John Wesley

Founder of the Methodist movement
Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love.

John Wesley (28 June 17032 March 1791) was an English preacher, and founder of the Methodist movement.


Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, they are all comprised in this one word, love.
I look on all the world as my parish...
As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.
The best of it all is, God is with us.

General sourcesEdit

  • I observed, "Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." It is not only "the first and great" command, but all the commandments in one. "Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," they are all comprised in this one word, love.
    • Wesley quoting his own sermon on "The Circumcision of the Heart" (1 January 1733) in the work A Plain Account Of Christian Perfection (Edition of 1777)
  • I look on 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 (11 June 1739)
  • The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any sort. His assenting to this or that scheme of Religion, his embracing any particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or of another, are all quite wide of the point. Whosoever therefore imagines, that a Methodist is a man of such or such an opinion, is grossly ignorant of the whole affair; he mistakes the truth totally. We believe indeed, that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and herein we are distinguished from Jews, Turks, and Infidels. We believe the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule, both of Christian faith and practice; and herein we are fundamentally distinguished from those of the Romish church. We believe Christ to be the eternal, supreme God; and herein we are distinguished from the Socinians and Arians. But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think. So that whatsoever they are, whether right or wrong, they are no distinguishing marks of a; Methodist.
    • "The Character of a Methodist" (1739); in The Works of the Rev. John Wesley in Ten Volumes (1826), Volume IV, p. 407; A portion of this is commonly quoted as "Think and let think.".
  • Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.
    • Letter (27 June 1760), published in The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (1813) Vol. XVI, p. 109
    • Variant: Every one, though born of God in an instant, yea, and sanctified in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.
      • As quoted in an 1856 edition of Works
  • The longer I live, the larger allowances I make for human infirmities. I exact more from myself, and less from others. Go thou and do likewise!
    • Letter to Reverend Samuel Furley (25 Janurary 1762), Published in The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M. A., Founder of the Methodists (1872) by Luke Tyerman, p. 451.
  • Lord, let me not live to be useless!
    • Journal (22 December 1763)
  • Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
    • Letter to Joseph Benson (7 November 1768); published in The Letters of John Wesley (1915) edited by George Eayrs
  • Passion and prejudice govern the world; only under the name of reason. It is our part, by religion and reason joined, to counteract them all we can.
    • Letter to John Benson (5 October 1770); published in Wesley's Select Letters (1837), p. 207
  • In returning I read a very different book, published by an honest Quaker, on that execrable sum of all villanies, commonly called the Slave-trade.
    • Journal (12 February 1772) after reading Some historical accounts of Guinea by Anthony Benezet
  • It has in all ages been allowed that the communion of saints extends to those in paradise as well as those upon earth as they are all one body united under one Head. And "Can death’s interposing tide / Spirits one in Christ divide?" But it is difficult to say either what kind or what degree of union may be between them. It is not improbable their fellowship with us is far more sensible than ours with them. Suppose any of them are present, they are hid from our eyes, but we are not hid from their sight. They no doubt clearly discern all our words and actions, if not all our thoughts too; for it is hard to think these walls of flesh and blood can intercept the view of an angelic being. But we have in general only a faint and indistinct perception of their presence, unless in some peculiar instances, where it may answer some gracious ends of Divine Providence. Then it may please God to permit that they should be perceptible, either by some of our outward senses or by an internal sense for which human language has not any name. But I suppose this is not a common blessing. I have known but few instances of it. To keep up constant and close communion with God is the most likely means to obtain this also.
    • Letter to Mary Bishop, an important Methodist "Class Meeting" leader, [1] (12 June 1773), in The works of the Rev. John Wesley, Seven Volumes, (1853), Carlton & Phillips, New York, vol. VII, p. 164. [2] See also, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology (Winter 2010), Joseph L. Mangina, Editor, Vol. 19, no. 1, p. 90. [3] Pro Ecclesia also states that "there is ample reason to believe that Wesley's theology and the theology presented in Lumen Gentium converge on the following points: 1. Creaturely participation. Wesley's Doctrine of Christian Perfection includes the notion that mankind participates (i.e. cooperates) in and with God's grace, contributing to its own sanctification. Furthermore, there is a corporate dimension to our participation, making social interaction vital to the process of sanctification. 2. Creaturely mediation. Wesley's sacramental theology includes the concept of subordinate, creaturely mediation of Christ's grace. He extended the Anglican teaching about the means of grace so that it included not only the two sacraments, but also such pious actions as prayer and Scripture study. In this way, perhaps even more than in Catholic doctrine, the sacramental efficaciousness of human behavior is emphasized. 3. The Holy Spirit as the bond uniting Christ's body. Wesley's theology includes doctrine concerning the bond shared by members of the body of Christ, which is the Holy Spirit—a bond transcending time and space, holding the entire body, past, present, and future in a vital, living communion. In this way, the eschatological church is present to earthly, historical reality. In addition, Wesley's later work indicates a conviction in the interaction between the saints in heaven and Christians on earth. He clearly stated his belief that those who reside in heaven continue to serve God by serving God's children on earth and that it is quite likely that they can hear our words and perhaps, even our thoughts. (pp. 90-91)
