1. Life of John Wesley and the origin of Methodism

The Methodist movement was initiated by John Wesley during the first decades of the eighteenth century in England. He was first an Anglican pastor and later became the English theologian who founded this religious denomination. Wesley introduced rigorous rites of devotion and sound theological principles, arguing that grace could thus be obtained even during earthly life. The doctrine was accompanied by daily practice aimed at doing good deeds, with a focus on the health of the faithful: ministers had to cure not only the soul but also the body of the faithful. To this end, Wesley wrote a small book describing simple medical remedies for everyone.

We are mentioning below some aspects of Methodism, choosing among those that are considered particularly interesting in relation to Andrew Taylor Still‘s life and ideas, as highlighted in the following table.

Main point
Metodismo Life of John Wesley English Theologian and founder of Methodism, the religion of Dr Abram Still, fatehr of A.T. Still
The doctrine of Methodism Historical roots Notes on the role of Methodism within Christianity
Theological cornerstones Notes on the main doctrinal characteristics of Methodism
Medicine Methodism valued not only to the health of the body in besides welfare of the soul, Dr Abram Still was also a doctor
The Methodism in America Spreading Methodism took hold overseas and became the most widespread religious denomination
Itinerant Preachers Dr Abram Still, padre di A.T. Still, was an itinerant preacher
Camp meetings Religious gatherings organized by the Methodists (and therefore also by the father of Dr A.T. Still)
The isuue of slavery Dr Abram Still was, like his sons, a convinced abolitionist
Underground Railroad Dr Abram Still may have contributed to the underground network created in support of fugitive slaves
The schism At the time of the 1844 schism Dr Abram Still sided with the Northern Methodist Church
The methodist missions in Kansas Dr Abram Still  founded the Wakarusa mission in Kansas
Infighting between Methodists in Kansas and Missouri Dr Abram Still was repeatedly threatened for his abolitionist ideas. Dr A.T. Still sided with James Henry Lane and John Brown and actively participated in the fighting in Kansas


Life of John Wesley

John Wesley studied classic literature in Oxford, learned seven languages, and in 1725 decided to take religious orders like his father. In 1726 he was a lecturer at a theological school in Oxford, where he lectured in the Greek translation of the New Testament, in Greek, on a weekly basis. Then he returned to his native country, where he assisted his father in the local parish for two years.

He then decided to return to Oxford and formed a small group of devotions with his brother Charles. The group met six evenings a week: they would study the scriptures, fasten often, receive communion every week, do works of charity, visit the sick, the poor and the prisoners. They also refrained from luxury and entertainment.
In particular, they preferred to reflect on Christian works that gave practical indications for everyday life, such as “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas of Kempis, and the “Holy Living and The Holy Dying” by Jeremy Taylor…. keep reading

Historical roots of Methodism

From the historical point of view, some authors link Methodism to the practice of the early Christians, who after conversion had to create a habitus, or implicit vision of the world, through discipline. At that time, theology was trying to link the metaphysical reflections on God to their pastoral and salvific implications, with the aim of regulating the Christians’ life in the world. To this end, catechisms and liturgies were produced which, on the one hand, were the result of rigorous theological reflections and, on the other hand, were to answer the simple questions of the first worshippers with regard to the rites they had to observe and practice (Maddox 1988).

From the beginning of the Middle Ages the study of theology became an essentially speculative science, which continued to be studied in the universities that had adopted the Aristotelian model. It was so that a big part of the theological studies were devoted to the preparation of manuals for the training of the ministers of worship as well as to the examination of any issue from a logical point of view, finally becoming detouched from human life. The so-called practical (mystical or spiritual) theology often remained isolated in the convents.
In later centuries two separate theologies emerged: an academic “theoretical theology” and a “practical theology” that dealt with morality, and this made it increasingly difficult for men to understand the relationship between what they believed and what they did (Maddox 1988).

