Copyright
John Wesley.

Select letters, chiefly on personal religion online

. (page 7 of 18)
Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 7 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Harllepool, Julxj 3, 1759.
Rev. Sir, — I esteem you as a person of uncommon sense
and learning ; but your doctrine I cannot esteem, and some
time since I believed it my duty to speak my sentiments at
large concerning your doctrine of original sin. When
Mr. Newton of Liverpool mentioned this, and asked whe-
ther you designed to answer, you said you thought not ;
" for it would only be a personal controversy between
John Wesley and John Taylor." How gladly, if I durst,



8t WESLEY^S SELECT LETTERS.

would I accept of this discharge from so unequal a contest!
For I am thoroughly sensible, humanly speaking, it is for-
mica contra leoncm* How gladly, were it indeed no other
than a personal controversy ! But certainly it is not ; it is
a controversy de rc^ if ever there was one in this world.
Indeed, concerning a thing of the highest importance ;
nay, all the things that concern our eternal peace. It is
Christianity or heathenism ! for, take away the Scriptural
doctrine of redemption or justification, and that of the new
hirth, the beginning of sanctification, or, which amounts to
the same, explain them as you do, suitably to your doctrine
of original sin, and what is Christianity better than hea-
thenism 1 Wherein, save in rectifying some of our notions,
has the religion of St. Paul any pre-eminence over that of
Socrates or Epictetus ?

This is, therefore, to my apprehension, the least a per-
sonal controversy of any in the world. Your person and
mine are out of the question. The point is, Are those
things that have been believed for many ages throughout
the Christian world, real, solid tniths, or monkish dreams
and vain imaginations ?

But farther: it is certain between you and me there need
be no personal controversy at all ; for we may agree to
leave each other's person and character absolutely un-
touched, while Avc sum up and answer the several argu-
ments advanced as plainly and closely as "we can.

Either I or you mistake the whole of Christianity from
the beginning to the end ! Either my scheme or yours is
as contrary to the Scriptural as the Koran is. Is it mine,
or yours ? Yours has g-one through all England, and made
numerous converts. I attack it from end to end. Let all
England judge whether it can be defended or not !

Earnestly praying that God may give you and me a right
understanding in all things,

I am, Rev. Sir,

Your servant for Christ's sake.

* An ant against a Hmi. — ^Ed.



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 86

LII.— TO LORD .

July 26, 1764.

My Lord, — Upon an attentive consideration, it will
appear to every impartial person that the uniting of the
serious clergy in the manner I proposed in a former letter
is not a matter of indifferency ; but what none can reject,
unless at the peril of his own soul. For every article
therein mentioned is undeniably contained in the royal law,
the law of love ; and, consequently, the observance thereof
is bound upon every man, as indispensably necessary to
salvation. It will appear, farther, that every single person
may observe it, whether the other will or no. For many
years, I, for instance, have observed this rule in every
article. I labour to do so now ; and will, by God's help,
whatevjBr others do, observe it to the end.

I rejoice that your lordship so heartily concurs in doing
what is in your power to promote a general observance of
it. Certainly this is not possible to be effected by merely
human means ; but, it seems, your lordship has taken one
good step toward it by communicating it to several. I am
persuaded, at the same time, your lordship's wish is, that
it might take place everywhere. The same step I purpose
to take by sending to each of those gentlemen the substance
of what I wrote to your lordship, and desiring them to tell
me freely whatever objections they have against such a
union. As many of those as are grounded on reason, I
doubt not, will be easily answered. Those only which
spring from some wrong temper must remain till that temper
is subdued. For instance : first, " We cannot unite," says
one, "because we cannot trust one another." I answer to
your reason or understanding. No matter whether we can
or no. Thus far we must unite, tnist or not ; otherwise
we sin against God. Secondly, I can trust you ; why
cannot you trust me ? I can have no private end herein.
I have neither personal hopes nor fears from you. I want
nothing which you can give me ; and I am not afraid of



86 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

your doing rae any hurt, though you may hurt yourself and
the cause of God, But I cannot answer your emy, jea-
lousy, pride, or creduHty. As long as those remain, ob-
jections, however cut off, will spring up again like hydra's
heads.

