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FANATICISM OF THE FIRST METHODISTS.EXTRACTS
FROM THE WORK OF BISHOP LAVINGTON IN PROOF OF THIS. THE CONVERSIONS, 'ASSURANCES, RAPTURES, AND EXPERIENCES ASSERTED BY WESLEY AND WHITFIELD. THEIR NOTION OF REGENERATION AS ATTENDED WITH AGONIES AND TORMENTS, BUT PRODUCTIVE OF ABSOLUTE PERFECTION.-ANALOGY OF A CONVERSION IN THE ROMISH CHURCH TO THE NEW BIRTH OF THE METHODISTS. THEIR CLAIMS TO SPIRITUAL GIFTS DISPROVED BY THEIR UNCHARITABLENESS. THE MODERN METHODISTS MAINTAIN THE TENETS OF THEIR PREDECESSORS. THE FORMER EFFECTS OF PURITANIC ZEAL TO BE REASONABLY APPREHENDED FROM A RECURRENCE OF THE SAME CAUSE.-THE REPREHENSION OF ITS PRINCIPLES NOT INCONSISTENT WITH TOLERANCE AND CHARITY.--CHRISTIAN PRACTICE THE TRUE CRITERION OF DIVINE GRACE.CONCLUSION.
IF, from the view that has been taken of the doctrines now disseminated by the Methodists, we look back to the authors of these extravagant opinions, we shall find them possessed by a wild enthusiasm, embittered with a rancorous zeal.
To prove so plain a fact in the most compendious manner, a reference to the work of Bishop Lavington, viz. “The Enthusiasm of Papists and Protestants compared,” may be sufficient : and
as that treatise is now in few hands, and the matter of it cannot be too generally known, the following extracts, it is presumed, will not appear irrelevant to our present purpose, nor unacceptable to the reader: · The learned author thus states his opinion of that divine grace, the misapprehension of which has been the source of so many fatal errors. « Though I do by no means deny that the holy spirit may, or sometimes doth, by some extraordinary act of grace throw such a light and influence on the mind of man, as suddenly to arrest him, as it were, in the midst of a wicked and unbelieving course, yet surely this is not to be expected of course; the extraordinary me thod of heaven being that of drawing us by gradual means, good education and instruction, improvements by learning, reading, and studying the holy scriptures, which direct us in an honest and good heart to grow in grace, and build up ourselves in our holy faith,' and not presume that we shall start up perfect men at once.* But by the Methodist's • Faith, and being born of God, are said to be an instantaneous work at once, and in a moment as lightning:' Wesley's 2d Journal, 16, 17, 39. My being born of God was an instantaneous act, enabling me from that moment to be more than conqueror over those temptations which before I
* Bishop Lavington's Enthusiasm of Papists and Methodists compared, v. is p. 30, 32,. ini..?
was always a slave to.' 3d Journal, 16. Very many persons changed in a moment, always suddenly, as far as I have known.' Id. 49.
“ After these sudden conversions, usually they receive their assurances of salvation, and these (as also the proofs of their conversion) are certainly known, heard, seen, or felt; they can ascertain the particular time and place of their receiving them, as so many seals of the spirit. * All this while, I was assured God bad forgiven me. It is a dreadful mistake to deny the doctrine of assurances. I know numbers, whose salvation is written on their hearts, as it were, with a sun-beam.' Whitfield's 5th Journal, 17, &c. Then for Mr. Wesley— I felt faith in Christ, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine. 2d Journal, 30. My sister received atonement on St. Pe. ter's day.' 3d Journal, 17. At that hour, one who had long continued in sin, received a full, clear sense of his pardoning love, and power to sin no more." *
It is evident, from the many extraordinary passages which Bishop Lavington has collected from the writings of those noted founders of Méthodism, that the fanatic flame barst forth at once with all its fury. .. . .
“God,” says Mr. Whitfield, “ was indeed there, riding in the congregation.”-“ Jesus has been with me much to-day, at another time he
* Bishop Lavington, v. i. p. 33, 34. "I those
was with me on the road; but, oh! how was he met with me in Abergavenny!” — “ I lean on Jesus's bosom from morning to night, yea, all the day long.”—“ I sweetly leaned on my Saviour's bosom, and sucked out of the breasts of his consolation.”*
In his 2d Journal he says, “ Could the trees of a certain wood near Stone-house speak, they would tell what sweet communion I and some more dear souls enjoyed with the ever-blessed God there.”_" The love of God was shed abroad in my heart,” says Mr. Wesley, “ and a flame kindled with flames so violent, and yet so very ravishing, that my body was almost torn asunder. I loved. The spirit cried strong in my heart. I sweated, I trembled, I fainted, I sung. My soul was got up into the holy mount; it had no thought of coming down again into my body," with more of the same ranting flame.f Wesley's 3d Journal, 19.
The same enthusiast describes the Holy Ghost descending into his congregation as on the day of Pentecost ; nay, with greater evidences of his power : “ The spirit at length came down like a mighty rushing wind, and carried all before it. In my prayer the power of God came down, and gave a great shock'; such an 'abiding," universal shock I never knew before. In the afternoon again the shock was very great; the place
.. * Lavinglon, vvi p. 39.5.Id: p. 44.*!
on [CHAP. IX. was almost rent by the power and presence of God.” Wesley's 7th Journal, 57.
With no less presumption, though in a milder tone, Mr. Whitfield says, “I felt more and more of the divine assistance to-day; the Lord endowed me with power on high. In the midst of my discourse the power of the Lord came upon me; God enabled me to speak with such irresistible power,” &c. 2d Journal, 23. And afterwards he makes this insolent appeal to heaven
“ Past is thy word, I here demand,
And confident expect thy aid."*
He has the audacity to vouch for all his pretensions, by declaring, “ The eternal Almighty, I am, hath sent me.”+ 3d Journal, 58. Which is equalled in fanaticism, if not in arrogance, by an old hardened sinner's daring to assert, “ The Saviour of sinners has saved me; he told me so on Sunday morning.” Wesley's 4th Journal, 52. I
When the minds of men are infatuated with these strong delusions, can any thing be matter of wonder which they think or say? But to see the infinite Majesty of heaven, and the ineffable grace of God, treated with such shameless familiarity, is calculated to excite feelings in every sober mind, which no language can express; and the amatory strains in which the raptures of enthusiasm are recited, cannot be read without
* Lavington, v. i. p. 47. + Id. p. 52. i 1 Id. p. 52.