[From Letters from IoM 1846]
" In no part of the world is religious toleration so well established as in this island, as no licence is required either for the preacher or the place in which he ministers, and liberty of conscience is enjoyed by all."-MANX GUIDE.
METHODIST CHAPELS are now erected in almost every parish; but so strongly attached were the Manks to the episcopal church, that, (with the exception of a few quakers), there appears to have been no dissent in the island until the arrival of this sect. There are now also independents, presbyterians, &c., and a Roman-catholic chapel 1 at Douglas.
" The respect of the Manks for public rites," says Lord Teignmouth, " is proved by the frequent and general attendance of the people at the churches and methodist chapels, and the caution which they show in holding their services at the latter at such times as not to interfere with those of the establishment, and their numerous assemblages at sacramental services in the country parishes. The growth of dissent from the established church has been rapid in the Isle of Man."
It is not known what line of conduct the clergy of Man adopted at the Reformation; but it appears that when the island was granted to General Fairfax during the commonwealth, no opposition was made to the episcopal form of worship as established in the island. But shortly after the promulgation of the doctrines of William Penn, the quakers went over to this island, and succeeded in converting several of the natives to their doctrines, but were ultimately banished, and their property confiscated ; and the only trace of the former existence of this sect in the island, is their burial ground, called "Rolick ny Quakeran." The celebrated John Wesley was the next who attempted to plant his doctrines here, and, for that purpose sent over, in 1775, one of his preachers, named Crook, who, after undergoing much persecution, succeeded in establishing a society which Wesley himself visited in the year 1777. " The Bishop of Sodor and Man," says one of Wesley's biographers, " having written a pastoral letter to all the clergy within his diocese, to warn their flocks against methodism, and exhorting them to present all who attended in the spiritual courts, and to repel every methodist preacher from the sacrament, Mr. Wesley2 hastened to the island, and, in May 1777, landed at Douglas. At every place he appears to have been cordially received by all ranks, and his prompt visit probably put a stop to this threatened ecclesiastical violence, for no further mention is made of it. The societies in the island continued to flourish, and on Mr. Wesley's second visit he found a new bishop of a more liberal character." It has been well observed, that " religious disputes and differences, which of all others should be managed most in the temper of meekness and charity, are generally prosecuted with the most extreme violence," and painful, indeed, is it to find such epithets as the following applied by John and Charles Wesley to Whitfield and the Calvinists, after their separation-viz., " devil's factors," " Satan's synagogues," " children of the old roaring hellish murderer, who believed his lie," " advocates for sin," "witnesses for the father of lies," " blasphemers," " Satan sent preachers," "devils," "liars," "fiends," &c.3 I can hardly imagine how any one (much less a minister of the gospel of peace and good will), professing to be a follower of Christ, could thus so grievously violate His precepts. When heated by religious controversy, Wesley seems quite to have forgotten the excellent advice given him by Dr. Potter, Archbishop of Canterbury, and which he, at other times, seemed so desirous of following, declaring-" I have ever since had reason to bless God for it." " If you desire," said Dr. Potter, " to be extensively useful, do not spend your time and strength in contending for or against such things as are of a disputable nature, but in testifying against open notorious vice, and in promoting real essential holiness. Let us keep to this, leaving a thousand disputable points to those who have no better business than to toss the ball of controversy to and fro.4 It is gratifying, however, to find that a mutual reconciliation at length took place between Wesley and Whitfield, and on the death of the latter, the former, and his brother Charles, were designated in his will as "his honoured and dear friends, and disinterested fellow-labourers;" and his funeral sermon was preached by John Wesley by his special desire.
Wesley, with all his failings, was a sincere Christian, and it was doubtless through his exertions that multitudes of the vilest and most reprobate men were brought from a state bordering upon downright barbarism to become sober, steady, and useful members of society. some idea may be formed of the rooted ignorance and barbarity of the Kingswood Colliers from the following anecdote, related by a travelling preacher:-" So much addicted were these colliers to cursing and swearing in their ordinary conversation, that, even after their conversion, when they had just returned from a religious meeting, they would sometimes exclaim, that 'they had had a d-d sweet season.'
1" There has not," says Bishop Wilson, " for many years, been a papist a native of the island."
2 John Wesley's judgment, though not infallible, was often excellent. He quickly discerned spiritual pride, and was not slow in reproving it. A lady came to him, one day, complaining that " She was the chief of sinners, utterly lost," &c. " I have no doubt, madam," he replied, " you are bad enough." This unexpected reply so disconcerted this chief of sinners, that she instantly flew into a passion, declaring, "She was no worse than her neighbours," and that "he was a malignant slanderer," &c. &c.
3 Calvin, in one of his writings against Luther (who had called him a"declaimer ") exclaims, °` Your whole school is nothing but a stinking sty of pigs! Dog ! do you understand me? Do you understand me, madman ? Do you understand me, you great beast ? " &c.
4 Vide Sidney's "Life of R. Hill," pp. 108, 446.