페이지 이미지

the most extensive import of the word, a public character. It is impossible to make him more so than he has rendered himself.”

Mr. Hampson was so much concerned lest the "public" should be misinformed respecting Mr. Wesley's character-lest some important facts should be repressed, or partially and inaccurately related by his friends—that he was willing, out of devotion to the public good, to disregard the decencies and proprieties of life. A Life of Mr. Wesley, while its subject is still living, and without his consent, or knowledge even, and which reflects upon his moral character, is to be thrust upon the community by one no way connected with him, and but poorly qualified for the self-imposed task.

Mr. Hampson not only discovers strange peculiarities in Mr. Wesley, which "sullied" his character; but in America “his rectitude of conduct,” he says, “is not so clear as might be wished.”— Vol. i, p. 192. Either Mr. Hampson was profoundly ignorant of the circumstances connected with Mr. Wesley's residence in America, or, in this base innuendo, he was actuated by "malice aforethought.” The statement is a gross slander. With ministerial dignity, with manly prudence, and with Christian fortitude, Mr. Wesley conducted himself in his severe trials; and his character, after passing the fiery ordeal, so far from not being morally “clear as might be wished," shines as gold that is purified.

Mr. Hampson's apology for mobs belongs to another age; and the seriousness with which he relates the reported follies of some of Mr. Wesley's preachers leaving off the use of tea and coffee, living on vegetables, and sleeping on boards, in imitation of himborders on the ridiculous. But these and other kindred things, together with the vanity of our author, ought not at this day to be disturbed. Indeed, we have no disposition, and it is not our design, to follow Mr. Hampson in his Memoirs of Mr. Wesley. His work, except for its subject, would have dropped dead from the press, and had never been known beyond the limits of Sunderland. As a documentary Life, it has no value ; its incidents, manufactured for the occasion, are of a coarse character; and its criticisms are of the most petty kind.

The next Life of Mr. Wesley was written by Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore; it is an octavo volume of six hundred and forty-two pages, and was published in 1792. This biography was written and published under peculiar circumstances.

Mr. Wesley had bequeathed, in trust, his papers 10 Dr. Coke, Dr. Whitehead, and Mr. Moore, to be burned or published as they should see good.

A misunderstanding, on which we shall remark by and by, arose between Dr. Whitehead, who had been appointed to compile a Life of Mr. Wesley, and the conference : after which it was deemed best, as it had already been announced, that a Life should be prepared forthwith by Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore. This was undertaken; and before the next conference the work was published, and an edition of ten thousand copies sold. Another edition had been published, and was being sold when the conference assembled.--Myles, p. 213.

Dr. Coke was a clergyman of the Church of England, and became connected with Mr. Wesley in 1776. Their first interview was at Taunton, on the 13th of August of that year. Mr. Wesley says: “Here I found a clergyman, Dr. Coke, late gentleman commoner of Jesus College in Oxford, who had come twenty miles on purpose. I had much conversation with him; and a union then began which I trust shall never end."-Works, vol. iv, p. 459. His talents, and his fortune, which was considerable, he devoted to the service of God. Into Mr. Wesley's measures for the spread of the gospel he entered with zeal; he stood high in his favor, and shared largely in his confidence. Southey says: “No other of the active members of the connection was possessed of equal fortune and rank in society; and all that he had, his fortune, to every shilling, and his life, to every minute that could be employed in active exertions, were devoted to its interests.”—Life of Wesley, vol. ii, p. 224.

Mr. Henry Moore entered the traveling connection in 1779. He, too, stood high in the estimation of Mr. Wesley, and was intimate with him till death closed their earthly intercourse.

From their intimacy with him, and the unreserved manner in which he communicated with them, Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore were, so far, well qualified to do justice to the character and fair fame of Mr. Wesley. Their work was prepared for the press in great haste, of which it furnishes sufficient evidence. They give a plain, unadorned relation, of the principal events in the life of Mr. Wesley, and the rise and spread of Methodism, both in Europe and America.

In the “Dedication" of their work "to the preachers of the gospel, late in connection with the Rev. John Wesley,” the authors remark :—“Our aim in compiling this account of the life of our honored friend, and of that great revival of religion in which he was so eminently engaged for more than half a century, has been, first, that mankind at large may know what he was, and what he did, or rather what God has done by him. And, secondly, that all

those who are his sons in the gospel may have continually before them, how faithfully, zealously, and prudently, he labored; and may thereby be more abundantly stimulated to be followers of him, as he was of Christ."

They flatter themselves that there is nothing material respecting Mr. Wesley, which they have not recorded. “We scruple not to say,” their Preface runs, “there is nothing material respecting him that is not given in this volume. All his private papers were open to our inspection for several years. He himself also informed us of many important passages of his life, which he never inserted in his journals, and are known to few but ourselves. Some of these it would have been dangerous or uncharitable for him to have published to the world. But we are under no such difficulty. The persons concerned are now in eternity, and their characters very little known to the present generation.”

This work has been superseded by a new Life, by Mr. Moore, so that it is now out of print. It is important, however, as a connecting link in the history of the past.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The third Life of Mr. Wesley in order is that by Dr. JOHN WHITEHEAD. As this work has occasioned much controversy, and is the great text-book of those, who, for various purposes, and from different motives, wish to hold up to the world Mr. Wesley and Methodism in an odious light, an extended notice of it and its author will not be out of place.

