Review of Percy Parker’s Abridged Version of “The Journal of John Wesley” – John Boruff

I just finished listening to an audio version of Percy Livingstone Parker’s abridged version of The Journal of John Wesley. It was better than nothing: good for a general overview of Wesley’s life. But I was disappointed in many areas; it appears that this version was originally produced in 1902 and then it was reproduced by Moody Press in 1951. So it was very “mainstream” evangelical. Very watered-down and stripped of most of its Arminian and charismatic elements. In fact, 60% of it is simply Wesley’s natural observations about things during his travels throughout the United Kingdom.

I was surprised and disappointed at how de-supernaturalized this version was. In Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Voice of God, he explains that John Howie’s The Scots Worthies received similar treatment throughout its various editions. I think that the original Journal of John Wesley was something like 8 volumes long, but this was condensed into a little over 500 pages. There was almost no theology in this abridgement, other than some of the sermon topics that he preached on, which briefly come through as Scripture verses on the judgment of God or salvation.

I’m happy that I have a copy of Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley, because it offers a good counterbalance to the very non-Pentecostal nature of this version. With that being said, there are still some supernatural mentions in this version: trances that people had of Heaven and Hell; a story of a man being followed by the devil and then converting afterwards; and people falling down under the power of God during Wesley’s preaching. Sometimes dreams and visions are mentioned. Once there’s a story where Wesley is administering the Lord’s Supper and an angelic harp was heard for about 5 minutes and people were crying.

I’m sure there were other supernatural references, but they’re nothing that really stand out in my mind at this point. The majority of this version is very naturalized; it is a very watered-down version made to appeal to a large audience and was made by Moody Press, which is a Baptist book publisher. Christian perfection is never explained, the fact that Wesley had a rocky marriage never came through, a lot of important controversies were left out, the witness of the Spirit barely mentioned, etc. At least it had the “heart strangely warmed” Aldersgate experience. I recommend getting the complete and unabridged version called The Works of John Wesley by Baker Books, 1996, 3rd ed.

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is a husband, father, blogger, and insurance agent.
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