John Wesley

Love's Redeeming Work


'Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? (Charles Wesley, 1739)

Early Days

Charles Wesley was the eighteenth child born to Samuel and Susannah Wesley. He was born prematurely in December 1707 and appeared to be dead. He lay silent in the midst of the clamor of the Wesley household for weeks. Charles survived infancy and later joined his other siblings for daily classes with his mother, Susannah, who knew Greek, Latin, and French. He learned methodically along with the other Wesley children for six hours a day. Charles then spent 13 years at Westminster School, where the only language allowed in public was Latin. He added nine years at Oxford, where he received his master's degree.

Into Adult Years

While at Oxford University, Charles formed the Holy Club. John Wesley joined the Holy Club after his return to Oxford University in 1729. Holy Club members fasted until 3 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, received Holy Communion once each week, studied and discussed the Greek New Testament and the Classics each evening in a member’s room, and visited (after 1730) prisoners and the sick. They each systematically brought their personal lives under strict review. The members of the Holy Club were called "methodists." In 1735 Charles and John, ordained clergy of the Church of England, set out as missionaries to the colony of Georgia.

Crisis of Faith

The missionary expedition to Georgia was a failure. Charles experienced a crisis of faith and was in deep need of conversion. After returning to England, Charles taught English to Moravian pastor Peter Böhler. Peter prompted Charles to consider the state of his soul more deeply. May 1738, Charles began reading Martin Luther's volume on Galatians while recovering from a serious illness. He wrote in his diary, "I labored, waited, and prayed to feel 'He who loved me, and gave himself for me.'" He shortly found himself convinced, and journaled, "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ." Two days later he began writing a hymn celebrating his conversion.

Musical Theology

Charles could be considered one of the founders of contemporary Christian music. Hymn singing was very important to the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century. Hymns became a means of expressing joy and teaching scriptural truth. Charles Wesley's hymns often paraphrased scripture as well as the Anglican Prayer Book. Charles was said to have averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years and was able to capture the universal human experience in singable lyrics. He wrote 8,989 hymns, 10 times the volume composed by Isaac Watts. Watts is considered the world's greatest hymn writer composing such hymns as "Joy to the World" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

Charles Wesley created some of the most memorable and lasting hymns of the church: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Can It Be," "O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "Soldiers Of Christ, Arise," and "Rejoice! The Lord Is King!"

Happy Marriage and Legacy

Charles married Sarah Gwynne in 1749. The age gap between Charles and Sarah Wesley was nearly twenty years but they were both attracted to each other. The Wesleys were not known for their happy marriages. But from all accounts, Charles and Sarah were very happy. They had a number of children but only three survived to be adults. Following Charles' death, Sarah Wesley was cared for by William Wilberforce, the leader of the movement to abolish slave trade.

"Love's redeeming work is done, Fought the fight-the battle won. Death in vain forbids him rise, Christ has opened paradise, Aleluia!" (Charles Wesley, 1739)


Be inspired. Be awakened. Be transformed.

"Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn." John Wesley

His travel was immense.

John Wesley travelled about five thousand miles a year. He travelled 290,000 miles in fifty-four years. This is a distance equal to circumnavigating the globe about twelve times. Most of this travel was on horseback. Think of riding around the globe on horseback twelve times!

His preaching was prolific.

John Wesley preached not less than fifteen sermons a week—frequently many more. These sermons were delivered mostly in the open air [outdoors], and under circumstances that tested the nerve of the most vigorous preacher. He preached for fifty-four years, fifteen sermons a week, making in all 42,400 sermons. Wesley delivered numerous exhortations and addresses on a wide variety of occasions. A minister in our present day may preach one hundred sermons a year. At this rate, to preach as many sermons as Wesley did, such a minister must live 424 years. Think of a minister preaching two sermons each weekday, and three each Sunday, for fifty-four years. Wesleyan theology and doctrine is distilled from John Wesley's voluminous sermons and personal writings.

Wesley's ministry was considered controversial. 

Wesley and the early Methodists were persecuted by other clergymen of his day and discriminated against by political leaders such as local magistrates. John Wesley was attacked during sermons and mobbed by the common people. No matter what his circumstance, his outreach continually connected with the poor, neglected and needy. Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s transforming grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living. They met in small groups and put their faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.


Many believe John Wesley’s finest contribution to theology was his understanding of grace. Grace is the unmerited favor and love of God which is available to all whether we realize it or not. In simpler terms, grace is the love that God has for all his creation. John Wesley believed that grace affects us in primarily three (3) different ways: prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace. Our Christian faith is perfected daily by meeting the tests and challenges to our faith in a manner that is pleasing to God. The theological and doctrinal foundation for the most vibrant and exciting churches of our day can be traced to John Wesley's development of the theology of grace.

"The best of all..."

