The Great Revival - Beginnings of Methodism

The Great Revival

"A simultaneous awakening in different quarters was a striking characteristic of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Though the trumpet blast of a Luther reverberated with most far-reaching and startling effect, there were others who, independently of him, sounded the proclamation of religious emancipation. A kindred fire began to burn about the same time in Wittenberg, in Einsiedeln and Zurich, in Paris and Meaux, at Cambridge, and Oxford. Something analogous appeared in the second quarter of the eighteenth century. Near the end of 1734 the first stage of the great New England revival was inaugurated, under Jonathan Edwards, at Northampton. A year or two later the spirited preaching of Howell Harris, Daniel Holands, and Howell Davies started an awakening in different parts of Wales. In the spring of 1742 Cambuslang, Kilsyth, and other Scottish towns witnessed a remarkable outburst of religious interest.

1 Whitefield, it is true, had been to Scotland shortly before; but the local pastors had laid the foundation for the revival, and its beginning occurred under their auspices while Whitefield was in England.

These movements in different quarters map be taken as indications of the stirrings of a common Spirit, tokens of the march of Divine Providence toward an era of extensive reform. In 1739 a work was set on foot in England which was destined to supplement all the other movements instanced above, and to appear indeed as the grand central factor of the revival era. The more prominent agents of this work were John Wesley; Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield, though a host of others served as the indispensable instruments of its advance.

1. BEGINNINGS OF METHODISM. --John Wesley, the senior of Charles by about five years, was born at the rectory of Epworth, in 1703. He was one of nineteen children, the majority of whom, however, died in childhood. His parents were both of the stanch independent, conscientious type. The father, Samuel, had secured his education at Oxford by his own industry and energy, and had become a prolific, if not a very successful writer, in addition to his diligent discharge of pastoral duties. The mother, Susanna, the daughter of an eminent Nonconformist minister, was a woman who mingled unusual intellectual alertness and strength with deep piety, who conducted in person the early education of her children, who believed in strict family government, but yet mixed therewith so much of good sense and kindness as to earn the fervent affection and gratitude of her children. John deferred to her judgment even in the maturity of his years, and regarded her as realizing almost the ideal of womanhood.

When between ten and eleven years of age, John was sent to the Charterhouse school in London, where he remained till he was sixteen. From 1720 to 1725 he was connected with Christ Church at Oxford. As a collegian he exhibited, what was a life-long characteristic, a marked ease and readiness of acquisition. Isaac Taylor speaks of him as almost intuitively master of all arts except the highest, by which he means that of the philosopher. 1 Wesley and Methodism. What he might have accomplished in this art was not fully to appear; for his absorbing devotion to practical labors precluded that steady and long-continued reflection which are essential to any great achievements in speculative philosophy.

During this period of school life John was religious only in a very moderate sense, and declined rather than advanced in that sensibility of heart which had characterized his early childhood. At the same time he held to the form, and did not wholly lay aside the purpose of religion. But serious considerations were awakened in his mind as he began to contemplate the ministerial office. His standard of piety was also greatly exalted by the careful perusal at this juncture of Kempis' "Imitation of Christ," and Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living," and "Holy Dying." To be sure, he took some exceptions to these productions, complaining of the excessive asceticism of Kempis, and of Taylor's denial of assurance to the believer. Nevertheless, his heart was profoundly moved. Referring to impressions made by these works, he afterwards wrote: "I saw that giving even all my life to God would profit me nothing unless I gave my heart, yea all my heart to Him. I saw that simplicity of intention, and purity of affection, one design in all that we speak and do, and one desire ruling all our tempers, are indeed the wings of the soul, without which she can never ascend to God. ... Instantly I resolved to dedicate all my life to God, all my thoughts and words and actions,-being thoroughly convinced that there was no medium; but that every part of my life, not some only, must either be a sacrifice to God, or myself,--that is, in effect, the devil." A little later his thirst after entire conformity to God was not a little intensified by reading the stirring treatises of William Law. Meanwhile he had entered into orders, being ordained deacon in September, 1725. He continued, however, his connection with Oxford. In March, 1725, he was elected Fellow of Lincoln College, and in November of the same year, although at that time but twenty-three years of age, was chosen Greek lecturer and moderator of the classes. From the middle of 1727 to the latter part of 1729 he was mainly engaged as his father's curate at Epworth and Wroote.

