Politics in the Order of Salvation, by Theodore R. Weber

In his delightful, informative book about the Wesleyan movement in America, Charles Ferguson characterized Meth­odists as Organized to Beat the Devil. Our Book of Discipline, Book of Resolutions, Book of Worship, even that little Daily Suggester mailed out each year to clergy so that they can remember all those meetings they should attend (not to mention the liturgical calendar) illustrate what Ferguson's whimsical title expresses. A modern psychiatrist would diagnose John Wesley as obsessive-compulsive, and Methodism, the movement he founded, reflects Wesley's passion for order, organization and detail.

Wesley's life (1703-1788) virtually spanned the 18th century--the time of the Enlightenment, one of the most exciting watersheds in Western thought. The century also witnessed the American War for Independence, the throes of the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the English working class. Wesley himself was never a Methodist. He died as a priest of the Church of England and was buried in the robes denoting his Anglican ordination. When the Methodist movement came to America, Wesley quickly realized its potential for evangelism and social action.

A committed Tory (a political conservative) whose political ideas were shaped by his imperious parents--his father, Samuel, an Anglican clergyman who supported William and Mary, and his mother, Susanna, who did not believe them to be legitimate heirs of the throne--and his commitments as a high churchman, Wesley left his followers no common symbols of discourse with which to think and speak as Wesleyans about political reality and responsibility.