Friday, September 2, 2011
Wesley has some defenders in Court
Fri. 2 Sept 1737: Was the third court at which I appeared since my being carried before Mr. Parker and the Recorder.
I now moved for an immediate hearing on the first bill [read the charges against Wesley here ], being the only one of a civil nature, but it was refused. I made the same motion in the afternoon, but was put off till the next court-day.
On the next court-day I appeared again, as also at the two courts following, but could not be heard, ‘because (the Judge said) Mr. Williamson was gone out of town’.
The sense of the minority of the grand jurors themselves (for they were by no means unanimous) concerning these presentments, may appear from the following paper, which they transmitted to the Trustees.
To the Honourable the Trustees for
Whereas two presentments have been made, the one of August 23, the other of August 31, by the grand jury of
Savannah in , against John Wesley, Clerk. Georgia
We whose names are underwritten, being members of the said grand jury, do humbly beg leave to signify our dislike of the said presentments; being by many and divers circumstances thoroughly persuaded in ourselves that the whole charge against Mr. Wesley is an artifice of Mr. Causton’s, designed rather to blacken the character of Mr. Wesley than to free the colony from religious tyranny, as he was pleased in his charge to us to term it. But as these circumstances will be too tedious to trouble your honours with, we shall only beg leave to give the reasons of our dissent from the particular bills.
With regard to the first bill, we do not apprehend that Mr. Wesley acted against any law by writing or speaking to Mrs. Williamson, since it does not appear to us that the said Mr. Wesley has either spoke in private or wrote to the said Mrs. Williamson, since March 12, except one letter of July the 5th, which he wrote at the request of her aunt, as a pastor, to exhort and reprove her.
The second we do not apprehend to be a true bill, because we humbly conceive Mr. Wesley did not assume to himself any authority contrary to law. For we understand every person intending to communicate should ‘signify his name to the Curate at least some time the day before’, which Mrs. Williamson did not do; although Mr. Wesley had often in full congregation declared he did insist on a compliance with that rubric, and had before repelled divers persons for noncompliance therewith.
The third we do not think a true bill, because several of us have been his hearers when he has declared his adherence to the Church of England, in a stronger manner than by a formal declaration; by explaining and defending the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, the Thirty-nine Articles, the whole Book of Common Prayer, and the Homilies of the said Church; and because we think a formal declaration is not required but from those who have received institution and induction.
The fact alleged in the fourth bill we cannot apprehend to be contrary to any law in being.
The fifth we do not think a true bill, because we conceive Mr. Wesley is justified by the rubric, viz., ‘If they (the parents) certify that the child is weak, it shall suffice to pour water upon it’—intimating (as we humbly suppose) it shall not suffice if they do not certify.
The sixth cannot be a true bill, because the said William Gough, being one of our members, was surprised to hear himself named without his knowledge or privity; and did publicly declare it was no grievance to him, because the said John Wesley had given him reasons with which he was satisfied.
The seventh we do not apprehend to be a true bill, for Nathanael Polhill was an Anabaptist, and desired in his lifetime that he might not be interred with the office of the Church of England. And farther, we have good reason to believe that Mr. Wesley was at Frederica, or on his return thence, when Polhill was buried.
As to the eighth bill we are in doubt, as not well knowing the meaning of the word ‘Ordinary’. But for the ninth and tenth we think Mr. Wesley is sufficiently justified by the Canons of the Church, which forbid ‘any person to be admitted godfather or godmother to any child before the said person has received the Holy Communion’; whereas William Aglionby and Jacob Matthews had never certified Mr. Wesley that they had received it.
This was signed by twelve of the grand jurors, of whom three were constables, and six more tithingmen; who consequently would have made a majority had the jury consisted, as it regularly should have done, of only fifteen members, viz., the four constables and eleven tithingmen.