John Wesley For Young Readers

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. John’s School
3. Fire!
4. John’s Best
5. A Storm at Sea
6. In America
7. A New Way to Preach
8. John’s Mother
9. Special Friends
10. The Letter "M"
11. The Song in Heaven
12. A Choice of Suppers
13. A Bull Comes to the Preaching
14. Sleeping on the Floor Again!
15. An Angry Crowd
16. Hidden in a Sack
17. How God Used a Fly
18. Traveling Without Airplanes or Trains
19. How to End a Quarrel
20. God’s Servant


John Wesley lived long ago when your great-great-grandfathers lived. He preached from God’s Word, the Bible, many thousands of times and many people were saved when they heard John preach. But we have not prepared this little book for you in order to make you think highly of John Wesley. Rather, we have prepared it hoping that you will learn some of the same lessons John learned and that you may know a little of God’s own wonderful work during the time of your great-great-grandfathers. “He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.” Psalm 111:4.
Perhaps you would first like to hear about John when he was young, like you.

John’s School

Were you at school today? Was it a large building with many boys and girls? John’s first school was not at all like yours. When he was five years old he began his first lessons at home, not in a school building.
His own mother was his teacher and he learned the whole alphabet on the very first day! He must have been a clever boy because the very next day he began his first reading lesson. He did not have an easy book to begin with such as you had. It may surprise you to know that his first reading book was the Bible. He began with the first verse and kept on until he could read the whole first chapter.
John had a number of brothers and sisters who also had their first school lessons at home. He was especially fond of his younger brother, Charles, whom you shall hear more of later. John’s father was a preacher. He did not know the gospel clearly but he did speak faithfully to the people about their sins. But now I must tell you about a terrible thing that happened when John was about six years old.


The neighbors around the town where John lived did not like to hear John’s father preach. They did not like to be told that they were sinners, and so one night some of them set fire to the Wesley home.
Everyone in the family woke up to the shouts of “Fire! Fire!” and ran out of the house - every-one except John, that is. He had been sleeping so soundly that he did not wake up until everyone was gone. By the time he did awake, the flames were roaring outside his door. He went to the window and began to cry. His father tried to run upstairs to rescue him but the staircase fell down with a crash. Mr. Wesley could only fall down on his knees and pray for poor John, for there were no fire engines in those days to come to the rescue. God heard and answered those prayers quickly.
Some people in the street saw little John at the window. One man stood on the shoulders of another man and brought John safely down. John never forgot that awful night, and after he grew up he had this verse written under a picture of himself, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” He had been plucked out of the fire in his home but later he knew that God also had plucked him out of a worse fire that burns forever.

John’s Best

When John was a teenager, he went to college. While he had been a school boy, he just thought about playing and studying. But now that he was getting older, John was not happy. He thought of God and he was afraid. He began to read religious books and tried to live a better life.
Remember, John had never heard the gospel clearly. He did not know that what makes us holy in God’s sight is not what we can do but what Christ has done for us. Poor John’s efforts to make himself better only succeeded in making him more unhappy than ever. He met other friends at his college, including his own brother Charles, who started a club to try to help each other do good works such as visiting prisons and poor families. They did this in order to earn their salvation. They did not understand that in God’s sight “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
But God who is rich in mercy planned to save poor John from the thoughts of his own goodness and to show him instead the goodness of God that leads to repentance.

A Storm at Sea

The next thing that happened in John’s life may surprise you. Remember, he was not yet saved but was still trying to gain salvation by doing good things.
It was suggested to John and his brother Charles that they go from England to America to preach to the Indians! They thought this would be a most easy job, never considering that they themselves were still stained with sin.
They sailed for America and on the same boat John met some simple German people that he considered to be most unusual. He could not understand their language but they seemed to be people who loved and feared God. They were always cheerful and happy and never even seemed to get cross. These dear people were simply sinners saved by the grace of God. John learned that they also were going to America to preach. There was, however, something about the Germans that made John feel uncomfortable. They had a joy and peace that he had never known and could not understand.
Maybe it was for this reason that John began to try even harder to please God by staying away from things that are nice. One night a wave rolled in his cabin window and soaked his bed. He had to sleep on the floor that night. Having slept there once, he began to think a bed was not necessary, and he would try to gain God’s favor by sleeping on the floor from now on. Poor John! He still had not learned that the Bible says that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8.
Before John’s ship reached America, he was again surprised at the German people. A great storm came up on the sea and the ship was in terrible danger. John and his brother were frightened, especially since they thought they might at any moment find themselves in the presence of God.
These German Christians had been singing before the storm began and John thought that now their peace and happiness would end. He was greatly surprised to see that they simply went on singing as though nothing had happened!
John was not having good success in his efforts to make his own peace with God and could not understand it when he saw others who had learned that it was not poor sinners who tried to make peace but rather that the Lord Jesus “made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:20.
It would be good for all boys and girls who read this little book to learn this too!

