Happy Birthday, John Wesley. Two Silver Spoons.
And Thousands of Souls.
Thank you, John Wesley, for your practicing what you preached about money. John Wesley was born on this day 1703 (same year as Jonathan Edwards). He was one of the great evangelists of the 18th century. Today I want to celebrate his attitude toward money.
He is famous for saying: “Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can. (Sermon 50, "The Use of Money" in The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, 1840, edited by John Emory, Vol. I, 446). Here is how he lived this out.
In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year's income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley's income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.
This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them,
I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.
When he died in 1791 at the age of 87, the only money mentioned in his will was the coins to be found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote,
I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.
In other words, I will put a control on my spending myself, and I will go beyond the tithe for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.
(Quotes from Mission Frontiers, Sept./Oct. 1994, nos. 9–10, pp. 23–24)