Father of Methodism

Activist Christian Humanist:
Abolitionist, Friend of the Poor
Anti-War Preacher
Promoter of Education

(1703 - 1791)


I look upon the whole world as my parish.
--John Wesley




2003 brought the Tricentennial Anniversary
of John Wesley's Birthday.


One could say, without exaggeration, that seventy million Methodists in the whole world would testify that the forty thousand sermons traveling on a quarter of a million miles this great man of God, John Wesley, gave during his eighty-eight years of life meant he left a tremendous impact on global Christendom. His legacy included a strong emphasis on education. He discouraged Christianity from being a "spectator sport" recognizing the differences between the true and nominal Christians. Holiness and Happiness were those criteria. And not just for the Methodists and their offshoots (Like Wesleyians, The Salvation Army, Nazarenes, various Holiness groups, etc.), but for all.


Well Read Parents, Well Bred Children

(The Grandparents of Methodism)




The advantage of a large family is that at least one of the children may not turn out like the others. --Anon.


The Reverend Samuel Wesley, born Westley in 1662 to a 'Noncomformist' and prematurely dying father, named John, who lived begrudgingly on some high ground, called the Isle of Axholme in the northern parts of England's Lincolnshire, dutifully remained in the bucolic setting to care for his flock in Epworth and Wroot. Also extremely better suited for the intellectual climes of London, was his similarly erudite wife from that metropolis, his mentor's daughter, Susanna Annesley.

Name Game

It was after signing his name Wesley to his Oxford B.A. degree that his branch of the family carries that surname, though his great great grandfather, Sir Herbert Westley's kid, Bartholomew was the first at Oxford. (The Westley name was derived from West-leas, lea another term for farmfield.) His M.A. a year later in 1689 was from Cambridge's Corpus Christi College, and he was ordained and married that same year. Susanna's father, Dr. Annesley, thrown out of hugely attended London's St. Giles, brought some Puritan heritage to the mix, but he did not live long enough to see John's birthday, passing on the third of December, 1696. As teenagers and friends, Samuel and Susanna had made their decision, however, to not 'dissent' from the established Anglican Church. Though she tactfully disagreed with her father in his approach, the ideas were kept, and were considered the stronger influence on John. Samuel went to school with writer Daniel Defoe while having the opportunity to hear John Bunyan's sermons, albeit parodying some. His humorous poems' titles sound like something from this place and time:

  • The Grunting of a Hog
  • A Cow's Tail
  • A Hat Broke at Cudgels
  • The Tobacco Pipe
  • The Tame Snake in a Box of Bran


The kindness that John and Charles demonstrated in their lives did have the precedent with Samuel's visiting the castle keep's prisoners, and encouraging them to do likewise half a century later. These prisons were bedlam, with the insane, debtors, and even children thrown in with thieves and cutthroats. They made an effort to provide education as well as ministering to them.

Of Kings and Queens, and Domestic Tranquility


Queen Mary, she's my friend,
I believe I'll go back and see her again.
When we meet again,
Introduced as friends,
Please don't let on that you knew me when:
I was hungry, and it was your world.

--Bob Dylan


It was because of the Queen Mary's appointment, impressed with his Treatise on Hebrew Points dedicated to her, that Samuel wound up in Epworth. While not busy about the Lord's business, (at the same Church seen today), he was being fruitful and multiplying to the tune of eighteen children, but significant to our story here, is the fifteenth son, named John Benjamin, born on June 17, 1703 in their house on Gray's Inn Road. (The middle name evidently was dropped later).

Fortunately for us Queen Ann came to the throne and allowed Susanna and Samuel to have come back from their separation because of their little theological and political arguments when Parliament enthroned King William. As John's father had said:


You and I must part: for if we have two kings, we must have two beds.


The Rev. Samuel Wesley's preaching sometimes convicted the parishioners the wrong way, and they allegedly burnt the rectory down the first time the year before John was born (Another impetus for Susanna's return). The second time we shall see what adventure happened.

John's mother Susanna got in trouble again in 1712, when she took up evening services at home when the acting curate was a slacker. She was tattled on as being a Nonconformist and the Reverend had to write home telling her to stop at once.

