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It originated as a revival within the 18th century Church of England and became a separate denomination after Wesley's death.The movement spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond because of vigorous missionary work, Wesley's theology focused on sanctification and the effect of faith on the character of a Christian.At a Moravian service in Aldersgate on , John experienced what has come to be called his evangelical conversion, when he felt his "heart strangely warmed".He records in his journal: "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Charles had reported a similar experience a few days previously. Burnett writes: "The significance of [John] Wesley's Aldersgate Experience is monumental …Distinguishing Methodist doctrines include an assurance of salvation, imparted righteousness, the possibility of perfection in love, the works of piety, and the primacy of Scripture.Most Methodists teach that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for all of humanity and that salvation is available for all; in theology, this view is known as Arminianism.

Whitefield consistently begged Wesley not to let theological differences sever their friendship and, in time their friendship was restored, though this was seen by many of Whitefield's followers to be a doctrinal compromise.

In 1784, Wesley responded to the shortage of priests in the American colonies due to the American Revolutionary War by ordaining preachers for America with power to administer the sacraments.

This was a major reason for Methodism's final split from the Church of England after Wesley's death.

They also took part in love feasts which allowed for the sharing of testimony, a key feature of early Methodism.

Wesley argued (against Calvinist doctrine) that Christians could enjoy entire sanctification (Christian perfection) in this life: loving God and their neighbours, meekness and lowliness of heart and abstaining from all appearance of evil.

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