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John Wesley

John Wesley

Overview
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

, as founding the Methodist movement
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 which began when he took to open-air preaching
Open-air preaching
Open-air preaching, street preaching or public preaching is the act of publicly proclaiming a religious message to crowds of people in open places...

 in a similar manner to George Whitefield
George Whitefield
George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican priest who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally...

. In contrast to George Whitefield's Calvinism
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England. Methodism in both forms was a highly successful evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 movement in the United Kingdom, which encouraged people to experience Jesus Christ personally.

Wesley's teachings, known as Wesleyanism
Wesleyanism
Wesleyanism or Wesleyan theology refers, respectively, to either the eponymous movement of Protestant Christians who have historically sought to follow the methods or theology of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, or to the likewise eponymous...

, provided the seeds for both the modern Methodist movement, the Holiness movement
Holiness movement
The holiness movement refers to a set of beliefs and practices emerging from the Methodist Christian church in the mid 19th century. The movement is distinguished by its emphasis on John Wesley's doctrine of "Christian perfection" - the belief that it is possible to live free of voluntary sin - and...

, Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

, the Charismatic Movement
Charismatic movement
The term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt...

, and Neo-charismatic churches
Neo-charismatic churches
Neo-charismatic churches are a category of churches in the Christian Renewal movement. The Christian renewal movement incorporates Pentecostal, Charismatic and neo-charismatic churches...

, which encompass numerous denominations across the world.
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Quotations

I observed, "Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." It is not only "the first and great" command, but all the commandments in one. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," they are all comprised in this one word, love.

Wesley quoting his own sermon on "The Circumsicion of the Heart" (1 January 1733) in the work A Plain Account Of Christian Perfection (Edition of 1777)

I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.

Journal (11 June 1739)

Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.

Letter (27 June 1760), published in The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (1813) Vol. XVI, p. 109

The longer I live, the larger allowances I make for human infirmities. I exact more from myself, and less from others. Go thou and do likewise!

Letter to Reverend Samuel Furley (25 Janurary 1762), Published in The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M. A., Founder of the Methodists (1872) by Luke Tyerman, p. 451

Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

Letter to Joseph Benson (7 November 1768); published in The Letters of John Wesley (1915) edited by George Eayrs

Passion and prejudice govern the world; only under the name of reason. It is our part, by religion and reason joined, to counteract them all we can.

Letter to John Benson (5 October 1770); published in Wesley's Select Letters (1837), p. 207

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.

Journal (12 February 1772) after reading Some historical accounts of Guinea by Anthony Benezet|Anthony Benezet

No circumstances can make it necessary for a man to burst in sunder all the ties of humanity.

Thoughts upon Slavery (1774)
Encyclopedia
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

, as founding the Methodist movement
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 which began when he took to open-air preaching
Open-air preaching
Open-air preaching, street preaching or public preaching is the act of publicly proclaiming a religious message to crowds of people in open places...

 in a similar manner to George Whitefield
George Whitefield
George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican priest who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally...

. In contrast to George Whitefield's Calvinism
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England. Methodism in both forms was a highly successful evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 movement in the United Kingdom, which encouraged people to experience Jesus Christ personally.

Wesley's teachings, known as Wesleyanism
Wesleyanism
Wesleyanism or Wesleyan theology refers, respectively, to either the eponymous movement of Protestant Christians who have historically sought to follow the methods or theology of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, or to the likewise eponymous...

, provided the seeds for both the modern Methodist movement, the Holiness movement
Holiness movement
The holiness movement refers to a set of beliefs and practices emerging from the Methodist Christian church in the mid 19th century. The movement is distinguished by its emphasis on John Wesley's doctrine of "Christian perfection" - the belief that it is possible to live free of voluntary sin - and...

, Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

, the Charismatic Movement
Charismatic movement
The term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt...

, and Neo-charismatic churches
Neo-charismatic churches
Neo-charismatic churches are a category of churches in the Christian Renewal movement. The Christian renewal movement incorporates Pentecostal, Charismatic and neo-charismatic churches...

, which encompass numerous denominations across the world. In addition, he refined Arminianism with a strong evangelical emphasis on the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith.

Overview


Wesley helped to organise and form societies of Christians throughout England, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, Wales, North America and Ireland as small groups that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, unordained preachers who travelled widely to evangelise
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

 and care for people in the societies. Young men who acted as their assistants, known as "exhorters", emulated the twelve apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 after the ascension of Jesus.

Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the prison reform
Prison reform
Prison reform is the attempt to improve conditions inside prisons, aiming at a more effective penal system.-History:Prisons have only been used as the primary punishment for criminal acts in the last couple of centuries...

 and abolitionism
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 movements. Wesley's contribution as a theologian was to propose a system of opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed "Christian Perfection
Christian perfection
Christian perfection, also known as perfect love; heart purity; the baptism of the Holy Spirit; the fullness of the blessing; Christian holiness; the second blessing; and entire sanctification, is a Christian doctrine which holds that the heart of the regenerant Christian may attain a state of...

", or holiness of heart and life. Wesley held that, in this life, Christians could come to a state in which the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in their hearts. His evangelical theology, especially his understanding of Christian perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

, scripture, meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

, Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, etc.) as the means by which God sanctifies
Sanctification
Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

 and transforms the believer.

Wesley was also a keen abolitionist. He spoke out and wrote against the slave trade. He published a pamphlet on slavery titled, Thoughts Upon Slavery, (1774). To quote from one of his tracts against the slave trade: "Liberty is the right of every human creature, as soon as he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of that right which he derives from the law of nature". Wesley was a friend of John Newton
John Newton
John Henry Newton was a British sailor and Anglican clergyman. Starting his career on the sea at a young age, he became involved with the slave trade for a few years. After experiencing a religious conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of...

 and William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce was a British politician, a philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire...

 who were also influential in the abolition of slavery in Britain.