During this last interval the germ of an important movement had appeared at Oxford. Of this, Charles Wesley, who entered Christ Church in 1726, gives the following account: "My first year at college I lost in diversions; the next I set myself to study. Diligence led me into serious thinking. I went to the weekly sacrament and persuaded two or three young students to accompany me, and to observe the method of study prescribed by the statutes of the University. This gained for me the harmless name of Methodist." Such was the first application of this term in the connection to which modern usage has assigned it, though it was not the first instance of its use in England in ecclesiastical relations. It had been thrown out as a term of reproach against various parties in the preceding century. On the arrival of John Wesley, in 1729, as tutor in Lincoln College, he was at once installed as the leader of the initial society, and it assumed a more definite form. At first it consisted of four members,-the two Wesleys, William Morgan, and Robert E. Kirkham. Among the later additions the more noteworthy were Benjamin Ingham, James Gambold, Thomas Broughton, John Clayton, James Hervey, and George Whitefield, the last of whom joined in 1735, near the close of the Wesleys' stay at Oxford. In the first instance, their scheme embraced, besides frequent attendance on the Lord's Supper, the employment of several evenings of the week in reading together the Greek Testament and the classics, and the dedication of Sunday evening to the study of divinity. To this there were soon added a comprehensive system of self-examination, the visiting of the prisoners and the sick, and the practice of contributing to the poor all of their incomes in excess of necessary expenses, and of fasting Wednesdays and Fridays,- a kind of life which earned for them from their many bitter and scurrilous opponents such titles as the Reforming Club, the Godly Club, the Holy Club, Sacramentarians, Bible Moths, Supererogation Men, and Enthusiasts. Some of these terms were not altogether inappropriate. They had in truth something of the disposition of the typical sacramentalist. They accredited much authority to Christian antiquity, and were scrupulous upon points of ceremonial. In these respects, as well as in their ascetic bias, they pre-figured to some extent the Ritualistic party of the present century. Says Tyerman: "With the exception of sacerdotal millinery, the burning of incense, the worship of the Virgin, prayers for the dead, and two or three other kindred superstitions, the Oxford Methodists were the predecessors of the present Ritualistic party of the Church of England." 1 Oxford Methodists. It should be stated, however, in justice, that, in wide distinction from the later Ritualists, they were conscious of no hostility to the leading doctrines of Protestantism, and cast no reverential, longing glances toward the Church of Rome, which indeed they regarded as the temple of Antichrist. It must be allowed, moreover, that the régime of the Oxford Club, though representing an inferior stage of piety, and lacking the breath of the evangelical life and power which afterwards kindled an invincible and contagious energy in some of its representatives, was not without its advantages. It gave a valuable schooling in self-denial, in practical benevolence, and in the hardihood which preserves a calm and cheerful mien in the midst of opprobrium and scorn.

A few words may be said here respecting the afterlife of some of the Oxford Club, whom it will not be convenient to recall again. Kirkham retired to a curacy in 1731, and his further history remains in obscurity. Morgan died in 1732. Clayton, the most ritualistic of the Oxford group, carried into his perish work at Manchester the same zeal which had distinguished him at the University; but when Methodism ran into the irregularity of an out-door evangelism he withheld from it his countenance and friendship. Ingham, a companion of Wesley in Georgia, as also in his German tour, became at an early date an out-door evangelist, and labored successfully in the North of England. The resulting societies he held for a time in connection with the Moravians, but finally disengaged them from this relation, and, in providing them with sacramental services of their own, virtually effected a separation from the Established Church. His later years were embittered by the disrupting work which the Sandemanian heresy wrought in his societies. Ingham was happily married to Lady Margaret Hastings, a most devout and worthy woman. Her, testimony that, after she had found the grace of Christ, she had been as happy as an angel, was a principal means in converting the noble countess, Selina Huntingdon, who figured so prominently in the history of Calvinistic Methodism. Gambold became permanently identified with the Moravians, acquired among them the episcopal rank, and preached to their societies in London with eloquence and power. Hervey was distinguished, apart from his pastoral labors, by his productiveness as a writer. Among his works, the most elaborate was his "Theron and Aspasio," in which a theological teaching moderately Calvinistic is relieved by a plentiful intermixture of scene-painting. He was of a contemplative turn, and "his mission," as one has described it, "was to sanctify the sentimentalism of the day." Modern taste would hardly be pleased with these writings. "Hervey's style," says Overton, "can be described in no meaner terms than as the extra superfine style. It is prose run mad." Nevertheless, it was well suited for immediate effect. The works of Hervey had for the time being an immense circulation. Broughton, as secretary of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, rendered valuable service in the distribution of Christian literature.

