John Wesley At Edinburgh: 1751-1790 -- By: Samuel J. Rogal

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 04:1 (Spring 1983)
Article: John Wesley At Edinburgh: 1751-1790
Author: Samuel J. Rogal

John Wesley At Edinburgh: 1751-1790

Samuel J. Rogal

Illinois State University

One may reasonably conclude, from a careful study of John Wesley’s career, that the founder and leader of British Methodism experienced two major setbacks during his lifetime. The first concerns his relations with women; the second focuses upon the impotency of his mission to Scotland. In both cases, failure was related to Wesley’s character and ideals. Of course, he might have made some adjustments in his own personality, modified his ideals of womanhood, and found a partner with whom he could have been satisfied—and, perhaps, even happy. However, Wesley had, too early in his life, wed himself to social and religious reform, and it appears doubtful he would have been willing to spare any significant amount of time from his grand commitment to devote himself to a partner, a home, or a family. In Scotland, however, Wesley found himself in the position of trying to convince others to adjust their personalities—or at least the theological aspect of those personalities to his own.

Essentially, Wesleyan Methodism met with no serious opposition in Scotland—merely insurmountable obstacles. Had those who worked with Wesley north of the Tweed been hotly opposed, as they had been in England, by a band of self-appointed defenders of tradition and stagnation, the movement would have received some impetus from a direct cause; opposition would have aroused them, enflamed their zeal. But Wesley met only with coolness from a people whom he classified as decent, serious, and totally unconcerned. Thus, the real cause of his inability to achieve a high level of success in Scotland stemmed from the simple fact that the Scots proved less than enthusiastic about Methodism—they saw no need for it, and therefore would not consider it seriously. Few could have blamed them for this situation and attitude. Scotland had its own Church, a disciplined organization in which clerics wielded considerable influence over their parishioners. The Scots reared their children in piety, dedicated themselves to the Kirk establishment, and regarded the Church of England with the same contempt as the Church at Rome. How, then, was one to convert the converted? How could one spread frugality, industry, and religion among a people generally esteemed as frugal, industrious, and religious? Certainly, such a dilemma would have caused a lesser man to abandon hope of even initiating an evangelical mission into Scotland.

Instead, John Wesley persisted, and nowhere does that persistence mani- fest itself more than in his experiences in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

For those who, like Wesley, journeyed to the old ...

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