Biography of Founder of the Methodist Church John Wesley Part 1
About the English priest John Wesley who split with the Anglicans and founded the Methodist Church, history and information.
JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791)
History remembers John Wesley as the founder of the Methodist Church. But he was also the spiritual begetter of modern evangelism.
Wesley left the churches to preach in the streets and in the fields. He discarded predestination and held out, to all people, the possibility of individual salvation through faith alone. He bypassed the wealthy and comfortable to inflame the masses with visions of a loving God blind to social distinctions.
It was pretty heady stuff. England in the 18th century was at a low ebb, spiritually and morally. Crime and lawlessness were rampant. Government was corrupt. Gambling flourished, and people at every social level were becoming chronic gin guzzlers. The Church itself was sterile and decadent, typified by the fox-hunting parson and absentee rector.
John Wesley came upon the scene like an August cloudburst. He declared that "9/10 of the men in England have no more religion than horses," and that the clergy "are the pest of the Christian world, the grand nuisance of mankind, a stink in the nostrils of God."
Wesley knew what he was talking about. His family had produced many ministers for the Church of England. His father was the scholarly rector of Epworth parish. Keeping to family tradition, John entered Christ Church, Oxford, to study for holy orders.
At Oxford he led a small student group in regular devotions and frequent communion. Some students derisively tagged Wesley and his friends "the Holy Club." Others nicknamed them "Methodists," because of their strict discipline, or method, while pursuing the Christian life.
After his ordination, John Wesley headed for the Georgia Colony in America. His mission was to minister to the settlers and Indians. He also hoped a stint in the wilderness would help him sort out his own confused religious beliefs. On the boat going over he saw a group of German Moravians face a harrowing mid-ocean storm with impressive inner calm. It was the sort of spiritual peace Wesley longed for. Later, he borrowed much of the simple solemnity of the Moravians' personalized God for his own budding theology.
Georgia was a disaster for Wesley. He alienated the Indians with his starchy high churchmanship. And he lost credibility with the settlers by getting into an awkward romantic entanglement with the niece of the chief magistrate of Savannah.
Back in Europe, he visited Moravian societies in Holland and northern Germany. Then he returned to England, planning to promote a religious awakening through the group dynamics of small "band-societies." He found that church after church was closed to him. The established clergy was unwilling to provide a forum for Wesley's gospel of salvation by faith alone, or for his pungently radical notions of democratic Christianity.
So he took to the byways and the hedges to, in his words, "promote vital, practical religion, and by the grace of God, to beget, preserve, and increase the life of God in the souls of men."
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