Appeals to Men of Reason and Religion

Although he ignored the more scurrilous attacks in print, John Wesley sometimes felt impelled to defend himself and the Methodist movement against those known, or suspected, to come from eminent critics. The two Appeals published in 1743-45 were essential documents for the defence to which he sometimes referred in later controversies. The Earnest Appeal of 1743 was shorter and more cogent than its sequel and went through ten editions in his lifetime. The Farther Appeal, written at the urging of the 1744 Conference, was in three parts and, though more prolix, reveals him as the eighteenth century academic employing his skills as a logician. He was concerned to deal with false charges regarding the teaching and practice of the Methodists, in response particularly to two recent attacks, The Notions of the Methodists fully disprov'd (Newcastle, 1743) and Bishop Gibson's Observations upon the Conduct of a Certain Sect (1744). His defence involved showing the compatibility of his teaching with the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-nine Articles and the Homilies and justifying the 'irregularities' in his conduct. He was particularly at pains to counter accusations of enthusiasm, i.e. claims to extraordinary inspiration by the Holy Spirit. In Part II he counter-attacked by declaring the nation to be in a state of apostasy and calling for it to return to Christianity; and in Part III he describes Methodism's response to that situation and its effect in changed lives.

  • Albert C. Outler (ed.), John Wesley(Oxford, 1964), pp.384-424
  • Gerald R. Cragg (ed.), The Appeals to Men of Reason and Religion and Certain Related Open Letters(Works of John Wesley, Bicentennial Edition, vol. 11,Oxford, ) pp.37-325

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Publication
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