« FöregåendeFortsätt »
which Wesley formerly accepted, he now rejected. “Neither Christ nor the apostles prescribe any form of Church government,” he concluded.63 The trend of thought from Wesley's utterance to this day seems to bear this statement out.
Thus have we seen that the attitude of the bishops worked against unity. Whether they were justified in holding such views is not the question. The Methodists grew bitter and more bitter against the Church as a result of this treatment, and at last came to a frame of mind where they thought bishops not needful, but an evil. Yet the bishops took even one more step away from any possibility of unity. They confused the Methodists with Roman Catholics.
SECTION III. CONFUSION OF METHODISTS WITH CATHOLICS
Roman Catholicism was not at all popular in England. People had not forgotten the days of James II. Catholic intrigue was sufficiently active in England to keep the suspicions of the people keyed to the highest pitch. Bishop Porteus, of Chester, wrote to the people of his parish and warned them against the efforts of the Catholics to make headway in England. The Catholics, said he, tried to make converts by: a. attempting bribery, b. by intermarrying with members of the Established Church, and c. by the practice of Catholics of showing a preference for Catholic labor. Bishop Porteus even went into detailed instructions for the people, informing them how best they could prevent this Catholic propaganda from going ahead. a. Parents were to keep their personal influence over their children as long as possible, b. they were to send their children to Protestant schools, and c. they were to read nothing save Protestant publications.64 "The true secret, in short, for checking the growth of popery, or any other corrupt religion, is, lenity and vigilance in conjunction.”65 This was the suspicious attitude which all England adopted toward any form of Roman Catholicism during the eighteenth century.
During the Stuart uprising in the north in 1745, Wesley
came under suspicion of papacy, and therefore treason. While the whole countryside was in an uproar, Wesley knowing himself to be under suspicion, visited one named Adams, an expriest, twice during these weeks of peril.66 There was little sense in Wesley's doing this. He was accused of being a papist, an advocate of the Pretender, of traveling through France and Spain in behalf of the house of Stuart.67 The Methodists were said to be masked Jesuits.68
One result of this was that Bishop Lavington launched his great polemic upon the Methodists, The Enthusiasm of the Methodists and the Papists Compared. In this work Lavington compared the Methodists with old Catholic enthusiasts, such as Saint Francis, a "weak enthusiast”; Saint Dominic, "a contriver and manager of the blessed instrument of conversion"; or Loyola, a "visionary fanatic or scatter brain." All of these Catholics indulged in field preaching as did the Methodists. 69 Furthermore, the system of the itineracy was compared with the pilgrimages and crusades of the Catholics—both were mere tricks to win admirers. 70 Both Catholics and Methodists laid claims to divine direction, to the presence of God, to raptures and ecstasies; and these claims were all humbug. "When the blood and spirits run high, inflaming the brain and imagination, it is most properly enthusiasm; which is religion run mad.”71 The Methodists and Papists even used the Scriptures in the same spirit. “They cannot open the Bible, and thereby turn the Holy Scriptures into a lottery, but they are sure of a prize ... or some special direction. They cannot read or hear lessons, psalms, epistles, and gospels, but they have sagacity enough to find something peculiarly concerning themselves.” Thus the Methodists are quite as egotistical as the Catholics who lived long before them.72
There can be no doubt that Lavington had a genuine fear
66 Jour., vol. iii, p. 209.
Ibid., vol. iii, p. 191.
of enthusiasm. The Methodists did have some isolated traits similar to the Catholics. But how a man of Lavington's position and intelligence could ever fail to distinguish between the Methodists and the Catholics we cannot understand. How sincerely he believed his main argument is open to doubt. The Methodists usually have looked upon him as the great Nero of their day, and one cannot well blame them.
Wesley clearly realized that he was accused of papist opinions.73 He did what he could to enlighten his enemies. He wrote many letters to Lloyd's Weekly, answering the charges of papacy made against him.74 He was very clear in his statements. Once he called the rulers of the Catholic Church since the days of Cyprian, “a conspiracy of execrable wretches."75 There was little leaning toward the papacy in such a statement. Later on, he wrote: “I insist upon it that no government, not Roman Catholic, ought to tolerate men of Roman Catholic persuasion
.. who cannot give security to that government for their allegiance and peaceable behavior."76 This was quite loyal, and also quite anti-Catholic. In 1780 he wrote a letter that was quite lengthy in dealing with this question of Catholicism: the supremacy of the pope; the granting of pardons; and the truthfulness of Roman Catholics. This letter was so strong that Tyerman called it "obnoxious."77 After this one would be insane to confuse the Methodists with the Papists. They were quite unlike in either loyalty or spirit.