  • Permit me, sir, to give you one piece of advice. Be not so positive; especially with regard to things which are neither easy nor necessary to be determined. When I was young I was sure of everything. In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before. At present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to man.
    • Reply to a letter signed "Philosophaster" addressed to him in the London Magazine of 1774, in London Magazine 1775, p. 26
  • I desired as many as could to join together in fasting and prayer, that God would restore the spirit of love and of a sound mind to the poor deluded rebels in America.
    • Journal entry (1 August 1777), published in The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley (1827), p. 104
  • Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.
    • Letter (10 December 1777)
  • When Poetry thus keeps its place as the handmaiden of piety, it shall attain not a poor perishable wreath, but a crown that fadeth not away.
    • From the Preface to A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists, (c 1779)
  • I desire to have both heaven and hell ever in my eye, while I stand on this isthmus of life, between two boundless oceans.
    • Letter to Charles Wesley
  • Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.
    • Sermon 50 "The Use of Money" in The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A.M. (1840) edited by John Emory, Vol. I, p. 446
    • Popularly paraphrased as:
      Make all you can,
      Save all you can,
      Give all you can.
  • Let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin. Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.
    • Sermon 93 On Dress. Compare: "Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God", Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning, Book ii (1605)
  • I believe that He was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.
    • Letter to a Roman Catholic, July 18, 1749, The works of the Rev. John Wesley (1872), London, Wesleyan Conference Office, vol. X, p. 81. [4]
  • In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.
    • Popery Calmly Considered (1779): The works of the Rev. John Wesley, 1812, London : Printed at the Conference - Office … by Thomas Cordeux, agent, vol. XV, p. 180 - Google Books
  • The best of it all is, God is with us.
    • A statement among his final words, said to have been repeated two or three times, as quoted in The Living Wesley (1891) by James Harrison Rigg
    • Variants: The best of it is, God is with us.
      Best of all, God is with us.
  • I am always in haste, but never in a hurry.
    • As quoted in the "Saturday Review" (28 November 1874)
  • Tell me how it is that in this room there are three candles and but one light, and I will explain to you the mode of the Divine existence.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 285
  • As to matters of dress, I would recommend one never to be first in the fashion nor the last out of it.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts : Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tyron Edwards, p. 127
  • The greater the share the people have in government, the less liberty, civil or religious, does a nation enjoy.
    • As quoted in England in the Eighteenth Century (1714 - 1815) (1964) by J. H. Plumb, p. 94
  • I value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.
    • As quoted in The Law of Rewards : Giving What You Can't Keep to Gain What You Can't Lose (2003 by Randy C. Alcorn, p. 18
  • I can by no means approve the scurrility and contempt with which the Romanists have often been treated. I dare not rail at, or despise, any man: much less those who profess to believe in the same Master. But I pity them much; having the same assurance, that Jesus is the Christ, and that no Romanist can expect to be saved, according to the terms of his covenant.
  • It is true, likewise, that the English in general, and indeed most of the men of learning in Europe, have given up all accounts of witches and apparitions, as mere old wives' fables. I am sorry for it; and I willingly take this opportunity of entering my solemn protest against this violent compliment which so many that believe the Bible pay to those who do not believe it. I owe them no such service. I take knowledge these are at the bottom of the outcry which has been raised, and with such insolence spread throughout the nation, in direct opposition not only to the Bible, but to the suffrage of the wisest and best of men in all ages and nations. They well know (whether Christians know it or not), that the giving up witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible; and they know, on the other hand, that if but one account of the intercourse of men with separate spirits be admitted, their whole castle in the air (Deism, Atheism, Materialism) falls to the ground. I know no reason, therefore, why we should suffer even this weapon to be wrested out of our hands. Indeed there are numerous arguments besides, which abundantly confute their vain imaginations. But we need not be hooted out of one; neither reason nor religion require this.
    • Nehemiah Curnock, ed., 'The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M.', London, Charles H. Kelly, vol. 5, p. 265 (entry of 25 May 1768)
  • ... We now come to a numerous tribe, that seem to make approaches even to humanity; that bear an awkward resemblance to the human form, and discover the same faint efforts at intellectual sagacity.
  • Animals of the MONKEY class are furnished with hands instead of paws; their ears, eyes, eye-lids, lips, and breasts, are like those of mankind; their internal conformation also bears some distant likeness; and the whole offers a picture that may mortify the pride of such as make their persons the principal objects of their admiration.
    • A Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation; Or A Compendium of Natural Philosophy New York: Bangs and T. Mason, 1823, Part the Second, Chapter I, volume 1, pages 147-148. Wesley Center Online