Homeschooling of Hard Knocks

This household has been called the 'real origin' of Methodism. Oldest brother was named after father, Samuel, and Charles was the baby. And for them and also those in between, mother developed a regulated spiritual and secular education for her large family. And it did not exclude the five daughters that she also spent quality time with: Emilia, Molly, Hetty, Patty and Nancy.

Child's Trial by Fire


I've seen fire and I've seen rain,
But I I'd never thought I'd never see you again.

--James Taylor


As alluded to earlier, John's father made some enemies, and they probably set fire to the flammable hay-roofed rectory in 1709. If it was not for Providence the conflagration might have cost the life of young Jacky. Susanna did a head count, Emelia, Mary, Sukey, Anne, Hetty, Martha; Charles also was saved by their maid, Betty, snatching up the infant and exiting quickly through the careless caressing blaze. Everyone was out, except little Jack!, and the flames were too great for anyone to go inside to rescue him, though Ma was singed trying. They all prayed for his soul -- departed or not. Then, there the little six year old tot was at the fiercely back lit window, aided by a chest as stepping stool, crying out in terror. After frantically looking for a means to reach the lad, one man finally climbed atop another's shoulder's, and the jumping child was caught just as the inferno collapsed the roof.


Is not this a brand plucked from the burning?
--This inscription of John's father's prayer of thanks can be seen beneath a portrait of the burning Epworth Rectory


Both parents were concerned with the continued education of the traumatized children, while father set a good example taking care of his widowed mother (the much-persecuted --even jailed --father- died 16 years later at 42) and shared his love of books, especially the classics, mother knew her role regarding the one snatched from seemingly Hellfire:


I do intend to be more particularly careful of the soul of this child that thou hast so mercifully provided for than I ever have been, that I may do my endeavor to instill into his mind the principles of true religion and virtue. Lord, give me grace to do it sincerely and prudently, and bless my attempts with good success.


Susanna's scheduled curriculum, for example, included a whole day spent on each child for the alphabet when they turned five. John, however, learned so adeptly, that his second day was spent reading the Bible, starting at the beginning, Genesis. They learned Greek and Latin, and John was proficient at those almost as well as English by eleven years of age.

Prime Schooling

Samuel was the first of the children to go to the finest schools of the Realm, in fact after Sam, and Charles had finished Westminster School -- the oldest starting in 1704, and Charles two years later. John entered Charterhouse with a scholarship a decade later when Sam came back from Oxford to teach. John not only studied hard to get to the top of his class, he was arduous in his health habits with bathing and running; he was also frugal, not wasting money on haircuts-- a lifelong habit shown with his long hair. They all were all together in London until four years later when John entered Oxford. King's Scholar Charles Wesley's time at Westminster was his start of his writing 6000 hymns.

More than Bats in the Belfry

It was during this time (circa 1716) that the parents and other children left behind encountered "Old Jeffrey," or "the Rectory Ghost." She would write the boys at school that the event, originally sloughed off finally convinced her that it was,


...beyond the power of any human creature to make such strange and various noises.


Some think it is the same apparitions that were reported a century later, others think it was instigated by the contrary neighbors whose folk tales were castigated at the pulpit, but another is their imaginations were fed by their worldview that recognized demonic manifestations.


Explosive Fanfare

Four years before John entered Christ Church College at Oxford in 1720, an accident at the Windmill Hill, Moorfields cannon foundry left it in shambles. (You see, later in 1739 he preached at this site, and rehabilitated it, since as we shall see, he was banned from most churches.)

In 1724, a year his folks moved to Wroote, he received his B.A., and was an Anglican deacon the next year. This came after serious re-thinking his spirituality, his father wanted to make sure he was 'called' for the ministry, while his mother encouraged it, telling him often growing up that he was spared for something special.


I heartily wish you would now enter upon a serious examination of yourself, that you may know whether you have a reasonable hope of salvation by Jesus Christ. If you have, the satisfaction of knowing it will abundantly reward your pains; if you have not, you will find a more reasonable occasion for tears than can be met with in a tragedy.


