- John Valton (1740-94) was born in London. He was of French Roman Catholic origin and was partly educated in France. Valton became an Anglican and served for eighteen years in the army. He came under Methodist influence while stationed in Burfleet and became a class leader. He entered the itinerancy in 1775 and was appointed by Wesley to be a member of the Legal Hundred. Ill health forced him to withdraw from the itinerancy although he continued to preach. In 1792 he wrote a pamphlet against West Indian slavery. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974).
- John Goodwin (1739-1808) was born in Cheshire. He was converted at an early age and became a local preacher shortly after. Goodwin entered the itinerancy in 1768 and exercised an active circuit ministry until his death which occurred in Bolton, Lancashire. He served mainly in the north of England with periods in Cornwall and Dublin. Source: Kenneth B. Garlick, An Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Preachers and Missionaries, and the Stations to which they were appointed 1739-1818 and Methodist Magazine 1808, p.421.
- Alexander McNab (1745-97) was born in Perthshire, Scotland. He joined the itinerancy in 1766 and laboured with great success in circuits across the country. He was well regarded by Wesley who nevertheless expressed concern over McNab's inability to accept criticism. In 1779 McNab embarked on a tour of England to raise money to cover the cost of repairing the Methodist Chapel in Edinburgh. While in Bath, he publicly disputed Wesley's right to invite the Church of Ireland minister Dr Edward Smyth to preach in the Methodist Chapel. He argued that preachers were appointed by the Conference and that Wesley had no right to impose Anglican clergymen on them. It was only after a personal visit by both John and Charles Wesley that the defiance by McNab and his supporters was ended. McNab was expelled from the Connexion but was reinstated in 1780, much to Charles Wesley's disgust. McNab retired from the itinerancy in 1782 and ended his days as the pastor of an independent congregation in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Source: John Pawson, A Chronological Catalogue of all the Travelling Preachers... (1795) and Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of John Wesley volume 3 (1872), pp.303-313.
From John Valton to Charles Wesley. Nothing but the sincere distress that he feels and his fears for the future of the Church of God could have caused him to write this letter. If he is doing wrong by addressing Charles in this manner, a word of reproof will 'send me right humbly to my God'.
Was it wise to tell a friend of Valton's that the Wesleys had a hard time keeping the [preachers] together? That pride had taken a hold among them and that once [John Wesley] was dead, Charles could see what the result would be. Did Charles not speak stronger things in his sermon on the fast day? What good can such prophecies do to the preachers and the work of God? - 'it will irritate the men of little grace, and DISTRESS the sincere preachers of the Word?' Is it true that Charles prayed at Bath for [Edward] Smyth to be given the strength to take the place of the Wesleys after their deaths? How could Charles do this? Surely he is aware that a man of Smyth's 'ramlike nature' would be unacceptable to the preachers - 'Was this not said purely to PLEASE MR SMYTH'S PARTY AND PROVOKE THE OTHERS, or was it a slip of the tongue?'.
Did not Charles also say after praying for [John Wesley] "O Lord he has nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against him"? Who is he referring to? - Brothers [John] Goodwin, Valton or [James] Wood last year? or [Alexander] McNab? Reference is also made to [Dr Thomas] Coke and Mr Collins - is not Charles in danger of harming the righteous as well as the wicked? Valton hopes that he will die before he proves ungrateful to Charles or his brother - 'my mind is paind. I am exceedingly grievd'. Charles's words once spoken cannot be recalled. Valton is however content to suffer as he deserves nothing else.
'The preachers in general fear God, but we have our treasures in earthen vessels. We combat with great infirmities and disadvantages, which call for the SYMPATHY OF OUR dear honoured and reverend parents in the gospel...' Charles should not be afraid of what will happen when [John Wesley] dies, for God will find a replacement.
'Before I conclude, I must inform you Dr Sir, that if I knew I was to die this night, I would not suppress this letter. I write in grief and love, and can at this moment cry Abba Father...'
In a postscript he adds that last night before a vestry full of people, [Edward] Smyth announced that he had received a letter from Charles, repeating his approval of Smyth and asking him to be patient with the preachers (although that was not the name that he called them). Valton wishes that Smyth had not told all this to the people.
Sisters Bluitt and Bacon, old members at Broad Mead, [Bristol] have died. In accordance with Charles's wishes, Valton brought the latter to the [New Room] and preached a funeral sermon over her.
[Annotated by Charles Wesley - 'humble Valton Nov 13 1779 si sic omnia'.]