While the members of the Oxford Club practised an ascetic type of piety, they were far from proscribing cheerfulness or advocating moroseness. Clear testimony is given that this was the case with their leader. Gambold informs us that Wesley at Oxford was always cheerful; and Wesley himself, writing from Georgia as a representative of the same class of views which he had cherished at the University, gave expression to sentiments like this: "I am convinced that religion has nothing sour, austere, unsociable, unfriendly in it; but, on the contrary, implies the most winning sweetness, the most amiable softness and gentleness."

Another letter which Wesley wrote from Georgia, gives interesting evidence on a peculiar phase of his theological development during the later years of his stay at Oxford. In 1732, by the advice of William Law, he began to read the "Theologia Germanica," and other mystical works. It would appear from his communication to his brother Samuel that for a time he was strongly attracted by the mystical theology. He writes: "I think the rock on which I had nearest made shipwreck of the faith was the writings of the mystics." Wesley, however, seems to have been cured of his leaning in this direction as early as his departure from Oxford. Thereafter his references to the mystics were, in the main, far from flattering, being sharpened, no doubt, by the consciousness of the perilous attraction which they had formerly exercised over him. We find him declaring that he found it absolutely necessary to surrender either the mystics or the Bible. While he allows that they have said many excellent things, and have scattered some light in the midst of Romish darkness, he complains that they are utterly lacking in uniformity, and exhibit as many religions as they have produced books. In connection with a later perusal of the "Theologia Germanica," he exclaims: "Oh, how was it that I could ever so admire the affected obscurity of this unscriptural writer?" 1 Journal, Nov., 1741. Law's preference for Boehme he pronounces extremely ridiculous, and sarcastically suggests that he is rendering poor service to the German dreamer by dragging him out of his awful obscurity, and pouring light upon his venerable darkness, since the darker the well is, the deeper it is apt to be imagined. 2 Letter to the Rev. Mr. Law. He styles Boehme an ingenious madman, who over and over again contradicts Christian experience, reason, Scripture, and himself, 3 Journal, July, 1773. and says of his "Mysterium Magnum, or Exposition of Genesis," "It is most sublime nonsense, inimitable bombast, fustian not to be paralleled." 4 Journal, June, 1742. " Madam Guyon and Fénelon he estimates much more favorably, but thinks that their opinions must be taken with a large discount. Swedenborg was regarded by him as a mild lunatic. "I cannot but think," he says, "the fever he had twenty years ago, when he supposes he was introduced into the society of angels, really introduced him into the society of lunatics. ... From that time he was exactly in the state of that gentleman at Argos,--

'Who wondrous tragedies was wont to hear,
Sitting alone in the empty theatre.'" 5 Journal, Dec., 1771; April, 1779.

Wesley's attraction toward mysticism testifies to the deep thirst and anxious inquiries of his heart after the pathway of spiritual life, while his speedy emancipation from the same shows that it was not really agreeable to his mental constitution. No man was evermore wedded to the love of transparent clearness. Mysticism, to be sure, in the broadest sense, might include the final system of Wesley, as being an emphatic specimen of subjective supernatural religion; but the mysticism which either disparages outward means of nurturing piety, or passes off into speculative vagueness, failed utterly to claim any place in his permanent regard. Indeed his transient esteem for the mystical writings was probably due simply to the vein of fervent, soaring piety which they contained. Among the benefits which he derived from this source may be placed a check upon his excessive regard for the authority of Christian antiquity; such, at least, is the import of his own statements.

