A 250,000 journey
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Date: June, 2003


Photo: Lion Publishing
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'At every turn you encounter the controversy surrounding this remarkable man who at a conservative estimate rode 250,000 miles on horseback, gave away £30,000 (which would have kept a gentleman for a decade) and preached more than 40,000 sermons.'

John Wesley: A Biography
Stephen Tomkins
Lion Publishing, £7.99

Reviewer: Linda Edwards

This book baptises you by immersion into the fascinating life and times of John Wesley. With a writer's skill and the detailed reflection of a scholarly mind, Stephen Tomkins steers the reader through the theologies, ideologies, passions, heresies and Christian spiritualities of the eighteenth century which surrounded Wesley's ministry.

In these pages, Wesley comes to life in the most vivid way, all the key aspects are covered, his love for his mother and hymn-writer brother Charles, his puritanical streak, the Holy Club days at Oxford, his disastrous endeavours with women, the mission to Georgia and the fire of his zeal for mission in Britain. But this is, in every sense, a biographical work, for we are guided skilfully into knowing something of the thoughts, emotions and aspirations, and also the complex and compelling faith of John Wesley. Tomkins writes:

'He combined a Catholic devotion to the sacraments of the Church with a Pentecostal welcoming of healings, ecstasies and Low Church spontaneity. He had an evangelical horror of trying to satisfy God by good works, but an even greater horror of trying to satisfy God without good works. He was a founding father of evangelicalism, but for his last 20 years, he consistently retreated from its stark certainties.'

Wesley's life spanned the century he lived in (1703-91) and like those times, he too evolved.

The biography is written in accessible style and includes very telling quotations from letters, journals and other literary material of the day. At every turn you encounter the controversy surrounding this remarkable man who at a conservative estimate rode 250,000 miles on horseback, gave away £30,000 (which would have kept a gentleman for a decade) and preached more than 40,000 sermons.

Tomkins has not ignored Wesley's darker side - for example, his puritanical leanings and his narrow-minded dismissal of non-evangelicals - neither has be downsized the Wesleyan influence which brought spiritual life to thousands of ordinary people: 'balm in a cruel century'.

From the above, the reader will be in no doubt that I have no hesitation in recommending the book - a great read!