Item description for Wesley and the Men Who Followed by Iain H. Murray...
Overview Murray presents a thrilling biography of John Wesley, chronicling Wesley's life and thought as well as detailing the story of those who carried on his legacy. Although Wesley never found a dynamic leader to guide the movement after his death, Murray traces the later Methodist history, following such leaders as William Bramwell, Gideon Ouseley, and Thomas Collins. The study concludes with studies into Wesley's understanding of justification and Christian perfection, and Methodism's understanding of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. A fascinating study combining both history and biography.
Publishers Description John Wesley - Oxford don and itinerant preacher, intellectual and evangelist, author and man of action, upholder of the Church of England yet founder of another world-wide denomination, disagreeing with George Whitefield, yet preaching his funeral sermon - truly a many-sided man. It is no wonder that he has had many biographers. Most books on Wesley have concentrated on his leading role in the Evangelical Revival. Wesley and Men Who Followed is more concerned with the spiritual explanation of a movement which, far from dwindling at his death, increased in momentum, breadth and transforming power. Drawing from original and often little-known Methodist sources, Iain Murray's thrilling study leads to conclusions that are of great relevance for the contemporary church. 'Was John Wesley deceived? Have our hymn-writers been deceived in their immortal songs? Was Saul of Tarsus deceived? Have we all been deceived?' So wrote one unhappy modern Methodist. The evidence Iain Murray provides demonstrates that this was not the case. The result is that Wesley and Men Who Followed points to the key to the recovery of authentic Christianity today.
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Studio: Banner of Truth
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.8" Width: 5.6" Height: 1.1" Weight: 1.11 lbs.
Release Date Dec 15, 2005
Publisher Banner of Truth
ISBN 0851518354 ISBN13 9780851518350
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More About Iain H. Murray
Murray, born in Lancashire, England, was educated in the Isle of Man and at the University of Durham and entered the Christian ministry in 1955. He served as assistant to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminister Chapel (1956-59) and subsequently at Grove Chapel, London (1961-69) and St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Sydney (1984-84), Although remaining a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, he is founding trustee for Banner of Truth Trust.
Iain H. Murray currently resides in Edinburgh. Iain H. Murray was born in 1931.
Iain H. Murray has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Wesley and the Men Who Followed?
Enjoyable and Informative, even for Calvinists Jan 14, 2008
John Wesley's legacy stands today through the large selection of hymns, writings, sermons and even the continuation of Methodism, the sect of Christian pietists that originated with Wesley. However, whenever I drive by a Methodist church I have often wondered what Wesley was really like and what happened.
This is why I was excited to find out that Banner of Truth put out a biography of Wesley by Iain Murray. I was curious to open this book and see how a Reformed guy like Murray would portray the life of a noted Arminian like John Wesley. I was impressed with Murray's attention to the facts and seemingly balanced interaction with Wesly's life.
Wesley was indeed no friend of Calvinism. In fact he said of the Reformed theology, "Calvinism is the enemy." And even further, that Calvinism was "thrown our way by Satan." Murray helpfully points out that it was John's mother, Susanna, who really helped forge his theological views. It was Susanna who repeatedly corresponded with her son articulating her resistance to the doctrines of grace.
Wesley took to the open fields as a response to the dissatisfaction of the church of England. He had traveled to America as a missionary to the Indians. It was during this trip that Wesley believed that he was converted. This season in 1738 is repeatedly referred to by Wesley as his conversion time.
During his younger years George Whitfield spent a considerable time with Wesley. Their relationship was extremely close and this was exemplified by the care with which they corresponded by letter. Their differences lied primarily in the doctrines of grace, and each of them, Whitfield and Wesley became somewhat of a public spokesman for their respective views. The differences between Wesley and Whitfield (and others such as Augustus Toplady) are extremely interesting to read.
Murray also provides a detailed chapter on Wesley's views on Justification, Sanctification, and the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture.
At the end of the day you have to acknowledge Wesley's seemingly good motives to promote the gospel to the ends of the earth. However, it is instructive to note that the movement was not built primarily on sound biblical interpretation and application but rather leaned heavily on subjectivity. I recommend reading this book to see the necessity to contend for clarity with the gospel and to ensure that we are grounded in and on the unchanging Word of God.
