John Wesley… Apparently Not a Christian

Via New Demonstration:

In a letter to his brother Charles in June 1766, the Arminian evangelist John Wesley, now in his sixties, confesses that he does not and never did love God, believe or have the direct witness of divine sonship or even of things invisible or eternal. Read for yourself.

“In one of my last [letters] I was saying that I do not feel the wrath of God abiding on me; nor can I believe it does. And yet (this is the mystery), I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen

And yet, to be so employed of God! And so hedged in that I can neither get forward nor backward! Surely there was never such an instance before, from the beginning of the world! If I ever have had that faith, it would not be so strange. But I never had any other evidence of the eternal or invisible world than I have now; and that is none at all, unless such as faintly shines from reason’s glimmering ray. I have no direct witness (I do not say, that I am a child of God, but) of anything invisible or eternal.

“And yet I dare not preach otherwise than I do, either concerning faith, or love, or justification, or perfection. And yet I find rather an increase than a decrease of zeal for the whole work of God and every part of it. I am borne along, I know not how, that I can’t stand still. I want all the world to come to what I do not know.”

– Quoted in Stephen Tomkins, John Wesley, A Biography [Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2003], p. 168; italics mine)


… so…  just a really good salesman selling a really good product who had a really good career.


Author: Ginger Taylor

I am a thirty something wife of a wonderful man and mother to two beautiful boys. I am a Johns Hopkins educated family therapist with a current case load of one, my autistic son Chandler. I want to God and what He really has to say to us and especially what He really wants from me. I approach Scripture from the Reformed perspective of Luther and Calvin and those that followed them, and encourage lively debate here at Daily Discernment.

30 thoughts on “John Wesley… Apparently Not a Christian”

  1. With all the heresies John Wesley came to espouse I wouldn’t be surprised if all that dragged him to his service is actually nothing but emotion and the pull of the moment.

    1. You guys act like doubt should never happen in a Christian’s life. Obviously this is a personal letter written to his brother when Wesley was going through a hard time. Haven’t you ever second-guessed or even had streamer thoughts of doubt? We all have. The fruit of Wesley’s ministry should speak for themselves.

  2. What the cluck?! Well Arminianism does not lead to Jesus, I think. Tell me this Ginger — YOU, you surely know for sure our Lord and Saviour, yes?

    1. How are you qualified to dictate how God leads people to Jesus? When did God give you that authority? I suggest that God can use anything He pleases. And how is it that you cannot see that Arminians and Calvinists are both right and both wrong and if they both were not so proud and stiff-necked, they could love one another and come to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The obstinacy of both groups *expose* that neither is wholly right and such pride, according to God’s *holy* Word, causes Him to RESIST THEM BOTH or did someone excise the Scriptures about pride, selflessness, love and God’s observation of every act and motive of the heart out of your Bible?

      The contention between the Calvinists and Arminians reeks of arrogance and pride and of itself reveals why God leaves them as an example to all of how not to behave and how TO GET RESISTED by God.

      1. One is right the other wrong. Both cannot be right. And for you to try to sit on a fence in-between is to be Amyraldite, which is why you dear sir have exposed yourself as a likely candidate for Amyraldism for they always vomit forth the same garbage.

  3. I think he was being very honest. Christ’s definition of loving Him was to obey Him. If that obedience imparts some feeling in a person, all the more better. But it is not guaranteed nor required.

    1. Exactly! Geez, talk about taking something out if context. Lady, you need to be a little more respectful of this man.

    2. Vince, I think you’re the first to pick up on what I suspect might have been part of John’s point, but, I think even more significant than the lack of emotive love was that he was simply judging himself very harshly at times as can be very easy because the swing from the self-aggrandizement of the flesh to the phenomenal humility that the Spirit of God is able to help us reach, while, at the same time showing us that seeing the depth of depravity of our sinful nature, is, indeed a work of God that we simply do no see outside of His grace.

      Sometimes, God hammers on that to help us “get it” because He knows (and we discover) how easy it is to lose sight of spiritual truth, even seconds after we see it.

      I suspect John was just openly confiding in his brother (who understood him) how he could see that apart from the grace of God, he was “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.”

      And for someone to take that and use it to slam the sense of personal responsibility that is characteristic of Arminianism is just about as classless as one can be.