SECTION IV. OPPOSITION TO THE METHODISTS Not only by the bishops but also by learned men, publishers, and others, the Methodists were attacked. Early in the movement, relationships with Oxford were not friendly. In 1768, six students were expelled because they were Methodists and attended conventicles.78 Whitefield was very wroth over this. Such meetings as in reality plotted against the state were for
13 Jour., vol. ii, p. 263.
Ibid., vol. iv, p. 96.
bidden; but these students were ejected for praying extempore and reading and singing hymns. This was all unjust—such was Whitefield's conclusion.79 Sarcastically an anonymous writer noted: "What miracle was it my beloved, that out of so much hundreds of students as are at Oxford, only six should be found guilty of praying, reading, and expounding the Scriptures. This shows the faithfulness of their vigilant tutors in guarding them against such pernicious practices."'80 But the authorities were firm and these students stayed out.
Wesley himself fared little better. Inasmuch as he was a fellow of Lincoln College, it was necessary for him to preach once a year at Saint Mary's. Such sermons as Wesley preached at Saint Mary's he carefully wrote out; sometimes in Latin as well as in English. No one seemed to encourage him. He was told that it made little difference what he preached about, for no one would care anyhow.8 Some of the college authorities even took Wesley to be a little crack-brained, and frankly told
But Wesley was not the man to shed tears over such treatment; when this opposition and indifference confronted him, he prepared to preach so that those who opposed him should sit up and take notice.
August 24, 1744, was the last time he was asked to preach at Saint Mary's. He sought to persuade his hearers frankly to admit that they had never seen a Christian country upon this earth. He asked the self-complacent college authorities if they were full of the Holy Ghost. He indicted his hearers in asserting that righteousness and Christianity were not characteristic of the Fellows of the College, and concluded his sermon with the petition : "Lord, take us out of the mire that we sink not."83 It was a ringing challenge to the religious deadness of Oxford, but was most ungratefully received. Dr. Kennicott recorded that “the assertion that Oxford was not a Christian city, and this country not a Christian nation, were the most offensive
79 Whitefield: Letter to Dr. Durell, pp. 13-14.
parts of the sermon, except when he accused the whole body ... of the sin of perjury.”84 Wesley irritated his hearers. It was no wonder that the Vice-Chancellor wished to see the manuscript and Wesley recorded, “I preached I suppose for the last time at Saint Mary's. Be it so. I am now clear of the blood of these men. I have fully delivered my own soul.”85
This was the beginning of the end; yet it was not until June 1, 1751, that Wesley wrote to the Rector and Fellows of Lincoln: “Ego Johannes Wesley, Collegii Lincolniensis in Academia Oxoniensis Socius, quicquid mihi juris est in praedicta Societate, ejusdem Rectori et Sociis sponte ac libere resigno; illis universis et singulis perpetuam pacem ac omnimodam in Christo felicitatem exoptans.” Thus he resigned his fellowship, and the last thread of connection with Oxford was broken. 86 Opposition in Oxford resulted in a break with Oxford.
The opposition of the Churchmen characteristic at Oxford was continued in other forms and places. Opposition developed into general persecution. At Wednesbury, a mob maltreated a certain Joshua Constable's wife and wrecked his house—all because he was a Methodist.87 Charles Wesley reported that five engines were played upon the house where he resided, and bulldogs were urged on to his horses. 88 Time and again John Wesley suffered physical abuse and nearly lost his life. This violent physical persecution was not common after 1751-2.89 Not all joined in this violence. The vicar of Saint Martin's Church flayed those who tore down houses with the text: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” He threatened to leave his parish if his people did not conduct themselves more lawfully.90
This attitude, however, was the exception rather than the rule.
Other forms of persecution continued. Farces were given holding the Methodists up to ridicule. One such play, Trick
84 Meth. Mag., 1866, p. 44.