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d'effrayant cilice; elle répand des cendres sur sa tête; elle gesticule comme une forcenée. On lève la séance; on expulse les imposteurs; la foule les crible de boue, et s'amasse si nombreuse que le Sheriff et la force publique sont obligés dans la soirée, de la disperse.”85 The Nonconformists were not in sympathy with the French Prophets. So next these "prophets” turned to the Moravians. They sent deputies to Zinzendorf. But the Moravians would have nothing to do with them because they neglected the sacrament. So in 1739 they sought to convert the Methodists to their way of thinking. The enthusiasm displayed by the Methodists had, perhaps, made them think that the Methodists were prepared for their way of doing things. 86
The “prophets” were typical enthusiasts. To come under the operation of the Holy Spirit they put themselves into postures and agitations. They shook their heads and whirled in a violent manner until a vertigo seized them. They threw their hands and tossed to and fro beyond the wild pranks of any wild man, “sometimes whistling, and then singing and laughing, piping, drumming, screaming, etc.” Such were their actions.
Their doctrine was equally radical. The millennium was soon to come-in fact, within a few months. Christ was to appear personally.87 The French church denounced these men, but their influence continued to spread. Sir Richard Bulkley and John Lacy, Esq., were won over to their cause.
These men set themselves to the work of prophesying, and said that Dr. Ems, a friend of theirs, should rise from the grave May 25, 1708. Many came out to see this resurrection. When the event did not come off, the people were inclined to doubt, and to overcome this doubt Sir Richard and his friend John Lacy threatened with massacre all who should oppose them.88
Although these “prophets” were repudiated by some, nevertheless, some believed on them. Mr. Hollis, of Wickham, favored these people and maintained their superiority to the prophets of the Old Testament. He tried to influence Charles
Jeunesse de Wesley, p. 424.
Southey : vol. i, pp. 241-242.
Wesley in the matter, but Charles Wesley was too good a Churchman to be thus easily influenced. One night Charles Wesley slept with Hollis. While they were undressing “he fell into violent agitations and gabbled like a turkey cock.” Charles was frightened, but was not convinced; for he began to exorcise Hollis, saying, "thou deaf and dumb devil, come out of him." Hollis evidently did not like Charles Wesley's uncomplimentary attitude toward his religious experience, so he soon recovered from his fit of inspiration.89 A little later on, Charles Wesley had a discussion with one of the societies concerning these French Prophets. At the conclusion of the discussion Charles Wesley asked, “Who is on God's side? Who for the old prophets rather than the new? Let them follow me. They followed me into the preaching room. Thus Charles Wesley and his followers definitely broke with the French Prophets.
The attempts to influence John Wesley were as great a failure as with his brother Charles. He went to hear a prophetess who leaned back in her chair and gabbled very much. She gave deep sighs. Wesley was far from being impressed with her. 91 Then he came out in public and denounced these "prophets” as "properly enthusiasts.” He said they thought themselves to be inspired by God, but were not. False, imaginary inspiration is enthusiasm.92 This type of inspiration the French Prophets had. And when Wesley was accused of favoring the French Prophets, the question was bluntly put to him: “Do you not commend the French Prophets?” To this question he categorically answered, "No."93
In this way the leaders of Methodism broke absolutely with these French Prophets and the movement was saved from a fanaticism of the extremest type. Fanaticism might easily have spoiled the movement for any practical usefulness right at its beginning
The second ultra enthusiasts to trouble Methodism were
89 Moore: Life of Wesley, vol. i, p. 347.
Southey: vol. i, p. 242.
