« ZurückWeiter »
of the Perseverance of the Saints." Svo, 52 pages. In the 1752 latter production, Dr. Gill says, that Wesley, in noticing his Age 49 former one, had "contented himself with low, mean, and impertinent exceptions, not attempting to answer one argument, and yet having the assurance, in the public papers, to call this miserable piece of his, chiefly written on another subject, 'A full answer to Dr. Gill's pamphlet on Final Perseverance.'” This, on the part of Dr. Gill, was the wincing whine of a defeated man. It was not worthy of him. Dr. Gill was now fifty-five years of age, and a man of vast learning and research. Before his twentieth year, he had read all the Greek and Latin authors that had fallen in his way, and had so studied Hebrew as to be able to read the Old Testament in the original with pleasure. Besides other works, he was the author of “A Body of Divinity," in three quarto volumes ; and of "An Exposition of the Old and New Testament," in nine volumes, folio. The university of Aberdeen had conferred upon him the degree of a doctor of divinity,“ on account of his great knowledge of the Scriptures, of the oriental languages, and of Jewish antiquities, of his learned defence of the Scriptures against deists and infidels, and the reputation gained by his other works "; but, in terse, powerful, conclusive argument, John Gill was not a match for John Wesley. He was a man of excellent moral character; but he was an ultra Calvinist. He was a man of unwearied diligence, of laborious research, of vast learning; but his immense mass of valuable materials were comparatively useless, for he had neither talent to digest, nor skill to arrange them. We think it was Robert Hall who not inaptly described his voluminous productions as “a continent of mud.” He died in 1771.
5. Another of Wesley's publications in 1752 was, “A Second Letter to the Author of The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists compared.'” This was published in the month of January; and, at the same time, was issued, “A Third Letter to the Author of the Enthusiasm of Methodists," etc. By Vincent Perronet, A.M.; price six
i London Magazine, 1752, p. 48.
1752 Lavington published the second part of his lampooning Age 49 work in 1749;' and part third in 1751. Of Part II., White
field wrote, in a letter to Lady Huntingdon, dated August 24, 1749 “I have seen the bishop's second pamphlet, in which he serves the Methodists, as the Bishop of Constance served John Huss, when he ordered painted devils to be put round his head, before they burnt him. His preface to me is most virulent. Everything I wrote, in my answer, is turned into the vilest ridicule. I cannot see that it calls for any further answer from me. Mr. Wesley, I think, had best attack him now, as he is largely concerned in this second part.'
Whitefield was not a match for an episcopal buffoon like Lavington; and hence he hands him over to his trenchant friend Wesley. The preface, of more than thirty pages, addressed to Whitefield, was full of banter; and in Part II., following it, he is treated with the same coarse rudeness. He and Wesley and the Methodist preachers in general are accused of assuming “the ostentation of sanctified looks," “fantastical oddities," "affectation of godly and Scripture phrases," "and high pretensions to inspiration.” “Their great swelling words of vanity, and proud boastings, had been carried to a most immoderate and insufferable degree.” "They were either innocent madmen, or infamous cheats." As for Whitefield, “no man ever so bedaubed himself with his own spittle. His first Account of God's Dealings with him was such a boyish, ludicrous, filthy, nasty, and shameless relation of himself, as quite defiles paper, and is shocking to decency and modesty. It is a perfect jakes of uncleanness.” Wesley had "so fanaticised his own followers, and given them so many strong doses of the enthusiastic tincture, as to turn their brains and deprive them of their senses." "The mountebank's infallible prescriptions must be swallowed, whatever be the consequence, though they die for it.” The Methodists are charged with “the black art of calumny, with excessive pride and vanity, with scepticisms and disbeliefs of God and Christ, with disorderly practices, and inveterate broils among themselves, and with a coolness for
| London Alagazine, 1749, p. 388.
good works, and an uncommon warmth for some that are 1752 very bad.” “In their several Answers and Defences, a strain Age 42 of jesuitical sophistry, artifice and craft, evasion, reserve, equivocation, and prevarication, is of constant use."
