer, justify me in his sight? Yea, or ‘the constant use of all the means of grace’?—which nevertheless is meet, right, and our bounden duty. Or that ‘I know nothing of myself,’ that I am, as touching outward, moral righteousness, blameless? Or (to come closer yet) the having a rational conviction of all the truths of Christianity? Does all this give me a claim to the holy, heavenly, divine character of a Christian? By no means. If the oracles of God are true, if we are still to abide by ‘the law and the testimony’, all these things, though when ennobled by faith in Christ they are holy, and just, and good, yet without iti are ‘dung and dross’, meet only to be purged away by ‘the fire that never shall be quenched’.
This then have I learned in the ends of the earth, that I am ‘fallen short of the glory of God’; that my whole heart is ‘altogether corrupt and abominable’, and consequently my whole life (seeing it cannot be that ‘an evil tree’ should ‘bring forth good fruit’); that ‘alienated’ as I am ‘from the life of God’, I am ‘a child of wrath’, an heir of hell; that my own works, my own sufferings, my own righteousness, are so far from reconciling me to an offended God, so far from making any atonement for the least of those sins, which ‘are more in number than the hairs of my head’, that the most specious of them need an atonement themselves or they cannot abide his righteous judgment; that ‘having the sentence of death’ in my heart, and having nothing in or of myself to plead, I have no hope, but that of being justified freely ‘through the redemption that is in Jesus’; I have no hope, but that if I seek I shall find Christ and ‘be found in him, not having my own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’
If it be said that I have faith (for many such things have I heard, from many miserable comforters), I answer, So have the devils—a sort of faith; but still they are strangers to the covenant of promise. So the apostles had even at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus first ‘manifested forth his glory’; even then they, in a sort, ‘believed on him’; but they had not then ‘the faith that overcometh the world’. The faith I want is, ‘a sure trust and confidence in God, that through the merits of Christ my sins are forgiven, and I reconciled to the favour of God’. I want that faith which St. Paul recommends to all the world, especially in his Epistle to the Romans; that faith which enables everyone that hath it to cry out, ‘I live not, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ I want that faith which none can have without knowing that he hath it (though many imagine they have it who have it not). For whosoever hath it is ‘freed from sin’; ‘the whole body of sin is destroyed’ in him. He is freed from fear, ‘having peace with God through Christ, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God’. And he is freed from doubt, ‘having the love of God shed abroad in his heart through the Holy Ghost which is given unto him’; which ‘Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God’.
Fri. 3. I came to Mr. Delamotte’s at Blendon, where I expected a cold reception. But God had prepared the way before me; and I no sooner mentioned my name than I was welcomed in such a manner as constrained me to say, ‘Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not!’ ‘Blessed be ye of the Lord! Ye have shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning.’
In the evening I came once more to
, whence I had been
absent two years and near four months. London
Many reasons I have to bless God, though the design I went upon did not take effect, for my having been carried into that strange land, contrary to all my preceding resolutions. Hereby I trust he hath in some measure ‘humbled me and proved me, and shown me what was in my heart’. Hereby I have been taught to ‘beware of men’. Hereby I am come to know assuredly that if ‘in all our ways we acknowledge’ God he will, where reason fails, ‘direct our paths’, by lot or by the other means which he knoweth. Hereby I am delivered from the fear of the sea, which I had both dreaded and abhorred from my youth.
Hereby God has given me to know many of his servants; particularly those of the
. Hereby my
passage is opened to the writings of holy men in the German, Spanish, and
Italian tongues. I hope too some good may come to others hereby. All in church
have heard the word of God. Some have believed, and begun to run well. A few
steps have been taken towards publishing the glad tidings both to the African
and American heathens. Many children have learned ‘how they ought to serve
God’, and to be useful to their neighbour. And those whom it most concerns
have an opportunity of knowing the true state of their infant colony, and
laying a firmer foundation of peace and happiness to many generations. Georgia
Sat. 4. I told my friends some of the reasons which a little hastened my return to
. They all agreed it would
be proper to relate them to the Trustees of Georgia. England
Accordingly the next morning I waited on Mr. Oglethorpe, but had not time to speak on that head. In the afternoon I was desired to preach at St. John the Evangelist’s. I did so on those strong words, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’ I was afterwards informed, many of the best in the parish were so offended that I was not to preach there any more.