And in one more year he became more financially secure with a fellowship from Lincoln College. He had written family several times about his trying "...to make ends meet." He was ordained into the Church of England's priesthood in 1728.


The Holy Club and Insults Turned Around

During the time that Charles and John were at Oxford, their like-minded Bible students and fellow-shippers, with their regimented 'method' of holiness and study had them derisively nicknamed by the more worldly student body 'Methodists' (or sometimes the 'Holy Club.') Charles was the first carrying this name, Methodist that went from shame to fame. They were also called 'Bible Bigots' and 'Holy Moths.' They would finish their business of the day, and devote hours of prayer and study before bedtime at nine P.M., and arise at 5 A.M. to start an hour of prayer, before two of Scriptural study. They had Wednesdays and Fridays devoted to total fasting and prayer.

Their proof text was from Hebrews 12:14,


Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.


Part of John's influence came from Thomas a Kempis, especially his Imitation of Christ.


The providence of God directing me to Kempis's Christian Pattern, I began to see that true religion was seated in the heart, and that God's law extended to all our thoughts as well as words and actions. I was, however, very angry at Kempis for being too strict...

I began to alter the whole form of my conversation, and to set in earnest upon a new life. I set apart an hour or two a day for religious retirement. I communicated every week. I watched against all sin, whether in word or deed. I began to aim at and pray for inward holiness. So that now, 'doing so much and living so good a life,' I doubted not but I was a good Christian.


Predestined to be an Arminian

He would still have further to go in his Walk, though through those years he became strongly interested in the ministry, and shared his new disdain for the doctrine of Predestination with his mother:


John: How is this consistent with either the divine justice or mercy? Is it mercy to ordain a creature to everlasting misery ? Is it just to punish man for crimes which he could not but commit ? That God should be the author of sin and injustice -- which must, I think, be the consequence of maintaining this opinion -- is a contradiction of the clearest idea we have of the divine nature and perfections.
Susanna: The doctrine of Predestination, as maintained by rigid Calvinists, is very shocking, and ought to be abhorred, because it directly charges the most high God with being the author of sin. I think you reason well and justly against it, for it is certainly inconsistent with the justness and goodness of God to lay any man under either a physical or moral necessity of committing sin, and then to punish him for doing it.


He would later come into conflict with former associates, Calvinists Augustus Toplady and George Whitefield when they more strongly opposed Arminianism. Christianity owes much to the balance Wesley gave to the evangelical Church, with an emphasis of the freedom given by the Lord to choose His goodness.

Missionary Momentous Moment

Georgia Colony's Governor Oglethorpe was offered John Wesley to minister for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to the lands initially established to be an anti-slavery, and an Indian missionary charter established in 1732. John, after getting his mother's blessing, went across the Atlantic in a fifth wave with German Protestants Salzurghers, Scots, and some Moravians to help in this endeavor for "freedom to worship God. A second motive for going to serve was to learn something of his relation to the Master of whose Gospel he would preach to the indigenous people.


It is not for me, who have been a grievous sinner from my youth up, ... to expect God should work so great things by my hands; but I am assured, if I be once converted myself, He will then employ me both to strengthen my brethren and to preach His name to the Gentiles.


He left England in December of 1735, and during the Simmonds sometimes tumultuous two months voyage, they became more than just fast friends with the couple dozen Moravians. The Methodists continued their regimen, which now included teaching and preaching, but the Moravian immigrants' bravery in the face of death during the dangerous storms made Wesley say it was "...the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen."


Not only the Moravian's sense of piety influenced Wesley, but their institution of the small group settings for devotional and educational study. They eventually developed into what is now called 'cell groups'.

Meanwhile, innkeeper's son George Whitefield --Kempis fan, too-- discipled by Charles was the first of the Holy Club to have an stronger experience of 'true religion' that needs no church rituals in 1735.


I found and felt in myself that I was delivered from the burden that had so heavily oppressed me. The spirit of mourning was taken from me, and I knew what it was truly to rejoice in God my Saviour. The day-star arose in my heart. I know the place; it may perhaps be superstitious, but whenever I go to Oxford I cannot help running to the spot where Jesus Christ first revealed himself to me and gave me 'a new birth.'


