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1760 combers and weavers, plumbers and glaziers, turners and Age 57 cabinet makers, hedgers and ditchers, threshers and thatchers, colliers and carriers, carmen and scavengers, coopers and basket makers, would have no hearers." With this enumeration of the trades and calling of the Methodist itinerants, we make our congé to hairbrained Edward Goldney.
These were the principal anti-Methodistic pamphlets published in 1760; but, besides these, there was scrimmaging in newspapers and magazines, which deserves attention. An anonymous writer, in the London Magazine, attacked the Methodists, as "a restless, turbulent people, remarkable for nothing, but their abusive language and uncharitable sentiments"; and described Methodism as "a spurious mixture of enthusiasm and blasphemy, popery and quakerism"; and the teaching of its preachers as "gross, personal abuse; vague, incoherent reasoning; and loose, empty declamation."1 A writer, who signed his letter "Hermas," replied to this stale balderdash; and rejoinder after rejoinder followed. Grave objection was raised to the name of Methodist, as a misnomer, because the Methodists were utterly without method. A classleader was described as "an illiterate hog, a feeder of swine, presiding at the holy rites of confession, as spiritual pastor and father confessor." "Old as I am," wrote the nameless soothsayer, "I make not the least doubt but, with these eyes, I shall see, that this imaginary candle of the Lord, which the Methodists have set up, will soon dwindle into a snuff, and expire in a stink."3 In a base inuendo, he insinuated that some of the mysterious meetings of the Methodists were "in dark rooms, with naked figures, typical fires, and rattling chains."
In the same periodical,5 Stephen Church proposed to Wesley twenty queries, in which he coarsely assailed him as "the first protestant pope; a cunning quaker in disguise, acting the second edition of Friend Barclay, and privately betraying the Church, as Judas did his Master, with a kiss." Another correspondent, signing his letter "R.," remarked: "the present troublers of our Israel are that heterogeneous
mass, the Methodists; who, whatever they may pretend, are avowed enemies to the doctrine and discipline of our Church, Age 57 and have faithfully copied the worst men in the worst times. If such men's enthusiastical notions be the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, better it would be to be a Jew, a Turk, an infidel, than to be a Christian; for it is much better not to believe in Jesus Christ, than to believe such doctrines to be His, as are against common reason and common sense, and are repugnant to the first principles of truth and equity."1
In Lloyd's Evening Post the same paper war was waged. "Philodemus" wished for "a court of judicature, to detect the cunning cant and hypocrisy of all pretenders to sanctity and devotion;" and depicted the Methodists in colours not the brightest. Wesley replied to him as follows.
"November 17, 1760.
“SIR,—In your last paper, we had a letter, from a very angry gentleman, who personates a clergyman, but is, I presume, a retainer to the theatre. He is very warm against the people vulgarly termed Methodists, 'ridiculous impostors,' 'religious buffoons,' as he styles them; 'saint errants' (a pretty and quaint phrase), full of 'inconsiderateness, madness, melancholy, enthusiasm'; teaching a knotty and unintelligible system of religion,' yea 'a contradictory or self contradicting,' nay a mere illusion,' a 'destructive scheme, and of pernicious consequence.'
"Methinks the gentleman has a little mistaken his character: he seems to have exchanged the sock for the buskin. But, be this as it may, general charges prove nothing; let us come to particulars. Here they are."
Wesley then proceeds to answer the remarks of "Philodemus" concerning "the grace of assurance, good works," etc., and continues:
"This is the sum of your correspondent's charge, not one article of which can be proved. But whether it can or no, we have made them,' says he, a theatrical scoff, and the common jest and scorn of every chorister in the street.' It may be so; but whether you have done well herein, may still admit of a question. However, you cannot but wish, 'we had some formal court of judicature erected to take cognisance of such matters.' Nay, cur optas quod habes? Why do you wish for what you have already? The court is erected; the holy, devout playhouse is become the house of mercy; and does take cognisance' of all pretenders to sanctity, and happily furnishes us with a discerning spirit to distinguish
1 P. 690.
1760 Age 57
between right and wrong.' But I do not stand to their sentence; I appeal
"Philodemus" pretended to answer Wesley's letter, under another alias, "Somebody;" but was obliged to have recourse to blustering abuse, telling Wesley that "every serious protestant despises the enthusiastic madness of Methodism, and rejects him and his followers as members of that community"; and then politely adding, that "arguing with Methodists is like pounding fools in a mortar."
In the next issue of Lloyd's Evening Post, November 24, Wesley referred to this and other attacks as follows.
"November 22, 1760.
"SIR, Just as I had finished the letter published in your last Friday's paper, four tracts came into my hands: one written, or procured to be written, by Mrs. Downes; one by a clergyman in the county of Durham ;3 the third by a gentleman of Cambridge;1 and the fourth by a member (I suppose, dignitary) of the Church of Rome. How gladly would I leave all these to themselves, and let them say just what they please! as my day is far spent, and my taste for controversy is utterly lost and gone. But this would not be doing justice to the world, who might take silence for a proof of guilt. I shall therefore say a word concerning each."
