JC Ryle on How to Get Right with God

(Part Two of ‘Truths that Changed a Nation’)
JC Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool in 19th century England was eager to see a revival of authentic Christianity in his own generation.

In the previous century England had witnessed such remarkable outpourings of the Holy Spirit and huge numbers of conversions. Ryle was hungry for a further move of God.

So he began looking back in order to gain insight about how to proceed. In the last post we saw the first three essential truths that the great Methodist leaders, Whitefield, Wesley and others, proclaimed. These were the authority of the Bible, the sinfulness of mankind and the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross for our salvation.

In this post we’ll look at the other essentials that Ryle believed led to such radical cultural transformation in 18th century England.

1. Justification by Faith
The 18th century Evangelists ‘told men that faith was the one thing needful…that the moment we do believe, we live and [can obtain] all Christ’s benefits.’

The Evangelists rejected the idea that merely being a member of a church meant you were somehow right with God.

Ryle says, ‘Everything – if you will believe, and the moment you believe; nothing – if you do not believe, was the very marrow of their preaching.’ (p.27)

2. ‘You Must be Born Again’
It’s not uncommon to meet people who believe that the emphasis on being ‘born again’ was somehow a 1970’s American religious phenomena.

But actually, as Ryle demonstrates, the preachers of the 1700’s emphasised this constantly. Of course, both the term ‘born again’ and the necessity to preach the new birth goes right back to Jesus Himself (see John chapter 3).

Ryle emphasises ‘heart conversion and a new creation by the Holy Spirit.’

‘They proclaimed everywhere to the crowds whom they addressed, ‘Ye must be born again.’

And this new birth which they so constantly asserted ‘was something that could be seen, discerned and known by its effects.’ (p.28)

3. A Changed Life
Ryle says that the 18th century leaders of the Great Awakening taught ‘the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness.’ (p.28)

They were not inclined to consider anyone a true convert unless there was a definite change in lifestyle. Merely saying you were saved but not changing your lifestyle choices would cause the leaders to question the reality of your faith. If there was no evidence of the ‘fruit of repentance’ then they did not consider that a person had received true saving grace.

4. God is both a God of Wrath and Love

This is without doubt a clear feature of Christian preaching throughout church history.

‘They knew nothing’, asserts Ryle, of ‘a heaven where holy and unholy…all find admission.’ They didn’t preach that everyone goes to heaven in the end.

‘Both about Heaven and Hell they used the utmost plainness of speech.

‘They never shrunk from declaring, in plainest terms, the certainty of God’s judgement and of wrath to come, if men persisted in impenitence and unbelief.

‘Yet, they never ceased to magnify the riches of God’s kindness and compassion, and to entreat all sinners to repent and turn to God before it was too late.’ (p.28)

Conclusion
These were the teachings of the great Evangelists: The trustworthiness of the Bible, the sinfulness of the human race, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, that we are justified not by works but by faith in Christ, and that a heart work – being born again – is absolutely necessary for salvation. This ‘heart change’ is a real change that affects every area of life. And that finally, God is a just Judge and a loving Father who is calling all people to come to Him for forgiveness.

Let us give good Bishop Ryle the last word:

‘These were the doctrines by which they turned England upside down, made ploughmen and colliers weep till their dirty faces were seamed with tears, arrested the attention of peers and philosophers, stormed the strongholds of Satan, plucked thousands like brands from the burning, and altered the character of the age…

‘The fact is undeniable: God blessed these truths…and what God has blessed it ill becomes man to despise.’ (p.28-29)

All quotes are from JC Ryle, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, Banner of Truth edition.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle on the Truths that Changed a Nation

JC Ryle - Christian Leaders of the 18th Century

We’ve been enjoying JC Ryle’s insights into the preaching that shook England in the 18th century, and which led to many thousands coming to Christ.

In this post we’ll look at the content of the messages that were given. In outlining these for us, Ryle is obviously suggesting that there was a need, in his own day, for a revival of such preaching.

It may be that in quaint 19th century England the ministers and evangelists had softened their message, taken the edges off, in order not to offend those outside the churches.

If we really believe that the message should stay the same, even though we should package it appropriate to the context, then it is surely helpful to hear good old Bishop Ryle’s warnings and exhortations.

Ryle gives seven essential truths that the Methodist preachers all agreed on and asserted to their hearers. We’ll look at the first three in this post.

1. The Authority of the Bible
Ryle says that they ‘taught constantly the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture.’

‘They knew nothing of any part of Scripture being uninspired.

‘They never flinched from asserting that there can be no error in the Word of God.

‘To that one book they were content to pin their faith, and by it to stand or fall. This was one grand characteristic of their preaching.’ (p.26)

2. The Sinfulness of Man

‘They taught constantly the total corruption of human nature.

‘They never flattered men and women…They told them plainly that they were dead, and must be made alive again…

‘Strange and paradoxical as it may seem to some, their first step towards making men good was to show them that they were utterly bad; and their primary argument in persuading men to do something for their souls was to convince them that they could do nothing at all.’ (p.26-27)

3. The Necessity of Christ’s Death
Ryle says that the Methodist preachers of the 18th century ‘taught constantly that Christ’s death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man’s sin; and that, when Christ died, he died as our substitute – ‘the just for the unjust’.

‘This, in fact, was the cardinal point in almost all their sermons.

‘They never taught the modern doctrine that Christ’s death was only a great example of self-sacrifice.

‘They saw in it the payment of man’s mighty debt to God.

‘They loved Christ’s person they rejoiced in Christ’s promises; they urged men to walk after Christ’s example. But the one subject above all others, concerning Christ, which they delighted to dwell on, was the atoning blood which Christ shed for us on the cross.’ (p.27)

It would probably be a good exercise for every preacher who is attempting to present the Christian message to their culture to review these points (and the three to follow) and see if any adjustment ought to be made in the content, if not the style, of their messages.

