John Wesley

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

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John Wesley—Theologian, Evangelist, Itinerant Preacher

June 28, 1703, Epworth, England, 1:00 PM, LMT. (Source: speculative, per Marc Penfield) Died, March 2, 1791, London, England.

Ascendant, Libra; Sun in Cancer {H9} with Mars conjunct Uranus in Cancer;  Moon in Sagittarius, H3, as a singleton, and exoteric ruler of the Cancer Sun; Mercury in Leo, with Venus and Pluto also in Leo, conjuncted; Jupiter in Taurus; Saturn in Aries with Neptune also in Aries conjunct to the seventh house cusp          

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a profound effect upon the religious life of England. He was a religious enthusiast, a writer of hundreds of hymns, and most importantly, an itinerant preacher, who reached the people (on horseback) with his simple message of piety and devoted Christian living. It has been said that his efforts and their transformative effect upon the masses of common people, were largely responsible for the fact that England did not experience the same kind of traumatic political revolution which swept through France.           

Clearly, he is an example of the sixth ray of Devotion and Idealism, with secondary influences of the fourth ray (his music) and the seventh ray (his method—Methodism). Interestingly, a sixth ray planet, Mars, and a seventh ray planet, Uranus, are conjunct in H10 in Cancer. Clearly, he was a religious reformer and transformer.

The higher sixth ray planet, Neptune, is (in this speculative chart) conjunct the H7 cusp, where he met the people, and had his inspiring effect upon them. Note that Venus in Leo is conjuncted to Pluto and trined by Neptune. The healing (Pluto) and inspiring (Neptune) effect of his lively hymns (Venus in Leo) is thereby indicated. As well, the Sun is placed in the house of Sagittarius, the ninth—a perfect placement for a theologian and visionary.

Perhaps the strongest conduit for the sixth ray is the singleton Moon in Sagittarius in the third house. For an itinerant preacher this would be a remarkably characteristic astrological signature. Sagittarius is a predominantly sixth ray sign (though fifth and fourth rays are also expressed through it). In this particular case, it would seem that the Moon would veil Neptune, the major planet of the sixth ray—inspiring and uplifting with a vision of a higher spiritual life.

Interestingly, Billy Graham, also has a prominent Sagittarius Moon (MC conjunction) in his case conjuncted also to sixth ray Mars in Sagittarius as well.          

Libra, his Ascendant is the sign of balance, and perhaps this indicates his role within the political and psychological life of his nation. As for Cancer, it is the sign of the “mass consciousness”, and indicates the preacher’s “flock”—that he cared for the common people and their religious welfare.


Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn. (Mercury in Leo)

When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.

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.
- comment after reading The Works of Nicholas Machiavel, journal entry for January 26, 1737.—The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed. Nehemiah Curnock, vol. 1, p. 313 (1909).

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.
(Venus in Leo conjunct Pluto in 10th house & T-square Jupiter in Taurus & Chiron in Scorpio)

My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.

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.
(Uranus conjunct Mercury & Mars in 10th house)

When I was young I was sure of everything; in a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before; at present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.

I look upon the world as my parish.
(Sun in Cancer. Stellium in 9th & 10th houses.)

Original anecdote of the late Rev. John Wesley communicated to the Preachers assembled in Conference at Liverpool, August 1820, by Mr. Robert Miller.

("The first time I had the pleasure of being in company with the Rev. John Wesley was in the year 1783. I asked him what must be done to keep Methodism alive when he was dead: to which he immediately answered,)
'The Methodists must take heed to their doctrine, their experience, their practice, and their discipline. If they attend to their doctrines only, they will make the people antinomians; if to the experimental part of religion only, they will make them enthusiasts; if to the practical part only, they will make them Pharisees; and if they do not attend to their discipline, they will be like persons who bestow much pains in cultivating their garden, and put no fence round it, to save it from the wild boar of the forest."
Rupert Davies, A. Raymond George, Gordon Rupp, eds. A History of The Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol. 4 (London: Epworth Press, 1898), p.194.

"He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves."
Wesley says that this quote comes from St. Augustine. This quote appears in Wesley's sermon "On Working out our own Salvation," in the Works of John Wesley, Vol. 6, page 513.

"Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his Book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of lights: 'Lord, is it not thy Word, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God"? Thou "givest liberally and upbraidest not". Thou hast said, "If any be willing to do thy will, he shall know." I am willing to do, let me know thy will. I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, 'comparing spiritual things with spiritual'. I meditate thereon, with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God, and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach [John Wesley, Preface to Standard Sermons].
(Neptune in Aries conjunct Saturn in 7th house. Mercury in Leo in 10th house. Moon in Sagittarius in 3rd house.)

