I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today is the anniversary of John Wesley’s birth. Born this day in 1703 (making this 308 years!) in Epworth, England, John and his brother Charles had great impact on the churches of England as well as the United States. John was an Anglican evangelist who traveled more than 8,000 miles a year on horseback to preach and teach the Good News.
John was the son of Samuel and Susannah Wesley and was one of 19 children (10 living to maturity). At age 5, a fire broke out in the parsonage and John was rescued – according to his mother – “like a brand plucked from the burning” – and she believed this indicated that God had special plans for John’s life.
As an Oxford student he showed himself to be a devout young man and a scholar. His brother Charles had begun a holy club and the members made a covenant to lead a holy
and sober life, take communion at least once a week, be faithful in their private devotions, visit prisons regularly, and spend three hours together every afternoon to study the Bible and pray.
Wesley was deeply impacted by the faith of Moravians who were traveling with him to America and when he returned to England he sought out Peter Boehler to inquire more about their beliefs. His conversion story is a famous one, a story where he felt his heart “strangely warmed” at a church at Aldersgate.
Wesley went on to travel more than 250,000 miles by horseback and preached more than 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. While he did not intend to break away from the Church of England, his followers who followed his methods of Bible study and prayer became known as “Methodists” and the Methodist and Wesleyan churches trace their roots to this extraordinary man.
Here is his Rule for Christian Living:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can!
The Stamps Library has a great many resources on John Wesley – books and sermons written by him and a great many volumes that explain aspects of the Wesleyan tradition. We also have a (non-circulating) Wesleyan-Holiness special collection, available by appointment.