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Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


Methodism, which today numbers about sixty million adherents in Methodist and related churches throughout the world, began in the eighteenth century as a movement of evangelistic, moral, sacramental and social revival within the Church of England. It sprang chiefly from the work of the Wesley brothers, John (1703–1791) and Charles (1707–1788). Having in their Oxford days committed themselves to serious Christian practice as members of the ‘Holy Club’, both brothers underwent in London under Moravian influence at Pentecost 1738 an ‘evangelical conversion’ in which, as John describes it, ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine , and saved me from the law of sin and death’ (Baker/Heitzenrater 1975-, vol. 18, p. 250). In April 1739, at the insistence of George Whitefield, John ‘submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation’ (Baker/Heitzenrater 1975-, vol. 19, p. 46); and from these beginnings near Bristol there progressed a fifty-year career of open-air preaching which brought converts into the fellowship of tightly structured Methodist ‘societies’ and ‘classes’ and encouraged them to seek communion at their parish churches. Both Wesleys were preachers, John the itinerant and Charles the more stable. John was the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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