John Wesley and The Holy Club’s 22 Questions

In 1729, while John Wesley was a student at Oxford, he started a club with his brother Charles. It was soon mockingly dubbed “The Holy Club” by some of his fellow collegians. The club members rigorously self-examined themselves everyday by asking the following 22 questions:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?

2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

3. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?

4. Can I be trusted?

5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?

6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?

7. Did the Bible live in me today?

8. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?

9. Am I enjoying prayer?

10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?

11. Do I pray about the money I spend?

12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?

13. Do I disobey God in anything?

14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?

17. How do I spend my spare time?

18. Am I proud?

19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?

20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?

21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?

22. Is Christ real to me?

“Encourage one another daily . . . so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

The first list appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley’s second Oxford Diary. Similar questions appeared in his 1733 A Collection of Forms of Prayer for Every Day in the Week. As late as 1781, Wesley published a list of questions like this in the Arminian Magazine.

Wesley died on Wednesday March 2, 1791, in his eighty-eighth year. As he lay dying, his friends gathered around him, Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, “Farewell, farewell.” At the end, summoning all his remaining strength, he cried out, “The best of all is, God is with us,” lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice again, repeating the words, “The best of all is, God is with us.”

The Holy Club never exceeded twenty-five members, but many of those made significant contributions, in addition to those of Charles and John Wesley. John Gambold later became a Moravian bishop. John Clayton became a distinguished Anglican churchman. James Hervey became a noted religious writer. Benjamin Ingham became a Yorkshire evangelist. Thomas Brougham became secretary of the SPCK. George Whitefield, who joined the club just before the Wesleys departed for Georgia, was associated both with the Great Awakening in America and the Evangelical Revival in England. Looking back from 1781 John Wesley saw in the Holy Club the “first rise” of Methodism. The “second rise” was in Georgia in 1736, when he met with selected members of his congregation on Sunday afternoons. From these grew the idea for “Methodist societies” which became the backbone of the Methodist organization. (


  1. Thats a great list. Phil 4 9 says put into prqctice everything you saw me doing and taught. Everything on that list is for the good of us all and will be well with our souls. People hate wesley because he didnt think obedience was burdensome. Im prqcticing dailybeing thankful in all circumstances becauae i fail at more than i should. We all should have a list

  2. I feel I must add a critical note. This approach of a list of questions to challenge us about how ‘holy’ we are or should desire to be is quite simply legalism. The holiness comes by grace from God, because of the atoning work of Christ. Otherwise Christ died for nothing.

    Love is the guide to our behaviour. “The whole law can be summed up…” (Galatians 5 v 14 and Matthew 22 v 36-40)

    The Holy Spirit is the enabler. ‘If we are led by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the flesh’. (Galatians 5 v 16).

    The problem with many churches is that they indeed give the appearance of being ‘holy clubs’, excluding the ‘unholy’ unless they agree to a) accept the club rules and of course b) pay the 10%+ subscription fee!

    The Wesley list might well lead to Christians living in condemnation and thus rendered pretty useless in spreading the Gospel of love and forgiveness through faith in Christ alone.

    1. It doesn’t appear that you read the list. Legalism? Wouldn’t that be to give some type of specific instruction or task in order to get a pass? These are simply questions to get yourself centered on God. And the real measure is – did it work? Study these guys and you’ll find that it did in a major way.

      1. Practical Holiness is not passive on the part of the saint. We are told by Him; be Holy as I am holy. One must obey the scriptures, “work out his salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure”. We are to confess our sins to one another. We are positionally holy because of the propitiation of our sins by the work on the cross and by His divine will.
        We are called to “let” our lights shine before men that they me see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. There will ne a judgement for the saint as it relates to his practical outworking or holiness, obedience and work that God has gifted and called him to do.
        None of this is legalism. It is our response to the indwelling power and call of God upon our lives.
        I left out the scriptures. You will need to look them up along with many others that repeat this throughout scripture. Hebrews 10 says we are to gather together and provoke one another to love and good deeds. This would the the intent of any association of men who desire to help each other work out what God has called them to do. This is the call and intent. We do not live this life here alone. We need to be with others.

    2. Seems the questions are a good thing to ask ourselves. We are told to examine our hearts to see if our motives are true. Nothing wrong with self-examination in the light of the Word of God. Maybe it would shine some wrong motives in us.

    1. Author

      Carrie – It is Benjamin Ingham. The other spelling is a typo that I picked up from another publication. It has been corrected. Thank you. Rex

  3. These are great comments!
    Oh to be able to accomplish those 22 items of holiness. I find myself falling short on quite a few
    of these. I seem to get hung up on grace and works. Never have had
    a good handle on it. That would explain why I feel I never measure up and never do enough.

