Monday Methodism: John Wesley’s Tomb

Back outside of Wesley’s Chapel and around the back lies John Wesley himself. He died in the house (next door to the chapel) and was buried in the tomb you see in the photo. The epitaph reads (I have changed the f’s to s’s!):

To the Memory of
THE VENERABLE JOHN WESLEY. A.M.
Late Fellow of Lincoln College. Oxford.

This GREAT LIGHT arose
(By the singular Providence of GOD)
To enlighten THESE NATIONS,
And to revive, enforce, and defend,
The Pure Apostolic DOCTRINES and PRACTICES of
THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH:
Which he continued to do, both by his WRITINGS and his LABOURS
For more than HALF A CENTURY:
And to his inexpressible Joy,
Not only, beheld their INFLUENCE extending,
And their EFFICACY witness’d
In the Hearts and Lives of MANY THOUSANDS,
As well in THE WESTERN WORLD as in THESE KINGDOMS:
But also, far above all human Power of Expectation,
Liv’d to see PROVISION made by the singular Grace of GOD,
For their CONTINUANCE and ESTABLISHMENT,
TO THE JOY OF FUTURE GENERATIONS

READER if thou art contrain’d to bless the INSTRUMENT,
GIVE GOD THE GLORY.

After having languished a few Days, He at length finished his COURSE
and his LIFE together. Gloriously triumphing over DEATH March 2nd
An. Dom. 1791 in the Eighty eighth Year of his Age.

I quite like that part about giving God the glory if one is not able to bless the instrument. That would be the way Wesley wanted it.

One funny story: my friend Jen asked the steward why Wesley’s last words were not etched on the tomb. He looked at Jen puzzled, asking what she meant. She went on to explain that as significant as what he said, she thought they would put in on the epitaph. He asked what words she was talking about. Horrified that he didn’t know she said, ‘Best of all, God is with us.’ He then laughed and said, ‘Oh, that. Well, at that time when someone important died the people around him or her will often make something up for their last words to make the last moments significant. It’s likely Wesley couldn’t utter anything, much less be understood.’ I still remember the look on Jen’s face! I think all of us were a little horrified that what we had been taught could be made up! Ah, well… maybe he’s wrong. It’s good last words.

Me at Wesley's Tomb

Me at Wesley's Tomb

John Wesley's Epitaph - Sans 'Best of All, God is with us'

John Wesley's Epitaph - Sans 'Best of All, God is with us'

The Flip Side of the Tomb, listing those who are also buried there (in the background, you can see th steward explaining about Wesley's last words

The Flip Side of the Tomb, listing those who are also buried there (in the background, you can see the steward explaining about Wesley's last words to Jen and April)

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6 thoughts on “Monday Methodism: John Wesley’s Tomb

  1. Wesley’s last few days are described by Elizabeth Ritchie, who was looking after him in Wesley’s Journal ed Curnock (Standard Edition) 8:131-144 and summarised in Rack’s Reasonable Enthusiast 531-532. As Rack says his last actual words were the logical “Farewell”. In his last days he spent much time repeating and even singing bits of hymns, but several times he used the well known phrase quoted here. Once when someone asked him what to write down as (his last words) his reply was “Nothing but that God is with us.” later he twice repeated “The best of all is God is with us” There were other things he said later, but I think that remains as among his final words.
    Suggest to your friend Jen and the steward that they look it up.
    Best wishes
    John Lenton

  2. Regarding this: “READER if thou art contrain’d to bless the INSTRUMENT,
    GIVE GOD THE GLORY.” It does not mean, ” if one is not able to bless the instrument” but rather, “if one MUST bless the instrument.” This means that, if you feel the need to bless John Wesley, please bless God Almighty because John is His handiwork.

  3. I still wonder if the modern day United kingdom still has men like John Wesley.All I see and hear about the modern Briton is rock music, gay rights, gay marriages. How unfortunate

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