December 2003


The Wesley Fellowship – Founded 1985

Former Hon. Presidents:
Rev. John Lawson, M.A., B.D.(Cantab.), B.Sc.(Agric.)(Lond.)
Rev. John Lawson (2000-2003)

Chairman: Rev. Dr Herbert McGonigle

Secretary: Mr Paul S. Taylor, M.A., Stonebridge Cottage,
Back Lane, Shearsby, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, U.K.  LE17 6PN

Tel/Fax: 0116-247 8679.

The Executive Committee includes the above officers together with:

Book Sales: Rev. Tony Tamburello, 13 Charles Street, Colne, Lancashire, BB8 0LY
Tel/Fax:  01282-859014. E-mail:

Publicity Officer: Mr Ian Lockhart

Editor:  Mr William T. Graham

Please visit the Wesley Fellowship on the Web at:


The Wesley Fellowship lost its esteemed President, the Rev John Lawson, two months ago, at the grand age of ninety-four years. John had been our President since 2000 and while not always able to attend our twice-yearly meetings in Birmingham, he was very committed to what the WF stands for. He entered the Methodist ministry in 1932 and for quite a number of years he taught theology at Emory University, a Methodist institution in America. When plans were first drawn up for the proposed Bi-Centennial edition of the Works of John Wesley, John was given the task of editing Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the New Testament. He attended our Residential Conference at Swanwick in October last year, and in addition to his fine paper on John Wesley’s translation of German hymns, he joined in all the open discussions with his usual store of Wesley knowledge, keen wit and searching questions. Earlier this year he attended the John Wesley Tercentenary Conference meeting at Manchester University in June. John Lawson was a Christian gentleman, a fine scholar, a heart-warming preacher and a true Wesleyan.

Now for some reflections on our October 18th meeting in Birmingham. Quite simply, it was a truly great day of fellowship, worship and listening to two outstanding Papers. First, Bill Graham informed us about John Wesley’s 50-volume Christian Library, which was published between 1749 and 1755. This was a monumental piece of work for such a busy, travelling preacher. Wesley compiled his fifty volumes by taking extracts from writings that had appeared in the Christian Church from the first century until the 1740s. This project was a kind of theological ‘Reader’s Digest’ and Bill had so many well-researched and informative pieces of information to share with us. Then John Wood, with much obvious enthusiasm for his subject, told us about the nineteenth-century Christian movement that originated in Essex, called ‘The Peculiar People.’ This movement arose out of Methodism and in 1956 it changed its name to The Union of Evangelical Churches. As well as giving us a fine historical and theological outline of the Peculiars, John added many telling stories and anecdotes from his own experience of growing up as one of them. Altogether it was a great day for the Wesley Fellowship and we all left Zion Church of the Nazarene feeling we had learned so much. Warm thanks to Bill and John for their fine work.

Our next WF meeting will be on Saturday, 3rd April next year. Col. David Guy from the Salvation Army will bring a Paper entitled ‘Wesley’s Salvation Doctrine – Its Challenge and Relevance’. In our April meetings we also invite the Flame Trust to share our WF meeting by presenting their Maynard James Memorial Lecture. The Lecture will be given by our WF Secretary, Paul Taylor, whose subject will be: ‘Sleepers Awake! – The Gospel and Postmodernism.’ Make sure that Saturday April 3rd is booked in your diary as these two Papers promise a day of informed inspiration.

Talking of our diaries, I hope you are planning to be at our Residential Conference in September 2004! The dates are Friday, September 17th to Sunday 19th. We will be meeting at the Hayes Conference Centre at Swanwick in Derbyshire. We are delighted that Dr Ian Randall will be our main speaker. Ian is Deputy Principal and lecturer in Church History and Spirituality at Spurgeon’s College in London and is a well-known expert in 19th and 20th century spirituality in Britain. I am asking YOU particularly to plan to be with us! Here are the simple facts. In order to keep the costs for the Conference at the lowest-possible levels, we need a minimum of 40 people to attend. As well as the main Papers, there will be worship and preaching services, a Love Feast, and planned times of fellowship. More detailed information on this weekend Residential Conference will soon be available - but for now I hope you will plan to be with us.

Herbert McGonigle


This time I am confining the questions to a few that have asked for some particular John Wesley quotations to be referenced.

Question: The first request asks if John Wesley said something about revival being linked to the doctrine of Christian perfection.

Answer: The answer is yes. Writing to George Merryweather, one of his itinerant preachers, in February 1766, he counselled, ‘Where Christian perfection is not strongly and explicitly preached, there is seldom any remarkable blessing from God, and consequently little addition to the Society… Till you press the believers to expect full salvation now you must not look for any revival’ (Letters, 4:321).

Question: The second enquiry is about a statement, allegedly made by John Wesley, in which he declared that the 18th century revival would embrace the whole world. Did he say this?

