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METHODISM. (E. Review, 1809.)
Strictures on two Critiques in the Edinburgh Review, on the Subject of Methodism and Missions; with Remarks on the Influence of Reviews, in general, on Morals and Happiness. By John Styles. 8vo. London, 1809.
IN routing out a nest of consecrated cobblers, and in bringing to light such a perilous heap of trash as we were obliged to work through, in our articles upon the Methodists and Missionaries, we are generally conceived to have rendered an useful service to the cause of rational religion. Every one, however, at all acquainted with the true character of Methodism, must have known the extent of the abuse and misrepresentation to which we exposed ourselves in such a service. All this obloquy, however, we were very willing to encounter, from our conviction of the necessity of exposing and correcting the growing evil of fanaticism. In spite of all misrepresentation, we have ever been, and ever shall be, the sincere friends of sober and rational Christianity. We are quite ready, if any fair opportunity occur, to defend it, to the best of our ability, from the tiger-spring of infidelity; and we are quite determined, if we can prevent such an evil, that it shall not be eaten up by the nasty and numerous vermin of Methodism. For this purpose, we shall proceed to make a few short remarks upon the sacred and silly gentleman before us, – not, certainly, because we feel any sort of anxiety as to the effect of his strictures on our own credit or reputation, but because his direct and articulate defence of the principles and practices which we have condemned, affords us the fairest opportunity of exposing, still more clearly, both the extravagance and the danger of these popular sectaries. These very impudent people have one ruling canon, which pervades every thing they say and do. Whoever is unfriendly to Methodism, is an infidel and an atheist. This reasonable and amiable maxim, repeated, in every form of dulness, and varied in every attitude of malignity, is the sum and substance of Mr. Styles's pamphlet. Whoever wishes to rescue religion from the hands of didactic artisans—whoever prefers a respectable clergyman for his teacher to a delirious .*. ever wishes to keep the intervals between churches and lunatic asylums as wide as possible — all such men, in the estimation of Mr. Styles, are nothing better than open or concealed enemies of Christianity. His catechism is very simple. In what hoy do you navigate 2 By what shoemaker or carpenter are you instructed 2 What miracles have you to relate 2 Do you think it sinful to reduce Providence to an alternative, &c. &c. &c. Now, if we were to content ourselves with using to Mr. Styles, while he is dealing about his imputations of infidelity, the uncourtly language which is sometimes applied to those who are little curious about truth or falsehood, what Methodist would think the worse of him for such an attack 2 Who is there among them that would not glory to lie for the tabernacle 2 who that would not believe he was pleasing his Maker, by sacrificing truth, justice, and common sense, to the interests of his own little chapel, and his own deranged instructor 2 Something more than contradiction or confutation, therefore, is necessary to discredit those charitable dogmatists, and to diminish their pernicious influence;— and the first accusation against us is, that we have endeavoured to add ridicule to reasoning. We are a good deal amused, indeed, with the extreme disrelish which Mr. John Styles exhibits to the humour and pleasantry with which he admits the Methodists to have been attacked; but Mr. John Styles should remember, that it is not the practice with destroyers of vermin to allow the little victims a veto upon the weapons used against them. If this were otherwise, we should have one set of vermin banishing small-tooth combs; another protesting against mouse-traps; a third prohibiting the finger and thumb; a fourth exclaiming
against the intolerable infamy of using soap and water. It is impossible, however, to listen to such pleas. They must all be caught, killed, and cracked, in the manner, and by the instruments which are found most effi
cacious to their destruction; and the more they cry
out, the greater plainly is the skill used against them.