Interestingly he kept this from the 'legalistic' Wesleys.


Daytime for the Garden of Good and Evil

In Savannah, the Wesleys found that preaching to the crowd more accustomed to a wilder and free lifestyle seemed largely in vain, and by the time a year had passed in 1736 he was sent home, never to return again. However his first book of hymns was published the next year in Charlestown, South Carolina. His Moravian friends talked him out of marrying an official's daughter, Sophia Hopkey to his "pierced to the heart" regret. Worse than this he refused her communion to her father's ire, whose litigation was thrown out of the civil court. His experience observing slavery in the colonies furthered his resolve in ridding this horrible human blight from the planet.

On his trip home on the apt named Samuel he wrote:


I went to America to convert the Indians, but, O! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil 'heart of unbelief?' I have a fair summer religion; I can talk well, nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, to die is gain ... I show my faith by my works, by staking my all upon it. I would do so again and again a thousand times, if the choice were still to make. Whoever sees me sees I would be a Christian .... But in a storm I think, What if the Gospel be not true ? ... O who will deliver me from this fear of death ? ... Where shall I fly from it?"


The day before John and his trio of comrades landed at Deal on December 5, 1737, George Whitefield left for America. This antagonist to Wesley's Arminian slant made a report on Wesley's short term, but long lasting impact:


The good, Mr. John Wesley has done in America is inexpressible. His name is very precious among the people; and he has laid a foundation that I hope neither men nor devils will ever be able to shake. Oh that I may follow him as he has followed Christ!


He was reported as teaching a young Negro man, maybe a slave how to read and write, his earlier reading Southerne's play about the African Prince, Oroonoko, now hit harder home. The Methodist shared a love of the lively worship of the American Christian Slaves, as well, and until prejudice took hold, they shared fellowship and congregations for a while. More significantly John Wesley met the slave trader Captain John Newton turned Christian Abolitionist and Hymnist of "Amazing Grace" and maybe even planted the life changing seeds. Later in 1774 he would write on the subject commenting on Philadelphia Quaker Anthony Benezet's abolition book, Guinea


In returning I read a very different book, published by an honest Quaker, on that execrable sum of all villanies, commonly called the Slave-trade. I read of nothing like it in the heathen world, whether ancient or modern; and it infinitely exceeds, in every instance of barbarity, whatever Christian slaves suffer in Mahometan countries.


He would be an avid Abolitionist the rest of his life.

Cardiac Thermals


My Heart, My Heart:
Is dyin', dyin'...

--Jackie Wilson


When John was home again, his soul felt estranged as he wrote soon after:


This, then, have I learned in the ends of the earth, that I "...am fallen short of the glory of God;" that my whole heart is "altogether corrupt and abominable;" ...that my own works, my own sufferings, my own righteousness, are so far from reconciling me to an offended God, that the most specious of them need an atonement themselves; ...that, "having the sentence of death" in my heart, I have no hope ...but that if I seek, I shall find Christ, and "be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." I want ...that faith which enables every one that hath it to cry out, "I live not; ...but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." I want that faith which none can have without knowing he hath it; {when} "...the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit that he is a child of God."


On two days in May of 1738, two brothers found the Spiritual peace with their Savior that had been missing, in spite of all the rigorous religious ritual they had mustered. On the 21st Charles 'surrendered all,' and three days later, he rejoiced when John became his brother in Christ as well. John had attended St. Paul's Cathedral on that 24th day of May, and the Psalm sung touched him so personally,


Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord.


He understood that after 'conversion', when his "...heart was strangely warmed...," that he earlier:


I, who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted. I am a child of wrath. I believe not. ...

I had even then the faith of a servant, though not that of a son.


Annual Spiritual Birthday Party

The great Holy Ghost event coming out of that prayer meeting on that street, Aldersgate, is also the name of his experience and is celebrated every May 24th.