In America

After John and Charles landed in America, it was not long before they found that their new job was not as easy as they had thought. They had tried to live by certain rules and they tried to force others to do the same. The people in America did not like to be told what to do. As for the Indians, John could not even talk to them, as he did not know their language!
John’s trip to America ended a total failure. He decided to leave America and sailed for England. He was a very sad man when he left. But one good thing did happen to John. On the trip home, he finally realized that he, who went to America to tell others how to be saved, was not saved himself. At last he admitted that he was a sinner who had fallen short of the glory of God. This was wonderful, for he now was ready to learn one more thing: that Jesus had come to save sinners.
John learned how to be saved when he arrived back in England. God used a German Christian to tell John the good news from God’s Word, the Bible, that salvation comes by faith in the Lord Jesus. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Acts 16:31. What a wonderful day for John when he discovered that it was not what he could do that saved him but what Christ has done upon the cross.
I hope all who are listening to this story will also learn this. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5.

A New Way to Preach

John now had great joy in knowing that his sins were forgiven. Other Christian friends helped him in his new life of following the Saviour and he began to study the Bible more. A burning desire began to grow in his heart. Surely he should tell others of this good news!
His good friend, George Whitfield, was already busy telling others. However, George was going about his preaching in a very strange way. He was not preaching in the fancy buildings that people call “churches”. He was preaching outside in the open air. George remembered that the Lord Jesus had also preached in this way. Before long as many as 20,000 people were coming to listen to him preach the gospel on a hillside.
No one in England had ever preached outside like this and John thought it was very strange. But George called him to come and help, so one day John himself preached the wonderful news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Three thousand people came to listen and when John saw how many were listening to God’s precious Word, he no longer thought it strange to preach outdoors. In fact, he began to do this every day, and thousands of people heard God’s offer of free salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus, and many were saved.

John’s Mother

Do you suppose the devil was glad to see thousands of people listening to God’s Word every day? I can tell you he was not. Very soon wicked men began to make trouble for John. They not only thought that preaching outside of a “church” building was evil, but they also thought the message he gave of knowing your sins to be forgiven now was very foolish. How sad when men follow their own thoughts about God instead of believing what God has told us plainly in His Word. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14.
Some of John’s own friends heard what he was doing and told him that he should stop his “strange way”. Even his own dear mother said she was unhappy about John’s strange, new way of thinking. John felt, however, that this was the work God had given him to do and he should obey God rather than man.
John kept on preaching and soon something happened that gave him great joy. He visited his mother again and found she had changed her mind! She now thanked God for the work John was doing and prayed for him! What made this great change was that she also had believed the wonderful news that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7.
John’s mother was not the only one in his family who put her faith in Christ. John’s brother Charles was saved also and it was not long before Charles also went from town to town preaching God’s good news.

Special Friends

Do you have some special friends? It’s wonderful to be with people you love and enjoy, isn’t it?
After John was saved, he lost many of his old friends. They had not learned the truth from God’s Word about salvation, and so they thought it was foolish for John to say he knew his sins were forgiven. I am sure John was sorry to lose these old friends, but God did not leave him without friends. In fact, God gave John many new friends. Some were perfect strangers before but they heard John preach and were saved. They became John’s best friends.
One of his new friends was a man named John Nelson. Even as a young boy John Nelson had been afraid of the judgment of God against his sins. He tried hard to live a good life but never could keep from sinning. In fact, when he tried extra hard to live right, he often found himself doing worse sins than ever.
John Nelson was a grown man with a family when he first heard John Wesley preach. Since Mr. Wesley was preaching from God’s own Word, Nelson felt like Mr. Wesley knew all the secrets of his heart. Nelson trusted in Christ and soon became a close friend of John Wesley’s.
There is not time or space to tell you all that Nelson did for His Saviour. Like John Wesley he told others about the Lord Jesus and often suffered from people who did not like to hear the Bible. At times they threw rocks at him, tried to break down a house he was in, and even tried to kill him. Once they took him off and tried to make Nelson be a soldier, hoping that would at last stop his preaching. But he simply preached to the soldiers until God delivered him and he could return home.
John Wesley was thankful to have a friend who was “a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
May this cheer any Christian boy or girl who is reading this book. You may have to give up some friends if you want to follow Jesus, but God does not intend for you to live alone. He will give you others who also love the Lord Jesus and will help you as you seek to follow Him. “Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22.

