An Appreciation of John Wesley & the Sovereign Grace of God

Psalm 65:4
       Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causeth to approach unto thee.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Whether we like it or not, John Wesley was a mighty instrument in God’s hand for good; and, next to George Whitefield, was the first and foremost evangelist of England [about three] hundred years ago.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): Whilst deeply thankful to God for the grace given to him we must not make excuses for that in him which was contrary to the mind of God…John Wesley was not in all matters a safe guide.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Wesley believed in original sin and also that a man could do nothing about his salvation apart from grace. But he also believed that this grace was available to all, and that it was left to man himself to decide whether to take advantage of it or not.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Certainly, we are not obliged to our free-will for our conversion, but to His Spirit.

J. C. RYLE: John Wesley was an Arminian in doctrine. I fully admit the seriousness of the objection. I do not pretend either to explain the charge away, or to defend his objectionable opinions. Personally, I feel unable to account for any well-instructed Christian holding such doctrines as perfection and the defectibility of grace, or denying such as election and the imputed righteousness of Christ.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I remember speaking once on the difference between the theological standpoints of Whitefield and Wesley―I said that John Wesley was to me the greatest proof of Calvinism. Why? Because in spite of his faulty thinking he was greatly used of God to preach the gospel and to convert souls! That is the ultimate proof of Calvinism―predestination and election.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Mr. Wesley, I think, is wrong in some things; but I believe he will shine bright in glory.

J. C. RYLE: If I am asked whether I prefer Whitefield’s gospel or Wesley’s, I answer at once that I prefer Whitefield’s: I am a Calvinist, and not an Arminian…But if I am asked to go further, and to say that Wesley preached no gospel at all, and did not real good, I answer at once that I cannot do so―that he preached the gospel, honoured Christ, and did extensive good, I no more doubt than I doubt my own existence.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Though a man may be muddled in his thinking, as John Wesley was at certain points, God may nevertheless, bless him and use him. And if He cannot do this, then there is no such thing as the sovereignty of God, and His omnipotence.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I can only say concerning John Wesley that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan.

J. C. RYLE: Then let us thank God for what John Wesley was, and not keep pouring over his deficiencies, and only talking of what he was not…A writer in the North British Review has well and forcibly described the difference between the two great English evangelists of the [18th] century:
      “Whitefield was soul, and Wesley was system. Whitefield was the summer cloud which burst at morning or noon a fragrant exhalation over an ample trace, and took the rest of the day to gather again; Wesley was the polished conduit in the midst of the garden, through which the living water glided in pearly brightness and perennial music, the same vivid stream from day to day. All force and impetus, Whitefield was the powder-blast in the quarry, and by one explosive sermon would shake a district, and detach materials for other men’s long work; deft, neat, and painstaking, Wesley loved to split and trim each fragment into uniform plinths and polished stones. Whitefield was the barge-man or the wagoner who brought the timber of the house, and Wesley was the architect who set it up. Whitefield had no patience for ecclesiastical polity, no aptitude for pastoral details; Wesley, with a leader-like propensity for building, was always constructing societies, and with a king-like craft of ruling, was most at home when presiding over a class or a conference.”

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): I think I never saw the like of Mr. Whitefield in some things; such as strong faith, brokenness of spirit, catholic love, and true sympathy. Indeed, his tongue is like the pen of a ready writer to call sinners to Christ. And none are like brethren John and Charles Wesley to press after holiness. I see every day that each has his peculiar gifts and talents in the work.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): I preached at the Tabernacle in Norwich to a large, rude, noisy congregation. I took knowledge what manner of teachers they had been accustomed to, and determined to mend them or end them. Accordingly, the next evening, after sermon, I reminded them of two things: the one, that it was not decent to begin talking aloud as soon as service was ended; and hurrying to and fro, as in a bear-garden. The other, that it was a bad custom to gather into knots just after sermon, and turn a place of worship into a coffee-house.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: John Wesley! If ever there was a church disciplinarian it was that man! In his Journals, he records that one occasion he went over to visit a church—the class meeting at Dublin—and when he arrived there he found about six hundred people. Then he began to examine the church members one by one, and when he had finished a few days later, the church numbered three hundred.

JOHN WESLEY: I met the society at seven; and told them in plain terms, that they were the most ignorant, self-conceited, self-willed, fickle, untractable, disorderly, disjointed society, that I knew in the three kingdoms.

FRANCES BEVAN: [Wesley journeyed] all over the country—by horseback, through all weathers—it seemed a perfect matter of indifference to him that it should hail, rain, or snow, blow hurricanes, or turn to sultry heat.

JOHN WESLEY: As long as God gives me strength to labour I am to use it…I have none of the infirmities of old age…The grand cause is the good pleasure of God, who doeth whatsoever pleaseth Him. The chief means are—
      1. My constant rising at four in the morning for about 50 years.
      2. My generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world.
      3. My never travelling less, by sea or land, than 4500 miles a year.

VERNON J. CHARLESWORTH (1839-1915): George Whitefield, it appears, in thirty-four years, preached 18,000 sermons; and John Wesley, who lived [thirty years longer] delivered 40,560 sermons.

J. C. RYLE: John Wesley died in the sixty-fifth year of his ministry…The manner of his dying was in beautiful harmony with his life. He preached within a very few days of his death―the last [sermon] of all was at Leatherhead, on the words, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found,” Isaiah 55:6….He retained his senses until the end, and showed clearly where his heart and thoughts were to the very last. The day but one before he died he slept much and spoke little. Once he said in a low but distinct manner, “there is no way into the holiest but by the blood of Jesus.”

BETSY RITCHIE (1752-1835): Finding we could not understand what he said, John Wesley paused a little, and then with all the remaining strength he had, cried out, “The best of all is, God is with us,” and then, as if to assert the faithfulness of our promise-keeping Jehovah, and comfort the hearts of his weeping friends, he lifted up his dying arm in token of victory, raised his feeble voice with a holy triumph not to be expressed, and again repeated the heart reviving words, “The best of all is, God is with us!”―and the last word he was heard to articulate was, “Farewell!”


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