In the summer of 1746 John Wesley interrupted his itinerant schedule for several weeks to prepare a volume of sermons for publication. It was designed to 'exhibit the substance of what I have been preaching for between eight and nine years last past' and he hoped it would reveal in the clearest manner 'what those doctrines are which I embrace and teach as the essentials of true religion'. A second set followed in 1748 and a third in 1750, making 36 sermons in all. A fourth volume was added in 1760, bringing the total to 43 and a 44th sermon was inserted in the 2nd edition of volume 3 (1762): hence 'Wesley's Forty-four Sermons'. In the *'Large Minutes' of 1763 these four volumes were cited in the model deed as defining the content of Methodist preaching. (See Doctrinal standards.)
In 1770 Wesley began to publish a collected edition of his Works. Volumes 1-4 were the 44 sermons plus a further nine, totalling 53. In 1785 he published a new and final collection in 8 volumes, totalling a hundred sermons. In this edition he discarded 8 of the 9 additional sermons from the 1770 edition. He himself understood this corpus of sermons as definitive of his role as preacher, teacher, evangelist and pastor. The successive volumes reflect his thoughts as they unfolded over the years.