- Wesley Chapel, Epworth, Lincolnshire, England – Church where John Wesley preached
- Epworth, Lincolnshire, England – Birthplace
- June 28, 1703 – John Wesley birth
“What are termed afflictions in the language of men are in the language of God–styled blessings.”
– John Wesley
Life Sketch from The Other Eminent Men of Wilford WoodruffCopyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. Divinity Scholar 1703-1791
John WesleyMontesquieu wrote of pre-Wesleyan England: “In England there is not religion and the subject, if mentioned in society, evokes nothing but laughter.” John Wesley wrote of the results of this loss of religion in his journal: “Life was cheap. I’ve watched them hang ten and twelve a day from the gallows. They hung a ten year-old boy one day for stealing a loaf of bread.” Into this spiritual desert was born one of the great spiritual revivallists and reformers of all times, John Wesley. His history covers almost the whole of the eighteenth century, and his importance goes beyond a narrow deifinition of organized religion and more broadly to education and literature, prisons and poverty. Wesley’s desire to do good gave him great energy. He traveled approximately five thosand miles on foot or horseback each year. He generally preached fifteen sermons a wekk. He wrote over four hundred publications and aided his brother inthe compilation of some six thousand hymns. With the help of his sister he made good books available at low prices. The two wrote books of their own and rewrote others in easier dictation so that people of limited education could read them. Wesley’s cpncern for the poor put him far in advance of his time in cocial reform. He supplied the poor with clothes and food and helped make arrangements for the satisfying of their debst. He established a lending fund to help struggling businesses, He opened dispensaries in London and Bristol and was often the only medic the poor ever saw. In all these actions, Wesley felt that he was “called of God.” Because of his public activities, however, he was viewed as a threat to ministers of the gospel who collected their fees and spent their time hunting or fishing. Wesley’s promotion of the value of human sould was seen was politically incorrect. As early as 1732 he was decried in the press, and not more than five years later his character was publicily slandered and attacked in court. Of these experiences Wesley, said: “All crimes have been laid to my charge of which a human being is capable, except drunkenness.” Wesley had no sooner uttered these words when a ragged wretch jumped up, exclaiming that Wesley had made a trade with a lady friend of hers for a considerable amount of wisky. Having made her case she sat down among a thunderstruck assembly. Mr. Wesley, unmoved, merely “thanked God that his cup was now full.: Because Wesley marched in advance of his time, he advanced the people of his time. Fortunatly he was not alone in his quest, His work was complemented and supplements by eminent men and women such as Samuel Johnson, Hannah More, David Garrick, Maria Edgeworth, Edmund Burke, Sir Edward Gibbon, and Oliver Goldsmith.
Early LifeJohn Wesley was the fiteenth of nineteen children, only ten of whom survived infancy. He was born in 1703 to Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Distinguished by character and moral fortitude, they were not fettered by a love of the things of this world. Susanna was known for her beauty, brilliance, and strong headedness. Like her husband she was well educated for her day. Samuel Wesley was assigned as a preacher to the rectory at Epworth in England after the birth of their first child. The famrers there were a bitter lot, angry that the crown had taken nearly two-thirds of their land. Their anger was often vented upon the tax collectors. It was said that not even Oliver Cromwell was able to subdue the people of Epworth. They were a brawling and riotous group, their actions reflecting the hopelessness they felt. The people of the town were not happy to welcome a new preacher to their town, and they were often cruel to Samuel Wesley and his property. His crops were burned, his grain stolen, and the rectory set on fire and partially burned. Wesley was but two years old when he watched his father dragged off to debtors’ prison for a debt taht could have been paid had his crops not been burned. There he remained for four months until friend could raise the necessary money to pay his debt. Through Susanna’s careful of both parents was a significant fa management, the little family had enough to eat. The forbearance of both parents was a significant factor in the development of their children’s character. Because Samuel and Susanna were both figted and knowledgable, they each had strong opinions that sometimes conflicted. Samuel once shared with his son the following sentimental story. Susanna would not say “Amen” when Samuel prayed for King William II, because she did not support the king. This disturbed her husband, who called upon his wife to change. She refused. Susanna wrote that Samuel