Dr. Whitehead entered the traveling connection in 1764, and located in 1769.-Myles. He then settled in business in Bristol ; and subsequently kept a school in the vicinity of London, where he also studied medicine. He became tulor to some young gentlemen, and traveled on the continent; during which time he received a diploma as doctor of medicine, from one of the German universities. On his return to England, having made the acquaintance of some influential members of the society of Friends, he was induced to become a Quaker. By the aid of his new associates, he was appointed a physician to the London Dispensary. In a few years he again joined the Methodists, and was a local preacher in London at the time of Mr. Wesley's death.

When Dr. Whitehead returned to the Methodist connection, "he was received by Mr. Wesley,” says Mr. Myles, “with his usual kindness." In bis will Mr. Wesley bequeathed to him, in connection with Dr. Coke and Mr. Henry Moore, all his manuscripts, to be burned or published as they should see good.

It having been determined, after Mr. Wesley's death, to publish


a biography of him, and Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore being fully engaged in the work as itinerants, it was proposed that Dr. Whitehead should compile it. To this “several objections were made, chiefly on account of his known versatility, and the short time he had been in the connection since his last admission." These objections, however, were obviated by Mr. Rogers, the superintendent in London, and who was one of the doctor's particular friends. It was then agreed that the doctor should write the Life; and, at his earnest request, and with the consent of Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore, Mr. Rogers delivered into his care Mr. Wesley's manuscripts, that he might at his leisure select such as were needful for his work; the whole to be afterward examined. Dr. Whitehead proposed to Mr. Rogers that he should receive one hundred pounds for his trouble and loss of time; this sum, the executors, at the instance of Mr. Rogers, raised to one hundred guineas, as being a handsomer sum.-Myles, pp. 195, 204. “To this proposal,” says Moore, “Dr. Whitehead cheerfully acceded; and it was unanimously adopted as the resolution of the meeting. The manuscripts were also deposited with him, under an express stipulation that they should be examined according to the will of the testator, previously to any of them being published. At the following conference this agreement was confirmed in every particular, and Dr. Whitehead was appointed a member of the book committee in London.”Life of Wesley, p. 8.

After having entered into this engagement, in an evil moment one of his friends suggested to the doctor that by retaining, as he had it now in his power to do, the copyright of the intended biography, he might realize two thousand pounds. This suggestion acted with fearful potency on his "versatility;" and the poet's “trash” was too strong for the doctor's virtue. Money! Two thousand pounds! “The temptation to seize such a prize for himself,” says Mr. Curry, the American editor of Southey's Life of Wesley, “proved too strong for the doctor's integrity. He, therefore, determined to make the work his own property. This produced an alienation of feeling between himself and his former friends; and having the rod in his own hands, he did not fail to apply it, thus making his Life of Wesley a scourge to both him and his followers. Having sold at once his Methodism and his conscience, he retained no love for the former, and but little regard for the latter. It could scarcely be expected, under such circumstances, that there would be either ihe heart or the will to do justice to the subject undertaken.”—Vol. I, p. 406.

Myles, who wrote at the time these things transpired, and who

was well acquainted with the parties and circumstances, has given us a succinct history of the course pursued by Dr. Whitehead and the conference. After referring to the agreement of the parties for the compilation of a Life of Mr. Wesley, he says:

“Dr. Whitehead, however, soon after the conference, to the astonishment of all concerned, declared his intention of publishing the 'Life' as an independent man. He also declared that he would make such use of the manuscripts of Mr. Wesley, with which he had been intrusted, as he himself should think proper, and that he would not suffer them to be examined as Mr. Wesley had ordered in his will, previous to the publication, unless the two other trustees of these manuscripts would enter into an engagement that he should retain in his hands all those papers which he should judge to be necessary for the work. He insisted, also, that the copyright of the book should belong to him; and that if it should be published from the Book Room, he would have half the clear profits.

“As the doctor had engaged to compile the Life for the Book Room, (that is, for the charity to which Mr. Wesley had bequeathed all his literary property,) the committee expostulated with him on his unfaithfulness, and the extravagance of his new demands. Their expostulations were, however, in vain. They had acted with great simplicity toward the doctor. Having a high opinion of his integrity, and attachment to the cause in which they were all engaged, they had given all the necessary materials into his hands, and so were completely in his power. He was fully sensible of this advantage, and persevered in those demands, with which he knew the committee could not comply.”—Chronological History, p. 212.

He then adverts to the efforts that were made to persuade the doctor to regard the "will" of the dead, and act honestly and more honorably with the living; all of which, however, was in vain. In the mean time, Coke and Moore's Life came from the press, and ten thousand copies were immediately sold. The doctor, as it would seem, began to think now that the two thousand pounds--the price of his integrity-like the maid's fortunes, might be feasted on in the imagination, but never realized. He now makes various propositions affecting himself and his work. The following is the final one, with its results :

“. All the manuscripts of Mr. Wesley shall be fairly and impartially examined by Dr. Coke, Mr. Moore, and Dr. Whitehead. Such papers as they shall unanimously deem unfit for publication shall be burned immediately; but of the remainder, Dr. Whitehead shall be at liberty to select such as he thinks necessary for

« 이전계속 »