Sidor som bilder


Having had in my possession, for many years, a genuine copy of the London edition of Whitehead's Life of Wesley, which, with a single exception, was the only copy known to be in existence, I considered it too valuable longer to slumber in obscurity, and about a year since, I announced my intention to republish it. Through causes unlooked for, and beyond my control, the execution of my plan has been considerably delayed; but at length, I have the very great pleasure of presenting to the public, in a neat and substantial form, an American edition of this inestimable work, without the least variation in the language or arrangement of the copy, and without notes or comments. As this was the first written Life of the Wesleys, prepared from authentic documents, and as it is the only one which has been written which can rightfully claim the merit of impartiality, I thought it best, in republishing it, to conform as nearly as possible to the original text, and leave the reader free to draw his own conclusions of the contents of the work.

It is next to superfluous to speak of the importance of this re-publication ; the fact is more than admitted by those who are conversant with its historical merits. Methodism has attained so prominent a position in the affairs of the religious world, that every thing connected with its origin, its principles and its history becomes a matter of public interest. When, therefore, an authentic record of the chief events connected with the first half century of the existence of this institution is brought forth in an accessible form, shall it not be regarded as an affair deserving something better than a mere passing notice ? Considering the partial statements and false colorings in reference to important matters, which prejudiced and selfish biographers and historians have embodied in nearly all the books extint purporting to be the lives of Wesley, and the histories of Methodism, this truthful sketch of Whitehead shines out from among the mass of error, like a sparkling diamond from the unseemly rubbish of its native bed.

The life of Wesley and the early history of Methodism are so intimately associated as to be almost one and the same thing. The chief

incidents of the former become the elements of the latter. As Abraham is the acknowledged father of the faithful, so, in a similar sense, is Wesley the father of Methodisın ; and as in either case, the characteristic traits of the parents are transmitted to their offspring, there may be seen in the developments of Methodism the impress of the expansive intellect and boundless benevolence of him who was the heaven-chosen instrument of projecting this great moral enterprise, whose infancy he nursed with more than parental solicitude.-From the commencement to the close of Mr. Wesley's protracted public career, one object alone seemed to have predominated in his mind, and to that, were devoted, unreservedly, all his masterly intellectual and physical energies. That object was, to rear in the world a spiritual church, a holy temple unto God, whose walls should tower aloft in the majesty of strength divine, in bright and glorious contrast with the tottering edifices of a formal religion, and the crumbling wrecks of blind superstition! In this holy enterprise, he received important assistance from his brother, the Rev. Charles Wesley, M. A., whose life is also sketched by the same able biographer, and is contained in this work.

The careful reader will at once perceive that Dr. Whitehead is no ordinary writer. The elegance, strength and perspicuity of his language, the facility and faithfulness of his delineations, amply qualify him for the acceptable performance of the task which Mr. Wesley, in confidence, intrusted to him.

With the hope that the efforts which I have made to republish this valuable work, and which have been attended with great expense, will be duly appreciated, and that the work itself may be the means of further extending the public acquaintance with the FoundERS, DOCTrines and early Usages of a dearly cherished religious institution, I remain the Public's humble and obedient servant in the bonds of the Gospel,

J. M. Boston, June, 1844.


[ocr errors]

AN EXTRACT FROM MR. WESLEY'S WILL. " I GIVE all my manuscripts to Thomas Coke, Doctor Whitehead, and Henry Moore, to be burnt or published, as they see good."

As the dispute between Dr. Coke, Mr. Moore, the Methodist Conference, and me, respecting the publication of Mr. J. Wesley's Life, has been very generally made known through the three kingdoms, it seems pecessary to state to the public, what bas been done on my part, and on the part of the committee united with me, to put an end to that dispute. After the Manchester Conference, in 1791, Mr. Rogers, Dr. Coke, Mr. Whitefield, &c., began the dispute, on the subject of money, or the division of the profits arising from the sale of the Life : they afterwards required, that I should publish nothing in the Life of Mr. J. Wesley, but what should be approved by a comınittee of the preachers. With respect to the first, I offered to give them the whole profits of ihe work, if they desired it, in order to put an end to the difference, as my printed letter of November of that year, will testify. With respect to the requisition, I could not in conscience submit to it. I offered to read the manuscript to them as friends, and to consult them on particular parts of Mr. Wesley's lile; but insisted on the right of using my own judgment, if on any point we could not agree. Here then we differed, and in the printed letter above mentioned, I addressed the preachers on this subject, in the following words : “I therefore entreat you, for God's sake, for the sake of peace among the people, for the honor of religion in general, to desist from this arbitrary and illiberal requisition. If you still insist upon it, and make a breach on this account, I call the living God to witness between me and you this day, that I am clear; the mischief ihat may follow, will lie at your door, not mine; and you shall answer for it, at the awful tribunal of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

In August, 1792, when the Methodist preachers were assembled in conference, at London, the committee above mentioned, met, and resolved,

