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John Wesley

(1703-1791), Methodist leader

Sitter in 30 portraits
Wesley was the founder of Methodism. This evangelical movement grew from the 'Holy Club' of his Oxford friends, in the late 1720s, into the most influential religious group in eighteenth-century Britain. A Church of England clergyman, Wesley gave sermons around the country, averaging 8,000 miles a year on horseback, and wrote hundreds of hymns and tracts. The reluctance of the Anglican clergy to lend him their pulpits led him, urged on by fellow clergyman George Whitefield, to preach in the open air. This unorthodox decision ensured Methodism reached the masses as well as people who were alienated by the Church's complacency. He was the brother of Charles and uncle of Samuel.

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