Throughout his life Wesley remained within the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of the Anglican tradition. His maverick use of church policy put him at odds with many within the Church of England, though toward the end of his life he was widely respected and referred to as "the best loved man in England."

Early life



John Wesley was born in 1703 in Epworth, 23 miles (37 km) northwest of Lincoln, the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley
Samuel Wesley (poet)
Samuel Wesley was a poet and a writer of controversial prose. He was also the father of John Wesley and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church.-Family and early life:...

 and his wife Susanna Wesley
Susanna Wesley
Susanna Wesley , born Susanna Annesley, was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley and Mary White, and the mother of John and Charles Wesley....

 (née Annesley). His father was a graduate of the University of Oxford and a Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 rector. In 1689 Samuel had married Susanna, twenty-fifth child of Dr. Samuel Annesley
Samuel Annesley
Samuel Annesley was a prominent Puritan and nonconformist pastor, best known for the sermons he collected as the series of Morning Exercises.-Life:...

, a Dissenter
Dissenter
The term dissenter , labels one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the Established Church.Originally, the term...

 pastor. Wesley's parents had both become members of the Established Church (Church of England) early in adulthood. Susanna bore Samuel Wesley nineteen children, but only seven lived. In 1696 Wesley's father was appointed the rector of Epworth.

At the age of five, Wesley was rescued from the burning rectory. This escape made a deep impression on his mind, and he regarded himself as providentially set apart, as a "brand plucked from the burning" quoting Zechariah 3:2. As in many families at the time, Wesley's parents gave their children their early education. Each child, including the girls, was taught to read as soon as they could walk and talk. In 1714, at age 11, Wesley was sent to the Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School, originally The Hospital of King James and Thomas Sutton in Charterhouse, or more simply Charterhouse or House, is an English collegiate independent boarding school situated at Godalming in Surrey.Founded by Thomas Sutton in London in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian...

 in London (under the mastership of John King
John King (clergyman)
John King was an important English clergyman. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford on 4 July 1678, receiving his B.A. in 1682, his M.A. in 1685, and his B.D. and D.D. in 1704. He then became the rector of Shalden, Hampshire...

 from 1715), where he lived the studious, methodical and—for a while—religious life in which he had been trained at home.

Oxford and Georgia


In June 1720, Wesley entered Christ Church College, Oxford. He was ordained deacon in 1725 and elected fellow of Lincoln College
Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is situated on Turl Street in central Oxford, backing onto Brasenose College and adjacent to Exeter College...

 in the following year. He received his Master of Arts
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 in 1727. He was his father's curate
Curate
A curate is a person who is invested with the care or cure of souls of a parish. In this sense "curate" correctly means a parish priest but in English-speaking countries a curate is an assistant to the parish priest...

 for two years, and then returned to Oxford to fulfil his functions as fellow.

In the year of his ordination he read Thomas a Kempis
Thomas à Kempis
Thomas à Kempis was a late Medieval Catholic monk and the probable author of The Imitation of Christ, which is one of the best known Christian books on devotion. His name means, "Thomas of Kempen", his home town and in German he is known as Thomas von Kempen...

 and Jeremy Taylor
Jeremy Taylor
Jeremy Taylor was a clergyman in the Church of England who achieved fame as an author during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. He is sometimes known as the "Shakespeare of Divines" for his poetic style of expression and was often presented as a model of prose writing...

, and began to seek the religious truths which underlay the great revival of the 18th century. The reading of Law's Christian Perfection and A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life gave him, he said, a sublimer view of the law of God; and he resolved to keep it, inwardly and outwardly, as sacredly as possible, believing that in obedience he would find salvation. He pursued a rigidly methodical and abstemious life, studied the Scriptures, and performed his religious duties diligently, depriving himself so that he would have alms to give. He began to seek after holiness of heart and life.

The year of his return to Oxford (1729) marks the beginning of the rise of Methodism. The Holy Club
Holy Club
The Holy Club was an organisation at Christ Church, Oxford, set up by brothers John and Charles Wesley in 1729, who later contributed to the formation of the Methodist Church....

 was formed by John's younger brother, Charles Wesley, and some fellow students, including George Whitefield
George Whitefield
George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican priest who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally...

. The holy club met weekly and they systematically set about living a holy life. They were branded as "Methodist" by students at Oxford who derided the methodical way they ordered their lives.

On 14 October 1735, Wesley and his brother Charles sailed on The Simmonds from Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...

 for Savannah
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

 in the Province of Georgia
Province of Georgia
The Province of Georgia was one of the Southern colonies in British America. It was the last of the thirteen original colonies established by Great Britain in what later became the United States...

 in the American colonies
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

 at the request of Governor James Oglethorpe
James Oglethorpe
James Edward Oglethorpe was a British general, member of Parliament, philanthropist, and founder of the colony of Georgia...

. Oglethorpe wanted Wesley to be the minister of the newly formed Savannah parish.


It was on the voyage to the colonies that the Wesleys first came into contact with Moravian settlers. Wesley was influenced by their deep faith and spirituality rooted in pietism
Pietism
Pietism was a movement within Lutheranism, lasting from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century and later. It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptism, inspiring not only Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement, but also Alexander Mack to...

. At one point in the voyage a storm came up and broke the mast off the ship. While the English panicked, the Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. This experience led Wesley to believe that the Moravians possessed an inner strength which he lacked. The deeply personal religion that the Moravian pietists practised heavily influenced Wesley's theology of Methodism.

