John Wesley's experience at Lincoln College

A webpage from Lincoln College itself adds detail to the story:

In 1726 a vacancy became available for a Fellowship at Lincoln College, which at that time was open only to those born in the diocese of Lincoln. Wesley’s father had connections with Dr Morley, Rector of Lincoln College, and after being examined in Homer and Horace he was duly elected to a fellowship on March 25th. Samuel Wesley was very content that his son was to become one of the twelve fellows and wrote:

“What will be my own fate before the summer is over, God knows, sed passi graviora, wherever I am, my Jack is a fellow of Lincoln.”

Wesley resided in a rather cramped set of rooms in Chapel Quad, overlooking Turl Street. He found Lincoln very friendly and remarked:

“I never knew a college besides ours whereof the members were so perfectly satisfied with one another.”

It was whilst at Lincoln that he continued to keep the diary he had begun as an undergraduate. Wesley’s diary recounted the life he had at Oxford from the friends he breakfasted with to the excursions he made and services he took.

He had quite a lot of leave granted during the first part of his fellowship to help his father in the parish of Wroot but in 1729 the Rector summoned him back to Lincoln to become a tutor. Wesley was a conscientious tutor in Greek Testament but he also enjoyed a rich social life in Oxford and the Cotswolds. He began to think deeply about religion and spent hours in the Bodlien library, mulling things over and discovering new strands of Christian thought. A group of likeminded individuals began to meet together on a regular basis, forming what became known as a ‘Holy Club’. It grew rapidly so that soon it included a member from almost every college in Oxford. The club met together to read, study scripture and undergo rigorous self-examination of their Christian lives. They would also take part in works of charity especially by preaching to prisoners in the city. In 1732, the term ‘Methodists’ was first coined to describe these men meeting in Oxford as it reflected the method and order of their lives. They tried to ensure that every hour of the day had its proper purpose.

Two of Wesley’s siblings, Samuel and Charles, were also now at Oxford and Samuel especially began to worry about John. He was concerned about John’s yearning to reach Christian perfection, his stiff regulations and graveness. The Dons in the Lincoln Common Room also began to talk about this ‘sect’ called the Methodists. Some unfavourable criticism followed and some defected from the society. John also began to lose his reputation as a tutor as students and parents feared indoctrination. In March 1733 he was even confronted by a mob at the gates of the college but this left him undeterred.

Wesley’s father offered him the opportunity to take charge of his Parish but he felt he had more to do elsewhere. In 1735 he decided to become a missionary (chiefly to save his soul) and sailed with his brother Charles to the Americas.

Other famous Alumni of Lincoln college include:

John Radcliffe (1650 – 1714)
John Wesley (1703 – 1791)
Nevil Vincent Sidgwick (1873 – 1952)
Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917)
Lord Florey (1898 – 1968)
Dr. Seuss (1904 – 1991)
Sir Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986)
Norman Heatley (1911 – 2004)
Sir Edward Penley Abraham (1913-1999)
John Le Carré (1931 – )
Stephanie Cook (1972 – )


This post is provides material from online articles and information on English History which forms the background for the development of Methodism. The major article(s) quoted here are:—1791

Additional useful details of John Wesley’s time at Lincoln college can be found here: The Life of John Wesley by John Telford – Chapter 4 EARLIER YEARS AT OXFORD, AND CURACY AT WROOTE 1720—1729, from the Wesley Center Online at

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