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as honest as honesty itself; and, in that respect, was admira- 1753 bly fitted for his office. At an early period, he was the Age 50 travelling companion of the two Wesleys; and in 1744 was employed by Charles Wesley to carry, to Wednesbury, the sum of £60, which had been collected for the relief of the persecuted Methodists in that town and neighbourhood. Our best glimpse of him, however, is in a letter which he addressed to Wesley, in 1750, on “the duty of all to pay their debts." He writes :
“One of the greatest evils, in the society, is the disregard of some persons to pay their just debts. I would not take upon me to say, that Christianity requires persons enthralled in debt to live upon bread and water ; but can honest persons indulge themselves in strong beer and tea, when small beer and water gruel are much cheaper, and full as wholesome? Or, can they justly deck themselves in any other than the very coarsest apparel ? Not long ago, I sent to a man for some money he has owed these three or four years; he sent me for answer—that as cambrics were now forbidden, he wanted his money to buy muslin for his wife's caps; and therefore could not pay me.' I called upon a widow for a debt that had been owing long; she sent me word, 'she had nothing to do with her husband's debts'; and yet, some time after, I saw this member of our society essed in the attire of a lady, in her silk gown and capuchin, her hair flowing down her neck, and her ruffles dangling to her knees. You have justly discouraged the society from going to law with each other ; but, unless you, at the same time, take great care that dishonest members be expelled thence, the society will be a sanctuary for them.” 2
No wonder that Wesley chose such a man for his book steward.
William Briggs, for a time, was one of Wesley's preachers, or, at least, one whom he employed in visiting his societies, and was present at the conference of 1748. On January 28, 1749, he was married, by Charles Wesley,4 to Miss Perronet, daughter of the vicar of Shoreham. Mr. Briggs, like Mr. Butts, was a man of uncompromising integrity; and who, while
· C. Wesley's Journal, vol. i., p. 364. 2 Methodist Magazine, 1779, p. 259.
3 Ibid. 1778, p. 232. 4 C. Wesley's Journal, vol. ii., p. 51.
5 The Gentleman's Magazine, for 1749, p. 44, contains the following announcement : “ 1749, January 28.- Marriage of William Briggs, Esq., of the Custom House, Secretary to Messrs. Wesley, to Miss Perronet, of Shoreham, Kent. £5,000."
1753 loving, honouring, and reverencing Wesley in a high degree, Age 50 had honesty enough to tell him of what he conceived to be
his faults. In a letter, written about the same time as Thomas Butts', after eulogizing Wesley for his many excellencies, he continues
“ But I think your experience is buried in your extensive knowledge. I think you feel not, abidingly, a deep sense of your own spiritual weakness, the nearness of Christ to save, nor a sweet communion with God by the Holy Ghost. You have the appearance of all Christian graces, but they do not, I think, spring from a deep experience. A good nature, with great abilities, will mimic grace ; but grace is more than outward ; it brings the soul to a deep union with God, and its fellow Christians; but there is a want of sympathy in your discourses and conversation;" etc.?
This was bold language to employ, and was unauthorised by facts; but it was the language of an honest, though mistaken, friend; and, three years afterwards, that friend was one of Wesley's book stewards.
The only tract of any consequence, published against the Methodists, in 1753, was “A serious Address to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, in relation to the principal doctrine advanced and maintained by him and his assistants. By John Parkhurst, M.A.” 8vo, 31 pages. The doctrine referred to was the witness of the Spirit. The writer was the celebrated author of the well known Hebrew and Greek lexicons which bear his na Parkhurst was a Rugby scholar, a fellow of Cambridge university, and the possessor of large estates. His “serious address to Wesley, written in the twentyfifth year of his age, was his first publication. He professes to examine the texts adduced by Wesley in support of the doctrine of the Spirit's witness, and, in a friendly spirit, endeavours to refute Wesley's interpretation of them.
Perhaps we ought to mention another pamphlet, upon whose friendliness, or hostility, it would be difficult to pronounce an opinion. Its title was, "The Principles and Preaching of the Methodists considered. In a letter to the Rev. Mr. -" Svo, 44 pages. In one page the author abuses the Methodists; in another he praises them. He tells his readers, that the masses, among whom the Methodists were labouring, were
1 Whitehead's Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 261.
" honest souls, happily destitute of a taste for those modern 1753 embellishments, which enervate the word of God, and render Age 50 it of no effect. In the simplicity of their hearts, they wanted no kickshaws to recommend a gospel entertainment; and found nourishment from the sincere milk of the word without its being converted into whipped syllabub."
Wesley's publications, in 1753, were the following.
1. Fourteen volumes of the “Christian Library," namely, Vol. XX. to Vol. XXXIII. inclusive, and making altogether more than four thousand and three hundred printed 12mo pages. This was no trifle to be undertaken and accomplished by a clergyman without money, and who was always traveling; but Wesley did more than this. Hence the additional publications belonging to this period.