For Ryle’s next four points click here

All quotes are from JC Ryle, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, Banner of Truth edition.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle on the type of preaching that awakened England

JC Ryle in his study

We’re busy enjoying JC Ryle’s description of the preaching of the Evangelists whom God used to change the culture of 18th century England. (This is Part Four of a short series on Ryle. See Part One, Two and Three)

Having emphasised that it was specifically preaching that was used by God, he describes the type of messages the Evangelists preached.

1. They preached attractive, accessible messages
‘They used illustrations and anecdotes in abundance, and like their divine Master, borrowed lessons from every object in nature.

‘They revived the style of sermons in which Luther and Latimer used to be so eminently successful.’ Ryle then applies a saying of Luther to the 18th century Evangelists: ‘No one can be a good preacher to the people who is not willing to preach in a manner that seems childish and vulgar to some.’ (p.25)

2. They preached fervently and directly
‘They cast aside that dull, cold, heavy, lifeless mode of delivery which had long made sermons a very proverb for dullness.

‘They proclaimed the words of faith, and the story of life with life!

‘They spoke with fiery zeal, like men who were thoroughly persuaded that what they said was true, and that it was of the upmost importance to your eternal interest to hear it.

‘They spoke like men who had got a message from God to you, and must deliver it, and must have your attention while they delivered it.

‘They threw heart and soul and feeling into their sermons and sent their hearers home convinced, at any rate, that the preacher was sincere and wished them well.

‘They believed that you must speak from the heart if you wish to speak to the heart.’ (p.25)

3. Their sermons were full of Biblical content

‘I would have it understood that it was eminently doctrinal, positive, dogmatical and distinct.

‘The trumpets which blew down the walls of Jericho were trumpets which gave no uncertain sound.

‘The English evangelists of last century were not men of an uncertain creed…’ (p.25)

Next time we’ll look at the main points the Evangelists’ preached, and which had such a transforming impact on their culture.

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle’s Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening, Part 3

JC Ryle, the 19th century Pastor, wrote extensively about the great heroes of the 18th century awakening in England.

We’ve been enjoying his frank observations on both the source of the problems and the means of revival that God used.

Ryle specifically lifts up the role and gift of the Evangelist as being the key to the breakthroughs that took place, and we will continue to be challenged by his analysis in this post.

1. The opposition experienced by the Evangelists
Ryle writes, ‘At first people in high places affected to despise them. The men of letters sneered at them as fanatics…

‘The Church shut her doors on them…the ignorant mob persecuted them. But the movement of these few evangelists went on, and made itself felt in every part of the land.’ (p.23)

2. The Primary method for changing the cultural landscape of England was Preaching
‘The instrumentality by which the spiritual reformers of the last century carried on their operations was of the simplest description.

‘It was neither more nor less that the old apostolic weapon of preaching.

‘Beyond doubt, preaching was their favourite weapon. They wisely went back to first principles.’

3. The Evangelists preached everywhere.
‘If the pulpit was open to them they gladly availed themselves of it [but] they were equally ready to preach in a barn.

‘No place came amiss to them. In the field or by the road side, on the village green, or in a market place, in lanes, or in alleys, in cellars or in garrets, on a tub or on a table, on a bench or on a horse block, wherever hearers could be gathered [they] were ready to speak…They were instant in season and out of season…’ (p.24)

4. They preached simply
‘They rightly concluded that the very first qualification to be aimed at in a sermon is to be understood!

‘They saw clearly that thousands of able and well composed sermons are utterly useless because they are above the heads of the hearers.’

Ryle says they preached in a way that could be clearly and immediately understood: ‘To attain this they were not ashamed to crucify their style and sacrifice their reputation for learning.’  (p.24-25)

We’ll continue next time, to hear about the style of preaching which God used to turn England upside down in the 18th Century.

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle’s Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening, Part 2

JC Ryle...with beard

Last time we took a brief look at Ryle’s analysis of the problem. Today we’re going to enjoy his description of how God turned things around.

What makes Ryle’s commentary so appealing is the fact that we can apply the same lessons to ourselves and trust God for major breakthrough in our various cities and nations.

1. Everyone was aware of a major change
Says Ryle: ‘That a great change for the better has come over England in the last hundred years is a fact which I suppose no well informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther…’ (p.21)

2. Where the change didn’t come from
Not the Government: ‘The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit of the change.’
Not the Church of England: ‘Nor…from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable communion were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of dignity…’
Not the ‘Free’ churches: ‘Nor…from the Dissenters. Content with their hard-won triumphs, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars.’ (p.22)

3. The change came through Evangelists
‘The men who wrought deliverance for us…were a few individuals…whose hearts God touched about the same time in various parts of the country.

‘They were not wealthy or highly connected. They were simply men whom God stirred up and brought out to do His work.

‘They did His work in the old apostolic way, by becoming the evangelists of their day.’(p.22)

4. The demeanour of these Evangelists
Ryle writes, ‘They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught.

‘They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate…even weeping, but always bold, unflinching and not fearing the face of man.

‘And they taught them on the same plan, always acting on the aggressive; not waiting for sinners to come to them, but going after, and seeking sinners; not sitting idle till sinners offered to repent, but assaulting the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach…

‘The movement of these gallant evangelists shook England from one end to another.’ (p.23)

We’ll continue with Ryle’s observations next time…

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

To read the first post in this series go here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Piercing Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening p.1

JC Ryle on the 18th Century Awakening

JC Ryle

I am reluctant to pull away from the 18th century! Much more can be said and I need to get on to William Carey and the explosion of missionary activity in the 19th century.

