Wesleyscholar provides early primary source materials to facilitate historical research on the Wesleys and early Methodism. This page offers writings from important Methodist leaders of the 18th century. The year posted represents the year of publication. New materials are being added on a regular basis. To receive periodic updates on upcoming articles and new materials added to the site, sign up for the wesleyscholar newsletter.
The New Room, Bristol website. The oldest Methodist preaching house.
Methodist Conversion Accounts
In 1739 Charles Wesley began to collect written testimonies of those converted under his ministry. These narratives are part of a larger collection known as the Early Methodist Volume, which is housed at John Rylands Library in Manchester, UK. The collection of testimonies here attached were transcribed by Tom Albin.
Early Methodist Conversion Accounts
Joseph Benson 1749-1821
Benson was an influential Methodist leader, preacher, and author in the last and first quarters of the 18th and 19th centuries. He served as President of the Methodist Conference in 1798 and 1810, and editor of the Methodist Magazine. He published numerous writings including a commentary on the Bible. Given the task of publishing John Fletcher’s response to the Unitarian Joseph Priestley, Benson was one of the first early Methodists to publish an extended work on the Trinity and Christology.
Sermons on Sanctification 1782
Sermons on Second Coming 1787
Sermons on Gospel of Christ 1787
Sermon on Death of Wesley 1791
Sermons on Genuine Christianity 1802
Sermon for Opening Methodist Chapel 1812
Sermons Various Subjects 1814
Sermon Plans vol 1 1824
Sermon on Confirmation 1835
Bible Commentary OT vol 1 Gen-Num 1825
Bible Commentary OT vol 1 Deut-2 Sam 1825
Bible Commentary OT vol 2 1 Kings-Job 34 1846
Bible Commentary OT vol 2 Job 35-Prov 1846
Bible Commentary OT vol 3 Eccl-Jer 1846
Bible Commentary OT vol 3 Ezek-Mal 1846
Bible Commentary NT vol 1 Matt-LK 1846
Bible Commentary NT vol 1 John-Acts 1846
Bible Commentary NT vol 2 Rom-1 Thess 1847
Bible Commentary NT vol 2 2 Thess-Rev 1847
Early Methodist Trinitarian Theology & Christology
In late 1782, Unitarian minister and famous scientist Joseph Priestley – discoverer of oxygen and other gases – published a broadside against the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Christ’s deity. The work was titled History of the Corruptions of Christianity and immediately gained widespread attention. In it Priestley argued that Christianity was originally a Jewish-Unitarian movement and the doctrine of Christ’s deity was a later innovation. Priestley championed the idea that Jesus Christ was a “mere man.” His work was critically assessed by Anglican Bishop Samuel Horsley in the summer of 1783. The debate between the two men went on for several years and after their deaths supporters claimed victory for both side. In 1783 John Fletcher decided to write a full response to Priestley but unexpectedly died on August 15, 1785, before the work was finished. With the support of John Wesley, the papers were turned over by Mrs. Fletcher to Joseph Benson to complete and prepare for publication. The finished work is in three parts, with Benson and Fletcher authoring different chapters of the first part (Vindication of the Catholic Faith, pub. 1788, 1790), and authoring the next two parts separately (Fletcher, Socinianism Unscriptural; and Benson, Demonstration of the Want of Common Sense, pub. 1791). These writings are important to the study of Christology and Trinitarian theology in early Methodism. The three works are found in volume three of Fletcher’s Works. Here they are presented in the format of a separate tract:
Benson & Fletcher Vindication Catholic Faith & Christ’s Divinity 1788, 1790, 1791
Priestley History of Corruptions of Christianity vol 1 1782
Priestley History of Corruptions of Christianity vol 2 2nd ed 1783
Priestley Letters Controversy with Horsley 1815
Horsley Response to Priestley 1786
Horsley Tracts Against Priestley 1821
John William Fletcher 1729-1785
Fletcher was an Anglican priest and was selected by John Wesley to lead Methodism upon his death. Educated at the University of Geneva, Fletcher became a prominent Methodist apologist and theologian during the Minutes Controversy with Calvinists in the 1770s. His Five Checks to Antinomianism are an important source on early Methodist soteriology and served as the primary response to Calvinists in the Minutes Controversy of the 1770s (for more information on the Minutes Controversy, see Reformed Source page). Fletcher was widely respected for his Christlike demeanor and character. He served as vicar of Madeley and was a fervent supporter of the the Evangelical Revival. He married Mary Bonsaquet in 1781.
First Check Vindication of JW’s Last Minutes 1771
Second Check Antinomianism 1774
Third Check Antinomianism 1772
Fourth Check Antinomianism 4th ed 1790
Fifth Check 2nd Part 1773
First Part Equal Check 3rd ed 1795
Last Check Antinomianism 1775
Fictitious & Genuine Creed 1775
Scripture Scales 1st Pt 1775
Scripture Scales 2nd Pt 1775
Click here for John Fletcher website.
Letters on Spiritual Manifestation of Christ 1768 reprint
Christian Perfection 1855
American Patriotism 1776
Vindication of Catholic Faith 1790
Posthumous Pieces 1791
Answer Mr Toplady 1797
Letters of J Fletcher 1849
Thomas Coke 1747-1814
Coke was educated at Oxford and earned his doctorate in 1775. Like the Wesleys, he was an ordained minister in the Church of England. Coke soon joined the Methodist ranks and became its first bishop in 1784. He served as Wesley’s assistant in the 1780s and was instrumental in the formation of the Deed of Declaration, which made the Methodist Conference (Legal 100) as the authoritative body in Methodism. Coke is also recognized as the father of Methodist missions with his work in the West Indies. A capable preacher, his sermon on the deity of Christ was widely circulated given the rise of Unitarianism in the last quarter of the 18th century.
Sermon Upon Education 1774
Sermon Godhead of Christ 1785
Sermon Death of Wesley 1791
Sermon Funeral Rogers 1795
NT Commentary Introduction & Matthew 1803
NT Commentary Mark & Luke 1803
NT Commentary John 1803
NT Commentary Acts 1803
NT Commentary Romans – 2 Corinthians 1803
NT Commentary Galatians – Hebrews 1803
NT Commentary James – Revelation & Appendix 1803
Francis Asbury 1745-1816
Asbury is a household name in American Methodism. As one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Asbury came to American in the early 1770s and spent the next four decades traveling on horseback and by carriage proclaiming the gospel to those living on the frontier and guiding the young denomination in its formative years.
Asbury Journal vol 1 1821
Asbury Journal vol 2 1821
Asbury Journal vol 3 1821
Samuel Bradburn 1751-1816
Bradburn was a Methodist preacher and remembered as a very gifted speaker. It was said that he was able to sway and fascinate vast masses of the people with his oratory. He was an associate of John Wesley and a follower of John Fletcher. He served as President of the Methodist Conference in 1799.
Bradburn Memoirs 1816
Bradburn Letter to Methodists on Slavery 4th ed 1792
Letter to Bradburn 1796
The Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers
John Wesley included short autobiographies and conversion narratives of his Methodist preachers in the Arminian Magazine, which he began to publish in 1788. Thomas Jackson later took these bios and published them as a set. These testimonies offer insights into the religious milieu early Methodism.
Lives of Early Methodist Preachers vol 2 1837
Lives of Early Methodist Preachers vol 3 1872
Lives of Early Methodist Preachers vol 4 1872
Lives of Early Methodist Preachers vol 5 1873
Lives of Early Methodist Preachers vol 6 1873
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