I was tracking down a source for some research I was doing for a client when I found the following in a copy of They Never Said That, a 1989 book written by Paul F. Boiler, Jr., and John George about popular mis and incorrect quotes. Living in the bible belt, I have to admit that I hear this one, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” quite often. I found the following written about that bible quote within that book:
One of the more popular pseudo-Scriptural quotes, the cleanliness admonition, comes, not from the Bible, but from John Wesley, the 18th-century British clergyman who founded Methodism. In a sermon entitled “On Dress,” based on a passage in the New Testament, Wesley told his congregation: “Let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this nor any text of Scripture condemns neatness of apparel; certainly this is a duty, not a sign. ‘Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.’ ” Wesley was quoting an old proverb which goes back to Phinehas ben-Yair, a Hebrew sage who lived in the latter part of the second century and formulated the famous “ladder to saintliness.” Wrote Rabbi Phinehas: “The doctrines of religion are resolved into carefulness; carefulness into vigorousness; vigorousness into guiltlessness; guiltlessness into abstemiousness; abstemiousness into cleanliness; cleanliness into godliness.”
Image swiped from here.