Page images
PDF
EPUB

Several respectable men have reduced themselves to a state of pitiable embarrassment, in attempting to disprove this, during and since, what has been properly enough denominated, the ecclesiastical reign of archbishop Laud. Had that prelate been a Calvinist, and had the Calvinists of that age joined hands with the enemies to civil and religious liberty, the Calvinism of the church of England would probably have passed uncontested to the present hour; but that prelate attached himself to the new system (and it was then very new indeed) of Arminius; and, which weighed still more against them in the court balance, the Calvinists were friends to the civil rights of mankind; they (observe, I speak only of the doctrinal, not of the disciplinarian Calvinists) were steady to the true religious and political constitution of their country. They opposed, with equal firmness, Laud's innovations in the church, and Charles' invasions of civil freedom. Unhappily both for the nation and the church, and no less fatally for himself, Charles, nurtured in despotism, deemed it his interest to support the Arminians, for purposes of state. I shall have occasion, in the progress of the ensuing Essay, to trace this evil to its source. In the mean while, I return to Mr. Wesley and his understrapper; whom though I shall not constantly persist to mention together, but hold them up to view, sometimes singly, soinetimes conjointly, as just occasion may require; the intelligent reader will not fail to notice, that every exhibition of Mr. John involves his man Walter ; and that Walter cannot be exhibited without in volving Mr. John.

Monsieur Bayle has an observation, perfectly applicable to the two furiosos above-mentioned; had the cap been made for them, it could not have fitted them more exactly. " In hot constitutions,' says that able critic, “ zeal is a sort of drunkenness, which so disorders the mind, that a man sees every

[ocr errors]

thing double and the wrong way. The priestess of Bacchus, who fell upon her own son, whom she mistook for a wild boar, is an image of that giddiness which seizes the zealots (e)." I am very far from peremptorily affirming, that Mr. Sellon is as intimately connected with Bacchus, as was the above priestess; but his conduct certainly bears a strong resemblance of hers. He pretends that the church of England is his mother; now, bis supposed mother is an avowed, thorough-paced Calvinist : but Mr. Sellon abominates Calvinism, and yet wishes to be thought a churchman. What can he do, in so distressful a dilemma? Necessity dictates an expedient. Amidst some qualifying professions of filial respect, this petty Nimrod bends his twelvepenny bow against her he calls his mother; and pretends, all the while, that he is only combating a wild beast, which has chanced to find its way from Geneva to England.

But the church, and the truths of God, have nothing to fear from the efforts of this jaculator. Parthians might aim their arrows at the sun; wolves may exhaust their strength, by howling at the moon; yet, neither the weapons of those could wound the one, nor can the clamour of these so much as alarm the other. The sun persists to shine, and the moon to roll, unextinguished and unimpeded by the impotence of rage, and the emptiness of menace from below.

I have heard, or read, of a picture, which exhibited a view of the apostate angels, just fallen from their state of blessedness. Every attitude and feature were expressive of the extremest borror, indignation, and despair. An artist, into whose possession it came, by only a few touches with his pencil, transformed the shocking representation into a masterpiece of loveliness and beauty; so that se

(e) Hist. Dict. vol. iii. p. 538. Art. Hunnius.

raphs seemed to smile and sing, where tormented fiends appeared before, to blaspheme for rage, and to gnaw their tongues for pain. Mr. Sellon has pursued a plan directly contrary to that of the amiable artist. The Methodist's grand business (in which, however, he utterly fails) is, to deform the gospel picture, and to disfigure the beauty of the church. He labours to metamorphose, if it were possible, the wisdom and glory of God into a caricature equally frightful and ridiculous: but all his cavils are infra jugulum; they come not up to the point. Mr. Wesley and his auxiliaries resemble the army of Mithridates, who lost the day, by mistakenly aiming their arrows, not at the persons, but at the shadows of the Roman soldiers.

