« PreviousContinue »
How so? Why, “The 20th article deelares, We may not so expound one scripture, that it be repugnant to another. And yet it is notorious, that the Methodists do ever explain the word Faith as it stands in some of St. Paul's writings, so as to make his doctrine a direct and flat contradiction to that of St. James,” p. 5.
This stale objection has been answered a hundred times, so that I really thought we should have heard no more of it. But since it is required, I repeat the answer once more. By faith we mean, the evidence of things not seen : by justifying faith, a divine evidence of conviction, that Christ loved me and gave himself for me. St. Paul affirms that a man is justified by this faith ; which James never denies; but only asserts, that a man cannot be justified by a dead faith. And this St. Paul never affirms.
“But St. James declares, faith without works is dead.' Therefore it is clearly St. James's meaning, that a faith which is without virtue and morality, cannot produce salvation. Yet the Methodists so explain St. Paul, as to affirm that faith without virtue or morality will produce salvation.” Where? In which of their writings? This needs some proof: I absolutely deny the fact. So that all which follows is mere flourish, and falls to the ground at once : and all that you aver of their “open and scandalous opposition to the 20th article,” (p. 6,) is no better than open and scandalous slander.
6. Your second assertion is this. “The Methodist, for the perdition of the souls of his followers, openly gives our Saviour the lie, loads the Scripture with falsehood and contradiction : (and pray wbat could a Mahometan, or infidel, or the Devil himself, do more,) yea, openly blasphemes the name of Christ, by saying, that the works of men are of no consideration at all: that God makes no distinction between virtue and vice, that he does not hate vice or love virtue. What blasphemy then and impiety are those wretches guilty of, who in theii diabolical frensy, dare to contradict our Saviour's authority, and that in such an essential article of religion !” (p. 7, 8, 9.) Here also the Methodists plead not guilty, and require you to produce your evidence: to show in which of their writings they affirm, that God “ will not reward every man according to his works; that he makes no distinction between virtue and vice; that he does not hate vice or love virtue.” These are positions which they never remember to have advanced. If you can, refresh their memory.
7. You assert, thirdly, the Methodists, by these positions, “ destroy the essential attributes of God, and ruin his character as Judge of the world.” Very true
if they held these positions. But here lies the mistake. They hold no such positions. They never did. They detest and abhor them. In arguing therefore on this supposition, you are again beating the air.
8. You assert, fourthly, The Methodists “teach and propagate downright atheism, (a capital crime; and atheists in some countries have been put to death, hereby they make room for all manner of vice and villany, by which means the bands of society are dissolved. And therefore this attempt must be considered as a sort of treason by magistrates,” p. 10, 11.
Again we deny the whole charge and call for proof: and, blessed be God, so do the magistrates in Great Britain. “Behold, vebement asseverations will not pass upon them for legal evidence. Nor indeed on any reasonable men. They can distinguish between argu ing and calling names. The former becomes a gentleman and a Christian: but what is he, who can be guilty of the latter ?
9. You assert, lastly, That any who choose a Methodist elorgyman for their lecturer, “put into that office which should be held by a minister of the Church of England, an enemy, who undermines not only the legal establishment of that church, but also the foundation of all religion,” p. 13.
Once more we must call upon you for the proof: the proof of these two particulars, first, That 1, John Wesley, am “an enemy to the Church, and that I undermine not only the legal establishment of the Church of England, but also the very foundation of all religion." Secondly, that “Mr. V. is an enemy to the church, and is undermining all religion, as well as the establishment,” p. 13.