The Sermon

John addressed the gathering at the University of Oxford on the 11th of June of that imbedded year, 1738. It was, without much surprise now, that his message was based on Paul's reminder in his letter to the Ephesians (2:8,9)


For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.


He increased his faith and grace fever after a visit to the Moravians in Herrnhut, Bohemia near the end of that summer. On returning to England his preaching now made that fever contagious, and with polarizing effects.


The New Year's Eve watch of 1738 to the next year was so profound from their fervent prayers that many were knocked to the floor.

John, joined by Charles later, went to Bristol to join Whitefield and his outside crusades, as the crowds overwhelmed the church edifices, the brothers at first second guessed that method, but then became enthused with thoughts of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.



Pack up the babies
Grab the old ladies
Everyone goes
Everyone knows
Brother Love's
Traveling Salvation show.

--Neil Diamond


At Bristol the tidal wave of their preaching surged, its crashing waters, or "finger of God" left folks shouting and gyrating, felling even some skeptics or casual passers-by to healing and repentance, as if Elisha's Mantle was upon these Godly agents. Wesley saw these demonstrations about him, even thought some were Devilish disruptions, in spite of his trying to discourage it. (This was a tsunami and all the similar that also later would engulf America as the Great Awakening.) And, it left lasting productive flotsam like the school Whitefield and Wesley founded at Kingswood. Later it became known as the Methodist School as Wesley became the impetus.

In May of 1739 John Wesley laid the first stone of the Methodist society or preaching room, paying for most of the project out of his own money. They were not allowed to congregate in Baldwin Street anymore, so they met in the shell of their new building singing and teaching. This forced outdoor preaching echoed the situation of Wyclif some time earlier.

But in London of June 1739 John preached to a large assembly that happened to be near the derelict Foundry and by winter he arranged to get it to bring the throng inside. Besides housing him and his mother in upstairs apartments, they made it into a place that seated tens of thousands, held the bandstand and kept the books for use and sale. This was headquarters for thirty-eight years as well as charity school, pharmacy, halfway house for widows, and even a loan office.

His pioneering social work impacted the country so indelibly, that the Gentleman's Magazine epitathed he had done:


...infinite good to the lower classes of the people...by the humane endeavors of him and his brother Charles a sense of decency in morals and religion was introduced to the lowest classes of mankind; the ignorant were instructed, the wretched relieved, and the abandoned reclaimed.



Though Susanna continued supporting John, Samuel had became critical of inconsistencies of the younger siblings up until his death in 1739, he voiced his concerns to their mother about Jack's possible excommunication because of potential schismatic deliberate laxity in tact. London Bishop Dr. Gibson did wag a finger at their impulsive spirituality, but they would not get behind any of his pulpits. A second interrogation of Wesley resulted in him becoming the subject of a pamphlet condemning open air services to the "rabble." John responded with his Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.

Tombstone Territory


In my time of dyin',
Jesus gonna make up,
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

--Bob Dylan


On July 18, 1742 John rushed to London from Bristol upon hearing of his mother's declining health. He preached on Revelation's Great White Throne Judgement at the graveside funeral to the group gathered. Just four months he had preached atop of his father's grave site (where the famous "the world is my parish" was uttered) when banned from the Epworth church.

The established class (from the Greek classis) meetings in various spread out communities touched by Methodism. His General Rules were set on February, 23, 1743, with Charles signing his approval. This society was to be


...a company of men having the form and seeking the power of Godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation. ...to evidence their desire of salvation, first, by doing no harm, by avoiding evil in every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced...avoiding such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus. ...doing good of every possible sort, and as far as is possible, to all men. ...attending on all the ordinances of God.


The developed another branch-off of the class, the "band." They made the "watch night" like on Christmas, a regular item, peculiar to them.


But, by 1775 success in human numbers meant he needed expansion, and he built on the first Methodist Chapel, opened on November 1, 1778 in London on his purchased on City Road to much acclaim.

Marriage Interlude

In 1751 John married the widow of businessman Mr. Vazeille, who turned out to be incongenial, though John assured her she could keep her inheritance. She was rude to others, including Charles, and even was reported to have handed over papers to his enemies. Obviously of unsound mind, she died while John was away in 1781.