"God himself has condescended to teach the way: for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!" [John Wesley, Preface to Standard Sermons].

"Nay, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth" (John Wesley, Journal, 24 July 1776).

"The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths, as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testaments is the object of their faith. They believe neither more nor less than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by, the Holy Scriptures.... The written Word is the whole and sole rule of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever He hath commanded. This is the proper faith of Protestants: by this they will abide, and no other." [John Wesley, "On Faith," Sermon #106, I.8].

The name Methodist, according to Wesley, was "one that lives according to the method laid down in the Bible." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903
(Neptune conjunct Saturn in Aries)

(Wesley tells that he traveled several miles to converse with a "serious man" who said to him,)
"Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven. Remember you cannot serve him alone; you must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows knothing of solitary religion." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

"God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another's parish; that is, in effect, not to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish; of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom, then, shall I hear, God or man? ...I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to and sure I am that his blessing attends it." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

Wesleys advice on teaching. "1. To invite. 2. To convince. 3. To offer Christ. 4. To build up. And to do this in some measure in every sermon." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

"Though I am always in a haste," said Wesley. "I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

Christian ethics as taught by Wesley. "God loves you; therefore love and obey him. Christ died for you; therefore die to sin. Christ is risen; therefore rise in the image of God. Christ liveth ever more; therefore live to God till you live with him in glory. So we preached; and so you believed! This is the scriptural way, the Methodist way, the true way. God grant we may never turn therefrom, to the right hand or to the left." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

(This was Wesley's response to the objections to the Methodist work in Scotland.)
"I love plain dealing. Do not you? I will use it now. Bear with me. I hang out no false colors; but show you all I am, all I intend, all I do. I am a member of the Church of England; but I love good men of every Church. My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

Wherever the work of our Lord is to be carried on, that is my place for to-day. And we live only for to-day. It is not our part to take though for to-morrow. John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

Wesley says of Christ. "This man can tell the secrets of my heart; he hath not left me there, for he hath shown the remedy, even the blood of Jesus." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

The motto for the Epworth League. "I desire to have a league offensive and defenisve with every soldier of Christ." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 190
(Mars conjunct MC)

The advice of Wesley to Christians with bad attitudes. "Sour godliness is the devil's religion." John Wesley the Methodist, The Methodist Bookd Concern, 1903

"Do you so believe? Prove your own self by the infallible Word of God. If you do not have the fruits, effects, or inseparable properties of faith, you do not have faith." The John Wesley Reader, by Al Bryant, Word Books, 1983

(Ascension Feast of John and Charles Wesley, Priests, Poets, Teachers, 1791 & 1788.)
I met the society and explained to them ... the original design of the Methodists, namely, not to be a distinct party, but to stir up all parties, ... to worship God in spirit and in truth; but the Church of England in particular, to which they belonged from the beginning. With this view I have uniformly gone on for fifty years, never varying from the doctrine of the Church at all; nor from her discipline, of choice, but of necessity.

(Feast of Saints & Martyrs of England.)
I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which Whitfield set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church.

(Commemoration of John Bosco, Priest, Founder of the Salesian Teaching Order, 1888.)
I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.

(Feast of John and Charles Wesley, Priests, Poets, Teachers, 1791 & 1788.)
Wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible in the nature of things for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches. How then is it possible that Methodism, that is a religion of the heart, though it flourishes now as the green bay tree, should continue in this state? For the Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently, they increase in goods. Hence, they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away. Is there no way to prevent ... this continual decay of pure religion?

(Ascension Feast of John and Charles Wesley, Priests, Poets, Teachers, 1791 & 1788.)
The grand reason why the miraclous gifts were so soon withdrawn was not only that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves and to cry them all [down] as evil madness or imposture.

(Commemoration of Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, Founder of the Little Gidding Community, 1637.)
Suffer all, and conquer all.

The cause of their decline was not, as has been supposed, because there is no more need for [the charismatic gifts], "because all the world had become Christian". ... The real cause was: the love of many, of almost all Christians so called, was waxed cold; ... The real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer to be found in the Christian Church [was that] the Christians were turned heathen again, and had only a dead form left.

You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work.

I value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.

God buries his workmen, but carries on his work.

If we take away this foundation, that man is by nature foolish and sinful, fallen short of the glorious image of God, the Christian system falls at once; nor will it deserve as honorable an appellation as that of a cunningly devised fable.

