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earls, lords, knights, members of parliament, bishops, deans, 1756 prebends, fellows of colleges, and rectors, vicars, and curates Age 53 without number. In the preface, it is alleged that, "though Methodism is now almost quite extinct, yet several of its direful consequences still remain,-as, that sin is no sin in the elect; that faith can never be finally lost; and that once a saint, for ever a saint. The most zealous of the party now, in a great measure, wallow in lust and sensuality, and never stick at anything, be it ever so heinous." The Moravians are said to be, “in principle and practice, a scandal to Christianity. Inward experiences, dispensations, manifestations, discoveries, improvements, pledges, privileges, and prerogatives; out-goings, in-goings, and returns,-all this glorious apparatus had ended in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh!” Whitefield is accused of reviving antinomianism, of vain glory and boasting, of self conceit, self applause, and self sufficiency, of Luciferian pride, and of intolerably profaning Scripture. Wesley is equally abused. “The petty exhorters" are said to "ramble from place to place, venting crude, nonsensical, heretical, and blasphemous opinions, which are swallowed by the gaping multitude." "Most of their first admirers and followers were perfectly bewildered, and, having deserted both Wesley and Whitefield, had turned Moravians, or libertines, or deists, or papists, or quakers.” The itinerant preachers and exhorters were “mechanics and illiterate vagrants, pretending to expound by inspiration, and fathering all their crude conceptions on the dictates of the Holy Spirit.”
These are mild specimens of the rabid production of the Rey. Theophilus Evans, vicar of St. David's, Brecon. necessary to apologise for the reproduction of such mendacious scurrility? We think not; for, without this, the reader cannot form an adequate conception of the gross abuse poured upon Wesley and his friends, and of the terrific difficulties which the first Methodists had to meet.
Another attack, of a different kind, must be mentioned : “The Use and Extent of Reason in Matters of Religion. A Sermon preached before the University of Oxford, at St. Mary's, June 8, 1756. By Thomas Griffith, M.A., Fellow of Pembroke College. Published at the request of the Vice
1756 Chancellor and Heads of Houses. Oxford, 1756." 8vo, 25 Age 53 pages. Of course, Mr. Griffith eschews Mr. Evans's vulgarities,
and it is fair to add, that the Methodists are hardly named; but it is also undeniable, that it was against them that he was chiefly preaching
Wesley began the new year by writing his “Address to the Clergy," which will be noticed hereafter. He was, also, not forgetful of his own itinerants. Joseph Cownley had had a fever in 1755, which had left a permanent pain in his head, and from which he suffered until his death, thirty-seven years afterwards. After consulting the principal physicians in Ireland, he consulted Wesley, who wrote thus.
“ LONDON, January 10, 1756. “MY DEAR BROTHER, I have no objection to anything but the blister. If it does good, well. But if I had been at Cork, all the physicians in Ireland should not have put it upon your head. Remember poor Bishop Pearson. An apothecary, to cure a pain in his head, covered it with a large blister. In an hour, he cried out, “O my head, my head !' and was a fool ever after, to the day of his death. I believe cooling things (if anything under heaven), would remove that violent irritation of your nerves, which probably occasions the pain. Moderate riding may be of use; I believe, of more than the blister. Only do not take more labour upon you than you can bear.
Do as much as you can, and no more. Let us make use of the present time. Every day is of importance. We know not how few days of peace remain. “I am, dear Joseph, your affectionate friend and brother,
“ JOHN WESLEY.”1 On January 26 and three following days, Wesley paid a visit to Canterbury, where he had a congregation containing "abundance of soldiers, and not a few of their officers." Some might think, that a city like Canterbury, with its magnificent cathedral, its numerous parish churches, and giving its name to the primate of all England, would have had no need of the services of a man like Wesley; and, perhaps, if special circumstances had not existed here, Wesley would not have come. But it was here that Edward Perronet resided, in a part of the old archbishop's palace. In the suburbs, Vincent Perronet, Wesley's confidential friend, the archbishop of Methodism as he was sometimes called, was the proprietor of
1 Methodist Magazine, 1794, p. 528.
a farm. Above all, Canterbury was a great military depot, 1756 and such was the interest which Wesley felt in the welfare of
Age 53 soldiers, that this fact, in itself, was enough to bring him to this far famed city. Love begets love: large numbers of these brave defenders of the country's rights and honour were converted, and became deeply attached to the few Canterbury Methodists who had shown them kindness. It is said, that on one occasion, when certain regiments were on their way to Holland, and had to pass through the city, such was their grateful remembrance of bygone days, that the Methodists, in the regiments, determined to avail themselves of the opportunity of meeting in class with their former leader ; and this they did in such numbers, that the military class-meeting lasted for nine successive hours. No wonder that Wesley loved men like these. He came in January, and again a month afterwards, when he dined with one of the colonels, who said: “No men fight like those who fear God; I had rather command five hundred such, than any regiment in his majesty's army."
