Founder of Methodism: Vegetarian John Wesley On His Vegetarian Diet
Diet and Health: John Wesley
founder of the Methodists.
(In v 6 of his collected writings, Wesley
is recorded as saying that on the
advice of his physician Dr Cheyne he had
become vegetarian.. elsewhere he wrote of the sacred life of creatures and the religious aspects of vegetarian diet.)
The Church, collectively, has been strangely silent on the connection between our diet and health, and our physical and spiritual well being. The only major exceptions to this silence, that we are aware of, have been the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the non-affiliated ministry of George H. Malkmus who founded Hallelujah Acres .
Very early in John Wesley’s ministry, he realized that there was a connection between physical and spiritual health. If the body was sick, then the person’s focus would likely be diverted from God. When he came to America in the mid 1700′s, he continued this teaching and was criticized for it by local clergy and the Anglican Bishop of London. Following is an excerpt from John Wesley’s response to the bishop:
By ‘extraordinary strictnesses and severities,’ I presume your Lordship means the abstaining from wine and animal food; which, it is sure, Christianity does not require. But if you do, I fear your Lordship is not thoroughly informed of the matter of fact. I began to do this about twelve years ago, when I had no thought of ‘annoying parochial ministers,’ or of ‘captivating’ any ‘people’ thereby, unless it were the Chicasaw or Choctaw Indians. But I resumed the use of them both, about two years after, for the sake of some who thought I made it a point of conscience; telling them, ‘I will eat flesh while the world standeth’ rather than ‘make my brother to offend.’ Dr. Cheyne advised me to leave them off again, 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.1
Both John Wesley and his physician knew that the eating of animals and their by-products (eggs and dairy) was injurious to health. Wesley had first hand knowledge of this, as do we, today, yet most people don’t want to hear about it. Why? Because most people don’t want to change their lifestyle, so they resort to trying to silence the prophets of truth, and for a little while they were successful in doing so with John Wesley. However, when his illnesses returned, he resumed being a strict vegetarian and he regained his health. Unfortunately, Wesley was not forceful enough with passing along these truths about diet and health and, as a result, most of these vegetarian dietary truths have been lost in the teachings of the Methodist and other churches among whom he had influence. It is time we reverse this mistake.
We have an obligation to learn about the connections between animal foods and chronic illnesses, and about a proper vegetarian diet. Likewise, we have an obligation to speak forth to our congregations about these things, for to do otherwise promotes violence to their health, to their spiritual well-being, and to their personal finances. Personally, we never found out about these thing in the church. Our education about diet and health came from our own experience and from people and organizations outside the church.
Poor health can be a tremendous drain on personal finances, and when people worry about these things it has an injurious effect on their physical well-being, so that their health is further deteriorated. Thus, our silence on the advantages of a vegetarian (vegan) diet really does violence to people’s health, finances, and well-being.
Jesus is often referred to as the “Great Physician”. It is interesting to note that God’s original intent was for us and our fellow creatures to eat only plant foods (Genesis 1:29-30). The diet of good health and healing was set in motion from the very beginning for all who would receive it.
We have an obligation to learn and speak out.
1. Letter to the Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London, LONDON, June 11, 1747, in The Letters of John Wesley Edited by John Telford — London: Epworth Press, 1931. Available online: http://wesley.nnu.edu/Letters/1747.htm as part of http://wesley.nnu.edu/Letters/
The intent of this series is to wake up and encourage the Church to greater works of love and compassion (John 14:12). It is not to condemn the Church, in general, or any individual, any more than Jesus condemned the woman caught in adultery. Jesus said to her, “…go your way. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) And this is our message to the Church: Recognize our sins of the past and go forth seeking to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), correcting the sins of the past, for that is the only way we can truly show the world that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, might, and mind, including the whole of creation, which includes our neighbors whom we are to love as ourselves.