So perhaps you will forgive me for rounding up a few thoughts and insights from British Pastor and popular 19th century author, JC Ryle. These insights can speak to us today and stir us to pray and work for the good of those around us.

All quotes are from Ryle’s excellent book, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century, originally published as ‘The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, or England a Hundred Years Ago’ (references are to the Banner of Truth edition of 1978).

1. The Christian Faith was not influential
‘Christianity seemed to lie as on dead…There was darkness in high places and darkness in low places…a gross, thick, religious and moral darkness – a darkness that might be felt.’ (p.14)

2. The Church was ineffective
Describing both the Anglican Churches and the Free Churches he writes, ‘They existed, but they could hardly be said to have lived. They did nothing; they were sound asleep.’

‘Cold morality, or barren orthodoxy, formed the staple teaching both in church and chapel. Sermons everywhere were little better than miserable moral essays, utterly devoid of anything likely to awaken, convert or save souls.’ (p.14)

3. Church Leaders were distracted
Speaking of the Anglican clergy, Ryle doesn’t hold back: ‘The vast majority of them were sunk in worldliness, and neither knew nor cared anything about their profession…They hunted, they shot, they farmed, they swore, they drank, they gambled. They seemed determined to know everything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’

‘And when they did preach, their sermons were so unspeakable and indescribably bad, that it is comforting to reflect they were generally preached to empty benches.’ (p.17)

4. The People were sceptical of true Christian faith

‘The land was deluged with infidelity and scepticism. The prince of this world made good use of his opportunity.’ (p.15)

‘It may suffice it to say that duelling, adultery, fornication, gambling, swearing, Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness were hardly regarded as vices at all. They were the fashionable practices of people in the highest ranks of society, and no one was thought the worse of for indulging them.’ (p.18)

Told you he didn’t hold back! Next time we’ll hear Ryle on how things got turned around.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

John Wesley and William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce

Fighting Slavery
While George Whitefield was seeking to improve the treatment of slaves in America, and to bring them to Christ, John Wesley could, from the relative comfort of England, see far more objectively: Slavery must not merely be adjusted or improved – it must be abolished altogether!

Wesley had not come to this conclusion all at once. Like Whitefield, he was appalled at the treatment of the slaves he had seen in America, but he had not then thought it a crime.

He later met John Newton, a former slave trader who had been converted and had quit the trade. But apparently neither of the two Johns had yet seen the need to oppose slavery.

The value of reading widely

Anthony Benezet’s Historical Account of Slavery

The change came when he read an account of slavery written by American Quaker, Anthony Benezet, which described in detail the reality of slavery.

Wesley was horrified by the brutality and shamed by the heartlessness of such wickedness and became determined to go to print.

Thoughts on Slavery by John Wesley

In 1774 he published ‘Thoughts on Slavery’ in which he wrote,

‘If therefore you have any regard to justice, (to say nothing of mercy, nor of the revealed law of GOD) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature.

‘Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary choice. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion! Be gentle towards men. And see that you invariably do unto every one, as you would he should do unto you.’ (‘Thoughts on Slavery’ by John Wesley)

It was primarily through reading the words of Wesley in this short publication that John Newton came to see that slavery was indeed a crime. [i]

The value of writing letters
John Wesley influenced many of the major players in the fight against slavery in 18th Century Britain and America.

In fact, his very last letter was sent to a young politician named William Wilberforce, who would spend much of his political life fighting for the abolition of the slave trade.

Wesley’s last letter
To Wilberforce he wrote,

‘DEAR SIR,

Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum, [an ‘Athanasius against the world.’] I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature.

‘Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.

‘But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing.

‘Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

‘Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance, that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a law in all our Colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!
‘That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesley’ (from the WCO)

Wesley’s passion and encouragement, and his last letter, helped the young Wilberforce to fight successfully until the British parliament finally signed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.

More next time…

[i] John Pollock, John Wesley (London:Hodder, 1989) p.235

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley and his Wife (part 2)

Why most good churches have Marriage Preparation Courses!
And so, John Wesley was married. His strategy for being a good husband was pretty simple: ‘I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.’

At first Molly accompanied him but his travel schedule (by any standard through all church history) was relentless, and she, as a newly married 40 year old woman, was clearly hoping for some normal domestic joys.

Often absent for weeks at a time, Wesley gave his wife permission to open all the mail that came for him. This included many letters from women seeking guidance and counsel, and Molly soon began to feel that some of them had more than a little affection towards her man.

Jealousy, slander and insensitivity
Her jealousy increased, as did her sense of being overlooked by him, and even unloved by him. She began to be, not only troubled by but gripped by jealousy.

She wrote disgruntled, critical, letters to him. She travelled to spy on him. She sent his private papers directly to his enemies that they might slander him. Eventually she publicly and repeatedly accused him of adultery over a period of twenty years.

At one point, after a fierce exchange of letters, he sent a scathing, hostile, reply.

‘Know me and know yourself. Suspect me no more, asperse me no more, provoke me no more: do not any longer contend for mastery…be content to be a private insignificant person, known and loved by God and me.’

Robert Southey, who quotes this letter, gives more of its contents, ‘He reminded her that she had laid to his charge things that he knew not, robbed him, betrayed his confidence, revealed his secrets, given him a thousand treacherous wounds, and made it her business so to do, under the pretence of vindicating her own character; ‘whereas’, said he, ‘of what importance is your character to mankind? If you were buried just now, or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?’

Southey adds, ‘There are few stomachs which could bear to have humility administered in such doses.’ (Robert Southey, The Life of John Wesley, Hutchinson, p.266)

Dragged along by the hair

On several occasions she left home, only returning after he begged her repeatedly. Although he had been unspeakably angry with her, he kept aiming at reconciliation.

