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The Life and Legacy of John Wesley Research Paper


John Wesley is a renowned historical figure. His contribution to the revival of Christian churches in remarkable. Although part of his life was spent doing charitable and pious activities zealously, his zeal was not based on knowledge. He still had an emptiness that needed to be filled by the true joy which comes after putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

Wesley’s early life was characterized by fear but this changed after his conversion. He became supernaturally bold such that even violence would not deter him from preaching the word. His legacy as an epitome of a true minister of the gospel lives on.


Many historical figures are remembered for their contribution in church history. John Wesley is one of the people whose contribution in the formation of evangelical churches is remarkable. His passion for preaching, coupled with his courage enabled him to preach the gospel fearlessly amidst much persecution.

This paper shall explore the life and legacy of John Wesley. The lessons that can be learnt from his life shall also be outlined.

Thesis statement

There have been many great leaders in the history of mankind in general and in the Christian history in particular. John Wesley is one of such leaders, who have had a significant impact on the church. Wesley was not like any other minister of the gospel but he was a courageous and spirit-filled minister of the gospel who preached under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, impacting millions of people.

This paper explores the life of john Wesley, from the time he was still unconverted to the time he became a Christian. His journey in Christianity as a minister of the gospel is discussed.

Early Years

John Wesley was born in 1703, in Epworth. His parents were Samuel and Susan Wesley. His was a large family of nineteen children and he was the fifteenth child. His father had grown up in a religious family and worked as a priest in their village.

Both the grandfather and great grandfather of Wesley were religious men and suffered a lot because of their faith. They were constantly rejected while their fellow brethren faced a lot of persecution. Wesley’s background was therefore one that nurtured him to be a disciplined and God fearing person.

When he was 27 years, Wesley joined up with his brother called Charles to form a group comprised of students. The group was supposed to be a source of encouragement to one another in matters of growth towards holiness.

They were involved in charitable works such as visiting those in prison and helping the poor in the society. To aid in their mission of growth towards holiness, the group met regularly for prayer and reading of the bible. The group was ridiculed by the rest of the students who even gave them the nickname ‘holy club’.

Although Wesley was engaged in such pious activities and which seemed to have a show of spirituality, he remained unconverted4. He continued with his good works, trying to win the approval of God through them but deep inside, he knew that this would not help him.

He was zealous in what he was doing but the zeal was based on ignorance. Deep in his heart, he went through extensive periods of guilt and felt very inadequate in what he was doing. He also suffered a lot because of the fear of death that he had.

Wesley’s Conversion

When he was 32 years old, he accompanied his brother on a trip to Georgia, USA. The trip was meant for evangelism, with the Indians being the main target. They traveled by ship. The sail was however not a smooth one because they were hit by a storm along the way. The storm was very fierce such that parts of their ship were destroyed. Wesley was so scared and thought that his life was going to end there.

Compared to the rest of the Moravian missionaries, Wesley was the only one who lacked the peace of God. The rest were calm and he wondered how they could remain so peaceful in the middle of such a storm. Wesley has not been born again like the rest and therefore did not have the supernatural peace that one gets after being converted. He immediately knew that he needed what these missionaries had.

However, he did not accept to be converted immediately. He continued with his missionary trips to India for two years, which bore no fruits. This is when Wesley realized that he too needed to be converted just like the Indians he was evangelizing to.

At the age of 35, Wesley attended a meeting in London which impacted on his life greatly. By that time, he had been serving as an Anglican priest. The message that transformed his life was read by Luther, who explained about the resultant change that happens when a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ.

His life was immediately transformed when he realized that Jesus Christ had forgiven him his sins and saved him from the consequences of it.

As he left the meeting, Wesley felt that his life was changed and he was a new man. He discovered that a person who has been in self-justification for long had a greater joy once they were freed from this bondage and experienced the surpassing joy of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior.

From this time henceforth, Wesley’s sermons were made under the power of the Holy Spirit and his ministry was completely transformed. An example of such a sermon is the Bristol sermon which transformed the path followed by the English history4.

Wesley’s Legacy

John Wesley had numerous distinguishing qualities. His passion for preaching is one of them. He believed that this ought to be the priority of any servant of God. An example of how passionate he was about preaching was when he ministered in Bristol in 1739. According to Green, Wesley gave three sermons, the first to a congregation of around 1000 people in one day1.