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766)Edit

  • Will any dare to speak against loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves? against a renewal of heart, not only in part, but in the whole image of God? Who is he that will open his mouth against being cleansed from all pollution both of flesh and spirit; or against having all the mind that was in Christ, and walking in all things as Christ walked? What man, who calls himself a Christian, has the hardiness to object to the devoting, not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God?

Sermons on Several Occasions (1771)Edit

Think not the bigotry of another is any excuse for your own.
May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.
  • “And Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself.”
    Acts 26:24.
    And so say all the world, the men who know not God, of all that are of Paul’s religion: of every one who is so a follower of him as he was of Christ. It is true, there is a sort of religion, nay, and it is called Christianity too, which may be practised without any such Imputation, which is generally allowed to be consistent with common sense, —that is, a religion of form, a round of outward duties, performed in a decent, regular manner. You may add orthodoxy thereto, a system of right opinions, yea, and some quantity of heathen morality; and yet not many will pronounce, that “much religion hath made you mad.” But if you aim at the religion of the heart, if you talk of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,” then it will not be long before your sentence is passed, “Thou art beside thyself.”
  • As to the word itself, it is generally allowed to be of Greek extraction. But whence the Greek word, enthousiasmos, is derived, none has yet been able to show. Some have endeavoured to derive it from en theoi, in God; because all enthusiasm has reference to him. … It is not improbable, that one reason why this uncouth word has been retained in so many languages was, because men were not better agreed concerning the meaning than concerning the derivation of it. They therefore adopted the Greek word, because they did not understand it: they did not translate it into their own tongues, because they knew not how to translate it; it having been always a word of a loose, uncertain sense, to which no determinate meaning was affixed.
    It is not, therefore, at all surprising, that it is so variously taken at this day; different persons understanding it in different senses, quite inconsistent with each other. Some take it in a good sense, for a divine impulse or impression, superior to all the natural faculties, and suspending, for the time, either in whole or in part, both the reason and the outward senses. In this meaning of the word, both the Prophets of old, and the Apostles, were proper enthusiasts; being, at divers times, so filled with the Spirit, and so influenced by Him who dwelt in their hearts, that the exercise of their own reason, their senses, and all their natural faculties, being suspended, they were wholly actuated by the power of God, and “spake” only “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
    Others take the word in an indifferent sense, such as is neither morally good nor evil: thus they speak of the enthusiasm of the poets; of Homer and Virgil in particular. And this a late eminent writer extends so far as to assert, there is no man excellent in his profession, whatsoever it be, who has not in his temper a strong tincture of enthusiasm. By enthusiasm these appear to understand, all uncommon vigour of thought, a peculiar fervour of spirit, a vivacity and strength not to be found in common men; elevating the soul to greater and higher things than cool reason could have attained.
