Tag Archives: John Wesley

The place of John Wesley’s conversion: The Fetter Lane Society in London


I am about to post my grad-school summaries and comments on the Nine Discourses of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, which the Moravian founder gave at London’s Fetter Lane Chapel in 1746. Before doing so, I thought it would be good to say (or rather, steal, from Wikipedia; and it looks like the data here is good) a few words on the Fetter Lane Society: nerve center of British Moravianism in the mid 1700s:

Fetter Lane Society

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fetter Lane Society was the first flowering of the Moravian church in the UK, and an important as a precursor to Methodism. A short time before the great Methodist revival of the 18th Century in England, Moravians were avidly ministering throughout London. Peter Böhler, the London Moravian leader, and his followers established the Fetter Lane Society in May 1738 for the purpose of discipleship and accountability.

They began with the purpose of meeting once a week for prayer and fellowship. Most of their members consisted of Anglicans, most prominently John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield. John Wesley records in his journal for 1 January 1739: Continue reading

“Christian History Minutes”: John Wesley and women in ministry leadership


Back at Christian History, we were working for a while on getting a series of “Christian History Minutes” together for airing on a certain network of Christian radio stations. The deal never went down, but today I stumbled across the small series of “minutes” that I wrote at that point as a demonstration of what we might do. I’ll post a few of these today. Here’s the first, on a key moment in John Wesley’s career:

As all of us do, John Wesley one day faced a “moment of truth.”

I’m Chris Armstrong, editor of Christian History magazine.

The founder of Methodism had broken precedent by preaching outdoors. He had pioneered the “class meeting”—ancestor of today’s small group meetings. He had encouraged laypeople to travel as preachers.

But now some of those wanting to preach and lead class meetings were women. And John Wesley balked. This had never been done in England.

Then, he watched the ministry of class leaders like Mary Bosanquet. And he saw that the Holy Spirit was gifting these women. So, against his day’s prejudices, he decided to give their work his blessing.

An army of woman leaders and preachers filled England. And Wesley watched his beloved evangelical revival explode. He knew, despite often violent criticism, that he’d made the right decision.

Ecumenism, education, culture-engagement and the “slippery slope” argument


Do ecumenism and culture-engagement lead to a loss of the gospel? Let’s put this to a historical test (article previously posted at Christianity Today’s history blog):

Ecumenism, education, culture-engagement and the “slippery slope” argument

The vision of John Comenius and the story of the Unity of the Brethren give us a good way to test a hypothesis.

by Chris Armstrong

Johan_amos_comenius_1592-1671.jpg

History is a great place to go to test “slippery slope” arguments–claims that “Questionable Belief or Practice A” will inevitably lead us to “Horrifying Situation B.” One way to answer the argument is to appeal to precedent: “Let’s look back and see whether things like ‘A’ have led to situations like ‘B’ in the past.”

These days evangelicals with a heart for (1) ecumenical dialogue, (2) liberal education, and (3) cultural engagement are being told by fundamentalist watchdogs that they are leading good, faithful, Bible-believing people straight down the road to “liberalism.”

Let’s put this to a historical test. Continue reading

Evangelicalism–a basic summary–part II


This is a continuation of this article. Part III may be found here.

Edwards and the Awakening

The Great Awakening began in November of 1734, when Jonathan Edwards, a Massachusetts pastor-theologian, became concerned by a spreading tendency among Connecticut River Valley Christians to rely on their own abilities in seeking salvation from God. In response, Edwards preached a two-sermon series on “Justification by Faith Alone.” And in what Edwards believed was “a surprising work of God,” the people in Northampton and the surrounding area were, he said, “seized with a deep concern about their eternal salvation” so that “scarcely a single person in the whole town was left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.”

Edwards organized small groups to encourage those experiencing such concern, and soon hundreds were converted and renewed. The revival spilled over into 1735, touching some 25 Massachusetts and Connecticut communities before its intensity began to wane that spring.

