Two volumes of this edition of The Works of John Wesley present writings that describe and illumine the purpose and practice of the Methodist Societies, the particular ecclesiastical form in and through which Wesley's work and thought were embodied.
The present volume deals with the history, nature, and design of the Societies. This collection of material, though somewhat miscellaneous in nature, helps to recreate for the modern reader some sense of the goals of Wesley's Societies, as well as the structure and practices through which those goals were to be attained.
Some of the documents published here reflect the basic principles of the Methodist Societies. Others contain descriptions by Wesley of the kind of person he expected a Methodist to be. Many of the writings are, of necessity, controversial. The difficult question of the relation of the Methodist Societies to the Church of England emerges at several points. Some of Wesley's responses to attacks on the Methodist movement, which on occasion included actual persecution of individual Methodists, are included here, showing how Wesley appealed to reasonableness and a sense of justice in his critics and opponents.