Preacher, theologian and founder of the Methodist Church
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as 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, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England.
Epworth, Lincolnshire, England
The Wesley family was made famous by the two brothers, John and Charles, who worked together in the rise of Methodism in the British Isles during the 18th century. They were among the ten children surviving infancy born to Samuel Wesley (1662 - 1735), Anglican rector of Epworth, Lincolnshire, and Susanna Annesley Wesley, daughter of Samuel Annesley, a dissenting minister.
John Wesley was born June 28, 1703, died Mar. 2, 1791, and was the principal founder of the Methodist movement. His mother was important in his emotional and educational development. John's education continued at Charterhouse School and at Oxford, where he studied at Christ Church and was elected (1726) fellow of Lincoln College. He was ordained in 1728.
After a brief absence (1727 - 29) to help his father at Epworth, John returned to Oxford to discover that his brother Charles had founded a Holy Club composed of young men interested in spiritual growth. John quickly became a leading participant of this group, which was dubbed the Methodists. His Oxford days introduced him not only to the rich tradition of classical literature and philosophy but also to spiritual classics like Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ, Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living and Dying, and William Law's Serious Call.
In 1735 both Wesleys accompanied James Oglethorpe to the new colony of Georgia, where John's attempts to apply his then high-church views aroused hostility. Discouraged, he returned (1737) to England; he was rescued from this discouragement by the influence of the Moravian preacher Peter Boehler. At a small religious meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, on May 24, 1738, John Wesley had an experience in which his "heart was strangely warmed." After this spiritual conversion, which centered on the realization of salvation by faith in Christ alone, he devoted his life to evangelism. Beginning in 1739 he established Methodist societies throughout the country. He traveled and preached constantly, especially in the London-Bristol-Newcastle triangle, with frequent forays into Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. He encountered much opposition and persecution, which later subsided.
Late in life Wesley married Mary Vazeille, a widow. He continued throughout his life a regimen of personal discipline and ordered living. He died at 88, still preaching, still traveling, and still a clergyman of the Church of England. In 1784, however, he had given the Methodist societies a legal constitution, and in the same year he ordained Thomas Coke for ministry in the United States; this action signaled an independent course for Methodism.
Quotes by John Wesley
Works by John Wesley
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Author, evangelist, preacher, organizer, theologian, and pietist John Wesley is arguably one of the most important Christian voices of the 18th century. We continue to be influenced by him nearly three centuries later. He was a founder of the Methodist movement, and was used by God to spread the gospel to countless souls. The Journal of John Wesley is composed of 50 years of Wesley's reflections. These writings offer a first person view of the thoughts, feelings, and prayers of a man whose intelligence and organizational skills were only surpassed by his enthusiasm for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This book is an account of John Wesley's journey to understanding the doctrine of Christian perfection. Perfection is, according to Wesley, "purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God," In this book, he gives a numbered list, in chronological order, of the steps he took toward grasping the doctrine. He concludes that the belief is based on Matthew 22.36-40 ("'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'"). Perfect love is the basis of Wesley's perfection doctrine, and it comes only through sanctification by grace alone. Any reader interested in delving into the doctrine or desiring to live a more Christ-like life should start with this Methodist classic by John Wesley.
John and Charles Wesley, leaders of the Methodist movement, collectively wrote thousands of hymns and religious poems, with Charles writing the great majority. Among the best known hymns Charles Wesley authored are “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” As well as a compilation of some of the most important pieces of literature in the Evangelical Christian tradition, John and Charles Wesley’s Poetical Works offers the texts of hundreds of the most beloved hymns and songs in the English language.
Sermons on Several Occasions is a collection of 141 sermons compiled into five series. In his first series, John Wesley presents what the Bible says concerning the way to heaven. In his second series, Wesley sheds light on several important Christian doctrines and practices. The first two series were edited and organized for publication by John Wesley himself. And while one can assume that Wesley is responsible for all of the sermons in this book, it is important to note the circumstances under which the final three series were published. Unlike the first two series, the latter three series were published without Wesley's knowledge. Consequently, the final sermons are not arranged by topic, and it is possible that some of them are not Wesley's own compositions. Even so, these additional sermons are very valuable contributions to the collection as a whole. The final three series contain sermons on a wide variety of interesting topics, including love, death, faith, and even natural disaster. This collection, especially the first two series, contains Wesley's most humble and honest attempts to teach truth to those who seek it.
Speaking about evangelical Christianity in the 18th century without discussing John Wesley would be like trying to drive a car without wheels. Wesley was a pietist, preacher, and pioneer of Methodism who is known not only for his organizational skills, but his ability to convict Christians of their need to live a sanctified Christian life. His Notes on the Bible is required reading for Methodist clergy, and a must have on the bookshelf of any Methodist or person who desires to walk the walk of Christian life.
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