John Wesley in the Reformation Tradition

The 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth has encouraged many Calvinists to learn more about where their roots lie. Sadly many Methodists seem to be ignorant of their theological roots, holding liberal beliefs that bear little resemblance to those of John and Charles Wesley. Roland Burrows grew up within a Methodist family and this book fulfils his ambition to show that Methodism was Protestant and Puritan; as Wesley said “it is the faith of the first Reformers which I by the grace of God preach”. Alan McNabb in his forward to the book says, “For those Methodists who have remained faithful to the faith of their forebears, this will help to strengthen their resolve”

The author begins with John Wesley’s belief in “free will” which differed from the popular Arminianism of the 18th century and did not conflict with his belief in salvation by grace alone. He quotes the sermon of June 1738 ‘Salvation by Faith’, where the words of Wesley “the very moment God giveth faith (for it is the gift of God) to the ungodly”, struck at the heart of the popular ‘gospel’. Referring to the Oxford Sermons the author says, “These…display not the slightest hint of any intention to correct Calvinist theology”. John Wesley declared that his beliefs were “within a hair’s breadth of Calvinism” and several chapters explore the Puritan influence on him and place the doctrinal controversy with George Whitefield within its historical context.

The book is thoroughly researched and concise in its arguments, which are easily followed. Along with its 18 chapters there are 7 appendices, a bibliography and end notes. It also includes the all-important ‘Luther’s preface to the Romans’ through which the Holy Spirit spoke when John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed” on May 24 1738.

As a local preacher of almost 50 years, I would recommend this book to all who are called to preach and all who wish to explore our evangelical tradition.

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