immediately kneeled down and imprecated the divine vengeance upon himself and all his posterity if ever he touched me more or came into a bed with me before I had begged God’s pardon and his, for not saying Amen to the prayer of the king.So admant was Samuel about this issue that he departef for London under terms of separation, promising to send money for the care of the children. Near the end of the summer Samuel returned to visit, intending to stay but a few days. A partial rectory fire, among other things, encouraged him to stay on. John Wesley’s brith was the result of their conciliation. The evil one seemed to know that the next Wesley child would shake his domain, and did all he could to stop John’s coming. One winter night when John was six years old, the parsonage was set on fire at midnight. Samuel was awakened by the cry of “fire, fire” from someone in the street. As he opened his bedroom door, he was astonished to find the entire house full of smoke and the roof so burne dthat it was ready to fall in. Susanna burst into the nursery, gathered up her youngest hcild, and called to the others to follow. All the children heard her but John, and in the confusion he was forgotten. After gathering her childeren, Susanna “waded through the fire to safety. When little John was heard crying up in the nursery, his father ran to the stairs. He found them so badly burned that they would not sustain his weight. In despair, he fell on his knees in the hall and in the agony of a loving parent commended the sould of his small child to his God. John, finding it impossible to escape by the stiars, climed upon a chest that sat under the window where he could be seen from the years. There was not time to obtain a ladder, so one man hoisted another upon his shoulds in an attempt to reach the child. John was plucked from the flames just as the roof fell in with a trememdous crash. When Samuel saw that his child was safe he excliaimed: “Come, neighbors, let us kneel down; let us give thanks to God!” After Wesley’s narrow escape, Sussanna resolved to be “more paticularly careful of the sould of this child, which God had so mercifally provided for.” Some twenty years later Wesley reflected upon the influence and the teaching of his dear parents. He wrote his mother and asked her to write and relate her method of teaching her children. She reminded him that she kept them close to her and to the truth by carefully teaching them in their early years. She cautioned him that “no one can, without renouncing the world in the most literal sense, observe my method.” She further stated:
There are few, if any, that would entirely devote above twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save the souls of their children, which they think may be saved without so much ado; for that was my principal intention, however unskillfully and unsuccessfully managed.Although Susanna was often criticized by many in the village for teaching her children, she remained undisturbed, saying “that she had long taken leave of the world, and that everything which conduces to the salvation of the souls appears odd to others.” Susanna’s devotion to the souls of her hcildren blessed the world; all of her children were giften and good. But her sons John and Charles were such great missionaries that they forever altered the Christian world. Susanna was so determined to teach her children taht she sometimes employed unconventional, even unorthodox, methods. An example of this type of departure occurred when Samual waas called to London for a time. In his place a temporary curate whose sternness did more to empty the church than to fill it. Susanna, sensing a need for her little family to have adequate instruction, began holding Sabbath evening service in her kitchen. She reviewed and delviered interest sermons that she found in the recotorary storage. She also read the Bible. Soon close friends began to gather with her family, and they in turn began bringing their friends. It was not long until Susanna Wesley had more attending her “kitchen fireside services” than the curate had at church.
If after all this you think fit to dissolve this assembly do not tell me you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send your positive command in such full and express terms as may absolve me from all guilt and and punishment when you and I shall appear before the great and awful tribunal of your Lord Jesus Christ.Samuel gave no reply to such boldness and upon his return the rectory was returned to its normal procedures. Wesley’s father, Samuel, also played a role in his chidren’s growth. He was a good father and helped his children prusue higher education. When Wesley was about to take order for the ministry, he wrote his father and asked which commentary on the Bible was the beste. His father’s reply was simply “the Bible.”
SchoolingAs a young man Wesley attended school at Charter house and then Oxford University, where, with his brother, he formed a small study group to further the religious principles upon which the university was founded. This group formed the nucleus of the Methodist movement.
Becoming a MissionaryUpon graduation Wesley felt that he should travel as a missionary to America in order to bring the gospel of Christ to the Indians. On the way to American he sailed with a group of religious men called the Moravian Brethren. He was so touched by their calm faith during a storm which nearly destroyed the ship that he began to desire such faith. He remained in Georgia two years and later wrote that his mission to America was not, he realized, for the conversion of the Indians but for the conversion of himself. On his return to England he met another member of the Moravian Bretheren, Peter Bohler. Wesly shared with Bohler that he felt he should cease preaching until he truly had faith. Bohler replied: “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” In further discussions on the long trip back to England, Bohler led Wesley to see that although he was fasting twice a week, reading the scriptures, and visiting the prisons, these were outward expressions of faith and that he must also find an inward expression. Wesly felt that he understood what he lacked: “I fixed not this faith in or through Christ.” Not long while listening to someone reading from “Luther’s Preface to his Epistle to the Romans,” he experienced a transforming revelation that changed and strengthened his faith.