From Oxford we follow the Methodist chiefs to America. In 1735 Oglethorpe started for Georgia, with a reinforcement for the colony which he had recently planted there. Among those accompanying him were a small party of Moravians, with their bishop, David Nitschmann, the two Wesleys, and Ingham. It was by the earnest solicitation of Oglethorpe and the trustees of the Georgian colony that John Wesley was persuaded to embark. His expectation was to labor as a missionary among the Indians; but in this he was disappointed. His sojourn was confined to the colony, and was none too pleasant at that. Like most new settlements, the Georgian, while it contained some excellent elements, included others of an unstable and refractory nature. Trouble was soon made for the Oxfordists. Charles Wesley was assailed with such a vexatious opposition that he remained but little over five months. John stayed less than two years, and left under circumstances the reverse of flattering. A part of his trouble, no doubt, may safely be charged to his own indiscretion. A rigid High Church scheme could not easily be fitted to a mixed colony; yet such was the scheme which John Wesley sought to carry through with unfaltering perseverance. "He had early, and also forenoon service every day. He divided the morning service, taking the Litany as a separate service; he inculcated fasting and confession, and weekly communion; he refused the Lord's Supper to all who had not been episcopally baptized; he insisted on baptism by immersion; he rebaptized the children of dissenters; and he refused to bury all who had not received Episcopalian baptism." 1 J. H. Rigg, The Living Wesley. Wesley himself, at a later period, after receiving a beautiful Christian letter from one to whom he had denied the communion on the ground of irregular baptism, remarked upon his former procedure: "Can any one carry High Church zeal higher than this? And how well have I since been beaten with mine own staff!" 2 Journal, Sept., 1749. Finally, matters were brought to a crisis by his exclusion from the communion of a certain woman who failed to meet the conditions he had imposed. This woman, known as Miss Hopkey before her marriage, had commended herself to Wesley by her apparent religious zeal, had nursed him with sympathetic attention during an illness, and had won his warm attachment. He wished to make her his wife, but the adverse counsel of those to whom he submitted the case dissuaded him from the design, or at least inclined him to delay in the matter. Meanwhile the young lady suddenly married a Mr. Williamson. Not unnaturally, therefore, but probably with entire injustice, Wesley's exclusion of her from the sacrament was imputed to unworthy motives. Her friends, including the chief magistrate of Savannah, a man of lax principle, carried the matter into court. An unprincipled persecution of the conscientious, if mistaken, minister was undertaken, and Wesley, seeing no hope of a favorable issue, determined to leave the colony. In the early part of 1738 he was back again in England. A record of failure surely is this chapter in Wesley's history! Not altogether. He had passed through a valuable discipline and made acquisitions of great moment. He had become acquainted with the Moravians, had admired their Christian meekness, and been made inquisitive as to the cause of their fearlessness in the presence of threatened shipwreck. The practical demand for communicating with different nationalities had given him more or less of an introduction to three of the European languages,--the German, the Spanish, and the Italian. Moreover, according to Whitefield, who followed him in this field, his labors had not been void of benefit to the colonists. Whitefield's testimony is as follows: "The good that Mr. John Wesley has done in America is inexpressible. His name is very precious among the people; and he has laid a foundation that I hope neither men nor devils will ever be able to shake."

Whatever the religious condition of John Wesley may have been at this stage, it was certainly remote from pharisaic self-satisfaction. "It is upwards of two years," he wrote. "since I left my native country, in order to teach the Georgia Indians the nature of Christianity; but what have I learned myself in the meantime? Why (what I least of all suspected), that I, who went to America to convert others, was never converted myself." Be declared, moreover, that he found his own heart altogether corrupt and abominable, and his faith destitute of any saving quality. This, no doubt, was over-drawn. Wesley sadly needed the experience of evangelical freedom and power; but this does not imply that the earnest, it might be called heroic, consecration which he had maintained for years was worthless. At a later date he himself judged more mildly, and accredited to his former state the faith of a servant, as distinguished from that of a son. According to a sermon of his, one having the genuine faith of a servant is not to be accounted under the wrath of God.

However much of the imperative mood characteristic of leadership may have belonged to John Wesley, he was certainly at this stage very ready to accept guidance. His earnestness and distress made him eager to be instructed by any one who could afford genuine light. In this spirit, directly after his arrival in England, he communicated with the Moravian society then recently established in London, and put himself under the instruction of the eminent Moravian Peter Boehler. His new guide pointed away from the round of self-denying duties, as a ground of confidence or adequate instrument of religious progress, and directed him to the faith which works with the energy of a supernatural power, leading to speedy renewal of the heart and assurance of salvation. Wesley, finding his objections answered, end the views that were commended accordant with Scripture, gave himself earnestly to the pursuit of the experience to which Boehler's instructions pointed. On the 24th of May, 1738, he found the object of his desire; the coveted assurance was received, and a fire destined to light a kindred flame over nations and continents was kindled in his heart. His own account of the event is as follows: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." This was the experience which served as the foundation of his great work. To be sure, he was still troubled for an interval with doubts and perplexities, which probably were aggravated by the failure of the Moravian teachers to distinguish properly between assurance of justification and a state of full sanctification. But he had entered upon a lighted pathway in personal experience,--a pathway to be pursued with deepening confidence and satisfaction. Three days before his own emancipation his brother Charles had attained a like experience. As for Whitefield, he reached the stage of evangelical joy and freedom two or three years before either of the Wesleys.