We are convinced a little laughter will do them more harm than all the arguments in the world. Such men as the author before us, cannot understand when they are out-argued ; but he has given us a specimen, from his irritability, that he fully comprehends when he has become the object of universal contempt and derision. We agree with him, that ridicule is not exactly the weapon to be used in matters of religion; but the use of it is excusable, when there is no other which can make fools tremble. Besides, he should remember the particular sort of ridicule we have used, which is nothing more than accurate quotation from the Methodists themselves. It is true, that this is the most severe and cutting ridicule to which we could have had recourse; but, whose fault is that ? Nothing can be more disingenuous than the attacks Mr. Styles has made upon us for our use of Scripture language. Light and grace are certainly terms of Scripture. . It is not to the words themselves that any
ridicule can ever attach. It is from the preposterous
application of those words, in the mouths of the most arrogant and ignorant of human beings;– it is from their use in the most trivial, low, and familiar scenes of life; — it is from the illiterate and ungrammatical prelacy of Mr. John Styles, that any tinge of ridicule ever is or ever can be imparted to the sacred language of Scripture. We admit also, with this gentleman, that it would certainly evince the most vulgar and contracted heart, to ridicule any religious opinions, methodistical or otherwise, because they were the opinions of the poor, and were conveyed in the language of the poor. But are we to respect the poor, when they wish to step out of their province, and become the teachers of the land 2– VOL. I. U
when men, whose proper “talk is of bullocks,' pretend to have “wisdom and understanding, is it not lawful to tell them they have none * : An ironmonger is a very respectable man, so long as he is merely an ironmonger, —an admirable man, if he is a religious ironmonger; but a great blockhead, if he sets up for a bishop or a dean, and lectures upon theology. It is not the poor we have attacked — but the writing poor, the publishing poor—the limited arrogance which mistakes its own trumpery sect for the world: nor have we attacked them for want of talent, but for want of modesty, want of sense, and want of true rational religion — for every fault which Mr. John Styles defends and exemplifies. It is scarcely possible to reduce the drunken declamations of Methodism to a point, to grasp the wriggling lubricity of these cunning animals, and to fix them in one position. We have said, in our review of the Methodists, that it is extremely wrong to suppose that Providence interferes with special and extraordinary judgments on every trifling occasion of life: that to represent an innkeeper killed for preventing a Methodist meeting, or loud claps of thunder rattling along the heavens, merely to hint to Mr. Scott that he was not to preach at a particular tabernacle in Oxford Road, appeared to us to be blasphemous and mischievous nonsense. With great events, which change the destiny of mankind, we might suppose such interference, the discovery of which, upon every trifling occasion, we consider to be pregnant with very mischievous consequences. –To all which Mr. Styles replies, that, with Providence, nothing is great, or nothing little—nothing difficult, or nothing easy ; that a worm and a whale are equal in the estimation of a Supreme Being.— But did any human being but a Methodist, and a third or fourth rate Methodist, ever make such a reply to such an argument * We are not talking of what is great or important to Providence, but to us. The creation of a worm or a whale, a Newton or a Styles, are tasks equally easy to Omnipotence. But are they, in their results, equally important to us? The lightning may as easily strike the head of the French emperor, as of an innocent cottager; but we are surely neither impious nor obscure, when we say, that one would be an important interference of Providence, and the other comparatively not so. But it is a loss of time to reply to such trash ; it presents no stimulus of difficulty to us; nor would it offer any of novelty to our readers. To our attack upon the melancholy tendency of Methodism, Mr. Styles replies, ‘that a man must have studied in the schools of Hume, Voltaire, and Kotzebue, who can plead in behalf of the theatre; that, at fashionable ball-rooms and assemblies, seduction is drawn out to a system; that dancing excites the fever of the passions, and raises a delirium too often fatal to innocence and peace; and that, for the poor, instead of the common rough amusements to which they are now addicted, there remain the simple beauties of nature, the gay colours, and scented perfumes of the earth.' These are the blessings which the common people have to expect from their Methodistical instructors. They are pilfered of all their money—shut out from all their dances and country wakes—and are then sent penniless into the fields, to gaze on the clouds, and smell to dandelions! Against the orthodox clergy of all descriptions, our sour devotee proclaims, as was to have been expected, the most implacable war;-declaring, that, ‘in one century they would have obliterated all the remaining practical religion in the church, had it not been for this new sect, every where spoken against.’ Undoubtedly, the distinction of mankind into godly and ungodly — if by godly is really meant those who apply religion to the extinction of bad passions—would be highly desirable. But when, by that word, is only ...i a sect more desirous of possessing the appellation than of deserving it, when, under that term, are comprehended thousands of canting hypocrites and raving enthusiasts—men despicable from their ignorance, and formidable from their madness — the distinction may hereafter prove to be truly