But the home life was unhappy. John Hampson of Manchester ‘once entered a room unannounced to find Molly dragging her husband across the floor by his hair.’ (John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, p.238)

Finally, she left for good. Wesley wryly reported in his journal, ‘I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her.’

He should have consulted with Charles. He should have asked for the wisdom of other leaders. He should have been prepared for marriage. He should have considered his wife’s needs more than his own.

In all this, the story of Wesley’s marriage is an unhappy one. But if it is uncomfortable for us to read, let’s not forget that it was far more uncomfortable for him to live. And equally uncomfortable for Molly, who, perhaps was merely hoping to have some of him for herself.

Make sure you read Part One to get the context!

The Marriage Course
If you feel you need help in your marriage, The Marriage Course, pioneered at Holy Trinity Church, London may be of help to you. Click here for links to the Course and to find one in your part of the world.
http://relationshipcentral.org/

To read the very first of the sequence of posts about Wesley’s attempts to get a bride click here and follow the links

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley and his Wife (part 1)

Less than three years after his failed engagement to Grace Murray, Wesley was becoming interested in another potential wife.

Uh oh!

His unwillingness to consult with his brother Charles in this new romance was completely understandable.

But, of course, it is exactly what he should have done. His reluctance to take counsel on this vitally important decision was to lead to twenty years of unhappiness both for him, and for his future wife.

Introducing Molly
Molly Vazeille, widowed for three years, but wealthy, had shown an interest in spiritual things and Wesley wrote to her in 1750.

Charles Wesley and his wife, Sally, already knew Molly and were not impressed.

John, however, was impressed and said as much to her in what he probably considered a glowing letter. He said he appreciated her ‘industry’, her ‘exact frugality’ and her ‘uncommon neatness and cleanness.’ She must have been beside herself with delight!

He was careful to add that this uncommon neatness and cleanness extended to her person, her clothes and to all those things around her!

It made us all hide our faces
He merely announced to Charles and Sally his intention to marry. Charles was ‘thunderstruck’ and filled with dread.

At the next church service John announced that he was to marry Molly Vazeille. Charles, commenting on the response of the congregation, said it ‘made us all hide our faces.’

In mid-February 1751, just a couple of years after the Grace Murray disaster, John Wesley was married.

To read the highly popular Part Two click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Wesley’s Failed Courtship

If his attempts to woo the woman he loved seemed rash, on the one hand, or boring, on the other, things were about to get much, much worse.

Although the ‘unofficially together’ couple were companions on a number of speaking tours, with Grace counselling the female society members, there was a major problem.

She was promised to another!

John Bennett, probably Wesley’s most successful itinerant preacher, a committed Calvinist, was also interested and had already exchanged love letters with Grace. He too felt that she had shown him some signs of love.

John and Grace continued travelling together, and also with Charles at one point. He had no idea of John’s affection for her, and considered her almost as one of the servants.

Grace herself, had not taken Wesley’s former expression of love as binding, or as evidence of an engagement, and so kept up her correspondence with John Bennett.

John, John! Put down your book on the Plague of London and win the lady!!

The Sudden Marriage

When John finally revealed his intentions to his brother, Charles was so shocked that he immediately sought to intervene.

These two men, who along with Whitefield and others, were turning a nation to God, were completely at a loss when it came to women.

Charles had met his bride and John had married them. Surely Charles would now reciprocate! Not at all! When John declared his love for Grace, he was rebuked.

To cut a long soap opera story short, without Wesley’s knowledge, quite suddenly and at Charles’ insistence, Grace was married to John Bennett in Newcastle.

Wesley’s Deepest Sadness

John was understandably upset. At first he refused to meet Charles, but George Whitefield, probably the only person who could, brought them together. They exchanged furious words, as Whitefield wept silently. Finally the two brothers embraced.

Mr. and Mrs. John Bennett, the newly married couple, were also brought in that all might be reconciled, but Wesley undoubtedly bore the weight of the reconciliation.

After the meeting, alone, in deep sadness, Wesley rode silently away.

Following some slanderous comments and a criticism from Bennett, Wesley reacted in a private letter to him:

‘I left with you my dearest friend, one I loved above all on earth, and fully designed for my wife. To this woman you proposed marriage, without either my knowledge or consent…You wrote me word you would take no farther step without my consent but…you tore her from me…

‘I think you have done me the deepest wrong which I can receive on this side the grave. But I spare you. ‘Tis but for a little time, and I shall be where the weary are at rest.’ (Quoted in John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, Ch. 21)

To read how John Wesley finally met and married his wife click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Tries to Find a Wife

John Wesley


Love is in the air!

By the late 1740’s both John and Charles Wesley’s thoughts turned to marriage.

James Hutton, a Methodist leader, wrote at length on the subject to Count Zinzendorf:

‘JW and CW, both of them, are dangerous snares to many young women; several are in love with them.

I wish they were married to some good sisters, but I would not give them one of my sisters if I had many…’ (Quoted in John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, p.190)

Charles was married in 1748 and had, as it happens, a long and happy marriage.

Things would work out slightly differently for John.

Grace is in the air!
John Wesley had appointed Grace Murray, a Geordie, a new convert, a competent leader and a widow, to oversee the Methodist Orphanage in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

He was clearly taken with her ability. She was firm, efficient, and, upon his arriving in Newcastle sick on one occasion, wonderfully caring.

Surely she was the kind of woman who could be his wife!

As he recovered, he began to have stronger feelings towards her and, perhaps unwisely, suddenly said to her, ‘If ever I marry, I think you will be the person!’ (ibid. p.192)

She, understandably, was surprised and impacted by the statement, and, a little stunned, said to John, ‘This is too great a blessing for me! I can’t tell how to believe it! This is all I could have wished for under heaven, if I had dared to wish for it!’

Wesley soon recovered from his illness and made plans to travel down to Yorkshire. Grace, being unwilling to so quickly separate from him after their new found love, convinced him to allow her to ride with him part of the journey.