Even if Wesley’s Methodism is linked to the model of the practical theology of the early Christians, it would be reductive to forget its deep Anglican roots and the value attributed to creeds, liturgy and prayers for spiritual development (Wesley wrote the Sunday Service especially for the North American Methodists). The theological dimension of Methodism is also demonstrated by Wesley’s Biblical studies (Wesley 1866), by the hymn texts he wrote with his brother Charles, by the periodic conferences with preachers in which he clarified theological issues and by his other numerous writings.
The published sermons – very different from the oral preaching that contained mainly messages intended to awaken the general public – were aimed at the theological education of the faithful Methodists, and would always consider the repercussions of the speculative doctrine on the practical life of men (Maddox 1988).

Some of John Wesley’s theological ideas are reported in the following paragraphs.
The fundamental premise of Methodism is that all men are sinners, either because they offend God by loving things and creatures more than the creator, or because they offend others, practicing for example hatred, revenge, war, negligence. The Divine Physician can heal them from sin.

The divine grace is God’s love for the world, interpreted by Wesley as a “prevenient” or “preparatory” grace, indicating that God comes to us even before we turn to him. This type of grace, “free in all, and free for all,” is present in every man through the Holy Ghost, and allows him or her to choose the way of sanctification. It is up to the person, however, to extend the hand to receive it. Enlightened by grace, the believer can awaken and look at life with new eyes: he will be more sensitive to God’s presence and will feel a love not only for God but for every soul of creation, including enemies. From this will blossom the need to live a holy life.

People are therefore called to do good works and to practice inner and outer holiness. Interior holiness is complete and absolute abandonment to God’s will, a daily path of growth made possible by God’s grace and therefore by the Holy Ghost. External holiness is the way of showing love for God By loving the next person: Methodism is a social religion, to be lived in relationships with others by showing patience, generosity, kindness, self-sacrifice.

The believer, in the certainty that God’s grace has erased their sins, must change their behavior. Through their “works of piety” and “works of grace” they will pursue perfection, which is the purpose of their journey: with the help of God they could “walk as Jesus walked” (Benecchi 2005).

Wesley’s Methodism, oriented towards Arminianism, rejected the idea of an arbitrary God and thus also the theory of predestination.

Wesley’s interest in medicine arose initially from the fact that Anglican pastors were required to study it as part of their education. It was in fact common, especially in small villages, that religious ministers also offered medical care. In his diary, Wesley reports that he completed reading many medical texts between 1724 and 1732. During his stay in Georgia, he read a book on herbs present on American soil (Tennent 1734) and for all his life continued to be interested in this subject.

In order to summarize the content of his studies for the benefit of the Methodist community, he published a book of medical remedies, titled “Primitive Physic” (Wesley 1747), often interpreted as a collection of “grandmother’s remedies” based on folklore. Nevertheless, according to some scholars, about a third of the advice provided in the book comes from medical texts, including those of famous authors such as Hermann Boerhaave and Thomas Sydenham. In line with the verse “The Most High hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.” (Antonio Martini, Ecclesiastic 38:4). Wesley worked to identify and describe treatments available to all: his book intended to list those remedies that would be affordable, safe, easy-to-know and to find and administrable by simple and illiterate people (Maddox 2007)… Keep reading

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Currents of thought and major events in America at Still's time

3. Bibliography of the chapter on methodism

This page is a collection of bibliographical sources related to the current of thought of Methodism: from John Wesley, founder of Methodism in England, to the most recent publications related to its evolution in the United States of America and beyond.


2. The Methodism in America

The impetuous rise of the Methodist faith in the USA, although troubled by internal controversy, spread Christian principles widely throughout the territory, thanks to its itinerant preachers - who rode up to the most remote farms - and to the exciting gatherings during which new believers were converted to this denomination. Abram Still, father of the founder of osteopathy, was an orthodox physician. He became a Methodist pastor and sided with the abolitionist political faction and transmitted to his children the rigor and values of hisconfession.




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