In England between 1739 and 1775, opposition to the Methodist movement and its leadership-especially John Wesley (1703-1791), his brother Charles (1707-1788), George Whitefield (1714-1770). and Lady Selina Shirley, Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791)-assumed three distinct forms: Anglican bishops prohibited Methodist preachers from conducting services in Established churches; mobs, instigated by Anglican vicars, rioted at Society meetings; beginning around 1739 and continuing even into the nineteenth century, a steady stream of anti-Methodist pamphleteers poured forth invective and twisted Biblical evidence in an effort to expose what they generally concluded to be political traitors, religious heretics, and empty-minded enthusiasts. These opponents, although achieving temporary victories in the first area, never really succeeded even in slowing the advance of the movement. Denied access to Anglican churches, the Wesleys, Whitefield, and Landy Huntingdon established their own chapels and meeting-houses throughout the kingdom; in fact, by 1785, Charles Wesley could write to John concerning the abrupt change in the overall attitude of Anglican bishops: "At present, some of them are quite friendly toward us, particularly towards you. The churches are all open to us, and never could there be less pretence for a separation." And, at the risk of over-simplification (but nevertheless an accurate judgment). the scurrilous anti-Methodist broadsides amounted to little beyond a massive heap of bad prose and verse from the pens of literary nonentities: Thomas Whiston, AB., Rev. Zachary Grey, LL.D., Aquila Smyth, William Bowman, M.A, Joseph Trapp, D.D., Dr. Daniel Waterland, William Fleetwood, Gent., Joseph Hart, Arthur Bedford, M.A, J. Maud, M.A, John Parkhurst, M.A., Thomas Green, M.A., Thomas Griffith, M.A, Alexander Jephson, AB., John Langhorne, and countless others.
However, reaction to Methodism and its leaders was not the exclusive property of hacks or Anglican clergymen, nor was it always totally negative. The literati and persons of high wit contributed thought-provoking and varied points of view to the discussion.
Rogal, Samuel J.
"Horace Walpole and the Methodists,"
University of Dayton Review: Vol. 12:
3, Article 12.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udr/vol12/iss3/12