The Letter "M"

Most of the people who came to hear John preach were the poor folks who lived in the countryside. Usually the rich town people were too interested in the pleasures and entertainments they could buy with their money. They did not have time to go to hear a preacher. But I want to tell you about one rich lady who did go to hear John Wesley preach.
Lady Huntingdon was thought to be “religious”, and she did try to be kind to the poor and was careful to always act fairly. But in her own heart she knew she did not have peace with God. She was afraid when she thought about death and meeting God.
Her sister-in-law was saved after she heard John preach and she spoke to Lady Huntingdon of her joy in knowing Christ as Saviour. But this only made Lady Huntingdon more sure that she was a lost sinner. Soon after she became very ill and while ill she realized her only hope was to believe in the Lord Jesus. She began to get better from that very hour and was not only healed in body but saved for all eternity.
Lady Huntingdon invited other rich ladies to hear John Wesley preach and always helped him and other preachers like him in every way she could. God has said, “Not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” Lady Huntingdon said she was thankful for the letter “m”. At least it said not many instead of not any!

The Song in Heaven

Did you ever wonder what songs will be in heaven? Our next story about John will tell you.
Not everyone was as happy as Lady Huntingdon to hear God’s Word. Sad to say, most people in England at this time felt they could earn their way to heaven with good works. This is, you remember, just what John thought before he was saved.
One day John met a man who told him that he hoped to get to go to heaven by his good works. John replied, “You will be the first that got to heaven that way.” Then John asked him a strange question.
“What will you do when you get to heaven?”
The surprised man had never considered that, so he asked, “What will others do there?”
John answered, “They will sing, ‘Glory  .  .  .  unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ But your song, sir, will be, ‘Glory to myself, for I have earned my way to heaven.’ ”
John told the man, “Oh, sir, your song will make discord in heaven!”
The man looked quite shocked at this and finally was ready to listen to what John had to tell him from God’s precious Word. We hope that he believed it and that he also will be among those who shall be in heaven singing, “To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” Revelation 1:6.
You also will be there if you call upon the Lord to save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13. Are you on your way to heaven to sing with John Wesley and many others? What is your song now?

A Choice of Suppers

Now it is necessary to tell you about how angry some people were when they heard that John was still preaching. At times men went to great trouble to keep people from going to hear God’s Word.
Many poor people in a town called Helstone would gladly have gone to hear the preaching. However, a rich man named Sir Francis ruled the people in that town. Each year he made a wonderful Christmas supper which he gave free of charge to the poor. Sir Francis did not want the poor people to go hear John’s preaching, so he stood just outside the church and called in a loud voice to all those who came out, “If any man dares to hear these fellows, he shall not come to my Christmas supper.”
Sad to say, these poor people turned away from God’s wonderful invitation to His supper in heaven. God invites all to “Come”, for He says, “All things are now ready.” The poor people of Helstone chose instead the supper a rich man gave at Christmas time. No doubt they enjoyed a merry party at that supper, but they did not know then that it was the last Christmas supper that Sir Francis ever gave. Before the next year, Sir Francis died and left this world to stand before God.
Boys and girls, don’t you forget that God’s blessed invitation to “come” is far more wonderful than any invitation you may receive in this world. Do not turn away from God’s joys that will never end for the brief suppers and parties you can find in this world. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

A Bull Comes to the Preaching

There is yet more to tell you about those who wanted to stop John from telling others about Christ. Some did not like his preaching because it was not inside a fancy building. Others did not like it because they did not like to be told they were lost sinners. Still others did not like it because they owned taverns and places of worldly amusements, and when many turned to Christ they no longer went to those places. You will be interested to hear about a bull that came to the preaching one day.
John was in a town called Bristol and he stood on a table to preach. Angry men brought a bull into the crowd that had gathered to listen, for they hoped the bull would upset the table on which John was standing. They did not know that God commands even the animals, so when the bull got close to the table, it stood very quietly, not moving at all!
This made the men even more angry, so they grabbed the table themselves and broke it into pieces. Some of John’s friends rushed to him and carried him off safely on their shoulders.
John learned that God could care for him in dangers like these. But he also learned that he was in a world that nailed the Saviour to the cross and that those who follow Jesus must sometimes suffer. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” 2 Timothy 2:12.
Next you will hear a little more about his sufferings.

