« ZurückWeiter »
1760 some of the best Christians then living. Their distress was Age 57 indescribable. His broken hearted brother (Walter Shirley), his cousin (Lady Huntingdon), and others, all endeavoured to effect his conversion, but without success. Prayer was made for him in the closet, in the family, and in public congregations; special meetings of intercession were held in his behalf; Charles Wesley evinced the tenderest concern for the wretched culprit; and the Methodists in London generally followed his example; a day of fasting and prayer was kept at the Foundery: but all to no effect.
Three weeks after the execution, the Hon. and Rev. Mr. Shirley wrote to Wesley as follows.
"May 27, 1760.
"REVEREND AND VERY DEAR BROTHER,-I bear in mind, with all thankfulness, the tender love and charitable prayers, with which God was pleased to inspire your heart, and the hearts of His dear children in Ireland, for my unhappy brother, myself, and our afflicted family. I have reason to bless God for the humbling lessons He has taught me, through these His awful visitations. O sir, is there much danger now, that I should pride myself upon my family? I doubt not, but that your labours in Ireland have been amply paid in their success. Earnest desires draw me towards you, but I am detained here, very much against my will, by a trust reposed in me by my late brother, to see his debts discharged, and other matters properly settled, that no further dishonour may be reflected on his memory. I would to God, I may meet you in Connaught, and give you a poor but hearty welcome at Loughrea; but fear that I cannot possibly be there before you leave. Let me entreat you, however, to pay a visit to my poor flock, for whom I am sorely grieved in my absence from them; and can only be comforted in the sweet hope, that you will not neglect them in your travels. You are heartily welcome to my church, if you please to make use of it; and I hope you will be truly welcome to the ears and hearts of all the people.
Your most unworthy, yet ever affectionate brother in the Lord,
Another unpleasantness, belonging to the year 1760, was a most foul and dastardly attack on Whitefield, and, through him, upon the Methodists in general.
At this period, Samuel Foote, the inimitable zany, was at ! his zenith. He was born of highly respectable parents, at Truro, about the year 1720, and was educated at Worcester college, Oxford. He entered himself of the Temple, with a
1 Methodist Magazine, 1797, p. 459.
view of being called to the bar; but, instead of studying law, 1760 plunged into all the gaieties and dissipation of fashionable Age 57 life; losing at the gaming table what his extravagance in living was not sufficient to consume. He married in 1741; but his conduct, as a husband, was far from affectionate; and, soon after his marriage, he was arrested for debt, and sent to gaol. Having squandered his fortune, he turned to the stage as a means of support, and made his theatrical debut, in the Haymarket, at the age of twenty-four. His success was great, but his prodigality was greater. In 1766, a fall from his horse rendered it necessary to amputate his leg. He died in 1777, and was buried by torchlight in Westminster Abbey. His character, as delineated by his biographers, presents
? scarcely one amiable or respectable feature; and, indeed, considered apart from his peculiar and almost unequalled abilities for mimicking the foibles and faults of others, he was in all respects contemptible.
Such was the man who attacked Whitefield and Methodism in 1760. For ninety years, the execrable comedies, acted in English theatres, had been the bane and the reproach of the English nation. Comic poets had been the unwearied ministers of vice, and had done its work so thoroughly, that there was hardly a single virtue which had not been sacrificed at its polluted shrine. Innocence had been the sport of abandoned villainy, and religion made the jest of the licentious. In 1760, Samuel Foote crowned the whole, by "The Minor; a Comedy acted in the Haymarket theatre: " 8vo, 91 pages. Its professed object was to expose the absurdity, and to detect the hypocrisy, of Methodism; the author holding the idea, that "ridicule was the only way of redressing an evil which was beyond the reach of law, and which reason was not able to correct." On the principle, that a man cannot touch pitch without defiling his fingers, we refrain from giving even the barest outline of Foote's disgraceful comedy. Thousands applauded the inimitable actor, and laughed at Mrs. Cole and Dr. Squintum; all of them forgetting, that religion is too sacred to become the butt of theatrical buffoonery and of public mockery. The indignation of religious people was aroused; letters were written to newspapers; articles were published in magazines; and a whole swarm of pamphlets were given
1760 to the excited public; the most able of which were two by "A Minister of the Church of Christ," one of them being entitled-" Christian and Critical Remarks on 'The Minor'; in which the blasphemy, falsehood, and scurrility of that piece, are properly considered, answered, and exposed:" 8vo, 41 pages. Foote himself replied to this, in his own bantering and obscene style, telling the author that, from the title he assumes, "it is impossible to determine whether he is an authorised pastor, or a peruke maker; a real clergyman, or a corncutter."
another comedy, entitled "The Methodist; being a continua- Pinger.
tion and completion of the plan of 'The Minor.'" The
This is too mild to be given as a fair specimen of Foote's disgusting ribaldry; but it is almost fouler than we like to print. Suffice it to remark further, that, though "The Minor" was performed before crowded London audiences for several months, such was the outcry raised against its profanity, that in November, 1760, Foote himself introduced several alterations, which he thought were less objectionable than the original terms and sentences.
