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1765 brother and sister; but, as a rule, they talked too much and Age 62 read too little, and ought to amend in this." Many of them were "absolutely enslaved to snuff"; some drank drams; and the religion of most was usually too superficial. To remedy such evils, the preachers were enjoined, on no account, to take snuff or to drink drams themselves; and were to speak to any one they saw snuffing in sermon time, to answer the pretences that drams cured the colic and helped digestion, and to preach on the most spiritual subjects, and earnestly recommend private prayer, reading the Scriptures, and universal self denial.
These are tempting topics for discussion; but it can only be added, that Wesley was far from thinking, that the Methodists were perfect. Besides the hints above given, he remarks, at this very conference :-" God thrust me and my brother out, utterly against our will, to raise a holy people. Holiness was our point,-inward and outward holiness. When Satan could no otherwise prevent this, he threw Calvinism in our way; and then antinomianism. Then many Methodists grew rich, and thereby lovers of the present world. Next, they married unawakened or half awakened wives, and conversed with their relations. Thence, worldly prudence, maxims, customs, crept back upon us, producing more and more conformity to the world. Then there followed gross neglect of relative duties, especially education of children.” This is a faithful but not bright picture of the Methodists of a hundred years ago. Wesley adds: “This is not cured by the preachers. Either they have not light, or not weight enough. But the want of these may be in some measure supplied, by publicly reading the sermons" (Wesley's own sermons) "everywhere; especially the fourth volume, which supplies them with remedies suited to the disease."
The Manchester conference lasted four days. Sammy Bardsley, then a youthful Methodist, and employed as a bottle cleaner, and an errand boy in the vaults of a Manchester wine and spirit merchant, writes: "There were present a deal of preachers. Everything was carried on with decency and order. The Rev. Mr. Wesley preached every evening. On Sunday morning, he preached in Marsden's Square to a numerous congregation. Something remarkable to me was
Methodism at Huddersfield.
his humility, in taking me by the arm, and walking through 1765 the town with me. The Lord grant, that I may be as service- Age 62 able for the good of souls, according to my abilities, as he has been!" Three years afterwards, the wine merchant's bottle cleaner became one of Wesley's itinerants.
We have already seen that, in 1761, the Rev. Henry Venn wished Wesley to withdraw his preachers from Huddersfield, on the ground that he, the minister of the Huddersfield parishioners, preached the same truths that Wesley did. The Huddersfield Methodists demurred to this absorption in the Established Church; and the matter was compromised by Wesley and Venn agreeing that the Methodist preachers should not invade the parish of Huddersfield oftener than once a month. After this, Wesley went a step farther, and, to please his clerical friend, agreed that, for the space of one year, the preaching of the itinerants should be suspended altogether. This was carrying the thing too far. Wesley seemed to forget, for the moment, that other men had consciences as well as he. As a sop to Venn, the concession failed; and, besides this, that which was meant to be a peace offering to the Huddersfield vicar became a bone of contention to the Huddersfield Methodists. Both they and their preachers were vexed; and, 1765, the latter took the affair into their own hands, and, despite the clerical compact, again began preaching within Mr. Venn's ecclesiastical preserves. The curate took the pains to go from house to house entreating the people not to hear them; but all to no purpose.2 The following letter, to Mr. Venn, refers to these and other facts.
“June 22, 1765.
"REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,-Having, at length, a few hours to spare, I sit down to answer your last, which was particularly acceptable to me, because it was written with so great openness. I shall write with the same. Herein you and I are just fit to converse together, because we both like to speak blunt and plain, without going a great way round about. I shall likewise take this opportunity of explaining myself on some other heads. I want you to understand me inside and out. Then I say, 'Sic sum: si placeo, utere!'
"Were I allowed to boast myself a little, I would say, I want no man
1 S. Bardsley's manuscript journal.
2 Pawson's "Affectionate Address," p. 10.
1765 living, I mean, none but those who are now connected with me, and who bless God for that connection. With these I am able to go through every Age 62 part of the work to which I am called. Yet, I have laboured after union with all whom I believe to be united with Christ. I have sought it again and again; but in vain. They were resolved to stand aloof. And, when one and another sincere minister of Christ has been inclined to come nearer to me, others have diligently kept them off, as though thereby they did God service.
"To this poor end, the doctrine of perfection has been brought in head and shoulders. And when such concessions were made as would abundantly satisfy any fair and candid man, they were no nearer; rather farther off: for they had no desire to be satisfied. To make this dear breach wider and wider, stories were carefully gleaned up, improved, yea, invented and retailed, both concerning me and 'the perfect ones.' And, when anything very bad has come to hand, some have rejoiced as though they had found great spoils.
"By this means chiefly, the distance between you and me has increased ever since you came to Huddersfield; and, perhaps, it has not been lessened by that honest, well meaning man, Mr. Burnet, and by others, who have talked largely of my dogmaticalness, love of power, errors, and irregularities. My dogmaticalness is neither more nor less than a 'custom of coming to the point at once,' and telling my mind flat and plain, without any preface or ceremony. I could indeed premise something of my own imbecility, littleness of judgment, and the like: but, first, I have no time to lose; I must despatch the matter as soon as possible; secondly, I do not think it frank or ingenuous. I think these prefaces are mere artifice.
The power I have never sought. It was the undesired, unexpected result of the work. God was pleased to work by me. I have a thousand times sought to devolve it on others; but, as yet, I cannot. I therefore suffer it till I can find any to ease me of my burden.
