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John Wesley at age 48

Mission: The Works of Mercy

Most simply defined, "works of mercy" are "doing good." John Wesley believed that "means of grace," included both "works of piety" (instituted means of grace) and "works of mercy" (prudential means of grace). He preached that Christians must do both works of piety and works of mercy in order to move on toward Christian perfection.

Wesley taught that people must be Christians in both word and deed, which were to express the love of God. He believed that Christians must grow in God's grace, which first prepares us for belief, then accepts us when we respond to God in faith, and sustains us as we do good works and participate in God's mission. John Wesley not only preached about works of mercy, he "practiced" what he preached. He:

  • lived modestly and gave all he could to help people who were poor
  • visited people in prison and provided spiritual guidance, food, and clothing to them
  • spoke out against slavery and forbade it in Methodism
  • founded schools at the Foundery in London, Bristol, and Newcastle
  • published books, pamphlets, and magazines for the education and spiritual edification of people
  • taught and wrote about good health practices and even dispensed medicine from his chapels

Wesley believed that Christians could not have authentic personal holiness without social holiness.

For Further Study

Next: Christian Perfection: Works of Piety and Mercy

The top left drawing depicts the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791) at age 48. All of the black and white drawings have been scanned from public domain nineteenth century or early twentieth century Methodist history books. Please acknowledge this web site, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life if you reproduce these. A few graphics are available in high resolution format, suitable for print media.

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