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Art. I.— The Life of Il’esley; and the Rise und Progress of
Methodism. By Robert Southey, Esq. Second Edition. 2 vols.
8vo. London. 1820. FEW EW more extraordinary persons have appeared in the Christian
Church than Wesley, whether we consider his personal character, or the effects which he has produced amongst us. In a space of time much less than a century, the Methodists have extended their principles and their discipline over a very considerable part of the population of Great Britain, Ireland, and America. In the South Sea islands their missions are advancing with a success scarcely inferior to that of the Jesuits in Paraguay; and they share with the Moravians the merit of having brought ainong
the slaves in our West Indies whatever quantity of religious knowledge their masters will allow them to receive. In all the countries whither they have penetrated, they form, as Mr. Southey observes, a distinct people, an imperium in imperio—who, though (the Wesleyan Methodists at least) avowedly members of the English Episcopal Church, and differing in few particulars from the faith of the majority of their fellow-citizens, have yet their own seminaries, their own hierarchy, their own regulations, their own manners, their own literature,—their own rapidly-increasing population, who regard themselves as the peculiar people of God, and the remainder of their countrymen as, if not altogether worldly and profane, at most only half-believers.
But it is not by the numbers of the professed Methodists alone, that the amount of their influence and the moral effect which they have produced is to be computed. Of their numbers, we confess we are inclined to think more moderately than the greater part of those who deplore or exult in their progress. If we were to admit, without qualification, those estimates of their increase and influence which their advocates, in the wantonness of partial success, and their antagonists in the alarm of watchful jealousy, have sometimes furnished, it would follow that the field of battle was already in their possession, that they were already the greater part of ourselves, and that the boast which Tertullian applied to the Christians under Pagan Rome, was as appropriate, in Protestant England, to the followers of Wesley and Whitefield : Ob
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