GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
A Man Sent From God
By Keith L. Estes
Coming from the Rectory of Epworth in Lincolnshire, John Wesley went to school at Charterhouse , and in 1720 went up to Christ Church, Oxford. Encouraged by his father, he was ordained a deacon of the Church of England in 1725. He was elected a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1726, and ordained a Priest in 1728.
He left Oxford in 1727, to serve as his father's curate, and returned to Oxford in 1729, to find that his younger brother, Charles, with other undergraduates, had formed a group to study the Bible, observe the strict rules of the church, and do works of charity. Because of their way of life, they had been labeled "Methodists".
John became their leader, and in 1735 he and his brother went overseas to the colony of Georgia, as pastors and missionaries. There he learned a good deal about Christian living from German members of the Moravian Church, who had been persecuted in Europe, and were setting up churches and schools in the New World.
John's mission to Georgia was not a great success, and he returned to England full of questions about his faith. The Moravians in England helped him to a new understanding of the Gospel as offering the free grace of God, and not demanding the endless performance of religious rites. On May 24th, 1738, in Aldersgate Street, London, he felt that he did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for his salvation.
This experience changed the direction of his life. Now he set out to communicate the good news of God's free grace to all and sundry.
He came to Bristol in 1739, and began, reluctantly, what was to be his lifelong practice of preaching in the open air. Great crowds gathered wherever he did this, in Bristol and across the land.
In 1739, he opened the "New Room" in the Horsefair at Bristol, for weekday meetings of his followers, who were expected to attend their Parish Churches on Sundays. The original building was too small, and was rebuilt in 1748 almost exactly as it stands today.
The rebuilt New Room provided a strong base and headquarters for the development of his movement, which he allowed to be called "Methodists," over a large area of England. He had other headquarters in London and Newcastle- upon- Tyne.
His purpose was to organize a "Society" within the Church of England, and to reform the Church from within. Tensions developed between the Methodists and more conventional Anglicans, but John Wesley forbade his followers to separate from the Church of England. This separation took place only after his death.
In the New Room he planned his spiritual organization, including the "Class Meetings" for Christians to meet together for fellowship in small groups; he drew up the constitution and curriculum for Kingwood School, opened in 1748 and now on Lansdown, Bath; he launched the Methodist drive into America by sending Francis Asbury there in 1771.
He is said to have preached more than 40,000 times, and to have covered over 200,000 miles on horseback. He was a man of enormous energy, both intellectual and physical, and wrote a vast number of books, pamphlets and letters, in Bristol and on his travels. He was a determined opponent of slavery and other social evils.
It has been said with justice; "No single figure influenced so many minds, no single voice touched so many hearts."
Reference-John 1:6, The Holy Bible, Tim Tiley Print, Bristol, Eng.
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