Tell me how it is that in this room there are three candles and but one light, and I will explain to you the mode of the Divine existence.

You may be as orthodox as the devil and as wicked.

I desire to have both heaven and hell ever in my eye, while I stand on this isthmus of life, between two boundless oceans.

"I believe in my heart that faith in Jesus Christ can and will lead us beyond an exclusive concern for the well-being of other human beings to the broader concern for the well-being of the birds in our backyards, the fish in our rivers, and every living creature on the face of the earth."

"By 'extraordinary strictnesses and severities,' I presume your Lordship means the abstaining from wine and animal food; which, it is sure, Christianity does not require. But if you do, I fear your Lordship is not throughly informed of the matter of fact. I began to do this about twelve years ago, when I had no thought of 'annoying parochial ministers,' or of 'captivating' any 'people' thereby, unless it were the Chicasaw or Choctaw Indians. But I resumed the use of them both, about two years after, for the sake of some who thought I made it a point of conscience; telling them, 'I will eat flesh while the world standeth' rather than 'make my brother to offend.' Dr. Cheyne advised me to leave them off again, assuring me, 'Till you do, you will never be free from fevers.' And since I have taken his advice, I have been free (blessed be God) from all bodily disorders."

Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
John Wesley


John Wesley
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Wesley

John Wesley (June 17, 1703 – March 2, 1791) was an 18th-century Anglican clergyman and Christian theologian who was an early leader in the Methodist movement. Methodism had three rises, the first at Oxford University with the founding of the so-called "Holy Club", the second while Wesley was parish priest in Savannah, Georgia, and the third in London after Wesley's return to England. The movement took form from its third rise in the early 1740s with Wesley, along with others, itinerant field preaching and the subsequent founding of religious societies for the formation of believers. This was the first widely successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom. Wesley's Methodist connection included societies throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland before spreading to other parts of the English-speaking world and beyond. He divided his religious societies further into classes and bands for intensive accountability and religious instruction.

Methodists, under Wesley's direction, became leaders in many social justice issues of the day including prison reform and abolitionism movements. Wesley's strength as a theologian lay in his ability to combine seemingly opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed "Christian perfection", or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one's heart. 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, and Holy Communion, etc.) as the means by which God transformed the believer. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the Church of England and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of the Anglican Church. 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 Epworth, 23 miles (37 km) northwest of Lincoln, the son of Samuel Wesley, a graduate of Oxford, and a minister of the Church of England. In 1689 Samuel married Susanna Annesley, twenty-fourth child of Dr. Samuel Annesley. Both Samuel and Susanna had been raised in Dissenting homes before becoming members of the Established Church early in adulthood. Susanna herself became a mother of nineteen children. In 1696 Samuel Wesley was appointed rector of Epworth, where John, the fifteenth child, was born.

At the age of six, John 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."[1]

The Wesley children's early education was given by their parents in the Epworth rectory. Each child, including the girls, was taught to read, beginning at the age of five. In 1713 John was admitted to the Charterhouse School, London, where he lived the studious, methodical, and (for a while) religious life in which he had been trained at home.

During his early years, John Wesley had enjoyed a deep religious experience. His biographer, Tyerman, says that he went to Charterhouse a saint; but he became negligent of his religious duties, and left a sinner.

Wesley spread Methodism all over Europe without gaining the Anglican church as an enemy and he was widely respected by the end of his holy work.

In Oxford and Georgia
In June 1720, Wesley entered Christ Church, Oxford, with an annual allowance of £40 as a Charterhouse scholar. His health was poor and he found it hard to keep out of debt. A scheme of study which he drew up for 1722 with a time-table for each day of the week is still to be seen in his earliest diary. This first diary of many runs from April 5, 1725, to February 19, 1727. A friend describes Wesley at this time as "a young fellow of the finest classical taste, and the most liberal and manly sentiments." He was "gay and sprightly, with a turn for wit and humour." [2]

He was ordained as a deacon in 1725 and elected fellow of at Lincoln College in the following year. He received his Master of Arts in 1727. He was his father's curate for two years, and then he returned to Oxford to fulfill his functions as fellow.[3]

Leading Wesley scholars point to 1725 as the date of Wesley's conversion. In the year of his ordination he read and began to seek the religious truths which underlay the great revival of the 18th century. The reading of Law's Christian Perfection and Serious Call gave him, he said, a more sublime view of the law of God; and he resolved to keep it, inwardly and outwardly, as sacredly as possible. He pursued a rigidly methodical and abstemious life, studied the Scriptures, and performed his religious duties diligently, depriving himself so that he would have alms to give. It was during his Oxford days that Wesley began to discover the true practice of the Christian faith, an understanding, like so many others in his life, that would continue to develop both while he was in Georgia and after his subsequent return to England in 1738.

