Lesson 82

The Wesleys

"All who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution—that is, will be made to suffer because of their religious stand."
2 Timothy 3:12 (Amplified Bible)

John and Charles Wesley were sons of an Episcopalian minister and his deeply religious wife who lived in England. There were nineteen children in the family, and Bible stories and scripture reading were a vital part of their growing up years in the early 1700’s.

When their father was getting on in years, John left Oxford College to assist him in the parish. In the meantime, Charles, still at Oxford, formed a club with two other students to have Bible studies that would be helpful to the Christian life. It was called a "Holy Club." The members learned to live very regular and orderly lives. Some students made fun of them; some called them "Methodists" and the name stuck.

In 1735 the two brothers sailed to America in answer to a call for missionaries. Charles fell ill and returned to England. By 1738 John, too, was back in England, his mission work considered a failure. However, John had been very impressed with some German Moravians who showed a quiet trust in God even throughout a dangerous storm during their journey aboard ship. He learned much from them about Christian behavior and their deep and complete faith in God.

The Wesleys returned to the simplicity of the early church in preaching, class gatherings, and Bible studies. They were strongly opposed by those of other faiths who sometimes drove cattle among the worshipers to interrupt their meetings. John Wesley was a great preacher, which often stirred up a lot of hostility and caused mob action against him.

In 1784 John Wesley broke with the Church of England, and the Methodist Church came into existence. Charles Wesley was the hymn writer for Methodism—he wrote thousands of hymns and many are still being sung today.

A very precious Bible truth uncovered by Wesley was that of Free Grace. His favorite scripture was Revelation 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And ... take the water of life freely." However he did not see the full extent of this truth—that in the kingdom all mankind will have the opportunity to have life on earth forever.

Charles Wesley preached in London until his death in 1788. In 1791 John Wesley died in London in his eighty-seventh year. The influence of his teachings was immeasurable.

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