Jerusalem, Plate 76
William Blake and John Wesley were contemporaries in 18th century London. Although their paths may have crossed there is no record of a meeting between them. Wesley was a public figure whose sermons were well known. Although Blake may have been attracted to Wesley's religious zeal, the two would have found little in common in their approach to religious experience. Both men believed in a religion expressed though the heart as a result of direct personal experience. Where they differed was in the degree of spontaneous expression each valued. Blake's ideal was perfect liberty; Wesley's was the disciplined approach of using 'every means which either reason or Scripture recommends.'
Blake was willing to apply the term 'enthusiast' to himself even though some people of his day associated enthusiasm with madness. Wesley advised his followers that enthusiasm was of the world; that enthusiasm was not the mark of a Christian as holiness was.
In John Wesley edited by Albert C Outler, Wesley's attitude to enthusiasm is explained in this way:
"When his doctrines of assurance and experience were labeled 'enthusiasm,' he carefully distinguished between 'enthusiasm proper' and that true ernestness based upon the Spirit's witness in our hearts. In these terms, he could insist, against all formalists, that until faith is deeply personal, it is not yet authentic." (Page 30)
Quotes from Wesley's sermon, The Nature Of Enthusiasm:
"such a disorder as greatly hinders the exercise of reason"
"immediately a superficial change"
"For Christians are holy; these are unholy: Christians love God; these love the world: Christians are humble; these are proud: Christians are gentle; these are passionate; Christians have the mind which was in Christ; these are at the utmost distance from it."
"imagine themselves to be influenced or directed by the Spirit when they are not"
Blake embraced the label of enthusiasm as descriptive of his heartfelt commitment to the Lord whom he knew and loved.
Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145) The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes [no Reader will think presumptuousness or arroganc[e] when he is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly absorb'd in their Gods.] I also hope the Reader will be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of Fire] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement." Jerusalem, Plate 9, (E 152) "Loud roar my Furnaces and loud my hammer is heard: I labour day and night, I behold the soft affections Condense beneath my hammer into forms of cruelty But still I labour in hope, tho' still my tears flow down. That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelld to defend A Lie: that he may be snared and caught and snared and taken That Enthusiasm and Life may not cease: arise Spectre arise! Thus they contended among the Furnaces with groans & tears; Groaning the Spectre heavd the bellows, obeying Los's frowns; Till the Spaces of Erin were perfected in the furnaces Of affliction, and Los drew them forth, compelling the harsh Spectre." Annotations to Reynolds, (E 645) "Reynolds:But as mere enthusiasm will carry you but a little way. . . Blake: [Damn The Fool] Meer Enthusiasm is the All in All!-- Bacons Philosophy has Ruind England "
Annotations to Reynolds,(E 647) "It is Evident that Reynolds Wishd none but Fools to be in the Arts & in order to this, he calls all others Vague Enthusiasts or Madmen"
Letters, To Hayley, (E 705) "Thirteen years ago. I lost a brother & with his spirit I converse daily & hourly in the Spirit. & See him in my remembrance in the regions of my Imagination. I hear his advice & even now write from his Dictate--Forgive me for expressing to you my Enthusiasm which I wish all to partake of Since it is to me a Source of Immortal Joy even in this world by it I am the companion of Angels." Letters, To Butts, (E 720) "And now let me finish with assuring you that Tho I have been very unhappy I am so no longer I am again Emerged into the light of Day I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore him who is the Express image of God but I have traveld thro Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion I have Conquerd and shall still Go on Conquering Nothing can withstand the fury of my Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser My Enthusiasm is still what it was only Enlarged and confirmd"