About a quarter before nine, while one was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ–Christ alone–for salvation. An assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.Wesley’s strength and his power of touching large masses of people grew from that moment on. When Wesley first began to preach, he felt that it was sinful to preach outside the church, but a Reverend Whitehead convinced him otherwise. Wesley eventually taught in the fields, drawing crowds of as many as ten to thirty thousand listeners. His meetings were often met with sever oppostion and interruptions. Once while preaching in a church, a mob so furious that they pulled out a window, dore down the doors, and even pulled up the planking on the floor. Another time, when a mob came to take Wesley to a judge, his clothes were torn and the skin ripped from his hand. He recieved several blows to the head, but he was saved by many believers around him who defended him. While he was preaching in a field, a mob even ran a mad bull through the crowd. When it would not do what they wanted, they beat the bull until it was bleeding and weary. The mob was finally able to get the bull near the table on which Wesley was standing. The bull knocked the table over, and the ruffians beat the table, tearing it apart piece by piece. Wesley moved to a new location and continued his preaching. At a conference in 1770, he drew a rebuke from rigid Calvinists by presenting resolutions which stated that the heathen who had never heard of Christ coud be saved if they feard God and lived up to such light as they had. However, although Wesley was continually subjected to such persecution, he never wavered from what he considered as his call form God to “feed His sheep.” At nearly 50, Wesley was briefly married to a widow but it was not a happy union and she left without notice. He continued to work, up to the last moments of his life. He died when he was eighty-eight. Wesley felt the sum of religion was expressed in the words: “We love him, because he first loved us,” (John 4:10). He lived that religion, extending love, his own and Christ’s, to all. Copyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. 1
Wesley’s Inspired Statements“Has the case been altered since the Reformation?…Not at all. Indeed many of the Reformers themselves complained, that ‘the Reformation was not carried far enough.'” 2 “The times that we have reason to believe are at hand, if they are not already begun, are what many pious men have termed the Latter Day Glory; meaning the time wherein God would gloriously display his power and love in the fulfillment of the promise that the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.'” 3 “What could God have done which He hath not done, to convince you that the day is coming, that the time is at hand, when He will fulfill His glorious promises; when He will arise and Maintain His own cause, and to set up His Kingdom over all the earth?” 4 “We seldom hear of them [gifts of the Holy Ghost] after the fatal period, when the emperor Constantine called himself a Christian: From this time they almost totally ceased: The cause of this was not, (as has been vulgarly supposed,) “because there was no more occasion for them,” because all of the world became Christian. This is a miserable mistake: not a twentieth part of it [the world] was then nominally Christian. The real cause was, “the love of many” almost of all Christians, so called, was “waxed cold”. The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ, than the other heathens. This was the real cause why extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian church; because the Christians were turned heathens again, and had only a dead form left.” 5 Counsel of John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, to her children: Would you judge of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure? Take this rule: Now note whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.6
Statements About John Wesley
James G. BleakI was also present in the St. George Temple and witnessed the appearance of the Spirits of the Signers . . . the spirits of the Presidents . . . demanded that their baptism and endowments be done. Wilford Woodruff was baptized for all of them. While I and Brothers J.D.T. McAllister and David H. Cannon (who were witnesses to the request) were endowed for them. These main . . .laid the foundations of the American government, and signed the Declaration of Independence and were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth to perform this work. Martin Luther and John Wesley helped to release the people from religious bondage that held them during the dark ages. They also prepared the peoples hearts so they would be ready to receive the restored gospel when the Lord went it again to men on the earth. 7
- Anderson, Vicki Jo. (1994). The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Cottonwood, AZ: Zichron Historical Research Institute.
- John Wesley, Sermon, “The Mystery of Iniquity:, The works of John Wesley, 3rd Ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978] Vol. 6, pp. 262-263
- John Wesley, Sermon 71.
- Wesley‟s Sermons, vol. 2, p. 98
- Wesley‟s Sermons, vol. 2, p. 266
- Susanna Wesley as quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, “The Honored Place of Woman”, Ensign, Nov. 1981, 104
- Personal journal of James Godson Bleak, Chief Recorder in the St. George Temple