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The publication of this first volume of Mr. Wesley's Life, having been delayed much beyond the general expectation, the members of the committee, who so generously united to encourage and assist me in carrying on the work, the subscribers to it, and the public at large, have a right to expect some explanation of the causes which have occasioned the delay. I shall mention two principal causes, though others have concurred in a less degree. The first is, the cruel and persevering opposition of some of the Methodist preachers, against the execution of the work. I had determined to write, not only the Life of Mr. Wesley, but a history of Methodism, with the utmost impartiality; to describe things as they have been, and as they are, without the false coloring that the spirit of a party will always give to history : but it was impossible to see with indifference the conduct of these preachers. Mr. Wesley never met with a more malignant opposition in the whole course of his labors, than I have experienced for attempting to describe them. Nor was I alone the object of their abuse; my friends, also, shared it with me. It sometimes appeared to me, that they carried their opposition to such outrageous and indecent lengths, on purpose io excite an opposition to them, in the Life itself; that they might have a fairer pretext to advise the people not to read it. I determined to disappoint them; and to take no further notice of them, than the connection of the history required, and without any particular reference to the present dispute. Whenever, therefore, I found my mind affected by their conduct, so that I could not write with that calmness and ease that I wished, I laid the work wholly aside, which has been no small cause of the delay. This may be called a weakness : be it so; I never pretended to be free from the common feelings of human nature; or to be insensible of the improper conduct of others, towards my friends. My business has been, to guard my mind against any improper influence it might have on my judgment, in describing facts that have taken place in the establishment of Methodism, and to distinguish between the rational and liberal principles of Mr. Wesley, on which the Methodist societies were founded, and the narrow and arbitrary conduct of a few individuals : and this, by the grace of God, I hope has been carefully done.
The second cause of delay has been the bankruptcy of the printer I first employed. This has occasioned a considerable loss, a part of the printed sheets being damaged, and a delay of several months. I am persuaded, however, that the work has received some improvements from the length of time it has been in hand. It may have defects at present, but they would have been greater and more numerous, had it been written in a hurry, immediately after the death of Mr. Wesley.
When I began to write the Life of Mr. Charles Wesley, I did not expect it would have been so long as it is. But the inaterials increased so fast upon me, as I proceeded, that I could easily have filled the whole volume with them. As they were new, and appeared to me important, I could not prevail on myself to abridge them, more than I have done. I thought it a pity that a man of so excellent a character should lie hid under a heap of rubbish, which envy had thrown upon him. A part of this rubbish, at least, I have removed, and he will again stand forward to the view of the public. I doubt not but his friends will recognize him in the following sheets; and I hope will be introduced to his company with pleasure and profit.
As the Life of Mr. John Wesley comprehends a great variety of subjects, on which men think very differently, it cannot be expected that it should be so written, as to obtain universal approbation. But my leading object in writing this Life, has not been, either general approbation or profit; but truly and fairly to delineate Mr. Wesley's character, in doing which, I hoped to promote religion and virtuc.
I return my warmest thanks to those persons who have communicated to me any private papers or letters, that were in their possession; and also to those who have assisted me in the present work, by their advice. In the carly part of Mr. John Wesley's Life, I have made use of the original papers relating to him, published by Dr. Priestley. His collection alone is defective; and so was that in my possession, without his. Dr. Priestley tells us in his preface, “ The following letters were given to me by the late Mr. Badcock, as great curiosities of their kind, with a view to their publication after the death of Mr. John Wesley. They were given to him by the grand-daughter of Mr. Samuel Wesley, the eldest brother of John, and 1 believe with the same view. Mr. John Wesley, as I learned from Mr. Badcock, was very desirous of getting these letters into his possession, but the daughter and grand-daughter of Mr. Samuel, being offended at his conduct, would never deliver them to him.” Thus far Dr. Priestley. I am not at all disposed to call Dr. Priestley's veracity in question, but it appears to me there is some mystery in the affair, which I wish to see removed, and which is the reason of bringing the matter forward. Mr. Badcock wrote to Mr. Wesley on the subject of his brother Samuel's manuscripts, and at the same time sent him one, which he had obtained. His letter is dated South-Moulton, Devonshire, April 22, 1780; and the part of it that relates to the manuscripts, is as follows: "Rev. Sir,
"The MS. which accompanies this address, will, I doubt not, carry its own authenticity with it, to you. It fell into my hands some time since, by means of the departure of Mr. Mansell, for Ireland, on account of debts contracted at Barnstaple. This person married a daughter of your niece, Mrs. Earle. They both died soon after he absconded. Of these particulars, it is likely you are not ignorant. A gentleman of Barnstaple, was for some time in possession of the books and MSS. Many of them were sold : and others, together with some papers of a family nature, were sent to Mansell; who, if I mistake not, lives with his mother, at or near Dublin.
"I have seen some other MSS. of your mother's; and wish I could have secured them for you. I think they have much intrinsic excellence : and to a son, they must be doubly acceptable. If I should have it in my power to get more of these papers, I will take care to send them to you.”
The attentive reader will perceive, that these two accounts, not only differ, but in one instance flatly contradict each other. After Mr. Badcock's letter, there certainly was a fault somewhere in Dr. Priestley's obtaining possession of the manuscripts; but where the fault lay, I do not pretend to determine.
of the Spread of Methodism, until the Conference in 1751, ......
LIFE OF THE REV. JOHN WESLEY.
CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAMILY.
Ꮯ Ꮋ Ꭺ Ꮲ Ꭲ Ꭼ Ꭱ I.
So far as we can trace back any account of the family, Mr. Wesley's ancestors appear respectable for learning, conspicuous for piety, and firmly attached to those views of Christianity which they had formed from the sacred Scriptures. Bartholomew Wesley, his great grandfather, was educated in one of our universities, and afterwards held the living of Allington in Dorsetshire. When the act of uniformity took place in 1662, he was ejected from his living, and enrolled on the list of fame with those illustrious names, who chose rather to suffer the loss of all things than violate conscience. If we judge from the circumstances of the nation, and the temper of the people at this time, we shall be led to conclude, that the act of uniformity originated with a party; that it was founded in revenge, and had cruelty and oppression for its object. It was however, the means under God, of raising up a cloud of witnesses, who testified to the world by their sufferings, that religion is not a mere engine of the state, but something real, in comparison of which those who feel its influence count all other things but dung and dross. While in the university, Mr. Wesley had applied himself to the study of physic as well as divinity; a practice which had been frequent, and not then fallen wholly into disuse. He was often consulted as a physician while he held his living, and after his ejectment applied himself chiefly to the practice of physic, though he still preached occasionally. It is said that he used a peculiar plainness of speech, which hindered him from becoming a popular preacher. He lived several years after he was silenced; but the death of his son, John Wesley, of whom I shall next speak, affected him so much, that he afterwards declined apace, and did not long survive him.*
* See Nonconformist's Memorial, vol. i. p. 142.