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made me accidentally find out some of the latent sparks of reason, for which I should never have thanked my Maker if I had never discovered them. I have frequently been thankful to find that my horse could travel in bad roads better than I expected; nor do I think that it is a piece of Pharisaism to
I am thankful to find that my mind can travel with more ease than I thought it could through theological roads, rendered almost impassable by heaps of doctrinal rubbish, brought from all parts of Christendom, and by briers of contention which have kept growing for above a thousand years.
“To return : as a Divine, I see more clearly the gaps and stiles at which mistaken good men have turned out of the narrow way of truth, to the right hand and to the left. As a Protestant, I hope I have much more esteem for the Scripture in general, and in particular for those practical parts of it which the Calvinists had insensibly taught me to overlook or despise. And this increasing esteem is, I trust, accompanied with a deeper conviction of the truth of Christianity, and with a greater readiness to defend the Gospel against infidels, Pharisees, and Antinomians. As a Preacher, I hope I can now do more justice to a text, by reconciling it with contrary scriptures. As an anti-Calvinist, I have learned to do the Calvinists justice in granting that there is an election of distinguishing grace for God's peculiar people, and a particular redemption for all believers who are faithful unto death. And by that means, as a controvertist, I can more easily excuse pious Calvinists, who, through prejudice, mistake that scriptural election for their Antinomian election, and who consider that particular redemption as the only redemption mentioned in the Scriptures. Nay, I can, without scruple, allow Mr. Hill, that his doctrines of 'finished salvation and irresistible grace are true with respect to all those who die in their infancy. As one who is called an Arminian, I have found out some flaws in Arminianism, and evidenced my impartiality by pointing them out, as well as the flaws of Calvinism. As a witness for the truth of the Gospel, I hope I have learned to bear reproach from all sorts of people with more undaunted courage. And I humbly trust, that were I called to seal the truth of the doctrines of grace and justice, against the Pharisees and the Antinomians, I could, divine
grace supporting me to the last, do it more rationally, and, of consequence, with greater steadiness.
"Again: as a follower of Christ, I hope I have learned to disregard my dearest friends for my heavenly Prophet; or, to speak the language of our Lord, I hope I have learned to forsake father, mother, and brothers, for Christ's sake, and the Gospels. As a disputant, I have learned that solid arguments and plain scriptures make no more impression upon bigotry, than the charmer's voice does upon the deaf adder; and by that means, I hope I depend less upon the powers of reason, the letter of the Scripture, and the candour of professors, than I formerly did. As a believer, I have been brought to see and feel that the power of the Spirit of truth, which teaches men to be of one heart and of one mind, and makes them think and speak the same, is at a very low ebb in the religious world; and that the prayer which I ought continually to offer is, ‘O Lord, baptize Christians with the Spirit of truth, and the fire of love. Thy kingdom come! Bring thy church out of the wilderness of error and sin, into the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' As a member of the Church of England, I have learned to be pleased with our holy mother, for giving us floods of pure morality to wash away the few remaining Calvinian freckles that remain upon her face. As a Christian, I hope I have learned, in some degree, to exercise that charity which teaches us boldly to oppose a dangerous error, without ceasing to honour and love its abettors, so far as they resemble our Lord; and enables us to use an irony, with St. Paul and Jesus Christ, not as an enemy uses a dagger, but as a Surgeon uses a lancet or a caustic. And, lastly, as a writer, I have learned to feel the truth of Solomon's observation : ‘Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man,' and the sum of the antisolifidian truth which I endeavour to vindicate.
“I do not say that I have learned any of these lessons as I should have done ; but I hope I have learned so much of them as to say, that in these respects my controversial toil has not been altogether in vain in the Lord. And now, reader, let me entreat thee to pray, that if I am spared to
vindicate more fully what appears to us the scriptural doctrine of grace, I may be so helped by the Father of lights and the God of love, as to speak the pure truth in perfect love, and never more drop a needlessly-severe expression. Some such have escaped me before I was aware. In endeavouring to render my style nervous, I have sometimes inadvertently rendered it provoking. Instead of saying that the doctrines of grace, so called, represent God as absolutely graceless' towards myriads of reprobated culprits,' I would now say, that, upon the principles of my opponents, God appears devoid of grace' towards those whom He has absolutely ' reprobated' from all eternity. The thought is the same, I grant, but the expressions are less grating, and more decent. This propriety of language I labour after, as well as after more meekness of wisdom. The Lord help me and my antagonists to keep our garments clean! Controvertists ought to be clothed with an ardent, flaming love for truth, and a candid, humble regard for their neighbour. May no root of prejudice stain that flaming love! no bigotry spot that candid regard ! no malice rend our seamless garments ! and if they are ever rolled in blood, may it be only in the blood of our common enemies,—destructive error, and the man of sin ! ”*
Such was the language of Mr. Fletcher when he had been some years engaged in this arduous conflict, and had ample opportunities for judging of its effects upon his own mind, as well as upon the minds of others. It is certainly not the language of penitence, that he had become a disputant, but rather of humble gratitude, that while he had successfully defended what he believed to be revealed truth, his own personal piety was increased.
The writer of Lady Huntingdon’s Life and Times says, “The effect of the controversy was most pernicious. Without eliciting truth, or illustrating difficult texts, the combatants inflamed the spirit of party, and rendered the two bodies of Methodists, for several years, more hostile to each other than almost any other differing sects. Both parties were driven to extremies." + This anonymous writer may be
• Fictitious and genuine Creed.
