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I cannot help thinking that Mr John Wesley, the father of the Methodists, was one of the most respectable enthusiasts that ever lived, as it is generally thought that he believed all that he taught others, and lived the same pious exemplary life that he would have his followers practise. The sale of his numerous writings produced net profits to the amount of near two thousand pounds per annum; and the weekly collection of the classes in London and Westminster amounted to a very large sum; besides this, great sums were collected at the sacraments and love-feasts, for quarterly tickets, private and public subscriptions, &c. &c. In a pamphlet which was published in the beginning of this year 1792, by an old member of their society, it is asserted that for the last ten years, the sums collected in Great Britain and Ireland have amounted to no less than four hundred thousand pounds per annum, which reminds me of Peter Pindar's humorous lines.
" I've often read those pious whims,
That chant of heav'nly riches :
But filld their earthly breeches ?”. Besides the above, many private collections are made in all his societies throughout the three kingdoms, so that Mr Wesley might have amassed an immense fortune, had riches been his object. But instead of accumulating wealth he expended all his own private property, and I have been often informed, from good authority, that he never denied relief to a poor person that asked him. To needy tradesmen I have known him to give ten or twenty pounds at once. In going a few yards from his study to the pulpit he ge. nerally gave away a handful of half-crowns to poor old people of his society. He was indeed charitable to an extreme, as he often gave to unworthy objects, nor would he keep money sufficient to hold out on
his journies. One of his friends informs me, that he left but four pounds ten shillings behind him, and I have heard him declare that he would not die worth twenty pounds, except his books for sale, which he has left to the “ general Methodist fund, for carrying on the work of God, hy itinerant preachers,” charged only, with a rent of eighty-five pounds a year, which he has left to the wife and children of his brother Charles.
His learning and great abilities are well known. But I cannot help noticing that in one of his publications (stepping out of his line) he betrayed extreme weakness and credulity, though no doubt his intentions were good. What I allude to is his ‘Primitive Physic,' a work certainly of a dangerous tendency, as the majority of remedies therein prescribed are most assuredly inefficacious, and many of them very dangerous, if administered. The consequence of the first is, that while poor ignorant people are trying these remedies (besides the very great probability of their mistaking the case) the diseases perhaps become so inveterate as to resist the power of more efficacious remedies properly applied ; and with regard to those of a highly dangerous nature, how rash to trust them in the hands of such uninformed people as this book was almost solely intended for, especially when sanctioned by the name of an author whose influence impressed the minds of the unfortunate patients with the most powerful conviction! Many fatal effects, I fear, have been produced by a blind adherence to this compilation ; which carries with it more the appearance of being the production of an ignorant opiniated old woman, than of the man of science and education : one melancholy instance is fresh in my memory: a much esteemed friend having fallen an immediate sacrifice to an imprudent application of one of these remedies.
Permit me just to give you one specimen of the author's wonderful abilities, by quoting a receipt,
which if not an infallible remedy, must at least be acknowledged to be a singular one.
TO CURE A WINDY CHOLIC. "Suck a healthy woman daily. This (says Mr Wesley) was tried by my father.”
Should you, my dear friend, be desirous of perusing a variety of remedies, equally judicious as well as efficacious with those of Mr Wesley, you will meet with ample satisfaction by turning to Dom Pernety's Voyage to the Falkland Islands.' Page 153 to 162, quarto edition.
Some of the receipts there inserted are so truly curious, I can scarce refrain from treating you with a specimen or two; but some of them being very indelicate, I must take care in selecting, for, like Simpkin,
“I pity the ladies so modest and nice.” Take the two following, one being no doubt an effectual remedy for a grievous complaint of that useful quadruped the horse; the other at least equally certain for the cure of one of the most dangerous disorders human nature is subject to.
“Let him take one or two spoonfuls of common salt in half a pint of water !”
"FOR. A MALIGNANT FEVER. “A live tench applied to the feet for twelve hours, then buried quietly, or thrown down the house of office, and the patient will soon recover.”
It was a circumstance peculiarly happy for the practitioners of physic, though no doubt a terrible misfortune to the public, that the difference in religious principles of these two reverend gentlemen proved an effectual bar to the union of their medical abilities, which appear so exactly correspondent; had such an event taken place, that horrid monster disease might by this time have been banished from the earth and the sons of Æsculapius would be doomed to feed
on their own compositions or starve! The Rev. Dr Fordyce, in a late publication, has also given the world a remedy for the cramp, as delicate as efficacious.
But here I think I see you smile at my censuring Mr Wesley for stepping out of his line, when at the very moment I am committing the same error by obtruding my judgment upon the science of physic. I shall only reply, many thought I did the same when I commenced bookseller : and a friend once taught me the adage, (be not offended, 'tis the only scrap of Latin I shall give you)—" Ne sutor ultra crepidam.” But the event has proved it otherwise, and I flatter myself every candid and judicious person capable of judging will think with me on the above subject. And I also must inform you, that in one disorder I have been successful even in physic. The fact is this : Mrs Lackington having several times been cured of the dropsy in the chest by broom tea, I prescribed it to others, nor has it once failed. The last instance was in 1792: a young lady, an only daughter, being nearly lost to her family, she having had the dropsy two years, by my desire took broom tea, a little at a time, once or twice a day, weak or strong as she could bear. She continued this several months, by which she perfectly recovered her health, and I hope she will soon have a good husband. But to resume my narrative.
What a pity that such a character as Mr Wesley was, upon the whole, should have been a dupe and a rank enthusiast! A believer in dreams, visions, immediate revelations, miraculous cures, witchcraft, and many other ridiculous absurdities, as appears from many passages of his journals, to the great disgrace of his abilities and learning ; which puts one in mind of Cæsar, who in his Commentaries turns bridge builder, and a maker of engines; of Periander, who, although he was an excellent physician, quitted physic to write bad verses ; sir Isaac Newton's Exposition of the Revelations, Milton's Paradise Regained,
Dr Johnson's unmanly and childish devotions, &c. &c., and (to compare small things with greater) J. L.'s turning author.
“ This Verro's fault, by frequent praises fir’d,
DALACOURT. However, I think we may safely affirm that Mr Wesley was a good, sincere, and honest one, who denied himself many things ; and really thought that he disregarded the praise and blame of the world, when he was more courted, respected, and followed, than any man living, and he ruled over a hundred and twenty thousand people with an absolute sway, and the love of power seems to have been the main spring of all his actions. I am inclined to believe that his death will be attended with consequences somewhat similar to those which followed the death of Alexander the Great. His spiritual generals will be putting in their pretensions, and soon divide their master's conquests. His death happened at a time rather critical to the Methodists, as the Swedenborgians, or New Jerusalemists, are gaining ground very fast. Many of the Methodists, both preachers and hearers, are already gone over to their party, many more will now, undoubtedly, follow; and the death of that great female champion of Methodism, the countess of Huntingdon, which has since happened, will in all probability occasion another considerable defection from that branch of Methodists, and an additional reinforcement of the Swedenborgians; a proof of the fundness of mankind for novelty and the marvellous, even in religious matters.
Great discoveries and improvements have of late years been made in various branches of the arts and