    But neither of these is the sense wherein the word “enthusiasm” is most usually understood. The generality of men, if no farther agreed, at least agree thus far concerning it, that it is something evil: and this is plainly the sentiment of all those who call the religion of the heart “enthusiasm.” Accordingly, I shall take it in the following pages, as an evil; a misfortune, if not a fault. As to the nature of enthusiasm, it is ,undoubtedly a disorder of the mind; and such a disorder as greatly hinders the exercise of reason. Nay, sometimes it wholly sets it aside: it not only dims but shuts the eyes of the understanding. It may, therefore, well be accounted a species of madness; of madness rather than of folly: seeing a fool is properly one who draws wrong conclusions from right premisses; whereas a madman draws right conclusions, but from wrong premisses. And so does an enthusiast suppose his premisses true, and his conclusions would necessarily follow. But here lies his mistake: his premisses are false. He imagines himself to be what he is not: and therefore, setting out wrong, the farther he goes, the more he wanders out of the way.
    • Sermon 37 "The Nature of Enthusiasm"
  • Beware you are not a fiery, persecuting enthusiast. Do not imagine that God has called you (just contrary to the spirit of Him you style your Master) to destroy men’s lives, and not to save them. Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love.
    • Sermon 37 "The Nature of Enthusiasm"
  • Beware, lastly, of imagining you shall obtain the end without using the means conducive to it. God can give the end without any means at all; but you have no reason to think He will. Therefore constantly and carefully use all those means which He has appointed to be the ordinary channels of His grace. Use every means which either reason or Scripture recommends, as conducive (through the free love of God in Christ) either to the obtaining or increasing any of the gifts of God. Thus expect a daily growth in that pure and holy religion which the world always did, and always will, call “enthusiasm;” but which, to all who are saved from real enthusiasm, from merely nominal Christianity, is “the wisdom of God, and the power of God;” the glorious image of the Most High; “righteousness and peace;” a “fountain of living water, springing up into everlasting life!”
    • Sermon 37 "The Nature of Enthusiasm"
  • In order to examine ourselves thoroughly, let the case be proposed in the strongest manner. What, if I were to see a Papist, an Arian, a Socinian casting out devils? If I did, I could not forbid even him, without convicting myself of bigotry. Yea, if it could be supposed that I should see a Jew, a Deist, or a Turk, doing the same, were I to forbid him either directly or indirectly, I should be no better than a bigot still.
    O stand clear of this! But be not content with not forbidding any that casts out devils. It is well to go thus far; but do not stop here. If you will avoid all bigotry, go on. In every instance of this kind, whatever the instrument be, acknowledge the finger of God. And not only acknowledge, but rejoice in his work, and praise his name with thanksgiving. Encourage whomsoever God is pleased to employ, to give himself wholly up thereto. Speak well of him wheresoever you are; defend his character and his mission. Enlarge, as far as you can, his sphere of action; show him all kindness in word and deed; and cease not to cry to God in his behalf, that he may save both himself and them that hear him.
    I need add but one caution: Think not the bigotry of another is any excuse for your own. It is not impossible, that one who casts out devils himself, may yet forbid you so to do. You may observe, this is the very case mentioned in the text. The Apostles forbade another to do what they did themselves. But beware of retorting. It is not your part to return evil for evil. Another’s not observing the direction of our Lord, is no reason why you should neglect it. Nay, but let him have all the bigotry to himself. If he forbid you, do not you forbid him. Rather labour, and watch, and pray the more, to confirm your love toward him. If he speak all manner of evil of you, speak all manner of good (that is true) of him.
  • Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.

