History of the Methodist Church

METHODIST BEGINNING IN ENGLAND

 

            Organized Methodism arose under the leadership of John Wesley. A clergyman of the Church of England, he did not intend to found a new denomination. He did not leave the Church of England. His spiritual struggles during the decade before his “heartwarming” experience of May 24, 1738, led into his great work for more than half a century to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.” His portrait is in the restored Wesley Room, Lincoln College, at Oxford University.

 

            Wesley was graduated from Christ Church College at Oxford University in 1726. In 1729 he returned to the University as a Fellow and Instructor in Lincoln College. Here, amidst the spiritual laxity of the University life, John with his brother Charles and a small group of serious-minded students banded themselves together in a Christian fellowship of prayer, worship, study and Christian service. This earned the them the derisive epithet of “Holy Club” or “Methodists”.

 

            THE Wesley brothers served as General Oglethorp’s chaplains in Georgia in the late 1730’s. After John’s return to England, his Aldersgate experience gave him the spiritual assurance he had been seeking and his preaching took on the dynamic of a vital new spiritual dimension. For his “enthusiasm” he was denied use of the Anglican pulpits in 1739. As a result, he turned to field-preaching and the organizing of those who responded into Classes and Societies for spiritual nurture.


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He gave constant oversight to the expanding, “movement” by using lay “helpers,” by his writings, by conferences, and by constant travel among the “Societies.” By the time of his death in 1791 his “movement” had spread through the British Isles and across English-speaking America. This tribute to Wesley’s influence in the English-speaking world is at Wesley’s first Chapel, still standing, at Bristol, England.

 

            A statue of Charles Wesley is in the yard of the Bristol Chapel. He was the gifted poet-hymnologist of Methodism. His singable religious poetry was a great influence in the rapid spread of the Wesleyan Gospel of free Grace.

 

            On May 9, 1739, just under a year after Aldersgate, John Wesley secured the deed to a plot of land in the Horse Fair, Bristol, for which he paid fifty pounds. Three days later, on May 12, he laid the foundation stone of what he always called “Our New Room.” This New Room is the first Methodist Chapel to be built and therefore the oldest in the world. Inside the New Room is the double pulpit arrangement. The lower one is the original one which Wesley used. The upper one was probably for the clerk who read the prayers.

 

Contributed by Trinity Church Member, Marty Rose, as given to Marty and her late husband, Cass, by a Past Pastor: The Rev. Charles Bruce

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