But enough of the profligate Samuel Foote, who (according to the testimony of a person who knew the particulars of the case) was seized at Dover, with his mortal illness, while mimicking religious characters in general, and the Methodists in particular,' and almost immediately expired.
1 Everett's Folio, vol. iii., p. 451.
Other attacks were made upon Methodism, in 1760, though 1760 none so vulgar as Foote's. One of these was "A Friendly Age 57 and Compassionate Address to all serious and well disposed Methodists; in which their principal Errors concerning the doctrine of the new birth, their election, and the security of their salvation, and their notion of the community of Christian men's goods, are largely displayed and represented. By Alexander Jephson, A.B., rector of the parish of Craike, in the county of Durham." 8vo, 80 pages. Mr. Jephson tells the Methodists, that they have "fallen into fatal and dangerous errors, which may be of pernicious consequence to them both in this life and the next." He affirms that, "when any persons are duly baptized into the Church, there is no doubt but that all their sins are immediately forgiven, and a new principle of piety and virtue is directly instilled into their minds by the grace of God's Holy Spirit." He exhorts the Methodists not to forsake the pastors of the Church of England, by giving up themselves "to the direction of guides who have nothing to recommend them, but vain and idle pretences to inspiration, and intimate conversations with God, and such immediate and powerful effects of their preaching as have caused, in some of their hearers, the most dreadful shriekings and groanings, convulsions and agitations." Methodist itinerants are described as "an enthusiastical set of preachers, who are wandering up and down, through the whole nation, to destroy and unsettle all the reasonable notions of religion, and to throw men into the utmost distraction and confusion." These are fair cullings from Mr. Jephson's "friendly and compassionate address." Wesley says concerning it: "the tract is more considerable for its bulk, than for its matter, being little more than a dull repetition of what was published some years ago in 'The Enthusiasm of the Methodists and Papists Compared.'"1
Another hostile publication was, "A Genuine Letter from a Methodist Preacher, in the country, to Laurence Sterne, M.A., prebendary of York. 1760." 8vo, 22 pages. The letter pretends to rebuke Sterne for writing "Tristram Shandy," and says the prebend has "studied plays more than the
1760 word of God, and takes his text generally from the writings Age 57 of Shakspeare" rather than from the writings of the apostles. Altogether, it was a meaningless and profane performance, whose only object seems to have been to create a laugh.
Another publication, belonging to the same year, was, "A Vindication of the Seventeenth Article of the Church of England, from the Aspersions cast on it in a Sermon lately published by Mr. John Wesley. By John Oulton." 8vo, 55 pages. This was intended to be a refutation of Wesley's sermon on free grace, preached from Romans viii. 32, and deserves no further notice.
Another was entitled, "The Principles and Practices of the Methodists considered, in some Letters to the Leaders of that Sect." 8vo, 78 pages. The writer, who signed himself "Academicus," was a man of mark, the Rev. John Green, D.D.,1 born at Beverley about 1706; a sizar in St. John's college, Cambridge; then an usher in a school at Lichfield; then domestic chaplain of the Duke of Somerset ; then rector of Borough Green; then regius professor of divinity, and one of his majesty's chaplains; then, in 1756, dean of Lincoln; and, in 1764, bishop of Lincoln; a liberal prelate, the only one who voted for the bill for the relief of protestant Dissenters; and who died suddenly, at Bath, in 1779. The pamphlet of Dr. Green is addressed to Mr. Berridge, of Everton. The author speaks of Berridge's "graceless fraternity"; and warns him against being "led away by the vain presumption of extraordinary illuminations," and against "contracting one of the most dangerous and deceitful of all religious maladies, the tumour of spiritual pride." He tells him, that "he makes lofty pretensions, and assumes confident airs to amuse the vulgar." He speaks of "the mysteries of Methodism, its conceits and inadvertencies, its foibles and failings, being cruelly exposed to the laughter of the incredulous, and the scoff of the profane." He says, "elocution from a stool, or vociferation from a hillock, will act with much more effect, upon the multitude, than any kind of sober instruction given from that old fashioned eminence, the pulpit"; and describes, as the result
Nichols' Literary Anecdotes, vol. viii., p. 229; and Gentleman's Magazine, 1761, p. 286.