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John Wesley ( ) ( – 2 March 1791) was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, with founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield. In contrast to George Whitefield's Calvinism (which later led to the forming of the Calvinistic Methodists), Wesley embraced Arminianism. Methodism in both forms was a highly successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom, which encouraged people to experience Christ personally.


Wesley helped to organise and form societies of Christians throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland; 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 and care for people in the societies. Young men who acted as their assistants were called "exhorters" who functioned in a similar fashion to the twelve apostles after the ascension of Jesus.

Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social justice issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolitionism 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", 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, scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, etc.) as the means by which God sanctifies and transforms the believer.

John Wesley was among the first to preach for gay rights attracting significant opposition.,

Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the Church of England 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.


John Wesley was born in 1703 in Epworthmarker, 23 miles (37 km) northwest of Lincoln, Englandmarker, the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna Annesley. His father was a graduate of the University of Oxfordmarker and a Church of England rector. In 1689 Samuel had married Susanna Annesley, twenty-fifth child of Dr Samuel Annesley, a Puritan pastor. Wesley's parents had both become members of the Established Church (Church of England) early in adulthood. Susanna bore Samuel Wesley nineteen children. 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". 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 Schoolmarker in London (under the mastership of John King from 1715), where he lived the studious, methodical and, for a while, the religious life in which he had been trained at home. During his early years, Wesley had enjoyed a deep religious experience. The early biographer Tyerman said that the boy went to Charterhouse a saint but became negligent of his religious duties and left a sinner. He also experienced trauma as he was picked on by children of his own age; they took his underpants, tore them from his rear end and made him eat them. Descriptions of this in his own diary were stated to have "created a trembling in his own hands", but also gave him a more reverent "fear of God, for if mere children do these things, could not also God do worse?"

Mission in Georgia

On 14 October 1735, Wesley and his brother Charles sailed for Savannah, Georgiamarker in the American colonies at the request of James Oglethorpe. The newly–granted colony was the last of the American colonies to be established. Oglethorpe wanted Wesley to be the minister of the newly formed Savannah parish. It was on the voyage to the colonies that Wesley first came into contact with Moravian settlers. Wesley would come to be influenced by their deep faith and spirituality rooted in pietism. The deeply personal religion that the Moravian pietists practiced would come to heavily influence Wesley's theology of Methodism.

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 Sophy 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. It was the final straw for Hopkey. She and her new husband, William Williamson, filed suit against Wesley. Joshua wilson was ere

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, but was left exhausted by the whole experience. His mission to Georgia would contribute to a life-long struggle with self-doubt.

Moravian influence

Wesley returned to England depressed and beaten. It was at this point that he turned to the Moravians. Wesley had encountered the Moravians three years earlier on his voyage to Georgia. 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. His Aldersgate experience of 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, in which he heard a reading of Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, 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 Pentecostal sermon of Dr. John Heylyn, whom he was assisting in the service at St Mary-le-Strandmarker, an occasion followed immediately by news of the death of his brother Samuel. A few weeks later, Wesley preached a remarkable 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 Herrnhutmarker, 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 was divided, and published a collection of hymns 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 churches were closed to him.

Wesley's Oxford friend, the evangelist George Whitefield, upon his return from America, was also excluded from the churches of Bristolmarker. Going to the neighbouring village of Kingswoodmarker, in February 1739, Whitefield preached in the open air to a company of miners. Later he preached in Whitefield's Tabernaclemarker. 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, near Bristol, in April of that year.

Wesley was unhappy about the idea of field preaching as he believed the Anglican Church had much to offer in its practice. He would earlier 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 wouldn't enter most churches. From then on he took the opportunities to preach wherever an assembly could be gotten together, more than once using his father's tombstone at Epworth as a 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; 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 by supporting quietism, 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 because they preached without being ordained or licensed by the Anglican Church. 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, or 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 and women 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 organizations

As his societies needed houses to worship in, Wesley began to provide chapels, first in Bristol at the New Roommarker, 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, under Wesley's care, grew, in 1742, the Methodist class-meeting system. 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 . . . ;

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

Thirdly: 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 the two Wesleys, with four other clergymen and four lay preachers, met for consultation in London in 1744. This was the first Methodist conference. 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 till I am removed, and I hope it will remain till 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 that church, urged, on the one side, by some of his preachers and societies, but most strenuously opposed by his brother Charles and others, was apparent. 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 by 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 or the Lord's Supper without a commission from a bishop in the apostolic succession."

