Today In History: 2 March 1781 John Wesley Dies Aged 87

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Today in History: 2 March 1791 – death of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. He was an English cleric, theologian, and evangelist who led a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism.

The doctrines of John Wesley’s movement led to the establishment of independent Methodist churches such as that which is one of the mainstream congregations here in Samoa.

During his ministry, John Wesley rode over 250,000 miles by horseback to preach the Gospel – a distance comparable to circling the globe ten times.

He preached more than forty thousand sermons and published more than five thousand sermons, pamphlets, and books of all kinds.

John Benjamin Wesley, known to his family as “Little Jackie,” was born in the Epworth parsonage of his parents, Rev. Samuel and Susanna Wesley. John was the fifteenth of nineteen children.

His brother Charles, who would later be his partner in establishing the Methodist movement, was the eighteenth and born just four years later. Of the nineteen children, only ten would live into adulthood.

The Wesley home was governed by strict moral principles, exercised daily through rigorous discipline in manners, study, and prayer. Their mother, Susanna, saw that all of the children were trained in academics and etiquette from birth. From one year of age, they learned to fear the rod and to cry softly and sparingly. As a result, although the house was full of children, it was always peaceful and quiet. It was a discipled lifestyle that would later show up in John’s pursuit of God.

Wesley was educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford, and was ordained in the Church of England in 1728.

While at Oxford, Wesley formed the “Holy Club” with his brother Charles Wesley, a group dedicated to their rigorous quest for a vision of Christian holiness. This group, somewhat mockingly referred to as “Methodists” due to their methodical practices, was the root of the later Methodist movement.

Wesley’s conversion experience in 1738, where he felt his “heart strangely warmed” at a meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, marked a turning point in his ministry. He began to preach a message of salvation by faith and the need for personal transformation.

Wesley was an itinerant preacher, traveling extensively, often on horseback, to preach his message. His open-air preaching was a departure from the norms of the Church of England at the time, reaching those who were not typically churchgoers. Wesley’s efforts contributed to a significant religious revival in Britain.

His teachings emphasized the life of Christian holiness, social justice, and service to the poor. Wesley was a prolific writer and hymnist, publishing numerous sermons, theological treatises, and hymns, many of which remain popular today.

Born: June 281703
Birthplace: Epworth, Lincolnshire, Englan

Died: March 21791 (aged 87)