I have read the following story many times:

John Wesley was riding along a road one day when it dawned on him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?” Slipping from his horse, Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault. A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said, picking up a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark, and fell harmlessly beside John. Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His presence.”

This can be found on many websites with identical wording. Unfortunately, almost none of them mention any source for this story. http://truelightministries.org/blog1/archives/83 at least mentions "J. G. Morrison" as the author, but isn't any more specific.

And http://zoeperissos.blogspot.de/2013/03/an-uncomfortable-peace.html mentions that the story does not seem to appear in Wesley's journal.

Is there any credible source for this story, or is this just a later invention?


2 Answers 2


Logically there are only two legit sources this story could come from if true; the two participants.

As the brick-chucker does not strike me as a man of letters (and is far from the hero in this story), I think its reasonable to rule him out.

That leaves Wesley himself. The problem there, as both the question and another answer have alluded to, is that Wesley kept extensive journals of his life, and this is certainly the kind of thing that would be in an entry had it happened. And yet it is not.

So this almost certainly has to be a fanciful invention.

If you know anything about Wesley, it reads like a joke as well. One important thing to know about the man is that praying was as natural as checking the Twitter feed might be to a modern person. He claimed to spend 2 hours every morning in prayer (a habit he got from his mother). So the only thing surprising about him stopping for prayer in this story would be that he didn't manage to come across and address any crisis of conscience already in those two hours that morning.

The other thing is that he very often had to contend with angry mobs, including at least once actually being hit by a brick. So the dude hucking the masonry at him would certainly be in character too.

Another thing that struck me about this story is the archaic form of it. It may just be a joke, but it looks like a pretty old one. I ran ngrams on the words "interceding" and "backslidden", and the phrase "rough fellow", and the result showed all three peaking in use back in the 1800's. If one were to join the curves, the most likely authorship date would be sometime in the vicinity 1860.*

For what its worth, this corresponds roughly with the period sometimes referred to as the Third Great Awakening in the USA. In the Wesleyan sphere, the big happening at this time was the Holiness Movement.

It turns out J.G. Morrison was a Methodist (Wesleyan) preacher active from the 1890's, who was indeed part of the Holiness Movement, and eventually split off with his compatriots into the Nazarene Church. So the timing is certainly consistent with that wording of the story being his work.

* - spoiling this line of reasoning a bit is that the setting of this story would be the 1740's but ngrams get unreliable before 1800 due to the small sample sizes. There are some interesting spikes back there if you try it anyway. So its quite possible this joke could even have been contemperanious

  • 1
    This is freaking awesome....
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 6, 2015 at 18:34

In my nearly twenty years of studying John Wesley and his movement, I have never come across this. You can find a digital copy of his journals online. Try doing a word search for the word backslidden. It may or may not turn up. If you interest, For more on John Wesley, I would like to invite you to the website for the book series, The Asbury Triptych Series. The trilogy based on the life of Francis Asbury, the young protégé of John Wesley and George Whitefield, opens with the book, Black Country. The opening novel in this three-book series details the amazing movement of Wesley and Whitefield in England and Ireland as well as its life-changing effect on a Great Britain sadly in need of transformation. Black Country also details the Wesleyan movement's effect on the future leader of Christianity in the American colonies, Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is www.francisasburytriptych.com. Please enjoy the numerous articles on the website. Again, thank you, for the post.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.