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Against the Misrepresentations of that Publication.
BY RICHARD WATSON.
"Nec semper feriet quodcunque minabitur arcus."-HOR.
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METHODISM has been generally assailed by a violence so blind and illiberal, that the writers who have chosen to distinguish themselves by their zeal against that religious body, have, in most cases, so sufficiently answered themselves, that controversy has been rendered unnecessary. A few, and only a few, defences of the conduct and opinions of Mr. Wesley and his followers, have therefore been published. The time of those best qualified for such services has been better employed in works of active piety and benevolence. They have held on their way "through good report and evil report," thinking it enough, that, by the writings of their Founder, and other subsequent publications, the candid might acquaint themselves with their views of Christianity; and that a people spread throughout the land presented points of observation sufficiently numerous to enable unprejudiced persons to form an accurate estimate of their character and influence.
Mr. SOUTHEY's Life of the venerable Founder of Methodism presents itself under another aspect.
It is not a hasty production, and it betrays no want of temper. The facts and incidents which make up the life and history of the remarkable man, of whom he has somewhat strangely become the Biographer, have been collected with diligence; and the narrative is creditable to his literary character. He has the higher praise of considerable candour-candour, exercised on subjects which presented temptations to more frequent sarcasm and censure, had he aimed at gratifying the prejudices and feelings of a great number of his readers; and he has ventured to say more in praise of the character and public usefulness of Mr. Wesley, than will be found in most publications of the kind, not emanating from persons connected with the Wesleyan Society. Notwithstanding this general candour, and, as I believe, intended impartiality, there are still great objections to the Book. The Wesley of Mr. Southey is not in several of its most important characteristics, Mr. Wesley himself; and the picture of Methodism which he has drawn is not just, either in tone or composition. The impression made by the whole is indeed equally as unfavourable to Christianity itself, as to the views of that particular society, through which some of its vital principles are assaulted; and it is as Christians, quite as much as a religious body, that the Methodists are dissatisfied with it. By them panegyric was not wished, and there is more of justice and fairness than was hoped, considering the quarter from which the work was to proceed. What is defective and perverted may be charitably imputed, less to the intention of the writer, than to his total want of qualifications for
the undertaking. The Life of Wesley was not a subject for the pen of Southey: and for want of an “enlightened understanding," both Christianity and some of its brightest ornaments have received but partial justice at his hands.
Had the Biographer been either less or more acquainted with theological subjects, his work would have borne a character more decided. It would have been better or worse; and, in either form, more acceptable to all parties. It would have done more good, or less mischief. As it is, it has a singularly hybridous character. It is distorted with inconsistencies, and propositions which neutralize each other as to any good effect, and yet retain activity enough to do injury. Religion itself, whatever Mr. Wesley's views might be, if the Church of England has rightly exhibited it in her formularies, and in the writings of her greatest divines, is very incautiously and generally resolved into enthusiasm, and other natural causes; and every stirring of the feelings which may appear new and irregular to a cold and torpid formality, has a ready designation in the equally undefined term fanaticism. There are, it is true, occasional admissions on these subjects, which indicate respect and veneration for what is sacred; but they seem often to be used only as a convenient medium through which to convey impressions of a contrary kind with greater force. That this was not always intended, will be cheerfully admitted; but if any thing, more than experience has already furnished, were necessary to show the mischievousness of writing on subjects of religion, without steady and