John Wesley and America

John Wesley spent two years as a chaplain in Georgia in the 1730s; Stuart Andrews describes how forty years later he was much preoccupied with the War of Independence.

The influence of America on the evolution of Methodism is difficult to exaggerate. It began with John Wesley’s ill-fated expedition to Georgia in 1735 as chaplain to Oglethorpe’s colony of debtors. Wesley’s explanation of why he went is revealing: ‘My chief motive, to which all the rest were subordinate, is the hope of securing my own soul. I hope to learn the true sense of the Gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen.’

Perhaps not very surprisingly, his mission to the Red Indians was a failure; and he recorded among his reasons for returning home in 1737 the disappointing fact that he had not ‘as yet found or heard of any Indians on the continent of America who had the least desire of being instructed.’

His two years in Georgia were by no means fruitless, however. He firmly established that strict personal rule of life he had first adopted at Oxford. He taught himself some new subjects, including (it seems) German, Spanish, Italian and conversational French. He wrote many of his best sermons; he composed the first hymn-book ever prepared for use in the English Church; and he perfected the Methodist organization.

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