Hell was in classical Christian theology the eternal state after death of the finally impenitent and unbelieving. The traditional teaching was strongly upheld by John and Charles Wesley and most of the early Methodists. It is arguable, however, that the Wesleys stressed it less than many contemporary evangelicals, if only because their Arminian theology was focused on God's universal love rather than on his judgment. In the 1870s the doctrine, though never discarded, gradually dropped out of normal Methodist preaching. Conservative WMs in particular continued to insist on it, their depth of feeling being shown in the works of Marshall Randles and in attacks on G.W. Olver's Fernley Lecture (1878) and on J. Agar Beet's The Last Things (1897), which suggested that the punishment of the damned would not last for ever. In modern Methodism the subject is not often raised, but, when it is, hell is most often interpreted in terms of alienation from God.

  • William Strawson, 'Wesley's Doctrine of the Last Things', in London Quarterly & Holborn Review, July 1959, pp.241-8
  • David Dunn-Wilson, 'The importance of Hell for John Wesley', in WHS Proceedings 34 (1963), pp.12-16
  • Robert Currie, Methodism Divided: A Study in thw Sociology of Ecumenicalism (1968) pp.117-20
  • Herbert McGonigle, 'John Wesley's Eschatology', in Philip R. Meadows (ed.), Windows on Wesley: Wesleyan Theology in Today's World (Oxford, 1997) pp.153-75