The prevenient piety of Samuel Wesley, Sr.
Access changed 5/25/11.
The life and times of Samuel Wesley, Sr. have been addressed since the time of John and Charles Wesley as an absentee father with little positive influence on the Wesley family. However, the literary contributins of Samuel have been overlooked. Having examined his writings, this dissertation offers a fuller protrait of Samuel Wesley.
The thesis of this work is that Samuel Wesley was a complex person whose thoughts, actions, and postions were based on his traditions, experience, scripture, and reasoning. A key to understanding Wesley's life and though can be found in the Pietist strains evident in his writings, published and unpublished, which formed the basis of his dicisions and actions. The chapters explore the dynamics of late seventeenth-century England's cultural milieu where Wesley was raised and educated within post-Uniformity Dissent and provided his rationale for gradually conforming to the Established Church. The origins of Continental Pietism is summarized and its influence on the Established Church through Anthony Horneck.
Also discussed is Samuel's view of scripture within the context of the nascent critical apparatus introduced by Richard Simon and Baruch Spinoza. Samuel's rejection of this critical approach is a key to understanding his scriptural hermeneutic which formed the basis of his actions. The overarching characteristic of Samuel Wesley's life and thought was his understanding of Piety which he passed along to his sons, most notably John and Charles, but also Samuel, Jr. Samuel's life is examined using Ernest Stoeffler's tenets of Pietism: the experiential, perfectionism, biblicism, and the oppositive or prophetic, and concludes that Samuel passed these on and had a profound influence on his sons. This work presents a revised portrait of Samuel as reflected in his literary contributions, rather than one based on an anachronistic moral template imposed on aspects of his behavior. The most familiar sketch of Samuel is the profile on the frontispiece in his commentary on Job. The paper seeks to move from the one-sided portrayals of Samuel Wesley, Sr. toward a fuller understanding of his life, thought, and actions which were emulated by his sons.