That, “ When the members of the committee united themselves together, to support Dr. Whitehead in writing the life of Mr. Wesley, the following were the leading principles of their union : 1. That Dr. Whitehead having been solicited to write the life, by the executors, preachers, and others, had pledged himself to the public to execute the work; and his printed proposals had been signed by the executors, and admitted by the Conference. 2. That Dr. Whitehead had an undoubted right to use his own judginent without control, in writing a book to which his name must be prefixed, and for the contents of which he only was responsible to the Methodist connection at large, and to the public. 3. That the three persons to whom Mr. Wesley had bequeathed his manuscripts, of whom Dr. Whitehead was one, having deliberately agreed that the doctor should have the use of them to assist him in executing ihe work, and they having been delivered unconditionally to him for that end, he had a right to the discretional use of them, not withstanding that two of those persons afterwards changed their mind on that subject. 4. When some of the preachers opposed Dr. Whitehead in the performance of his engagements to the public, the steps they took to injure his reputation, appeared to this committee unjustifiable, and if tolerated would take away all security for the character of every member of the Methodist society; the members of the committee, therefore, thought it their duty to oppose such proceedings, and to support an injured man who bore a public and respectable character, from the violent and unjust attacks

* See Arminian Magazine for January, 1792, page 29.

[ocr errors]

made upon him. The committee are still pursuaded of the justice and equity of these principles : but to show the disinterestedness of Dr. Whitehead and of this committee, and their desire of peace, they are willing to make some sacri. fices for the sake thereof; and therefore, with the consent of Dr. Whitehead, make the following propositions :

First. " That all the Manuscripts of Mr. Wesley shall be fairly and impartially examined, hy Dr. Coke, Mr. Moore, and Dr. Whitehead. Such papers as they shall unanimously deem unfit for publication, shall be burnt immediately out of the remainder Dr. Whitehead shall be at liberty to select such as he thinks necessary for his work; and the residue* to be given into the hands of Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore.

Second. “That the Life of Mr. Wesley, written by Dr. Whitehead, shall be given up by the committee to the Conference, and become their entire property.

THIRD. " That one hundred and twenty-eight pages of the Life being already printed off, Dr. Whitehead will read them to a committee of the preachers, if desired, that they may judge of the spirit and manner, in which the Life will be written, before they come to any conclusion.

FOURTH. “ That Dr. Whitehead will read his manuscript as the work goes on, to any person or persons the conference shall appoint; he will be glad of their opinion and advice, which he will follow in all cases, as far as be shall judge it consistent with the usefulness and reputation of his work.

FIFTH. " That the Conference shall defray all the expenses which the committee has been at up to the present time (the account to be made up by the treasurers of the committee) and take the expense of the work upon themselves : any consideration to be given Dr. Whitehead for his trouble, &c., in writing the Life, shall be wholly left to the determination of Conference in 1794, and if he never receives one shilling, he will not complain.

SIXTH." The Life of Mr. Wesley, written by Dr. Whitehead, shall never be printed, in any forin, without Dr. Whitehead's name, nor altered in any part of it without his consent.

SEVENTH. “ Dr. Whitehead shall iminecliately take his place, as a preacher in the new chapel, if the trustees approve thereof, as he did before this dispute happened ; and let all past differences be buried and forgotten.

Egyth. “ The fifty copies of the Life which are printed on large fine paper, shall be finished in the same manner as the eight sheets of ibem which are already printed off; and these fifty copies shall then be hot-pressed, and be delivered to Dr. Whitehead in boards at the common selling price of the book, to be distributed by him according to his original intention in printing them.

“ In case these propositions are rejected, the commiltee will consider Dr. Whitehead and themselves, and the whole of this dispute, to be remaining in the same state as previous to the making these proposals.

“The committee consider as first principles, from which they can never recede; first, that Dr. Whitehead shall write the Life, subject to proposition No. 1.

Secondly, That he use his own judgment therein without control. These two principles being admitted, the committee will, if the Conference prefer it, submit every other part of the difference to the decision of iwo persons, one to be chosen by the Conference, and the other liy the committee; which two persons, in case of a difference in opinion, shall nominate a third person to decide by a majority:--- If the Conference adopt either of these proposals, the parties to enter into satisfactory engagenients for the fulfilment of them.

" That a copy of the proceedings of this meeting, signed by the secretary, be sent to Mr. Alexander Mather, the president of the Conference.”—It must be observed, that Dr. Coke was secretary to the Conference, and Mr. Moore a member of it, and present at it. Our proposals were rejected.

Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore have published a Lile of Mr. Wesley; and they inforın the public, in their Preface, that, there is nothing material respecting him, that is not given in their volume. They assign, as an evidence of this, ihat, all his private papers were open to their inspection, for several years. According to their own declaration, therefore, they have suffered no loss or injury, on account of the papers being in my hands.

* Ji was intended, and I beliere sufficiently understood on both sides, that all the papers would be delivered up without reserve, as soon as the Life should be published.


Tue 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 10 me, that they carried their opposition to such outrageous and indecent lengths, on purpose to 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 establish. ment 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


« FöregåendeFortsätt »