The year of his return to Oxford (1729) marks the beginning of the rise of Methodism. The famous "holy club" was formed by John's younger brother, Charles Wesley, and some fellow students, derisively called "Methodists" because of their methodical habits.

John left for Savannah, Georgia in 1735, several months after the death of his father. While in Georgia, he began the first Sunday school. He had had an unhappy love affair and felt that his mission (to convert the Indians and deepen and regulate the religious life of the colonists) had been a failure.

Some of the charges brought against him were on account of his unusual liturgical “experiments”. A journal entry in 1735 reports that he spent 3 hours “revising” the Book of Common Prayer. This indicates that Wesley’s intense reading of the Church Fathers and Eastern Orthodox Church writers influenced his approaches and baffled those who knew him. They only knew he did not fit into what they expected or wanted. He returned to England in 1738.

The Beginning of the Revival

John Wesley's house on City Road, London. (January 2006)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 aboard all panicked the Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. This experience led Wesley to believe that the Moravians possessed an inner strength which he lacked. [1] His Aldersgate experience of May 24, 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", is but one of many experiences in Wesley's journey of faith. A few weeks later he preached a remarkable sermon on the doctrine of present 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 matured, He never stopped preaching the importance of faith for salvation and the witness of God's Spirit with the spirit of the believer that they were, indeed, a child of God.

He allied himself with the Moravian society in Fetter Lane, and in 1738 went to Herrnhut, the Moravian headquarters in Germany. On his return to England he 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 Bristol; and, going to the neighbouring village of Kingswood, preached in the open air, in February 1739, to a company of miners. Wesley hesitated to accept Whitefield's earnest request to copy this bold step. Overcoming his scruples, he preached his first sermon in the open air, near Bristol, in April of that year.

He was still unhappy about the idea of field preaching, and would have thought, "till very lately," such a method of saving souls as "almost a sin." These open-air services were very successful; and he never again hesitated to preach in any place where an assembly could be gotten together, more than once using his father's tombstone at Epworth as a pulpit. He 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 organize the Fetter Lane Society; and those converted by his preaching and that of his brother and Whitefield had become members of their bands. But finding, as he said, that they had fallen into heresies, especially quietism, he decided to form his own followers into a separate society. "Thus," he wrote, "without any previous plan, began the Methodist Society in England." Similar societies were soon formed 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. They were attacked in sermons and in print and at times attacked by mobs. They remained always at 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 reestablish Catholicism.

Feeling, however, that the church failed in its duty to call sinners to repentance, that many of the clergymen were corrupt and that souls were perishing in their sins, Wesley regarded himself as 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, he 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 of lay preaching; men and women who were not episcopally ordained were permitted to preach and do pastoral work. Thus one of the great features of Methodism, to which it has largely owed its success, was adopted by Wesley in answer to a necessity.

Chapels and organizations
As his societies needed houses to worship in, Wesley began to provide chapels, first in Bristol, 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 canceled, 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, he adopted the plan of 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, and undertook to visit each society regularly: the quarterly visitation, or conference. As the societies increased, he could not keep up contact effectively; so he drew up in 1743 a set of "General Rules" for the "United Societies," which were the nucleus of the Methodist Discipline and still exist.

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, in order that the preachers might work more systematically and the societies receive their services more regularly, Wesley appointed "helpers" to definitive circuits, each of which included at least thirty appointments a month. Believing that their usefulness and efficiency were promoted by being changed from one circuit to another every year or two, he established the "itinerancy", and insisted that his preachers submit to its rules. When, in 1788, some objected to the frequent changes, he 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 his societies multiplied, and the elements of an ecclesiastical system were gradually adopted, the breach between Wesley and the Church of England widened. The question of separation 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, needed to be considered, but Wesley refused to leave the Church of England. In 1745 Wesley wrote that he would make any concession which his conscience permitted, in order to live in harmony with the clergy, but could not give up the doctrine of an inward and present salvation by faith alone. He would not stop preaching or dissolve the societies or end lay preaching. 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."

