John Wesley's enormous success as a preacher was based upon an intuitive understanding of the central nervous system. He would open his sermon with a long and detailed description of the torments to which, unless they underwent conversion, his hearers would undoubtedly be condemned for all eternity.
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Then, when terror and an agonizing sense of guilt had brought his audience to the verge, or in some cases over the verge, of a complete cerebral breakdown, he would change his tone and promise salvation to those who believed and repented. By this kind of preaching, Wesley converted thousands of men, women and children. Intense, prolonged fear broke them down and produced a state of greatly intensified suggestibility. In this state they were able to accept the preacher's theological pronouncements without question. After which they were reintegrated by words of comfort, and emerged from their ordeal with new and generally better behavior patterns ineradicably implanted in their minds and nervous systems.
Nevertheless, this was not the shared view of his preaching "strategy" and Huxley merely speculated with respect to the method Wesley used. As his societies needed houses to worship in, Wesley began to provide chapels, first in Bristol at the New Room ,  then in London first The Foundery and then Wesley's Chapel and elsewhere. The Foundery was an early chapel used by Wesley. When the Wesleys spotted the building atop Windmill Hill, north of Finsbury Fields , the structure which previously cast brass guns and mortars for the Royal Ordnance had been sitting vacant for 23 years; it had been abandoned because of an explosion on 10 May The Bristol chapel built in 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. 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 12 members should collect offerings regularly from the 11 allotted to him.
Out of this grew the Methodist class-meeting system in 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 he drew up a set of "General Rules" for the "United Societies". Wesley laid the foundations of what now constitutes the organisation of the Methodist Church. Over time, a shifting pattern of societies, circuits, quarterly meetings, annual Conferences, classes, bands, and select societies took shape.
Circuit officials met quarterly under a senior travelling preacher or "assistant. Classes of a dozen or so society members under a leader met weekly for spiritual fellowship and guidance. In early years, there were "bands" of the spiritually gifted who consciously pursued perfection. Those who were regarded to have achieved it were grouped in select societies or bands. In , there were 77 such members. There also was a category of penitents which consisted of backsliders.
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 clergy and four lay preachers, met for consultation in London in This was the first Methodist conference; subsequently, the conference with Wesley as its president became the ruling body of the Methodist movement.
Each circuit included at least 30 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. John Wesley had strong links with the North West of England, visiting Manchester on at least fifteen occasions between and Wesley also has links to the Derbyshire town of Chapel-en-le-frith , where he visited four times between and His journal documents his first visit on 28 May preaching in the hamlet of Chapel Milton where the miller purportedly tried to drown out John with the sound of the watermill.
His following visit twenty years later he preached in a field at Townend in Chapel-en-le-frith and by his subsequent visit on 1 April a chapel had been built. All that remains of the original chapel is an archway inscribed "" at the back of the current Townend Methodist Church. Following an illness in John Wesley was nursed by a classleader and housekeeper at an orphan house in Newcastle, Grace Murray. Taken with Grace he invited her to travel with him to Ireland in where he believed them to be betrothed though they were never married.
It has been suggested that his brother Charles Wesley objected to the engagement  though this is disputed. Subsequently, Grace married John Bennett preacher and resident of Chapel-en-le-frith and John's last visit to Chapel-en-le-frith on 3 April at the age of 86 was at Grace's request. 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, [ 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 cleric of the established church he had no plans to go further. When, in , Wesley read Lord King 's account of the primitive church, he became convinced that apostolic succession could be transmitted through not only bishops, but also priests.
He wrote that he was "a scriptural episkopos as much as many men in England. Many years later, Edward Stillingfleet 's Irenicon led him to decide that ordination and holy orders could be valid when performed by a presbyter priest rather than a bishop. In , he believed he could not longer wait for the Bishop of London to ordain someone for the American Methodists, who were without the sacraments after the American War of Independence.
Wesley ordained Thomas Coke as superintendent  of Methodists in the United States by the laying on of hands , although Coke was already a priest in the Church of England. He also ordained Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as presbyters. Whatcoat and Vasey sailed to America with Coke.
