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Perronet, Vincent
1693-1785

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The son of a Swiss father from Chateau d'Oex who came to England c. 1680, he was born in London on 11 December 1693. He was a scholarly child, educated at St. Bees School in Cumbria and at Queen's College, Oxford, graduating BA in 1718 and MA at Cambridge in 1724. From 1719 he was curate of Sundridge and from 1728 Vicar of Shoreham (Kent), where he encountered opposition for much of his incumbency. Introduced to John Wesley by Henry Piers in 1744, in 1746 he invited John and Charles Wesley into his parish. Charles on his first visit described the riotous reaction as that of 'wild beasts'. Resistance to the Methodists continued, but grew less extreme. Both brothers relied heavily on Perronet's advice and support and he was a moderating and stabilizing influence on them. He attended the 1747 Conference and John Wesley addressed his Plain Account of the People Called Methodists to him. In April 1748 Charles Wesley consulted him on his intention to marry Sally Gwynn, and in 1782 referred to him as the 'Archbishop of the Methodists'. On at least one occasion he mediated between the brothers. Only after the death of his wife Charity ( née Goodhew, 1688-1763) in 1763 was a Methodist society in Shoreham formally established. Previously meetings had been held in the vicarage. Known both for great holiness of life and for his scholarship, he published pamphlets defending Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding against the criticisms of Joseph Butler and Isaac Watts. He died at Shoreham on 8/9 May 1785. Wesley gives a detailed account of his last hours in his Journal for 7 May.

His later years were saddened by the death of his children, including his favourite daughter Damaris and his oldest son William, who died while returning from a visit to Switzerland and was buried at Douai. His younger sons, Edward and Charles were both Methodist preachers for a time. His grandaughter Elizabeth Briggs was the daughter of William Briggs, one of Wesley's first Book Stewards (1753-1759) and a class leader at the Foundery. The portrait painter Henry Perronet Briggs (1791-1844) was a great-grandson.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

14 August 1744: 'Mr. Piers rode over with me to Shoreham, and introduced me to Mr. Perronet. I hope to have cause of blessing God for ever for the acquaintance begun this day.'

October 1746: 'I preached in the church at Shoreham, morning and afternoon. The congregation seemed to understand just nothing of the matter. But God can give them understanding in his time.'

11 February 1763: 'I … buried the remains of Mrs. Perronet, who, after a long, distressing illness, on Saturday the 5th instant, fell asleep.'

January 1778: 'Mr. Perronet, though in his eighty-fifth year, is still able to go through the whole Sunday service. How merciful is God to the poor people of Shoreham! And many of them are not insensible of it.'

December 1778: 'I found Mr. Perronet once more brought back from the gates of death; undoubtedly for the sake of his little flock, who avail themselves of his being spared too, and continually increase not only in number, but in the knowledge and love of God.'

November 1781: 'I went to Shoreham, to see the venerable old man. He is in his eighty-ninth year, and has nearly lost his sight, but he has not lost his undrstanding, nor even his memory, and is full of faith and love.'

9 December 1784: 'Going on to Shoreham, we found that venerable man, Mr. Perronet, ninety-one years of age, calmly waiting for the conclusion of a good warfare. His bodily strength is gone, but his understanding is little impaired, and he appears to have more love than ever.'

Charles Wesley's Journal:

19 April 1748: 'Today I rode over to Shoreham, and told Mr. Perronet all my heart… Mr. Perronet encouraged me to pray, and wait for a providential opening.'

18 November 1748: 'Consulted old Mr. Perronet, who thought a few of my particular friends might subscribe what would be sufficient for my maintenance and offered himself to set the example.'

13 January 1749: 'Visited Mr. Perronet the next day. He has indeed acted the part of a father, another proof whereof is this letter of his to Mrs. Gwynne.' [Wesley then gioves the text of Perronet's letter.]

Sources

  • Methodist Magazine, 1799 pp. 1-8, 53-8, 105-10, 157-62
  • WM Magazine, 1902, pp.52-6, 215-20, 373-9, 662-4
  • A.W. Harrison, 'The Perronets of Shoreham', in WHS Proceedings, 16 pp.40-47
  • Margaret Batty, Vincent Perronet, 'the Archbishop of the Methodists' (Emsworth, 2002)
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: PSF
Category: Person

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