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scripts still extant. There seems hardly to have been any language, of which the literature was of any value, which he did not master; and his writing of Hebrew, Arabic, etc., was such as the engraver might vainly attempt to imitate.1 His poetry, quaint but pungent, is too well known to need description. As a specimen of it, and of his politics, the following is far from being bad:
“God bless the King, and bless the Faith's Defender;
Wesley inserted not a few of his poems in the old Arminian magazines; and writes: "It cannot be denied, that he was a man of uncommon genius, a man of the finest and strongest understanding; and, yet, very few even of his countrymen and contemporaries have so much as heard his name."3 "He has all the wit and humour of Dr. Swift, together with much more learning, and, above all, a serious vein of piety. A few things, in the second volume of his poems, are taken from Jacob Behmen; to whom I object, not only, that he is obscure, and not only, that his whole hypothesis is wholly unsupported either by Scripture or reason; but also, because the ingenious madman over and over contradicts Christian experience, reason, Scripture, and himself. But setting these things aside, we have" [in Dr. Byrom's poems,] "some of the finest sentiments that ever appeared in the English tongue; some of the noblest truths, expressed with the utmost energy, and the strongest colours of poetry." 4
One or two other matters, belonging to this period of Wesley's history, must be mentioned.
The increase of Methodism was one of Wesley's difficulties, as well as his great encouragement. His societies, especially the larger ones, naturally wished to receive the sacrament in their own chapels: but as Wesley had no clerical helper, entirely devoted to the work, except his brother; and as he himself was almost always itinerating, it was physically impossible to meet the demands of London, Bristol, and other
1 Methodist Magazine, 1863, p. 777. 3 Wesley's Works, vol. xiv., p. 272.
2 Ibid. p. 599.
4 Ibid. vol. iii., p. 475.
1763 places. Neither of the Wesleys was prepared to allow the unordained preachers to administer, and they themselves were utterly unable to attend to the reasonable claims of all that wanted them. Hence the difficulty. This was partly met, when Thomas Maxfield received ordination from an Irish bishop. For several years, Maxfield was stationed in London, to read the liturgy and to administer the sacrament in Wesley's absence. But now Maxfield had left him, and his embarrassment was greater than ever. One of his principal helpers was John Jones, a man of considerable learning, of good abilities, and of deep piety, and who, for seventeen years, had faithfully acted the part of an itinerant preacher. Just at this juncture, Erasmus, a bishop of the Greek church, visited London; and, as it was impossible to obtain ordination, for the Methodist preachers, from the bishops of the English Church, it occurred to Wesley, that it might be expedient to apply to Erasmus to ordain Mr. Jones. Previous, however, to doing this, Wesley felt it necessary to satisfy himself, that Erasmus really was a bishop. By his direction, Jones wrote to the patriarch of Smyrna on the subject; and received an answer, stating that Erasmus was bishop of Arcadia in Crete. To this was added the testimony of several gentlemen who had met the eastern prelate in Turkey. Wesley says, "he had abundant unexceptionable credentials as to his episcopal character." Being fully satisfied of this, Wesley requested him to set apart Mr. Jones, to assist him in administering the sacrament to his societies. Erasmus did so; and, if the matter had ended here, the thing would hardly have deserved further notice.
No sooner was it known, however, that one of the itinerants had been ordained, than several others applied to the good tempered bishop for the same episcopal favour. The following appeared in Lloyd's Evening Post, for December 7, 1764.
"To the article in the papers relating to three tradesmen being ordained by a Greek bishop, another may be added, a master baker. And two celebrated Methodist preachers made also an application to the same bishop, to consecrate one or both of them bishops; but the Greek told
Wesley's Works, vol. x., p. 432.
Erasmus, Bishop of Arcadia.
them, it was contrary to the rule of his church for one bishop to make another yet, notwithstanding all he said, they very unwillingly took a denial."
Whether this was strictly true, we can hardly tell; but certain it is, that John Jones, Samson Staniforth, Thomas Bryant, and others were ordained. The result was," Charles Wesley took huge offence; and, shortly after, Mr. Jones was obliged to leave the connexion; Samson Staniforth had to refrain from exercising his priestly functions; and Thomas Bryant put on a gown, and made a rent in the Methodist society of Sheffield.1
The unpleasantness did not end even here. In 1771, Augustus Toplady, one of Wesley's bitterest opponents, published "A Letter to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley," in which he revived the thing. With his unenviable scurrility, he called Erasmus "a foreign mendicant"; and said: "to this day, the Greek church in Amsterdam believes him to be an impostor." He also supplied a certificate, written in Greek, of which the following is a translation.
