Biography of Founder of the Methodist Church John Wesley Part 2

About the English priest John Wesley who split with the Anglicans and founded the Methodist Church, history and information.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791)

Wesley's remarkable itinerancy spanned the next 50 years. In that time, he traveled some 250,000 mi., mostly afoot or on horseback. He preached 4 or 5 times daily--between 40,000 and 50,000 sermons in all. He endured the hostility of landlords and country squires--who were often in cahoots with the local clergy. Sometimes there was violence. Mobs were unleashed against him. As biographer John Langley Hall describes it: "When struck by a stone he would wipe the blood from his face and continue preaching. Church bells were rung to drown his voice, he was pelted with stink bombs, and on one occasion a man was even bribed to shout, 'Fresh salmon!' as a tasteful temptation to desert him."

Born of the industrial revolution, Methodism as preached by John Wesley was primarily a religion for the poor. Wesley skirted the large cathedral cities, concentrating on the small factory towns of industrializing England. He made the poor feel important, as important as the rich. As Hall records, "the poor were amazed to find a man speaking in a cultured Oxford voice who was actually interested in whether they even had a soul!"

When Wesley died, something very much like a rebirth of morality was going on in Britain. There were vast improvements in education, medicine, and prison reform, all of which Wesley had agitated for. Slavery would be abolished within a few years of his death, another cause he had long championed. Lines dividing upper and lower classes were dimming, and religious life was exciting and progressive once again.

Wesley left behind more than 600 lay preachers to carry on his work, and nearly 200,-000 converted Methodists. Though he was loyal to the Mother Church to the very end, Methodists withdrew entirely from the Church of England soon after he was gone. In America, the Methodist movement fell on especially fertile ground.

It was an American President, Woodrow Wilson, who said more than 100 years after Wesley's death: "The Church was dead and Wesley awakened it; the gospel was shrunken into formulas and Wesley flung it fresh upon the air once more in the speech of common men."

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