John Wesley on Slavery

Recent news items have me thinking about John Wesley’s views on slavery. From the beginning of the Methodist movement, slaveholding was forbidden by the General Rules, and at the end of Wesley’s life, the subject was still on his mind. The last letter Wesley ever wrote (in 1791) was to William Wilberforce concerning his (Wilberforce’s) work as an abolitionist. Wesley encouraged him to:

Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it. — John Wesley [1]

It’s not fair to judge our ancestors by the standards of our time, but it is fair to ask what the best standards of their times were.

[1] John Wesley, “Letter to William Wilberforce,” General Board of Global Ministries, accessed November 01, 2017,