They reached Savannah on 8 February 1736, where Wesley saw Oglethorpe's offer as an opportunity to spread Christianity to the Native Americans in the colony. Wesley's mission, however, was unsuccessful, and he and his brother Charles were constantly beset by troubles in the colonies.

On top of his struggles with teaching, Wesley found disaster in his relations with Sophia Hopkey, a woman who had journeyed across the Atlantic on the same ship as Wesley. Wesley and Hopkey became romantically involved, but Wesley abruptly broke off the relationship on the advice of a Moravian minister in whom he confided. Hopkey contended that Wesley had promised to marry her and therefore had gone back on his word in breaking off the relationship. Wesley's problems came to a head when he refused Hopkey communion. She and her new husband, William Williamson, filed suit against Wesley.
Wesley stood trial and faced the accusations made by Hopkey. The proceedings ended in a mistrial, but Wesley's reputation had already been tarnished too greatly, and he made it known that he intended to return to England. Williamson again tried to raise charges against Wesley to prevent him from leaving the colony, but he managed to escape back to England. He was left exhausted by the whole experience. His mission to Georgia contributed to a life-long struggle with self-doubt.

He went back to England to earn money for a church.

Conversion; open-air preaching



Wesley returned to England depressed and beaten. It was at this point that he turned to the Moravians. Both he and Charles received counsel from the young Moravian missionary Peter Boehler, who was temporarily in England awaiting permission to depart for Georgia himself. John's famous "Aldersgate experience" of 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, in which he heard a reading of Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

's preface to the Epistle to the Romans
Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

, and penned the now famous lines "I felt my heart strangely warmed", revolutionised the character and method of his ministry. The previous week he had been highly impressed by the sermon of Dr. John Heylyn
John Heylyn
John Heylyn was an Anglican divine, who had a major influence on religious thought in eighteenth century England. Because of his interest in mysticism he was known as the Mystic Doctor....

, whom he was assisting in the service at St Mary-le-Strand
St Mary-le-Strand
St. Mary le Strand is a Church of England church at the eastern end of the Strand in the City of Westminster, London. It lies within the Deanery of Westminster within the Diocese of London. The church stands on what is now a traffic island to the north of Somerset House, King's College London's...

, an occasion followed immediately by news of the death of his brother Samuel. A few weeks later, Wesley preached a sermon on the doctrine of personal salvation by faith, which was followed by another, on God's grace "free in all, and free for all."

Though his understanding of both justification and the assurance varied throughout his life, Wesley never stopped preaching the importance of faith for salvation and the witness of God's Spirit with the belief that one was, indeed, a child of God.

Wesley allied himself with the Moravian society in Fetter Lane. In 1738 he went to Herrnhut
Herrnhut
Herrnhut is a municipality in the district of Görlitz, in the Free State of Saxony, Germany.It has access to Bundesstraße 178 between Löbau and Zittau...

, the Moravian headquarters in Germany, to study. On his return to England, Wesley drew up rules for the "bands" into which the Fetter Lane Society
Fetter Lane Society
The Fetter Lane Society was the first flowering of the Moravian church in the UK, and an important precursor to Methodism. It is part of the British Province of the Moravian Church.-History:...

 was divided and published a collection of hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

s for them. He met frequently with this and other religious societies in London but did not preach often in 1738, because most of the parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

es were closed to him.

Wesley's Oxford friend, the evangelist George Whitefield, was also excluded from the churches of Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 upon his return from America. Going to the neighbouring village of Kingswood
Kingswood, South Gloucestershire
Kingswood is an urban area in South Gloucestershire, England, bordering the City of Bristol to the west. It is located on both sides of the A420 road, which connects Bristol and Chippenham and which forms the high street through the principal retail zone...

, in February 1739, Whitefield preached in the open air to a company of miners. Later he preached in Whitefield's Tabernacle
Whitefield's Tabernacle, Kingswood
Whitefield's sometimes Whitfield's Tabernacle is a former Calvinistic Methodist and Congregational church in Kingswood, a town on the eastern edge of Bristol where George Whitefield preached in the open air to coal miners...

. Wesley hesitated to accept Whitefield's call to copy this bold step. Overcoming his scruples, he preached the first time at Whitefield's invitation sermon in the open air
Open-air preaching
Open-air preaching, street preaching or public preaching is the act of publicly proclaiming a religious message to crowds of people in open places...

, near Bristol, in April 1739.

Wesley was unhappy about the idea of field preaching as he believed the Anglican Church had much to offer in its practice. Earlier in his life he would have thought that such a method of saving souls was "almost a sin." Wesley recognised the open-air services were successful in reaching men and women who would not enter most churches. From then on he took the opportunities to preach wherever an assembly could be brought together, more than once using his father's tombstone at Epworth as a pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left is called the pulpit...

. Wesley continued for fifty years – entering churches when he was invited, and taking his stand in the fields, in halls, cottages, and chapels, when the churches would not receive him.

Late in 1739 Wesley broke with the Moravians in London. Wesley had helped them organise the Fetter Lane Society
Fetter Lane Society
The Fetter Lane Society was the first flowering of the Moravian church in the UK, and an important precursor to Methodism. It is part of the British Province of the Moravian Church.-History:...

, and those converted by his preaching and that of his brother and Whitefield had become members of their bands. But he believed they fell into heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 by supporting quietism
Quietism (Christian philosophy)
Quietism is a Christian philosophy that swept through France, Italy and Spain during the 17th century, but it had much earlier origins. The mystics known as Quietists insist, with more or less emphasis, on intellectual stillness and interior passivity as essential conditions of perfection...

