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Mark Noll

Be Always Ready

The recently completed seven-volume critical edition of John Wesley's Journal and Diaries is a significant landmark in the publication of the Bicentennial Edition of Wesley's works and a fitting commemoration of Wesley's 300th birthday (June 17, 1703). Because of the care with which the edition has been prepared, and especially because of the brilliance of its notes, this set offers a great deal more than much- appreciated insight into the convictions, actions, frustrations, and aspirations of one of the key figures in the modern history of Christianity. So delightfully instructive is the reading found at the top on the page (what Wesley himself published) and at the bottom (what the editor supplies) that, before saying anything else, it is appropriate simply to dive in.

The wisdom, erudition, and bracing good humor with which all seven volumes are filled can be illustrated by the record of Wesley's doings in February and March, 1789—as, at age 85, he continued the incredibly energetic level of activity he had sustained for 60 years. So, we learn from Wesley that on Friday, February 6, he urged 20 or 30 of his local preachers in London to go on preaching "the doctrine of Christian Perfection which God has peculiarly entrusted to the Methodists." Over the next several weeks, he was out and about: preaching, writing, reading, encouraging local Methodist societies, and preaching some more. Then on Tuesday the 24th, before preaching in the evening on Ephesians 3, he enjoyed "an agreeable and useful conversation" with William Wilberforce. To Wesley, it was especially welcome that Britain's prime minister, William Pitt, was being so ably assisted by "such a friend as this." The next day, which Wesley had instructed his societies to spend in solemn prayer for King George III, was transformed into a day of rejoicing when word was received concerning "the recovery of His Majesty's health." And so at 5:00 and 9:00 in the morning, as well as at 1:00 in the afternoon and also in ...

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