Letter to James Creighton from John Wesley

John Wesley (1703–1791).
Letter to James Creighton, near Belturbet, Ireland.
Sent September 10, 1782, from Shepton-Mallet, Somerset, England.

The autograph letters of John Wesley are central to Bridwell Library’s mission to provide scholarly support to Perkins School of Theology. As of Fall 2014 Bridwell Library has collected 139 letters written by Wesley. Ranging in date from 1751 to 1791, these primary documents of early Methodist history have been scanned, transcribed, and published in Bridwell Library Digital Collections.

The recipient of this letter, James Creighton (1736–1819), was ordained as a minister of the Church of Ireland in 1765 and was appointed to a curacy in the Cathedral Church in Dublin. After much soul-searching and correspondence with John Wesley, Creighton underwent a spiritual awakening circa 1776 and initiated an evangelical ministry from his parish of Swanlinbar near Londonderry. In 1783, after a disagreement with the parish rector, Creighton accepted Wesley’s invitation to undertake clerical work at the City Road Chapel in central London. He assisted Wesley in the ordination of Thomas Coke for his work in North America in 1784 and later contributed to the success of Wesley’s Arminian Magazine. After Wesley’s death, Creighton continued to serve as minister at City Road Chapel for many years.

In this letter, John Wesley assured Creighton that he should remain in his troubled curacy in Ireland until “our great Shepherd” called him to go elsewhere. Wesley continued with words of encouragement that defined how he saw Methodism as different from the other religious reform movements in that it looked not to change rituals, but to change lives:

The present Phenomenon of Methodism is utterly new; such as never appeared before upon earth. I do not read of any other Reformers for these thousand years, who have spent their whole time & strength, in informing first the Tempers & then the Lives of themselves, & those that heard them. All others, who had really the power of God attending their ministrations, spent a part, perhaps the greatest part of their time and strength, in reforming Men’s Opinions or Modes of Worship. The Methodists let these stand as they are. They let every man abound in his own opinion: And employ their whole force, in destroying both the outward & inward works of the Devil, & promoting the Kingdom of God among men, Righteousness & Peace, & Joy in the Holy Ghost.

Keeping a watchful eye on his preachers in Ireland, Wesley concluded: “If you observe any of our young men near you, who are tempted to depart from the work, a word from you may have more weight than from another & make them sensible of the Blessings they enjoy.” On the reverse of the letter, Creighton noted that this was the twenty-first letter that he had received from John Wesley.

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Letter to James Creighton from John Wesley