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I am ready to allow something of this, yet I cannot withhold these letters, (for the recovery of which, I am indebted to my friend Thomas Marriot, Esq.,) from the serious reader. The Archbishop, for such it seems he was, certainly wrote more like a friend, and an inquirer after truth, than any other of Mr. Wesley's opponents; and the ability displayed is considerable. The correspondence being private also, and managed with less carefulness than it would have been, if it had been intended for the public eye, is, I think, an advantage. Neither of the parties appears in his full polemic dress, and hence the characters of the men, as well as the truth contended for, are more clearly illustrated. I shall insert the whole in an Appendix, at the close of this volume. It will give the serious reader a connected view of the principal controversies in which Mr. Wesley was engaged for several years. It is not my intention to make any remarks upon these letters. I am quite willing that the serious reader should draw his own conclusions. Mr. Wesley has often observed, how hard it is to prove any thing to the satisfaction of an opponent.
Mr. Wesley continued his labours through the most distant parts of the kingdom during the year 1746. Methodism spread rapidly on every side: The societies flourished, and the people increased in number, and in knowledge and love of the truth. At this period, the preachers were not skilled beyond the first principles of religion, and the practical consequences deducible from them ; repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,' and the fruits that follow, "righteousand
peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' These were the subjects of their daily discourses, and these truths they knew in power. But such was the low state of religious knowledge among the people, that it was absolutely necessary to enforce these first principles, and to give them a practical influence on the heart and life, before they were led any farther. In these circumstances, the limited knowledge of the preachers was so far from being an inconvenience, that it was an unspeakable advantage ; as it necessarily confined them to those fundamental points of experimental and practical religion, which were best adapted to the state of the people. Ministers of diversified knowledge, but of little experience in the work of the Spirit of God, seldom dwell sufficiently in their sermons on these important points ; and hence the preachers were far more successful in awakening sinners to a sense of their dangerous state, and in bringing them to a saving knowledge of Christ. To enforce the necessity of repentance, and of seeking salvation by grace alone through a Redeemer, the preacher would often draw a picture of human nature in such strong and natural colours, that
every one who heard him saw his own likeness in it, and was ready to say, • He hath shown me all that was in my heart! The effect was surprising. The people found themselves, under every discourse, emerging out of the thickest darkness into a region of light; the blaze of which, being suddenly poured in upon them, gave exquisite pain at first, but soon showed them the way to peace and consolation. Mr. Wesley foresaw, that as knowledge was increased among the people, it ought to be increased in the same, or even in a greater, proportion among the preachers, otherwise they would become less useful. He, therefore, began to think of a collection of such books in the English language, as might forward their improvement in treating of the various branches
of practical divinity. He seemed conscious, that the plan of his own education, and the prejudices he had early imbibed against the Nonconformists of the last century, had shut him out from the knowledge of many books which possibly might be very useful on this occasion.* This induced him to request Dr. Doddridge, with whom he had a friendly correspondence, to give him a list of such books as he might think proper for the improvement of young preachers.--March 15, 1746, the Doctor wrote to him, apologizing for the delay in complying with his request. “I am quite grieved,” says he, “and ashamed, that any hurry, public or private, should have prevented my answering your very obliging letter from Newcastle ; especially as it has a face of disrespect, where I am sure I ought to express the very reverse, if I would do justice either to you, or my own heart. But you have been used to forgive greater injuries.
“ I have been reading, (I will not pretend to tell you with what strong emotion, the fourth edition of your Further Appeals : Concerning which, I shall only say, that I have written upon the title-page, How forcible are right words! I am daily hurried by my printer, to finish the third volume of my Family Expositor. And I have, unwillingly, a secular affair on my hands, in consequence of a guardianship, which calls me away from my usual business for some days next week; on which account, I must beg your patience for a little while longer, as to the list of books you desire me to send you.
But if God permit, you shall be sure to have it in a few weeks.
“I lately published a Thanksgiving Sermon, for the retreat of the rebels ; which, if you think worth calling for, at Mr. Waugh's, at the Turk’s Head in Gracechurch-street, I shall desire
to accept. willing to greet the first openings of mercy; and so much the rather, as I think with Lord Somerville, who first made the reflection in one of his letters, that, had the blow at Falkirk been pursued, our whole army
had been destroyed. The wisest and best of men I know, agree to fear : Oh! that they could also agree in their efforts to save! I trust I can call God to record on my soul, that to bring sinners to believe in Christ, and universally to obey him from a principle of grateful love, is the reigning desire of my heart, and has been the main business of my life. But alas, that it is so unsuccessful a labour! Yet, God knows, that could I have foreseen only the tenth part of that little success I seem to have had, I would have preferred the ministry, with ten times the labours and sorrows I have gone through in it, to any other employment or situation in life. I shall not forget Colonel Gardiner's words, speaking of a much despised and persecuted, but very useful minister, I had rather be that man, than Emperor of the world?'
