Wesley on “What Manner of Men We Ought to Be”


In John Wesley’s “An Address to the Clergy” in Wesley’s Works (1872 Jackson ed., vol 10), originally addressed or more likely written in London on February 6, 1756, Wesley addressed a group of clergy/ministers (or as we might say, “pastors/elders”) as to what type of men he and they ought to be as shepherds of God’s Church. The following is Wesley’s selected list of attributes (in direct quotes) that I trust you will find both interesting and challenging.

“To begin with gifts”

“With those that are from nature”

  • “First, a good understanding, a clear apprehension, a sound judgment, and a capacity of reasoning with some closeness.”
  • “Secondly. Is it not highly expedient that a guide of souls should have likewise some liveliness and readiness of thought?”
  • “Thirdly. A good memory. . . .”

“As to acquired endowment”

  • “A knowledge . . . First, of his own office . . . the important work to which he is called.”
  • “Secondly. No less necessary is a knowledge of the Scriptures . . . a knowledge of all the Scriptures. . . . In order to do this accurately, ought he not to know the literal meaning of every word, verse, and chapter; without which there can be no firm foundation on which the spiritual meaning can be built?”
  • “Thirdly. . . . a knowledge of the original tongues.”
  • “Fourthly. . . . a knowledge of profane history, likewise, of ancient customs, of chronology and geography . . . the want even of this knowledge is but poorly supplied by reading the comments of other men.”
  • “Fifthly. Some knowledge of the sciences also . . . I mean logic. . . .The art of good sense of apprehending, things clearly, judging truly, and reasoning conclusively. . . .[and] some acquaintance with . . . metaphysics. . . .[Also,] the general grounds of natural philosophy. . . . Assisted by this, he may himself comprehend, and on proper occasions explain to others, how the invisible things of God are seen from the creation of the world. . . .[And] geometry. . . .What excuse is this for one who has the opportunity, and makes no use of it? What can be urged for a person who has had an University education, if he does not understand them all?”
  • “Sixthly. . . .the knowledge of the [early Church] Fathers.”
  • “Seventhly. . . .knowledge of the world; a knowledge of men, of their maxims, tempers, and manners, such as they occur in real life. Without this he will be liable to receive much hurt, and capable of doing little good; as he will not know, either how to deal with men according to the vast variety of their characters, or to preserve himself from those who almost in every place lie in wait to deceive. . . .[And also,]  the discernment of spirits!”
  • “Eighthly. . . .prudence . . .  common sense.”
  • “Ninthly. . . . the courtesy of a gentleman. . . . [including] a strong, clear, musical voice, and a good delivery.”

“The grace of God . . .”

  • “As to his intention, . . . to glorify God, and to save souls from death.”
  • “As to his affections. . . . an eminent measure of love to God, and love to all his brethren. . . . Without this, how can he go through all the toils and difficulties which necessarily attend the faithful execution of his office? . . . He therefore must be utterly void of understanding, must be a madman of the highest order, who, on any consideration whatever, undertakes this office, while he is a stranger to this affection.”
  • “As to his practice: . . .an example to the flock, in his private as well as public character. . . .”

“Such is a true Minister of Christ; and such, beyond all possibility of dispute, ought both you and I to be.”