Lavington's Part III., a volume in itself, is addressed “to the Reverend Mr. Wesley"; who is made the almost exclusive object of its virulent attack. He is told, that he is "an arrant joker, a perfect droll.” “Go on," says the ribald bishop, "and build chapels. One may be dedicated to the god Proteus, famous for being a juggling wonder-monger, and turning himself into all shapes; another to the god called Catius, because he made men sly and cunning as cats. The people with whom you have to do, you know, will adore you; for the same reason that the Egyptians did their bull Apis; because renowned for miracles, and every hour changing its colour.” He adds: “your Letter to the author of Enthusiasm is a medley of chicanery, sophistry, prevarication, evasion, pertness, conceitedness, scurrility, sauciness, and effrontery. Paper and time should not be wasted on such stuff.” And this was all the answer his lordship furnished.
We are afraid to make our pages, what Lavington has made his book, "a perfect jakes of uncleanness,” by further quotations. Suffice it to say, that the whole of this scurrility was anonymous.
No wonder that Wesley, in his answer, speaks of his calumniator as one that turns the most serious, the most awful, the most venerable things into mere farce, and matter of low buffoonery"; one who treats sacred topics with the “spirit of a merry-andrew." He convicts him of the most flagrant falsehood, and says, “I charge you with gross, wilful prevarication, from the beginning of your book to the end "; and firmly, but respectfully, sustains the charge. He writes :
“I have now considered all the arguments you have brought to prove, that the Methodists are carrying on the work of popery. And I am persuaded, every candid man, who rightly weighs what has been said, with any degree of attention, will clearly see, not only, that no one of those arguments is of any real force at all, but that you do not believe them yourself ; you do not believe the conclusion which you pretend to prove ; only you keep close to your laudable resolution of throwing as much dirt as possible.”
“These things being so, what must all unprejudiced men think of you and your performance ? You have advanced a charge, not against one or two persons only, but indiscriminately against a whole body of people of his majesty's subjects, Englishmen, Protestants, members, I suppose, of your own church; a charge containing abundance of articles, and most of them of the highest and blackest nature. You have prosecuted this with unparalleled bitterness of spirit, and acrimony of language ; using sometimes the most coarse, rude, scurrilous terms; sometimes the keenest sarcasms you could devise. The point you have steadily pursued, in thus prosecuting this charge, is, first, to expose the whole people to the hatred and scorn of all mankind; and next, to stir up the civil powers against them. And when this charge comes to be fairly weighed, there is not a single article of it true! Most of the passages you have cited, you have palpably maimed, corrupted, and strained to a sense never thought of by the writer ; they prove nothing less than the points in question ; and many of them are flat against you, and overthrow the very point they are brought to support. Is not this the most shocking violation of the Christian rule, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'; the most open affront to all justice, and even common humanity ; the most glaring insult upon the common sense and reason of mankind, which has lately appeared in the world ?"
“You regard neither mercy, justice, nor truth. To vilify and blacken is your one point. I pray God it may not be laid to your charge! May He show you mercy, though you show none !
“I am, sir,
What was the result? In the month of March, or April, Lavington published a tract, with the title, “The Bishop of Exeter's Answer to Mr. Wesley's late Letter to his Lordship.” Svo, 15 pages; in which he feebly struggles to get out of a flagrant falsehood, of which Wesley had convicted him ; and, true to his old vituperative style of writing, concludes thus:
“The remainder of your epistle, mere rant and declamation, shall give me no trouble. Having cleared up a matter of fact, which may be thought necessary for my own justification, I find myself under no obligation or disposition, to enter into matters of dispute, wherein our opinions would widely differ. I am too sensible of your way of answering, your temper, and of what spirit you are of, to think of any further correspondence : and if you expect, that I should let myself down to a
i London Magazine, 1752, p. 193.
level with you, you will find yourself mistaken. I pray God to give you
“ And am, sir,
“G. Exon." This was pitiful poltroonery, in perfect character with a cowardly calumniator, who had poured forth the most unfounded scandals, without daring to show his face or to sign his name. Wesley briefly replied, in a letter dated “Newcastle upon Tyne, May 8, 1752"; and so the matter ended.
Amid such hurricanes was Methodism cradled ; and in the face of such opponents Wesley had to pursue his great, gospel mission. Who, after the specimens of Lavington's scandalizing pen, is prepared to expect that the tablet, erected to his memory in Exeter cathedral, should represent him as one who “never ceased to improve his talents, nor to employ them to the noblest purposes”? The conclusion of this marvellous epitaph is as follows :
“Unaffected sanctity dignified his instructions,
Of a Man, a Christian, and a Prelate,
To resign life without regret, ,
To meet death without terror,
In his 79th year, September 13, 1762.” 1
| Polwhele's Edition of “ Enthusiasm,” etc.