Understanding Methodism

The Four Alls

Wesley's conversion

Methodists?

While we cannot be certain of all six Martyrs, it seems likely that they were all Methodists, and three of them were definitely preachers and leaders. Their behaviour throughout the difficult times is exactly what would be expected of Christians inspired by the teachings of John Wesley.

 

the Methodist faith of the martyrs

Few people In the nineteenth century questioned the existence of God, although some chose to let their faith play a bigger part in their lives than others. 

The Tolpuddle Martyrs, especially the Loveless brothers and Thomas Standfield, were very clear that their lives were dedicated to serving God, as committed Christians in the Methodist tradition. It influenced all areas of their life, including work, what they read and wrote, and how they behaved at all times.

  • They were dedicated to living their lives according to God’s will ("God is my guide") and were constantly striving to be closer to him.
  • They believed they were saved from sin - forgiven of wrong doings through God’s love, enabling them to be closer to God.
  • They believed it was essential to be good to other people, whoever they might be, and to be honest, committed with each other.
  • They believed in justice and equality.

Above all they stood by a strong moral code that they believed would bring the whole world closer to God, and were prepared to take the rough with the smooth in order to achieve this.

In many other ways the Christian faith of the Martyrs was very conventional, and they shared the same key beliefs as almost all Christians. They believed that the world was created by God, who loved us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to bring us closer to him.  Jesus taught us how best to live our lives, through his crucifixion he showed us just how great God's love was, and by his resurrection he conquered death and sin once and for all.  Although Jesus returned to heaven, God left us his presence on earth in the form of the Holy Spirit which energises all we do to build God's Kingdom on earth. Picture of the 1818 Chapel
The 1818 Chapel where the Martyrs worshipped was in a sad condition having been used for agricultural storage for many years.
However the building has recently been purchased by a local trust and renovation is underway.

The Bible was central to worship and study for all Methodists.  They would have read passages regularly, probably more than once each day, and preaching in services was firmly based on passages from the Bible.  Preachers like George Loveless would have known large passages by heart, and would study a great deal in order to understand how to interpret "The Word" in a way that could help them in their lives. They would have even used the Bible to help teach their children how to read.

Prayer was equally important.  Methodists have always set time aside for personal prayer, and used formal prayers in their worship, especially The Lord's Prayer. A particularly significant prayer for Methodists is The Covenant Prayer which reminds people of their relationship with God.

Cover of Wesley Hymn publicationPerhaps the most distinctive feature of Methodism has always been Hymn Singing.  Methodists describe themselves as people who "sing their faith". John Wesley's brother Charles was a very prolific hymn writer, and we still sing many of his words today. Singing would probably have featured in every service, and many families would also sing hymns at prayers and before meals. It was even common to sing hymns while working in the fields.

Charles Wesley's hymn And can it be is among the most stirring ever written. These words from the first verse sum up the awe and excitement that early Methodist had for their faith:

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

click on the words for the full text of the hymn or

click here to view another of Charles' great hymns O for a thousand tongues to sing

The Methodist Church today identifies four areas of work as it's calling".

  • Worship - increase awareness of God's presence and to celebrate God's love.
  • Learning and Caring - Help people to learn and grow as Christians through mutual support and care.
  • Service - be a good neighbour to people in need and to challenge injustice.
  • Evangelism- Making more followers of Jesus Christ

While these statements were written in modern times, they could easily be used to understand the Methodist way of life in the early 19th Century.

For more information about what is distinctive about Methodism in the 21st Century follow this link the national Methodist Church website.