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 Stillingfleet's Irenicon led him to decide that ordination could be valid when performed by a presbyter rather than a bishop. Forty years later, Wesley ordained by his own "laying on of hands", but that was only for those who would serve outside of England.

In 1784 Wesley ordained preachers for Scotland, England and America, with authority to administer the sacraments. He believed he had waited long enough for the Bishop of London to ordain a minister for the American Methodists, who were without the sacraments after the American Revolutionary War. 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 in America. Wesley ordained Thomas Coke 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. Wesley intended that Coke and Asbury (whom Coke ordained) should ordain others in the newly founded Methodist Episcopal Church 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.

Advocacy of Arminianism

Wesley entered controversies as he tried to enlarge church practice. The most notable of his controversies was that on Calvinism. His father was of the Arminian 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 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, Cennick, and others, became the founders of Calvinistic Methodism. 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. Toplady, Berridge, Rowland, Richard Hill, and others were engaged on the one side, and Wesley and Fletcher on the other. Toplady was editor of The Gospel Magazine, 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.

Doctrines and theology

20th century Wesley scholar Albert Outler 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. 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, 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 pre-destination, 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

Sanctification 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 and particularly the doctrine of Theosis). 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 neighbor 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 fulfillment 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 Englandmarker." His system of thought has become known as Wesleyan Arminianism, the foundations of which were laid by Wesley and Fletcher (see Jacobus Arminius, Arminianism).

Three comparatively recent works which explain Wesley's theological positions are Randy Maddox's 1994 book Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology, Kenneth J. Collins' 2007 book The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace, and Thomas Oden's 1994 book John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine.

Personality and activities

Wesley traveled constantly, generally on horseback, preaching two or three times a 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 for the treatment of illness, superintended schools and orphanages, received at least £20,000 for his publications, but used little of it for himself. His charities were limited only by his means. He rose at four in the morning, lived simply and methodically, and was never idle if he could help it.

After attending a performance in Bristol Cathedral in 1758, Wesley said: "I went to the cathedral to hear Mr Handel's Messiah. 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.

Despite his achievements, Wesley never quite overcame profound self-doubt. At the age of 63, he wrote to his brother, "I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen...And yet, to be so employed of God!"

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

Wesley died on Wednesday, 2 March 1791, in his eighty-eighth year. As he lay dying, his friends gathered around him, Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, "Farewell, farewell." At the end, summoning all his remaining strength, he cried out, "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.

On the use of hops in ale

Wesley was not opposed to drinking beer, and in fact was a brewer himself. In September 7th 1789 he sent the following letter to the Printer of the 'Bristol Gazette':

"To the Printer of the 'Bristol Gazette'

BRISTOL, HORSEFAIR, September 7, 1789.

1. In the reign of King James I an Act of Parliament was made prohibiting the use of that poisonous herb called hops. It does not appear that this Act has ever been repealed. But in process of time it has been forgotten, and the poisonous weed introduced again. It has continued in use ever since; and that upon a general supposition, (1) that it was very whole­some, greatly promotive of health, and (2) that malt drink would not keep without it.

2. On these suppositions the use of it has not only con­tinued, but much increased during the present century. 'I have lived in this town' (Whitechurch in Shropshire), said a gentleman to me sometime since, 'above forty years, and have all that time brewed much malt drink. I use just the same quantity of hops that I did forty years ago; but most of my neighbors use four times as much now as they did then.'

