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MAY BE HAD OF ALL TAE PREACHERS IN TOWN AND COUNTRY.
“I do not know that it is in any degree true, that the influence of religion is the greatest, where there are the fewest Dissenters.”
Paler's Evid. Vol. 2. p. 389.
THE “ Observations” of Mr. Wainewright, which you sent me, have been carefully perused; and it appears to me, in unison with yourself, that several particulars stated by that gentleman demand animadversion and refutation, as militating against some of the most important truths of Christianity. The treatment which an author receives from his opponent, depends in some measure upon himself. Ability, learning, and integrity, will ever command respect; vanity provokes all the keenness of satire; ignorance excites compassion; and it is sometimes necessary to laugh folly out of countenance. The latter, however, should be resorted to but sparingly. Were an innocent smile to be occasionally indulged in the present instance, Mr. W. would be one of the last to censure; since he so ably advocates the cause of laughter, as one of the distinguishing privileges of man."*
To trace Mr. W. through every track he has taken, is foreign to my present purpose; or even to follow him, as you will perceive by the first quotation, exactly in the same order.
* Page 157.
It may be proper to classify many of his scattered thoughts, and embody them in separate letters. The first will contain various miscellaneous remarks. Though several minor points will purposely remain unnoticed, it is not to be taken for granted that they are conceded ; and you, Sir, who know the basis upon which we build, will be far from concluding them unanswerable.
The ground of attack assumed by Mr. W. is the obstinate adherence of the Methodists to their former system.* He confesses that their doctrines, &c. have been “ frequently and satisfactorily exposed;" but still, it should seem, that it ought not to deter him from entering his protest, and again refuting their errors. This is an honest confession; and while it proves his way to have been perfectly easy, it evinces to the world that his work was unnecessary. He proceeds with the impression, that he is refuting what has been refuted
-that he is accomplishing what has been already effected; in a word, that to shew his prowess, he is trampling upon the slain! What there is so catching in Mr. Wi's manner of writing, to make an old refutation produce a new effect, is a theological problem which has yet to be solved. It is possible, contrary to every thing we may now anticipate, that distant ages, from the same work in his hands, may experience different results. With our present light we are inclined to think, that it would have been preferable to have adopted the plan which he so justly recommends in a similar case,t where he shews, that opposition only tends to increase the number of partisans to a sect; whereas, if abandoned to themselves, they would sink into insignificance and contempt. The sequel will demonstrate that Mr.W 's 6 Observations” are of a very accommodating cast; and that to build up with the one hand, and pull down with the other, he displays considerable dexterity. .
It is with Methodism 6 at the present day,” Mr. W. informs us he has to do:I and yet he refers to the Minutes of 1744, and 1745;s and appeals to the immediate followers
* Preface, p. 8, 9.
+ Page 11.
Preface, p. 10.
of " the first propagators of Methodism."* So careful is be to guard against all mistake, and to impress his readers with his impartiality, that he positively refuses to consult Hampson's Life of Mr. Wesley, and Nightingale's Portraiture of Methodism, “ because their testimony has been objected to, as proceeding from personal enemies to the parties in question.”+ That he, therefore, may hereafter be consulted, no doubt as a friend, “the authorities on which he principally relies are Myles's Chronological Historyof the People called Methodists; Benson's Apology for the Methodists; the Life of the Rev. John Wesley, by Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore; Wesley's Sermons; Hare's Reply to the charges alleged to be contained in Dr. Magee's valuable work on the Atonement; Reasons for Methodism, by Disney Alexander; and the later numbers of the Methodist Magazine down to the present time.”I Notwithstanding, however, his attention to these works, he is not always correct. He observes that the first article in the Magazine is always a biographical sketch of one of their deceased preachers.” To a person conversant with that work it is well known, that the first article is often devoted to the lives of private characters.
The charity of the Methodists is severely impugned. They are represented as exhibiting themselves as the only religious people in the world, and as reprobating all who are out of the pale of their own community.ll A reference to their writings will evince that they are not less charitable than their neighbours; that they can give the right hand of fellowship to the truly pious of every Christian denomination. As a testimony that they approve of piety wherever it exists, they have not hesitated to insert in their periodical publication, for the instruction and imitation of their numerous readers, memoirs of Clergymen of the Establishment, Baptists, Calvinists, and Quakers. To enumerate the whole is unnecessary. Take one of each; the venerable Bernard * Page 74. + Preface, p. 11. Preface, p. 10, 11.
Ś Page 65. | Pages 65, 94, 115.