John Wesley spent some time in Georgia, where he was ministering at the time he received the letter mentioned here, in a note to Boswell’s Life of Johnson. He would have been able to see slavery in action for himself.
A gentleman, writing from Virginia to John Wesley, in 1735, about the need of educating the negro slaves in religion, says:—’Their masters generally neglect them, as though immortality was not the privilege of their souls in common with their own.’ Wesley’s Journal, II. 288.
Of course immortality is the privilege of any human being who chooses to accept it, but to enslave others by kidnapping them, or buying them from their abductors, is to deny their essential humanity. Teaching them the Good News would undermine the whole edifice of slavery.
We will be looking at some of Wesley’s thoughts on slavery in the coming days; we also have the feast of Saint Gregory on Thursday 3rd September, with some reflections on slavery by John Buchan.
The following posts will be based on Wesley’s Thoughts upon Slavery of 1774; these were based on a pamphlet Some Historical Accounts of Guinea, published in Philadelphia in 1771 by Anthony Benezet, an American Quaker.
Thoughts upon Slavery can be found here. The drawing depicts the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791) at age 48. It comes from the John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, website,