A brief glimpse at those dynamic 18th Century Christian Leaders

John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley (large centre) and Howell Harris
John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley (large centre) and Howell Harris

Before we approach the momentous prayer meeting of January 1st 1739 let’s enjoy a glimpse into the highly charismatic and evangelistic nature of some key players in the Great Awakening of the 18th century.

What were these men really like? Were they as reserved as we sometimes imagine? Or were they on fire for God and eager to create evangelistic opportunities?

Of course, by inference, I am asking the question: ‘How ‘normal’ are we in comparison?’

Below are merely snippets without background info, but we still gain some insight into the freedom and power they enjoyed.

Charles Wesley

‘In the coach to London I preached faith in Christ. A lady was extremely offended; avowed her merits in plain terms; asked if I was not a Methodist; threatened to beat me.

I declared I deserved nothing but hell; so did she; and must confess it before she could have a title to heaven. This was most intolerable to her.’ (Charles Wesley Journal Vol 1, quoted by Dallimore, Charles Wesley, A heart set free, Crossway, p.68)

‘My inward temptations are, in a manner, uninterrupted. I never knew the energy of sin, till now that I experience the superior strength of Christ.’ (ibid, p.69)

‘In riding to Blenton, I was full of delight, and seemed in new heavens and new earth. We prayed and sang, and shouted all the way!’ (ibid, p.69)

Howell Harris

‘My food and drink was praising my God. A fire was kindled in my soul, and I was clothed with power, and made altogether dead to earthly things…

‘I lifted up my voice with authority, and fear and terror would be seen on all faces…I thundered greatly, denouncing the gentry, the carnal clergy and everybody!’ (ibid, p.77)

George Whitefield

‘[January 1738 At] Deal I preached to a weeping and thronged congregation…the Clerk pronounced a loud ‘Amen’ to every person who received either bread or wine, an excellent custom, and worthy in my opinon to be imitated in all churches. After this, I and my friends went on our way rejoicing….

‘In the afternoon preached at Upper Deal. The church was quite crowded and many went away for want of room; some stood on the leads of the church outside, and looked in at the top windows, and all seemed eager to hear the Word of God.’ (GW Journal, Banner of Truth edition, p.117)

‘In the evening, such numbers came to hear me that I was obliged to divide them into four companies, and God enabled me to expound to them from six till ten [that’s four hours of preaching on the trot!].

Some would have persuaded me to have dismissed the last company [who had been waiting 3 hours!!] without expounding, but I could not bear to let so many go empty away. I find the more we do for God, the more we may. My strength held out surprisingly, and I was but little, if at all fatigued.’ (GW Journal, p.118)

John Wesley

(In a letter responding to a critic of the sometimes uncontrolled behaviour of those who were converted in the evangelistic meetings)

‘’You deny that God does now work these effects: at least, that he works them in this manner. I affirm both; because I have herd those things with my own ears, and have seen them with my eyes.

I have seen (as far as a thing of this kind can be seen) very many persons changed in a moment from the spirit of fear, horror, despair, to the spirit of love, joy and peace; and from sinful desire, till then reigning over them, to a pure desire of doing the will of God…

I have known several persons in whom this great change was wrought in a dream, or during a strong representation to the eye of their mind, of Christ either on the cross, or in glory…

And that such a change was then wrought, appears (not from their shedding tears only, or falling into fits, or crying out: these are not the fruits, as you seem to suppose, whereby I judge, but) from the whole tenor of their life, till then, many ways wicked; from that time, holy, just and good.’ (JW Journals Vol 1, p.195 Baker Edition)

This response, incidentally, is remarkably similar to Jonathan Edwards when he was also called upon to account for the highly emotional or demonstrative aspects of his meetings. See here for more information.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s