Typically first-rate Murray Aug 23, 2007
Iain Murray is one of the best Christian historians and writers being published today. He's also a died-in-the-wool Calvinist, so his praise of Wesley is that much more impressive. This book offers an inspiring portrait of the zealous faith of Wesleyan pioneers. (As for the reviewer here who suggests Murray betrays Reformed theology, anyone familiar with the work of the Banner of Truth Trust will know such a contention deserves a raspberry.)
Very good Jun 30, 2007
Iain H. Murray, a prolific author and excellent historian who has given us substantial biographies on four great Evangelical Calvinists - Jonathan Edwards (Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography), D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The First Forty Years and The Fight of Faith), Arthur W. Pink (The Life of Arthur W. Pink), and John Murray (The Life of John Murray), as well as two books on the theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (The Forgotten Spurgeon and Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism), three books on revival (The Puritan Hope, Revival and Revivalism, and Pentecost Today?), and two on Christian history (Australian Christian Life from 1788: An Introduction & An Anthology and Evangelicalism Divided) - now turns his hand towards the great Evangelical Arminian and founder of what eventually became the Methodist church, John Wesley. As with his earlier writings, this book is not mere historiography. It is a critical, yet kind, reflection on the life and labors, piety and theology, of the man who, along with George Whitefield, was the primary human instrument used of God in the Evangelical Great Awakening of the eighteenth century.
Murray's book is divided into four parts. Part one addresses Wesley himself in five chapters which cover the main movements of his life and the primary features of his thought and ministry. Chapter one, "From Oxford Don to Open-Air Preacher," chronicles the story of Wesley's conversion and explores the various influences upon Wesley's religious thought. Murray tracks Wesley's spiritual journey from his birth in 1703 to his ordination as a deacon in the Church of England in 1725, then his unfruitful missionary labors among the Indians in North America in 1735, on to the decisive Aldersgate experience in 1738 where Wesley heard someone read Luther's Preface to the Epistle of Romans and felt his heart "strangely warmed" and came to "trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation" (8). "From this point," writes Murray, "Wesley was a changed man" (9) - and the change evidenced itself in Wesley's preaching, prayer and praise (9-12). Murray then explores the various religious influences in Wesley's life, including the Puritan heritage of his family, Bishop Jeremy Taylor (one of Wesley's favorite authors), the writings of mystics such as William Law and Thomas a'Kempis, and finally the Moravians, "devout emigrants and missionaries from the evangelical settlements led by Count Zinzendorf and others in Germany" (19), whose witness in route to Savannah, Georgia was so instrumental in leading Wesley to evangelical faith. This first chapter ends by focusing on the consequences, both in his family and his ministry, which followed the great change in Wesley's life.
Chapter two, "Kingdoms on a Blaze," gives attention to Wesley's role in the revival and spiritual awakening of the 1740s. Murray recounts how Wesley preached to vast numbers of people (an estimated fifty thousand in one open-air meeting in London!), how the "constant theme" of his preaching was salvation by grace through faith, and how John Nelson came to faith under his preaching, eventually becoming one of Wesley's first assistants. Murray appropriately reminds us that the real impetus behind the awakening was the power of the Holy Spirit. He includes a quotation from Wesley which I found surprising and encouraging:
"Supposing a man be now void of faith and hope and love, he cannot effect any degree of them in himself by any possible exertion of his understanding, and of any or all of his other natural faculties, though he should enjoy them to the utmost perfection. A distinct power from God, not implied in any of these, is indispensably necessary before it is possible he should arrive at the very least degree of Christian faith, or hope, or love. In order to his having any of these (which on this very consideration I suppose St Paul terms 'the fruits of the Spirit') he must be created anew, throughly and inwardly changed by the operation of the Spirit of God, by a power equivalent to that which raises the dead, and which calls things which are not as though they were" (33).
But the revival was accompanied by trouble - in relationships with both the Moravians and George Whitefield, and among the societies Wesley established, each of which Murray also discusses.
The next chapter attempts to help us in "Understanding Wesley's Thought." Several things come into play in this chapter, including Wesley's impatience with theoretical, as opposed to practical, Christianity, his views on baptism and prevenient grace, his tendencies towards asceticism (seen not least in his negative attitude towards marriage), his unique teaching on "Christian perfection" or "entire sanctification," and his views on conversion and assurance. Murray's primary criticism is that Wesley allowed his experience (and the experiences of others) to shape his theology, a fact which is adduced by charting the changes in Wesley's theology over the years and probable reasons for those changes. A prime example of this is Wesley's own re-evaluation of the Aldersgate experience, which he eventually came to view not as his conversion, but as the receiving of assurance of his pardon.
