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THE publication of the "Vindication of Mr. Wesley's Minutes" having been represented by some persons as an act of injustice, the following letter is made public to throw some light upon that little event, and serve as a preface to the SECOND CHECK TO ANTINOMIANISM. To the Rev. Mr. John Wesley.
"Rev. and Dear SIR,-As I love open dealing, I send you the substance, and almost the very words, of a private letter I have just written to Mr. Shirley, in answer to one, in which he informs me he is going to publish his Narrative. He is exceedingly welcome to make use of any part of my letters to Mr. Ireland, concerning the publication of my Vindication, and you are equally welcome to make what use you please of this. Among friends all things are, or should be, common. "I am, Rev. and dear sir, yours, &c, J. FLETCHER. "MADELEY, Sept. 11, 1771."
To the Hon. and Rev. Mr. Shirley.
"REV. AND DEAR SIR,-It is extremely proper, nay, it is highly necessary, that the public should be informed how much like a minister of the Prince of Peace, and a meek, humble, loving brother in the Gospel of Christ you behaved at the conference. Had I been there, I would gladly have taken upon me to proclaim these tidings of joy to the lovers of Zion's peace. Your conduct at that time of love is certainly the best excuse for the hasty step you had taken; as my desire of stopping my Vindication, upon hearing it, is the best apology I can make for my severity to you.
"I am not averse at all, sir, to your publishing the passages you mention, out of my letters to Mr. Ireland. They show my peculiar love and respect for you, which I shall at all times think an honour, and at this juncture shall feel a peculiar pleasure, to see proclaimed to the world. They apologize for my calling myself a lover of quietness, when I unfortunately prove a son of contention and they demonstrate, that I am not altogether void of the fear that becomes an awkward, unexperienced surgeon, when he ventures to open a vein in the arm of a person for whom he has the highest regard. How natural is it for him to tremble, lest by missing the intended vein, and pricking an unseen artery, he should have done irreparable mischief, instead of a useful operation.
"But while you do me the kindness of publishing those passages, -permit me, sir, to do Mr. Wesley the justice of informing him I had also written to Mr. Ireland, that whether my letters were suppressed or not, the Minutes must be vindicated,—that Mr. Wesley owed it to the Church, to the real Protestants, to all his societies, and to his own aspersed character;-and that, after all, the controversy did not seem to me to be so much, whether the Minutes should stand, as whether the Antinomian gospel of Dr. Crisp should prevail over the practical Gospel of Jesus Christ.'
"I must also, sir, beg leave to let my vindicated friend know, that in the very letter where I so earnestly entreated Mr. Ireland to stop the publication of my letters to you, and offered to take the whole expense of the impression upon myself, though I should be obliged to sell my last shirt to defray it, I added, that if they were published, I must look upon it as a necessary evil or misfortune;' which of the two words I used I do not justly recollect. A misfortune for you and me, who must appear inconsistent to the world: you, sir, with your Sermons, and I with my title page; and nevertheless necessary to vindicate misrepresented truth, defend an eminent minister of Christ, and stem the torrent of Antinomianism.
"It may not be improper also, to observe to you, sir, that when I presented Mr. Wesley with my Vindication, I begged he would correct it, and take away whatever might be unkind or too sharp; urging that, though I meant no unkindness, I was not a proper judge of what I had written under peculiarly delicate and trying circumstances, as well as in a great hurry; and did not therefore dare to trust either my pen, my head, or my heart. He was no sooner gone, than I sent a letter after him, to repeat and urge the same request; and he wrote me word he had expunged every tart expression.' If he has, (for I have not yet seen what alterations his friendly pen has made,) I am reconciled to their publication; and that he has I have reason to hope from the letters of two judicious London friends, who calmed my fears lest I should have treated you with unkindness.
"One of them says, I reverence Mr. Shirley for his candid acknowledgment of his hastiness in judging. I commend the Calvinists at the conference for their justice to Mr. Wesley, and their acquiescence in the declaration of the preachers in connection with him. But is that declaration, however dispersed, a remedy adequate to the evil done, not only to Mr. Wesley, but to the cause and work of God? Several Calvinists, in eagerness of malice, had dispersed their calumnies through the three kingdoms. A truly excellent person herself, in her mistaken zeal, had represented him as a Papist unmasked, a heretic, an apostate. A clergyman of the first reputation informs mo
a Poem on his Apostasy is just coming out. Letters have been sent to every serious Churchman and Dissenter through the land, together with the Gospel Magazine. Great are the shoutings, And now that he lieth, let him rise up no more! This is all the cry. His dearest friends and children are staggered, and scarce know what to think. You, in your corner, cannot conceive the mischief that has been done, and is still doing. But your letters, in the hand of Providence, may answer the good ends you proposed by writing them. You have not been too severe to dear Mr. Shirley, moderate Calvinists themselves being judges; but very kind and friendly to set a good mistaken man right, and probably to preserve him from the like rashness as long as he lives. Be not troubled, therefore, but cast your care upon the Lord.'
My other friend says, 'Considering what harm the Circular Letter has done, and what a useless satisfaction Mr. Shirley has given by his vague acknowledgment, it is no more than just and equitable that your letters should be published.'
“Now, sir, as I never saw that acknowledgment, nor the softening corrections made by Mr. Wesley in my Vindication; as I was not informed of some of the above mentioned particulars when I was so eager to prevent the publication of my letters; and as I have reason to think, that through the desire of an immediate peace, the festering wound was rather skinned over than probed to the bottom; all I can say about this publication is, what I wrote to our common friend, namely, that I must look upon it as a necessary evil.'
"I am glad, sir, you do not direct your letter to Mr. Olivers, who was so busy in publishing my Vindication; for, by a letter I have just received from Bristol, I am informed he did not hear how desirous I was to call it in, till he had actually given out before a whole congregation it would be sold. Beside, he would have pleaded with smartness that he never approved of the patched-up peace, that he bore his testimony against it at the time it was made, and had a personal right to produce my arguments, since both parties refused to hear his at the conference.
"If your letter is friendly, sir, and you print it in the same size with my Vindication, I shall gladly buy ten pounds' worth of the copies, and order them to be stitched with my Vindication, and given gratis to the purchasers of it; as well to do you justice as to convince the world that we make a loving war; and also to demonstrate how much I regard your respectable character, and honour your dear person. Mr. Wesley's heart is, I am persuaded, too full of brotherly love to deny me the pleasure of thus showing you how sincerely I am, Rev. and dear sir, your obedient servant, JOHN FLETCHER.
"MADELEY, September 11, 1771."