Lavington, George

Lavington, George, an English prelate, noted for his antagonism to Wesley and Whitefield, was born in Wiltshire in 1683; became canon of St. Paul's, London in 1732, and in 1747 was promoted to the bishopric of Exeter. Shortly after his elevation to the episcopal dignity, Lavington, who had from the first looked unfavorably upon the Methodistic movement, found an opportunity to exert his episcopal jurisdiction upon one of the ministers of his diocese, the Reverend Mr. Thompson, "the tolerant and zealous rector of St. Gennis," who had dared to exert himself in behalf of a more genuine and active religious spirit among the people of his own parish, and the, community in its neighborhood. In this instance the bishop failed utterly of cutting short the evangelizing efforts of an earnest and zealous servant of God, and he gave vent to his feelings by a public attack on the originators of the whole movement — Wesley and Whitefield — in a pamphlet entitled The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists compared (London, 1749, 3 parts, 8vo), in which he "exaggerated their real faults, and imputed to them many that were monstrous fictions." he attack was at once taken up by both the persons assailed in the pamphlet, and from the position assumed by Wesley in his answer many of the English Church divines have plucked an arrow in defense of their own Church in Wesley's day. Southey was the first to censure Wesley for the use of intemperate language in his reply to Lavington, but there is really no reason for any one, however anxious to shield Mr. Wesley, to defend his harsh treatment of the bishop, when we consider that the provocation was great indeed. Mr. Tyerman, Wesley's latest biographer (London, 1871, 3 volumes. 8vo; N. York, Harper and Brothers, 3 volumes 8vo, 1872), certainly goes too far when he attempts to clear Wesley's skirts by saying that Lavington "deserved all he got," and that he was "a buffooning bishop" and "a cowardly calumniator" (2:94, 153). But there is no justice in the attempts of modern English writers to praise bishop Lavington at the expense of Mr. Wesley. The bishop made a most undignified assault on men who were engaged in a work approved and owned of God, and, as his later conduct towards lady Huntingdon and Wesley himself proves, retreated from the position he had taken, "apologizing to her ladyship [Huntingdon] and the Messrs. Whitefield and Wesley for the harsh and unjust censures which he was led to pass on them," and even requested them to "accept his unfeigned regret at having unjustly wounded their feelings, and exposed them to the odium of the world" (Ladey Hutisongdon's Life and Times, chapter 7). How in the face of this position, however hypocritical on the part of Lavington, any English writers can afford to defend bishop Lavington's position, as has been done lately in the North British Review (January 1871), seems to us still more strange when we take into consideration the attitude of Wesley on his last meeting with bishop Lavington: "I was well pleased to partake of the Lord's Supper with my old opponent, bishop Lavington. Oh, may we sit down together in the kingdom of our Father!" recorded by Wesley himself in his journal of 1762. Bishop Lavington, indeed, seems to have been fond of polemical extravagances. for a few years after his attack on Methodism he wrots The Moravians compared and detected (1755, 8vo). Besides these two attacks upon fellow Christians, he published some occasional Sermons. He died in 1762. See, besides the references already made, Polwhele, History of Devonsshire, 1:313; Stevens, Hist. of Methodism, 1:247, 306; Meth. Quart. Review, 1871, page 306 sq. (J.H.W.)

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