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Wesley's Publications in 1753.
"honest souls, happily destitute of a taste for those modern embellishments, which enervate the word of God, and render 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."
The last is a long hymn of twenty-six stanzas of eight lines each, entitled "The Communion of Saints," and beginning
"Father, Son, and Spirit hear
1 See preface to Methodist Hymn-Book.
1753 Age 50
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 12m0, 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."
1 1 Wesley's Works, vol. xiii., p. 394.
1754 Age 51
ESLEY began the year 1754, as an invalid, at the Hotwells, Bristol. On the first Sunday of the year, he commenced writing his "Notes on the New Testament,""a work," says he, "which I should scarce ever have attempted, had I not been so ill as not to be able to travel or preach, and yet so well as to be able to read and write." With the exception of the time prescribed for his taking exercise on horseback, two hours for meals, and one for private prayer, he spent sixteen hours a day on this, the greatest work which he had yet attempted. For a few days, his brother assisted him in comparing the translation of the evangelists with the original, and in reading Dr. Heylyn's Lectures, and Dr. Doddridge's Expositor. In ten weeks, his rough draft of the translation, and the notes on the four gospels, was completed.
He now returned to London, and, retiring to the village of Paddington, he spent nearly the whole of the next three months in writing, with the exception of coming to town on Saturday evenings for the purpose of taking part in Sunday services.
Thus half of the year 1754 was spent in needed retirement, and in comparative silence. After an intermission of four months, Wesley preached, for the first time, at Bristol, on March 26. On Easter Sunday, he preached a sermon in West Street chapel, Seven Dials, which was the means of the conversion of Alexander Mather, who then, for the first time, saw and heard him, but afterwards became one of his chief counsellors.1 A month later, he preached to a densely crowded congregation, in what had been Sadlers Wells theatre; and, with less or more frequency, in other places in the metropolis until Whit Sunday, when he once more took the evening service at the Foundery; but writes, "I have not
1 Methodist Magazine, 1800, p. 545.
Wesley an Invalid.
recovered my whole voice or strength; perhaps I never may; but let me use what I have."
In this way were spent his convalescent months of enforced retirement. Wesley found it impossible to live a life of
Whitefield was off to America, having embarked in the month of March. Where Charles Wesley was employed we have no means of knowing. Of Wesley himself a few glimpses will be obtained in the following extracts from letters written during his seclusion.
Three days after his arrival at Bristol Hotwells, he wrote as follows to his friend Blackwell.
"BRISTOL, January 5, 1754.
"DEAR SIR,-If I write to my best friends first, I must not delay writing to you, who have been the greatest instruments, in God's hands, of my recovery thus far. The journey hither did not weary me at all; but I now find the want of Lewisham air. We are (quite contrary to my judgment, but our friends here would have it so) in a cold, bleak place, and in a very cold house. If the Hotwell water make amends for this, it is well. Nor have I any place to ride, but either by the river side, or over the downs, where the wind is ready to carry me away. However, one thing we know,—that whatsoever is, is best. My wife joins me in tender love both to Mrs. Blackwell, Mrs. Dewall, and yourself.” 1
A fortnight after this, Whitefield addressed his old friend thus.
"LONDON, January 19, 1754.
"DEAR MR. WESLEY,-" As my embarking for America seems to be very near at hand, your question must necessarily be answered in the negative. However, I thank you for your kind offer, and earnestly pray, that, wherever you are called to labour, you may find the work of the Lord prospering in your hands. I did not know, that there was any demur between you and those with whom you have been for some time connected; and I am sure, God is my witness, that I want to draw no man from them. People, money, power, are not my objects. We have blessed seasons here; the glory of the Lord fills our new Tabernacle. I hope you find your present illness sanctified. That is a sign of special love. Adieu, I am in great haste. But with greater love, I subscribe myself, dear Mr. Wesley, yours most affectionately in our common Lord,
1 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 169.