John Wesley, Founder of Methodism, Promoted a Vegetarian Diet
John Wesley believed a vegetarian diet was the foundation for good health, a strong spiritual practice and connection with God.
John Wesley (1703-1791) was the founder of the Methodist movement and the Christian denomination of Methodism. He was a revered and prolific English preacher and theologian who was considered light years ahead of his time. Wesley strongly advocated and believed in eating a plant-based diet. He felt good physical and spiritual health went together and vegetarianism was the diet most compatible with Christian values like mercy, compassion and kindness. He was against any and all cruelty to animals or causing their suffering by killing them for food, and believed that a vegetarian diet was the best foundation for developing a spiritual practice and relationship with God.
“I believe in my heart that faith in Jesus Christ can and will lead us beyond an exclusive concern for the well-being of other human beings to the broader concern for the well-being of the birds in our backyards, the fish in our rivers, and every living creature on the face of the earth.” (God’s Covenant with Animals, Lantern Books, 2000, xii)
Even three centuries back, Wesley observed and thought that eating animal foods was harmful to people’s physical health, including the eating of eggs and dairy. He reasoned that animal products made people sick causing chronic disease, infections and food poisoning. His medical doctor advised Wesley to stop eating animal products, and when he did and he became a vegetarian—his chronic health problems disappeared. Wesley so believed in a vegetarian diet to prevent and cure disease, he wrote a book about it called, “Primitive Physick: or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Disease.” His book was a bestseller in his day and sold more books than anything else he wrote.
“Dr. Cheyne advised me to leave them off again (animal products), assuring me, ‘Till you do, you will never be free from fevers.’ And since I have taken his advice, I have been free (blessed be God) from all bodily disorders.” (From a letter to Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London, LONDON, June 11, 1747, in The Letters of John Wesley Edited by John Telford, London: Epworth Press, 1931)
“Thanks be to God! Since the time I gave up the use of flesh-meats and wine, I have been delivered from all physical ills.”
This is thought to be partly inspired by Isaiah’s vision of the Kingdom of Peace, where:
“On the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other.” (Is. 11:6-9)
Wesley was opposed to all forms of animal cruelty and ways humans can cause animals to suffer:
“I am persuaded you are not insensible of the pain given to every Christian, every humane heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and hunting. Can any of these irrational and unnatural sports appear otherwise than cruel …? And if man is void of these, does he deserve the name of man? Or is he fit for society? (The Journal of the Reverend John Wesley, A.M. Sometime Fellow of the Lincoln College, Oxford: From October 14th, 1735 to October 24th, 1790, Volume 2)
In Wesley’s early days of founding Methodism, his followers first met in private homes and classrooms. One of his founding principles became:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Wesley, in fact, personally never slowed down in his ministry and preaching. He was said to have traveled over 4,000 miles annually, preaching some 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. He tried to reach as many people in his lifetime as he could with the message that everyone can experience the love of God and can develop a personal relationship with God. He founded his teachings on the Holy Bible and viewed the Bible as the definitive authority.