John Wesley

John Wesley (born 17 Junijul / June 28 1703greg in Epworth, North Lincolnshire, .. † March 2, 1791 in London ) was an English revivalist, who also worked in North America, and one of the founders of the Methodist movement.


John Wesley was born on June 17, 1703 in Epworth, Lincolnshire, as fifteenth of nineteen children. His often pedantic and argumentative, High Church and conservative set father, Samuel Wesley, came from an Anglican priest dynasty. His father and grandfather were expelled because of puritanical tendencies from their parishes. His mother, Susanna Wesley born Annesley, was the daughter of prominent Puritan clergyman Samuel Annesley and one for their time unusually educated, pious woman. At thirteen, she worked intensively with the ecclesiastical and doctrinal controversies of the time, decided independently to join the Anglican Church, and sat by her father that she was confirmed in this.

With five years John was rescued at the last moment from the burning home, an experience that left him before the age vivid memories.

With 11 years ( 1714) he came to the Charterhouse School in Godalming, and with 17 to Oxford in the Christ Church College. Strong impression on him made ​​the reading of Thomas of Kempen " Imitation of Christ " and Taylor's " Holy Living and Dying ." In 1725 he was commissioned by Bishop Potter, the deacon - ordination and became vicar in Epworth. In Oxford, his brother Charles founded in 1726 with two fellow students, the " Holy Club ", in which they came together to study the Bible and deepened spiritual life. After John had joined them, he was the leader and organizer of the group very quickly. They studied three hours a day in the New Testament, fasted twice a week, visited prisoners, the sick and the poor and donated all the money that they are not necessarily needed for subsistence. The group, derisively called " Methodists " because of their methodical run community life, grew, and in 1735 it joined George Whitefield in.

1728 John was ordained a priest and worked as a lecturer at Lincoln College, Oxford University.

1735, he went with his brother for two years as a missionary to Georgia. On the ship to America, he joined a group of Moravians to Nikolaus Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf, and was impressed, as these men, women and children, during a terrible storm at sea calm their psalms chanted, while the English on the ship in panic came. A song of the Moravian Church, which was translated into English by Wesley, I have now found the reason, the ever thinks of Johann Andreas Rothe, a close associate of Zinzendorf my anchor.

The Wesleys were strictly against themselves and others, which made ​​them extremely unpopular in their pastoral ministry in Frederica and Savannah. Back in England, had only Charles and a few weeks later, John is a conversion experience that they had come from an unsatisfied ecclesiastical and dogmatic Christianity to the full assurance of salvation. John was the time to the quarter hour specify exactly when he under the influence of Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans in the London Moravians experienced a personal conversion on 24 May 1738 which influenced his later theology strong. Both accepted, that the Holy Spirit would have taken possession of her soul.

In the same year, 1738, he traveled to Frankfurt, Marie Born and Herrnhut. After the visit to Herrnhut he developed an intense evangelistic activity, beginning as an open -air preacher in Kingswood and Bristol, where he preached to the miners before their coal mines. From his meticulously guided diaries is evident that he tirelessly rode from town to town, from village to village and held four to five sermons a day. This remained so until his death - he is said to have held a total of 40,000 sermons, often in front of thousands of listeners. The content was: repentance, forgiveness of sins, assurance of salvation, rebirth, emphasizing Christ's saving act.

John Wesley was not only a preacher and theologian, but also a gifted organizer: He summed up the people who wanted to change their lives according to his sermons, in small groups (classes) together, which maintained through Bible study, individual pastoral care and mutual accountability in the rod, he appointed a lay preacher and organized annual conferences in order to exchange views on Methodism in theory and practice.

From the beginning he had a pronounced tendency to socially - diaconal activity. He fought for reforms in the prison system and for the abolition of slavery. He established public libraries and collected money for the construction of model schools. He taught a loan associations to help themselves. He also took care of the public health by founding an outpatient clinic and dispensaries, books written about folk medicine and - inspired by Benjamin Franklin's "electric treatment machine" - electrotherapy means "electric shock machines" for the healing of various diseases, especially for the treatment of nervous disturbances introduced ( cf. John Wesley: The desideratum, or Electricity made ​​Plain and Useful, London 1760). He held electricity for the "soul of the universe ," for a kind of fire that makes the blood boil in the human body - interesting in that indeed the direct action of the Holy Spirit upon the human soul was a central aspect of his teaching.

Next he felt like many of his contemporaries, laid in ghosts, she put on the same level as angels and spirits saw in faith a proof that the human soul is immortal. In his diaries, he tells of ghostly apparitions and miracles that have experienced it and his followers. His unshakable belief in such phenomena stems from experiences in his own house here, where supposedly the Poltergeist Old Jeffery did his worst. The age of twenty he reported in a letter to his mother from a house that was haunted. Another spirit is supposed to be a certain Mrs. Barnesley appeared at that time in the open field, when her mother died. Given the purely materialistic world view that had spread widely, even into the Church of England, Wesley saw in such phenomena an important argument against deism and atheism. In this context, he could even write that a denial of witchcraft would be tantamount to a denial of the biblical truths: "giving up witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible"

Wesley firmly believed in divine guidance. In his younger years he was in many important decisions that were taken, according to the biblical model to decide the fate of what was to be done in order to leave the decision to God's will. He also suggested at the beginning of his sermons often the Bible randomly somewhere because he was convinced God as him as to the location of the task was to preach on that day. Wesley was based here at the Moravian practice auszulosen a Bible verse for every day, who was considered for the day as a religious guideline.

In his later, more mature years, Wesley, however, distanced itself from fanatical views and referred in particular to the Bible: " Do not rely on visions or dreams, to sudden inspirations or strong emotions of any kind! Remember that not by such things shalt thou know God's will ', on certain occasions, but by applying the clear biblical rule using the experience and reason, and under the constant supply of the Spirit of God "!

His social work he funded from the proceeds of his writings, while he himself lived very sparingly.

He died on 2 March 1791 in London.

Religious Life and Theology

The religious thinking in terms of the goals is practical in nature with John Wesley. The emphasis is not on opinions and doctrines, but on attitude and lifestyle. John Wesley did not leave a systematic theology and even less obliged his followers to a special teaching, but it has distinct accents that are essential for the Methodist churches to this day.

  • John Wesley took decided the concept of common grace of God in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination - that point it was also the John Wesley and George Whitefield theologically separated, although they humanly her life brought against the greatest respect. According to John Wesley God's grace to all people without distinction, unconditionally, without any inputs at all. In humans and usually only on condition that he says yes to this grace that God shows him in Jesus Christ, even though the man did not deserve this grace.
  • Wesley thought ecumenical - it involved the collection and internal unity of all Christians
  • Christianity was not a mere internal affair of the heart nor a purely formal matter, but shape, service, responsibility and organization for him.
  • Wesley was one of the first who took the view that mission is the task of Christians in the modern world.
  • He joined understandable preaching and theological clarity. Even a highly educated man, he also demanded of his lay preachers a compelling education.
  • He combined healing joy and Heiligungsernst in a unique way with missionary and diaconal activity.


  • Evangelical: 2nd of March in the Protestant calendar name of the EKD and the calendar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ( ELCA ).
  • Anglican 24 May