was born on the 17th of June 1703 (The 28th of June in the modern
The 15th of 19 children born to Samuel Wesley, Rector of Epworth,
and his wife Susanna.
was isolated and poverty-stricken. Only a few could read or write
and the people were deeply suspicious of outsiders. But together with
Susanna, Samuel Wesley campaigned for social justice and particularly
the care of widows and orphans.
He believed that Christian living depended on acts as well as faith.
This puritan parental influence would be the inspiration for John
Wesley’s work, and that of his brother Charles, who went on to write
over 6000 hymns.
John Wesley was baptised at his father’s Church, St Andrew’s in Epworth,
and worshipped here as a child.
The Old Rectory in Epworth was the Wesley family home until 1735.
It was rebuilt after fire destroyed the original building 1709. It
is suspected that this fire was an act of arson perpetrated by opponents
of Samuel Wesley.
could have killed the six year-old John, but he escaped from a first
floor window. He was afterwards referred to by his mother as "a brand
plucked from the burning".
is rescued from the fire
After attending Charterhouse school in London, John Wesley went on
to Christ Church, Oxford, where he received a bachelor’s degree in
1724 and a masters degree three years later.
He became a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford in 1726, where he helped
establish the Holy Club, dubbed 'Methodist' due to their prescribed
method of studying the Bible.
He was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1725 and then
ordained as a priest in 1728.
He became Curate to his father in the parish of Wroot and remained
in the post for two years before returning to Oxford.
Wesley was vocal about ordinary people being excluded from the church.
And although he was always fiercely loyal to the established church
he was often barred from the pulpit for his opinions.
So, beginning in Bristol, he began to address the public in open areas,
giving rise to ‘Field preaching’ as a feature of Methodism.
Wesley preaching at Epworth market cross
visits back to Epworth he would deliver sermons from the Market
Cross in the centre of the town.
For the rest of his life Wesley would preach to crowds, often numbering
many thousands, throughout Britain and Ireland.
He is said to have preached 40,000 sermons and travelled 250,000
miles. Until his death in 1791 he continued to tirelessly campaign
on social issues such as prison reform and universal education.
His last known letter described black slavery as 'that execrable
villainy'. Wesley famously said "I look upon the whole world as
Today there are 300,000 members of the Methodist Church in Britain.
World-wide, it is estimated that there are around 70 million Methodists,
so from small beginnings in Epworth, John Wesley’s influence has
indeed reached every corner of the globe.
Religion & Ethics - Christianity
Images on this page Reproduced by courtesy
of the Director and Librarian, the John Rylands University Library