, so he decided to form his own followers into a separate society. "Thus," he wrote, "without any previous plan, began the Methodist Society in England." He soon formed similar societies in Bristol and Kingswood, and wherever Wesley and his friends made converts.

Persecutions; lay preaching



From 1739 onward, Wesley and the Methodists were persecuted by clergymen and magistrates for various reasons. Though Wesley had been ordained an Anglican presbyter, many other Methodist leaders had not received ordination. And for his own part, Wesley flouted many regulations of the Church of England concerning parish boundaries and who had authority to preach. This was seen as a social threat that disregarded institutions. Ministers attacked them in sermons and in print, and at times mobs attacked them. Wesley and his followers continued to work among the neglected and needy. They were denounced as promulgators of strange doctrines, fomenters of religious disturbances; as blind fanatics, leading people astray, claiming miraculous gifts, attacking the clergy of the Church of England, and trying to re-establish Catholicism.

Wesley felt that the church failed to call sinners to repentance, that many of the clergymen were corrupt, and that people were perishing in their sins. He believed he was commissioned by God to bring about revival in the church, and no opposition, persecution, or obstacles could prevail against the divine urgency and authority of this commission. The prejudices of his high-church training, his strict notions of the methods and proprieties of public worship, his views of the apostolic succession and the prerogatives of the priest, even his most cherished convictions, were not allowed to stand in the way.

Unwilling that people should perish in their sins and unable to reach them from church pulpits, following the example set by George Whitefield, Wesley began field preaching. Seeing that he and the few clergymen cooperating with him could not do the work that needed to be done, he was led, as early as 1739, to approve local preachers. He evaluated and approved men who were not ordained by the Anglican Church to preach and do pastoral work. This expansion of lay preachers was one of the keys of the growth of Methodism.

Chapels and organisations



As his societies needed houses to worship in, Wesley began to provide chapels, first in Bristol at the New Room
New Room, Bristol
The New Room is a historic building in Broadmead, Bristol, England.It was built in 1739 by John Wesley and is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world. Above the chapel are the rooms in which Wesley and other preachers stayed. The chapel includes a double decker pulpit, which was common at the...

, then in London and elsewhere. The Bristol chapel (1739) was at first in the hands of trustees. A large debt was contracted, and Wesley's friends urged him to keep it under his own control, so the deed was cancelled, and he became sole trustee. Following this precedent, all Methodist chapels were committed in trust to him until by a "deed of declaration", all his interests in them were transferred to a body of preachers called the "Legal Hundred."

When disorder arose among some members of the societies, Wesley adopted giving tickets to members, with their names written by his own hand. These were renewed every three months. Those deemed unworthy did not receive new tickets and dropped out of the society without disturbance. The tickets were regarded as commendatory letters.

When the debt on a chapel became a burden, it was proposed that one in twelve members should collect offerings regularly from the eleven allotted to him. Out of this grew the Methodist class-meeting system in 1742. In order to keep the disorderly out of the societies, Wesley established a probationary system. He undertook to visit each society regularly in what became the quarterly visitation, or conference. As the number of societies increased, Wesley could not keep personal contact, so in 1743 he drew up a set of "General Rules" for the "United Societies." These were the nucleus of the Methodist Discipline, still the basis.

General Rules: It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,

First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind . . . ;

Second: By . . . doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all . . . ;

Third: By attending upon all the ordinances of God

As the number of preachers and preaching-places increased, doctrinal and administrative matters needed to be discussed; so John and Charles Wesley, along with four other clergymen and four lay preachers, met for consultation in London in 1744. This was the first Methodist conference; subsequently, the conference (with Wesley as its president) became the ruling body of the Methodist movement. Two years later, to help preachers work more systematically and societies receive services more regularly, Wesley appointed "helpers" to definitive circuits. Each circuit included at least thirty appointments a month. Believing that the preacher's efficiency was promoted by his being changed from one circuit to another every year or two, Wesley established the "itinerancy", and insisted that his preachers submit to its rules. When, in 1788, some objected to the frequent changes, Wesley wrote, "For fifty years God has been pleased to bless the itinerant plan, the last year most of all. It must not be altered til I am removed, and I hope it will remain til our Lord comes to reign on earth."

Ordination of ministers



As the societies multiplied, they adopted the elements of an ecclesiastical system. The divide between Wesley and the Church of England widened. The question of division from the Church of England was urged by some of his preachers and societies, but most strenuously opposed by his brother Charles. Wesley refused to leave the Church of England, believing that Anglicanism was "with all her blemishes, [...] nearer the Scriptural plans than any other in Europe". In 1745 Wesley wrote that he would make any concession which his conscience permitted, in order to live in peace with the clergy. He could not give up the doctrine of an inward and present salvation by faith itself. He would not stop preaching, nor dissolve the societies, nor end preaching by lay members. As a clergyman within the established church he had no plans to go further. "We dare not", he said, "administer baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 or the Lord's Supper
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 without a commission from a bishop in the apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

."

When in 1746 Wesley read Lord King on the primitive church, he became convinced that the concept of apostolic succession in Anglicanism was a "fable". He wrote that he was "a scriptural episkopos as much as many men in England." Many years later Edward Stillingfleet
Edward Stillingfleet
Edward Stillingfleet was a British theologian and scholar. Considered an outstanding preacher as well as a strong polemical writer defending Anglicanism, Stillingfleet was known as "the beauty of holiness" for his good looks in the pulpit, and was called by John Hough "the ablest man of his...