If your lordship has heard any objections, I should be
glad to know them. May I be permitted to ask, Have not
the objections you have heard made some impression upon
your lordship ? Have they not occasioned (if I may speak
freely) your lordship's standing aloof from me ? Have they
not set your lordship farther and farther off, ever since I

waited upon you at ? Why do I ask ? Indeed, not

upon my own account. Quid mea ? Ego in portu navigo*
I can truly say I neither fear nor desire any thing from
your lordship : to speak a rough truth, I do not desire any
intercourse with any persons of quality in England. I
mean, for my own sake. They do me no good, and I fear
I can do none to them. If it be desired, I will readily
leave all those to the care of my fellow-labourers. I will
article with them so to do, rather than this shall be any
bone of contention.

Were I not afraid of giving your lordship pain, I would
speak yet still farther. Methinks you desire I should ;
that is, to tell you, once for all, every thought that rises in
my heart. I will then: at present I do not want you; but
I really think you want me. For have you a person in all
England who speaks to your lordship so plain and down-
right as I do ? who considers not the peer, but the man ?
not the earl, but the immortal spirit ? who rarely commends,
but often blames, and perhaps would do it oftener if you
desired it ? who is jealous over you with a godly jealousy,
lest you should be less a Christian by being a nobleman ?
lest, after having made a fair advance toward heaven, you
should

" Measure back your steps to earth again?"

♦ This quotation from Terence is thus rendered by Dr. Samuel Patrick :
" But now all is at your peril. I ride safe in the harbour." — ^Ed.



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 87

my lord, is not such a person as this needful for you in
the highest degree ? If you have any such, I have no more
to say, but that I pray God to bless him to your soul. If
you have not, despise not even the assistance which it may
please God to give you by,

My lord.
Your lordship's ready servant.

LIII.— TO THE REV. MR. HARTLEY.

March 27, 1764.
Dear Sir, — Your book on the millennium and the
mystic writers was lately put into my hands. I cannot
but thank you for your strong and seasonable confirmation
of that comfortable doctrine ; of which I cannot entertain
the least doubt as long as I believe the Bible. I thank you,
likewise, for your remarks on that bad performance of the

JHshop of G , which undoubtedly tears up by the roots

all real, internal religion. Yet, at the same time, I cannot
but bewail your vehement attachment to the mystic writers ;
with whom I conversed much for several years, and whom

1 then admired, perhaps more than you do now. But I
found, at length, an absolute necessity of giving up either
them or the Bible. So, after some time, I fixed my choice,
to which I hope to adhere to my life's end. It is only the
extreme attachment to these which can account for the
following words : — " Mr. W. does, in several parts of his
Journals, lay down some marks of the new birth, not only
doubtful, but exceptionable ; as, particularly, where persons
appeared agitated or convulsed under the ministry ; which
might be owing to other causes, rather than any regenera-
ting work of God's Spirit." (Pago 385.)

Is this true ? In what one part of my Journals do I lay
down any doubtful, much less exceptionable, marks of the
new birth ? In no part do I lay down those agitations or
convulsions as any marks of it at all. Nay, I expressly
declare the contrary in those very words wliich the bishop



88 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

himself cites from my Journal. I declare, " These are of
a disputable nature : they may be from God ; they may be
from nature ; they may be from the devil." How is it, then,
that you tell all the world Mr. W. lays them down in his
Journals as marks of the new birth ?

Is it kind ? Would it not have been far more kind, sup-
pose I had spoken wrong, to tell me of it in a private man-
ner ? How much more unkind was it to accuse me to all
the world of a fault which I never committed !

Is it wise thus to put a sword into the hands of our com-
mon enem.y? Are we not both fighting the battle of our
Lord, against the world, as well as the flesh and the devil ?
And shall I furnish them with weapons against you, or you
against me ? Fine diversion for the children of the devil !
And how much more would they be diverted, if I would
furnish my quota of the entertainment, by falling upon you
in return ! But I bewail the change in your spirit : you
have not gained more lowliness or meekness since I knew
you. O beware! You did not use to despise any one.
This you have gained from the authors you admire. They
do not express anger tov/ard their opponents, but contempt
in the highest degree. And this, I am afraid, is far more
antichristian, more diabolical, than the other. The God of
love deliver you and me from this spirit, and fill us with
the mind that was in Christ.

