The tricentenary of the birth of Methodism's founder could bring no finer introduction to his life and work than Tomkins' synthetic biography. Drawing upon the best previous biographies, Wesley's letters and published journal, and the writings of Wesley's closest associates, Tomkins presents a keenly engaging portrait of a great man full of contradictoriness. Wesley (1703-91) insisted he was loyal to the Church of England yet consented to his followers setting up establishments and engaging in practices that flouted Anglican authority. Perhaps he just didn't see himself as a leader, in which case it is odd that Methodism was legally a sole proprietorship for most of his life; there were frequent general conferences, but Wesley held the purse strings and organizational reins. He was no hypocrite, especially about money; he allowed himself only the meagerest of livings, giving the rest of what became substantial earnings to evangelism and the poor, and preaching to the end against wealth. His steadfastness against riches stands in stark contrast, however, to his stance about marriage, which vacillated between affirming celibacy and approving conjugality. Of course, his relations with women and his late marriage were fraught with ambivalence and misunderstanding. For all of his Janus-like behavior, he altered the face of Christianity in the West by inspiring modern evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. A fascinating figure, fascinatingly limned. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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About the Author
STEPHEN TOMKINS has a PhD in Church History from London Bible College. He is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Ship of Fools website and Christian History Institute in the USA.