Wesley intended that Coke and Francis Asbury whom Coke ordained as superintendent by direction of Wesley should ordain others in the newly founded Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. In , Coke and Asbury persuaded the American Methodists to refer to them as bishops rather than superintendents,  overruling Wesley's objections to the change.
His brother, Charles, was alarmed by the ordinations and Wesley's evolving view of the matter.
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He 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. The 20th-century Wesley scholar Albert Outler argued in his introduction to the collection John Wesley that Wesley developed his theology by using a method that Outler termed the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
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.
John Wesley - Wikipedia
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. Unlike the Calvinists of his day, Wesley did not believe in predestination , 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: This doctrine was closely related to his belief that salvation had to be "personal. Sanctification he described in as the "grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called 'Methodists'. 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. One would be able to keep from committing what Wesley called, "sin rightly so-called. 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.
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 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. His system of thought has become known as Wesleyan Arminianism , the foundations of which were laid by Wesley and fellow preacher John William Fletcher.
Whitefield inclined to Calvinism. When in 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 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.
John Wesley's Teachings, Volume 3: Pastoral Theology
When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, "I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him. In , 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 Toplady , Rowland , Richard Hill and others were engaged on one side, while Wesley and Fletcher stood on the other. Toplady was editor of The Gospel Magazine , which had articles covering the controversy. In , 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. Later in his ministry, Wesley was a keen abolitionist ,   speaking out and writing against the slave trade.
He published a pamphlet on slavery, titled Thoughts Upon Slavery, in He wrote, "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". Women had an active role in Wesley's Methodism, and were encouraged to lead classes.
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In , he informally allowed Sarah Crosby , one of his converts and a class leader, to preach. For instance, in , Wesley allowed Crosby to give exhortations. In the summer of , Mary Bosanquet wrote to John Wesley to defend hers and Sarah Crosby's work preaching and leading classes at her orphanage, Cross Hall.
Wesley travelled widely , generally on horseback, preaching two or three times each day. Stephen Tomkins writes that "[Wesley] rode , miles, gave away 30, pounds, Wesley practised a vegetarian diet and in later life abstained from wine for health reasons. I tell you there is poison in it!
After attending a performance in Bristol Cathedral in , Wesley said: 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. Vazeille left him 15 years later. Molly, as she was known, was to return and leave him again on several occasions before their final separation.
In , at the death of George Whitefield, Wesley wrote a memorial sermon which praised Whitefield's admirable qualities and acknowledged the two men's differences: In these we may think and let think; we may ' agree to disagree.
Wesley's health declined sharply towards the end of his life and he ceased preaching. On 28 June , less than a year before his death, he wrote:. This day I enter into my eighty-eighth year. For above eighty-six years, I found none of the infirmities of old age: But last August, I found almost a sudden change.
My eyes were so dim that no glasses would help me. My strength likewise now quite forsook me and probably will not return in this world. Wesley died on 2 March , at the age of As he lay dying, his friends gathered around him, Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, "Farewell, farewell. Because of his charitable nature he died poor, leaving as the result of his life's work , members and 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.
Wesley wrote, edited or abridged some publications. As well as theology he wrote about music, marriage, medicine, abolitionism and politics. His written sermons are characterised by spiritual earnestness and simplicity. They are doctrinal but not dogmatic. The work reflects the influence of Christian mysticism in Wesley's ministry from the beginning to the end,  although he ever rejected it after the failure in Georgia mission. Wesley's prose , Works were first collected by himself 32 vols.
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. Osborn, appeared in 13 vols. Pastoral Care for the Family. Baptism and New Birth. E The Benefits of Baptism. The Ministry of the Lords Supper. The Unity of the Body of Christ. The Ministry of Evangelization. Alphabetical Correlation of the Sermons in.
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He remained faculty emeritus until his death.
He was the general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and the Ancient Christian Doctrine series as well as the author of Classic Christianity, a revision of his three-volume systematic theol Thomas C. He was the general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and the Ancient Christian Doctrine series as well as the author of Classic Christianity, a revision of his three-volume systematic theology.
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