The Wesleys: Recommended Resources

ANY LIST OF RESOURCES on the Wesley brothers is necessarily incomplete, because so much has been—and continues to be—written about them. A simple card-catalog search on the title “John Wesley” turns up books by Albert Outler, Vivian H.H. Green, John Pollock, and other experts from both sides of the Atlantic. Resources on Charles are less plentiful but by no means scarce.

Rather than attemping an exhaustive guide, the following list highlights several reliable texts, giving special emphasis to authors found in this issue.

Life stories

Among the many biographies of John, Henry D. Rack’s Reasonable Enthusiast (reprint, Epworth, 1989) stands out as a classic. It’s not an easy book to find, but it provides a wealth of insights.

Another rare find, Elsie G. Harrison’s Son to Susanna (R. West, 1937) offers a psychologically informed take on John’s personality. Her ideas are not universally persuasive, but her perspective is unique and valuable.

Richard P. Heitzenrater, author of the lead article for this issue (“A Tale of Two Brothers”), contributes Wesley and the People Called Methodists Abingdon, 1994) and The Elusive Mr. Wesley(Abingdon, 1984) to this category. Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., who wrote the article “Start the Presses,” also wrote John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Mind (Abingdon, 1996).

Charles Wesley has received much less biographical attention than his brother, but several books will at least introduce you to his character. These include A Heart Set Free by Charles Dallimore (Crossway, 1988), Charles Wesley, Poet and Theologian by S. T. Kimbrough (Abingdon, 1991), and Charles Wesley: Man with the Dancing Heart by T. Crichton Mitchell (Beacon Hill, 1994).

Researching other aspects of the brothers’ lives opens the door to a wide range of books. In preparing this issue, we found Arnold A. Dallimore’s biography Susanna Wesley (Baker, 1993), Jan Morris’s The Oxford Book of Oxford (Oxford, 1978), and The History of the University of Oxford (edited by L.S. Sutherland and L.G. Mitchell; Oxford, 1986) very useful.

Words, words, words

Both John and Charles were prolific writers, and study of their writing has been similarly prolific.

Richard Heitzenrater has edited some ambitious collections, including a CD-ROM with Sermons and Hymns of John Wesley (Abingdon, 1999) and, with Albert Outler, John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology(Abingdon, 1991). He has also done extensive work on the 34-volume Works of John Wesley, published by Abingdon.

Randy L. Maddox, who wrote “Be Ye Perfect?” has focused his work on Wesley’s theology. His books include Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology(Abingdon, 1994) and Aldersgate Reconsidered(Abingdon, 1990). As an editor, with Theodore Runyon and Rex Matthews, he compiled Rethinking Wesley’s Theology for Contemporary Methodists(Abingdon, 1998).

S. T. Kimbrough’s writing centers on Charles’s theological and literary contributions. His books include A Heart to Praise My God (Abingdon, 1996) and The Unpublished Poetry of Charles Wesley (Abingdon, 1988).

For a quick read of the juiciest bits from John’s personal writing, we recommend The Journal of John Wesley, abridged by Christopher Idle (Lion, 1986). Betty Jarboe contributes Wesley Quotations (Scarecrow, 1990). John and Charles Wesley: Selected Writings and Hymns, from the Classics of Western Spirituality series (Paulist Press, 1981), is also a handy reference.

As helpful as books are, the fastest way to access a broad selection of both Wesleys’ writing is the Web. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org) and the Wesley Center for Applied Theology site (http://wesley.nnu.edu) are excellent.

For an extensive list of Wesley resources, see www.churchresources.org/theology/
bibliography.htm
. For links and free historical images, see http://gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #69 in 2001]

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