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berance either of light or shade: in this state the work now approaches you ; and I cheerfully consign it to your protection and care.
That the pages of my volume are free from error and imperfection, I have no more the presumption to suppose, than I have the vanity to imagine that their defects can escape your penetration. Your long and intimate acquaintance with the deceased, must have deeply impressed upon your minds those varied features of his character, through which your judgments of him are formed and matured. This circumstance will preserve me from the imputation of flattery, although it
expense of my labours.
may be at the
It is to this maturity of judgment, however, that I the more readily appeal, from a full conviction, that, because it is matured, it must be equally free from the influence of local prejudice, and the delusion of visionary expectations. From you I have therefore a right to expect a decision, that will blend accuracy with candour, without furnishing" me with an occasion to complain of severity, or making me a debtor to compassion.
Should this work be so fortunate as thus favourably to pass the ordeal of
your examination, my confidence in your ability and fidelity will shield me from illiberal criticisms, which may arise from other quarters. Many may censure, and some may approve: but none can be more competent to form an accurate estimate of what I have written, than yourselves.
There is, however, one department in which I expect you will find many rivals, and that is, among Dr. Coke's numerous friends, who, like you, will be solicitous to cherish a strong affection for his name and memory. Yet even here I can scarcely suppose you will have any superiors, when I dare not make an exception even in favour of,
Your sincere friend,
And humble servant,
St. Austell, May 17, 1817.
IN sending the following Biographical Sketch into the world, the writer of this volume has no design either to flatter the unreasonable admirers of the deceased, or to gratify his enemies. He has therefore not drawn an artificial picture; but he has followed him through life, and noticed the most distinguishing features in his character, without having an eye to either party, and without always adverting to the opinions, which the facts he records might induce the reader to entertain.
Writing under these impressions, he is not conscious of baving passed over in silence any material incident in Dr. Coke's life, which could reasonably find a place in these memoirs, without descending to trifles, which can have no necessary connexion with a fair delineation of his character. On the same principle, he has neither emblazoned his virtues, nor amplified his faults; and, it is not improbable, that on this account, he has written in a manner that will give offence to althose, whom nothing can please but panegyric or defamation.
“ The strugling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,” are feelings, to which the author, on the present occasion, is a total stranger. He might have expatiated on a train of favourable coincidences, and have exalted accident into a virtue ; or he might have given shades to infirmities, which would have sprinkled them with the appearance of vice, without deviating from the rigid dictates of truth ; but impartiality demanded from him a statement of naked facts, which should leave the
judgment of the reader free from prepossession. To the candid and dispassionate, who are willing to make all reasonable allowances for the frailties of human nature; and who must estimate these allowances by the various situations in which the deceased was placed, such a faithful delineation as the author thus proposes cannot fail to afford satisfaction. But after all, the accomplishment of his purpose, may fall short both of his wishes and hopes, and for this he must crave their indulgence.
That a man, whose life has been spent in propagating Christianity-in carrying the light of the gospel among heatben nations—in cultivating and spreading the active and passive virtues which adorn social life-and, finally, in directing sinners to the Saviour of the world, should find himself exposed to enemies, may seem exceedingly strange. But history and observation unite to inform us, that this has been the lot of almost every public character. “Censure is a tax which every man must pay the public for being eminent;" and we well know that this fine has been constantly exacted from the greatest benefactors of mankind. Both Wesley and Whitefield were exposed to the charges of pride, ambition, and enthusiasm ; and even Mr. Fletcher could not escape the tongue of slander.
To the shafts of unmerited censure, Dr. Coke was also exposed; and his name, as well as the names of his illustrious cotemporaries and predecessors, was doomed to bear the base insinuations of invidious tongues. But reproachsul epithets merit no reply. It was sufficient for Dr. Coke, by the sanctions of his own conscience, to know that his motives were pure in the sight of God; and, for bis numerous friends on each side of the Atlantic, it must be pleasing to learn, that he was beloved and revered in every country which had enjoyed the benefits of his labours. Of this fact the following respectable testimonies furnish the most indubitable evidence.
“My very dear friend Dr. Coke,
“ Wher I consider the solemn offer you made of yourself to the General Conference, and their free and de
liberate acceptance of you as their Episcopos, I must view you as most assuredly bound to this branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America. You cannot, you dare not but consider yourself as a servant of the church, and a citizen of the continent of America. And although you may be called to Europe, to fulfil some prior en- . gagements, and wind up your temporal affairs, nothing ought to prevent your hasty return to the continent, to live and die in America. I shall look upon you as violating your most solemn obligations, if you delay your return. If you are a man of a large mind, you will give up a few islands for a vast continent, not less than 1400 miles in length, and 1000 miles in breadth. We have sixteen United States for ingress and regress, rising not like little settlements, but like large nations and kingdoms. I conclude, that I consider you are no longer a citizen of Wales or England, but of the United States of America. I am, with great respect,
6 Your ever dear brother,
“ FRANCIS ASBURY. w Charleston, Feb. 8th, 1797.
“P.S. I give you this to remind you, lest you should forget what you have done, and what the General Conference expects from you."
On the import and design of the preceding letter no comment can be necessary. It expresses in terms of imperious solicitude the wishes of Mr. Asbury and of the General Conference, for Dr. Coke's return to the Continent.
Nor can the early date of the preceding letter be justly urged against the continuance of the solicitude which it expresses. In the year 1800, the same sentiments were transmitted from the Conference at Baltimore, to that of this country, in reply to an ardent wish that the English Conference had expressed for Dr. Coke's return to Europe. In this reply, which is inserted in the fourteenth chapter of this volume, they only consented to lend Dr. Coke for a season,