LETTER - TO THE SAME.
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Mr. Wesley’s letter did not at all disappoint me. I had no expectation of seeing a better, either with regard to the substance, or to the style, and manner of it. If I knew of any kind of answer, that would do him any real good, I should advise it. But to answer it for the good of anyone else, seems to be quite needless. It does not admit of a serious answer, because there is nothing substantial or properly argumentative in it. And to answer it in the way of ridicule, is what I cannot come into, being full as averse to make a mock of him in a religious garb, as to the doing the greatest bodily injury to his person. How far he has answered, or does answer any good ends of providence, or is an instrument in the hands of God, is a matter I meddle not with; only wishing, that every appearance of good, every stirring of zeal, under whatever form it appears, whether in knowledge, or ignorance, in wisdom, or weakness, may be directed, and blessed by God, to the best ends it is capable of.
As to myself, I seem to myself to have no other part to act, nor any call to anything else, in this hurry, and struggle of zeal against zeal, in such a variety of forms, but only, and fully to assert the true ground, and largely open all the reasons, of that one inward regeneration, which is equally the one thing needful to every sect, and the one thing alone that can make every sect, or method, or outward form, not hurtful to those that adhere to it.
For every outward form, however specious or promising, will only help us to be carnally minded, till it is in some degree known, to have no other, or better nature, than that of the shell, which helps us to the kernel.
The doctrines I have published, are in their best state with regard to the reader, as they stand in my books, and will be less useful to him, when they are drawn into controversy. For this reason, I can lend no help to that.
This may perhaps seem to your Ladyship, as if I had too great an opinion of what I had done. And I believe, such a free way of speaking sometimes in conversation of my own books, may have been suspected of smelling too much of self-esteem. But I can with truth assure you, madam, that when I speak of the fullness and clearness of my own writings, I feel no other sentiments of self-sufficiency, than when I speak of the goodness of my own eyes. Nor do I know how to consider the one, more than the other, to be any merit of my own; and therefore when any man, great or little, contemns, reproaches, or asperses me, or my books, as void of sense, truth, and light; I feel no more inward uneasiness, or think myself any more hurt, than if he had only told the world, that my eyes were miserably bad, and I could scarce see to read, even with the best spectacles. And so have no desire controversially to defend the one, more than the other, but contentedly leave them both, to be their own proof of what they are.
I was once a kind of oracle with Mr. Wesley. I never suspected anything bad of him, or ever discovered any kind, or degree of falseness, or hypocrisy in him.
But during all the time of his intimacy with me, I judged him to be much under the power of his own spirit, which seemed to have the predominancy in every good thing, or way, that his zeal carried him to.
It was owing to his unwillingness, or inability to give up his own spirit, that he was forced into that false, and rash censure which he published in print against the mystics: As enemies to good works, and even tending to atheism. A censure so false, and regardless of right and wrong, as hardly anything can exceed it; which is to be found in a preface of his book of hymns. But no more of this.
February 16, l756.