"The Collision with Calvinism" is the focus of the fourth chapter, where the tensions between Wesley and George Whitefield are discussed. "The reason for the breach with Whitefield is essential to any understanding of John Wesley" (56). The division happened in 1740-41, and "thereafter the two men were seldom able to work long together" (56). Differing personalities surely played a part in the conflict, but their different theologies lay at the root. "What has to be recognized is that from the outset the two men meant different things by `Calvinism.' For Whitefield - if he used the word at all - it meant the evangelical theology of the Reformation; for Wesley it meant the imposition on Christianity of a form of belief that had brought decadence on the churches" (56-57). Wesley, who followed the theology of his mother, associated Whitefield with the hyper-calvinism which characterized many dissenting churches. Yet even if Wesley misunderstood Whitefield, the difference between them was real. Wesley truly thought that "predestinarian" belief was a threat to true evangelical Christianity. He also though that antinomianism was "a direct consequence of Calvinistic belief" (65). Interestingly, many of the early Methodists followed the theology of Whitefield rather than Wesley. Murray quotes Wesley's biographer Luke Tyreman who comments `that in the year 1766, `Wesley stood almost alone, with the exception of his friend Fletcher'" (70). Yet Wesley remained steadfast to the end in his opposition to any form of Calvinism. Despite Wesley's opposition, Whitefield could say, "Mr Wesley I think is wrong in some things; yet I believe . . . Mr Wesley, and others, with whom we do not agree in all things, will shine bright in glory" (71). In his conclusion to the chapter, Murray (whose theological sympathies are obviously with Whitefield, not Wesley) asks, "If Wesley's theology was confused, why, some might ask, should we value his memory today? The answer is that it is not in his theology that his real legacy lies. Christian leaders are raised up for different purposes. The eighteenth-century evangelicals were primarily men of action, and, in that role, John Wesley did and said much which was to the lasting benefit of thousands" (79). He then quotes J. C. Ryle who said, "That Wesley would have done better if he could have thrown off his Arminianism, I have not the least doubt; but that he preached the gospel, honoured Christ, and did extensive good, I no more doubt that I doubt my own existence" (79).
In chapter five, Murray lays aside the controversial issues and examines John Wesley, "The Leader." Acknowledging that Wesley's "biographers have portrayed [his] character in as many as twenty different versions" Murray begins stating that "in any remotely authentic account of [Wesley's] life one thing should stand out: the unifying principle was his commitment to the Bible" (80). Wesley himself exhorted a preacher to "enjoin nothing that the Bible does not clearly enjoin. Forbid nothing that it does not clearly forbid" (80-81). It was his devotion to Scripture which birthed his passion for God and for souls and kept his disciplined piety and evangelistic intensity steady throughout his life. "What stands out in Wesley is the way the endeavour [to make Christ known] was maintained and never seemed to flag" (81). "His prayer was granted, `Lord, let me never live to be useless'" (83). Wesley was an excellent leader as the organization of the Methodist societies and his mentoring of Methodist preachers (or "Assistants") shows. Wesley the leader attracted high caliber men to his work. And his description of his first helpers is stirring: "poor, ignorant men, without experience, learning or art; but simple of heart, devoted to God, full of faith and zeal, seeking no honour profit, no pleasure, no ease, but merely to save souls; fearing neither want, pain, persecution, nor whatever man could do unto them" (87). The chapter goes on to recount some of Wesley's exhortations to these men, describe some features of the societies, consider the contrasts and complexities in Wesley's make-up, and ends with a brief evaluation of the legacy of Wesley and the Evangelical Revival.
The second part of the book, "Men Who Followed," is made up of three chapters which consider three Methodist leaders (William Bramwell, Gideon Ouseley, and Thomas Collins) who carried on the legacy of John Wesley and through whom the Lord caused Methodism to rise to its height in the early nineteenth century. In my own reading of the book, I looked forward to this section the least but actually enjoyed it the most. Murray draws heavily from out-of-print biographies of these three men and his account of the conversion and ministry of each (and of the revival which attended their ministries) is heart-enriching and soul-stirring. I found the excerpts from the journals of these men and the stories of spiritual awakening among their hearers especially edifying. Perhaps I can best describe the effect of these chapters with the words which someone once said of William Bramwell: "I never left him without a determination to live nearer to God" (136).