Meanwhile, back in England, several students at Oxford University, including the brothers John and Charles Wesley and their friend George Whitefield, founded a group that the undergraduates derisively called the “Holy Club.” Continue reading

How John Wesley changed America–though his one trip here was a failure


The 300th anniversary of John Wesley’s birth took place a few years ago, in 2003. For the occasion, I reflected on this famous British religious leader’s enduring legacy “across the pond,” here in the U.S. Interestingly, Wesley’s one ministerial experience this side of the Atlantic went hardly better than Edwards’s. However, and despite the fact that he spent very little time here, Wesley is arguably one of the two or three most influential leaders in American history. (Much of that influence came through the conduit of his indefatigable American bishop, Francis Asbury–my next post will talk about Asbury.) As usual, I can’t vouch that all the links are still active, but a quick Google search will turn up most anything you’d like to know about the extraordinary Mr. Wesley:

How John Wesley Changed America
Why should Wesley’s 300th birthday be a red-letter day on this side of the ocean?
Chris Armstrong

The world is now marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley with celebrations, conferences, publications, and many other commemorations. (For trivia buffs and sticklers: The actual day of Wesley’s birth was June 17 or June 28, 1703, depending on whether you follow the “old style” calendar in use before 1752 or the “new style” calendar used after that year.) But Americans may wonder, What difference did Wesley make to our country? After all, while he served as a parish minister in Savannah, he didn’t last two years in the post before incurring the colonists’ wrath and before returning to England. Continue reading

Jonathan Edwards: Father of evangelicalism


It didn’t really come into focus for me until I was working on the Christian History issue on him: the Puritan theologian and revivalist Jonathan Edwards really was one of the two fathers of modern evangelicalism (interestingly, the other was the Arminian John Wesley). With some help from the work of historian Mark Noll, I explored Edwards’s influence in the editor’s note of that issue.

[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. On Edwards as the original “ancient-future” evangelical, see here. On his ouster from his own church, this one.]

Jonathan Edwards: From the Editor – Papa Edwards
Chris Armstrong

Conversion. Revival. Biblical authority. A warm-hearted faith touching all areas of personal and social life. Billy Graham believes in these things. So did Billy Sunday, D. L. Moody, and Charles Finney. And so do countless others today who would place themselves in the Protestant family tree most often termed “evangelical.”

If you had to put someone at the very root of this tree, who would it be? Continue reading

Portrait of holiness: a mosaic of facts and anecdotes on the American holiness movement


The holiness movement is still too little-known, especially given that it was the incubator of the most explosive, fast-growing Christian phenomenon of the last century: global Pentecostalism. Issue #82 of Christian History & Biography, on the American holiness movement, started off with this “mosaic” of facts and anecdotes:

Did You Know?
Interesting facts about the American Holiness revival
Chris Armstrong

Reclaiming John

Methodist holiness advocates said their movement had started with John Wesley. They were just reminding Methodism of its founder’s teachings on entire sanctification or “perfect love”-the complete orientation of the heart toward God and away from sinning.

Camping out (in style) for Christ

During its post-Civil War “camp meeting phase,” the holiness revival spread quickly beyond Methodism’s bounds. In 1887, Presbyterian minister A. B. Simpson founded the non-Wesleyan Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) on the teachings of Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer (a common holiness theme by the 1890s), and Coming King. For many years, the C&MA held annual camp meetings at a former temperance campground in Old Orchard, Maine.

Hoofing it

The Methodist holiness folk were known for their traveling evangelists-male and female. One day, on the “gospel trail” with her organist Treena Platt, evangelist Mary Cagle’s pony became ill. Having heard that John Wesley had once prayed successfully for the healing of his horse, Cagle decided to do the same. “I don’t know how to pray for a horse,” Platt protested. “Pray just like you would for a person,” said Cagle; “we need her in the service of the Lord.” Cagle wrote in her autobiography that they “prayed through to victory” in the house and then went to the barn to find the horse already mending. (Contributed by Jennifer Woodruff Tait.) Continue reading