John Wesley

A Scathing Letter To A Preacher Who Doesn’t Read

By Garrett Best

Sometimes you stumble upon gems like this from the past. John Wesley was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in Europe and North America in the eighteenth century. He was an Anglican minister who lived from 1701-1791. He is credited with beginning the Methodist Church and several other Methodist-heritage churches. His teachings were also instrumental in the formation of the holiness movement and Pentecostalism.

In 1760, Wesley wrote a letter to a preacher named John Premboth. Here is an exert from the letter:

“What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is lack of reading.  I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little.  And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it.  Hence your talent in preaching does not increase.  It is just the same as it was seven years ago.  It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.  Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer.  You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this.  You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.  Oh begin!  Fix some part of every day for private exercise.  You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.  Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher.  Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow.  Do not starve yourself any longer.  Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether.  Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular yours.”

NOTE: I have attempted to trace this letter down. Apparently, it was first published in the Arminian Magazine in 1780. I encountered this letter in Ben Witherington III’s Is There a Doctor in the House? (pg. 71, 2011). It is also printed in Letters Along the Way by Don Carson and John Woodbridge (pg. 169, 1993).