Answer: Yes, this was indeed Wesley’s expectation. It is set out very clearly in his 1783 sermon, ‘The General Spread of the Gospel.’ He described how the outpouring of the Spirit, then affecting both Great Britain and New England, would spread far and wide and reach all the nations of the earth. Such would be the testimony and power of a Church renewed by the Spirit, that both Islam and the other world religions would be convinced of the truth of the gospel. ‘And we have strong reason to hope that the work he hath begun, he will carry on unto the day of the Lord Jesus; that he will never intermit this blessed work of his Spirit, until he hath fulfilled all his promises, until he hath put a period to sin and misery, and infirmity, and death, and re-established universal holiness and happiness together’ (Works, 6:298).

Question: The final question is about prayer; did John Wesley say that God always works in answer to prayer?

Answer: In answer to this, I want to point out that John Wesley wrote far more about prayer than we commonly think. His comments on many Christian doctrines are often quoted but far less about his comments on prayer. Near the end of his 1766 work, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, he wrote: ‘God hardly gives his Spirit even to those whom he has established in grace, if they do not pray for it on all occasions, not only once, but many times. God does nothing but in answer to prayer, and even they who have been converted to God without praying for it themselves, were not without the prayers of others. Every new victory which a soul gains is the effect of a new prayer’ (Works, 11:437).

Herbert McGonigle

Editor’s Note: Dr McGonigle is willing to consider questions on Wesleyan theology, history and experience for answers in this Newsletter, also locating Wesley quotes, etc. Such questions should be sent in the first instance via the Secretary.


1. The Spring 2004 meeting of the Wesley Fellowship will be held (D.V.) at the usual venue, Zion Church of the Nazarene, Brearley Street, Handsworth, Birmingham, on Saturday 3rd April 2004. The day will begin from 10.30 am, when drinks will be served by our kind friends at Zion, before the meeting begins formally at 11.00 am. PLEASE PUT THIS EVENT IN YOUR DIARY AND PLAN TO BE WITH US! Two papers will be presented at the meeting. Wesley Fellowship member, Colonel David Guy will present the regular Wesley Fellowship paper in the morning session on ‘Wesley's Salvation Doctrine - Its Challenge and Relevance’. This will be followed by a short break for lunch when drinks will again be provided – but please remember to bring your own food! In the afternoon session, the Wesley Fellowship Secretary, Mr Paul S. Taylor, MA, will present the 15th Annual Maynard James Memorial Lecture with the title ‘Sleepers Awake! – The Gospel and Postmodernism’. The afternoon session should end by about 3.30pm.

2. RESIDENTIAL WEEKEND CONFERENCE, AUTUMN 2004. The next Wesley Fellowship residential conference will again be held at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire. The dates are Friday afternoon 17th to Sunday afternoon 19th September 2004. Please make this a priority entry in your diary! The theme will be ‘WESLEY AND EVANGELICAL SPIRITUALITY’ and the main speaker will be the Revd. Ian Randall, MA, MPhil, PhD, FRHistS, Deputy Principal of Spurgeon's College, London. The cost should be no more than £120 per person (possibly less for those sharing a double en-suite room). Please book the dates now and make this Conference as widely known as you can. More details and application forms will be made available as soon as they are finalised.

Paul Taylor

JOHN LAWSON 1909-2003

Our Chairman has already reported the passing of our Wesley Fellowship President, the Rev. John Lawson. John was born in Leeds on July 16th 1909, and died in Exeter on 23rd September 2003, aged 94. His wife Helen had died in 1996 and they were the parents of a daughter and a son (a Methodist Local Preacher), and had grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In a letter (written at the age of 91) our late President explained that his ‘great-great-grandfather, John Lawson, was a working man, and a [Wesleyan Methodist] Local Preacher who collapsed taking a service in 1837’ - and who has an ‘obituary in the Methodist Magazine for 1840, with typical “purple passages.”’ His great-grandfather and grandfather were also both active Methodists in Leeds, as was his father, a pharmacist, who moved to Nottingham in 1915 to work at the Island Street works of Sir Jesse Boot. John was educated at Nottingham High School. At the age of sixteen, at his local Methodist church in Nottingham, he made a decision for Christ.

His education continued at the Midland Agricultural College in Leicestershire, where he obtained the external BSc degree of the University of London. By the age of 18 he was a Methodist Local Preacher and in 1930 he became a candidate for the Methodist ministry under the supervision of Revd T. Harold Mallinson. On entering the ministry he attended Wesley House, Cambridge, and took the Cambridge Theological Tripos Part 1, and Part 2, Section 4 in Systematic Theology. Later he was awarded the Cambridge BD degree for an outstanding dissertation on ‘The Biblical Theology of St Irenaeus’. This latter work brought him international recognition for his excellent scholarship – but, even though he was now considered a world authority on Irenaeus, the University Senate was not prepared to ‘bend their rules’ and award him its coveted DD degree because he was technically an ‘external student’ of the University. As a young man in the itinerant Methodist ministry he spent short periods at Belper (when he met Samuel Chadwick at Cliff College), the Birmingham Mission, and Liverpool. He was then placed at Grantham, Lincolnshire (where Alderman Roberts, the father of the future Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher, was his Circuit Steward).