To learn more perfectly concerning the way into which the good offices of the Moravians had introduced him, John Wesley determined to visit their headquarters at Herrnhut. About three months were spent in this German tour. He gained an inside view of Moravian life and organization, communed with such leading spirits as Christian David, listened to the experiences of a number of the simple and earnest believers, and carried away some valuable suggestions.

In February, 1739, occurred the noted irregularity which opened a wide door to the revival. Here the agent was the warm-hearted and impulsive Whitefield, who naturally stood much less in awe of order and prescription than the Wesleys. Against him, as well as against them, notwithstanding the wonderful attraction of his eloquent preaching, church after church had been closed, at Bristol every door, even that of the prison, was shut against him. But the restless evangelist must speak. So he turned to the rude and benighted colliers of Kingswood, three or four miles from Bristol, and addressed them in the open air. Two hundred listened to the first message, two thousand to the second, and increasing thousands to those that followed. Gospel truth came to the poor people with all the force of a new revelation. As the preacher gazed into their awed faces, he was often able to discern the effect of his words by the white furrows which their tears made through the coal dust upon their cheeks. With characteristic zest for rapid itinerating, Whitefield wished to start for other fields, and invited John Wesley to come and continue the work at Kingswood and Bristol. Wesley heeded the call, was introduced by Whitefield to his novel congregations, and fell in with the new style of evangelism, though not without a struggle against his prejudices. "I could" he writes, "scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, having been all my life, till very lately, so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church." 1 Journal, March, 1739. For scholars and gentlemen to venture upon this kind of work, argues Isaac Taylor, "displayed a courage far surpassing that which carries the soldier through the hail-storm of the battle-field. Ten thousand might more easily be found who would confront a battery, than two who, with the sensitiveness of education about them, could mount a table by the roadside, give out a psalm, and gather a mob." But once initiated to the work, Wesley trampled his repugnance under foot, and settled into that conception of his mission in life which he expressed in the famous words, "I look upon all the world as my parish." 2 Journal, June, 1739. A church roofed by the sky, and covering the three kingdoms was henceforth his sanctuary. Of the five hundred or more sermons and expositions which he delivered in 1739, after receiving the summons of Whitefield, only eight were within the walls of churches. Tyerman, Life and Times of Wesley. Charles Wesley, in like manner, rose superior to the trammels of an impotent propriety, and entered heartily into the out-door evangelism.

In contrast with the moralizing commonly served from the pulpits of the day, Wesley and his co-laborers preached the supernatural religion of the New Testament, urging especially repentance, justification by faith, and the inward witness of the Spirit. They brought the terrors of the law to bear with full vigor upon the torpid conscience, but magnified also the unstinted fullness of the grace which reaches after the chief of sinners. Preaching like this, born of deep conviction and emotion, produced deep conviction and emotion in many of the hearers. In numerous instances, especially in the early part of the revival, the unwonted struggle in the soul reacted with overwhelming effect upon the body. Men and women fell down in swoons or convulsive agitations. Some in the very midst of their protests against such unseemly and needless disorders, as they called them, were seized with the overmastering impulse, and fell down like the rest.

Respecting phenomena of this kind, it is to observed that they were not peculiar to the Methodist revival of the eighteenth century. Similar incidents have not infrequently attended awakenings which have broken mightily through habitual torpor or ungodliness. For example, they appeared in New England in the time of Edwards, in the revival of 1800 in Kentucky, and among the Presbyterians of Ireland in 1859. The mainspring of such bodily exercises was doubtless, in these various instances, the profound and contagious excitement of the mind. It may indeed be objected that in the Methodist revival the physical phenomena were far more prominent under the preaching of John Wesley than under that of Charles Wesley or Whitefield, whereas the style of the first was less emotional and impassioned than was that of either of the other two. But it is possible that a quiet, deep-toned energy may produce as much effect as a more impassioned strain; and, moreover, it is not unlikely that John's address was more productive of a searching introspection than was that of his brother evangelists. Charles had no charity for the extraordinary manifestations. John tolerated them on the ground that one must be careful not to oppose his personal fastidiousness to a method of working ordained or allowed by God. At the same time he regarded them as purely incidental, and indignantly denied the imputation that he ranked them among the marks of the new birth. As to the cause of the phenomena, his matured verdict inclined to the supposition of natural, supplemented by Satanic agency. Writing in 1744 of this class of events, he says that they may easily be accounted for, "either on principles of reason or Scripture. First, on principles of reason. For how easy is it to suppose that a strong, lively, and sudden apprehension of the heinousness of sin, the wrath of God, and the bitter pains of eternal death, should affect the body as well as the soul, during the present laws of vital union,-- should interrupt or disturb the ordinary circulations, and put nature out of its course. Yea, we may question whether, while this union subsists, it be possible for the mind to be affected in so violent a degree, without some or other of those bodily symptoms following. It is likewise easy to account for these things on principles of Scripture. For when we take a view of them in this light, we are to add to the consideration of natural causes the agency of those spirits who excel in strength, and as far as they have leave of God, will not fail to torment whom they cannot destroy, to tear those that are coming to Christ." 1 Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.

