Monday, January 17, 2011

"You are a hypocrite, Mr Wesley, and we can have no fellowship with you"

Mon 17 Jan 1763. I rode to Lewisham, and wrote my sermon to be preached before the Society for Reformation of Manners. Sunday 23. In order to check if not stop a growing evil, I preached on ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ But it had just the contrary effect on many, who construed it into a satire upon G. Bell, one of whose friends said, ‘If the devil himself had been in the pulpit he would not have preached such a sermon.’
All this time I did not want information from all quarters ‘that Mr. Maxfield was at the bottom of all this; that he was the life of the cause; that he was continually spiriting up all with whom he was intimate against me; that he told them, I was not capable of teaching them, and insinuated that none was but himself; and that the inevitable consequence must be a division in the society.’
Yet I was not without hope that by bearing all things I should overcome evil with good, till on Tuesday 25, while I was sitting with many of our brethren, Mrs. Coventry (then quite intimate with Mr. Maxfield) came in, threw down her ticket, with those of her husband, daughters, and servants, and said, they would ‘hear two doctrines no longer’. They had often said before: ‘Mr. Maxfield preached perfection, but Mr. Wesley pulled it down.’ So I did, that perfection of Benjamin Harris, G. Bell, and all who abetted them. So the breach is made! The water is let out. Let those who can, gather it up.
I think it was on Friday the 28th that I received a letter from John Fox, and another from John and Elizabeth Dixon, declaring the same thing. Friday, February 4, Daniel Owen and G. Bell told me, they should ‘stay in the society no longer’. The next day Robert Lee, with five or six of his friends, spake to the same effect.
I now seriously considered whether it was in my power to have prevented this. I did not see that it was: for though I had heard from time to time many objections to Mr. Maxfield’s conduct, there was no possibility of clearing them up. Above a year ago I desired him to meet me with some that accused him, that I might hear them face to face. But his answer was as follows:
Dec. 28, 1761
I have considered the thing, since you spoke to me about meeting at Mrs. March’s. And I don’t think to be there, or to meet them at any time. It is enough that I was arraigned at the Conference. (At which I earnestly defended him, and silenced all his accusers.) I am not convinced that it is my duty to make James Morgan, etc. my judges. If you, sir, or any one of them, have anything to say to me alone, I will answer as far as I see good.
The next month I wrote him a long letter, telling him mildly all I heard or feared concerning him. He took it as a deep affront and in consequence thereof wrote as follows:
Jan. 14, 1762
If you call me proud or humble, angry or meek, it seems to sit much the same on my heart. If you call me John or Judas, Moses or Korah, I am content. As to a separation, I have no such thought, if you have, and now (as it were) squeeze blood out of a stone, be it to yourself.
Several months after, hearing some rumours, I again wrote to him freely. In his answer were the following words:
Sept. 23, 1762
Experience teaches me daily that they that preach salvation from the nature of sin will have the same treatment from the others as they had and have from the world. But I am willing to bear it.
Your brother is gone out of town. Had he stayed much longer and continued, Sunday after Sunday, to hinder me from preaching, he would have forced me to have got a place to preach in where I should not have heard what I think the highest truths contradicted.
In his next letter he explained himself a little farther:
Oct. 16, 1762
We have great opposition on every side. Nature, the world, and the devil will never be reconciled to Christian perfection. But the great wonder is that Christians will not be reconciled to it; all, almost everyone who call themselves ministers of Christ, or preachers of Christ, contend for sin to remain in the heart as long as we live, as though it were the only thing Christ delighted to behold in his members.
I long to have your heart set at full liberty. I know you will then see things in a wonderful different light from what it is possible to see them before.
The day after the first separation, viz., Jan. 26, I wrote him the following note:
My dear Brother,
For many years I and all the preachers in connection with me have taught that every believer may and ought to grow in grace. Lately you have taught or seemed to teach the contrary. The effect of this is, when I speak as I have done from the beginning those who believe what you say will not bear it. Nay, they will renounce connexion with us—as Mr. and Mrs. Coventry did last night. This breach lies wholly upon you. You have contradicted what I taught from the beginning. Hence it is that many cannot bear it, but when I speak as I always have done, they separate from the society. Is this for your honour, or to the glory of God?
O Tommy, seek counsel, not from man, but God; not from brother Bell, but Jesus Christ!
I am,
Your affectionate brother,
J. W.
Things now ripened apace for a farther separation, to prevent which (if it were possible), I desired all our preachers, as they had time, to be present at all meetings when I could not myself, particularly at the Friday meeting in the chapel at West Street. At this Mr. Maxfield was highly offended and wrote to me as follows:
Feb. 5, 1763
I wrote to you to ask if those who before met at brother Guilford’s might not meet in the chapel. Soon after you came to town, the preachers were brought into the meeting, though you told me again and again, they should not come. (True; but since I said this, there has been an entire change in the situation of things.) Had I known this I would rather have paid for a room out of my own pocket. I am not speaking of the people that met at the Foundery before, though I let some of them come to that meeting. . . . If you intend to have the preachers there to watch, and others that I think very unfit, and will not give me liberty to give leave to some that I think fit to be there, I shall not think it my duty to meet them.
So from this time he kept a separate meeting elsewhere.
Sun. 6. Knowing many were greatly tempted on occasion of these occurrences, I preached on 1 Cor. 10:13. ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with every temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.’ In the evening we had a love-feast, at which many spoke with all simplicity. And their words were like fire. I hardly know when we have had so refreshing a season.
Mon. 7. One who is very intimate with them, that had left us, told me in plain terms: ‘Sir, the case lies here: they say, You are only an hypocrite, and therefore they can have no fellowship with you.’
So now the wonder is over. First it was revealed to them that all the people were dead to God. Then they saw that all the preachers were so, too—only for a time they excepted me. At last they discern me to be blind and dead too. Now let him help them that can!

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