Mon. 6. I visited many of my old friends, as well as most of my relations. I find the time is not yet come when I am to be ‘hated of all men’. O may I be prepared for that day!
Tue. 7. (A day much to be remembered.) At the house of Mr. Weinantz, a Dutch merchant, I met Peter Böhler, Schulius, Richter, and Wenzel Neisser, just then landed from
Finding they had no acquaintance in Germany , I offered to procure them
a lodging, and did so near Mr. Hutton’s, where I then was. And from this time
I did not willingly lose any opportunity of conversing with them while I stayed
in England . London
Wed. 8. I went to Mr. Oglethorpe again, but had no opportunity of speaking as I designed. Afterwards I waited on the Board of Trustees, and gave them a short but plain account of the state of the colony: an account, I fear, not a little differing from those which they had frequently received before, and for which I have reason to believe some of them have not forgiven me to this day.
Sun. 12. I preached at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, on ‘Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.’ ‘O hard sayings! Who can hear them?’ Here too (it seems) I am to preach no more.
Wed. 15. I waited on the Trustees again, and gave them in writing the substance of what I had said at the last Board. Whatsoever farther questions they asked concerning the state of the province I likewise answered to the best of my knowledge.
Fri. 17. I set out for Oxford with Peter Böhler, where we were kindly received by Mr. Sarney, the only one now remaining here of many who at our embarking for America were used to ‘take sweet counsel together’, and rejoice in ‘bearing the reproach of Christ’.
Sat. 18. We went to Stanton Harcourt, to Mr. Gambold, and found my old friend recovered from his mystic delusion, and convinced that St. Paul was a better writer than either Tauler or Jacob Boehme. The next day I preached once more at the Castle (in Oxford) to a numerous and serious congregation.
All this time I conversed much with Peter Böhler, but I understood him not; and least of all when he said, Mi frater, mi frater, excoquenda est ista tua philosophia—My brother, my brother, that philosophy of yours must be purged away.
Mon. 20. I returned to
. On Tuesday I
preached at Great St. Helen’s, on ‘If any man will come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ London
Wed. 22. I was with the Trustees again, to whom I then gave a short account (and afterwards delivered it to them in writing) of the reasons why I left Georgia.
Sun. 26. I preached at six at St. Lawrence’s, at ten in St. Katherine Cree Church, and in the afternoon at St. John’s, Wapping. I believe it pleased God to bless the first sermon most, because it gave most offence; being indeed an open defiance of that mystery of iniquity which the world calls ‘prudence’, grounded on those words of St. Paul to the Galatians, ‘As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’
Mon. 27. I took coach for
, and had several
opportunities of conversing seriously with my fellow-travellers. But
endeavouring to mend the wisdom of God by the worldly wisdom of prefacing
sermons with light conversation, and afterwards following that advice of the
mystics, ‘Leave them to themselves,’ all I had said was written on the sand.
‘Lord, lay not this sin to my charge!’ Salisbury
Tue. 28. I saw my mother once more. The next day I prepared for my journey to my brother at Tiverton. But on Thursday, March 2nd, a message that my brother Charles was dying at Oxford obliged me to set out for that place immediately. Calling at an odd house in the afternoon, I found several persons there who seemed well-wishers to religion, to whom I spake plainly; as I did in the evening both to the servants and strangers at my inn.
With regard to my own behaviour, I now renewed and wrote down my former resolutions:
1. To use absolute openness and unreserve with all I should converse with.
2. To labour after continual seriousness, not willingly indulging myself in any the least levity of behaviour, or in laughter—no, not for a moment.
3. To speak no word which does not tend to the glory of God; in particular, not a tittle of worldly things. Others may, nay must. But what is that to thee? And,
4. To take no pleasure which does not tend to the glory of God, thanking God every moment for all I do take, and therefore rejecting every sort and degree of it which I feel I cannot so thank him in and for.