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Portrait by George Romney that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London

John Wesley's Birth and Early Life

John Wesley was born on 28 June 1703 in Epworth, 23 miles northwest of Lincoln. He was the fifteenth of nineteen children born to Samuel (clergyman of the Church of England, a graduate of the University of Oxford and, from 1696, was rector of Epworth) and Susanna Wesley. Nine of their children lived beyond infancy.

Wesley's parents gave their children their early education. Each child, including the girls, was taught to read as soon as he or she could walk and talk. They were expected to become proficient in Latin and Greek and to have learned major portions of the New Testament by heart.

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A rectory fire occurred when Wesley was five years old on 9 February 1709. Some time after 11:00 pm, the rectory roof caught on fire. The Wesleys managed to get all their children out of the house except for John who was on an upper floor. Wesley was lifted out of a window by a parishioner standing on another man's shoulders. Wesley later paraphrased Zechariah 3:2 to describe the incident, "a brand plucked out of the fire." This childhood deliverance became part of the Wesley legend, attesting to his special destiny and extraordinary work.

Wesley was educated at Charterhouse (a boarding and day school in Godalming, Surrey). In June 1720, Wesley entered Christ Church (a constituent college of the University of Oxford). After graduating in 1724, Wesley stayed on at Christ Church to study for his master's degree. He was elected a fellow of Lincoln College (constituent college of the University of Oxford) in 1726, and ordained as an Anglican priest on a priest on 22 September 1728. In August 1727, after completing his master's degree, Wesley returned to Epworth to help his father.

After an unsuccessful ministry serving at Christ Church at Savannah in the Georgia Colony (February 1736 - December 1737) where his enthusiastic gospel message had been rejected by his Anglican brothers, Wesley returned to London and joined a religious society led by Moravian Christians. On 24 May 1738, he experienced what has come to be called his evangelical conversion (what we know as his Aldersgate Experience) when he felt his "heart strangely warmed".


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