From William Briggs in London. He is tired of worrying about the subject of his last, had he not some faint hopes that to write again might be useful. Wesley's advice of "prayer & patience" is excellent but 'ought some of us who are concerned for the honour of God & the reputation of our Society to set down indifferent to all that pass amongst those who are called OUR BRETHREN'. He must confess that his wounds become greater every time he hears about them [Bell, Maxfield and their followers] but hopes that he shall never feel or show any anger towards them, however shocked he may be at their behaviour.
Mr Matthews assures him that he heard from a reliable source that after Briggs left the meeting in Beech Street on 27 October, Brother [?John] Owen declared that those who believed in what was being declared [at the meeting] would be saved, but those who did not would be damned.
There are seven people at the other end of London who meet in a dark room to see visions, as if they could not see as well at noon with their eyes closed. Briggs was unable to discover if these were males, females, or a mixture of both. They have called upon a lame man to arise and walk, and afterwards to Blind John to open his eyes and see. Their efforts to heal were unsuccessful which they attributed to their subjects' lack of faith. One would have thought that God's refusal to grant them power at their command (such is their style of prayer) would have caused them to think again, 'but when weak heads are filld with a persuasion of having a peculiar gift from above, it generally transpires in acts of obstinate folly'.
Every meeting since the one attended by Briggs seems to have increased in wildness. No good could be achieved by his presence at another such gathering. It is not in Briggs's power to check such excessive behaviour.
Brother Charles [?Perronet] says that he will print something to counter the arguments of the man in the gallery [see DDPr 10]. He was there the same night as Briggs and said that while Bell was certainly an enthusiast, great good had been done.
[John Wesley] at Spitalfields Chapel last Sunday morning [7 November] preached such a sermon as should be published and indeed printed on the heart of every Methodist. His text was Knowledge puffeth up; but love edefyeth. He spoke highly of knowledge and other gifts whether natural, acquired or divine. He proved that all these tend to 'puff up, if not under subjection to love'.
[The Spitalfields Chapel situated in Grey Eagle Street was built by French Huguenot refugees in the late seventeenth century. It was acquired by the Methodists in 1750 and was one the most important chapels in London until the local society moved to another site in 1819. The building still stands as part of Truman's brewery. Source: J. Henry Martin, John Wesley's London Chapels (1946), pp.53-54, and John Vickers and Betty Young, A Methodist Guide to London and the South-east (1980), p.8.]
In the evening at the Foundery, [John Wesley] preached upon Look unto me all the ends of the earth & be saved. He said that to be saved was to be convinced of sin, to be justified and to be sanctified. He argued as follows:
1. Conviction is the first work of the Spirit.
2. Justification or the New Birth is an instantaneous work of the Holy Ghost.
3. Sanctification is also instantaneous being the death of sin.
4. He tried to prove that justification and sanctification were easily distinguished by using the following analogy 'supposing a professor of EACH to stand up. Ask the first, have you no pride or anger or desire? He will answer yes...at times they greatly trouble me; but by the grace of God, I can keep them under...Ask the other the same questions & he will answer, No, by the Grace of God I find no remains of any evil & have likewise the witness from above that they are all done away & the change was instantaneous'.
5. He asserted that if sanctification is not instantaneous because it is not mentioned in the Bible, then neither is justification. They can both be proved only by reason and experience.
6. This was not a new doctrine but rather what he had preached from the very beginning. For proof of this point he referred to his journal for about the year 1739 'wherein in a comparative review he describes his own state of soul'.
Briggs thinks that he has reported [John Wesley's] very expressions and that he has interpreted them correctly. [Thomas] Butts was also in the congregation and the two compared notes - 'we were equally surprized at the four last articles'. [Thomas Butts acted with William Briggs as the first steward of the Book Room, where his honesty and business sense proved valuable. His Harmonia Sacra was the chief source for Wesley's Sacred Melody. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)
Despite Wesley's encouragement, Briggs had no intention of bothering [John Wesley] with his observations on recent developments, but his 'extream tenderness & moderation (very judicious if he could not believe what he heard every day since his coming to town) in the Society, quietend my concern & ?forcd from me as long as loving & as respectful letter as I lately wrote you'.
Briggs will now leave matters to take their course. He trusts that he will never refuse a favour or decline to undertake a task which might be for the glory of God. Yet after doing his best he can do no more than leave the matter in God's hands. To engage in violent opposition might only increase the strife and hurt Briggs himself. He will however say this; there must be a separation soon, and if [John Wesley] should decide to come out against [Bell and his followers] they will not remain [within the Society]. They will become a separate group meeting in dark rooms and engaging in ridiculous behaviour before finally sinking into oblivion.
Mr Matthews 'came up surprizingly' [arrived in London?] and gave them cause for great happiness with his report that God has strengthened Charles for his daily task.
- The Brother Owen referred to in the above, may have been the silk weaver John Owen (1745-1815), who was converted by John Wesley and served for many years as a local preacher at the Foundery and City Road. Source: George John Stevenson, City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Memorial (1872), pp.182-3,333,578