“Son Whitelamb, my hand is weary, and there is much to write. Help me to my dearest wish on earth—the only wish now left to me: help me that Jack may inherit Epworth cure when I am gone. Hear what he objects: ’The question is not whether I could do more good there or here in Oxford, but whether I could do more good to myself; seeing wherever I can be most holy myself, there I can most promote holiness in others. But I can improve myself more at Oxford than at any other place.’ The lad must think I forget my logic. See you, he juggles me with identical propositions! First it is no question of doing good to others, but to himself; and anon when he does most good to himself he will do most good to others. Am I a dead dog, to be pelted with such sophisms? Son Whitelamb, is your pen ready?”
“Of what avail is it?” John Whitelamb asked himself. “These men, father and son, decide first, and, having decided, find no lack of arguments. It is but pride of the mind in which they clothe their will. Moreover, if there be a God, what a vain conflict am I aiding! seeing that time with Him is not, and all has been decided from the beginning.”
Yet he took down the answer with his habitual care, glancing up in the pauses at the old face, gray and intense beneath the dark skull-cap. The letter ended:
“If you are not indifferent whether the labours of an aged father for above forty years in God’s vineyard be lost, and the fences of it trodden down and destroyed; if you have any care for our family, which must be dismally shattered as soon as I am dropped; if you reflect on the dear love and longing which this dear people has for you, whereby you will be enabled to do God the more service; and the plenteousness of the harvest, consisting of near two thousand souls, whereas you have not many more scholars in the University; you may perhaps alter your mind, and bend your will to His, who has promised, if in all our ways we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths.”
“Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness.”
All the world has heard how John Wesley rode, eight years later, into Epworth; and how, his father’s pulpit having been denied to him, he stood outside upon his father’s tomb and preached evening after evening in the warm June weather the gospel of Justification by Faith to the listening crowd. Visitors are shown the grit slab, now recut and resting on a handsome structure of stone, but then upon plainest brickwork; and are bidden to notice, in the blank space below the words “Their works do follow them,” two rough pieces of ironstone which mark where the preacher’s feet rested.
Eight evenings he preached from it, and on the third evening chose for his text these words: “Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness.”