10. Another word and I am done. Are there “certain qualifications required of all lecturers, before they are by law permitted to speak to the people ? And is a subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles of religion one of these qualifications ? And is a person who does not conform to such subscription" disqualified to be a lecturer ? Or, who has ever held or published any thing contrary to what the Church of England maintains ?” (p. 14.) Then certainly you, Dr. John Free, are not permitted by law to speak to the people :"> neither are you “ qualified to be a lecturer” in any church in London or England, as by law established. For you flatly deny and openly oppose more than one or two of those Articles. You do not in any wise conform to the subscription you made, before you were ordained either priest or deacon. You both hold and publish (if you are the author and publisher of the tract before me) what is grossly, palpably “contrary to what the Church of England maintains," in her Homilies as well as Articles: those Homilies to which you have also subscribed, in subscribing the 36th Article. You have subscribed them, Sir: but did you ever read them ? Did you ever read so much as the three first Homilies ? I beg of you, Sir, to read these at least, before you write again about the doctrine of the Church of England. And would it not be prudent to read a few of the writings of the Methodists, before you undertake a farther confutation of them ? At present you know not the men or their communication. You are as wholly unacquainted both with them and their doctrines, as if you had lived all your days in the islands of Japan or the deserts of Arabia. You have given a furious assault to you know not whom: and you have done it, you know not why. You have not hurt me thereby; but you have hurt yourself: perhaps in your character; certainly in your conscience. For this is not doing to others as you would they should do unto you. When you grow cool, I trust you will see this clearly: and will no more accuse, in a manner so remote from fairness and candour.
Rev. Sir, your servant for Christ's sake,
LETTER TO THE REV. MR. DOWNES,
RECTOR OF ST. MIORAEL, WOOD-STNEET :
Oceasioned by his late Tract, enlilled,
METHODISM EXAMINED AND EXPOSED.
1. IN the tract which you have just published concerning the people called Methodists, you very properly say, “Our first care should be candidly and fairly to examine their doctrines. For, as to censure them unexamined would be unjust, so to do the same without a fair and impartial examination would be ungenerous.” And again, “ We should, in the first place, carefully and candidly examine their doctrines,” (page 68.) This is undoubtedly true. But have
you done it? Have you ever examined their doctrines yet? Have you examined them fairly? Fairly and candidly? Candidly and carefully? Have you read over so much as the Sermons they have published? Or the Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion? I hope you have not: for I would fain make some little excuse for your uttering so many senseless, shameless falsehoods. I hope you know nothing about the Methodists, no more than I do about the Cham of Tartary : that you are ignorant of the whole affair, and are so bold, only because you are blind. Bold enough! Throughout your whole tract, you speak satis pro imperio : as authoritatively as if you were not an archbishop only, but apostolic vicar also : as if you had the full papal power in your hands, and fire and fagot at your beck! And blind enough: so that you blunder on, through thick and thin, bespattering all that come in your way: according to the old, laudable maxim, Throw dirt enough, and some will stick.'
2. I hope, I say, that this is the case, and that you do not know. ingly assert so many palpable falsehoods. You say, “ If I am mistaken, I shall always be ready and desirous to retract my error," (p. 56.) A little candour and care might have prevented those mistakes: this is the first thing one would have desired. The next is, that they may be removed ; that you may see wherein you have been mistaken, and be more wary for the time to come.
3. You undertake to give an account, first, of the rise and principles, then of the practices of the Methodists.
On the former head you say, “Our church has long been infested with these grievous wolves, who though no more than two when they
cutered in, and they so young, they might rather be called wolflings,” (that is lively and pretty !) « have yet spread their ravenous kind through every part of this kingdom. Where what havoc they have made, how many of the sheep they have torn—I need not say. About twenty-five years ago, these two bold, though beardless divines,” (pity, Sir, that you had not taught me twenty-five years ago sapientem pascere barbam, and thereby to avoid some part of your displeasure) “being lifted with spiritual pride, were presumptuous enough to become founders of the sect called Methodists,” (p. 4, 5, 6.) “A couple of young, raw, aspiring twigs of the ministry, dreamed of a special and supernatural call to this, (p. 25.) No, Sir, it was you dreamed of this, not we. We dreamed of nothing twentyfive years ago, but instructing our pupils in religion and learning, and a few prisoners, in the common principles of Christianity. You go on. “ They were ambitious of being accounted missionaries, immediately delegated by heaven to correct the errors of bishops and archbishops, and reform their abuses, to instruct the clergy in the true nature of Christianity, and to caution the laity, not to venture their souls in any such unhallowed hands, as refused to be initiated in all the mysteries of Methodism,” (p. 20, 21.) Well asserted, indeed! But where is the proof of any one of these propositions? I must insist upon this; clear, cogent proof. Else they must be set down for so many glaring falsehoods.
