Tuttle: John Wesley, His Life and Theology

I just finished reading Robert Tuttle’s John Wesley, His Life and Theology. This is a 368-page book published in 1978 by Francis Asbury Press. The book is divided into four sections: The Early Years, His Early Ministry, Aldersgate and The Revival. Each section has five chapters and a section of analysis and bibliography. The book is unusual in that Tuttle writes in first person as Wesley. He traces Wesley’s changing understanding of his relationship with Jesus. In his youth, Wesley is influenced by his parents. Both are Anglicans who chose their own path after growing up in the homes of dissenting clergy. At Oxford, Wesley studies Kempis, Taylor and Law, mystics that point him towards holiness. Through his life lessons and efforts to train others in ministry, his beliefs change over time. Tuttle writes:

For the whole of his life, John Wesley remained a hairs-breadth outside of his movement. Wesley never received the abiding assurance of faith, apparently experienced by so many of those he loved and admired. He seemingly had doubts until the very end; but nonetheless, he persevered. Wesley never achieved the entire sanctification he preached to others. He wrote: I have told all the world I am not perfect…I have not attained the character I draw. Nonetheless, he held tenaciously to a doctrine that was the hallmark of Methodism.

Tuttle describes Wesley’s fear of death during his days at Charterhouse school and aboard the ship taking him to Georgia that left his feeling weak in faith. Tuttle writes:


Wesley could not bear witness to the kind of death he boasted among so many of those perfected in love. He wanted Methodists to die rejoicing, not just in peace. … He had strength only to proclaim: The best of all is, God is with us.

I found this a helpful way to transition from Wesley biography to theology.


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