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"KINGSWOOD, October 6, 1768.
"DEAR PATTY,-You do not consider, money never stays with me: it would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find a way into my heart. Therefore, you should have spoken to me while I was in London, and before Miss Lewen's money flew away. However, I know not, but I may still spare you £5, provided you will not say, 'I will never ask you again,' because this is more than you can tell; and you must not promise more than you can perform.
"Oh how busy are mankind! and about what trifles! Things that pass away as a dream! Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, but to love
and serve God.
"I am, dear Patty, your ever affectionate,
"JOHN WESLEY.” 1
It is pleasant to be loved; it is painful to be hated and despised. Wesley had as great a share of both hatred and affection as most who have ever lived. For more than thirty years, he had been the butt of malice, as well as the object of Christian sympathy and love. He was the cynosure towards which both loving and malignant eyes were turned. This state of things still continued. Much has been already said concerning Methodist persecution; much yet remains unsaid.
In 1766, a translation of Formey's Ecclesiastical History, in two volumes, was given to the public, and had attached to it an appendix, containing "an account of Mr. Wesley and his sect." The translator tries to write fairly, but still speaks of Wesley's doctrines as issuing “in spiritual pride," and as having a dangerous influence on "virtuous practice."
The Gospel Magazine, also, deemed it its pious duty to publish "A Dialogue between the Foundery and the Tabernacle, occasioned by the late publication of the Rev. Mr. John Wesley's sermon. upon Imputed Righteousness."" The Tabernacle, of course, bombards the Foundery, and thinks that it wins a glorious victory. Wesley "writes neither with the wisdom of the scholar, the judgment of the divine, the ability of the critic, nor with a becoming mildness and moderation. His principles also are very erroneous."
Laurence Sterne, clever but self conceited, pretentiously generous, but sensually selfish, published his "Yorick's Ser
1 Methodist Magazine, 1845, p. 1168.
Attacks on Methodism.
mons and Meditations," and adorned them by describing 1766 Methodist preachers as "illiterate mechanics, much fitter to Age 63 make a pulpit than to get into one."
The Rev. John Tottie, D.D., archdeacon of Worcester, and chaplain in ordinary to his majesty, at the request of the clergy, issued "Two Charges, delivered in the diocese of Worcester, in the years 1763 and 1766: one against the Papists, and the other against the Methodists"; the reverend archdeacon advancing the postulatum, that "the tenets and practices of the Methodist teachers are conformable to those of the papists, and have a direct tendency to lead men into popery."
Not only Churchmen, but Dissenters, mustered to the battle. A shilling pamphlet was published, with the title, "The Causes and Reasons of the present Declension among the Congregational Churches in London and the Country; interspersed with reflections on Methodism and Sandemanianism." Methodism was growing; congregationalism was declining. Why? The writer attributes the declension to "the encroachments of the Methodists and the Sandemanians"; and strongly censures the congregationalists for their 66 departure from the Bible, for the sake of following the inventions of men, the cant of fanatics, and the nostrums of systematic divines."
Poetry likes to live among flowers, and in scenes of sublimity and beauty; in 1766, it found a fresh well of inspiration, and made the old Foundery its Helicon. The newspapers were enriched with poetical effusions, like "A Modern Summer's Evening," in which
"Methodists to church repair,
Porters, tinkers, crowds, in shoals,
More their own than neighbours' souls."1
Besides these, the public were amused by the publication of "The Methodist and Mimic," a tale in Hudibrastic verse; by Peter Paragraph; inscribed to Samuel Foote, Esq., who doubtless nursed the bantling with natural affection.
There was also "The New Bath Guide; or, Memoirs of
Lloyd's Evening Post, July 25, 1766.
1766 the B-r-d Family, in a series of poetical Epistles;" the Age 63 whole of which are rakish, vile productions, and that on Methodism so pollutingly obscene, that it would be criminal to quote it.
And then, to crown the whole, there was "The Methodist. A poem. By the author of the Powers of the Pen,' and the 'Curate.'" Two extracts may be given as fair specimens of the whole. After portraying Whitefield, the illustrious poet describes Wesley thus.
"A second agent, like the first,
Who on demoniac milk was nursed,
How bright his inward candles shine."
Wesley's itinerants afford the poetic author wondrous
"Salvation now is all the cant;
Salvation is the only want:
Of the new birth they prate, and prate,
With prayers, with sermons, groans, and creeds.
The fishermen no longer set
All the rest is in keeping with this, except that some of the lines are not only ribald, but obscene.
This was the sort of jeering which Wesley had to meet,jeering which he was often powerless to prosecute, and which it was beneath his dignity to answer. Besides this, he was too much occupied with his own great work to turn aside to chastise all the curs that availed themselves of the liberty to snarl and bark at him. His societies were now so numerous and important, that it was a gigantic task to visit them, and regulate their multifarious affairs once a year. year. In addition, he was bringing out his Notes on the Old Testament, a work, in itself, quite sufficient for the time and energies of any ordinary man; and, further, he had to enforce and to defend his doctrine of Christian perfection, a doctrine imperfectly understood, and bitterly assailed. Hence the publication of a small 12mo volume of 162 pages, entitled, "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as believed and taught by the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1765.” "What I purpose," says he, "is to give a plain and distinct account of the steps by which I was led, during a course of many years, to embrace the doctrine of Christian perfection." The book is really historical, rather than doctrinal, and is intended to show, that Wesley's present views were substantially the views which he had held for the last forty years. This was unquestionably true, with the one exception of his now teaching, that Christian perfection is attainable in an instant, and by faith only. When did Wesley begin to teach this? He says, in 1741; but the only evidence he adduces, in support of his affirmation, is the hymn, then published, beginning with the line,
"Lord, I believe a rest remains ;"
and containing the following stanzas.
"Oh that I now the rest might know,
Now, Saviour, now, the power bestow,
1766 Age 63
Remove this hardness from my heart,
To me the rest of faith impart,
The question here raised is not whether Wesley's doctrine be true, or whether it be false; but simply when he began to preach it. He says, from the beginning; Dr. Whitehead says otherwise. He writes: "Though Mr. Wesley had so long held the doctrine of Christian perfection, he had not always held, that this state of mind might be attained in one moment; much less, that a person might attain it in his novitiate; nor do I know, that there were any professors of it before 1760, except when death was approaching."
Who will decide this question? It is full of interest, and is not without importance.
1 Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 291.