Part three of the book, "Against Unquestioning Following," takes up two problem areas in Wesley's doctrine: justification (chapter nine) and Christian Perfection (chapter ten). With the first, Murray attempts to understand the development in Wesley's understanding of justification and come to terms with what he actually thought. The task is not simple, for Wesley sometimes contradicted himself and his semantics are sometimes misleading. As one critic of Wesley once said, "He is an eel; take him where you will, he will slip through your fingers" (225)! Murray's conclusion is that Wesley did, in point of fact, veer away from the evangelicalism of the Reformation; but his criticism is always so charitable that the reader really feels that Murray has tried hard to understand and assume the best of Wesley. "Christian perfection was probably the most controversial topic in Wesley's teaching" (232) and Murray is helpful in sorting out just what Wesley thought. He begins by underlining what is not controversial in Wesley's teaching. Then he takes on the areas in which he believes Wesley erred, and discusses the long-term damage this doctrine caused, especially through the perfectionism teaching of the nineteenth century, into which it evolved.
The fourth and final part of the book, "Methodism, with and without the Holy Spirit," is comprised of only one chapter which seeks for a true explanation behind the phenomenon of the Methodist movement. One explanation which fails is attributing the movement to Wesley's personality and personal influence. "If Wesley's leadership was the secret, then the success would have been greatest in his lifetime. The opposite was the case, Methodism spread further and faster after his death" (252). Murray concludes that the true explanation for the spiritual success of Methodism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit of God, worked out in the lives of the early Methodists in their fidelity to Scripture, with faith and discipline as the essential ingredients to their piety. "The power in the old Methodist preaching is not a fairy story, and it was bound up with the conviction that honouring Scripture and honouring the Holy Spirit cannot be separated. The preachers carried a message that was not their own and it put an awe upon them" (260). The sharp decline in loyalty to God's Word among Methodists of the twentieth century accounts for the spiritual poverty which now characterizes so much of modern Methodism. But "apostasy is not the end of the story" (262) and Murray ends the book on a hopeful note. "Once-honoured names and organizations may change, churches may lose their candlesticks, but the great lesson of Wesley and the Evangelical Revival is that sin and unbelief are not in control of history. Millions now in heaven attest that truth . . . God's love for the world remains the same. Jesus is the Saviour `high over all' who lives to give repentance and forgiveness. Not on the basis of what the church deserves, but on account of what Christ has done, the Spirit is sent to convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. And whenever and wherever that work grace is found, men and women will cry [in the words of Wesley], `O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God'" (263).
No Apologetic for Arminianism! Jun 22, 2005
A previous reviewer said:
"With all this in mind, it is important to view Murray's book as an apologetic work, not solely of John Wesley or his preachers, but of Evangelical Arminianism."
Such a comment makes one wonder if this reviewer actually read the work! Murray, far from offering an apologetic for Wesley, offers us a wonder critique of Wesley's misunderstanding of Calvinism. At the end of the day, if you want to call this book an "apologetic" as opposed to a "history", you have to conclude that it is an apologetic for Calvinism!
Murray writes in his chapter on Wesley's conflict with Calvinism, that Wesley critiqued Calvinism as being against both holy living and evangelism. Murray goes on to show how Calvinism believes in both holy living and evangelism - exposeing Wesley's misunderstanding.
That said, Murray is very charitable toward Wesley at certain points. He makes it clear that Wesley, although mistaken on Perfectionism and on assurance (among other things), he was a champion of grace and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. So, while Wesley's theology has great weaknesses, we can - and should - be able to appreciate his vehement efforts to evangelize the lost. Wesley as preacher was at his best, certainly better than Wesley as theologian.
Read this book, its the best out there on an important historical figure from a Reformed perspective.
Wesley and Murray who Followed Him. Feb 18, 2004
Perhaps no figure since Jacobus Arminius has polarized the church as much as the subject of Ian Murray's recent portrait: John Wesley (1703-1791). Murray introduces Wesley in the spiritually impoverished landscape of 18th century British Anglicanism. Starting from his early days of study at Oxford University, Wesley is portrayed as navigating a hostile terrain of contemporary religious indifference. Towards that end, the book spends more time defending Wesley and his followers, than of clearly explaining the message of Methodism. Indeed, the book from beginning to end in seeking to preserve Wesley for evangelical Christianity turns a blind eye to much of his heretical doctrine and apostasy. The emotionally charged portrait of Wesley and his preachers is so captivating, that the reader is tempted time and again to overlook the historical reality and embrace the fictitious man of piety who is horribly confused and misunderstood.