Later, in 1955, when at Downham Market, Norfolk, he was ‘surprised to be invited to be Professor of Church History at Candler School of Theology’, the Methodist Seminary of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He served – and commuted - there for 21 years until he retired in 1976 to Exeter, England (where his wife had kept their permanent home while he worked each term-time in America). During his ministry he came to know and count as friends Methodist scholars such as Rupert Davies, Gordon Rupp, and Philip Watson. As the representative of the Candler School (one of the sponsors of the publication of the ‘Oxford’ - later the ‘Bicentennial’ - edition of Wesley’s Works), John Lawson came to know and work with other famous Methodist scholars, not least Drs Frank Baker and Albert C. Outler. It was at this time that John Lawson worked on preparing a scholarly edition of Wesley’s ‘Explanatory Notes on the New Testament’ ready for a - still awaited - volume of the Bicentennial Edition.

In his retirement, John Lawson delivered one of the first papers to be presented to a meeting of the Wesley Fellowship. This paper was published in 1987. John was already a member of the Fellowship when he was invited, in 2000, to become President, so filling the honorary position left after the death of our first president, the late Revd Dr Arthur Skevington Wood. John Lawson took his new position seriously and - despite his age and the distance of his Exeter home from the usual venues of meetings - he made a determined effort to attend at, and contribute to, as many meetings as possible. He delivered an illuminating short paper on the Hymns of Charles Wesley at the Conference held at The Hayes in 2002. As recently as June 2003, he attended the John Wesley Tercentenary celebrations at the residential International Conference at the University of Manchester when he was alert and active in the discussions including the closing plenary session. Some of his numerous publications are listed below.

Bibliography of some published writings of John Lawson (1909-2003)

1. Notes on Wesley’s Forty-Four Sermons, London: Epworth Press, 1946. pp. 291.
2. The Biblical Theology of Saint Irenaeus: Bishop of Lyons. London: The Epworth Press, 1948. xv. pp. 307. [This is the published version of Mr Lawson’s thesis that won him the B.D. degree of the University of Cambridge – had he been a fully registered student at the University it would have almost certainly resulted in him being awarded a doctorate].
3. Today I Go to Communion. London: Epworth Press, 1950. [pp. 14].
4. Who joins the Glorious Host: A handbook for Methodist Church membership classes, London: Epworth Press, 1950. [pp. 64].
5. Full Communion with the Church of England: A Methodist appeals to Methodists, London: Epworth Press, 1951. pp. 31.
6. What do we believe – 144 Straight Questions and Plain Answers Concerning the teaching of the Churches, London: SPCK, 1951. [pp.188. Based on a series of discussion classes on Christian doctrine held at Lincoln in 1946].
7. [with A.T. Dale] Study Notes on Christian Doctrine [Based on “Christian Foundations” by H. Maldwyn Hughes, and “Sermons on Several Occasions” by John Wesley]. London: Epworth Press, 1952. [pp. 88].
8. Methodism and Catholicism. Candid comment upon the present project for “full communion” between the Church of England and the Free Churches. London: SPCK, 1954. [pp. 51].
9. Green and Pleasant Land [On the work of the churches in England today], London: SCM Press, 1955. [pp. 126].
10. Man and His Needs: A study in the hope for civilization. London: Edinburgh House Press, 1955. [pp. 136].
11. Selections from John Wesley’s ‘Notes on the New Testament’, London: Epworth Press, 1955. [pp. 219].
12. Selections from John Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament: Systematically arranged with explanatory comments, John Lawson. Chicago: A.R. Allenson, 1955. [pp. 219. This is an American edition of the previous book.]
13. ‘The poetry of Charles Wesley’. Emory University Quarterly 15 (1959), pp 31-47.
14. ‘Wesley rides again’. Christianity Today 4, No. 15 (1960), pp 12-13.
15. A Theological and Historical Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1961.
16. ‘John Wesley and abstinence. But he believed in discipline’. Christian Advocate 7, No. 15 (1963), p. 13.
17. ‘Saving faith as Wesley saw it’. Christianity Today 8, No. 15 (1964), pp 3-4.
18. ‘The People Called Methodists: 2. “Our discipline”’, in: A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, Vol. 1, (general editors: Rupert E. Davies & E. Gordon Rupp), London: Epworth Press, 1965, pp. 181-209.
19. The Christian Year with Charles Wesley: being a devotional companion to the Book of Common Prayer. Selected from Charles Wesley, London: Epworth Press, 1966.
20. ‘Which way for the World Church? Postscript to the 11th WM [World Methodist] Assembly’, Methodist Recorder, September 8, 1966.
21. Comprehensive Handbook of Christian Doctrine, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1967. [pp. xiii, 287].
22. ‘Mariology: An Irenic Statement from a Protestant’, Worship, Vol. 41, No. 4 (April 1967).
23. ‘The liturgy of the Lord’s Supper considered’, Anglican Theological Review, Vol. 52, No. 1 (January 1970).
24. An Evangelical Faith for Today, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972. [pp. 95].
25. ‘Irenaeus, Saint’, article published in numerous printings of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, including the 1973 printing of the 14th edition, Vol. 12, pp. 586-7.
26. ‘An evangelical’s farewell to Candler: A sermon’, Candler Exchange, Vol. 3, No. 14 (May 20, 1976).
27. Introduction to Christian Doctrine, Wilmore, Kentucky: Francis Asbury Publishing Co., 1980. [pp.287]. [See also this book previously published with a different title, Comprehensive Handbook of Christian Doctrine, by Abingdon Press in 1967].
28. A Thousand Tongues: The Wesley hymns as a guide to scriptural teaching, Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1987.
29. The Wesley hymns as a guide to scriptural teaching. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Francis Asbury Press, 1988 [pp. 224. Previously published by Paternoster in UK in 1987 with the title A Thousand Tongues].
30. The Conversion of the Wesleys: 1738 Reconsidered, Occasional Paper No, 2 of the Wesley Fellowship. Ilkeston: The Wesley Fellowship in association with Moorley’s Bible Booksop, 1987.
31. Desiring to Love: Verses of Methodist Spirituality, [Privately printed & published, Exeter, circa 1999].
32. Fixed on this Ground, Or: Reflections from an Open Heart, Exeter: [Privately published by John Lawson], 1999.
33. John Lawson (ed.), ‘Explanatory Notes [on the New Testament]’ prepared for publication in volumes 5 and/or 6 of the forthcoming 34-volume critical edition of Wesley’s Works (1975- in process). [In addition John Lawson was also a recognised and active Member of the Editorial Board (initially representing Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, continuing on the Board after his return to Exeter) of the Oxford Edition of the Works of John Wesley, (Volumes 11, 25, and 26) from at least 1975 to 1983, and subsequently a Member of the Editorial Board of: The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley (Volumes 1, 2, and 3) from 1984 to at least 1986].

