1786 JOHN WESLEY. Terse Autograph Letter to His Absolute Worst Circuit Preacher!
1786 JOHN WESLEY. Terse Autograph Letter to His Absolute Worst Circuit Preacher!

1786 JOHN WESLEY. Terse Autograph Letter to His Absolute Worst Circuit Preacher!

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Okay, maybe not his worst. But anyone who has been a leader in just about any capacity has probably had "that guy" somewhere in their organization or ministry; the person who has just makes a habit of extracting a pound of pain for every ounce of benefit they add. And they absolutely drain leaders time and emotion.

For John Wesley, that guy's name was Jasper Winscom. His association with Methodism begins in the 1760's. A local shopkeeper in Winchester, in 1764, Winscom's wife was given some of the sermons of Wesley to bring home. They were read by both and Winscom was instantly a "Methodist." He invited Methodist preachers to come to come preach and within a year had a small class of Methodists meeting in his home. By the time Wesley arrived in Winchester to preach in 1765, Winscom already had a small gathering of converts and was appointed a local preacher. All seemed well.

As early as 1769, we begin to see a steady stream of letters from Winscom to Wesley and replies from Wesley to Winscom. It is trouble after trouble. Winscom wanted smaller circuits, more preachers; he wanted permanent preachers [anathema to Wesley!]; he wanted to be moved to the Isle of Wight. In the last instance, he seems to have torn down the character of the person then preacher there in order to make room for himself. We read Wesley repeatedly urging to Winscom that this or that thing is "not the Methodist way" and instead is a "novelty." 

Winscom was abrasive, demanding, and persistent. His own charge was the scene to regular riots and mobs against the Methodists and Winscom's preaching; we do wonder how much of this was outrage against the Gospel and how much was resistance to such a challenging, we might even say bullying, personality. In 1785 the Meeting House was badly damaged by a mob, seemingly led by women. 

The present letter is one in their lengthy correspondence. It has the terse tone their correspondence took on over the years as Winscom's habitual complaints and requests for change of station or organization [which seemed to always favor him personally] droned on. 

The present letter involves yet another instance of drama and stress between Winscom and Wesley. Winscom had requested that Wesley approve an interest free loan of 100 pounds to build the Meeting House in Winchester in 1784. The loan was approved, but not being paid back. Wesley requested payment and it seems that Winscom then pursued a frivolous lawsuit of 100 pounds, which Wesley counseled against, won, and settled the debt with those funds. Wesley urged, "The Conference cannot, and will not, bear the expense of that foolish law suit." He pursued it anway. Knowing the story, you can hear the tension in Wesley's voice; pay the money, don't get lawyers involved, follow THE PLAN!

A wonderfully earthy reminder that not all was great in the Great Awakening; that there was plenty of human still in the mix.

Oct 27, 1786

My dear Brother,

The sooner the affair is finished the better. I desire therefore that Mr. Ash** will receive what is in Mr. Smith's hands. You say you can borrow as much more from Mr. Gifford . . . . to make up the Hundred. As soon as this is paid off, the house may be transferred to five or more trustees on the Conference Plan. I forbid employing any attorney. You have the Deed of Conveyance in the Minutes which any one can transcribe. I am,

Your affectionate Brother.

Address panel and letter mounted neatly; rather nicely preserved overall. Some foxing.