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WESLEY'S VERSION

The Christian’s Pattern; or, a Treatise of the Imitation of Christ.... Compared with the Original and Corrected Throughout by John Wesley, M. A.
London: Printed for C. Rivington, 1735. Octavo edition.

One of the most influential English translations of the Imitatio Christi was The Christian’s Pattern, published in 1735 by John Wesley (1703–1791), the founder of Methodism. Wesley had encountered the Imitatio Christi at an early age, and in 1738 he wrote:

“When I was about twenty-two... the providence of God directing me to Kempis’s Christian Pattern, I began to see, that true religion was seated in the heart, and that God’s law extended to all our thoughts as well as words and actions. I was, however, very angry at Kempis for being too strict; though I read him only in Dean Stanhope’s translation. Yet I had frequently much sensible comfort in reading him, such as I was an utter stranger to before.”

Wesley found George Stanhope’s 1698 paraphrase too free and polished, to the point of obscuring the original sense. In 1732, he purchased a copy of John Worthington’s 1677 translation, which he much preferred. Soon Wesley undertook his own translation of the Latin. Issued in a larger octavo and a smaller “pocket” format in 1735, The Christian’s Pattern was Wesley’s first major publication. It remained a constant companion of early Methodists, as Wesley continued to read from it, reprint extracts from it, and recommend it to his preachers.

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