3. Nearly the same has been done in other counties, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in particular. Forty years ago, I well remember, all the ale I tasted there had a soft, sweetish taste, such as the decoction of barley will always have if not adulterated by bitter herbs. So it had two or three thousand years ago, according to the account in Ovid, who, speaking of the manner wherein Baucis entertained Jupiter, says, Bibendure Dulce dedit, tosta quod coxerat ante polenta [Metamorphoses, v. 450; of the old woman and Ceres: 'She gave her something sweet to drink which she had prepared from parched malt.']; whereas all the ale in Yorkshire as well as in other counties is now quite harsh and bitter.

4. But may it not be asked 'whether this is not a change for the better, seeing hops are so exceeding wholesome a plant'? Are they so? Why, then, do physicians almost with one voice forbid their patients the use of malt drink, particularly all that are infected with the scurvy or any distemper related to it? Do not they know there is not a more powerful anti-scorbutic in the world than wort -- that is, unhopped decoction of malt? What a demonstration is this that it is the addition of hops which turns this excellent medicine into poison! And who does not know that wort, unhopped malt drink, is an excellent medicine both for the gout and stone? But will any physician in his senses recommend the common malt drink to one that is ill of or subject to those diseases? Why not? Because there is no drink that more directly tends to breed and increase both one and the other.

5. 'But whether hops are wholesome or no, are they not necessary to prevent malt drink from turning sour?' I never doubted of it for fourscore years. And there are very few that do doubt of it. It has passed for an incontestable truth ever since I was in the world. And yet it is as absolute palpable a falsehood as ever was palmed upon mankind. Any one may in a short time be convinced of this by his own senses. Make the experiment yourself. Brew any quantity of malt, add hops to one half of this, and none to the other half. Keep them in the same cellar three or six months, and the ale without hops will keep just as well as the other. I have made the experiment at London. One barrel had no hops, the other had. Both were brewed with the same malt, and exactly in the same manner. And after six months that without hops had kept just as well as the other. 'But what bitter did you infuse in the room of it?' No bitter at all. No bitter is necessary to preserve ale, any more than to preserve cider or wine. I look upon the matter of hops to be a mere humbug upon the-good people of England; indeed, as eminent an one on the whole nation as 'the man's getting into a quart bottle' was on the people of London.

6. 'However, are they not necessary on another account -- namely, to advance the public revenue? Does not the tax upon hops bring in two or three hundred-thousand pounds yearly into the Exchequer?' Perhaps it does. And yet it may be not an advantage but a loss to the nation. So it cer­tainly is if it breeds and increases grievous and mortal diseases, and thereby destroys every year thousands of His Majesty's liege subjects. May not gold be bought too dear? Are not one hundred thousand lives worth more than two hundred thousand pounds? Each of these men, had this poison been kept out of his reach, had he lived out all his days, would probably have paid more yearly in other taxes than he paid for leave to put himself out of the world.

Oh that someone had the honesty and courage to inform His Majesty of this! Would the most benevolent Prince in Europe desire or consent to barter the lives of his subjects for money? Nay, but in fact, it is selling them for naught, and taking no money for them; seeing it is evident, upon the whole of the account, that nothing at all is gained thereby. For it is certain more money is lost by shortening the lives of so many men (seeing the dead pay no taxes) than all the hop tax through the nation amounts to.

7. 'But do not many physicians, most of whom are now alive, and some of them of considerable note, affirm hops to be exceeding wholesome? and that both in their conversations and writings?' They certainly do; but who can imagine that they believe themselves when they talk so? If they did, would they deny, would they not prescribe malt drink to their gouty or scorbutic patients? But they do not; because they know, however good wort might be for them, add hops to it and it commences poison. Deny this who dare. With what face, then, can any man of character affirm them to be whole­some? But, whether they are necessary for raising money or no, certainly they are not necessary for preserving drink. This will keep for six or twelve months just as well without hops as with them.

8. Yet we must not suppose that any arguments what­ever, which ever were or can be used, will have any weight in this case with the planters or sellers of hops or those that are connected with them. They have a ready answer to the strong­est reasons that can be advanced on this head (although they may not always see it expedient to speak out): 'Sir, by this means we get our wealth.' And is it not easy for them to procure ingenious men to plead for them when the craft is in danger? When, therefore, we make observations of this kind, all which can be expected is that a few sensible men, who are neither blinded by interests nor carried away by popular clamor, will attend to the voice of reason, and be persuaded to save their money and preserve the health of their families."