Second Firey Miracle

The family was awakened on night in 1780 by fire alarms, their prayers that the oncoming flames would not engulf them and their church building, now known as Wesley's Chapel were answered by a favoring wind. The first ordination service, (still as Anglicans) was joyfully performed five years later, a year after the Americans established, with his blessing, the Methodist Church, there.

(In 1791 in this landmark building at least ten thousand mourners passed by the coffin of John Wesley with strong mixed emotions. They had thanks to have been touched by him, joy knowing he was with his Master, and sadness to be without his extraordinary presence.)

The Non Nonconformist Treated as One

While some in the audience not enjoying being convicted of their sins pelted the passionate evangelists with rotten fruit, or whatever they could get their iniquitous hands on, these men, like Peter, Paul and John were not swayed. Also the best churchmen of the time, Bishops Butler and Berkeley could not stop the awakening lights of the Likes of the skilled speaker Whitefield and the charismatically anointed Wesleys from casting away the darkness that had begun to descend on England. These established authorities had banned them from expounding their oratory gospel skill in their turf. John told Butler defiantly:


My Lord, my business on earth is to do what good I can. Wherever, therefore, I think I can do most good, there must I stay so long as I think so. At present I think I can do most good here; therefore here I stay.... Being ordained a priest, by the commission I then received I am a priest of the Church universal; and being ordained as fellow of a college, I was not limited to any particular cure, but have an indeterminate commission to preach the word of God in any part of the Church of England. I do not, therefore, conceive that in preaching here by this commission I break any human law. When I am convinced I do then it will be time to ask, 'Shall I obey God or man?' But if I should be convinced in the meanwhile that I could advance the glory of God and the salvation of souls in any other place more than in Bristol, in that hour, by God's help, I will go hence; which till then I may not do.


Others joined the cause like Grimshaw of Haworth and William Law, while his brother's uplifting music had parallels by Phillip Dodderege and Isaac Watts.


The Methodists were slammed in other writings, gentle John was portrayed as:


  • ...a restless deceiver of the people,
  • ...a newfangled teacher setting up his own fanatical conceits in opposition to the authority of God,
  • ...a Jesuit in disguise,
  • ...a Dissenter.


And his whole group were:


  • ...young quacks in divinity,
  • ...buffoons in religion,
  • ...bold movers of sedition,
  • ...ringleaders of the rabble.



This Spiritual force was so powerful as to "slay men of the Lord" -- a forerunner of camp meetings, and Pentecostal outpourings visited upon the faithful through the ages. (These Holy Ghost roots started on the Day of Pentecost in the Upper Room.)

As to holiness he described it:


Gradual sanctification may increase from the time you are justified, but full deliverance from sin, I believe, is always instantaneous - at least, I never knew an exception.


This explains that when one is justified (made like they had never sinned because of faith in Jesus Christ's death on the cross) they either progressively avoid sin again, or, as his "Entire Sanctification" doctrine makes the case, it happens all at once. This is to be seeked as a "Second Blessing." (This concept would definitely develop into the Pentecostal branches, their differences would be in the glossolalia {tongues}.) Interestingly their concern for the poor is echoed in the various storefront churches in inner cities where there was an unholy exodus of those from "Mainline Churches."


His Theology

It has been said that one should not bother to examine a John Wesleyian theology because he taught in A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists that emphasis on correctness of what one thinks is a small part of religion, and at one time simplified the main "condition" for belonging to their body is a strong wish to avoid Hell "...to be saved from their sins." They cite his sermon "Catholic Spirit" as his not carving doctrinal niches to avoid ecumenicism. But the misunderstanding would be from definition of theology as an intellectual offering, when Wesley's was from an experiential one.

Lost Race

He assuredly stressed the fallen race's need for salvation as the first priority, writing one of his most copious works on Original Sin. The first step was one seeing this dilemma. His amelioration, however, was that God put a "preventing grace" in all of us so that we could respond to His turning of Grace. One of his hymns exhibits his views:



Sinners, turn; why will ye die?
God, your Maker, asks you why;
God, who did your being give,
Made you with Himself to live;
He the fatal cause demands,
Asks the work of His own hands:
Why, ye thankless creatures, why
Will ye cross His love, and die?



