Wesley to Wilberforce

John Wesley

John Wesley (1703 – 1791), English evangelist and founder of Methodism. Original Publication: People Disc – HM0492 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I love church history. I love to read it, study it, teach, speak it, meditate on it and share it. One of my favorite documents from church history is the following letter from John Wesley six days before he died written to William Wilberforce who would be the instrument in the hand of God in the abolition of the African slave trade. Wilberforce’s connection with John Newton, former slave trader turned pastor who authored Amazing Grace is well-known and celebrated. This letter from Wesley is not so much. Wesley’s allusion to Athanasius I also find awesome because herein are two eras of church history (The Great Awakening to 5-william-wilberforce-grangerAbolition) referencing the early days of the fight for Orthodoxy. Crossing the lines from Methodism to Anglicanism, Arminianism to Calvinism, and black to white is this beautiful short letter reminding us that only God can do what God has set out to do. Lord, for more Newtons, Wesleys, and Wilberforces in this day when we need revival and reformation in the church and society!

24 February, 1791 Balam. England

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as “Athanasius against the world,” I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a LAW in all of our Colonies that the OATH of a black man against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!

That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesleyletter


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