John Wesley (1703-1791), was a Church of England clergyman and founder of Methodism. Born at Epworth Rectory, Lincolnshire, England, Wesley matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford and was elected a fellow of Lincoln College where he, along with his brother Charles, started the Holy Club. The Holy Club performed acts of piety and works of charity hoping to bring spiritual renewal to the Church of England. Between 1735 and 1737 John embarked on a missionary trip to the colony of Georgia. While on this trip he came under the influence of the Moravians which subsequently led to his Aldersgate experience in 1738 back in England.This new experience helped Wesley embrace holy living in the tradition of Jeremy Taylor and Thomas à Kempis.
Through daily Bible reading, rigorous self-examination, diary keeping, and partaking of the sacraments, Wesley sought to obtain assurance of salvation. He emphasized both faith and works in the life of a Christian, preached free will, and challenged the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Wesley’s organizational system, where societies were grouped into circuits and district synods governed by superintendent ministers who were then brought together at an annual conference, allowed the movement to possess uniform practices and doctrinal integrity. Wesley averaged 4,000 miles of travel annually and by the end of his life had published over four hundred books and pamphlets and preached over 40,000 sermons. Together with Jonathan Edwards and Methodists George Whitefield and Howell Harris, John’s evangelistic efforts were a part of a protracted revival period in Britain and colonial North America which aided the spread of evangelical spirituality.
For Further reading see H.D. Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast (Epworth Press, 1989).