Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII

Author: John Wesley


Bishop. Why, Sir, our faith itself is a good work; it is a virtuous temper of mind.

Mr. Wesley. My Lord, whatever faith is, our Church asserts, we are justified by faith alone. But how it can be called a good work, I see not: It is the gift of God; and a gift that presupposes nothing in us, but sin and misery.

B. How, Sir? Then you make God a tyrannical Being, if he justifies some without any goodness in them preceding, and does not justify all. If these are not justified on account of some moral goodness in them, why are not those justified too?

W. Because, my Lord, they "resist his Spirit;" because "they will not come to Him that they may have life;" because they suffer Him not to "work in them both to will and to do." They cannot be saved, because they will not believe.

B. Sir, what do you mean by faith?

W. My Lord, by justifying faith I mean, a conviction wrought in a man by the Holy Ghost, that Christ hath loved him, and given himself for him; and that, through Christ, his sins are forgiven. 56

B. I believe some good men have this, but not all. But how do you prove this to be the justifying faith taught by our Church?

W. My Lord, from her Homily on Salvation, where she describes it thus: "A sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favor of God."

B. Why, Sir, this is quite another thing.

W. My Lord, I conceive it to be the very same.

B. Mr. Wesley, I will deal plainly with you. I once thought you and Mr. Whitefield well-meaning men: But I cannot think so now; for I have heard more of you; matters of fact, Sir. And Mr. Whitefield says in his Journal, "There are promises still to be fulfilled in me." Sir, the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing!

W. My Lord, for what Mr. Whitefield says, Mr. Whitefield, and not I, is accountable. I pretend to no extraordinary revelations or gifts of the Holy Ghost; none but what every Christian may receive, and ought to expect and pray for. But I do not wonder your Lordship has heard facts asserted, which, if true, would prove the contrary; nor do I wonder, that your Lordship, believing them true, should alter the opinion you once had of me. A quarter of an hour I spent with your Lordship before, and about an hour now; and perhaps you have never conversed one other hour with any who spake in my favor. But how many with those who spake on the other side! So that your Lordship could not but think as you do. — But pray, my Lord, what are those facts you have heard?

B. I hear, you administer the sacrament in your societies.

W. My Lord, I never did yet; and I believe never shall.

B. I hear too, that many people fall into fits in your societies, and that you pray over them.

W. I do so, my Lord, when any show, by strong cries and tears, that their soul is in deep anguish. I frequently pray to God to deliver them from it; and our prayer is often heard in that hour.

B. Very extraordinary indeed! Well, Sir, since you ask my advice, I will give it you very freely. You have no business here. You are not commissioned to preach in this diocese. Therefore, I advise you to go hence.

W. My Lord, my business on earth is, to do what good I can. Wherever, therefore, I think I can do most good, there must I stay, so long as I think so. At present I think I can do most good here; therefore, here I stay. As to my preaching here, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed to me; and woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel, wherever I am in the habitable world. Your Lordship knows, being ordained a Priest, by the commission I then received, I am a Priest of the Church universal; and being ordained as Fellow of a College, I was not limited to any particular cure, but have an indeterminate commission to preach the word of God, in any part of the Church of England. I do not therefore conceive, that, in preaching here by this commission, I break any human law. When I am convinced I do, then it will be time to ask, Shall I obey God or man? But if I should be convinced in the meanwhile, that I could advance the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, in any other place, more than in Bristol; in that hour, by God’s help, I will go hence; which till then I may not do.


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Chicago: John Wesley, "Conversation With the Bishop of Bristol. 55," Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII, ed. Thomas Jackson in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), Original Sources, accessed January 26, 2023,

MLA: Wesley, John. "Conversation With the Bishop of Bristol. 55." Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII, edited by Thomas Jackson, in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII, London, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872, Original Sources. 26 Jan. 2023.

Harvard: Wesley, J, 'Conversation With the Bishop of Bristol. 55' in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII, ed. . cited in 1872, Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIII, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London. Original Sources, retrieved 26 January 2023, from