LIT.— TO THE REV. MR. PLENDERLIETH.

May 23, 1768.
Reverend and Dear Sir, — Some years ago, it was
reported that I recommended the use of a crucifix to a man
under sentence of death. I traced this up to its author,
Dr. Stennett, an Anabaptist teacher. He was charged with
it. He answered, " Why, I saw a crucifix in his cell ;" (a
picture of Christ on the cross ;) " and I knew Mr. Wesley
used to visit him ; so I supposed he had brought it." This
is the whole of the matter. Dr. Stennett himself I never



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 89

yet saw ; nor did I ever see such a picture in the cell : and
I believe the whole tale is pure invention.

I had for some time given up the thought of an interview
with Mr. Erskine, when I fell into the company of Dr.
Oswald. He said, " Sir, you do not know Mr. Erskine.
I know him perfectly well. Send and desire an hour's
conversation with him, and I am sure he will understand
you better." I am glad I did send. I have done my part,
and am now entirely satisfied.

I am likewise glad that Mr. E. has spoke his mind. I
will answer with all simplicity, in full confidence of satis-
fying you, and all impartial men.

He objects, first, that I attack predestination, as subver-
sive of all religion, and yet sufl^er my followers in Scotland
to remain in that opinion. Much of this is true. I did attack
predestination eight-and-twenty years ago ; and I do not
beheve now any predestination which implies irrespective
reprobation. But I do not believe it is necessarily subver-
sive of all religion. I think hot disputes are much more so ;
therefore, I never willingly dispute with any one about it.
And I advise all my friends, not in Scotland only, but all
over England and Ireland, to avoid all contention on the
head, and let every man remain in his own opinion. Can
any man of candour blame me for this ? Is there any thing
unfair or disingenuous in it ?

He objects, secondly, that I " assert the attainment of
sinless perfection by all born of God." I am sorry Mr. E.
should affirm this again. I need give no other answer than
I gave before, in the seventh page of the little tract I sent
him two years ago.

I do not maintain this. I do not believe it. I believe
Christian perfection is not attained by any of the children
of God till they are what the Apostle John terms " fathers."
And this I expressly declare in that sermon wliich Mr. E.
so largely quotes.

He objects, thirdly, that I "deny the imputation of Christ's
active obedience." Since I believe justification by faith



90 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

which I have done upward of thirty years, I have constantly
maintained that we are pardoned and accepted wholly and
solely for the sake of what Christ hath both done and suf-
fered for us.

Two or three years ago, Mr. Madan's sister showed him
what she had wrote down of a sermon which I had preach-
ed on this subject. He entreated me to write down the
whole, and print it ; saying, it would satisfy all my oppo-
nents. I was not so sanguine as to expect this : I under-
stood mankind too well. However, I complied with his
request : a few were satisfied ; the rest continued just as
they were before.

As long as Mr. E. continues of the mind expressed in his
" Theological Essays," there is no danger that he and I
should agree, any more than light and darkness. I love
and reverence him, but not his doctrine. I dread every
approach to Antinomianism. I have seen the fruit of it
over the three kingdoms. I never said that Mr. E. and
I were agreed. I will make our disagreement as public
as ever he pleases ; only I must, withal, specify the par-
ticulars. If he will fight with me, it must be on this
ground ; and then let him do what he will, and what he
can.

Retaining a due sense of your friendly offices, and pray-
ing for a blessing on all your labours,

I remain, reverend and dear sir.

Your affectionate brother and servant.

LY.—TO MR. S., AT AR^UGH.

April 24, 1769.

Dear Brother, — I shall now tell you the things which
have been more or less upon my mind ever since I have
been in the north of Ireland. If you forget them, you will
be a sufferer, and so wiU the people ; if you observe them,
it will be good for both.

1. To begin with little things. If you regard your



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 91

health, touch no supper, but a Uttle milk, or water gruel.
This will entirely, by the blessing of God, secure you
from nervous disorders ; especially if you rise early every
morning, whether you preach or no.

