Francis Asbury said he was “feeling the pain of a partial separation in spirit and practice from some who were as my brethren and sons in the gospel,” He “saw so clearly the evil consequences of a division, and how good and pleasant a thing it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.” So he began to abridge and edit two works written in the 1600s during the English Civil War. Asbury’s 1792 result, The Causes, Evils & Cures of Heart & Church Divisions, was one of the earliest publications sold to Methodist congregations and leaders by John Dickins, the first book steward of what is now the United Methodist Publishing House. The book was recommended in the Book of Discipline during the 19th century and repackaged in a new edition by the Methodist Book Concern in 1849 after Methodists split, north from south, over the battle to end slavery.
Decisions about what to include or omit were made while abridging and reissuing a work in 2016 that is based in sources from 1653 and 1670, when the dialect of Elizabethan English was spoken. We no longer speak this dialect, so the following principles guide the translation of archaic English in this further abridgment of Francis Asbury’s selections.
First, scripture quotations are converted to the Common English Bible, which also influences the vocabulary and syntax of the text where biblical allusions are employed. Second, with occasional exceptions, the text is now gender inclusive. Third, archaic words and idioms are replaced with functional or dynamic equivalents in present-day English. For example, few readers would know that a “jade,” who plays “jadish tricks,” is a worn-out old horse who is ill tempered. As another example, the word livery is replaced with “attire.”
The structure and flow of the abridgment by Bishop Asbury is preserved, with the headings adjusted to fit with the selected excerpts as well as the translation principles.
This book compiled by Francis Asbury continues to resonate with readers as a classic for painfully clear reasons: it shows how we love ourselves and our ideas far more than we love our neighbors or our adversaries.
"Causes, Evils & Cures can be a catalyst for perfecting the spirit and witness of the UMC in the same way that Three Simple Rules helped to enrich our life together two quadrennia ago. Every United Methodist should read and pray with this little treasure close to their heart."
-Bishop Gregory V Palmer