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How John Wesley treated critics

January 31, 2022

We can learn a lot about a person by seeing how they treat their critics.

John Wesley received a critical letter from an anonymous person who called himself “John Smith.” Although John Wesley had no idea who “John Smith” was, it is amazing how he handled his lengthy (eight page) response. Here is his introduction in his own words:

“I was determined, from the time I received yours, to answer it as soon as I should have opportunity. But it was the longer delayed, because I could not persuade myself to write at all, till I had leisure to write fully. And this I hope to do now, though I know you not, no, not so much as your name. But I take for granted you are a person that fears God, and that speaks the real sentiments of his heart …

“I am exceedingly obliged by the pains you have taken to point out to me what you think to be mistakes. It is a truly Christian attempt, an act of brotherly love, which I pray God to repay sevenfold to your bosom. Methinks I can scarce look upon such a person, on one who is ‘a contender for truth and not for victory,’ whatever opinion he may entertain of me, as an adversary at all. For what is friendship, if I am to account my enemy who endeavors to open my eyes or to amend my heart?”

Wesley then continues to answer each of Mr. John Smith’s points of criticism. Their correspondence continues for several exchanges of letters.

“Mr. John Smith” we now believe was Dr. Thomas Secker, Bishop of Oxford and later Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Rev. Dave Hanson is a retired pastor and John Wesley scholar.

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