The second important move is the sinner's acceptance, and in his Standard Sermons he starts with:


All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of His mere grace, bounty, or favour; His free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of His mercies.


Great Grace

I.e. saving grace comes through faith. He diverged from the Moravians in that he acknowledged that others had degrees of faith. Sacraments are vehicles of grace of God through Jesus. He suggested that more seekers participation in these rituals might get the unconverted into the place where finally they can receive the gift of faith to be justified, and "...if we continue therein, we shall be finally saved."


Done Deal, Get Clean

He had a doctrine of assurance, too. One can know that he has been made right with God. But the important last phase of the Christian he believed, touched on earlier, that one needs to find perfection (being Holy as He is Holy) by means of either gradually growing into it, or by the sudden and complete Second Blessing. He suggested,


Constant communion with God the Father and the Son fills their hearts with humble love. Now this is what I always did, and do now, mean by perfection.



The Found Sheep Shepherds


I'm leavin' it up to you,
You decide what ya gonna do.

--Don Harris and Dewey Terry, Jr., sung by Skeeter Davis


In 1780 Wesley put forth his Covenant Service, Directions for Renewing Our Covenant with God and his opening paragraph says a lot about his 'methods' --


Get these three Principles fixed in your hearts: that Things eternal are much more considerable than Things temporal; that Things not seen are as certain as the Things that are seen; that upon your present choice depends your eternal lot. Choose Christ and his ways, and you are blessed forever, refuse and you are undone forever.



Success worried John Wesley as this statement shows:


I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any renewal of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger and the love of the world in all its branches.


John Wesley was always gracious with his critics of his Arminian views. This tolerance became even more of a landmark quality of Methodism. They were some of the first to later ordain women.

Natural Foods and Electric Therapy

John Wesley was obsessed with keeping healthy, a habit we saw he started early, and continued, (he retired in the evening at nine, awoke at 4) but sharing culminating in his 1792 final 24th edition publication, Primitive Physic: An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases. He bragged that he was as fit as a twenty year old when he was 80. But he believed electric shock (a machine which he had in his possession) could cure multiple of tens of ailments, e.g. toothache; he almost used it to revive his dying brother Charles. 18th Century's version of Yuppies' Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was cured by snorting powerful proofed vinegar, he even had an onion rub cure for baldness; while earaches can be dissipated, tested by the author with either putting in that orifice, tobacco smoke, roasted fig, or toasted onion. Way ahead of his time he forbade pickled, smoked, overly salted and seasoned food to come out of his kitchen, only simple fare.

Ironically, when 51 years old, he thought he needed to write for his tombstone because he was going to succumb to consumption. But he had his accordion-like chair exercise horse to keep him active when not walking outside or pacing his room the two hundred times to make a mile.

An exception to all of his discipline, was his inclusion to his table of good fruit of the grape vine, and was most upset when some of his imported bottles were customs confiscated. His tee-totaling descendants would have chastised him.

He must have been right because his housekeeper Betsy Ritchie documented:


He looked wonderful, too. His step was firm and his appearance, to within a few years of his death, was vigorous and muscular. His face was one of the finest I have ever seen-a clear, smooth forehead, an aquiline nose; an eye the brightest and most piercing that can be conceived; and a freshness of complexion scarcely ever to be found at his years and expressive of the most perfect health.



In his last years, even eighty-eight years old he still gave sermons, but March 2, of 1791 his last message was short but profound on his death-bed,

The best of all is. God is with us.

Norwood, Frederick Abbott, The Story of American Methodism, Nashville: Parthenon Press (1981)
Great Leaders of the Christian Church, ed. John D. Woodbridge, Chicago: Moody (1988)
Eerdmans' Handbook to the History of Christianity, ed. Dr. Tim Dowley, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1977)
Synan Vinson, The Century of the Holy Spirit, Nashville: Thomas Nelson (2000)
Mead, Frank S., Handbook of Denominations, Nashville: Abingdon (1981)

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