After doing this, he concludes thus:
"Is it possible any protestants, nay, protestant clergyman, should buy these tracts to give away? Is then the introducing popery the only way to overthrow Methodism? If they know this, and choose popery as the smaller evil of the two, they are consistent with themselves. But if they do not intend this, I wish them to consider more seriously what they do. "I am, sir, your humble servant, "JOHN WESLEY."
The correspondence between Wesley and "Philodemus," who changed his signature every time he wrote a new letter, was continued until Christmas. The anonymous slanderer accused Wesley of plundering the poor; and, in proof, referred to the meeting-houses he had built. Wesley replied:
1 Lloyd's Evening Post, Nov. 17, 1760.
2 Widow of the Rev. John Downes, whose attack on Methodism is mentioned on p. 342 of this volume.
3 The Rev. Alexander Jephson.
Dr. Green, dean of Lincoln.
5 Author of "Caveat against the Methodists,” which I have not seen.
"Don't you know, sir, those houses are none of mine? I made them over to trustees long ago. I have food to eat, and raiment to put on; and I will have no more, till I turn Turk or pagan.
“I am, sir, in very good humour, your well wisher, "JOHN WESLEY."1 Wesley suspected "Philodemus" to be a friend of Foote's; or, at all events, a patron of the theatre; but this the fighter in ambush positively denied, and said he was a constant attender at church, had read the Bible in four different languages, and was personally known to some of the best theologians in the nation. The man, however, lost his temper. His letters evinced considerable ability; but Wesley's answers stung him to the quick. He was wounded, and could not avoid wincing. In his last lucubration, published December 10, he observed: "I shall not give myself the trouble to write to you any more, as it is only wasting paper to cavil with shuffling controvertists;" and then he finished by proposing to hold a personal discussion with Wesley, at which "a dignified clergyman of the Church of England should preside, and be the umpire of the debate." On December 24, Wesley replied as follows.
"For the Editor of 'Lloyd's Evening Post.
"To Mr. T. H., alias E. L., etc., etc.
"What my good friend again? only a little disguised with a new name, and a few scraps of Latin? I hoped, indeed, you had been pretty well satisfied before; but, since you desire to hear a little further from me, I will add a few words, and endeavour to set our little controversy in a still clearer light.
"Last month you publicly attacked the people called Methodists, without either fear or wit. I considered each charge, and, I conceive, refuted it, to the satisfaction of all indifferent persons. You renewed the attack, not by proving anything, but by affirming the same things over and over. I replied, and, without taking notice of the dull, low scurrility, either of the first or second letter, confined myself to the merits of the case, and cleared away the dirt you had thrown.
"You now heap together ten paragraphs more, most of which require very little answer."
After answering nine of them, Wesley continues:
"In the last, you give me a fair challenge to a 'personal dispute.' Not so you have fallen upon me in public; and to the public I appeal. Let
1 Lloyd's Evening Post, Dec. 1, 1760.
all men, not any single umpire, judge, whether I have not fully refuted your charge, and cleared the people called Methodists from the foul aspersions, which, without why or wherefore, you had thrown upon them. Let all of my countrymen judge, which of us have spoken the words of truth and soberness, and which has treated the other with a temper suitable to the gospel.
"If the general voice of mankind gives it against you, I hope you will be henceforth less flippant with your pen. I assure you, as little as you think of it, the Methodists are not such fools as you suppose. But their desire is to live peaceably with all men ; and none desires this more than "JOHN WESLEY.”1
Mob persecution was bad enough; but persecution like this was worse. No wonder that Wesley felt, that his "taste for controversy was utterly lost and gone." His one object was to preach Christ and to save souls; but, despite himself, large portions of his time were most vexatiously occupied in defending himself and his societies from the malignant and unscrupulous attacks of his enemies. He was a match for the most trenchant of his foes; but preaching, not fighting, was the work to which he wished to devote his talents, his energies, and his life.
Besides this annoyance from the public press, Wesley had great anxiety from his own societies. The question of separation from the Established Church was still, among the Methodists, the great topic of the time. The agitation existed not in England only; but had spread to Ireland also. At Athlone, for instance, some of the Methodists went to church and sacrament; but others absolutely refused to go, because the minister was not a child of God, nor a preacher of sound doctrine. The Hon. and Rev. Walter Shirley wrote to W in great alarm, concerning this, and, in conclusion, said: "I have hitherto learnt to consider the Methodists, not as any sect, but as the purer part of the Church of England; but, if any of them grow so wantonly fond of division as to form a schism, I foresee they will lose much of the gospel meekness, humility, and love; and a party zeal will take place, instead of a zeal according to knowledge." 2
In London, the same subject created great excitement. A
1 Lloyd's Evening Post, Dec. 24, 1760.
。 Methodist Magazine, 1780, p. 334.