Sleeping on the Floor Again!

Before John was saved he had thought that staying away from nice things would be a way of earning salvation. One thing, you remember, he had stayed away from was a bed. He slept on the floor. It was, of course, a useless way of trying to gain salvation and it had given him no peace with God.
Now as John traveled about the countryside, he was again sleeping on the floor! Not this time to win God’s favor but rather to win men and women for Christ. As he and his friend Nelson went from place to place preaching, they sometimes spent several weeks sleeping on the floor because there were no handy motels such as we have today. Nor is it likely that they would have had the money to pay for such a thing.
John was much happier sleeping on the floor for Christ’s sake than when he had done it hoping to gain salvation. Now he cheerfully said to Nelson, “Let us be of good cheer. I have one whole side yet, for the skin is off but on one side.”
Often John and Nelson had trouble finding food as they traveled about. One evening John was so hungry he stopped his horse to pick blackberries. He said to Nelson, “We ought to be thankful that blackberries are plentiful, for this is the best country I ever saw for getting an appetite, but the worst that ever I saw for getting food!”
If you are saved and wish to tell others about your Saviour, you may never need to sleep on the floor or eat only blackberries. But more than likely you will have to give up something. Maybe it will only be a ball game or some other thing you enjoy. Are you willing?

An Angry Crowd

We have seen how John learned that while at times he might expect miracles from the Lord, he could also expect to suffer in this world that cast out Christ. But do not forget that hundreds and thousands came to hear the good news of the gospel.
One night when John was sitting calmly at a desk, an angry crowd had gathered outside the house. They shouted that they wanted the gospel preacher - the one who dared to go about preaching outdoors. The angry crowd wanted to take John off to jail. John asked if someone would be so kind as to bring in the leader of the crowd. They brought in the angry leader who, after he listened for a short time to John, became as quiet as a lamb.
The crowd outside, however, was still angry and later began to cry out for some to kill John. John tried to talk and reason with them but they just shouted until he could not be heard. John knew he had only one thing left that he could do before the people rose up to kill him. He could pray. He later said that this was what he should have done at the first. After John prayed and asked the Lord’s help, the leader of the crowd who had been as quiet as a lamb rose up to help John escape! With a few friends they managed to get through the crowd and went to another town.
When his brother Charles saw John he said, “He looked like a soldier of Christ. His clothes were torn to tatters.” This experience did not stop John. Soon he was again going about with his brother and others to preach about “the unsearchable riches” (Ephesians 3:8) that are in Christ. They learned that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.
Perhaps it would be good if you asked yourself if you have a treasure that is worth such suffering. If you know nothing of these riches in Christ then you may wonder what made John and his friends willing to suffer for Christ’s sake. Turn to Christ for salvation and you will begin to understand!

Hidden in a Sack

Next we would like for you to hear about two men from Ireland who were saved when they heard John and Charles preach. Neither man wanted to hear the preachers speak from the Word of God, but God worked in a most interesting way so that both did hear something from God’s Word.
One man heard that the preaching that night was to be in a barn. He knew it had been decided to lock the door during the meeting so that no one could come to disturb the meeting. So he went in before the meeting began and hid in a grain sack close to the door. He planned to crawl out of the sack after the meeting started and open the door so his friends could come in and disturb the meeting.
The man hidden in the sack, however, did enjoy music, so he was quiet while the hymn was sung. More than just the music reached his ears. The voice of God reached down into his heart. He did not dare to open the door to let his friends in. He now knew he was a lost sinner and, forgetting where he was, he began to pray aloud for mercy! The people who had come to listen were surprised to find a man inside a sack, but they helped him out and the man became a true follower of Christ.
Boys and girls, surely you have never heard the gospel from inside a sack, but you have heard it from this little book. Have you ever prayed to the Lord as this man did? If not, then you are just as lost as that man in the sack was before he called upon God to save him. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13.

How God Used a Fly

The second man went to the meeting only to hear the singing. He enjoyed the music but decided that as soon as the preaching began he would stop his ears. He sat after the hymn was over with his head down and his fingers in his ears. But not even fingers in the ears can stop God from making His Word heard.
As the man sat there a strange thing happened. God sent a fly to land on his nose. For just a short moment, the man moved his hand to drive the fly away. During this time he heard only nine words. But what special words they were! “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” From this very moment, the poor man with his fingers in his ears had no peace. God’s Word had spoken to him in just a few words. There he sat with his fingers in his ears when God had said that if he had ears he should hear!
The poor man began to go to every meeting the preachers were having and listened to the preaching as well as the singing. He at last received the Lord Jesus as his Saviour and rejoiced that God had once sent a fly to open his ears.
Are your ears open to God’s Word?