Wesley, apparently undistracted by the presence of his new found love, quietly read Hodge’s ‘Account of the Plague in London’ as they travelled silently on.

The calamities continue. To read the next installment of Wesley’s attempted courtship click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Come see a Christian triumphing over death!

Newgate Prison, London

We saw earlier how John Lancaster, a prisoner condemned to death in Newgate prison, had come to faith in Christ.

Now we see him at his last moment and at his most triumphant. The year was 1748 and John Wesley recorded the events for future generations in his journals.

As Lancaster was led out of his cell, his confession was “Blessed be the day I came into this place! O what a glorious work hath the Lord carried on in my soul since I came hither!”

“O that I could tell the thousandth part of the joys I feel!”
Wesley adds, ‘Then he said to those near him, “O my dear friends, join in praise with me a sinner! O for a tongue to praise Him as I ought! My heart is like fire…I am ready to burst…O that I could tell the thousandth part of the joys I feel!”

‘One saying, “I am sorry to see you in that condition.” He answered, “I would not change it for ten thousands worlds.”

‘From the press-yard he was removed into a large room where he exhorted all the officers to repentance.

Thomas Atkins was brought in, whom he immediately asked, “How is it between God and your soul?” He answered, “Blessed be God, I am ready.”

Newgate Prison, London by George Shepherd

“By one o’clock I will be in Paradise!”
An officer asked what time it was and Lancaster happily replied, “By one I shall be in Paradise, safely resting in Abraham’s bosom…I see [Jesus] by faith, standing at the right hand of God, with open arms to receive our souls.”

Another asked, “Which is Lancaster?” and he answered, “Here I am. Come see a Christian triumphing over death.”

‘A bystander said, “Be steadfast to the end.” He answered, “I am, by the grace of God, as steadfast as the rock I am built upon, and that rock is Christ.”

Why no-one should despair
‘Then he said to the people, “Cry to the Lord for mercy, and you will surely find it. I have found it; therefore none should despair. When I came first to this place, my heart was as hard as my cell walls, and as black as hell. But now I am washed, now I am made clean by the blood of Christ.”’

Speaking of the prayer time he had with other prisoners the night before he said, “I was as it were in heaven. O, if a foretaste be so sweet, what must the full enjoyment be?”

Wesley continues, ‘The people round, the mean time, were in tears; and the officers stood like men affrighted.’

Praying for the Nations and the Local Church
‘Then Lancaster exhorted one in doubt, never to rest till he had found rest in Christ. After this he broke out into strong prayer…that the true Gospel of Christ might spread to every corner of the habitable earth; that the [Methodist] congregation at the Foundery might abound more and more in the knowledge and love of God…’

‘When the officers told them it was time to go, [the converted prisoners] rose with inexpressible joy, and embraced each other…’

“I am going to Paradise today!”
‘Coming into the press yard, he saw Sarah Peters. He stepped to her, kissed her, and earnestly said, “I am going to Paradise today; and you will follow me soon.”

‘The crowd being great, they could not readily get through. So he had another opportunity of declaring the goodness of God [saying] “Rely on Him for mercy and you will surely find it.”

‘Turning to the spectators he said, “It is but a short time and we shall be where all sorrow and sighing flee away. Turn from the evil of your ways; and you also shall stand with the innumerable company on Mount Zion…See that you love Christ; and then you will come there too!”

‘All the people who saw them seemed to be amazed; but much more when they came to the place of execution. A solemn awe overwhelmed the whole multitude.

‘As soon as the executioner had done his part with Lancaster, and the two that were with him, he called for a hymn book, and gave out a hymn with a clear, strong voice.

‘Even,’ John Wesley adds, ‘a little circumstance that followed seems worth observing. His body was carried away by a company hired by the surgeons. But a crew of sailors pursued them, took it from them by force, and delivered it to his mother…

‘He died on Friday October 28 and was buried on Sunday the 30th.’
(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.123-125, Baker Edition)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

‘Nothing to Trust in Except the Blood of Christ’

We continue the amazing accounts of grace given to those condemned to death in the 1700’s.

John Wesley recorded these testimonies of men facing execution, in his own journals, giving them a wider audience than they might have otherwise had.

They had been faithfully visited by Sarah Peters. She shared the gospel with them and many were genuinely converted.

Thomas Atkins
‘The next who was spoken to was Thomas Atkins, nineteen years of age.

‘When he was asked (after many other questions, in answering which he expressed the clearest and deepest conviction of all his sins, as well as that for which he was condemned) if he was afraid to die; he fixed his eyes upward, and said, in the most earnest and solemn manner, ‘I bless God, I am not afraid to die; for I have laid my soul at the feet of Jesus.’

And to the last moment of his life, he gave all reason to believe that these were not vain words.’

William Gardiner
‘William Gardiner, from the time that he was condemned, was very ill… [Sarah Peters] visited him in his own cell, till he was able to [move about].

He was a man of exceeding few words, but of a broken and contrite spirit.

Some time after, he expressed great readiness to die, yet with the utmost diffidence of himself.

One of his expressions, to a person accompanying him to the place of execution was:

“O Sir! I have nothing to trust to but the blood of Christ! If that won’t do, I am undone forever!”‘

More next time…
(From John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.121-122, Baker Edition)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Eternal Life on Death Row – Astonishing Testimonies of Grace

The Notorious Newgate Prison, London

Although John Wesley was disappointed with the lack of response he received in Newgate Prison, London, there was another Christian working amongst the prisoners with great effect.

Sarah Peters
Sarah Peters, described by Wesley as caring, even-tempered and able to handle pressurised situations well, spent many hours talking with the condemned prisoners. When she died in 1748, John Wesley gave a tribute to her in his journal.

