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Christian Library

John Wesley's most ambitious publishing venture appeared between 1749 and 1755 in 50 volumes. It included extracts from the Early Fathers such as Ignatius and Polycarp, Anglican writers ranging from Jeremy Taylor to Archbishop Tillotson, Catholic mystics like Fénelon and Molinos, and Cambridge Platonists such as Cudworth, More and Patrick. Yet he drew most fully on the English Puritans: Robert Bolton, John Preston, John Bunyan, Richard Baxter and many others. He abbreviated and revised his authors, to remove controversial statements and provide consistent Christian instruction. He selected 'the Choicest Pieces of Practical Divinity...in the English Tongue', and took advice from the leading Dissenter, Philip Doddridge. In October 1764 he urged: 'in every Society where you have not an experienced preacher, let one of the leaders read the Notes [on the NT] or the Christian Library. The price of the volumes may have limited sales and in 1783, urged to reprint them, W replied, 'I have lost above a hundred pounds by it before: and I cannot well afford to lose another hundred.' A later edition in 30 volumes, edited by Thomas Jackson, (1819-1827) apparently sold better. The Library is a monument to Wesley's keenness to educate his preachers and people, and to his catholicity in drawing so widely on the resources of the Christian tradition.

Sources

  • R.C. Monk, John Wesley: his Puritan Heritage (1966)
  • John C. English, 'The Cambridge Platonists in Wesley's "Christian Library"', in WHS Proceedings, 36 pp.161-68
  • Dudley Levistone Cooney, in Bulletin of the Wesley Historical Society in Ireland, Vol. 14 (2008-09) pp.34-36

Entry written by: JAN
Category: Publication

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