John Wesley Letters

letter to mary wesley

Letter from John Wesley
to Mary (Molly) Wesley,
January 7, 1756

John Wesley married Mary Goldhawk Vazeille (1710–1781), the widow of a London merchant, in February of 1751. The tone of this letter, written shortly before their fifth anniversary, is more business-like than loving. This may be an accurate reflection of the nature of their marriage.

When I saw you, my dear, I did not expect to have so large a demand made so suddenly upon me. I shall be puzzled to answer it without coming to town on purpose which I am unwilling to do before I have finished the Address.

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Letter from John Wesley
to John Newton,
April 1, 1766

John Newton (1725–1807), an Anglican cleric most famous for writing the hymn “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” was acquainted with and influenced by both John Wesley and George Whitefield. In this April 1, 1766 letter to John Newton, John Wesley stresses their agreement on the doctrine of sanctification:

Dear sir I do not perceive that there is an hair’s breadth difference between us with regard to the nature of sanctification. Only you express a little less plainly and a little less scripturally than I am accustomed to do. However, I understand your expressions perfectly well, “A cordial, admiring, believing apprehension of Christ.” And it is of little consequence whether we call this sanctification or sanctifying faith.

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Letter from John Wesley
to Mrs. Elizabeth Woodhouse,
August 3, 1777

My dear sister I am glad you was not terrified by those marvellous predictions of poor James Kershaw. Very few in London but very many up and down the country were exceedingly affrighted. I hope he has now recovered himself and is again a reasonable man.

In this letter to Elizabeth Harvey Woodhouse (fl. 1760–1785), John Wesley mentions a controversy in early British Methodism. James Kershaw
(fl. 1750–1800) was a Methodist preacher who left the itinerancy in 1776. Soon thereafter he prophesied that “all Methodists are to go over to America in the belly of a whale.” Clearly embarrassed, Wesley called Kershaw “stark raving mad” in two other letters owned by Bridwell Library.

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Letter from John Wesley
to Isaac Andrews,
January 4, 1784

In this letter, John Wesley teaches Isaac Andrews
(fl. 1780–1790) one of the hallmark doctrines of the Methodist movement: prevenient grace.

My dear brother After all I can say, you will not conceive what I mean unless the Holy Spirit open your understanding. Undoubtedly faith is the work of God; and yet it is the duty of man to believe. And every man may believe if he will, though not when he will. If he seek faith in the appointed ways, sooner or later, the power of the Lord will be present whereby, 1. God works, and by his power, 2. Man believes. In order of thinking, God’s working goes first. But not in order of time. Believing is the act of the human mind, strengthened by the power of God.

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Letter from John Wesley
to Sarah Rutter,
October 18, 1790

John Wesley inspired both men and women to cultivate their spiritual gifts. This letter to Sarah Rutter (fl. 1765–1795) is an example of the encouragement that he offered to many women. Sarah Rutter experienced a religious awakening when John Wesley preached at St. Neots in 1778. Later, with Wesley’s blessing, she became a Methodist band leader.

My dear sister You give me a very agreeable account of the state of our friends in St Neots. I did not doubt but if you yourself stirred up the gift of God which was in you, God would give a blessing thereto, and you would see . . . the fruit of your labour. You have good encouragement to proceed. Still . . . make use of the faith and talents which God hath given you, and he will give you more faith and more fruit, for there is no end of his mercies.

In eighteenth-century Methodism, bands were two- to four-person same-gender groups that met frequently to examine each other’s lives. The band system was never thoroughly embraced in North America, where larger, mixed-gender class meetings prevailed.

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