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rectly think that the demarcation along doctrinal lines is very clearly cut. 126
Doctrine, then, was not a direct cause for antagonism between the groups of Methodists and Churchmen of so great an extent that they would not live together in concord. Difference of opinion on some of the facts of religion and the interpretation of those facts was abundantly and irritatingly present; but there was no huge doctrinal gap between the Church and the Methodists. Doctrine, however, did show a state of mind, and out of this certain state of mind came a type of action. It was this which drove the wedge between the clergy and the Methodists; for this action brought out a strong opposition from the Church, and this opposition worked to establish a group consciousness among the Methodists that heretofore had not existed. Doctrine alone never could have parted the Methodists from the Churchmen. Action could and did.
PRACTICES OF THE EARLY METHODISTS
THERE was no fundamental difference between the Methodists and the Churchmen regarding doctrine. But in the method of applying those doctrines, and in the emphasis put upon portions of those doctrines there was a difference. The Church believed in justification by faith; but while so believing, it was not keenly alive to the fact that men were being forever lost in large numbers. The Methodists thought they faced a world quite bad, and that their chief duty was to save souls. Great vigor in applying their doctrine resulted from this attitude of mind. Their method of application, rather than the doctrine itself, caused many of the clergy for the time being to shut the Methodists out of their pulpits. In a letter dated March 7, 1745, Wesley recorded, that about seven years ago he began teaching “inward present salvation, as attainable by faith alone. For preaching this doctrine we were forbidden to preach in the churches."1 It would appear that it was the manner Wesley adopted in preaching this doctrine, rather than the doctrine itself, that caused the ousting from the churches. He himself told of the instance, wherein a woman in Newlyn objected to his preaching by saying, “Nay, if going to Church and sacrament will not put us to heaven, I know not what will."2 This showed that the people in the Church felt—whether they were right or wrong is not to the point—that Wesley was against the Church and the sacrament. If this was so, they thought themselves in duty bound to keep him from speaking in the Church. It was a misunderstanding; because at Epworth the people were | urged by Wesley to attend the sacrament; yet the rector would not give Wesley the sacrament because he "was not fit.”3 Wesley stated that reaction of the Methodists to this misunderstand
* Jour., vol. iii, p. 167.
ing and spiritual deadness in the Established Church as follows: “They still cleave to the Church which they truly love; but being generally out from her pulpits, they had no alternative but to become, what has been called, irregular. Their hearts bowed to the opprobrium.”4 This agitation with its hard feeling forced the Methodists to adopt a certain program in order to save this world that was “utterly lost.”
Finding the churches closed to him, Wesley took to outdoor preaching It was a "sudden expedient."5 Wesley did not anticipate this method of spreading salvation; for when he preached a second time he described it as "submitting to be more vile.”® Whitefield had been preaching out of doors at Bristol and had invited Wesley to come and see how it worked; but Wesley could "scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday: having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in Church.” He began this procedure by preaching on the Sermon on the Mount and quoting Jesus as a precedent for field preaching.: Nevertheless he never really liked field preaching. Writing to an opponent he said, “I do prefer the preaching in a church when I am suffered; and yet, when I am not, the wise providence of God overrules this very circumstance for good, many coming to hear because of the uncommonness of the thing, who otherwise would not have heard at all.”9
Overton was right when he said that Wesley had a “repugnance which he had the greatest difficulty in overcoming” for field preaching:10
Once begun, field preaching was carried on in a thorough manner. Wesley did away with formal prayer, that he might
* Moore: Life of Wesley, vol. I, p. 358.
Letter to Author of Enthus. of Meth. and Papists Compared, p. 9.
get down to his audience.11 He preached in a number of places : In Durham it was in a meadow near the river side—“quite convenient."12 At Plymouth it was in the common.13 At Exeter half the town came to hear him in an amphitheater just outside of the castle.14 Time and again he simply stood in the street and gave his message.
e. 15 At Stroud he preached in the market place, while at Kinsdale he gave his sermon in the town exchange. 16 Not only in all kinds of places; but also at all hours and in all kinds of weather Wesley labored. At Wrestlingworth, he preached by moonlight.17 In the square of Keelmen's Hospital, it was in the rain and the hail.18 And in a hot sun where "the vehement stench of stinking fish as was ready to suffocate me, and the people roared like the waves of the sea,” he performed his mission to the inhabitants of Guisborough.19
Wesley was encouraged in this by large audiences. At Bristol he preached to one thousand, and later in the day to fifteen hundred at Kingswood.20 At Gloucester he told of an audience of over a thousand.21 At Moorfields a huge audience of ten thousand was mentioned, while at Kennington on the same day twenty thousand were recorded as having heard the gospel. 22 There was no doubt much exaggeration and over estimating in connection with these figures; but the fact remains that enormous audiences must have listened to this field preaching, for oftentimes the preachers lost their voices in seeking to make themselves heard. 23
This field preaching was not countenanced by the Church. As early as 1739 complaints were made against the Methodists for irregularity in conduct. Whitefield, especially, was a center
11 Jour., vol. i, p. 449.
Ibid., vol. iii, p. 51.
Ibid., vol. ii, p. 175ff.
for attack and was accused of preaching without a license from the bishop, thereby acting contrary to the Canons and the rules of Christianity; furthermore, he showed a great contempt for the liturgy, for the Church, and for the clergy.24 He and others were flayed because they had broken the vows which they took at ordination. This was surely true of Whitefield; for he was not diplomatic and in many ways goaded those who did take opposite point of view from him.25 But Wesley's actions were considered even less justifiable than Whitefield's; because he was a man of greater learning and with a cooler head. One would expect more legal actions from him.26 In general, the Methodists were said to break the Church law, for they did not observe the Rubrics and the Canons. The Canons, so the argument ran, forbade field preaching. Yet no one designated just which part of the Church law was violated.27 Wesley retorted that field preaching no more violated the Canons than did the habit of playing cards, which was heavily indulged in by the clergy of the period. Bishop Gibson was opposed to field preaching because it broke the Act of Toleration; for this act provided : “That no congregation or assembly for religious worship be permitted or allowed, until the place of such meeting shall be certified to the bishop of the diocese, or the archdeacon of the Archdeaconry, or to the justices of the peace at their General or Quarter Sessions.”28 The bishop claimed that this law was not lived up to.
"Nor has it been known that a dissenting teacher of any denomination whatever, has thought himself warranted, under the Act of Toleration to preach in fields or streets." Methodists were not even good Dissenters.29 Wesley did not admit this position; for he denied absolutely that anybody had a right to class the Methodists with the Dissenters; because the Methodists were not Dissenters; but rather members of the Church of England, and since they were members of the Church, the Act of Toleration did not apply to them.30 Furthermore,
* J. Tucker: Conduct of Whitefield, p. 6.
Obs. upon Conduct of Methodists, p. 4.