With all this in mind, it is important to view Murray's book as an apologetic work, not solely of John Wesley or his preachers, but of Evangelical Arminianism. Why else would so much ink be employed in the defense of one who said that Calvinism was his enemy? Towards that goal, Murray excuses Wesley time and again as a sincere victim of his environment. When Wesley calls predestination `a doctrine full of blasphemy' and the God of predestination `as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust' this is excused as a well-meaning response to the hyper-Calvinism of his day . In similar fashion his erroneous view of Christian `perfectionism' is practically excused by Murray as a heartfelt attempt to counterbalance the false teaching of antinomianism . Indeed `Wesley and Men who Followed' does much to promote the lie that the church today needs a little bit of both Wesley and Whitefield in order to achieve proper `balance'. The book, therefore, misses a good opportunity to (Romans 16:17) to mark one whose writings have continued to plague the church with division and false doctrine.
Murray's revisionist portrait also extends to Wesley's blasphemous view of Justification. Wesley held to a theory of justification that is virtually indistinguishable to that of sanctification. He openly taught that Justification is not merely forensic (a legal declaration), but that it depends on the `moment to moment' obedience of the believer. Murray trivializes the issue and defends Wesley from criticism by suggesting that his inconsistencies on the subject were due to working `too fast and with too much indifference to strict consistency.' Yet Wesley himself noted that his own position on the subject was `a hair's breadth' from `salvation by works.' His doctrine can perhaps be best summarized by his favorite writer, William Law who wrote, `We can not have security of our salvation but by doing our utmost to deserve it.' This concept of `deserving it' is a major theme within Wesley's sermons and one could hardly be blamed for mistaking them as a byproduct of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent. Wesley clearly affiliated himself with a conditional gospel of works when he insisted that election is based on the future works and faith of men. Wesley comments:
This decree, whereby whom God did foreknow, he did predestinate, was indeed from everlasting; this, whereby all who suffer (allow) Christ to make them alive are elect according to the foreknowledge of God.
Another fatal weakness within the book is the omission of so much incriminating evidence against Wesley. For example, while Murray does briefly touch upon Wesley's belief in baptismal regeneration, he completely overlooks his advocacy of prayers for the dead. Wesley writes 'Prayer for the dead, the faithful de, parted, in the advocacy of which I conceive myself clearly justified'. The book also ignores Wesley's belief that there will be unconverted Moslems and other heathen who will be accepted on the basis of their good works. The words of our Lord in John 3:7 `Ye must be born again' contrast sharply with Wesley's own view that `the merciful God' sees Moslems and `regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas .' Also neglected is Wesley's very strange belief in ghosts and fondness for drawing lots.
Wesley's ecumenical approach toward Romanism is also overlooked and can best be appreciated by Wesley's own correspondence to a Roman Catholic, `Let the points wherein we differ stand aside; here are enough wherein we agree, enough to be the ground of every Christian temper, and of every Christian action. O brethren, let us not still fall out by the way .' In addition, while Murray does hint at Wesley's favorable disposition toward women preachers, he does not provide us with the clarity that we find in Wesley's own writings. Wesley wrote the Manchester Conference in 1787 that we should `give the right hand of fellowship to Sarah Mallet, and have no objection of her being a Preacher in our connexion...'
In conclusion the target of `Wesley and Men who Followed Him' could hardly be more clear. Murray offers far more critical fire on the Reformed detractors of Wesley than of a man who taught baptismal regeneration, promoted women preachers, maligned the saints of his day and fought against Calvinism his entire life. The target in the cross hair is the uncompromising Calvinist who will not accept Arminianism as a legitimate expression of the Truth. How else could one explain why Wesley's well documented campaign of lies against August Toplady, the defender of sovereign grace, is not even mentioned in the book? Murray's book is all about tolerance and acceptance of the Arminian lie of human sovereignty and seeks to diminish the antithesis between grace and works. Sadly, Murray has failed to offer anything other than a revisionist history that places the blame on everyone and everything surrounding John Wesley in order to preserve him for the modern day evangelical church. One wonders if the book would have been more appropriately entitled `Wesley and Murray who Followed Him'.