John Wesley Barefoot

John Wesley Founder of Methodism Preaches Barefoot

John Wesley preaching at Wednesbury riots

John Wesley preaching
at Wednesbury riots

I have always marveled at the common-sense wisdom that Francis Asbury possessed. Yes, he did grow up in a blue-collar, hard-working family. His life in the rugged West-Midlands of England taught him many practical approaches to wise living. However, I am also confident that Francis Asbury’s exposure to wise men like John Wesley, Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and other leaders of the 18th-century Methodist movement which transformed a troubling culture, as well as meeting and spending time with America’s founding fathers like Dr. Benjamin Rush, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Governor Richard Bassett and others who formed the greatest nation in five thousand years of human history, contributed to his extraordinary wit. Below is one story from the early teaching and preaching years of John Wesley.

This story originally appeared in the 1808 edition of The Methodist Magazine, as written by Reverend Thomas Rutherford. Pastor Rutherford was a traveling companion of John Wesley in Glasgow, Scotland in 1776. While traveling together on their pastoral rounds, John Wesley related this story to Thomas Rutherford. According to Rutherford, the story took place in the earliest years of John Wesley’s ministry while in the American colony of Georgia, in Savanna.

Methodist Magazine 1808

From the Methodist Magazine of 1808:

“A circumstance occurred as we rode along, that led him to relate an anecdote, which I shall never forget, and which I thought highly characteristic. We overtook a little girl without stockings and shoes; (a thing very common in Scotland in spring and summer) he called her to him, and gave her a shilling, with a few words of advice.

He then took notice of the custom, and added, “When I was in America, I taught one school at Savannah, and Mr. Delamott taught another. He told me one day, that a part of the boys belonging to his school wore stockings and shoes, and the others did not; and that the former laughed at and ridiculed the latter, and thereby discouraged them; and that, though he prevented their doing so when they were under his eye, they did it when out of school: so that, notwithstanding all the pains he had taken, it appeared to be a growing evil, and he did not know how to cure it. I told him,” said Mr. Wesley, “‘I thought I could cure it;’ and added, ‘If you will take the care of my school next week, I will take care of your’s, and try;’ which he readily consented to do.

Accordingly, on Monday morning, I (Wesley) went into his school without either stockings or shoes. The children looked with surprise, first at me, and then at each other. I took no notice but kept them to their work. I soon observed, however, that those who were without stockings and shoes, began to gather courage, and look with an air of consequence, now they had the master on their side. I did the same every day during the week; before the end of which, several of those who used to wear stockings and shoes came to school without them. Thus, the evil was effectually cured!”

John Wesley and Francis Asbury Southern England

Black Country Front Cover Illustration

Black Country
Front Cover

Wonder where Francis Asbury gained a portion of his inspiring approach to ministry? Some of it undoubtedly came from John Wesley himself. For more on the interaction of John Wesley and Francis Asbury, consider purchasing the opening book in The Asbury Triptych Series, Black Country. In the chapter titled The Methodist Wilderness, a young, frustrated, and physically beat, Francis Asbury, is mentored by John Wesley as the pair travel from Salisbury to Portsmouth. It is John Wesley who realizing Francis’s troubles personally invites Francis Asbury to preach on the tiny and picturesque Island of Wight off the southern coast of England. The temporary jaunt is not without incident.


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