Further information on John Lawson’s mainly unpublished writings, such as letters, sermons, and lecture notes (particularly between 1955 to 1976 when he taught Church History, Historical Theology, Wesleyan History and Wesleyan Theology at Candler School of Theology) is held at the Archives and Manuscripts Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 30322. The citation reference is: ‘John Lawson Papers, MSS 093.’ An index to these papers is available at

Bill Graham


Saving Souls in the Twenty First Century: A Missiological Midrash on John Wesley by William J. Abraham. (Calver: Cliff College Publishing, 2003, pp. 16. ISBN 1-898362-30-0. Booklet, £2.50 + p&p. Obtainable from: Cliff College, Calver, Near Sheffield, S32 3XG; Tel. 01246 582321; Fax: 01246 582321; website:

In this published lecture (given to the Methodist Conference, at Llandudno, in 2003) William Abraham - the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas - begins by restating ‘rule number eleven’ of John Wesley’s ‘rules for a helper’: ‘You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work…’. The author sets this well-known instruction to the Methodist preachers not only in the context of the eighteenth century evangelical revival but also in the prevailing culture of a confessional church and state. He argues that we no longer live in such a culture in that ‘…the culture we inhabit is postchristian and generally terrified of all forms of religious specificity and orthodoxy. Pluralism, tolerance, and scepticism about the place of religion in the public order are endemic’ (p. 8).

Abraham then goes on to explore how we may be true to Wesley’s concern for the saving of souls in such a different culture to that of the 18th century. He examines various options – explaining his own preference to be one of retrieving the ‘patristic core’ of ‘doctrinal…DNA’ employed by Wesley, while at the same time reinventing the practices and disciplines that will inform the process [p. 13, my paraphrase]. Wesley’s mission message will be unchanged but the culture and mindset of the present century has significantly changed.

As we would expect from a scholar with Professor Abraham’s credentials, the lecture is pertinent, erudite, readable and challenging. It raises important issues and questions. How far were the people who responded to Wesley’s message conditioned by the confessional culture of his time? For all those interested in recovering the essential message of salvation, and prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace, and preaching them with renewed conviction in the 21st century, this is a small book which will challenge the mind and stimulate the heart.

Paul Taylor

© The Wesley Fellowship 2003.