"Our measure from the grace, gift, and power of the All-holy and Lifegiving Spirit, given by our Saviour Jesus Christ to His Divine and holy apostles, to ordain subdeacons and deacons; and also, to advance to the dignity of a priest; of this grace which hath descended to our humility, I have ordained subdeacon and deacon, at Snowfields chapel, on the 19th day of November, 1764, and at Wells Street chapel on the 24th of the same month, priest the reverend Mr. W. C.2 according to the rules of the holy apostles, and of our faith. Moreover, I have given to him power to minister and teach, in all the world, the gospel of Jesus Christ, no one forbidding him in the church of God. Wherefore, for that very purpose, I have made this present letter of recommendation from our humility, and have given it to the ordained Mr. W. C. for his certificate and security.
"Given and written at London, in Britain, November 24, 1764.
Toplady proceeds to ask Wesley four insinuating questions.
"1. Did you get him to ordain several of your lay preachers according to the Greek ritual? 2. Did not these preachers both dress and officiate
1 "Life and Times of Lady Huntingdon," vol. i., p. 331; "Methodism in Sheffield," p. 185; and manuscript letter of John Pawson.
2 Was this William Crabb, who left the itinerancy in 1764?
1763 Age 60
as clergymen of the Church of England, in consequence of that ordination; and under your own sanction and approbation? Nay, did you not repeatedly declare, that their ordination was, to all intents and purposes, as valid as your own? 3. Did you not strongly press this supposed Greek bishop to consecrate you a bishop, that you might be invested with a power of ordaining what ministers you pleased, to officiate in your societies as clergymen? And did he not refuse to consecrate you, alleging this for his reason,―That, according to the canons of the Greek church, more than one bishop must be present to assist at the consecration of a new one? 4. In all this, did you not palpably violate the oath of supremacy, which you have repeatedly taken? part of which runs thus : 'I do declare, that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preeminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.'"
How much truth was there in all this? It will be seen, that the pretended certificate was signed only a fortnight before the statement, already quoted, appeared in Lloyd's Evening Post. Both the chapels mentioned were Wesley's chapels. Alexander Mather, who had been six years in the itinerancy, was a baker before he entered it, and had a considerable amount of innocent ambition. Wesley was in great difficulty arising from the want of ordained preachers to administer the sacraments; and, though he had long held the theory of Lord King, that, according to New Testament teaching, every presbyter was, in reality, a bishop; and therefore, that he himself, being a presbyter, was also a bishop, and as fully authorised to ordain others as any bishop in the world; yet, for prudential reasons, this was an authority which, at present, he was not prepared to exercise: and, hence, it would not have been surprising if he had made the application to Erasmus which it is surmised he did.
All this gives considerable plausibility to the half affirmative queries of Augustus Toplady. On the other hand, however, we have the absolute declaration of Wesley himself, that Erasmus never rejected any overture that he made to him; and, if this were so, it follows that, either Erasmus did actually ordain him a bishop (which no one ventures to assert); or, that Toplady's insinuation is calumniously untrue. To this, also, must be added, the testimony of Thomas
1 1 Wesley's Works, vol. x., p. 432.
Olivers, who with Wesley's consent, if not at his request, replied to Toplady's attack; namely, that though Wesley did get Erasmus to ordain John Jones, and though John Jones did dress as a clergyman of the Church of England, and did assist Wesley in administering the Lord's supper in the Methodist societies, yet Wesley had authorised him (Olivers) to give the most positive and unqualified denial to the insinuation, that he had asked Erasmus to ordain himself to the high office of a bishop. "But," continues Olivers, "suppose he had, where would have been the blame? Mr. Wesley is connected with a number of persons who have given every proof, which the nature of the thing allows, that they have an inward call to preach the gospel. Both he and they would be glad if they had an outward call too. But no bishop in England will give it them. What wonder then, if he was to endeavour to procure it by any other innocent means?"2
This was written in 1771, only six or seven years after the alleged events took place. Which is likeliest to be true-the bitter insinuation of a malignant opponent like Toplady; or the positive assertion of Wesley himself, and the authorised declaration of Wesley's friend Olivers? Here the matter must be left. Though somewhat tedious, it is also important, as tending to show, that the growth of Methodism was one of Wesley's greatest difficulties, and rendered it absolutely imperative either that he should make the Methodists Dissenters; or, that he should procure episcopal ordination for his preachers; or, that he should do something else, which he tried to do in 1764, and which will have to be noticed in the year following.
Wesley's life was a continued warfare. In 1763, there was published, "A Caution against Religious Delusion: a sermon preached at the visitation of the Archdeacon of Ely, in the church of St. Michael, Cambridge, on Thursday, May 19, 1763. By William Backhouse, M.A., fellow of Christ's college, and vicar of Meldreth." 8vo, 20 pages. Of course, this was another attack on Methodism. Methodist preachers
1 Myles's History, p. 88.
2 Olivers' Letter to Toplady, 1771, p. 50.