2. Be steadily serious. There is no country' upon earth
where this is more necessary than Ireland ; as you are
generally encompassed with those who, with a little
encouragement, would laugh or trifle from morning to
night,

3. In every town visit all you can from house to house.
( I say, all you can ; for there will be some whom you can-
j not visit ; and if you examine, instruct, reprove, exhort, as
I need requires, you will have no time hanging on your
j hands. It is by this means that the societies are increased
• wherever T. R. goes : he is preaching from morning to

night ; warning every one, that he may present every one
perfect in Christ Jesus.

4. But on this and every other occasion, avoid all fami-
liarity with women. This is deadly poison both to them
and you. You cannot be too war}^ in this respect; there-
fore begin from this hour.

5. The chief matter of your conversation, as well as
your preaching, should doubtless be the weightier matters
of the law. Yet there are several (comparatively) little
things which you should earnestly inculcate from time to
time ; for " he that despiseth small things shall fall by little
and little." Such are, —

(1.) Be active, be dihgent ; avoid all laziness, sloth,
indolence. Fly from every degree, every appearance of
it,; else you will never be more than half a Christian.

(2.) Be cleanly. In this let the Methodists take pattern
by the Quakers. Avoid all nastiness, dirt, slovenliness,
both in your person, clothes, house, and all about you.
Do not stink above ground. This is a bad fruit of lazi-
ness : use all diligence to be clean ; as one says, —

«• Let thy mind's sweetness have its operation
Upon thy person, clothes, and habittjtiou.'*



92 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

(3.) Whatever clothes you have, let them be whole; no
rents, no tatters, no rags. These are a scandal to either
man or- woman, being another fruit of vile laziness. Mend
your clothes, or I shall never expect you to mend your
lives. Let none ever see a ragged Methodist.

(4.) Use no tobacco, unless prescribed by a physician.
It is an uncleanly and unwholesome self-indulgence ; and
the more customary it is, the more resolutely should you
break off from every degree of that evil custom.

(5.) Use no snuff, unless prescribed by a physician. I
suppose no other nation in Europe is in such vile bondage
to this silly, nasty, dirty custom as the Irish are. But let
Christians be in this bondage no longer. Assert your
liberty, and that all at once : nothing will be done by
degrees. But just now you may break loose, through
Christ strengthening you.

(6.) Touch no dram. It is liquid fire. It is a sure,
though slow, poison. It saps the very springs of life. In
Ireland, above all countries in the world, I would sacredly
abstain from this, because the evil is so general ; and to
this, and snuff, and smoky cabins, I impute the blind-
ness which is so exceeding common throughout the
nation.

I might have inserted, under the second article, what I
particularly desire wherever you have preaching, viz., that
there may be a little house. Let this be got without delay.
Wherever it is not, let none expect to see me.



LVL— TO



1770.



Dear Sir, — I bless God that you are not disgusted at
the great plainness with which I wTOte. Indeed, I know
not but it might be termed roughness, which was owing
partly to the pressure of mind I then felt, and partly to my
being straitened for time ; otherwise I might have found
softer expressions. I am thankful, likewise, for your



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 93

openness, which obliges me to be open and unreserved,
and to say all I mean, and that in the most simple manner,
on each of the articles that lie before us.

I must do this, even with regard to my fellow-labourers,
lest I should seem to mean more than I do. But I am
sensible this is a tender point, and one so extremely diffi-
cult to treat upon that I should not venture to say one word,
did I not know to whom I speak. What I mean is this :
from many little circumstances which have occurred, I
have been afraid (just so far it went) that those clergymen
with whom you are most acquainted were jealous of your
being acquainted with me. I was the more afraid when I
heard the sudden exclamation of one whom you well
know: "Good God! Mr. Wesley is always speaking well
of these gentlemen, and they can never speak well of him."
But I am entirely satisfied by that full declaration which
you make : "I do not know of any impression that has
been made upon me to your disadvantage."

I had once the opportunity of speaking a few minutes
to you on the head of Christian perfection ; and I beUeve
you had not much objection to any thing which was then
spoken. When I spoke nearly to the same effect to one
of the late bishops of London, Bishop Gibson, he said
earnestly, " Why, Mr. Wesley, if this is what you mean
by perfection, who can be against it ?" I believe, verily,
there would need no more than a single hour, spent in free
and open conversation, to convince you that none can
rationally or Scripturally say any tiling against the perfec-
tion I have preached for thiity years.