But the next year he read Lord King on the Primitive Church, and Wesley was convinced by it that apostolic succession was a fiction, and that he was "a scriptural episcopos as much as any man in England." Some years later Stillingfleet's Irenicon led him to renounce the opinion that Christ or his apostles prescribed any form of church government, and to declare ordination valid when performed by a presbyter. It was not until about forty years later that he ordained by the laying on of hands, and even then only for those who would serve outside of England.

When he had waited long enough, and the Bishop of London had refused to ordain a minister for the American Methodists who were without the ordinances, Wesley ordained preachers for Scotland and England and America, with power to administer the sacraments in 1784. Though already a presbyter in the Church of England, Wesley consecrated, by laying on of hands, Dr. Thomas Coke to be superintendent in America. He also ordained Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as presbyters. He intended that Coke, and Asbury who Coke would subsequently consecrate in America, should ordain others in the newly founded Methodist Episcopal Church. This alarmed his brother Charles, who begged him 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 he 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.

Wesley was a strong controversialist. The most notable of his controversies was that on Calvinism. His father was of the Arminian school in the church; but John decided for himself while in college and expressed himself strongly against the doctrines of election and reprobation.

Whitefield inclined to Calvinism. In his first tour in America, he embraced the views of the New England School of Calvinism; and when Wesley preached a sermon on Free Grace, attacking predestination as blasphemous, representing "God as worse than the devil," Whitefield asked him (1739) not to repeat or publish the discourse, not wanting a dispute. Wesley's sermon was published, and among the many replies to it was one by Whitefield. Separation followed in 1741. Wesley wrote that those who held universal redemption 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 thenceforth unbroken, though they travelled different paths. Occasional publications appeared on Calvinistic doctrines, by Wesley and others; but in 1770 the controversy broke out anew with violence and bitterness. 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 was filled with the controversy. Wesley in 1778 began the publication of The Arminian Magazine, not, he said, to convince Calvinists, but to preserve Methodists and 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 (ISBN 0-19-502810-4) 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, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture, Wesley argued, is primary, revealing the Word of God 'so far as it is necessary for our salvation.'[4]

The doctrines which Wesley emphasized in his sermons and writings are prevenient grace, present personal salvation by faith, the witness of the Spirit, and sanctification. He 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."

Sanctification he spoke of (1790) as the "grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called `Methodists'." Wesley taught that sanctification was obtainable instantaneously by faith, between justification and death. It was not "sinless perfection" that he contended for; but he believed that those who are "perfect in love" feel no sin. He was anxious that this doctrine should be constantly preached for the system of Wesleyan Arminianism, the foundations of which were laid by Wesley and Fletcher (see Jacob Hermann, Arminianism).

Two comparatively recent works which explain Wesley's theological positions are Randy Maddox's 1994 book Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology (ISBN 0-687-00334-2) and Thomas Oden's 1994 book John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine (ISBN 0-310-75321-X).

Personality and activities
Statue of John Wesley at Wesley's Chapel City Road, London. (January 2006)Wesley travelled constantly, generally on horseback, preaching twice or thrice a day. 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 died poor. He rose at four in the morning, lived simply and methodically, and was never idle if he could help it.

He is described as below medium height, well proportioned, strong, with a bright eye, a clear complexion, and a saintly, intellectual face. He married very unhappily, at the age of forty-eight, a widow, Mary Vazeille, and had no children; she left him fifteen years later. He died peacefully, after a short illness, leaving as the result of his life-work 135,000 members, and 541 itinerant preachers under the name "Methodist." He is buried in a small graveyard behind Wesley's Chapel in City Road, London.

Despite his achievements he 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!" (Quoted, Tomkins John Wesley: A Biography (Eerdmans, 2003) 168.)

Literary work
Wesley was a logical thinker, and expressed himself clearly, concisely and forcefully in writing. His written sermons are characterized 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 organizer, 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).

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.

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 apologized officially [See Abelove, H. 1997. John Wesley’s plagiarism of Samuel Johnson and its contemporary reception. The Huntington Library Quarterly, 59(1) 73–80].

Statue of John Wesley outside Wesley Church in Melbourne, AustraliaToday, many follow Wesley's teachings. He continues to be the primary theological interpreter for Methodists the world over; the largest Wesleyan body being The United Methodist Church. The teachings of Wesley also served as a basis for the Holiness movement, from which Pentecostalism, parts of the Charismatic movement, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance 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 School which he founded in 1748 in order to educate the children of the growing number of Methodist preachers. He is also commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on March 2 with his brother Charles Wesley and in some calendars of churches of the Anglican Communion.



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