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JOHN WESLEY - The Patron of Our Church

John Wesley (1703-1791), the son of the rector of Epworth, Lincolnshire, was born in 1703. He was an English evangelical preacher and founder of Methodism. After being educated at Christ Church College, Oxford, John Wesley was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1728. After finishing his studies John remained in Oxford where he taught Greek at Oxford University. There he became a member of and led a group of students, including his brother Charles and George Whitefield. The group of Christians became known as the Holy Club or the Oxford Methodists. They were called Methodists for their methodical devotion to study and religious duties.

In 1735 John Wesley and his brother Charles accompanied James Ogelthorpe to America and settled in Georgia where he was deeply influenced by Moravian missionaries. After

John Wesley
three years with the English settlers, Wesley returned to England and joined George Whitefield in Bristol. John Wesley's passionate sermons upset the local clergy and he found their pulpits closed to him. To overcome this problem, he built a Methodist Chapel in Bristol. Wesley and Whitefield also gave sermons in the open-air.

On May 24, 1738, at a religious meeting in London, he experienced an assurance of salvation through faith in Jesus alone, which was his message for the rest of his life. John Wesley continued to travel the country where he mainly visited poor neighbourhoods, and most of the people who attended his meetings were industrial workers or agricultural labourers. His main message was of God's love. He told the people who attended his meetings that if they loved God in return, they would "be saved from sin and made holy". He also had a lot to say about personal morality. In his sermons he encouraged people to work hard and to save for the future. He also warned against the dangers of gambling and drinking. In his evangelistic work, he is said to have preached 40,000 sermons and, on the advice of Whitefield, he preached in the open air. Because of his Arminianism and belief in Christian perfection, he repudiated (c.1740) the Calvinist doctrine of election, which led to a break with Whitefield. In 1784 he established the legal status of Methodist societies, and although he did not form a separate church, he did make plans for the societies to continue after his death.

Although there were Methodist ministers, John Wesley encouraged people who had full-time jobs to become lay preachers. He found time to write a large number of books during his life-time. This included collections of psalms, hymns and sermons. He also founded and edited the Methodist Magazine. Wesley received over 30,000 in royalties from his writings. This was used for charitable work including the foundation of Kingswood School in Bristol. Wesley and his followers became known as Methodists. By the time John Wesley died in 1791, the Methodist movement had over 76,000 members.


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