At this period, the unfortunate Dr. Dodd was struggling into notoriety and fame. Such were his application and talents, that, though only a sizar of Cambridge university, he had, five years before, taken the degree of B.A. with distinguished credit. Leaving Cambridge, he came to London, depending for support solely upon his pen. Here he followed every species of amusement with dangerous avidity. Though only a little past twenty-one, he married the daughter of one of Sir John Dolben's domestics, and immediately took and furnished a large house in Wardour Street, which, however, at his father's remonstrance, he soon relinquished. He then obtained ordination, and had now the lectureship of St. Olave, Hart Street; and was also the preacher of Lady Moyer's lectures at St. Paul's. He quickly distinguished himself as one of the most popular of the metropolitan preachers. Of his subsequent career we shall have to speak hereafter.
Dodd was now a young man in the twenty-seventh year of his age, -wild and extravagant, but sincere, earnest, and greatly beloved by the crowds that flocked to hear him. In the month of January, he wrote to Wesley on the subject of
1 Methodist Magazine, 1837, p. 423.
1756 Christian perfection. Wesley, twice as old as himself, and in Age 53
all respects his superior, had no personal acquaintance with him, but replied as follows.
“ February 5, 1756. “REVEREND SIR-I am very willing to consider whatever you have to advance on the head of Christian perfection. When I began to make the Scriptures my study (about seven and twenty years ago), I began to see, that Christians are called to love God with all their heart, and to serve Him with all their strength; which is precisely what I apprehend to be meant by the scriptural term, 'perfection. After weighing this for some years, I openly declared my sentiments before the university, in the sermon on the Circumcision of the Heart. About six years after, in consequence of an advice I received from Bishop Gibson, “Tell all the world what you mean by perfection,' I published my coolest and latest thoughts, in the sermon on that subject. I therein build on no authority, ancient or modern, but the Scripture. If this supports any doctrine, it will stand : if not, the sooner it falls, the better. Neither the doctrine in question, nor any other, is anything to me, unless it be the doctrine of Christ and His apostles. If, therefore, you will please to point out to me any passages in that sermon, which are either contrary to Scripture, or not supported by it, and to show that they are not, I shall be full as willing to oppose, as ever I was to defend them. I search for truth-plain Bible truth, without any regard to the praise or dispraise of men. If you will assist me in this search, more especially by showing me where I have mistaken my way, it will be gratefully acknowledged by, reverend sir, your affectionate brother and servant,
“JOHN WESLEY.” 1 This noble letter was followed by further correspondence, showing that, instead of being wedded to his own peculiar doctrines, Wesley's supreme anxiety was to know, what is truth. The following is an extract from a letter which fills nearly seven printed pages of the Arminian Magazine,
"KINGSWOOD, March 12, 1756. “REVEREND SIR, You and I the more easily bear with each other, because we are both of us rapid writers, and, therefore, the more liable to mistake. I will thank you for showing me any mistake I am in ; being not so tenacious of my opinions now, as I was twenty or thirty years ago. Indeed, I am not fond of any opinion as such. I read the Bible with what attention I can, and regulate all my opinions thereby, to the best of my understanding. But I am always willing to receive more light: particularly with regard to any less common opinions; because the explaining and defending them takes up much time, which I can ill spare from other employments.
* Methodist Magazine, 1779, p. 434.
Correspondence with Dr. Dodd.
Whoever, therefore, will give me more light with regard to Christian perfection, will do me a singular favour. The opinion I have concerning it, at present, I espouse merely because I think it is scriptural ; if, therefore, I am convinced it is not scriptural, I shall willingly relinquish it. I have no particular fondness for the term. It seldom occurs either in my preaching or writings. It is my opponents who thrust it upon me continually, and ask me what I mean by it.
“ That the term “perfection' is a scriptural term, is undeniable. Therefore, none ought to object to the use of the term, whatever they may do to this or that application of it. I still think, that perfection is only another term for holiness, or the image of God in man. God made man perfect, I think, is just the same as He made him holy, or in His own image. You are the very first person I ever read of or spoke with, who made any doubt of it. Now this perfection does certainly admit of degrees. Therefore, I readily allow the propriety of that distinction, perfection of kinds, and perfection of degrees. Nor do I remember one writer, ancient or modern, who excepts against it.
“ I never meant any more by perfection than the loving God with all our heart, and serving Him with all our strength. But I dare not say less than this. For it might be attended with worse consequences than you seem to be aware of. If there be a mistake, it is far more dangerous on the one side than on the other. If I set the mark too high, I drive men into needless fears : if you set it too low, you drive them into hell fire.
“With regard to fathers in Christ, you say, I set aside the experience of the best Christians. I did not tell you so : say nothing about them. In a sermon of a single sheet, I had no room for anything but plain arguments from Scripture. I have somewhat to say, if need should be, from the head of authority likewise : yea, and abundantly more than you seem to apprehend. My father gave me, thirty years ago, to reverence the ancient church and our own. But I try every church and every doctrine by the Bible. This is the word by which we are to be judged in that day. Whatever further thoughts you are pleased to communicate, will be seriously considered by, reverend and dear sir, your affectionate brother and fellow labourer,
“JOHN WESLEY." Thus, for the present, ended his correspondence with William Dodd.
The year 1756 opened under a cloud of gloom. “Men,” says Wesley, “were divided in their expectations concerning the ensuing year. Some believed it would bring a large harvest of temporal calamities; others, that it would be unusually fruitful of spiritual blessings."
1 Methodist Magazine, 1779, p. 475.