of a different sort. They were Methodists; namely, Thomas Maxfield and George Bell. Both had been permitted to preach by Wesley. Maxfield was put in charge of the Methodist society at the Foundry for a season. Not long after Wesley left the Foundry, and some of the people claimed dreams, visions, and impressions, as they thought, from God. Maxfield did not discourage, but rather encouraged them. He believed that they were signs of the highest grace. Wesley at once took a position emphatically opposed to this type of enthusiasm.94 He told Maxfield plainly that these inner emotions, mysticism, would not be tolerated. He condemned screaming, unintelligible words, etc. The upshot of the whole matter was that Maxfield left the movement. 95
Wesley had difficulty in the matter. The kind of people who composed this earlier Methodist movement was such as would be prone to follow enthusiasm of Maxfield's type. It had seized a hold upon Methodism. One hundred and six members left the society at the Foundry when Maxfield went
At that same time there was a decrease in the total membership of the Methodist societies from about 2,800 to 2,200. Wesley attributed this in part to the work of Maxfield. 97
George Bell was a friend of Maxfield. Of the two he was the more fanatical. His admirers professed the gift of healing. They attempted to cure blindness and to raise the dead.98 Bell prophesied the end of the world. Near Saint Luke's Hospital, on February 28, 1763, he was arrested and committed to prison. Wesley saw to it that he left Methodism. Southey called him an "ignorant enthusiast” who became an “ignorant infidel." He died at a ripe old age, posing as a reformer. 9
Wesley in this way broke with these two fanatics regardless of what it might cost him. He thought them full of self-conceit, stubborn, and impatient of contradiction.100 It was an act of
44 Jour., vol. v, p. II.
Ibid., vol. iv, p. 535ff.
Ibid., vol. v, p. 155.
wisdom and statesmanship for Wesley to see clearly enough to rid his movement of such men as these. We cannot agree with Hampson, when he stated that Wesley gave too much encouragement to these enthusiasts. 101 He did not. He put them out, and thus saved Methodism from becoming weak with fanaticism and ultra radicalism.
SECTION IV. METHODISM AND MYSTICISM Methodism met enthusiasm in yet one other form-mysticism. This had to be met and dealt with. In 1739, upon returning to Fetter Lane, Wesley found that Philip Henry Molther, private tutor to the son of Count Zinzendorf, had been talking to his people and confusing them; so that they were ready to deny all religion.102 The teaching that was making for all of this confusion was the Moravian doctrine of "stillness." Wesley said that the Moravians owned they never had a living faith. They were going to be “still” until they gained it. They taught that one should leave off the means of grace; stay away from church; cease to communicate; stop reading the Bible; have no prayer in any form at all; until this living faith should come.103 Wesley defined “stillness” by saying “that a man cannot attain to salvation by his own wisdom, strength, righteousness, goodness, merits, or works; that therefore, he applies to God for it. . . . and thus quietly waits for his salvation."'104
Wesley rejected absolutely this doctrine of "stillness.” He had a conversation with Molther and stated categorically his opposition. He believed it was right to go to church; to communicate; to fast; to use as much private prayer as he could; to read the Scripture. This was a definite stand against the Moravians and for the Established Church.105 Wesley told the Moravians plainly that they violated the law of God and disobeyed Him.106 At his early morning band meetings he took up this subject in a systematic manner and urged his followers
Life of Wesley, vol. ii, p. 131.
to obey the ordinances of God. He claimed that God commanded men to search the Scriptures. He asserted that the Lord's Supper was a means of grace and that no grace could be obtained unless one partook of it. No sense of fitness was required, but only a sense of unworthiness. 107 With such opinions as these there could be no harmony between Wesley and the Moravians.
July 16, 1740, there was a debate lasting until eleven o'clock at night with the Moravians of Fetter Lane. At its conclusion Wesley remarked, “this place is taken for the Germans.”108 But there was no decision reached; for a few days later he declared that Moravian assertions were contrary to the Word of God. He called upon all who agreed with him to leave Fetter Lane. About eighteen or so followed him.109 These followers from Fetter Lane met at the Foundry and there organized on July 23, 1740.110
The separation from the Moravians was now complete. Wesley seemed to have seen his danger. He accused the Moravians of leaning on the authority of modern mysticism.111 He felt that the Moravians were a menace to the Church, because they prevented people from attending the Church.112
Because Wesley had visited the Moravians and learned their tenets, it was assumed by writers of the Church that he was one of them. This hurt Methodism; so when he broke with the Moravians this opinion had to give way. 113 And people did not think well of the Moravians. Henry Rimus pictured them in an extensive narrative as being fanciful and full of mysticism. 114 Bishop Gibson said that the Moravians decried all moral law as not being a part of Christianity; all human qualifications for the ministry; all human helps toward the conversion and conviction of sinners. He concluded that the Methodists
Jour., vol. ii, pp. 356-362.
Ibid., vol. ii, p. 368.
Ibid., vol. ii, p. 490ff.