"John Wesley and Karl Marx, unmistakably, are the two most influential characters of all modern history." So argues J. Wesley Bready in this classic statement on the social significance of the original evangelical movement in Great Britain. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at least, evangelical religion-as found in the life and teaching of John Wesley-had profound consequences that were anything but an opiate of the people (contra the teachings of Karl Marx). Instead, "vital religion" proved itself to be powerfully transformative, not only in the personal lives of its converts, but also in the deepest fibre of their social and political lives.
J. Wesley Bready's careful documentation of the profound social and political influence of John Wesley's preaching and teaching will, for many readers today, prove to be a convincing demonstration of the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The power and scope of this evangelical Christian influence was extraordinary: from education to health care; from the needs of the poor and orphans, to prison reform and the founding of democratic institutions; from the promotion of good reading to an end to cruelty to animals (and founding of the RSPCA). All of these, and more, are the hallmarks and outward manifestations of a vital Christian faith. Nothing could illustrate more convincingly that "faith without works is dead" and, contrary to Marx, that the gospel of Jesus Christ more typically serves as a sharp awakening rather than an opiate of the people.
"This republication of J. Wesley Bready's classic work comes as a welcome development. Focusing primarily on the towering figure of John Wesley and his impact on evangelical revival and social reform in 18th century England, Bready demonstrates the inextricable link between living Christian faith and the humanizing and ameliorative social transformations of the period. . . . This book is edifying reading for Christians seeking to make sense of contemporary discussions of the relationship between evangelicalism and social justice movements, as well as for all who are sympathetic to the religious heritage of that which is best in contemporary democratic societies. Bready's presentation of Wesley helps to remind us that living faith and social concern once were, and should again be understood as intrinsic features of evangelical identity." -Zack Gordon
Rev. Dr. J. Wesley Bready (1887-1953) was a Canadian-born scholar and author of numerous books, including Wesley and Democracy (1939), Lord Shaftesbury (1900), This Freedom-Whence? (1942), and Faith and Freedom: The Roots of Democracy (1946). He held degrees from Queen's University, University of Toronto, Columbia University, and University of London.