John Wesley on the Importance of Reading
One of his biographers says that evangelist John Wesley "rode 250,000 miles, gave away 30,000 pounds...and preached more than 40,000 sermons.” (Edward T. Oakes, John Wesley: A Biography, First Things, 2004.)
250,000 miles on horseback? That’s a staggering distance. It’s equivalent to circling the globe ten times…on a horse! (I’d advise against trying this even once, with the oceans and all.)
Often, Wesley had a book open in front of him as he rode. He loved to learn, and read books incessantly, which gave freshness to the sermons he preached about three times a day. Whether at a desk or on a horse, Wesley wrote this letter to a pastor, John Premboth, on August 17, 1760:
What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading.
I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.
O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant.
Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular.