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 Issues | Church History | John Wesley


Great Churchmen (No 7)

John Wesley

by W Leathem


Our last sentence suggests that, whilst acknowledging the conversion as the great historical factor in explaining Wesley's influence, we may pursue our enquiry still further to discover an even profounder reason for his greatness.

God does not make great men all at once. He starts before they are born-long before. He is making them in their parentage and in their earlier forebears. He prepares the environment and orders the circumstances which will make the man of his choosing what he desires him to be when the hour strikes for which he is born.

In Weslcy's case it is not difficult to see God at work shaping the man who was to shape the character and outlook of a nation. Like many children destined to greatness, Wesley developed early and quickly, and thus was prepared to receive the rich impressions which Epworth Rectory could impart. His mother must be accounted one of the great women of all time, and her influence remained with Wesley to the end. His father suffers unfairly by comparison with his mother. The quality of such parentage was reflected in a large family of gifted children, even if some of the gifts failed to come to full-flowering. Had it all come to fruition Epworth Rectory might have rivalled its counterpart at Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters.  But it was not to be.

If we were to trace the goodly heritage of Wesley’s ancestry it would be to discover Puritanism at its intellectual, cultural, and religious best. John Wesley came to the birth with blood worthy of kings in his veins. He was born to be, as indeed he was, a king among men. But the answer we are seeking is not here. It is not to be found in history at all. It is beyond history. It dwells in eternity. It is the calling of God. It is the election of grace. The secret of Jeremiah's life is the only adequate explanation of Wesley's:   “Before I found thee in the belly I knew thee ; and before thou camest out of the womb I sanctified thee; and ordained thee a prophet unto this nation.’ (Jeremiah 1.5)

Therefore his mission could not fail, for it was God who worked in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. And was not this Wesley's own interpretation, uttered on his deathbed ?


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