The tribute consists of the collected testimonies of some of those who were facing execution. Paying a heavy price for a range of different crimes (some of which would not receive such harsh sentences today), these men were lost and facing the reality of death. Sarah came, taught them the gospel of Jesus Christ and prayed with them.

Over the next few posts we’ll read some breathtaking statements that are her enduring legacy…

John Lancaster
Convicted, tried and condemned and unable to have his sentence reduced, said:

‘I thank God, I do feel that He has forgiven me my sins: I do know it!’

Sarah asked him how he knew that. He replied, ‘I was in great heaviness, till the very morning you came hither first.

‘That morning I was in earnest prayer; and just as St Paul’s clock struck five, the Lord poured into my soul such peace as I had never felt; so that I was scarce able to bear it.

‘From that hour I have never been afraid to die; for I know, and am sure, as soon as my soul departs from the body, the Lord Jesus will stand ready to carry it into glory.’

For the next installment of this story read here
(from John Wesley Journal, Vol 2, p.121, Baker Edition)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Evangelistic Depression

18th Century Cartoon Mocking Evangelist George Whitefield

A broad overview of church history does give us a picture of the Church gaining ever-increasing strength and global relevance. Church History is encouraging!

But there are still major gaps in our knowledge of certain periods where it seems the gospel wasn’t having the kind of impact we’d desire or expect.

The Mission isn’t easy
And as you move in closer to specific periods, even periods marked with revivals, you soon see the challenges, the failures and the difficulties.

Great Evangelists like George Whitefield and John Wesley, who must rank as amongst the hardest working of Christian leaders, also had times of discouragement.

Whitefield is often quoted as saying that some of the converts ‘were like a rope of sand’. This statement, made at a time of disappointment with the numbers who had joined the Wesleyan societies, is usually taken out of context and used against Whitefield’s gospel message.

But he wasn’t saying that his gospel was ineffective, or that his Reformed theological position was evangelistically irrelevant. He was merely breathing out his disappointment at a particular time and place.

John Wesley also said much the same thing. Having spent so much time and effort in Newgate amongst the prisoners, he laments the lack of result and says, ‘I see no fruit of our labour!’ (Journal, Vol 2, p.89, Baker Edition)

Don’t give up!
Every believer who has sought to share the gospel with someone they care about knows the disappointment of non-response or negative response. This is part of the struggle we are in together.

Rather than become less evangelistic we should take courage that even the greatest Evangelists don’t see breakthrough all the time.

There’s work to be done. And if we truly believe we will reap what we sow, then we should be sowing much, much more than we are, and not give up prematurely.

Don’t give up. In the gospel of Jesus Christ you’ve got the greatest message ever given to humankind. Keep going.

‘Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Hebrews 6:12 (NKJV)

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Noisy Meetings!

The Problem of Praiseless Praise and Joyless Joy!
Most Christians are used to passion in their gathered church meetings. It would be strange, in a perfectly logical sense, to encounter strict formality, dull routine and lacklustre praise (how can you praise someone blandly, with praiseless praise, joyless joy?)

The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to praise God with joy filled hearts and even with shouts of joy!

The Sound Psalmists
David says, ‘I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart’ (Ps 9:1) and the sons of Korah cry repeatedly, ‘Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.’ (Ps 47:6)

You have to admit, you don’t need to go far in the Book of Psalms to realise these guys are exhorting the gathered community of God’s people to exuberant expressions of joy!

Again, Psalm 66:17 says ‘I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.’ And there’s even a Biblical exhortation to clap our hands and shout – during a time of worship!! (see Psalm 47:1)

Anyhow, for the great Evangelistic preachers of the 18th Century, the noise didn’t usually come from meetings of believers.

Noise, sometimes overriding everything else, came from the mobs and crowds that were hired to disrupt their meetings, and who blew trumpets, banged on drums and threw copious amounts of dirt and stones.

The meetings were also disturbed by the loud cries and shrieks of those who were suddenly aware of their desperate need of God’s forgiveness, or who were being delivered from some form of bondage.

Non-Christians behaving, Christians raving!
However, when Wesley visited Gwennap in Cornwall (England) in 1747 he was surprised by a welcome reversal.

A very large crowd gathered to listen attentively to his preaching. Wesley writes, ‘About half an hour after five I began at Gwennap. I was afraid my voice would not suffice for such an immense multitude.

‘But my fear was groundless; as the evening was quite calm, and the people all attention.

‘It was more difficult to be heard in meeting the society, amidst the cries of those, on the one hand, who were pierced through as with a sword, and of those, on the other, who were filled with joy unspeakable.’
(from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.62, Baker Edition)

May God give us such ‘revival’ scenes once more, with multitudes gathering to hear the good news of the grace of God in Christ, and church meetings filled with foretastes of heavenly glory.

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Leading From the Front

Every season of spiritual reform encounters resistance.

Every culture-changing spiritual breakthrough is accompanied by resistance. It is naïve of us to imagine, or hope, it might not be so.

As the Christian message had ever increasing impact outside the acceptable confines of the local churches and into the culture of 18th Century England, the leaders and new converts had to deal with opposition.

We’ll come to the inspirational bravery of the converts who continued to live and trade in hostile contexts after the preachers had moved on to new towns in a later post.

For now we will continue with John Wesley’s description of his experience in Staffordshire in October 1743.

To catch up with the story begin here and follow the links

Wesley continues to reason with an angry and violent mob
‘I began asking, “What evil have I done?”…and continued speaking for above a quarter of an hour, till my voice suddenly failed.

Then the floods began to lift up their voice again; many crying out, “Bring him away! Bring his away!”

‘In the mean time my strength returned and I broke out aloud into prayer.

A sudden change of heart after hearing Wesley pray
‘And now the man who just before headed the mob turned, and said, “Sir, I will spend my life for you! Follow me and not one soul here shall touch a hair of your head.”

