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1753 his Conference, had written him a letter painfully faithful; but the two friends knew and loved each other far too well for the least leaven of unkindly feeling to find a lodgment in the heart of either. Whitefield's grief was on his own account and that of the church apparently about to be bereaved; on Wesley's account, he was full of joy, and wished to exchange places with him. On the same day as the above was written, he addressed another friend as follows:-"The physicians think Mr. John Wesley's disease is a galloping consumption. I pity the church, I pity myself, but not him. We must stay behind in this cold climate, whilst he takes his flight to a radiant throne. Lord, if it be Thy blessed will, let not Thy chariot wheels be long in coming. Even so, come Lord Jesus, come quickly! Poor Mr. Charles will now have double work."1
Leaving Wesley and his friends in the midst of this deep sorrow, we conclude the present chapter with the customary review of Wesley's publications, during the year 1753. Before proceeding to do this, however, there is one affair, which was arranged in 1753, in reference to Wesley's book concern, which must not be overlooked. In his Journal, on February 8, 1753, Wesley wrote:-"A proposal was made for devolving all temporal business, books and all, entirely on the stewards; so that I might have no care upon me (in London at least) but that of the souls committed to my charge. O when shall it once be! From this day? In me mora non erit ulla."
Wesley, apparently, was incredulous, and yet this proposal, to a great extent at least, was carried out. We have now before us a printed folio circular, with the autograph signatures of T. Butts and W. Briggs, which must have attention. The first four paragraphs contain nothing but Christian sentiment, and, for want of space, are here omitted. The rest of the circular is as follows.
"BELOVED BRETHREN IN CHRIST,—Our minister, Mr. John Wesley, for good cause, and upon mature consideration, has entrusted the ma
1 Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 43.
2 The word "Manchester" is written, not printed.
Book Stewards' Circular.
nagement of his books to the stewards of this society, and to us in particular whose names are hereunto subscribed. He has, by a proper power of attorney, invested in us the whole care of printing, publishing, and dispersing them; and has likewise given us full authority to receive all their produce, and settle all accounts with booksellers or others, who are entrusted with the sale of them.
"Having undertaken this great concern, we are obliged, for our own security, and in order to prevent, if possible, all further inconveniences to our ministers, to use our utmost diligence, that, for the future, the book accounts in the country societies be kept with great exactness, and returns made with greater regularity than in times past. And, after seriously weighing various methods, we have come to this agreement,-to beg the stewards of each society, in the country, to take upon themselves the care of the book accounts; and we do hereby beseech you, dear brethren, for the love of Christ and His ministers, that you would be pleased to take upon yourselves the care of this article, and to observe the following regulations with the nicest punctuality :
"1. Look upon yourselves, for the future, as the stewards of the books, as well as of the other temporal affairs of the society.
"2. Appoint one among yourselves, or see that a proper person be appointed, to take charge, and dispose, of the books under your direction.
"3. Be very careful, that he keeps an exact account of all things relating to the books; and that he keeps all the books in a clean, convenient place, and in good order.
"4. Let exact accounts be kept with all the country societies round about you, that have their books from your stock; and desire the stewards of those societies to take the care of those books they receive from you upon themselves, and to engage for punctual returns of money, or an account of the books unsold being safe in their hands.
"5. We here beg leave to intreat you, that the produce of the books, from the societies about you, may be brought into your hands, at least, once a quarter, and also, that you would send that, and the produce of your own stock, to us once a quarter, by a bill from some trader near you, who can draw on his correspondent here, or by some other safe method; and, with the money, we would beg of you to send up clear accounts of the state of your stock, at the time of your sending, that is, what books you have any call for, and what books you have not, or are wanting.
"6. Be pleased to note this well, that not one penny of the book money is, for the future, to be laid out in anything but with our knowledge and consent; and, that none of it, at any time or upon any occasion whatever, is to be given to the preachers, or any one else, but to us only, who have a power of attorney to receive it, and who are absolutely accountable for all the books we let go out of our hands.
"7. And that the above article may be observed without any exception or deviation, our ministers, the Mr. Wesleys, have agreed with us; that all the produce of the books shall come into our hands, and be sent to us VOL. II. N
1753 Age 50
quarterly; and that they themselves will, upon no account whatever, take up any of the book money in any of the country societies throughout England: and, accordingly, you are to observe, that we most earnestly desire, that you would do your utmost, that this agreement be exactly fulfilled.
"8. And we, moreover, seriously wish, that you would so take upon yourselves the management of the books, as to look upon yourselves as debtors to the book accounts; for, as we cannot carry on so large a concern without good security for punctual returns every quarter, so having your word for the security of such payments, we should cheerfully hope, for the future, by the blessing of God, that no confusion or irregularities would fall out in the progress of our undertaking.
"9. Having taken upon ourselves to manage this great concern, we find it impossible to do it effectually, unless you act heartily and zealously in connection with us; and, for this reason it is, that we have proposed the foregoing regulations, and do seriously hope, that you will comply with them in every point.
"10. We beg that you would, by one of your members, keep up a frequent correspondence with us, and send your orders for books to us only (directing for Mr. Briggs, in Hoxton Square, London); at the same time giving us clear directions how, and to whom, we should direct, that letters or parcels may the most speedily reach you.
"Thus, dear brethren, we have, with the utmost freedom, delivered our sentiments to you on this important article, to which we desire your speedy answer, stating how far you can comply with the foregoing regulations, and how far not. And we further beg of you to send us what money you have in hand, with all speed, having printers and bookbinders to pay to a considerable amount. We beg also, that you would send us as exact an account as possible (from the time of your last settling accounts with Mr. Butts) of what cash you have received for books, how much of it you have sent to London, or paid elsewhere; and also, a general account of your stock, and an exact account of your wants to Ladyday last.
"These things being undertaken by you, as the labour of love, and for the benefit of our ministers (we ourselves having no profit from it, but the profits that will meet us in eternity), we are persuaded great good will follow; and, all things being done orderly and without confusion, our societies, we trust, will continue the great blessings of God upon our
"Commending you and ourselves to the grace and influence of the Spirit of Christ Jesus our Head, we subscribe ourselves, in truth, dear brethren, your most affectionate brethren, and hearty well wishers in the Lord, T. BUTTS, W. BRIGGS."
Such was the first circular of Wesley's first book stewards. Our information concerning Mr. Butts is scanty; but he was
Wesley's Book Stewards.
as honest as honesty itself; and, in that respect, was admirably fitted for his office. At an early period, he was the 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 dressed 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,3 and was present at the conference of 1748. On January 28, 1749, he was married, by Charles Wesley, to Miss Perronet, daughter of the vicar of Shoreham. Mr. Briggs, like Mr. Butts, was a man of uncompromising integrity; and who, while
1 C. Wesley's Journal, vol. i., p. 364.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1779, p. 259.
3 Ibid. 1778, p. 232.
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 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.1
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 name. 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. 8vo, 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.