John Wesley was a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin and read everything Franklin wrote about electricity. Wesley was fascinated by everything around him and he was curious about this newly discovered power - electricity. He felt that electricity held great promise for the good of mankind.
John Wesley was a prodigious letter-writer. For much of his life he spent hours each day writing letters. Many of these letters were to his mother, his father, his brothers and sisters, and to fellow Christians and church leaders.
John Wesley’s diary is one of the most outstanding diaries in English literature. He actually had two diaries. One was a series of small leather-bound volumes in which he wrote every hour. This diary was written in a personalized shorthand – a code. Then each week he would take these notes and write his journal in clear English sentences, paragraph style. He would often make copies of his journal and send them to friends. Some were published English papers so the public could keep track of his activities in Georgia. He kept these diaries most of his adult life, recording descriptions of places he visited, people he met, books he read, conversations he had, sermons he preached, etc.
John and Charles Wesley were students at Christ Church College, a part of Oxford University. John became a teacher at Lincoln College, which was also a part of Oxford. John left for a few months to help his father who was pastor of St. Andrews Church up at Epworth. While John was gone, Charles started a small gathering of fellow students who met for prayer each week. Some say it was really only one other student and they would simply go to worship together. When John returned to Oxford he took over the leadership of this group which began to meet more often for prayer, Bible study, mutual accountability and good works. They would go for Holy Communion wherever they could. Soon they were meeting every day for several hours. The other students laughed at these serious students and called them names such as “Bible moths,” “Holy Guys,” “The Holy Club,” “Sacramentarians” (because they wanted Holy Communion so often), and other names. They called them “Methodists” because they had a method about their lives.
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, was one of the earliest and most influential of Wesley's followers. She helped Methodism penetrate high society. Her sister-in-law Lady Margaret Hastings had married Benjamin Ingham who was Wesley's friend, a member of the Holy Club at Oxford, and companion in Georgia. Influenced by her sister-in-law and also much affected by a serious illness, Selina was converted and turned Methodist much to the dismay of her family.
Sometimes we place John Wesley high upon a pedestal and refuse to let him come down and be a real human being. The fact of the matter is that John Wesley was not perfect. He was tempted just like every other normal, healthy, young Englishman of his day. This is most clearly shown when he writes in his diary (in code) during the two years he spent in Wroote, England as his father’s curate (assistant).
When John Wesley was a student at Christ Church in Oxford he had a college friend, Robert Kirkham, the son of the Anglican priest at Cotswold. Robert invited John to visit his home on many weekends.
When John Wesley began his ministry in Savannah, Ga. in 1736 he met 18-year-old Sophia Hopkey. John was 32. After his first worship service in Savannah John wrote to his brother, Charles, telling him about two young single women who attended
Samuel and Susanna Wesley had 19 children (some say 20). Only 10 of them lived to adulthood, seven girls and three boys. So John Wesley, who was the 16th child, had seven sisters. They were very important in his life because the older children helped raise the younger children.
“Did John Wesley ever marry?” That is the most often asked question after my Thursday afternoon lectures at the Arthur J. Moore Museum at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island. It is amazing how much interest there is in John Wesley’s relationships with women. Well, I guess some things never change. So, for the next several months in this column I will tell you about “John Wesley’s Women.”
John Wesley loved communion and tried to have it every day. He called it a “converting sacrament” and insisted that it be open to all who repent of their sins, intend to live a new life following the commandments of God, and are in love and fellowship with their neighbors. He was thrilled when his own mother, at the age of 70 and after a lifetime of serving God and the Church, said that while she was taking Holy Communion she suddenly realized that Jesus gave his body and blood for her.
A farmer plowing in his field near Geneva, Ga. around 1967 found a box containing three beautiful silver communion items. The chalice, a plate, and a pitcher were made near Boston by the Reed & Barton Company. Engravings on the items read:
There was never any doubt in John Wesley’s mind about the evil of slavery. As he understood the gospel of Jesus Christ, he also understood its application toward justice for all. He said in his last letter, written just before his death to William Wilberforce who was fighting slavery in England, “Unless the divine Power has raised you up ... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England and of human nature ... O be not weary in well-doing. Go on in the name of God and in the power of His might till even American slavery, the vilest that ever saw the sun, shall vanish away before it.”
Nope! The color of John Wesley’s hair doesn’t really matter, does it? But some of us “history nuts” are intrigued by the question. Most biographies of Wesley say that his hair was long and auburn colored. However, more than one biographer claims that it was jet black. In Tanzania at a pastor’s workshop on Wesley some years ago I was telling about all this and one of the native pastors commented, “It really doesn’t matter what color Wesley’s hair was or if he had a hooked nose, etc ...” What John Wesley did and said is more important than the color of his hair or the shape of his nose. Even more important than what Wesley did and said is what God did through him and wants to do today through the Church He founded.