‘Two or three of his fellows confirmed his words and got close to me immediately.

‘At the same time, the gentleman in the shop cried out, “For shame, for shame! Let him go!”

‘An honest butcher, who was a little further off…pulled back four or five, one after another, who were running on the most fiercely.

The Final escape
‘The people then, as if it had been by common consent, fell back to the right and the left, while those three or four men took me between them…

‘But on the bridge the mob rallied again. We therefore went on one side, over the mill-dam, and thence through the meadows; till…God brought me safe to Wednesbury; having lost only one flap of my waistcoat and a little skin from one of my hands.

A woman punches Wesley’s opponents
‘The poor woman of Darlaston, who had headed that mob, and sworn, that none should touch me, when she saw her followers give way, ran into the thickest of the throng and knocked down three or four men, one after another.

‘But she was soon overpowered and had probably been killed in a few minutes had not a man called to one of them, “Hold, Tom, hold!” So they held their hand and let her get up…’

Wesley recounts the injuries he had received whilst preaching
Wesley genuinely believed he was spared pain and danger, trusting, as he did, in the sovereignty of God.

He recalled his various injuries during his efforts to preach the gospel: ‘By how gentle degrees does God prepare us for his will! Two years ago a piece of brick grazed my shoulders.

‘It was a year after that the stone struck me between the eyes.

‘Last month I received one blow, and this evening two; one before we came into the town, and one after we were gone out; but both were as nothing:

‘For though one man struck me on the breast with all his might, and the other on the mouth with such a force that the blood gushed out immediately, I felt no more pain from either of the blows, than if they touched me with a straw.’

Back to the believers
Wesley found his way back to the four other leaders who had accompanied him through the ordeal, and back to the newly formed ‘society’ who had been praying.

William Sitch had been at Wesley’s side but was dragged away and beaten but afterwards he got up and found his way back to Wesley.

When asked what he thought would happen to them, Sitch replied, ‘To die for Him who had died for us!’

What became of the Two Justices of the Peace?
Following this outrageous violence, the two Justices, who had refused to face the crowd or see Wesley to protect him, wrote a letter to all the Police Constables and Peace Officers within Staffordshire.

It was a letter of warning, informing them of several ‘disorderly persons styling themselves Methodist Preachers’ who ‘go about raising routs and riots to the great damage’ of the people.

The police were instructed to search for these preachers, arrest them and bring them before Justices of the Peace throughout the county!
(All quotes from John Wesley Journal, Vol 1, p.439-441, Baker Edition)

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

A Massive Fist Fight With John Wesley in the Middle!

John Wesley - his long hair would prove to be a disadvantage

This is getting silly!
Having failed to secure a hearing with a Judge in Wednesbury, the crowd decide to march Wesley to a Justice of the Peace in nearby Walsal.

It’s not clear exactly what they thought they would accomplish; possibly to have Wesley censured for disturbing the peace.

(Read the first part of the story here and follow the links)

As news was being delivered to them that the second judge was already in bed and not willing to see them, it happened!

Two Mobs attack each other!
Wesley writes, ‘About fifty of them undertook to convoy me. But we had not gone a hundred yards when the mob of Walsal came, pouring in like a flood, and bore down all before them.

‘The Darleston mob made what defence they could; but they were weary, as well as out-numbered, so that in a short time, many being knocked down, the rest ran away, and left me in their hands.

‘To attempt speaking was in vain, for the noise on every side was like the roaring of the sea.

Yanked by the hair
‘So they dragged me along till we came to the town where, seeing the door of a large house open, I attempted to go in; but a man catching me by the hair, pulled me back into the middle of the mob.

‘They made no more stop till they had carried me through the main street, from one end of the town to the other.

‘I continued speaking all the time to those within hearing, feeling no pain or weariness.

‘At the west end of the town, seeing a door half open, I made towards it and would have gone in, but a gentleman in the shop would not suffer me, saying they would pull the house down to the ground.

‘However, I stood at the door and asked, “Are you willing to hear me speak?” Many cried out, “No! No! Knock his brains out! Down with him! Kill him at once!”‘
(From John Wesley Journal, Vol 1, p.437-438, Baker Edition)

We’ll pick up the final installment in the story next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley hustled to a Judge by 200 Ruffians

Late one evening, in Wednesbury, England, the famous Evangelist John Wesley found the house he was staying in surrounded by an angry mob. He called the ringleaders inside and spoke wisely to them.

(Read the first part of the story here, the second part here)

Sensing the crowd would be pacified, Wesley decided to go out to them but several still demanded he be taken to a local magistrate to be censured for disturbing the peace.

Wesley, being perhaps a little over-confident, agreed to go with them despite the relative lateness of the hour.

‘Let it Rain!’
A ridiculous, lumbering crowd of between two and three hundred pushed and shoved along for about a mile. Then, typical of June in England, the rain began to pour down. ‘Heavy rain’, says Wesley in his journal.

Finally, after a two mile rain-soaked walk, those running ahead arrived at the Wednesbury Magistrate’s house.

Not very surprisingly, he wasn’t keen to meet the unruly crowd and had a servant tell them he was in bed and they should take Wesley back into Wednesbury.

The charge against the Evangelicals
However, when the main bulk of the crowd got to the house they began banging on the door. This time, the bold Justice sent his son to the door. He asked for information on what Wesley and his colleagues had actually done wrong.

The answer was this: ‘Why, an’t please you, they sing psalms all day. Nay, and make folks rise at five in the morning.’

After a brief pause the Magistrate’s doorstep verdict was delivered: “Go home and be quiet!”

