Most simply defined, "works of mercy" are "doing good." John Wesley believed that "means of grace," include both "works of piety" (instituted means of grace) and "works of mercy" (prudential means of grace). He preached that Christians must do both works of piety and works of mercy in order to move on toward Christian perfection.
John Wesley described the works of mercy in a number of writings, including one of his sermons on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:
And, First, with regard to works of mercy. "Take heed," saith he,"that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." "That ye do not your alms:" -- Although this only is named, yet is every work of charity included, every thing which we give, or speak, or do, whereby our neighbour may be profited; whereby another man may receive any advantage, either in his body or soul. The feeding the hungry, the clothing the naked, the entertaining or assisting the stranger, the visiting those that are sick or in prison, the comforting the afflicted, the instructing the ignorant, the reproving the wicked, the exhorting and encouraging the well-doer; and if there be any other work of mercy, it is equally included in this direction.
John Wesley taught that people must be Christians in both word and deed, which were to express the love of God. He believed that Christians must grow in God's grace, which first prepares us for belief, then accepts us when we respond to God in faith, and sustains us as we do good works and participate in God's mission. John Wesley not only preached about works of mercy, he "practiced" what he preached. For example, he:
Wesley believed that Christians could not have authentic personal holiness without social holiness.
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Works of Piety and Mercy
John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life
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The drawing near the top of most the web pages for Holiness of Heart and Life depicts the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791) at age 48. All of the black and white drawings have been scanned by Nancy A. Carter for the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church from public domain nineteeth century or early twentieth century Methodist history books. Please acknowledge this web site, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/, if you reproduce these. We now have some graphics available in high resolution format, suitable for print media.