The John Wesley’s preaching in America and England helped spark the Great Awakening, and changed American Christianity in ways we may not realize today. Here are some other things you might not know about him.
John Wesley (1703-1791) was a dedicated minister who started as an Anglican minister, then established the Methodist Church in England and colonial America. Methodist doctrine prescribed finding the best way or “method” to follow God. The discipled faith that Wesley’s parents taught him as a child prepared John Wesley for a life of service to God. Prayer, Bible reading, and family devotions were a daily part of his childhood. During his adult life, he traveled as a circuit preacher, spreading the message of Methodists and The Great Awakening movement in Christian life.
10 Important Events in John Wesley’s Life
1. At age 5, he narrowly escaped death in his family’s house fire.
2. His mother spent one day each week with each of her estimated 15-19 children. She did lessons with and taught morals to each of her children one-on-one. John Wesley said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.”
3. As a student at Oxford University, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley co-founded The Holy Club, a group of students who strived to be methodical about their personal holiness. Club members fasted, received communion, studied the New Testament, and visited prisoners and the sick.
4. In 1735, at 32 years old, he traveled to America by ship. He stayed two years preaching in the colonies. Though he was unhappy in America, the trip changed his life and the religious practices of many Americans.
5. On his ship to America, he became acquainted with 26 Moravians, whose joy and devotion to God inspired him. Originally from Bohemia in the Czech Republic, Moravians emigrated to America in its colonial period. Their fearlessness on board the ship to America influenced his spiritual life.
6. John Wesley was engaged to a young woman in America but broke it off, and she married someone else. John refused to serve her communion, and her husband sued him.
7. John Wesley struggled with a loss of faith and considered dropping out of the ministry in 1938. A Moravian friend advised him to “Preach faith till you have it.”
8. That same year, Wesley experienced a religious awakening—was “born again”—at a revival meeting Moravians invited him to in Aldersgate, England. While reading Martin Luther’s commentary on the Bible, Wesley described how his heart was strangely warmed. “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
9. In England, John Wesley organized new converts to Methodism into fellowship groups, accountability groups, and Bible study groups. He also trained new circuit riders. Methodist societies were formed all over Great Britain. In America, he preached two to four times a day wherever he could assemble a group of people.
10. Wesley died in 1791, at 87 years old. He had made seven tours of the colonies and preached roughly 18,000 sermons.
10 Important Quotes by John Wesley
1. Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”—Letters
2. “Let your words be the genuine picture of your heart.”—The Works of the Rev. John Wesley: Forty-Two Sermons on Various Subjects
3. “In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.”—The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A.M. (Anglican Minister)
4. “You have one business on earth – to save souls.”—The Works of John Wesley: Sermons III
5. “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”—John Wesley, edited by Albert C. Outler
6. “The best of all is God with us.”—John Wesley’s Journal, edited by Robert Backhouse
7. “Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul.”—The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A.M.
8. “Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”—Life of Wesley by R. Southey
9. “Proceed with much prayer, and your way will be made plain.”—Through the Year with Wesley: An Anthology
10. “Employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree.”—The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A. M.
10 Things You Should Know about John Wesley
1. John Wesley was an ordained Anglican minister who served as a missionary in England and the United States, spreading the Christian faith and visiting the poor, sick, and imprisoned in the 1700s. He preached a message of spiritual discipline. In the colonies of the New World, curios settlers and Native Americans gathered from miles around to sing, pray, and hear John Wesley preach.
2. Wesley saw his American adventure as an utter failure. “I went to America to convert the Indians,” he wrote later, “. . . but, O! who shall convert me?” Peaceful Native American tribe members were part of his audience.
3. Wesley was a circuit-riding preacher, doing a rotation of visits to people without a local church to attend and trained other Methodist ministers in this model. He met people where they were—in fields, prisons, and sick beds. Methodist circuit-riders holding camp meetings in the American colonies were a unique form of Christian worship.
4. John Wesley met George Whitefield on route to the colonies. Whitefield and Wesley founded The Great Awakening of Christian spiritual life in the 1720s-1760s.
5. Wesley’s message during The Great Awakening was heavy on law. George Whitefield’s message preached God’s grace. “Ye must be born again,” was Whitefield’s key verse, and people readily responded.
6. His brother Charles Wesley wrote over 60,000 hymns. Singing remains an important part of Methodist Church services.
7. John Wesley rode as many as 20,000 miles each year on his circuit, preaching a spirit-filled message to all who would listen and winning over many souls at his camp meetings. Methodists have always emphasized mission work stemming from a personal relationship with God.
8. One of the United Methodist Church’s values is tolerance. Methodist doctrine acknowledges the virtues of different points of view—even within the same community of believers.
9. John Wesley’s message of renewed faith and practice faced prejudice and persecution in England. Mobs pelted him with rocks, and civil powers rarely tried to stop the violence. American colonists were divided in accepting Wesley’s message. Writers also slandered both John and Charles Wesley’s Methodism. The two brothers remained brave and calm in the face of these trials.
10. His polished sermons and spiritual guidance commentary are admired by theologians today. His sermons’ basic message was that faith in Christ is all that is necessary for salvation, yet a life of discipline and service helps us to know and follow God. Along with giving people a renewed spiritual awakening, Wesley’s Methodist practices influenced the political development of a new, independent country—America. The Methodists weren’t chained to church buildings or old forms of worship. It was a new faith for a new nation.
God bless you everyone.