A Brief Biography of John Wesley

By Tim Lambert

His Early Life

John Wesley was a famous preacher of the 18th century. He helped to found the Methodist movement. John Wesley was born on 28 June in the village of Epworth in Lincolnshire. His father was Samuel Wesley and his mother was Susanna. In 1714 John was sent to Charterhouse School. In 1720 Wesley went to Oxford University. In 1724 he was awarded a BA and in 1727 an MA. John Wesley was ordained a priest in 1728.

In 1729 John Wesley became a tutor at Oxford University. While there he founded a religious club and people nicknamed them the Methodists. Then in 1735, John went to North America. However, his stay in the colony of Georgia was not a success and he returned to England in 1738. Yet on the voyage to Georgia Wesley met some German Moravians and he was deeply impressed by them.

In 1738 Wesley’s life was changed when he was attending a religious meeting in London. He later said that somebody was reading Martin Luther’s Preface to Romans. John Wesley said ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed’. Afterward, he became a great preacher.

The Methodists

In 1739 Wesley moved to Bristol but he soon began to travel to other parts of England. In 1742 he traveled to Newcastle Upon Tyne and in 1747 to Cornwall. In 1747 he traveled to Ireland and in 1751 to Scotland.

John Wesley never intended to form a new church separate from the Church of England but his followers soon began to form their own organisation. The Methodists placed great emphasis on living a holy life and they had many travelling preachers. Some Methodist preachers were women. However, the Methodists faced hostility from some Church of England clergy.

Then in 1752, John Wesley married a widow named Mary (known as Molly). However, the marriage was not happy and they separated in 1776. Meanwhile, Wesley continued to travel around England preaching and the Methodist movement flourished. After the American War of Independence, Methodism spread in the USA.

John Wesley was opposed to slavery. In 1774 he published his Thoughts on Slavery. Wesley preached his last sermon on 23 February 1791. John Wesley died on 2 March 1791 aged 87. He was buried in London on 9 March.

A Methodist Church