By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
AN OPEN LETTER TO A MINISTER
By John Wesley
"Dear:-- You know I love you. Ever since I knew you, I have neglected no way of showing it, that was in my power. And you know I esteem you for your zeal and activity, for your love of discipline and for your gifts which God has given you, particularly quickness of apprehension and readiness of utterance; especially in prayer.
"Therefore I am jealous over you lest you should lose any of the things you have gained and not receive the full reward: and the more so, because I fear you are wanting in other respects. And who will venture to tell you so? You will scarce know how to bear it from me unless you lift up your heart to God. If you do this I may venture to tell you what I fear without any further preface. I fear you think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Do you not think too highly of your own understanding? Of your gifts? Particularly in preaching? As if you were the very best preacher in the connection? Of your own importance? As if the work of God here or there depended wholly or mainly on you? And of your popularity which I have found to my surprise far less, even in L____, than I expected?
"May this not be much owing to the want of brotherly love? With what measure you mete, men will measure to you again. I fear there is something unloving in your spirit; something not only of roughness but of harshness, yea, of sourness! Are you not also extremely open to prejudice, and not easy to be cured of it? So that whenever you are prejudiced you become bitter, implacable, unmerciful? If so, that people are prejudiced against you it is both the natural and the judicial consequence. "I am afraid lest your want of love to your neighbors should spring from want of love to God; from want of thankfulness. I have sometimes heard you speak in a manner that made me tremble; indeed, in terms that not only a weak Christian, but even a serious Deist, would scruple to use.
"I fear you greatly want evenness of temper. Are you not generally too high or too low? Are not all your passions too lively? Your anger in particular? Is it not too soon raised? And is it not too impetuous? Causing you to be violent, boisterous, bearing down all before you?
"Now, lift up your heart to God, or you will be angry at me. But I must go a little farther. I fear you are greatly wanting in government of your tongue. You are not exact in relating facts. I have observed it myself. You are too apt to amplify; to enlarge a little beyond the truth. You cannot imagine, if others observe this, how it will affect your reputation.
"But I fear you are more wanting in another respect: that you give a loose rein to your tongue when you are angry, that your language then is not only sharp, but coarse and ill-bred. If this be so, the people will not bear it- They will not take it either from you or me.
"I am your affectionate brother, John Wesley."