The following illustrations are from Anecdotes, published in 1838. This little booklet stresses personal holiness and teaches about the Christian life through a series of vignettes. The titles above each entry are mine.
In the year 1776 the Rev. John Wesley received the following letter in consequence of a recent resolution of the government that circulars should be sent to all persons who were suspected of having plate on which they had not paid the duty: --
"Reverend sir, -- As the commissioners cannot doubt that you have plate for which you have hitherto neglected to make an entry, they have directed me to send you the above copy of the lords' order, and to inform you that they expect that you forthwith make the entry of all your plate, such entry to bear date from the commencement of the plate duty, or from such time as you have owned, used, had, or kept any quantity of silver plate, chargeable by the act of parliament: as in default hereof the board will be obliged to signify your refusal to their lordships.
"N.B. An immediate answer is desired."
Mr. Wesley replied as follows: --
"Sir, -- I have two silver tea-spoons at London, and two at Bristol: this is all the plate which I have at present; and I shall not buy any more while so many around me want bread.
"I am, sir, your most humble servant,
A lady, who was present at the dispensation of the Lord's supper, where the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine was assisting, was much impressed by his discourse. Having been informed who he was, she went on the next Sabbath to his own place of worship to hear him. But she felt none of those strong impressions she experienced on the former occasion. Wondering at this, she called on Mr. Erskine, and, stating the case, asked what might be the reason of such a difference in her feelings; he replied, "Madam, the reason is this: last Sabbath you went to hear Jesus Christ preached; but today you have come to hear Ebenezer Erskine preach."
In the late war in Germany, a captain of cavalry was ordered out on a foraging party. He put himself at the head of his troop, and marched to the quarter assigned him. It was a solitary valley, in which hardly any thing but woods could be seen. In the midst of it stood a little cottage; on perceiving it, he went up and knocked at the door; out comes an ancient Hernouten, (better known in this country by the name of Moravian brethren,) with a beard silvered by age. "Father," says the officer, " show me a field where I can set my troops a foraging." "Presently," replied the Hernouten. The good old man walked before, and conducted them out of the valley. After a quarter of an hour's march, they found a fine field of barley. "There is the very thing we want," says the captain. "Have patience for a few minutes," replied his guide, "you shall be satisfied." They went on, and, at the distance of about a quarter of a league farther, they arrived at another field of barley. The troops immediately dismounted, cut down the grain, trussed it up and remounted. The officer, upon this, says to his conductor, "Father, you have given yourself and us unnecessary trouble; the first field was much better than this." "Very true, sir," replied the good old man, "but it was not mine."
In the United States of America, infidelity found an active champion in the well-known Colonel Ethan Allen, who made an open profession of his disbelief in revealing religion. It happened that a daughter of the colonel's, to whom he was very much attached, fell sick. During the progress of her illness, Dr. Elliot was one day dining with the colonel, and, after having adjourned to the colonel's library, some infidel and deistical publications were introduced by the colonel to the doctor's notice. While they were occupied in looking at them, a servant came to announce to the colonel that an alarming change had taken place in his daughter and that his presence was required in her bed-room. Thither he went, accompanied by Dr. ElIiot. As he approached her bedside, she took his hand and said, "Father, I feel that my end is drawing near. Tell me, I entreat you, am I to believe what you have taught me, or what I have learned from my mother?" Her mother was a sound and sincere Christian, and had spared no opportunity of instilling Christian truths into the mind of her child. The father paused for a moment; he fixed his eyes on his dying child; his countenance changed, his frame was observed to be convulsed to its very centre; while his quivering lips could scarce give utterance to the words, "Believe, my child, what your mother has taught you."
Dr. Harris relates, that while Dr. Manton was minister at Covent Garden, he was called on to preach before the lord mayor, and the companies of the city, at St. Paul's. He studied for the occasion an elaborate discourse, and was heard by the most intelligent part of his congregation with great admiration. But, as he was returning home in the evening, a poor man pulled the sleeve of his gown, and asked if he was the gentleman who had preached before the lord mayor in the morning. On the doctor's replying in the affirmative, the man added, "Sir, I came with the hope of getting some good for my soul, but I was greatly disappointed; for I could not understand a great deal of what you said; you were quite above me." The doctor wept, and replied, "Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one; and by the grace of God, I will never again play the fool, in preaching before my lord mayor in such a manner."