Supposing the principles of the church of Eng. land to be ever so exceptionable in themselves, the mode of assault, adopted by the mock vindicators, is by no means calculated to gain its end. The far greater part of mankind can readily distinguish fury from zeal, and abuse from argument. A writer, like Mr. Sellon, who dips his pen in the commonsewer, injures and disgraces the cause he seeks to advance. " The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” It is so far from being a part, that it is the very reverse of that righteousness which the example of God prescribes, and his written will enjoins.

I am charged with violating the meekness I recommend, and with being no less than “a persecutor" of the Arminians (f). Aggressors are often the first to complain. When Mr. Wesley thinks proper to scatter his firebrands, “ zeal for the Lord of hosts,” and “earnest contention for the faith delivered to the saints,” are the varnish which his abusive rage assumes : but if no more than a finger be lifted up in self-defence, the cry is, Oh, you are

(f) Page 32.

without gospel love ; you are a persecutor of Mr. John; you will not let the good old man descend quietly to his grave."

As to intolerancy and persecution, I have already declared this to be my stedfast opinion, that “the rights of conscience are inviolably sacred, and that liberty of private judgment is every man's birthright:" yet Mr. Wesley cannot fully avail himself of this concession; for, by having solemnly set his hand to the articles, homilies, and liturgy of the established church, he comes within the exception immediately added, and which I here repeat: “ If, however, any like Esau have sold their birthright, by subscribing to articles they do not believe, merely for the sake of temporal profit or aggrandizement, they have only themselves to thank, for the little ceremony they are entitled to (9).

It is not necessary to be timid in order to be meek. There is a false meekness, as well as a false charity. Genuine charity, according to the apostle's description of it, rejoiceth in the truth. The conduct of our Lord himself, and of the first disciples, on various occasions, demonstrated, that it is no part of Christian candour, to hew millstones with a feather. Rebuke them, sharply (apolows, cuttingly), says the apostle, concerning the depravers of doctrinal Christianity; wish well to their persons, but give no quarter to their errors. The world have long seen, that unmixed politeness, condescending generosity, and the most conciliating benevolence, can no more soften Mr. Wesley's rugged rudeness, than the melody of David's harp could lay the north wind, or still the raging of the sea. Mr. Hervey, in his famous Eleven Letters, has handled Mr. Wesley with all the delicacy and tenderness that a virtuoso would show in catching a butterfly, whose plumage he wishes he preserve uninjured ;

(9) See my Caveat against Unsound Doctrines, p. 14,

or a lady, in wiping a piece of china, which she dreads to break. Did Mr. Wesley profit by the engaging meekness of his amiable and elegant refuter? nay, but he waxed worse and worse ; like Saul, he strove to stab the name of that inestimable friend, whose gospel music was calculated to dispossess bim of his evil spirit. Like the animal, stigmatized in the lviiith Psalm, he stopped his ears, and refused to hear the voice of the charmer, though the strains were no less sweet than wise. Every artifice that could be invented has been thrown out, to blacken the memory of the most exemplary man this age has produced. Mr. Wesley insulted him, when living, and continues to trample upon him, though dead. He digs him, as it were, out of his grave, passes sentence on him as a heretic, ties him to the stake, burns him to ashes, and scatters those ashes to the four winds. Rather than fail, the wretched Mr: Walter Sellon is stilted to oppose the excellent Mr. Hervey ; and most egregiously bath the living sinner acquitted himself against the long departed saint! In much the same spirit, and with just the same success, as the enemy of mankind contended with Michael the archangel, about the body of Moses.

Every reader may not, perhaps, know the true cause (at least, one of the principal causes) of Mr. Wesley's unrelenting enmity to Mr. Hervey; an enmity, which even the death of the latter has not yet extinguished. When that valuable man was writing his Theron and Aspasio, his humility and self-diffidence were so great, that he condescended to solicit many of his friends to revise and correct that admirable work, 'antecedently to its publication. He occasionally requested this favour even of some who were enemies to several of the doctrines asserted in the dialogues; among whom was Mr. John Wesley. The author imagined, that the unsparing criticism of an adversary might observe defects, and suggest some useful hints, which the ten

« PreviousContinue »