's Irenicon led him to decide that ordination
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 could be valid when performed by a presbyter
Presbyter
Presbyter in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then a synonym of episkopos...

 rather than a bishop. Nevertheless, many believe that Wesley was consecrated a bishop in 1763 by Erasmus of Arcadia
Erasmus of Arcadia
Erasmus of Arcadia , also known as Gerasimos Avlonites , was a Greek Orthodox bishop of the Diocese of Arcadia in Crete, operating under the Patriarch of Smyrna. Erasmus' monastery, located south of Rethymon in central Crete, was a centre of resistance to foreign domination by the Turkish régime. ...

, and that Wesley could not openly announce his episcopal consecration without incurring the penalty of the Præmunire Act
Praemunire
In English history, Praemunire or Praemunire facias was a law that prohibited the assertion or maintenance of papal jurisdiction, imperial or foreign, or some other alien jurisdiction or claim of supremacy in England, against the supremacy of the Monarch...

.

In 1784, he believed he could not longer wait for the Bishop of London
Bishop of London
The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers 458 km² of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames and a small part of the County of Surrey...

 to ordain a minister for the American Methodists, who were without the sacraments after the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. The Church of England had been disestablished in the United States, where it had been the state church in most of the southern colonies. The Church of England had not yet appointed a United States bishop to what would become the Protestant Episcopal Church
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

 in America. Wesley ordained Thomas Coke
Thomas Coke (bishop)
Thomas Coke was the first Methodist Bishop and is known as the Father of Methodist Missions.Born in Brecon, south Wales, his father was a well-to-do apothecary...

 by the laying on of hands although Coke was already a priest in the Church of England. Wesley appointed him to be superintendent of Methodists in the United States. He also ordained Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as presbyters. Whatcoat and Vasey sailed to America with Coke. Wesley intended that Coke and Asbury (whom Coke ordained) should ordain others in the newly founded Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church, sometimes referred to as the M.E. Church, was a development of the first expression of Methodism in the United States. It officially began at the Baltimore Christmas Conference in 1784, with Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as the first bishops. Through a series of...

 in the United States.

His brother Charles grew alarmed and begged Wesley to stop before he had "quite broken down the bridge" and not embitter his [Charles'] last moments on earth, nor "leave an indelible blot on our memory." Wesley replied that he had not separated from the church, nor did he intend to, but he must and would save as many souls as he could while alive, "without being careful about what may possibly be when I die." Although Wesley rejoiced that the Methodists in America were free, he advised his English followers to remain in the established church, and he himself died within it.

Doctrines and theology


The 20th century Wesley scholar Albert Outler
Albert Outler
Albert Cook Outler was a 20th century American Methodist theologian and philosopher. Outler is generally considered to be one of the most important Wesley scholars in the history of the Church as well as the first real United Methodist theologian...

 argued in his introduction to the 1964 collection John Wesley that Wesley developed his theology by using a method that Outler termed the Wesleyan Quadrilateral
Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist Albert C...

. In this method, Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture; and the Bible was the sole foundational source of theological or doctrinal development. The centrality of Scripture was so important for Wesley that he called himself "a man of one book"—meaning the Bible—although he was well-read for his day. However, he believed that doctrine had to be in keeping with Christian orthodox tradition. So, tradition was considered the second aspect of the Quadrilateral.

Wesley contended that a part of the theological method would involve experiential faith. In other words, truth would be vivified in personal experience of Christians (overall, not individually), if it were really truth. And every doctrine must be able to be defended rationally. He did not divorce faith from reason. Tradition, experience and reason, however, were subject always to Scripture, Wesley argued, because only there is the Word of God revealed "so far as it is necessary for our salvation."

The doctrines which Wesley emphasised in his sermons and writings are prevenient grace
Prevenient grace
Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. It is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as prevenient grace...

, present personal salvation by faith, the witness of the Spirit, and sanctification. Prevenient grace was the theological underpinning of his belief that all persons were capable of being saved by faith in Christ. Unlike the Calvinists of his day, Wesley did not believe in predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

, that is, that some persons had been elected by God for salvation and others for damnation. He understood that Christian orthodoxy insisted that salvation was only possible by the sovereign grace of God. He expressed his understanding of humanity's relationship to God as utter dependence upon God's grace. God was at work to enable all people to be capable of coming to faith by empowering humans to have actual existential freedom of response to God.

Wesley defined the witness of the Spirit as: "an inward impression on the soul of believers, whereby the Spirit of God directly testifies to their spirit that they are the children of God." He based this doctrine upon certain Biblical passages (see Romans 8:15–16 as an example). This doctrine was closely related to his belief that salvation had to be "personal." In his view, a person must ultimately believe the Good News for himself or herself; no one could be in relation to God for another.

Sanctification
Sanctification
Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

 he described in 1790 as the "grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called `Methodists'." Wesley taught that sanctification was obtainable after justification by faith, between justification and death. He did not contend for "sinless perfection"; rather, he contended that a Christian could be made "perfect in love". (Wesley studied Eastern Orthodoxy
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and particularly the doctrine of Theosis
Theosis
In Christian theology, divinization, deification, making divine or theosis is the transforming effect of divine grace. This concept of salvation is historical and fundamental for Christian understanding that is prominent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and also in the Catholic Church, and is a...

). This love would mean, first of all, that a believer's motives, rather than being self-centred, would be guided by the deep desire to please God. One would be able to keep from committing what Wesley called, "sin rightly so-called." By this he meant a conscious or intentional breach of God's will or laws. A person could still be able to sin, but intentional or wilful sin could be avoided.

Secondly, to be made perfect in love meant, for Wesley, that a Christian could live with a primary guiding regard for others and their welfare. He based this on Christ's quote that the second great command is "to love your neighbour as you love yourself." In his view, this orientation would cause a person to avoid any number of sins against his neighbour. This love, plus the love for God that could be the central focus of a person's faith, would be what Wesley referred to as "a fulfilment of the law of Christ."