      Without question, I believe in predestination. It’s plainly and irrefutably stated in God’s Word and cannot be denied without simply being dishonest with Scripture.

      That said, the way some Calvinists behave, one wonders whether “Calvinism” shouldn’t be regarded as a new synonym for “reprobate.” The hardhearted contempt and disdain so many of them have for Scriptures that are equally as clear as the ones on God’s preordination broadcasts an attitude that is so obviously offensive for no legitimate reason while, at the same time, makes one marvel that though they can plainly see the Arminian is rejecting clear Scripture, they don’t see the fulfillment of Romans 2:1 in themselves by their failing to see some of the things that the Arminians are trying to show them.

      This is so common in life, for all of us to watch two people argue and we want to say, “Why don’t you guys just listen to one another instead of being so obstinate and hardheaded? You both have something to say but neither of you is listening!”

  4. I absolutely give him props for honesty. Most of all for honesty with himself about where he really was. Was he as transparent publicly? Don’t know enough about him.

    Yes love equates with obedience. Absolutely. But that can’t be the only part of it. If it is, that is just legalism. It would seem that true gratitude for salvation would conjure some feelings though, yes? Certainly enough that a true believer could never utter the words, “I do not love God. I never did.”

    1. Uh! Why do you think you can decide who a true believer is? It’s fine to discern someone’s needs for improvement if you want to help someone, but just to condemn? You can go on assessing that anyone who is dead was a true believer or not. But what if God did let him in to heaven? Have you read anything else of Wesley’s private words?

      I guess what I am getting at is: What is your purpose in deciding this about John Wesley? You totally overlooked the possibility of hyperbole, which is very much something John Wesley would have done. What if it’s more admirable to admit where you are then to judge with some person writing on denominationally-favored “heresies”? (I’m focusing on the latter part of the sentence since I know you acted as if you found him admirable even as it appears you judged him.)

    2. Ginger Taylor, I think you’re making a good point, except that I think John would have never spoken those words to strangers who had no sense of his feelings. Not because he would want to deceive but because, since, i think he was being strongly and deeply introspective and judging himself harshly, I think he would have known few would perceive his meaning as Charles did without some more information.

      There is a, similarly self-reflective, poem by C.S. Lewis, which I’ll post here to help you see that shows a like-minded attitude, which I have had myself. It can be quite tormenting were it not for the declarations of the love of the Spirit of God in comforting us.

      As the Ruin Falls
      All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
      I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
      I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
      I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

      Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
      I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
      I talk of love —a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek—
      But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

      Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
      I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
      My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
      From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

      For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
      You give me are more precious than all other gains.

  5. I guess I’m just asking you people be a little more sensitive to what Methodists would think of you acting as if someone that bore their denomination was a complete phony from one letter! You should try to have a conversation when you can’t judge like this.

    1. Anon,

      I think you may have read much further than anything I actually wrote.

      I am not judging Wesley as as an unbeliever, Wesley is judging Welsey as a unbeliever. Read his own words:

      “I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen…”

      I am just reporting the man’s own frank confessions about himself.

      And honestly, I give the man props for his honesty and ability to examine himself and admit such a difficult truth. I will take a thousand honest heathens over one pharisee any day.

      And BY NO MEANS should Wesley’s confession of unbelief be some sort of judgment on whether or not Methodists are true believers. That is going WAY beyond what I have written and is in complete conflict every thing on this blog. Men are not judged by their denomination, but by their discipleship.

      The message of Christ is real, it does not matter who delivers it. The power is in the blood of Christ, not the blood of the messenger.

      And, again… in the context of this blog… I think that it is possible that relatively few famous preachers/priests/christian leaders, are actual sincere believers. This is a much longer discussion, but power corrupts. A true disciple, who is opposing the worldly takeover of the true church, would likely have to fight many battles and walk away from probably more than one ‘church’ in his lifetime. Because the principles that build a successful organization are not so much the ones that build a true church full of disciples. Those that begin in good faith do not necessarily “finish the race”, and often end up like the seed that was choked out by the cares of the world. Perhaps this happened with Wesley? Dunno… speculative.