One of the most comforting truths for the Christian is the ever-present reality that God is with us. God’s presence is one of the greatest gifts he gives his people. He is personally near. I believe we can all agree that his presence isn't always felt. But, for those who learn to trust God in all circumstances, his divine presence with us is absolutely true. The best of all is that God is with us. These words are credited to John Wesley as his final words. The reality of God’s presence was what Wesley held onto in his final moments. God is best. He can give us no more that himself. He has promised to be with us-- even in the worst moments of life. God’s presence is no guarantee that worse will not come, but that God’s best for you will never leave.

We will celebrate our Wesleyan legacy Sunday with our Confirmation class, their leaders and families. Come, be inspired. Be awakened. Be transformed.



Believe it and behave it.

There are two things to do about the gospel. Believe it and behave it. Susanna Wesley.

Everyone has a backstory. The saga includes courageous stories of valor we never heard and pioneering contributors we never met. The ongoing narrative expands throughout history long before us and will continue to carry on into the future long after us. The image of the number line I used in grade school extending both ways into infinity comes to mind.

Wheatland has a backstory too. Some of us may be acquainted with the Wheatland story from the time we were a country church located at Route 59 & 95th Street. Chuck McPheeters helped reclaim our history by mentally capturing a nostalgic reminiscence and painstakingly applied them onto canvas. You may see these historic watercolor renditions in the hallway at the Naperville campus.

Methodism's backstory includes courageous stories of valor and pioneering people we've never met. The early Methodists' contribution laid a foundation for the Church that continues to flourish to this very day. Many independent mega churches of our time can trace their theological foundations to grace, which John Wesley amplified as the hallmark of theology. John Wesley fought publicly and behind the scenes against the politically distinguished and thoroughly entrenched academic theological heavy weights of his time. Wesley preached in open-air gatherings, created Sunday schools to educate the children of the Industrial Revolution and was a champion of God's love toward the lost. He and his brother Charles considered the world as their parish. They evangelized the 18th century from Urban England and rural Britain, to the deep forests of the New World in Georgia and Caribbean Islands like Antigua.

Susanna Wesley, John and Charles' mother, is often identified as the 'Mother of Methodism.' It is fitting we learn more about her on Mother's Day. Ten of Susanna's nineteen children lived to maturity. One scholar described the Wesley children as 'a cluster of bright, vehement, argumentative boys and girls, living by a clean and high code, and on the plainest fare; but drilled to soft tones, to pretty formal courtesies; with learning as an ideal, duty as an atmosphere and fear of God as law.* Susanna's best legacy was indeed her children, particularly John.

Our new series is titled Heart Strangely Warmed. These are John's own words: 'In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."**

Join us Sunday for worship. We can celebrate all Christ has accomplished as we baptize three new lives into the Christian Faith, commemorate Mother's Day and perhaps find our own hearts strangely warmed.

Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish for spiritual things then it is sin for you, however, innocent it may be in itself. Susanna Wesley

*, Susanna Wesley Mother of Methodism. Anne Adams
**, Christian Classics Ethereal Library


You almost persuade me to become a Christian.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Acts 26:28 NKJV

The Almost Christian is one of the most impactful sermons I've ever analyzed. John Wesley delivered deep soulful prose to listening ears at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, on July 25, 1741. Mr. Wesley delivered his message with deliberate, elegant and convicting style similar to that of Jesus before the Pharisees. This message still disturbs me. Mr. Wesley's elegant poetry challenged me to explore my own motivation for being a follower of Christ.

Evidently, there were many 18th century Christians who practiced a solid outward religion. One may even define it as living a life of good solid morality. For example, self-professed religious people practiced regular prayer times with family, actively participated in church and abstained from behaviors unbecoming to a Christian. But, for Wesley, there needed to be one more thing in order to distinguish someone from being almost a Christian to being a Christian altogether and that was, sincerity of heart.

Wesley unabashedly drilled deeply into the bedrock of belief. He asserted, 'Good men avoid sin from the love of virtue; Wicked men avoid sin from a fear of punishment.'* This statement alone is like electricity to my bones. For years, the pulpits of well meaning churches preached the message of 'Turn or Burn.' Wesley investigated the motivation behind our desire to avoid eternal damnation and hellfire. In one poetic sentence that continues to convict me, I am challenged to contemplate whether I am good or if am I wicked. Do I preach, pastor and lead from a heart full of the love of Christ or from the fear of punishment? Which of these is God-honoring?

Sunday we continue the exploration of Luke's Travel Narrative. Jesus went through towns and villages teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone from the religious crowd inquired of Jesus if only a few will be saved. Jesus responds deliberately. Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. Salvation is exclusive. It requires a crucial conversation. So, a religious person may ask if the saved will be few. Jesus responds with the question: will the saved be you?

May we all thus experience what it is to be, not almost only; but altogether Christians; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus; knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ; rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us! The Almost Christian, John Wesley 

*Read the entire transcript here.