John Wesley’s Catechism: Instructions for Children


John Wesley was passionate about catechizing children. In his journal, Wesley wrote, “I met about a hundred children, who are catechized publicly twice a week. Thomas Walsh began this some months ago, and the fruit of it appears already. What a pity that all our preachers in every place have not the zeal and wisdom to follow his example!” (“Dublin, Sunday, the 11th April 1756”).

Wesley urged Methodist ministers to give one hour twice a week to catechizing children: “Where there are ten children in a society, spend at least an hour with them twice a week. And do this not in a dull, dry, formal manner, but in earnest, with your might. ‘But I have no gift for this.’ Gift or no gift, you are to do it, else you are not called to be a Methodist preacher. Do it as you can, till you can do it as you would. Pray earnestly for the gift, and use the means for it; particularly studying the children’s tracts.”

Wesley urged Methodist ministers to give one hour twice a week to catechizing children.

William Pierce, in his 1854 work on The Ecclesiastical Principles and Polity of the Wesleyan Methodists says that “at a very early period in the history of Methodism” the attention of Wesley and his assistants was drawn to “to the education and spiritual improvement of the children,” with a focus on “instructing the children.” He notes that at the very first Methodist conference, it was asked, “Might not the children, in every place, be formed into a little society?” Pierce relays Wesley’s passion: “Unless we take care of the rising generation, the present revival of religion (says Mr. Wesley) will only last the age of man.”
To serve as an aid for the catechizing of children, Wesley produced a children’s catechism titled Instructions for Children. It seems to be geared toward older children. The catechism is included below with light edits (e.g., capitalization).


1. How many gods are there? One.

2. Who is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? These three are One.

3. What is God? A spirit.

4. What do you mean by a spirit? One that cannot be seen or felt.

5. What sort of a spirit is God? One that always was and always will be.

6. Where is God? Everywhere.

7. What does God know? Everything

8. What can God do? Whatever he will.

9. Does God love you? Yes. He loves everything that he has made.

10. What has God made? Everything, and in particular man.

Creation and the Fall

11. How did God make man? His body out of dust, his soul out of nothing.

12. Why did God make man? To know, love, and be happy in God forever.

“Why did God make man? To know, love, and be happy in God forever.”

13. Where did God put the first man and woman? In the Garden of Paradise.

14. What command did he give them there? Not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden.

15. Did they keep that command? No, they did eat of it.

16. What hurt did they bring on themselves hereby? Sin and guilt, and pain and death.

17. Did their sin hurt any beside themselves? Yes, all men that came from them.

18. How did it hurt them? They are all born in sin and guilt, and subject to pain and death.

19. How are men born in sin? We are all born proud, self-willed, lovers of the world, and not lovers of God.

The Son of God and Salvation

20. By whom are we to be saved from sin? By Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.

21. What did he do to save us? He was made man, and lived and died and rose again.

22. What may we gain by his living and dying for us? Forgiveness of sins, and holiness and heaven.

23. When does God forgive our sins? When we repent and believe in Christ.

24. What do you mean by repenting? Being thoroughly convinced of our sinfulness, guilt, and helplessness.

25. What is believing, or faith? A conviction of those unseen things which God has told us in the Bible.

26. What is faith in Christ? A conviction that Christ has loved us, and given himself for me.

27. By whom is this wrought in us? By the Holy Spirit.

28. What is holiness? The love of God, and of all mankind for God’s sake.

29. Is he that believes and loves God saved from sin? Yes, from all sinful tempers and words and works.

30. How is he saved from pride? He is little and mean and safe and vile in his own eyes.

31. How is he saved from self-will? His heart continually says, “Lord, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

32. How is he saved from the love of the world? He desires nothing but God.

33. How is he saved from sinful words? His words always spring from the grace of God, and are to minister grace to the hearers.

34. How is he saved from sinful works? By the Spirit of God which dwelleth in him, whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, it is all to the glory of God.

The Means of Grace

35. What is grace? The power of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to behave and love and serve God.

36. How are we to seek this? In a constant and careful use of the means of grace.

37. Which are the chief means of grace? The Lord’s Supper, prayer, searching the Scriptures, and fasting.

“Which are the chief means of grace? The Lord’s Supper, prayer, searching the Scriptures, and fasting.”

38. How often did the first Christians receive the Lord’s Supper? Every day. It was their daily bread.

39. How often did they join in public prayers? Twice a day, as many of them as could.

40. How often did they use private prayer? Every morning and night, at least.

41. How did they search the Scriptures? They heard or read them every day, and meditated therein day and night.

42. How often did the old Christians fast? Every Wednesday and Friday till three in the afternoon.

43. How long is every Christian to use all these means of grace? To his life’s end.


[Editor’s Note: Today, the biblical teaching on hell is often neglected, and this is wrong; however, one may be rightly concerned about the wisdom of Wesley’s approach in this section, especially if young children were present. It is retained here for the reader’s thoughtful consideration.]

44. Where do unbelievers go after death? To hell.

45. What sort of a place is hell? In a dark bottomless pit, full of fire and brimstone.

46. How will they spend their time there? In weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

47. Will both their souls and bodies be tormented? Yes, every part of them at once.

48. How will their bodies be tormented? By lying in burning and flaming fire.

49. How will their souls be tormented? By a sense of the wrath of God, by pride, self-will, malice, and envy, by grief, desire, fear, rage, and despair.

50. Who will be their tormentors? Their own consciences, the devils, and one another.

51. But will they have no rest from torment? No, not for one moment, day or night.

52. How long will their torment last? Forever and ever.


53. Where will believers go after death? To heaven.

54. What sort of place is heaven? A place of light and glory.

55. How will good men live there? In joy and happiness, greater than they can now desire or think.

56. Will they suffer nothing there? No. They will have no want, or pain, or sin.

57. What sort of bodies will they have then? Spiritual bodies, swifter than lightning and brighter than the sun.

[Editor’s Note: Wesley is using “spiritual” in the same sense as 1 Corinthians 15:44; he is not denying that the body is fully physical, which he elsewhere clearly affirms.]

58. But wherein will their chief happiness lie? In the enjoyment of God.

“But wherein will their chief happiness lie? In the enjoyment of God.”

59. How will they enjoy God? They will know, and love, and see God face to face.

60. How will they spend their time? In singing praise to God.

61. How long will this happiness last? As long as God lives, that is, forever and ever. Lord! bring me thither. Amen.

Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is a husband, father, and aspiring pastor-theologian, as well as the founder and president of You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.