+ Vol. ii., p. 250. Various attempts have been made within the last few years to produce an impression unfavourable to Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fletcher, as having dishonoured themselves in this controversy by unchristian feeling and intemperate
allowed to speak for his own party; but when he includes Mr. Fletcher in these sweeping censures, he enunciates his
language. The Messrs. Hill and Toplady, it is confessed, did not uniformly manifest the meekness of wisdom; but it is intimated that their opponents, if not equally guilty, were criminal in a very high degree. The proof which has of late been adduced in support of this assumption is curious, and cannot by possibility be satisfactory to the writers who have employed it. When Mr. Rowland Hill applied to Mr. Wesley the most reproachful epithets, his own friends complained of his acrimony; and he, in vindication of himself, contended that Mr. John and Charles Wesley had used similar language. The following are the examples which he produced :-“ Devil's factors—Satan's synagogue-Children of the old roaring, hellish murderer, who believe his lieAdvocates of sin-Witnesses for the father of lies—Blasphemers-Satan-sent Preachers-Devils_Liars-Fiends." “ These terms,” says Mr. Hill, taken out of different poems, composed by those gentlemen ; all of which, if I greatly mistake not, are still upon sale.”-Full Answer to the Rev. J. Wesley's Remarks, p. 30.
The author of the “ Life and Times of the Countess of Huntingdon," (vol. ii., p. 247,) the Rev. Edwin Sidney, in his Life of the Rev. Rowland Hill, (p. 108,) and Mr. Jones, in his Memoir of Mr. Hill, (p. 555,) have all urged this quotation from Mr. Hill's pamphlet, in reply to Mr. Watson, who has awarded the prize of temper in this controversy to Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fletcher. Mr. Sidney remarks, in a tone of surprise, “ Wesley's biographer, Watson, a great and good man, surely was aware of these expressions when he called the publications of his party models of temper, and calm but occasionally powerfully reproving.'” Mr. Watson did not use the language here ascribed to him with reference to “his party " in general. He confines it to Mr. Wesley. Of the Vicar of Madeley, whose manner was not “calm,” but animated, he speaks in different terms. “ It is refreshing," says he, “to remark, in the writings of the saintly Fletcher,' so fine a union of strength and meekness; an edge so keen, and yet so smooth ; and a heart kept in such perfect charity with his assailants, and so intent upon establishing truth, not for victory, but for salvation."
Whether Mr. Watson was aware of “the expressions " here imputed to Mr. John and Charles Wesley, we know not, nor need we stay to inquire, as they are irrelevant to the question at issue. Mr. Watson is speaking of the controversy which arose out of the Minutes of 1770, and which was carried on in sober prose; and Mr. Sidney professes to quote some poetry which was pub. lished several years before those Minutes were written ! When Mr. Hill wrote, he was not sure that the poems were on sale, but apprehended that they might be out of print.
With respect to the “expressions” in these poems, so strangely introduced, it may be observed, (1.) That in controversy unverified quotations pass for nothing. On what subjects and occasions were the “ poems ” written ? and where are they to be found ? Till they are produced, and we can judge of the true meaning of the “expressions " which they are said to contain, they are of no avail in the argument. (2.) Some of the “expressions " objected to are con. tained in Scripture, and are therefore in themselves not liable to any just exception. They may be ill-applied, it is true ; but having been used by Christ and his Apostles, they might be used by John and Charles Wesley without any just
own prejudices merely, and not the truth. For nothing are Mr. Fletcher's writings more remarkable than the light which they shed upon “difficult texts” of holy Scripture; and the light which he brings to the sacred books is not the “palpable obscure” of a vain metaphysical philosophy, affecting to be wise above what is written, and intruding into those things which are not revealed. It is the light which inspiration sheds upon itself, and which is elicited by comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
No human compositions more effectually rebuke the practice of taking one half of the Scriptures, and leaving the other, than do those of the Vicar of Madeley. There is not a book in the English language equal to his “Scripture Scales,” for “illustrating difficult texts,” and guarding the inquirer against dangerous extremes. The method of ascertaining the mind of the Holy Ghost, by taking the Scriptures as a whole, and comparing one part with another, is universally allowed by sound Protestants to be the most just and unexceptionable; and this is precisely the plan which Mr. Fletcher pursued with unexampled success.
The effect of Mr. Fletcher's writings has been powerful, extensive, and lasting. Never since they appeared has the remark been called for in the Methodist Conference, “We have leaned too much towards Calvinism." Their influence blame. (3.) One of the “expressions” at least is obviously falsified. All of them are professedly “taken out of different poems composed by gentlemen " of accurate scholarship, many specimens of whose versification are before the world. Will Mr. Sidney seriously maintain that the following sentence occurs in any “poem,” written by John or Charles Wesley, or by any man that had the least conception of metrical composition : “Children of the old roaring, hellish murderer, who believe his lie ? ” Whatever Mr. Hill or Mr. Sidney may say, no man will ever believe that the learned and accomplished brothers, whom it is sought to degrade, ever published this “expression” in any which they connected their names. (4.) Admitting the authenticity of “these expressions," and that they imply a just reflection upon the men to whom they are attributed, in what way, it may be asked, do they affect the character of Mr. Fletcher, who was the principal writer in defence of the Minutes ? The “ poems ” from which they are said to be selected were written, if written at all, while he was a youth, in Switzerland, and had never set his foot upon British ground. How then do they prove him guilty of “ acidity," or of anything else ? Neither Mr. Sidney, nor Mr. Jones, nor the biographer of Lady Huntingdon, can believe that they reflect the slightest dishonour upon the Vicar of Madeley; yet every one of these gentlemen has produced “these expressions ” to prove that he, as well as Mr. Wesley, was an angry disputant, notoriously deficient in Christian meekness !