The union which I desire among the persons I mentioned
is an entire union t)f heart, constraining them to labour toge-
ther as one man in spreading vital religion through the na-
tion. But this I do not hope for, though I know a few who
would cordially rejoice therein. The union which I pro-
posed is of a lower kind : I proposed that they should love
as brethren, and behave as such. And I particularized
what I think is implied in this ; I imagined in so plain a



94 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

manner as was hardly possible, without great skill, to be
either misunderstood or misrepresented. I really do not
conceive what ambiguity there can be in any part of this
proposal ; or what objection can lie against our going thus
far, whether we go farther or no.

With regard to you, I have frequently observed that
there are two very different ranks of Christians, both of
whom may be in the favour of God, — a higher and a lower
rank. The latter avoid all known sin, do much good, use
all the means of grace, but have little of the life of God in
their souls, and are much conformed to the world. The
former make the Bible their whole rule, and their sole airn
is the will and image of God. This they steadily and
uniformly pursue, through honour and dishonour, denying
themselves, and taking up their cross daily ; considering
one point only, " How may I attain most of the mind that
was in Christ, and how may I please him most ?" Now, I
verily believe, never was a person of rank more prepared
for this state than you were the first time I had the plea-
sure of seeing you. Nay, I doubt not but you pant after it
now; your soul is athirst to be all devoted to God But
who will press you forward to this ? Rather, who will not
draw you back ? It is in this respect that I think one that
uses plain dealing is needful for you in the highest degree ;
so needful that without this help you will inevitably stop
short. I do not mean, stop short of heaven ; but of that
degree of holiness, and, consequently, of happiness both in
time and eternity, which is now offered to your accept-
ance.

It is herein that I am jealous over you. I am afraid of
your sinking beneath your callmg, degenerating into a com-
mon Christian, who shall indeed be saved, but saved as by
fire. I long to see both you and your lady a little more
than common Christians ; Christians of the first rank in the
kingdom of God, full of all goodness and truth. I want
you to be living witnesses of all gospel holiness ! And what
shall hinder, if you seek it by faith ? Are not all things



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 95

ready ? The Lord God give you to experience that all tilings
are possible to them that believe I

'* God, let all their life declare
How happy these thy servants are ;

How far above these earthly things ;
How pure when wash'd in Jesus' blood ;
How intimately one with God,

A heaven-born race of priests and kings !"



LVII.— TO MR. JOHN TREMBATH.

Tiverton, September 21, 1755.

The plain reason why I did not design to speak with
you at Launceston was, because I had no hope of doing
you good. I observed long ago that you are not patient of
reproof; and I fear you are less so now than ever. But
since you desire it, I will tell you once more what I think,
fear, or hear concerning you.

I think you tasted of the powers of the world to come
thirteen or fourteen years ago, and was then simple of
heart, and willing to spend and be spent for Christ. But
not long after, not being sufficiently on your guard, you
gufTered loss by being applauded. This revived and
increased your natural vanity, which was the harder to be
checked, because of your constitutional stubbornness ; —
two deadly enemies which have lain in wait for you many
years, and have given you many deep, if not mortal wounds.

I fear it is near ten years since you was so weakened
by these that you no longer set a watch over your mouth ;
but began frequently to speak what was not strictly true to
excuse yourself, divert others, or gain applause. I am
afraid this has prevailed over you more and more, as there
was less and less of the life of God in the soul ; so that I
should almost wonder if you do not judge a diverting lie to
be a very innocent thing.

After your first marriage, being not used to nor fond of
reading, and not spending many hours in private prayer.



96 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

time grew heavy on your hands ; especially as you could
not bear the cross of being a regular travelling preacher :
so you betook yourself to farming, and other country em-
ployments, and grew more and more dead to God , — espe-
cially when you began to keep company (whether by
necessity or choice) with the men " whose talk is of bul-
locks ;" who have little to do either with religion or reason,
and have but just wit enough to smoke, drink, and flatter
you.

By these dull wretches you have been an unspeakable
loser. Perhaps it was in company with some of these that
you first thought of taking a little sport, and catching a few
fish, or killing a partridge or a hare. Miserable employ-
ment for a preacher of the gospel! for a Methodist preacher,
above all others ! Though I do not at all wonder, if, after


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 7 of 18)