Four John Wesley quotes everyone should know

One of the great things about John Wesley was his ability to distill theological wisdom and Christian experience into short, memorable phrases.  Here are some gems that everyone ought to be familiar with:

“I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? who, what is He that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief?  I have a fair summer religion.” –Journal, January 24, 1738.

Wesley’s time in as a missionary in Georgia was a total disaster.  He came home, basically running away – running from a failed ministry, a failed mission to the native Americans, and a failed romance with Sophie Hopkey, who had now married another man who was pursuing legal action against Wesley.  He was in crisis, and he could see that his faith had been tested and found wanting.

“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.” –Journal, May 24, 1738.

Four months later, Wesley had his “conversion” experience in a Moravian meeting at Aldersgate Street in London.   People debate whether or not this should truly be called a “conversion,” but it was definitely a turning point in his life and ministry.  As someone read from Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, the truth of the the transforming power of Christ’s death and resurrection became real for Wesley in a very personal way, and he found the assurance of faith for which he had been searching. Assurance came not from within himself, but from without – from the external word of the gospel, applied to his heart by the witness of the Spirit.

“At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people.” – Journal, April 2, 1739.

This third quote is about Wesley’s first experience with “field preaching.”  By nature, Wesley was a conservative high churchman, and therefore the idea of preaching outside was abhorrent to him.   Yet his friend George Whitefield had invited him to Bristol to see the great throngs of people who were eager to hear the gospel, and he was convinced that he needed to set propriety aside, becoming “more vile” in order to reach people.  Field preaching became a key part of Wesley’s ministry.

“I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.” –Journal, June 11, 1739.


Wesley’s itinerant ministry was challenged by some, because it meant that he crossed into the parishes of other priests of the Church of England, sometimes preaching in their territory without their permission.  Wesley’s quote about the world being his parish is usually seen as his missional justification for preaching the gospel wherever he was.  But he also knew that he was exempt from the parish boundary rules as a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford.  He had no parish of his own, and was free to preach where he liked.  He used this to his advantage.

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9 thoughts on “Four John Wesley quotes everyone should know

  1. Interesting question Katie. I’m not entirely familiar with the United Methodist structures of ministry, but from what I read in your post, it sounds like ordained elders are more “tied down” by their appointments, whereas deacons have more freedom. It’s tough to say how he would fit today. I don’t think he would have wanted to give up being a priest. He was lucky he could capitalize on a bit of a loophole which allowed university fellows to preach wherever they liked. I wonder, if it wasn’t for that loophole, what would he have done? Or what if he had been appointed to a parish? Would he have followed the rules then, or broken off from the Church of England in order to be able to preach wherever he went?

    It is a bit ironic, but I think Wesley wouldn’t have fit well even in the structures of ministry he set up for his own preachers! He kept a pretty tight reign on them. Methodists of today should probably consider their own structures and ask themselves if there is space for extraordinary people like John Wesley. Maybe your office of deacon can work for that. It’s always hard for established churches to know how to deal with specially gifted people who rise up and don’t “fit the box”.

  2. Pingback: Links for this week’s articles | follower me 111

  3. We all have to to the same and go beyond what John Wesley did. I believe we have relaxed now and John wouldnt be pleased with us wherever he Is.

    • Hello, there is a dvd on his life, called John Wesley, A Man and His Mission. I find it interesting that he was not born again until after the tragic lost of his father. He was just a well educated religious leader. After his father died, he was shook up and begin to question his own heart of the matter of faith. It was only a couple of years later that he saw how he did not have the power of God in him. His brother Charles also questioned his own faith and a few months before Wesley was born again, Charles came to Wesley telling him of his experience with God. Wesley and his brother realized they were doing the ministry in there own strength, and were well educated, but did not have a new heart.

      • Hello Robin, I haven’t seen that documentary yet. Wesley’s “heart-warming” experience in 1738 was definitely pivotal for his life and ministry. Thanks for stopping by.

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