The Merchant's Son by John Wesley

JOHN HARVEY was born in London, in the year 1654: his father was a Dutch merchant: he was piously educated under his mother, and soon began to hear Divine things with delight.

2. The first thing observable in him was, that when he was two years and eight months old, he could speak as well as other children do usually at five years old.

3. His parents, judging that he was then too young to send to school, let him have his liberty to play about their yard, but instead of playing, he found out a school of his own accord near home, and went to the schoolmistress, and entreated her to teach him to read; and so he went some time to school without the knowledge of his parents, and made a very strange progress in his learning, and was able to read distinctly before most children knew their letters.

4. He was wont to ask many serious and weighty questions about matters which concerned his soul and eternity.

5. His mother being greatly troubled upon the death of one of his uncles, this child came to his mother and said, "Mother, though my uncle be dead, do not the Scriptures say he must rise again? Yes, and I must die, and so must every body, and it will not be long before Christ will come to judge the world, and then we shall see one another again: I pray mother, do not weep so much." He was not then quite five years old: by which her sorrow for her brother was turned into admiration, and she was made to sit silent and quiet under that trying providence.

6. After this his parents removed to Aberdeen, and settled their child under a schoolmaster there, whose custom was upon the Lord's day in the morning, to examine his scholars concerning the sermons they had heard the former Lord's day, and to add some other questions, which might try the understanding and knowledge of his scholars. The question that was once proposed to his form was, whether Christ had a mother? None of the scholars could answer it, till it came to John Harvey, who, being asked whether Christ had a mother? answered, "No; as he was God he could not have a mother; but as he was man he had." This was before he was six years old.

7. One day, seeing one of his near relations come into his father's house distempered with drink, he went to him, and wept over him, and besought him that he would not so offend God, and hazard his soul.

8. He was a conscientious observer of the Lord's day, spending all the time either in secret prayer, reading the Scriptures and good books, learning his catechism, or hearing the word of God. And he was not only careful in the performance of these duties himself, but was ready to put all that he knew upon a strict observation of the Lord's day.

9. He was very humble and modest, and hated any thing more than necessaries, either in clothes or diet.

10. When he perceived either his brother or sister pleased with their new clothes, he would reprove their folly; and when his reproof signified little, he would bewail their vanity.

11. Once he had a new suit brought from the tailor's, which, when he looked on, he found some ribands on the knees, at which he was grieved: asking his mother "whether these things would keep him warm?" "No, child," said his mother. "Why then," said he, "do you suffer them to be put there? You are mistaken if you think such things please me: and, I doubt some that are better than us may want the money that this cost you, to buy them bread."

12. At leisure times he was talking to his school fellows about the things of God, and the necessity of a holy life. That text he much spoke on to them, "The axe is laid to the root of the tree, and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire."

13. After this his parents removed not far from London, where he continued till the year 1665. He was then sent to the Latin school, where he soon made a very considerable progress, and was greatly beloved of his master. The school was his beloved place, and learning his recreation.

14. He had a word to say to every one that he conversed with, to put them in mind of the worth of Christ and their souls; and their nearness to eternity: insomuch that good people took no small pleasure in his company.

15. He bewailed the miserable condition of the generality of mankind, (when he was about ten years old,) that they were utterly estranged from God. "Though they called him Father, he said, yet they were his children by creation, and not by any likeness they had to God, or any interest in him."

16. Thus he continued walking in the ways of God: in reading, praying, hearing the word of God, and spiritual intercourse; discovering thereby his serious thoughts of eternity, which seemed to swallow up all other thoughts; and he lived in a constant preparation for it, and looked more like one that was ripe for glory than an inhabitant of this lower world.

17. When he was about eleven years and nine months old his mother's house was visited with the plague; his eldest sister was the first that was visited with this distemper; and when they were praying for her, he would sob and weep bitterly.

18. As soon as he perceived his sister was dead, he said, "The will of the Lord be done2C blessed be the Lord! Dear mother, you must do as David did: after the child was dead he went and refreshed himself, and quietly submitted to the will of God."

19. The rest of the family held well for some days, which time he spent in preparing for death. Meantime he wrote several meditations upon different subjects, particularly upon the excellence of Christ. He was never well but when he was more immediately engaged in the service of God.

20. At the end of fourteen days he was taken sick, at which he seemed very cheerful; though his pains were great.

21. His mother, looking upon his brother, shook her head: at which he asked if his brother was marked with the complaint? She answered, "Yea, child." He asked again whether he was marked? She answered nothing. "Well," says he, "I know I shall be marked: I pray let me have Mr. Baxter's book, that I may read a little more of eternity before I go into it." His mother told him he was not able to read. He said, "Then pray by me and for me."

22. His mother asked him whether he was willing to die and leave her? He answered, "Yes. I am willing to leave you and go to my heavenly Father." She answered, "Child, if thou hadst but an assurance of God's love, I should not be so much troubled." He answered, "I am assured that my sins are forgiven, and that I shall go to heaven: for," said he, "here stood an angel by me, that told me I should quickly be in glory."

23. At this his mother burst forth into tears. "O mother," said he, "did you but know what joy I feel you would not weep but rejoice. I tell you I am so full of comfort that I cannot tell you how I am: O mother, I shall presently have my head in my Father's bosom, and shall be there where the four and twenty elders cast down their crowns, and sing hallelujah, glory, and praise to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever!"

24. Upon this his speech began to fail him, but his soul was still taken up with glory; and nothing now grieved him but the sorrow that he saw his mother to be in for his death; a little to divert her he asked, "What she had for supper?" But presently, in a kind of rapture he cried, "O what a sweet supper have I making ready for me in glory!"

25. But seeing all this did but increase his mother's grief, he asked her, "What she meant thus to offend God? Know you not that it is the hand of the Almighty? 'Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God:' lay yourself in the dust and kiss the rod, in token of your submission to the will of God." Upon which, raising himself a little, he gave a lowly bow, and spake no more! but went to rest in the bosom of Jesus.