1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Walter Shirley

Samuel Badcock, 1782; in Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 5:224.



Mr. John Wesley's prudence hath been frequently imputed to some sinister motives; and what appeared to his friends as "the wisdom of the serpent," was pronounced by his enemies to be "the craft of the wicked one." The zealots of the second house of Methodism speak this with a full mouth. I was at Bristol some years since, when the Hon. Mr. Shirley, by the order of my Lady Huntingdon, called him to a public account for certain expressions which he had uttered in some charge to his clergy, which savoured too much of the Popish doctrine of the merit of good works. Various speculations were formed as to the manner in which Mr. Wesley would evade the charge. Few conjectured right; but all seemed to agree in one thing; and that was, that he would somehow or other baffle his antagonist: and baffle him he did; as Mr. Shirley afterwards confessed in a very lamentable pamphlet, which he published on this redoubted controversy. In the crisis of the dispute, I heard a celebrated preacher, who was one of Whitefield's successors, express his suspicion of the event; "for," says he, "I know him of old: he is an eel; take him where you will, he will slip through your fingers."