John Wesley biography

John Wesley

Preacher, Founding Figure

1703 – 1791


Who was John Wesley?

John Wesley was an Anglican 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 Whitefield's Calvinism, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England. Methodism in both forms became a highly successful evangelical movement in Britain and later in the United States. His work also helped lead to the development of the Holiness movement and Pentecostalism.

Wesley helped to organise and form societies of Christians throughout Great Britain, 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 and care for people in the societies. Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolitionism movements.

Although he was not a systematic theologian, Wesley argued in favour of 'Christian perfection' and opposed Calvinism, notably the doctrine of predestination. He held that, in this life, Christians could come to a state in which the love of God "reigned supreme in their hearts", allowing them to attain a state of outward holiness. His evangelical theology was firmly grounded in sacramental theology and he continually insisted on means of grace as the manner by which God sanctifies and transforms the believer, encouraging people to experience Jesus Christ personally.

Famous Quotes:

  • The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.
  • Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.
  • Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.
  • Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.
  • The best of it is, God is with us.
  • Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.
  • 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.
  • I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.
  • Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago.
  • My cool judgement is, that if all the other doctrines of devils which have been committed to writing since letters were in the world were collected together in one volume, it would fall short of this; and that, should a Prince form himself by this book, so calmly recommending hypocrisy, treachery, lying, robbery, oppression, adultery, whoredom, and murder of all kinds, Domitian or Nero would be an angel of light compared to that man.


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Jun 17, 1703
Epworth, Lincolnshire
Also known as
  • John Benjamin Wesley
  • Methodism
  • Anglicanism
  • England
  • United Kingdom
  • Kingdom of Great Britain
  • Christ Church, Oxford
  • Charterhouse School
Mar 2, 1791

on July 23, 2013

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