Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Wesley code cracked after 270 years

A 270-YEAR-OLD diary, written in code, has been cracked for the first time by a Liverpool professor, revealing a secret history of the Methodist church.

After nine years of painstaking work, more than 1,000 handwritten pages from 1736 - 1756 have been deciphered from the personal diary of Charles Wesley.

As co-founder of the Methodist Church, with his brother, John, the long passages of “hidden” material give a fascinating insight into the personal life and religious beliefs of the younger Wesley.

Charles used his shorthand code to write about sensitive matters including his sharp disapproval of his brother John’s marriage, and their disagreements over the Church of England.

The Rev Professor Kenneth Newport, Liverpool Hope University’s pro vice-chancellor for research and academic development, used photocopies of the original manuscript to unlock the secrets of the code.

He said: “The code is abbreviated severely, sometimes to just one letter, vowels are omitted and it’s literally a string of consonants without breaks in parts.

“He often runs whole sentences into one and writes phonetically, not how words are spelt.

“I kept finding ‘hr’ and it took ages to uncover this meant ‘holy writ’.”

Prof Newport, an Anglican priest, spent time studying the diary alongside other letters and sermons which helped him solve the code.

The breakthrough came when he transcribed gospels written in the code with help from the King James bible.

Using the symbols and abbreviations as a key, he was then able to fully transcribe the diary.

Previous versions of the Wesley manuscripts have offered a sanitised version of the brothers’ disputes and beliefs, and often omitted the arguments.

But the transcribed diary shows the extent of Charles’s anger towards his brother over his marriage plans, and the idea of separating from the Church of England.

Prof Newport said: “Charles was horrified at the thought of leaving the Church of England.

“There was a suspicion of lay preaching and Methodism was frowned upon by the established church.

“Charles had a very clear line on separation. He wrote ‘I am for church first and then Methodism’. Read more
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