Traveling Without Airplanes or Trains

I hope you have not forgotten that John Wesley lived long ago in the days of your great-great- grandfathers. There were no airplanes, speedy trains or cars in those days. And yet I have told you how John traveled all over England taking the good news of the Saviour. Perhaps you may wonder just how he traveled.
Most often John and his friends rode about on horseback. He usually was up very early in the morning and spent many hours in the saddle. In the winter it was much more difficult. On one trip they rode while the rain and hail froze on their eyebrows and went right through their coats. The next day they were off again through the snow. The day after, the snow was so deep they could not ride their horses so they walked, leading the horses for twenty miles. This they willingly did so others might also hear of God’s way of salvation.
On another trip when John was an old man, a rich man gave permission for John to use his carriage. The road was by the sea and on the way they found that the sandy road was covered with water by the rising tide. John was not a man to let water stop him from telling others of Christ, so he looked out the carriage window and called to the driver, “Take the sea! Take the sea!”
The driver drove through the waves and was quickly surrounded by water. The horses were swimming and the wheels of the carriage often sank into the sand. The driver expected any moment to be drowned, but he saw Mr. Wesley’s white hair dripping with the salt water and heard him ask calmly, “What is your name, driver?”
“Peter,” was the answer.
“Peter,” he said, “fear not; thou shalt not sink.”
At last they got safely over and Mr. Wesley first took the driver to a comfortable place and saw that he was looked after, and then, without a thought that he himself was soaked with the waves, he went on to the gospel meeting to tell others of his Saviour.
When you read of such trips as John made, do you not wonder why you and I are often so slow to take even a short walk or to ride comfortably in a car to tell others of the same wonderful Saviour? As we read of God’s servant may you and I be encouraged to go with the gospel wherever God sends us, whether it be right at home or ever so far away. And may we go whether it be in comfort or not.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Romans 10:14,15.

How to End a Quarrel

Not all those who traveled with Mr. Wesley when he was an old man were as quick to help him out as the driver you just read about. Even though John was old, he was still active and still sometimes preached four times a day. One of the preachers who traveled with John at this time was a man named Bradford. He was helpful, but at the same time he could be quite cross.
One day John, now 85 years old, asked Bradford to mail some letters. Bradford said he would listen to Mr. Wesley preach first and go later. When John explained that they should be taken right away, Bradford refused to go at all. Bradford made more unkind and provoking comments.
The next morning Wesley asked Bradford, “Will you beg my pardon?” (This means to say you are sorry.)
“No,” replied Bradford.
“You won’t?” asked John again.
“No,” repeated Bradford.
“Then I will beg yours,” said Mr. Wesley.
Poor Bradford was now so ashamed of himself that he cried like a child. The quarrel thus ended because John was willing to say he was sorry for the quarrel even when it was the other man who was unkind.
May you and I remember this whenever others say unkind words to us! “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1.

God’s Servant

John Wesley kept on preaching God’s good news of salvation everywhere he went. He traveled all over England with this good news and preached over 42,000 times! He found the trips more difficult when he got to be an old man, but at 86 years of age he was still telling sinners of God’s love.
There were times, of course, when John made mistakes. Whenever any man thinks his own thoughts instead of what God’s Word tells us, he will be mistaken. Before John was saved he had read many religious books that were not true because they were the ideas of man and not from the Bible. It seems that John never completely got free of some of the wrong ideas he read in those books. May this be a warning to you, boys and girls, to be careful as to the books you read especially while you are young.
It is also possible that in seeking to tell others about the Saviour John traveled so much that he did not spend as much time as was needed simply studying the Bible. And so if you had expected to read that John Wesley was a perfect servant of God, you will be disappointed. There is only One Man who was perfect, the Lord Jesus. It is useless for you to look for another.
John did, however, serve the Lord faithfully as well as he understood and we would do well to have hearts as willing as his to serve the Lord. If you are not saved, then you need first of all to learn like John that it is not what we do but what Christ has done that gives everlasting life.
If you belong to the Lord Jesus, He also has some work for you to do. Your work may be different from John’s, but, like John, you can seek to do it to the glory of God. “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.