John Wesley (1703-1791)

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Methodist (Anglican)
Hymn #73.
John Wesley, main founder of Methodism, was born on June 17, 1703 at Epworth Rectory. He was older brother to Charles Wesley as indicated in the preceding article. Although he was ordained as a minister he was yet a stranger to God’s grace! He crossed the Atlantic to preach to the Indians and he had nothing but religion, not salvation, to tell them of! Returning to London he met with the Moravians (a gospel-preaching group founded by Count Zinzendorf) and was especially helped by Peter Boehler. By him, says Wesley, “I was clearly convinced of unbelief, and of the want of faith whereby alone we are saved.” While John was listening to the preface to the Epistle to the Romans, as written by Martin Luther, he was so brought face to face with the word of God that he said, “While he 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; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine!” This was in 1738.
In 1709, when he was but six, he had been rescued from the Rectory house which was burnt down. He always remembered this; God had a work for him to do and preserved him for it. In 1729 when at Oxford he found a group then forming called Oxford Methodists and he became at once their leader. It was a movement within the bosom of the Church of England. Their chief purpose was to conduct their lives and study by “rule and method.” His brother Charles and George Whitefield joined in this activity. While they held the Anglican articles of faith, yet they were barred from preaching in the churches of that denomination. So they preached in the open field, barns, houses and every place that could be utilized.
The one weakness of their teaching was that a person could be saved and then lose salvation. This means that Christ would save a sinner but then the sinner had to keep up with certain works or lose the blessing. This is a subtle form of salvation by works which is not according to the Word. In John 10:28-2928And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:28‑29) the Lord in speaking of His sheep (not false professors) says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any (man should be left out) pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man (or none) is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.”
John did not write as many hymns as Charles, but he is said to have preached forty thousand times and traveled nearly 250,000 miles. Many souls were brought to Christ through his earnest and zealous preaching.
In 1791, after preaching in the parlor of a magistrate at Leatherhead, near London, he returned home fatigued and ill. His text had been, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found.” The Lord took him home on March 2, 1791, after such a life of great activity in His service, at the age of 88. The only one of his hymns in the book is #73:
“The Lord of life in death hath lain
To clear me from all charge of sin;
And, Lord, from guilt of crimson stain
Thy precious blood hath made me clean.
“Clad in this robe, how bright I shine!
Angels possess not such a dress;
Angels have not a robe like mine,
Jesus the Lord’s my righteousness.”