  4. I do not read these Questions as “rules”. Yes, we sin, but a Believer no longer has a sinful nature. Eph. 4:24, Rom. 6:6-11, 12:2, Col. 1:22, 3:3-16, Heb. 10:10….We sin because there is still sin in the world and we make choices that are less than holy. I believe that the more we practice holy living, the more Christ-like we become. We need to start living like we really are a new creation in Christ! (II Cor. 5:17). We cannot do this on our own, but with the power of the Holy Spirit walking alongside with us. I am intrigued to start looking at these Questions in my own life…..

  5. Does anyone here have an original source for these questions? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

  6. It is probably a good example of people who lived around the 1700’s, to have conformed to some form of holiness, rules and/or questions. However, I doubt it was an end to itself.

  7. Living the life that these questions lead us to will ensure that at the end, we do not end up as false disciples in a Matt. 7:21 position: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “(Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)

    On the contrary, the questions do not make us “religious” but help us to live an accurate and balanced kingdom life upon the earth – one that is acceptable to Christ. Together they remind us that this life cannot be achieved in our own strength, but only through the daily pursuit of a personal relationship with the Lord and His word and a reliance on His grace. In Matt. 6:33, we are told of this – ” But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

  8. If anyone thinks that because John Wesley was a strict disciplinarian he believed one was saved by works, that person does not know John Wesley at all. He struggled in that regard early in his ministry but had a “heart-warming” experience that changed how he viewed the nature of salvation and of being assured of salvation. As for these questions being too hard or too…anything for the 21st century, I don’t think so. A pursuit of holiness is not in our own strength. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit leading our lives. To claim an easy believism without further pursuit of a Holy(Christlike)life is to miss out on a large part of the Christian experience. These are vital questions when one considers one other question: is all of my life sold out to all of God and His Way?

      1. A little late to answer your question but here’s your answer nonetheless. I hope it finds your heart warmed.

  9. Let it be readily admitted that whenever two or more people agree to encourage each other to be intentional and systematic in their daily lives, there exists the danger that such devotion to holy living will eventually come to be viewed, by themselves or by others, as an attempt to earn or deserve salvation. Such is not, however, the only possible motive and we need to be careful about impugning the motives of others.

    It is certainly wrong for Methodists or any other voluntary association of Christians to have a criteria for membership in a “club” or denomination without adequately emphasizing that such criteria are not criteria for salvation. I’m not a Methodist myself but I have known several Methodists and none of them have failed in this regard.

    Whatever may have been the original motives for the behavioral criteria for membership in the holing Club at Oxford, John Wesley dedicated most of his life to teaching the exact opposite of salvation by works. His doctrine of the “second blessing” was (and is) that as surely as justification (forgiveness) is a free gift of God’s grace and received though faith alone (not through penance or good works), so sanctification (holiness) is a free gift of God’s grace and received through faith alone. It (sanctification or holiness) is God’s gift to us–not our gift to him.

    Roger Metzger

    1. Excellent comments Roger!
      Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another Pr. 27:17
      Behold how good and how pleasant it is for Brothers to dwell together in unity.
      Ps. 133:1

  10. These are thoughts to ponder and amuse yourself to think you can apply them to the life we live in the world we have to live in. We would be saints if we could truly live applying these to our lives daily. Reality is we are sinners and Gods grace and mercy saves us. We can never live good enough to deserve His love for us. We are saved by faith in the resurrection and His shed blood. Following rules puts you back under the old law and Christs death wouldn’t be necessary if we were saved by living under the law.

    1. We will all be held accountable for the way we live our lives,not just living our lives as if we had a fire insurance policy. Not by power or might but by my Spirit says The Lord. Who will let Jesus live thru them today who will be His hands and His feet? Who will bring others closer to Him today in all that we say and do? Encourage one another in our walk with Him in truth but in love.So thankful for these suggestions to help in our Christian walk

    2. “Ponder and amuse oneself”… “Following rules puts you back under the old law”

      According to Wesley’s inspiring life, I doubt he expected people to take these instructions as amusing ponderings. In fact, he obviously worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling: (Phil 2:12), and got plenty of opposition for it: (2 Tim 3:12). If I could try to summarize his message, I might try this;

      “Salvation by grace, heavenly reward by works”.

      For the above list, Wesley is talking works for reward here, but his lifetime of sermons emphasize salvation by grace. In contrast, the modern church (esp in the US) seems to teach…

      “Grace for salvation, grace for reward in heaven”.

      Which is why this McGospel ain’t getting very far in transforming society like the real gospel did in the 1700’s when it was influenced by people like Wesley.

      Besides the heavenly reward aspect, one we realize the situation: That God who owns every atom in my body, who suffered and died to rescue me and who even offered his very own Spirit to live in me. So the only appropriate response is to give at least as much commitment as a typical Olympic athlete would give to their sport. Sadly that is a good deal more commitment than your average grace-only McChristian.

      Wesley left the example of a champion.

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