2. “An Extract of the Life and Death of Mr. John Janeway." 12mo, 35 pages.
3. “Hymns and Spiritual Songs, intended for the use of real Christians of all Denominations." 12mo, 124 pages. For many years, this was the hymn-book of the Methodist meeting-houses. In thirty-three years, twenty-four editions were issued. The first edition, now before us, has no author's name, but that the work was Wesley's there can be no mistake. Besides the evidence arising from its being “printed by William Strahan; and sold at the Foundery in Upper Moorfields, and in the Horsefair, Bristol,” we have Wesley's own statement, made in 1779, that he himself made the compilation "several years ago from a variety of hymnbooks.”? The hymns are eighty-four in number, but some are divided into as many as half-a-dozen parts. The first is the well known paraphrase on Isaiah lv., beginning with the line
“ Ho! every one that thirsts, draw nigh.”
“Father, Son, and Spirit hear
See preface to Methodist Hymn-Book.
1753 4. “An Extract of the Reverend Mr. John Wesley's Age 50 Journal, from October 27, 1743, to November 17, 1746."
12mo, 160 pages.
5. "The Complete English Dictionary, explaining most of those hard words which are found in the best English writers. By a Lover of Good English and Common Sense. N.B.The Author assures you he thinks this is the best English dictionary in the world.” Such is Wesley's title page. The book is 12mo, and consists of 144 pages. The preface is in perfect keeping with the title page.
“As incredible as it may appear, I must avow, that this dictionary is not published to get money, but to assist persons of common sense and no learning, to understand the best English authors ; and that, with as little expense of either time or money, as the nature of the thing would allow. To this end, it contains, not a heap of Greek and Latin words, just tagged with English terminations (for no good English writers, none but vain or senseless pedants, give these any place in their writings); not a scroll of barbarous law expressions, which are neither Greek, Latin, nor good English ; not a crowd of technical terms, the meaning whereof is to be sought in books expressly wrote on the subjects to which they belong ; not such English words as and, of, but, which stand so gravely in Mr. Bailey's, Pardon's, and Martin's dictionaries ; but most of those hard words which are found in the best English writers.?”
To rightly appreciate this curious publication, it must be borne in mind, that Wesley was now putting into the hands of thousands of the common people extracts from “the best English writers," in the numerous volumes of his “Christian Library." Hence the necessity he felt of giving to the same readers a compendious dictionary explaining words in that Library, which many, at least, were not likely to understand.
In reference to his egotistic title page, Wesley waggishly continues
“I have often observed, the only way, according to the modern taste, for any author to procure commendation to his book, is vehemently to commend it himself. For want of this deference to the public, several excellent tracts, lately printed, but left to commend themselves by their intrinsic worth, are utterly unknown or forgotten. Whereas, if a writer of tolerable sense will but bestow a few violent encomiums on his own work, especially if they are skilfully arranged in the title page, it will pass through six editions in a trice; the world being too complaisant to give the gentleman the lie, and taking it for granted, he understands his own performance best. In compliance, therefore, with the taste of the age, I
Wesley a lover of Plainness.
add, that this little dictionary is not only the shortest and the cheapest, but likewise, by many degrees, the most correct which is extant at this day. Many are the mistakes in all the other English dictionaries which I have yet seen. Whereas, I can truly say, I know of none in this; and I conceive the reader will believe me ; for if I had, I should not have left it there. Use then this help, till you find a better.”
This is hardly egotism, so much as satire; or, perhaps, both united. Be that as it may, there can be no question, that Wesley's little, though pretentious, dictionary was calculated to be of great service in assisting the poor, unlettered Methodists in understanding even the hardest words in his “Christian Library.”
Wesley was a lover of plainness—plain food, plain clothing, plain truth, and plain language. “What is it,” he wrote in 1764, “that constitutes a good style ? Perspicuity, purity, propriety, strength, and easiness joined together. When any one of these is wanting, it is not a good style. As for me, I never think of my style at all; but just set down the words that come first. Only when I transcribe anything for the press, then I think it my duty to see every phrase be clear, pure, and proper. Conciseness, which is now, as it were, natural to me, brings quantum sufficit of strength. If, after all, I observe any stiff expression, I throw it out, neck and shoulders. Clearness, in particular, is necessary for you and me; because we are to instruct people of the lowest understanding. We should constantly use the most common, little, easy words (so they are pure and proper) which our language affords. When I had been a member of the university about ten years, I wrote and talked much as you do now.
But when I talked to plain people in the castle, or the town, I observed they gaped and stared. This quickly obliged me to alter my style, and adopt the language of those I spoke to. And yet there is a dignity in this simplicity, which is not disagreeable to those of the highest rank.” 1
Holding such views, no wonder that Wesley compiled a dictionary to explain "the hard words in the English writers.”
· Wesley's Works, vol. xiii., p. 394.