“But I must conclude. May God, even your own God, continue to increase all his blessings on your head, heart, and labours; and may he sometimes lead you to remember, in your prayers,
" Reverend and dear Sir,
6. P. DODDRIDGE. “P. S. I presume, the list you desire is chiefly Theological. Perhaps, my desire of making it too particular has hindered me from setting
* He never saw even the account of his grandfather, John Wesley, by Calamy, til he met it by accident at a friend's house, some years after he began his Itinerancy.
about it, till I had a leisure time, which I have not yet found. But under the impression your book made upon me, I could not delay writing one post longer. Let me know in one word, how you do, what your success is, and what your apprehensions are. I fear we must have some hot flame to melt us.”—The reader will recollect, that this letter was written in the time of the last rebellion, when the nation was thrown into the greatest consternation.
June 18, Dr. Doddridge sent the list of books, which Mr. Wesley had requested,* and the next day wrote to him as follows : “ I send this by way of postscript, to thank you for the entertaining account you gave me of that very extraordinary turn which affairs took in the battle of Falkirk. -I perceive our rebel enemies were as confident of victory as possible, just before the action at Culloden, which proved so fatal to them. A friend of mine from thence, brings word, that just as the armies joined, an officer was sent back to make proclamation at the market-cross, at Inverness, that every householder should bakeʻa bushel of bread, that it might be ready to refresh the prince's victorious army on its return; which was required on pain of military execution. The consequence of
that our army found much better provision, for their refreshment after the fatigue of that glorious day, than they could otherwise have done. It is not to be wondered, that such a deliverance, after such circumstances as these, should make a strong impression on the mind of ministers' and people in general, which I am assured it does. I beartily pray God, the impression may be lasting, and produce that reformation which is so much needed among them as well as among us.
“I shall not be at all surprised, if the next winter should open upon us a much more afflictive scene than the last, if we will not be reformed by such judgments and deliverances as these. Yet I think with you, dear Sir, that God will not make a full end of us.
I look upon every sinner converted from the error of his ways, by the power of God working in his Gospel, as a token for good, that we shall not be utterly forsaken.
“ I am, dear Sir,
" P. DODDRIDGE." In the latter end of December, Mr. Wesley received the following observations in a letter from a friend. No doubt the writer thought them necessary at that time, and they will not be out of season at present. “The knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures of truth," says he, “I take to be of the last importance, and is what real Christians need as much to have their attention awakened unto, as the generality of those who are called by the Christian name need to be taught, that they are dead while they have a name to live.
“ The understanding of the true meaning and intent of the Scriptures, is understanding the mind of God in every place. And he who opens that, does more, and, so to speak, gives more opportunity unto the Spirit of God to operate in the heart by his own word, than he who says abundance of serious things which are not contained in the subject (the text) he discourses from. In the other way, a man may preach numbers of years unto a congregation, and never explain the direct meaning of the Holy Spirit in one Scripture ; meanwhile he is not increasing their knowledge in the word of God. The word of God is that by which the Holy Ghost influences the heart of a believer ; and I cannot think it sufficient for the carrying on of that work, that Christians be taught a few general truths, which possibly by frequent teaching they may acquire some distinct notion of, without ever seeing them in the Scripture in their genuine beauty and dress. And do not all foolish and injudicious clamours about orthodoxy and heresy, arise from this?
* The letter is too long to be inserted here: It is printed in the first volume of the Arminian Magazine. Mr. Wesley used it in compiling his Christian Library; a most valuable work, published in fifty volumes duodecimo. It is now reprinting in octavo.
“I apprehend, the Scriptures contain a more glorious, beautiful, and various display of the eternal God, than the inconceivable variety in nature gives us of this creation, which is his work. And I would have all Christians search the Scriptures, and study God there, with as much assiduity as the naturalists do nature in his material works. What infinite reward of enjoyment would arise from thence ?-It is true, indeed, a head knowledge* of these things is nothing. The Spirit of God must make the heart sensible of all that our understandings can comprehend in revelation. But these are two distinct things which God hath joined together : even as the power of God in raising up Christ from the dead, is one thing to be understood and believed from the Scriptures; and the quickening of a sinner, is a work actually performed in the heart by the Spirit of Christ, but is inseparable from the faith of the former. This is it which makes the understanding I speak of so necessary; for, without it, a person shall never be able to judge, by the word of God, of what passes within himself; for it is the only standard by which to try the spirits, and to prove every man's work.'