He preached the second sermon to around 1500 people and the last one to over 5000 people. The same was duplicated two days later when he went to Bath. All the sermons were delivered without microphones but the only tool he used was his voice.

Another thing that is worth noting about Wesley is the presence of God’s power whenever he ministered2. Although he considered himself an average preacher, the move of the Holy Spirit was always evident in his preaching sessions.

Wesley would say that it was not uncommon for people present in his meeting to weep uncontrollably and even be unable to stand on their feet, as they called upon God. Wesley further says that this phenomenon had nothing to do with him because he had no ability or power to make people react in such a way but he attributed all that to God’s supernatural power.

Wesley is also noted because of his extraordinary courage. He was known not to fear any man. He attributed his courage to God’s anointing upon his life. Despite the numerous persecutions and hardships he faced while trying to reach out to the people using the word of God, Wesley never gave.

He got so used to being jeered, stoned and even to dirt being thrown at him whenever he went to preach, to an extent that it never bothered him anymore. In some places, the attacks were so fierce such that bulls and horsemen rode through the crowds as Wesley preached.

Gangs also organized themselves and used clubs and other assorted weapons to attack Wesley and his people but this never deterred them from moving on3. This kind of courage can be contrasted with his fear he exhibited during the storm before conversion.

Wesley’s courage is something that he acquired immediately after his conversion. This can be explained by an incident that happened when he returned to his home town after conversion but was denied the permission to preach because of his zeal. This did not deter him because he used the grave of his father, which was built next to the church, as a platform to preach to people.

Wesley was a staunch Anglican. He shied away from the idea of starting a new church. This impaired his ministry because the structure of the Anglican Church did not accommodate his anointing. After his death, there was a breaking away of his members to form another church that would accommodate their way of ministry.

Wesley, together with his brother Charles, composed several hymns dealing with the perfection of Christians and the amazing grace of Jesus once one has been saved. Hymn singing in churches was largely advocated for by Wesley and his brother Charles.

Lessons from Wesley’s Life

The importance of bringing up children in a godly way can be learnt through Wesley’s upbringing. Nurturing one’s children in a pious way could mean nurturing great leader who is going to impact on the world is a mighty way, like Wesley did.

Another lesson is that God can choose to keep a person in periods of unbelief temporarily in order to reveal to them the greater joy of believing in Jesus Christ once they are converted. After his conversion, Wesley saw that self justification led to misery and only justification through faith in Jesus Christ resulted into lasting joy.

The life of Wesley also teaches Christians about the importance and benefits of preaching the word of God under the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit3. From Wesley’s ministry, one can learn the fruitfulness of doing this.

His life can also be a lesson that God can still use the unmarried to spread his word. Wesley remained single until he was 47 years, when he married. However, his marriage did not last for long because he was unable to dedicate his life to building up his marriage. This led to a separation.


John Wesley can be described as a hero of the Christian faith. Although it took him a long time to be converted, the duration he remained in ministry before his death had a significant impact in England specifically, and in the world as a whole.

Wesley is notable for his enthusiasm in preaching the word of God, preaching under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and also for his unfailing courage. This courage was acquired after his conversion because prior to this, he was a cowardly man. He is a perfect model of a faithful minister of the gospel and his legacy lives on, years after his death.

Reference List

Green, Michael. 1970. Evangelism in the Early Church. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Piper, John. 1990. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Richard, Hannula. 1999. Trial and Triumph. Nashville: Cannon Press.

Stewart, James. 1946. Preaching. London: English University Press Ltd.


  1. Stewart, James. 1946. Preaching. London: English University Press Ltd.
  2. Green, Michael. 1970. Evangelism in the Early Church. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  3. Stewart, James. 1946. Preaching. London: English University Press Ltd.
  4. Piper, John. 1990. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  5. Richard, Hannula. 1999. Trial and Triumph. Nashville: Cannon Press.
  6. Richard, Hannula. 1999. Trial and Triumph. Nashville: Cannon Press.

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Twister, Texas. "The Life and Legacy of John Wesley." IvyPanda, 15 May 2019,

1. Texas Twister. "The Life and Legacy of John Wesley." IvyPanda (blog), May 15, 2019.


Twister, Texas. "The Life and Legacy of John Wesley." IvyPanda (blog), May 15, 2019.


Twister, Texas. 2019. "The Life and Legacy of John Wesley." IvyPanda (blog), May 15, 2019.


Twister, T. (2019) 'The Life and Legacy of John Wesley'. IvyPanda, 15 May.

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