Wesley believed that this doctrine should be constantly preached, especially among the people called Methodists. In fact, he contended that the purpose of the Methodist movement was to "spread scriptural holiness across England."

Advocacy of Arminianism


Wesley entered controversies as he tried to enlarge church practice. The most notable of his controversies was that on Calvinism
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

. His father was of the Arminian
Arminianism in the Church of England
Arminianism in the Church of England was a theological strand or tendency within the clergy of the Church of England particularly evident in the second quarter of the 17th century...

 school in the church. Wesley came to his own conclusions while in college and expressed himself strongly against the doctrines of Calvinistic election and reprobation.

Whitefield inclined to Calvinism. In his first tour in America, he embraced the views of the New England School of Calvinism. When in 1739 Wesley preached a sermon on Freedom of Grace, attacking the Calvinistic understanding of predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

 as blasphemous, as it represented "God as worse than the devil," Whitefield asked him not to repeat or publish the discourse, as he did not want a dispute. Wesley published his sermon anyway. Whitefield was one of many who responded. The two men separated their practice in 1741. Wesley wrote that those who held to unlimited atonement did not desire separation, but "those who held 'particular redemption' would not hear of any accommodation."

Whitefield, Harris
Howell Harris
Hywel Harris was one of the main leaders of the Welsh Methodist revival in the 18th century, along with Daniel Rowland and William Williams Pantycelyn.-Life:...

, Cennick
John Cennick
John Cennick was an early Methodist and Moravian evangelist and hymnwriter. He was born in Reading, Berkshire, England to an Anglican family and raised in the Church of England....

, and others, became the founders of Calvinistic Methodism
Presbyterian Church of Wales
The Presbyterian Church of Wales , also known as The Calvinistic Methodist Church , is a denomination of Protestant Christianity. It was born out of the Welsh Methodist revival and the preaching of Hywel Harris Howell Harris in the 18th century and seceded from the Church of England in 1811...

. Whitefield and Wesley, however, were soon back on friendly terms, and their friendship remained unbroken although they travelled different paths.

In 1770 the controversy broke out anew with violence and bitterness, as people's view of God related to their views of men and their possibilities. Augustus Montague Toplady
Augustus Montague Toplady
Augustus Montague Toplady was an Anglican cleric and hymn writer. He was a major Calvinist opponent of John Wesley. He is best remembered as the author of the hymn "Rock of Ages"...

, Rowland
Daniel Rowland
Daniel Rowland —sometimes spelt as Rowlands—was one of the foremost leaders of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist revival along with Howell Harris and William Williams. For most of his life he served as curate in the parishes of Nantcwnlle and Llangeitho, Ceredigion...

, Richard Hill
Sir Richard Hill, 2nd Baronet
Sir Richard Hill, 2nd Baronet of Hawkstone, was a prominent religious revivalist and Tory member of Parliament for Shropshire 1780-1806.He was the eldest son of Sir Rowland Hill, 1st baronet, who was also a first cousin of Thomas Hill, of Tern, . His mother was Jane, dau. of Sir Brian Broughton,...

, and others were engaged on the one side, and Wesley and Fletcher on the other. Toplady was editor of The Gospel Magazine
The Gospel Magazine
The Gospel Magazine is a Calvinist, evangelical magazine from the United Kingdom, and is one of the longest running of such periodicals, having been founded in 1766. Most of the editors have been Anglicans. It is currently published bi-monthly....

, which had articles covering the controversy.

In 1778 Wesley began the publication of The Arminian Magazine, not, he said, to convince Calvinists, but to preserve Methodists. He wanted to teach the truth that "God willeth all men to be saved." A "lasting peace" could be secured in no other way.

His system of thought has become known as Wesleyan Arminianism, the foundations of which were laid by Wesley and Fletcher.

Personality and activities



John Wesley travelled generally on horseback, preaching two or three times each day. Stephen Tomkins writes that he "rode 250,000 miles, gave away 30,000 pounds, ... and preached more than 40,000 sermons[.]"

He formed societies, opened chapels, examined and commissioned preachers, administered aid charities, prescribed for the sick, helped to pioneer the use of electric shock
Electroconvulsive therapy
Electroconvulsive therapy , formerly known as electroshock, is a psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in anesthetized patients for therapeutic effect. Its mode of action is unknown...

 for the treatment of illness, superintended schools and orphanage
Orphanage
An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them...

s, and received at least £20,000 for his publications but used little of it for himself.

After attending a performance in Bristol Cathedral in 1758, Wesley said: "I went to the cathedral to hear Mr. Handel's
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...

 Messiah
Messiah (Handel)
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later...

. I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance. In many places, especially several of the choruses, it exceeded my expectation."

He is described as below medium height, well proportioned, strong, with a bright eye, a clear complexion, and a saintly, intellectual face. Wesley married very unhappily at the age of forty-eight to a widow, Mary Vazeille, and had no children. Vazeille left him fifteen years later, to which Wesley wryly reported in his journal, "I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her."

In 1770, at the death of George Whitefield, Wesley wrote a memorial sermon which praised Whitefield's admirable qualities and acknowledged the two men's differences: "There are many doctrines of a less essential nature ... In these we may think and let think; we may 'agree to disagree
Agree to disagree
The term "agree to disagree" or "agreeing to disagree" is a phrase in English referring to the resolution of a conflict whereby all parties tolerate but do not accept the opposing position. It generally occurs when all sides recognise that further conflict would be unnecessary, ineffective or...

