1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Walter Shirley

Robert Southey, in Life of Wesley (1820; 1874) 2:202-03.



Such was the person who, without any emolument, had undertaken the charge of superintending, in occasional visits, the college at Trevecca, and who withdrew from that charge when Lady Huntingdon called upon all persons in that seminary to disavow the doctrines of Mr. Wesley's minutes, or leave the place. He had at that time no intention or apprehension of taking any further part in the dispute. Shortly afterward the Honorable Walter Shirley, one of her ladyship's chaplains, and of the Calvinistic clergy who had formed a party under her patronage, sent forth a circular letter, stating, that whereas Mr. Wesley's next Conference was to be held at Bristol, it was proposed to have a meeting in that city at the same time, of such principal persons, both clergy and laity, who disapproved of the obnoxious minutes; and as the doctrines therein avowed were thought injurious to the very fundamental principles of Christianity, it was further proposed, that these persons should go in a body to the Conference, and insist upon a formal recantation of the said minutes; and in case of a refusal, sign and publish their protest against them. "Your presence, sir," the letter proceeded, "is particularly requested; but if it should not suit your convenience to be there, it is desired that you will transmit your sentiments on the subject to such person as you think proper to produce them. It is submitted to you, whether a dreadful heresy, to recommend it to as many of your Christian friends, as well of the Dissenters as of the Established Church, as you can prevail on to be there, the cause being of so public a nature." Lodgings were to be provided for the persons who attended.

The proceedings were not so furious as might have been expected from a declaration of war like this. The heat of the Calvinistic party seemed to have spent itself in the first explosion. Mr. Wesley was truly a man of peace; and when the Conference and the anti-council met, the result, unlike that of most other pitched disputations upon points of theology, was something like an accommodation. The meeting was managed with perfect temper on both sides, and with a conciliatory spirit on the part of Shirley himself; a man whose intentions were better than his judgment. Mr. Wesley and the Conference declared, that, in framing the obnoxious minutes, no such meaning was intended as was imputed to them.... Mr. Shirley declared himself satisfied with this declaration, and the interview was concluded with prayer, and professions of peace and love.