AVOID FAME & Wesley’s Letter to Asbury re. Cokesbury: “Do Not Seek to be Something”

“O beware, do not seek to be something! Let me be nothing, and ‘Christ be all in all!'” – John Wesley

Letter To Francis Asbury [15]

LONDON, September 20, 1788.

[MY DEAR BROTHER], — There is, indeed, a wide difference between the relation wherein you stand to the Americans and the relation wherein I stand to all the Methodists. You are the elder brother of the American Methodists: I am under God the father of the whole family. Therefore I naturally care for you all in a manner no other persons can do. Therefore I in a measure provide for you all; for the supplies which Dr. Coke provides for you, he could not provide were it not for me, were it not that I not only permit him to collect but also support him in so doing.

But in one point, my dear brother, I am a little afraid both the Doctor and you differ from me. I study to be little: you study to be great. I creep: you strut along. I found a school: you a college! [Cokesbury College, so called after its founders Coke and Asbury, was twice burnt down.] nay, and call it after your own names! O beware, do not seek to be something! Let me be nothing, and ‘Christ be all in all!’

One instance of this, of your greatness, has given me great concern. How can you, how dare you suffer yourself to be called Bishop I shudder, I start at the very thought! Men may call me a knave or a feel, a rascal, a scoundrel, and I am content; but they shall never by my consent call me Bishop! For my sake, for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake put a full end to this! Let the Presbyterians do what they please, but let the Methodists know their calling better.

Thus, my dear Franky, I have told you all that is in my heart. And let this, when I am no more seen, bear witness how sincerely I am

Your affectionate friend and brother.

[15] This is the letter to which Asbury’s diary for March 15, 1789, refers: ‘Here I received a bitter pill from one of my greatest friends. Praise the Lord for my trials also! May they all be sanctified!’ It was the last letter he had from Wesley.

When Wesley directed that a General Conference should be held in 1787 and Whatcoat made Asbury’s colleague, Asbury said that ‘To appoint a joint superintendent with me were stretches of power we did not understand’; and the preachers and people were not willing to accept orders from England now that the Colonies had become independent. Asbury tells his old friend Jasper Winscorn on August 15, 1788: ‘I am a bishop and a beggar; our connection is very poor, our preachers on the frontiers labor the whole year for six or eight pounds. I have opened a house for the education of youth which will cost 4,000 to complete it, and the burden lies chiefly on me; so that I can hardly command my one coat and my yearly allowance.’ See letters of July 17, 1788, and October 31, 1789.

John Telford, ed., The Letters of John Wesley, A.M., 8 vols. (London: Epworth Press, 1931), p. 257 (retrieved from http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1788b/)