.' But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials..." Wesley was the first to put the phrase 'agree to disagree' in print.

Wesley died on 2 March 1791, in his eighty-seventh year. As he lay dying, his friends gathered around him, Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, "Farewell, farewell." At the end, he said "The best of all is, God is with us", lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice again, repeating the words, "The best of all is, God is with us." Because of his charitable nature he died poor, leaving as the result of his life's work 135,000 members and 541 itinerant preachers under the name "Methodist". It has been said that "when John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman's gown," and the Methodist Church.

Literary work


Wesley was a logical thinker and expressed himself clearly, concisely and forcefully in writing. His written sermons are characterised by spiritual earnestness and simplicity. They are doctrinal but not dogmatic. His Notes on the New Testament (1755) are enlightening. Both the Sermons (about 140) and the Notes are doctrinal standards. Wesley was a fluent, powerful and effective preacher. He usually preached spontaneously and briefly, though occasionally at great length.

As an organiser, a religious leader and a statesman, he was eminent. He knew how to lead and control men to achieve his purposes. He used his power, not to provoke rebellion, but to inspire love. His mission was to spread "Scriptural holiness"; his means and plans were such as Providence indicated. The course thus mapped out for him he pursued with a determination from which nothing could distract him.

Wesley's prose Works were first collected by himself (32 vols., Bristol, 1771–74, frequently reprinted in editions varying greatly in the number of volumes). His chief prose works are a standard publication in seven octavo volumes of the Methodist Book Concern, New York. The Poetical Works of John and Charles, ed. G. Osborn, appeared in 13 vols., London, 1868–72.

In addition to his Sermons and Notes are his Journals (originally published in 20 parts, London, 1740–89; new ed. by N. Curnock containing notes from unpublished diaries, 6 vols., vols. i.-ii., London and New York, 1909–11); The Doctrine of Original Sin (Bristol, 1757; in reply to Dr. John Taylor
John Taylor (1694-1761)
John Taylor was an English dissenting preacher, Hebrew scholar, and theologian.-Early life:The son of a timber merchant at Lancaster, he was born at Scotforth, Lancashire. His father, John was an Anglican, his mother, Susannah a dissenter...

 of Norwich); "An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion (originally published in three parts; 2d ed., Bristol, 1743), an elaborate defence of Methodism, describing the evils of the times in society and the church; a Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766).

Wesley adapted the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 for use by American Methodists
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church is a Methodist Christian denomination which is both mainline Protestant and evangelical. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley...

. In his Watch Night service, he made use of a pietist prayer now generally known as the Wesley Covenant Prayer
Wesley Covenant Prayer
Wesley's Covenant Prayer or A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition is a prayer adapted by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, for use in services for the Renewal of the believer's Covenant with God. In his Short history of the people called Methodists , Wesley describes the first covenant...

, perhaps his most famous contribution to Christian liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

. He also was a noted hymn-writer, translator and compiler of a hymnal

In spite of the proliferation of his literary output, Wesley was challenged for plagiarism for borrowing heavily from an essay by Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, publishing in March 1775. Initially denying the charge, Wesley later recanted and apologised officially.

Legacy




Today, Wesley's influence as a teacher persists. He continues to be the primary theological interpreter for Methodists the world over; the largest bodies being the United Methodist Church
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church is a Methodist Christian denomination which is both mainline Protestant and evangelical. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley...

, the Methodist Church of Great Britain
Methodist Church of Great Britain
The Methodist Church of Great Britain is the largest Wesleyan Methodist body in the United Kingdom, with congregations across Great Britain . It is the United Kingdom's fourth largest Christian denomination, with around 300,000 members and 6,000 churches...

 and the African Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church, is a predominantly African American Methodist denomination based in the United States. It was founded by the Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the...

. The teachings of Wesley also serve as a basis for the holiness movement
Holiness movement
The holiness movement refers to a set of beliefs and practices emerging from the Methodist Christian church in the mid 19th century. The movement is distinguished by its emphasis on John Wesley's doctrine of "Christian perfection" - the belief that it is possible to live free of voluntary sin - and...

, which includes denominations like the Wesleyan Church
Wesleyan Church
"Wesleyan" has been used in the title of a number of historic and current denominations, although the subject of this article is the only denomination to use that specific title...

, the Free Methodist Church
Free Methodist Church
The Free Methodist Church is a Methodist Christian denomination within the holiness movement. It is evangelical in nature and has its roots in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition....

, the Church of the Nazarene
Church of the Nazarene
The Church of the Nazarene is an evangelical Christian denomination that emerged from the 19th century Holiness movement in North America with its members colloquially referred to as Nazarenes. It is the largest Wesleyan-holiness denomination in the world. At the end of 2010, the Church of the...

, the Christian and Missionary Alliance
Christian and Missionary Alliance
The Christian and Missionary Alliance is an evangelical Protestant denomination within Christianity.Founded by Rev. Albert Benjamin Simpson in 1887, the Christian & Missionary Alliance did not start off as a denomination, but rather began as two distinct parachurch organizations: The Christian...

, and several smaller groups, and from which Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

 and parts of the charismatic movement
Charismatic movement
The term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt...

 are offshoots. Wesley's call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who attempt to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

.

He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints
Calendar of Saints (Lutheran)
The Lutheran Calendar of Saints is a listing which details the primary annual festivals and events that are celebrated liturgically by some Lutheran Churches in the United States. The calendars of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod are from the...