A movement such as the evangelists had inaugurated naturally did not proceed far, in an age really averse to earnest piety, and dreading enthusiasm more than the devil, without exciting violent opposition. Doubtless animosity, in some cases, was needlessly provoked by the less discreet of the laborers, who denounced the clergy, whom they deemed utterly negligent of their duties, in terms more unsparing than politic. Wesley himself expresses his regrets over an instance of this kind that was brought to his notice. But no amount of caution consistent with a vigorous prosecution of the work could have saved the movement from a venomous hatred and opposition. The hatred was in the spirit of the times, and it must needs vent itself; and it did vent itself right speedily and unmistakably. The mob, taking their inspiration from their superiors, were soon at work. Flying clods and stones became a frequent accompaniment of Methodist preaching. Raging crowds, abetted in some instances by clergymen and magistrates, maltreated the Methodist chiefs and their subordinates. In one case a whole community of Methodists (at Wednesbury and its neighborhood) were made the victims of a furious onset. Eighty houses had their windows smashed. Instances were not wanting in which outrage deepened into murderous violence. Some of the preachers were denounced as vagrants, and seized by the pressgang, and many of them were apparently more than once upon the verge of a sudden martyrdom. From the long catalogue of this class of incidents we give, as a specimen, the following item in the experience of Wesley, not because it is the most striking which he has recorded, but as being of convenient brevity. Under date of Sept. 12, 1742, he writes: "Many of the beasts of the people labored much to disturb those who were of a better mind. They endeavored to drive a herd of cows among them; but the brutes were wiser than their masters. They then threw whole showers of stones, one of which struck me just between the eyes. But I felt no pain at all, and when I had wiped away the blood, went on testifying, with a loud voice, that God hath given to them that believe, not the spirit of fear, but of power and love, and of a sound mind." Wesley took events of this kind in a singularly complacent fashion, as though he regarded them a regular part of his ministerial pay. Among his rules for dealing with such scenes of turbulence was the maxim always to look a mob in the face.

But the violence of the mob was outdone by the violence of the pen. Methodism was pursued by a constant stream of invective and scurrility, in sermons, periodicals, and pamphlets. It was described as "a revival of the old fanaticism of the last century, when all manner of madness was practised, and all manner of villany committed in the name of Christ;" as an "enthusiasm made up of a thousand incoherencies and absurdities, picked and collected from the vilest errors and most pestilent follies of every heresy upon earth." Methodists were stigmatized as "restless deceivers," "insolent pretenders," "men of capricious humors, spiritual sleight, and canting craftiness," "profane hypocrites," "buffoons in religion and mountebanks in theology." It was hinted of Wesley that he was a Romish emissary, and that he was in the pay of the Spanish government. One styled him "the first Protestant pope," and another, as if anxious to defy competition, declared that in him "the angel of darkness had made his incarnate appearance." Whitefield received, if possible, even a fuller measure of abuse than Wesley. Besides being assailed with all sorts of epithets, he was made to figure prominently in a comedy which was brought out to caricature Methodism. Most of the diatribes were allowed to pass unnoticed. An answer, however, was rendered to a few of the more important, such as Bishop Lavington's "Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared." The bishop's performance neither honored himself nor the cause of religion in general. According to the severe comment of Julia Wedgwood, the facetious prelate "deserves to be coupled with the men who flung dead cats and rotten eggs at the Methodists, not with those who assailed their tenets with arguments, or even serious rebuke." 1 John Wesley and the Evangelical Reaction of the Eighteenth Century. On the general subject of the paragraph see in particular Tyerman's Life and Times of John Wesley.

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