Portrait courtesy of Thoemmes Continuum,

Bristol, U.K.

John Wesley, 1703-1791

Founder of Methodism and Missionary to America, 1736-1737


John Wesley (1703-1791), born into an Anglican home in Epworth, England, was the fifteenth child of Samuel and Susannah Wesley.  Samuel Wesley was the rector of the church in Epworth when his son John was born.  Susannah taught John at home, and at age ten, John was sent to Charterhouse School, London (now in Godalming, Surrey, England).  As a seventeen-year old in 1720, Wesley was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford, where he earned the M.A. in 1727.  In 1728, Wesley became a fellow in Lincoln College, Oxford.

At Oxford  in 1729, John and his brother Charles organized a group of serious minded people (called the "holy club" by colleagues outside the group) for scripture study and prayer.  George Whitefield participated in this group.  Wesley studied William Law's Serious Call and Christian Perfection, and attempted to live his life by strict obedience to God.  As a result of their methodical habits of spirituality and lifestyle, both John and Charles became ridiculed as "Methodists."  Later, Whitefield, as a colleague and friend of Wesley's at Oxford and in Georgia, was asked about the doctrinal difference between himself and Wesley and whether he thought he would see Wesley in heaven.  Whitefield's response was "No, sir, I fear not; for he will be so near the throne, and we shall be at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him."1

Being the founder of the Methodist church along with his brother Charles Wesley, John evangelized both whites and native Americans in the British colony of Georgia, established by James Oglethorpe in 1733.  Arriving in Georgia on February 2, 1736, Wesley worked as an Anglican minister and evangelist in the Savannah, Georgia, area for a year and nine months before returning and preaching tirelessly throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. 

Of note is the fact that some Moravian colonists had an influential effect on Wesley during their joint sea voyage to the American colony of Georgia in 1735-1736, and later, John Wesley closely associated himself with Moravians in London.  In Georgia, Wesley met the eminent Moravian missionary August Spangenberg, and in 1738, George Whitefield came to Georgia and preached throughout Georgia and the other American colonies.

In his An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, William Carey names several exemplars in Christian missionary outreach.  Some of those he includes are:  John Eliot (pp. 36, 69, 70-71, 87), David Brainerd (pp. 36, 69, 70-71, 87), the Moravians (pp. 11, 37, 41-42, 71), the Dutch East-India Company, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (p. 36), Mr. Kirkland and Mr. Sergeant (p. 36), James Hulzibos (p. 37), and Mr. Wesley (p. 37).  Wesley's central role in the 18th century Protestant revival in the American Colonies and in Great Britain contributed to William Carey's vision for worldwide missionary outreach.


Images Relating to John Wesley in the Savannah, Georgia, Area

Chippewa Square, Savannah

    Statue of James Oglethorpe, Founder of the Georgia Colony, 1733


    Description below Statue of James Oglethorpe, Founder of Georgia Colony

Reynolds Square, Savannah

John Wesley Statue

Description of Wesley Statue

Description of John Wesley, the Founder of Methodism

Cockspur Island, Savannah (near Fort Pulaski)

Historical Monument Marking John Wesley's Landing in Georgia, 1736

Historical Monument Text Marking John Wesley's Landing in Georgia, 1736

Historical Monument Text from Wesley's Journal Marking His Landing in Georgia, 1736

        (for Wesley's full-text journal, click here)


Description of John Wesley's Ministry in Georgia

        (near the spot where he landed in Georgia, 1736)


View of Tybee Island from Cockspur Island

        Referred to in Wesley's Journal for February 6, 1736


                [All photographs by Bennie R. Crockett, Jr., June, 2004]


1Joseph Belcher, George Whitefield: A Biography, with Special Reference to His Labors in America (New York: American Tract Society, 1857), p. 476 [back to narrative].



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Created:    July 2, 2004            Updated:    July 10, 2007