From [Charles Caspar] Graves [see note below] to [William Seward]. He is more and more convinced that unless a man departs from his natural 'tempers and judgements' he cannot enter into the true spirit of religion. There is certainly in man’s natural mind, not only ignorance and error, but also pride and many 'fleshly reasonings against ye truth'. It makes him rejoice when he considers that Seward has escaped the grosser pollutions of the world, its false judgements and vain pleasures. If they stand faithful to their baptismal vow and continue as faithful soldiers of Christ, they must expect a great deal of opposition. Any who would live Christian lives, will suffer persecution – 'one would think no-one could contradict so plain a truth as this is, spoken by ye Holy Ghost himself, but many (not knowing what it is to seek Christ in sincerity, do, they seem to value themselves upon their prudence, & to talk exceeding wise upon ye necessity, yet in dispentable duty of avoiding particularity; but I am satisfied, that if a person dares not to be particular, he will often [be] obliged to neglect ye most necessary parts of Christian charity & piety. To be sure we must avoid giving offence, as far as we possibly can, but we must persist in the labour of love (notwithstanding ye world) which knows not what it is to have a true love for souls) should be offended by it.'
His chief design in mentioning the above, is to say that they should not be swayed by the opinion of man and no stress should be attached to their 'mistaken notion of things, but let our all be in God'. They should be pleased if they are reproached for their faith. 'Oh this is an eminent degree of virtue, it bespeaks great perfection.'
May the Lord be with Seward. Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail.
In a postscript, he adds that he has not been to Dunbleton [Probably Dumbleton in Gloucestershire] yet; not that he has been forgetful of Seward’s 'beloved child, but Mrs Copon has been from home & as I haven’t seen her some time, my visit must be to her. The oftener you see my country friends, ye more good you will probably do, which is ye only reason I could have for not wishing your daughter along with some of ye foolish of this world, who are chosen by God to confound ye wise.'
Graves has not been at Badsey [Badsey near Evesham in Worcestershire, home of the Seward family] since writing his last letter. Mr Rollins is 'attending' the society there and may think it impertinent of Graves to visit more often as he is so young. Also because Seward’s brother stays there all winter, Graves might cause inconvenience to the Seward family. In any event, he will visit soon.
What has Seward heard from [George] Whitefield ? Graves’ sister will write soon to Mr [John] Wesley if she can. She has asked if she could get some franks from Seward.
There is a Mr Shenstone [see note below] here of Pembroke College [Oxford University] with brother Richard. Shenstone is a very sensible man and ready to listen to anything religious, but he has not much of a 'divine, historical faith, which is only in ye understanding without any influence upon ye affections, any work of grace upon the heart, nay, he hasn’t I believe a bare human faith, which is taken generally from custom, education, or other human end.'
There is a gentleman from Gloucester here, a Mr Vernon who is a councillor. He thinks that the Bishop of Gloucester will not admit Whitefield’s full orders [ie. recognise George Whitefield’s full ministerial status].
Mr Shenstone wants some divine poetry. Graves wishes that he had that collection of hymns that is soon to be published.
In a postscript, Graves refers to a book entitled 'A Spiritual Duel between a Christian and Satan'.
- Charles Caspar Graves (1717-1787) was born in Mickleton, Gloucestershire, the son of an antiquary. He was educated at Magdalen College Oxford and became friendly with the Wesleys, spending three months with Charles Wesley at Stanton Harcourt. However, two years after the Wesleys left for Georgia, Graves was removed from College on the grounds of insanity and in 1740 he was persuaded by his friends to sign a paper denouncing the Methodists. Regardless of the denunciation, Graves maintained contact with the Wesleys and commenced an open-air preaching ministry. In 1742 he accompanied Charles Wesley to Donnington Park and later contributed to the spread of the revival in West Yorkshire. Graves became Vicar of Ocbrook in Derbyshire and John Wesley preached in his church in 1746 and 1747. However, he turned against the Wesleys soon after and vanished from the evangelical scene.
- William Shenstone (1714-1763) was born at Halesowen in Worcestershire. He was educated at the local grammar school and matriculated from Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1732. During his time at the university, Shenstone produced a volume of poems for private circulation. He did not take any degree but remained on the college books until 1742. In 1741, Shenstone published anonymously a poem entitled The Judgement of Hercules and the following year, brought out a revised version of his best-known poem the Schoolmistress – an earlier draft had appeared in the Oxford collection. This work was widely praised by Johnson and Goldsmith. Shenstone had inherited a comfortable estate from his mother’s side of the family and in 1745 settled close to his home town. With the exception of the Schoolmistress and some of his elegies, Shenstone produced little of worth and was termed 'that watergruel bard' by Walpole. At the end of the 1730s, Shenstone had shown some interest in the first stirrings of the evangelical revival. He was acquainted with the Anglican minister Charles Caspar Graves.