It has been shrewdly said that true greatness grows. It not only endures, but actually increases. The stature of those whose greatness springs from goodness (as the highest always does) is enhanced as the years go by, and succeeding generations recognize more and more of significance in their character and influence. This is a principle clearly distinguishable in the case of those whom God has chosen to be lights of the world in their several generations. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18). It is so for him, as that Scripture suggests, but where greatness is allied to righteousness it seems as if that illumination is conveyed to after-ages.

Certainly this has happened with John Wesley. He has always been known as an outstanding figure in the history of the Christian church. But his stock improves as the march of time takes us further from his century, and it can be said that never was he more appreciated than today. We are beginning to realize the measure of his greatness. The judgment of Augustine Birrell that he was “the greatest force of the eighteenth century” is widely accepted. A recent editorial in The Times Literary Supplement has reaffirmed this conviction. “No historian can miss the immense raising of the nation’s spiritual temper by Wesley in his own movement and through its effects in the Church of England. When we review the nineteenth century we find the evils which we criticize in our own, sometimes in worse shapes, but we see a high seriousness and far less confusion of mind. The recovery of the national mind and character started with Wesley.”

This acclaim is not confined to Great Britain, of course. Wesley’s fame is universal. In the ...

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