      It might actually be the exception to see famous pastors in heaven, not the rule. Because the question must be asked, if you are a famous and wealthy Christian, are you in it for the fame or wealth or power, or for Christ? You don’t really have that same problem when dealing with persecuted believers who abandon all and whose lives end in martyrdom.

      Christ builds the church out of the broken, not the super fab and famous.

      “You totally overlooked the possibility of hyperbole…”

      He wrote “I do not love God, I never did”. If he truly was a believer, then wouldn’t this be blasphemous? I understand what you are going for, but it doesn’t really fit. I am taking the man at his word.

      All that said, I would be happy to meet Wesley in heaven, and hope that he ultimately was very convicted of his lack of love and faith and came to know Christ truly, rather that just a great guy with a wonderful message and system of living. But to not believe the man’s own words about the state of his heart and his soul because we want to think nice things about him, well that seems a bit foolish to me.

      I feel like I honor him, as an honest heathen, by reporting his words and using it as a warning to others.

      But I have decided nothing, judged his soul not, and condemned him to nothing. How do I possibly have the power to do any of that? That would just be one beggar judging another beggar and condemning him to jail.

      1. Ginger, your words “but power corrupts” is not a Biblical perspective, but a carnal one and a lie. Jesus said, “”He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

        That’s not to say we cannot become careless and irresponsible as David did, but it’s not the power the corrupts. The corruption was already in the heart.

        The Bible tells us to be ever vigilant and “watch over your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”

  6. I can’t believe you would publish lies like these. John Wesley was never an Arminian, he was an Anglican minister. And I’ll bet you can’t provide a credible resource documenting your allegations. And why would you do this? Christians shouldn’t be bearing false witness.

    1. And as to him being an Arminian. From the British Reformed Journal, an article on the book:

      “Wesley’s gospel was the false gospel of salvation by the free will of the sinner. Free will, for all his talk of God’s grace, was the deciding factor in salvation. In loving free will, Wesley hated predestination calling it “blasphemy.” He declared, “It represents the most holy God as worse than the Devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust” (p. 78).”

      1. …showing that Arminians can be just as harsh and hateful about doctrines they refuse to understand as Calvinists. lol

  7. I am working on a project that requires a great deal of research. I have come across this letter in many sources, but as yet I can’t find it in any collection of Wesley’s works. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just not in any of the works I’ve gone through yet. My biggest objection is to the idea that John Wesley did this as a career move. One thing a lot of my sources agree on was that he was not a man interested in money. He discovered he could live off 28 pounds a year, and so he did. He gave away his extra whenever he could. His income reached upwards of 1200 pounds a year, but he still gave it away, leaving himself with seldom more than the 28 pounds a year. This was so unusual that he was even investigated by the powers that be in 1776. He was hardly interested in career, and given this letter, I think he entered a state of very human doubt. Does this mean he was any less of a Christian? I highly doubt it.

  8. i think we are discussing things about a guy who is dead that are way too high for us saved and shiny the man alone. one of us will see him on whatever invisible climate that will be.

  9. Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

  10. In the Church Age, the measure of a Christian is doctrine, not a moral life. Satan and his ministers are diligent at appearing as ministers of righteousness, but betray themselves by what they say about The Lord Jesus Christ, His words, and His work. When Moses asked The Lord to show him His glory, what was His answer? Exodus 33:19. Grace, and Wesley hated it!

  11. What does Isaiah say in 6:1-8 when he encounters a Holy Holy Holy God? How about Job’s response at the end of the book? How about John’s response in Rev 1:9-20? Have we had and do we live in such a mind set day to day? Do we acknowledge the on going process of Romans 12:3? What battles do we encounter that hopefully end in our broken pride and the transformation of our will to that of Philippians 2:3-8? Are not our comments revelations about the condition of our own individual hearts and the need to experience and live Proverbs 9:10? May our intellectualizing be filled with humility toward God and empathy for man.

  12. Wesley flat out lied about Augustus Toplady,a reformed preacher.Wesley knew he was very sick and probably would not recover,so he put a piece in the paper claiming Toplady renounced his reformed belief.Toplady fooled him though and got better just long enough to call him out on his lies from the pulpit.John Westley hated the Gospel of God’s sovereign grace and it looks like God terrified him in the end for preaching against the truth.

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