Room for all people

Explore John Wesley's thoughts on trading fairly

In the 18th century a small group of very wealthy merchants and influential businessmen controlled the city. Expensive new homes were being built for them by unpaid and impoverished workers with materials bought from the profits of the transatlantic Slave Trade. If you were seeking justice from mistreatment the law was harsh, but it was prone to corrupting influences from the wealthy who could bribe or persuade the authorities.

John Wesley came to the city as a young man following his time at Oxford university. It was here that he first became drawn to the plight of the poor and his passion grew for preaching the gospel. John and Charles Wesley were incensed that fashion and greed overshadowed the need of poor families struggling to survive. This went against their Christian belief that they should love their neighbour as themselves. John Wesley believed a person’s wealth was therefore best spent in helping others saying, ‘Be ye ready to distribute to everyone according to his necessity’.

John Wesley acted in numerous ways to help the needs of those who were mistreated. He often did this in very practical, local ways. From giving away most of his income, to setting up food banks and producing impassioned pamphlets defending the cause of the weak and vulnerable. John Wesley’s published ‘Thoughts upon Slavery’ seeks to highlight the extreme brutality and immorality of the transatlantic Slave Trade. All this fervour was generated and sustained by John Wesley’s love for the gospel and his commitment to preaching the good news of Christ faithfully.

John Wesley’s passion for preaching the gospel spilled out into the lives of other men and women who he encouraged into ministry. Many men were sent out across the country to share the good news of Christ in the open air, and some faced brutal opposition. The forming of a movement of the ‘people called Methodists’ benefited the lives of many who felt oppressed and experienced the full force of a broken world. They received love, grace, and acceptance from Methodists, as well as care and understanding for their physical needs. It is no wonder this social and spiritual shift captured the attention of their enemies who spread rumour that the movement was a catalyst for revolution.

From the early beginnings of Methodism it is clear that the character of a Methodist is so often shaped by social enterprise, initiative, and hard work. Christians are stirred to action following the grace they themselves have received. Over the years many Methodists have campaigned for fairness and justice in the workplace. Most notably in the early 19th century Tolpuddle Martyrs case, where George Loveless and three other Methodist preachers were arrested in 1834 for organising a trade union and sentenced to seven years’ transportation to Australia.

"Passion and prejudice govern the world… It is our part, by religion and reason combined, to counteract them all we can." - John Wesley's letter to Joseph Benson, 5 October 1770

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