4. “ The church of Rome (to which on so many accounts they were much obliged, and as gratefully returned the obligation) taught them to set up for infallible interpreters of Scripture," (p. 54.) Pray on what accounts are we w obliged to the Church of Rome?” And how have we “returned the obligation?” I beg you would please, 1. To explain this : and, 2. To prove, that we ever yet (whoever taught us) " set up for infallible interpreters of Scripture.” So far from it, that we have over and over declared, in print as well as in public preaching, "We are no more to expect any living man to be infallible thau to be omniscient."
5. “As to other extraordinary gifts, influences, and operations of the Holy Ghost, no man who has but once dipped into their Journals and other ostentatious trash of the same kind, can doubt their looking upon themselves, as not coming one whit behind the greatest of the apostles," page 21.
I acquit you, Sir, of ever having“ once dipped into that ostentatious trash.” I do not accuse you of having read so much as the titles of my Journals. I say my journals; for (as little as you seem to know it) my brother has published none. I therefore look upon this as simple ignorance. You talk thus, because you know no better. You do not know, that in these very Journals I utterly disclaim “the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit," and all other “influences and operations of the Holy Ghost,” than those that are common to all real Christians. And
yet I will not say, this ignorance is blameless. For ought you not to have known better? Ought you not to have taken the
pains of procuring better information, when it might so easily have been had ? Ought you to have publicly advanced such heavy charges as these, without knowing whether they were true or not?
6. You proceed to give as punctual an account of us, tanquavi intus et in cute nosses. They outstripped, if possible, even Montanus for external sanctity and severity of discipline. They condemned all regard for temporal concerns. They encouraged their devotees to take no thought for any one thing upon earth : the consequence of which was, a total neglect of their atlairs, and impoverishment of their families,” (p. 22, 23.) Blunder all over! We had no room for any discipline, severe or not, five and twenty years ago : unless college discipline, my brother then residing at Christ-Church, and I at Lincoln-College. And as to our sanctity (were it more or less) how do you know it was only external ? Were you intimately acquainted with us? I do not remember where I had the honour of conversing with you. Or could you (as the legend says of St. Pacbomius) ósmell an heretic ten miles off?' And how came you to dream again, that we “condemned all regard for temporal concerns, and encouraged men to take no thought for any one thing upon earth ?" Vain dream! We, on the contrary, severely condemn all who neglect their temporal concerns, and who do not take care of every thing on earth where with God hath intrusted them. The consequence of this is, that the Methodists, so called, do not “neglect their affairs and impoverish their families ;" but by diligence in business provide things honest in the sight of all men. Insomuch that multitudes of them, who in time past, had scarce food to eat, or raiment to put on, have now all things needful for life and godliness, and that for their families as well as themselves.
7. Hitherto you have been giving an account of two wolflings only ; but now they are grown into perfect wolres. Let us see what a picture you draw of them in this state, both as to their principles and practice.
You begin with a bome stroke. “In the Montanist you may behold the bold lineaments and bloated countenance of the Methodist," (p. 17.) I wish you do not squint at the honest countenance of Mr. Venn, who is, indeed, as far from fear, as he is from guile. But if it is somewhat bloated, that is not his fault : sickness may have the same effect on yours or mine.
But to come closer to the point. “ They have darkened religion with many ridiculous fancies, tending to confound the head, and to corrupt the heart,” (p. 13.) “ A thorough knowledge of them would work in every rightly-disposed mind an abhorrence of those doctrines, which directly tend to distract the head, and to debauch the heart, by turning faith into frenzy, and the grace of God into wantonness,” (page 101, 102.) “ These doctrines are unreasonable and ridicutous, clashing with our natural ideas of the divine perfections, with the end of religion, with the honour of God, and man's both present and future happiness. Therefore we pronounce them filthy dream