"If any one will convince me of my errors, I will heartily thank him. I believe all the Bible, as far as I understand it, and am ready to be convinced. If I am a heretic, I became such by reading the Bible. All my notions I drew from thence; and with little help from men, unless in the single point of justification by faith. But I impose my notions upon none; I will be bold to say, there is no man living further from it. I make no opinion the term of union with any man; I think and let think. What I want is, holiness of heart and life. They who have this, are my brother, sister, and mother.
"But you hold perfection': true; that is, loving God with all our heart, and serving Him with all our strength. I teach nothing more, nothing less than this. And whatever infirmity, defect, avoua, is consistent with this, any man may teach, and I shall not contradict him.
"As to irregularity, I hope none of those, who cause it, do then complain of it. Will they throw a man into the dirt, and beat him because he is dirty? Of all men living, those clergymen ought not to complain, who believe I preach the gospel, as to the substance of it. If they do not ask
Important Letter to Rev. H. Venn.
me to preach in their churches, they are accountable for my preaching in the fields.
"I come now directly to your letter, in hopes of establishing a good understanding between us. I agreed to suspend, for a twelvemonth, our stated preaching at Huddersfield, which had been there these many years. If this answered your end, I am glad; my end it did not answer at all. Instead of coming nearer to me, you got farther off. I heard of it from every quarter, though few knew that I did; for I saw no cause to speak against you, because you did against me. I wanted you to do more, not less good; and, therefore, durst not do or say anything to hinder it. And, lest I should hinder it, I will make a farther trial, and suspend the preaching at Huddersfield for another year.
"1. To clear the case between us a little farther, I must now adopt your words: 'I, no less than you, preach justification by faith only, the absolute necessity of holiness, the increasing mortification of sin, and rejection of all past experiences and attainments. I abhor, as you do, all antinomian abuse of the doctrine of Christ, and desire to see my people walking even as He walked. Is it then worth while, in order to gratify a few bigoted persons, or for the sake of the minute differences between us,' to encourage all the train of evils which follow contention for opinions, in little matters as much as in great?'
"2. If I was as strenuous with regard to perfection on one side, as you have been on the other, I should deny you to be a sufficient preacher; but this I never did. And yet, I can assure you, I can advance such reasons for all I teach, as would puzzle you, and all that condemn me, to answer; but I am sick of disputing. Let them beat the air, and triumph without an opponent.
3. 'None,' you say, 'preach in your houses, who do not hold the very same doctrine with you.' This is not exactly the case. You are welcome to preach in any of those houses; as I know we agree in the main points; and wherein soever we differ, you would not preach there contrary to me. 'But would it not give you pain to have any other teacher come among those committed to your charge, so as to have your plan disconcerted, your labours depreciated, and the affections of your flock alienated?' It has given me pain, when I had reason to fear this was done, both at Leeds, Birstal, and elsewhere; and I was 'under a temptation of speaking against you' but I refrained even among my intimate friends. So far was I from publicly warning my people against one I firmly believed to be much better than myself.
"4. Indeed, I trust 'the bad blood is now taken away.' Let it return no more. Let us begin such a correspondence as has never been yet, and let us avow it before all mankind. Not content with not weakening each other's hands, or speaking against each other, directly or indirectly, let us defend each other's character to the utmost, against either ill or well meaning evil speakers. I am not satisfied with 'Be very civil to the Methodists, but have nothing to do with them.' No; I desire to have a league, offensive and defensive, with every soldier of Christ. We have not only one faith, one hope, one Lord, but are directly engaged in one
1765 Age 62
1765 Age 62
warfare. We are carrying the war into the devil's own quarters, who, therefore, summonses all his hosts to war. Come then, ye that love Him, to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty! I am now well-nigh miles emeritus, senex, sexagenarius? Yet I trust to fight a little longer. Come and strengthen the hands, till you supply the place, of your weak, but affectionate brother,
This is a long letter, but far too important to be abridged. Wesley had been more than five months from London; but, instead of returning thither, he proceeded, from the Manchester conference, direct to Cornwall.
On his way, he attempted to preach at Northtawton, in Devonshire; but, for once in his life, was hindered. He writes: "I went to the door of our inn; but I had hardly ended the psalm, when a clergyman came, with two or three (by the courtesy of England called) gentlemen. After I had named my text, I said, 'There may be some truths which concern some men only; but this concerns all mankind.' The minister cried out, That is false doctrine, that is predestination.' Then the roar began, to second which they had brought a huntsman with his hounds; but the dogs were wiser than the men; for they could not bring them to make any noise at all. One of the gentlemen supplied their place. He assured us he was such, or none would have suspected it; for his language was as base, foul, and porterly as ever was heard at Billingsgate. Dog, rascal, puppy, and the like terms, adorned almost every sentence. Finding there was no probability of a quiet hearing, I left him the field, and withdrew to my lodging."
At Gwennap, Wesley had as large a congregation as he had ever seen assembled in Moorfields. At Redruth, he met with Grace Paddy," a well bred, sensible young woman," who professed to be "convinced of sin, converted to God, and renewed in love, within twelve hours." Almost everywhere, he was received with the warmest welcome, and rejoiced to find the work of God in general prosperity. Still, as in the case of the Asiatic churches, the Cornish ones were not perfect; and hence the following characteristic letter, addressed to Thomas Rankin,
1 Methodist Magazine, 1782, p. 495.