 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches. As of December 31, 2009, it had 4,543,037 baptized members, with 2,527,941 of them...

 on 2 March with his brother Charles. The Wesley brothers are also commemorated on 3 March in the Calendar of Saints
Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America)
The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition may...

 of the Episcopal Church and on 24 May in the Anglican calendar
Calendar of saints (Church of England)
The Church of England commemorates many of the same saints as those in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, mostly on the same days, but also commemorates various notable Christians who have not been canonised by Rome, with a particular though not exclusive emphasis on those of English origin...

.

Wesley's legacy is preserved in Kingswood School
Kingswood School
Kingswood School, referred to as 'Kingswood', is an independent day and boarding school located in Bath, Somerset, England. The school is coeducational and educates some 950 children aged 3 to 18. It is notable for being founded by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in 1748...

, which he founded in 1748 in order to educate the children of the growing number of Methodist preachers. Also, one of the four form houses at the St Marylebone Church of England School, London, is named after John Wesley.

He was recently listed at 50 on the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons
100 Greatest Britons
100 Greatest Britons was broadcast in 2002 by the BBC. The programme was the result of a vote conducted to determine whom the United Kingdom public considers the greatest British people in history. The series, Great Britons, included individual programmes on the top ten, with viewers having further...

.

In 1831, Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college founded in 1831 and located in Middletown, Connecticut. According to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Wesleyan is the only Baccalaureate College in the nation that emphasizes undergraduate instruction in the arts and...

 in Middletown
Middletown, Connecticut
Middletown is a city located in Middlesex County, Connecticut, along the Connecticut River, in the central part of the state, 16 miles south of Hartford. In 1650, it was incorporated as a town under its original Indian name, Mattabeseck. It received its present name in 1653. In 1784, the central...

, Connecticut was the first institution of higher education in the United States to be named after Wesley. The now-secular institution was founded as an all-male Methodist college. About twenty unrelated colleges and universities in the U.S. were subsequently named after him.

In film


In 1954 the Radio and Film Commission of the Methodist Church in cooperation with J. Arthur Rank produced the film John Wesley
John Wesley (film)
John Wesley is a 1954 British historical film directed by Norman Walker and starring Leonard Sachs, Neil Heayes and Keith Pyott. It depicts the life of the father of Methodism, John Wesley, and his life.-Cast:* Leonard Sachs ... John Wesley...

. The film was a live action re-telling of the story of the life of John Wesley, with Leonard Sachs as Wesley.

In 2009 a more ambitious feature film, Wesley
Wesley (film)
Wesley is a 2009 biopic about John Wesley and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodist movement. The movie is based largely on the Wesley brother's own journals, including John's private journal which was kept in a shorthand-like code that was not translated until the 1980s by Dr...

, was released by Foundery Pictures, starring Burgess Jenkins
Burgess Jenkins
Burgess Jenkins is a film actor known for work in the 2000 film Remember The Titans opposite Academy Award winner Denzel Washington; as Hilary Swank's husband David Winter in The Reaping...

 as John Wesley, with June Lockhart
June Lockhart
June Lockhart is an American actress, primarily in 1950s and 1960s television, but with memorable performances on stage and in film too. She is remembered as the mother in two TV series, Lassie and Lost in Space. She also portrayed Dr...

 as Susanna Wesley
Susanna Wesley
Susanna Wesley , born Susanna Annesley, was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley and Mary White, and the mother of John and Charles Wesley....

, R. Keith Harris as Charles Wesley, and Golden Globe winner Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy (actor)
Kevin McCarthy was an American stage, film, and television actor, who appeared in over two hundred television and film roles. For his role in the 1951 film version of Death of a Salesman, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of...

 as Bishop Ryder. The movie was directed by award-winning filmmaker John Jackman
John Jackman
John Jackman is an American filmmaker, author, and Christian pastor. His filmmaking work has primarily emphasized historical faith related topics. He has written widely on digital filmmaking technology, film lighting, and digital special effects...

.

See also


  • Alexander Knox (1757-1831)
    Alexander Knox (1757-1831)
    Alexander Knox was an Irish theological writer.As a boy and young man, Alexander Knox befriended and corresponded with John Wesley, and - though he later asserted his theological independence from Methodism - he later published defences of Wesley against John Walker and Robert Southey.In the 1790s...

  • Christian radicalism
  • Methodism
    Methodism
    Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

  • Wesleyan Church
    Wesleyan Church
    "Wesleyan" has been used in the title of a number of historic and current denominations, although the subject of this article is the only denomination to use that specific title...

  • Wesleyanism
    Wesleyanism
    Wesleyanism or Wesleyan theology refers, respectively, to either the eponymous movement of Protestant Christians who have historically sought to follow the methods or theology of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, or to the likewise eponymous...

  • Wesley Mission
    Wesley Mission
    Wesley Mission is a name used by several Uniting Church congregations which are a part the Uniting Missions Network of UnitingCare Australia. Wesley Missions grew out of the inner city missions of the pre-union Methodist Church of Australasia...

  • Wesley Institute
    Wesley Institute
    Wesley Institute is a tertiary education provider in Sydney, Australia offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in counselling, creative arts , education and theology.-History:...


Further reading

  • Abraham, William J., Wesley for Armchair Theologians, 2005
  • Blackman, Francis 'Woodie', "John Wesley 300: Pioneers, Preachers and Practitioners", 2003, ISBN 976-8080-61-2
  • Collins, Kenneth J., The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace, 2007
  • Maddox, Randy L. and Vickers, Jason E. (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley, 2010
  • Maddox, Randy L., Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology, 1994
  • Jennings, Daniel R., "The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley", 2005, Sean Multimedia.
  • Oden, Thomas, John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine, 1994
  • Vickers, Jason E., Wesley: A Guide for the Perplexed, 2009.

External links