Thoughts Upon Slavery (1774)Edit

  • I deny that villany is ever necessary. It is impossible that it should ever be necessary for any reasonable creature to violate all the laws of justice, mercy, and truth. No circumstances can make it necessary for a man to burst in sunder all the ties of humanity. It can never be necessary for a rational being to sink himself below a brute. A man can be under no necessity of degrading himself into a wolf. The absurdity of the supposition is so glaring, that one would wonder any one can help seeing it.
  • Are you a man? Then you should have an human heart. But have you indeed? What is your heart made of? Is there no such principle as Compassion there? Do you never feel another's pain? Have you no Sympathy? No sense of human woe? No pity for the miserable? When you saw the flowing eyes, the heaving breasts, or the bleeding sides and tortured limbs of your fellow-creatures, was you a stone, or a brute? Did you look upon them with the eyes of a tiger? When you squeezed the agonizing creatures down in the ship, or when you threw their poor mangled remains into the sea, had you no relenting? Did not one tear drop from your eye, one sigh escape from your breast? Do you feel no relenting now? If you do not, you must go on, till the measure of your iniquities is full. Then will the Great GOD deal with You, as you have dealt with them, and require all their blood at your hands.


Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.
  • Do all the good you can,
    By all the means you can,
    In all the ways you can,
    In all the places you can,
    At all the times you can,
    To all the people you can,
    As long as you ever can.
    • Statement commonly known as "John Wesley's Rule"
    • Variant Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.
      • According to Richard Heitzenrater, Professor of Church History and Wesleyan Studies at Duke Divinity School, there is no evidence that John Wesley ever wrote the rule that is attributed to him.
    • In the sermon titled "The Use of Money" Wesley said, "Employ whatever God has entrusted you with in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree . . . to all men." This sermon is in the collection titled "Wesley's Standard Sermons." They are called "standard" because all Methodist preachers were instructed to read them and use them in interpreting the Christian faith.
  • You may be as orthodox as the devil and as wicked.
    • This may be a paraphrase or summary of Wesley's thoughts that originated with Hugh Price Hughes; in his preface to Ethical Christianity : A Series of Sermons (1892) he states "It is really quite surpising that one could honestly confound Orthodoxy with Christianity, because, as John Wesley used to say in his emphatic and decisive manner, you may be as orthodox as the devil and as wicked." He does not place the statement itself in quotes, though his daughter, Dorothea Price Hughes, in her book The Life of Hugh Price Hughes (1904), p. 146, states "The saying of Wesley's that a man may be as orthodox as the devil and as wicked, was one in which he delighted, and which he often quoted." No published sources of the statement prior to 1892 have yet been located.
  • Why should the Devil have all the best tunes?
    • Attributed to Wesley in The English Poets: Addison to Blake (1880) by Thomas Humphry Ward, it also sometimes attributed to his brother Charles Wesley, and appears even earlier attributed to George Whitefield, in The Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, Vol. 49 (June 1773 - January 1774), p. 430; this has also been reported as a remark made by Rowland Hill, when he arranged an Easter hymn to the tune of "Pretty, Pretty Polly Hopkins, in The Rambler, Vol. 9 (1858), p. 191; as well as to William Booth, who popularized it as an addage in promoting The Salvation Army.


  • Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.
    • As quoted in The Peaceful Path of Prosperity : Practical and Spiritual Approaches to Enrich Your Life with Your Inner Wealth (2001) by Danny Babineaux; not found in any record of Wesley before 2001.
  • God buries his workmen, but carries on his work.
    • Charles Wesley, as quoted in Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (1889). This appears with two quotes of John Wesley on the monument to both men in Westminster Abbey, and is commonly attributed to John.
  • The Church recruited people who had been starched and ironed before they were washed.

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