At Wesley’s Chapel in London is a good museum in the church’s cellar. John Wesley was a fine man and a great Christian, and would unlikely recognise the woke, shrivelling denomination that now claims him as its founder. Nevertheless, I found this shrine to him a great resource and a worthy tribute to one who set the land and world afire for the gospel. Some of the display cases were literally crammed with Wesleyan trinkets, busts, bowls and figurines of the great preacher.

Someone had seen fit to preserve a lock of his hair. Another had turned his image into the style of an Eastern Orthodox icon, below, something I found rather distasteful, though I suspect his reaction would have been stronger still.

There is cast of his death mask (that’s right, someone thought it appropriate to place wet plaster over his deceased face to gain an impression); some of his bed hangings are also displayed in the museum, which groans under the weight of that huge collection of paraphernalia and memorabilia. Would that twenty-first century Methodists were as anxious to gain and preserve his evangelical doctrines.

I would naturally expect a museum to procure such articles and display them to the public: it’s what they do. Yet who made all this stuff? So many sought a share or memento of the great man’s image, that potters and manufacturers set to work to meet that demand. Even Harrop Fold Chapel, with which we sometimes share fellowship, cannot claim to have so vast an assemblage.

Myself, I am a collector of Cromwelliana, but my modest budget limits my assortment to a copy of the death mask, a few small statues and figurines, coins and books. I know Conservatives who are obsessed by obtaining items connected to Mrs Thatcher and sports enthusiast who adore particular footballers or cricket club collectables. Both in the secular and religious worlds, people admire, extol and, dare I say, idolise men and women. The only One to whom devotion and commitment can never become idolatrous or taken too far is that aimed at Christ Himself. When, in Luke 14, He talks about hating children, parents, siblings and even life itself in order to become His disciple, He surely means that our love for Him must always outshine and outpace our love for all others- no matter how worthy they are. In some churches, the pastor is placed on a pedestal, his word regarded as law, his every whim and opinion the focus of deep and meaningful reflection. Salem Chapel is not, I think, such a place, but against it we must be on our guard. Even dear John Wesley must be rejected and discarded if his legacy or influence detract from Christ Jesus. Look away from men, look up from earth, and like Stephen, behold the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God. To Him alone be glory in the church, both now and evermore, Amen.