This letter and those of September 25 and October 3 show Wesley's concern for the health of the nation. His experiment in London bears witness to the pains that the veteran took to make good his position; and the spirit in which the controversy was conducted in the Bristol Gazette reflects credit on all parties. Wesley's letters on October 12 and 31 to Adam Clarke show what importance the old evangelist attached to the correspondence. We owe the copies of the three letters to the good offices of the Rev. Charles Feneley.

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.

Besides his Sermons and Notes already referred to, 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 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).

John Wesley also published a pamphlet on slavery titled, "Thoughts Upon Slavery," (1774). This pamphlet was just the start of John Wesley voicing his opinion on slavery, and sharing his believes about how the church should respond to slavery. (23)

Wesley adapted the Book of Common Prayer for use by American Methodists. In his Watch Night service, he made use of a pietist prayer now generally known as the Wesley Covenant Prayer, perhaps his most famous contribution to Christian liturgy.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, publishing in March 1775. Initially denying the charge, Wesley later recanted and apologised officially [See Abelove, H. 1997. John Wesley’s plagiarism of Samuel Johnson and its contemporary reception. The Huntington Library Quarterly, 59(1) 73–80].


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, the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The teachings of Wesley also serve as a basis for the Holiness movement, which includes denominations like the Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and several smaller groups, and from which Pentecostalism and parts of the Charismatic movement are offshoots. Wesley's call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who struggle to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God.

Wesley's legacy is also preserved in Kingswood Schoolmarker, which he founded in 1748 in order to educate the children of the growing number of Methodist preachers.

He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 2 March with his brother Charles. The Wesley brothers are also commemorated on 3 March in the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church and on 24 May in the Anglican calendar.

One of the four form houses at the St Marylebone Church of England School, London, is named after John Wesley.

Wesley is listed at 50 on the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons.

In Film

In 1954 the Radio and Film Commission of the Methodist Church in cooperation with J. Arthur Rank produced the film 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 2008, the story of John Wesley was told in the documentary film Great Christian Revivals. Filmed on location, the account features many of the key places in the life of Wesley, from the places he preached at, to the homes he stayed in.

See also


  1. S. R. Valentine, John Bennet & the Origins of Methodism and the Evangelical revival in England, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, 1997.
  2. Carey, Brycchan. “John Wesley (1703-1791).” The British Abolitionists. Brycchan Carey, July 11, 2008. October 5, 2009. [1]
  3. Wesley John, “Thoughts Upon Slavery,” John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life. Charles Yrigoyen, 1996. October 5, 2009. [2]
  4. Wallace, Charles Jr (1997) Susanna Wesley : the complete writings, New York : Oxford University Press, p. 67, ISBN 0-19-507437-8
  6. Journal of the Rev. John Wesley
  7. Thorsen 2005, p. 97.
  8. H. W. Holden: John Wesley in company with high churchmen, READ BOOKS, 1870, ISBN 9781408606612, p. 51
  9. United Methodist Church (1984) The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1984, Nashville, TN : United Methodist Publ. House, p. 77, ISBN 0-687-03702-6.
  10. John Wesley: A Biography, by Edward T. Oakes, Copyright (c) 2004 First Things (December 2004).
  11. Byers, D. 2008. Handel in Ulster Orchestra programme Friday 12 & Saturday 2008. Belfast Waterfront.
  12. Eerdmans 2003, p. 168.; Letter to His Brother on 27 June 1766; cp. Journal, 14 October 1738; 4 January 1739
  13. Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church. Sermons. On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, page 2. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  14. The Phrase Finder. Agree to disagree. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  15. Hurst 2003, p. 298.
  18. A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists,(1779) Abingdon Press,U.S.; New edition edition (30 Aug 1990) ISBN 978-0687462186
  19. Christian Revivals - Part Three: The Evangelical Revival with John Wesley 1739 - 1791.

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