“Serious people are generally in danger of regarding only what they feel in themselves, when their affections are lively, and they receive great consolation from a belief of the love of God in Christ. They take that for the knowledge of God which is only the effect of it. Consequently they are in hazard of seeking the knowledge of God in their own feelings, and of measuring their knowledge by them ; not attending, that our nourishment is not from within ourselves, but comes from without. It is God's whole glory displayed in revelation, (by Christ) communicated by the Holy Ghost, and received by faith, which ought to be the Christian's daily bread."
The gentleman who made these observations, had mentioned his thoughts on the subject to Mr. Wesley in conversation, who desired him to put them down in writing more at length, which gave birth to the letter of which the above is an abstract.
Mr. Wesley continued his frequent visits to the most distant parts of the kingdom. No season of the year, no change of weather, could either prevent or retard his journeys. He generally preached two or three times every day, and regulated the societies wherever he came. His whole heart was in the work, and his fixed resolution surmounted every difficulty.
In February, 1747, being in Yorkshire, he met with a clergyman, who told him, some of the preachers had frequently preached in his parish ; and his judgment was, 1. That their preaching had done some good but more harm. Because 2. Those who had attended it, had only turned froin one wickedness to another; they had only exchanged sabbath-breaking, swearing, or drunkenness, for slandering, backbiting, and evil-speaking; and 3. Those who did not attend it, were provoked hereby to return evil for evil. So that the former were, in effect, no better, the latter worse, than before.
* The writer means speculative knowledge. It is a more proper word. Certainly all the knowledge a man has, is in his head. But speculative knowledge affects not the heart.
“ The same objection, in substance,” says Mr. Wesley, “ has been made in most other parts of England. It therefore deserves a serious answer, which will equally hold in all places. It is allowed, 1. That our preaching has done some good ; common swearers, sabbathbreakers, drunkards, thieves, fornicators, having been reclaimed from those outward sins. But it is affirmed, 2. That it has done more harm; the persons so reclaimed only changing one wickedness for another; and their neighbours being so provoked thereby, as to become worse than they were before.
66. Those who have left their outward sins,' you affirm, have only changed drunkenness or sabbath-breaking, for backbiting, or evil-speaking. I answer, if you affirm this of them all, it is notoriously false; many we can name, who left cursing, swearing, backbiting, drunkenness, and evil-speaking, altogether, and who are, to this day, just as fearful of slandering, as they are of cursing or swearing. And if some are not yet enough aware of this snare of the devil, we may hope they will be ere long. Meantime bless God for what he has done, and pray that he would deliver them from this death also.
“ You affirm farther, · That their neighbours are provoked hereby, to return evil for evil; and so while the former are no better, the latter are worse than they were before.'
“ I answer, 1. • These are worse than they were before. But why? Because they do fresh despite to the Spirit of grace;' because they despise that long-suffering love of God which would lead them, as it does their neighbours, to repentance.* And in laying the blame of this on those who will no longer run with them to the same excess of riot,' they only fulfil the Scriptures, and fill up the measure of their own iniquity.
“I answer, 2. There is still no proportion at all between the good on the one hand, and the harm on the other : for they who reject the goodness of God, were servants of the devil before ; and they are but servants of the devil still. But they who accept it, are brought from the power of Satan, to serve the living and true God."
In April, Mr. Wesley, on his return from the North, spent an hour with the same clergyman, and pressed him to make good his assertion, that the preaching of the Methodists had done more harm than good. This he did not choose to pursue ; but enlarged on the harm it might occasion in succeeding generations. Mr. Wesley adds, “I cannot see the force of this argument. I dare not neglect the doing certain present good for fear of some probable ill consequences in the succeeding century.”—Thanks be to God, those ill consequences have not yet appeared after more than seventy years' trial. The Lord still owns it to be his work.
June 4.-Mr. Wesley wrote down the following instructions for the stewards of the society in London:
** The Publicans and harlots,' says our Lord, “repented at the preaching of John, and ye, when ye saw it, repented not afterward that ye might believe.'