Unfortunately, one bright spark suggested that they try another Magistrate in the nearby town of Walsal. And that’s when the real trouble began…

More next time…
(Quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, p.437, Baker edition)
© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Speaks to a Violent Mob

See the first part of this story here

John Wesley, making an entry in his journal for 20th June 1743, wrote,

‘Before five the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, “Bring out the Minister! We will have the Minister!”

‘I desired one to take their captain by the hand and bring him into the house.

The ring leaders calm down once they meet John Wesley personally
‘After a few sentences interchanged between us the lion was become a lamb.

‘I desired him to go and bring one or two more of the most angry of his companions.

‘He brought in two, who were ready to swallow the ground with rage; but in two minutes they were as calm as he.

Wesley decides to go out and address the angry crowd
‘I then bade them make way that I might go out among the people.

‘As soon as I was in the midst of them I called for a chair; and, standing up, asked, “What do any of you want with me?” Some said, “We want you to go with us to the Justice.”

‘I replied, “That I will, with all my heart.”

Wesley senses an evangelistic opportunity!
‘I then spoke a few words, which God applied; so that they cried out with might and main, “This gentleman is an honest gentleman, and we will spill our blood in his defence.”

‘I asked, “Shall we go to the Justice tonight or in the morning?”

‘Most of them cried, “Tonight, tonight!”

A crowd of more than 200 people decide to walk Wesley to the Magistrate’s house!
‘[Hearing this] I went before [them] and two or three hundred followed, the rest returning whence they came.’

Wesley’s most frightening night was only just beginning. Although he thought he had steered the situation to a peaceful outcome, the decision to search for a Magistrate would prove to be a decision that Wesley and most of the crowd were later to regret.

What happened next is probably not what you think…

(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, p.436-7, Baker Edition)

For more on Wesley and Whitefield click here
For the next installment of this story click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury

John Wesley in Wednesbury, England

Persistence in the midst of Persecution
In their mission to bring the Christian message to every town and village in Great Britain, the 18th century Methodist preachers travelled extensively.

They would arrive at a place, attempt to preach in one of the churches or, failing that, in a market place or at a fair.

Their style was engaging and they spoke with authority and grace. Wesley described their work as ‘offering pardon to sinners’.

But they didn’t always receive a warm welcome. While many thousands gathered to hear the message, some reacted negatively. Sometimes fuelled by jealous clergy, or fearful ‘Gentlemen’, and sometimes by a basic reaction of anger, the preachers faced violence fairly regularly. This was a different type of spiritual warfare.

John Wesley in Wednesbury, West Midlands
One famous incident in the life of John Wesley took place in October, 1743.

He writes, ‘Thursday 20th Oct, 1743 – ‘I rode to Wednesbury.

At twelve I preached in a ground near the middle of the town, to a far larger congregation than was expected, on, ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.’

‘I believe everyone present felt the power of God…and we held our peace.

An afternoon’s writing interrupted
‘I was writing at Francis Ward’s in the afternoon, when the cry arose, that the mob had beset the house.

‘We prayed that God would disperse them; and it was so. One went this way, and another that; so that in half an hour not a man was left.’

Wesley felt it would be sensible to leave, before there was any more trouble. But his hosts, understandably thrilled to have the great John Wesley staying in their house, urged him to stay on.

Not wanting to offend them, he conceded. But the few troublemakers who had drifted off before weren’t finished, and a larger number soon returned.

‘Before five the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, ‘Bring out the Minister! We will have the Minister!’

(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, Baker Edition, p.436)

For the next installment click here

To see more on how the early Methodists coped with mob violence click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Don’t Become Weary of Doing Good

The Market Cross in old Epworth

God gives us encouragements in the midst of difficulties. And each encouragement is deeply appreciated. Your leadership challenge may be tough for reasons that are entirely outside yourself.

It’s great to hear news of numerical breakthroughs and blessing in other places. We’re often helpfully stirred to pray and believe for greater breakthrough in our own towns.

But faithfulness to God’s call, with a heart toward God and a helping hand toward man, can sow spiritual seed that will produce fruit not only in our generation but also in the one to come.

After preaching each day for a week in his home-town of Epworth (Lincolnshire, England), John Wesley describes the huge crowd who heard him and reflects on the faithful labours of his father, Samuel Wesley, who was a minister in that town.

Wesley preaches to ‘a vast multitude’
He writes, ‘At six I preached for the last time in Epworth church-yard [he had been preaching on his father’s grave stone, after being denied the use of the church pulpit] to a vast multitude gathered together from all parts…

‘I continued among them for near three hours; and yet we scarce knew how to part.

‘O let none think his labour of love is lost because the fruit does not immediately appear!

‘Near forty years did my father labour here; but he saw little fruit of all his labour…but now the fruit appeared.

‘There were scarce any in the town on whom either my father or I had taken any pains formerly, but the seed, sown so long since, now sprung up, bringing forth repentance and remission of sins.’
(John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.379-380)

Galatians 6:9 says, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, ‘Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’

Be encouraged as you seek to share the gospel of grace in your community – and remember Epworth and how years of sowing did eventually produce a massive harvest!

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Angry Wife Leads to Evangelists’ Acquittal (because she’s no longer angry)

Ever met someone who could give such a tongue lashing that you were nervous of even saying hello?

Well, one poor husband who endured such rebukes for many years found himself in a tight spot – in court. His wife had suddenly stopped her verbal attacks and became considerate and mild – but the husband still wasn’t happy. What was the cause and what would the Judge say?

John Wesley, writing in his journal in 1742 tells the story:

Wednesday, 9 June: ‘I rode over to a neighbouring town, to wait upon a Justice of Peace, a man of candour and understanding; before whom (I was informed) their angry neighbours had carried a whole wagon-load of these new heretics.’ [ie, new Christian converts along with some of those who had been sharing the gospel with them]

‘But when asked what they had done, there was a deep silence; for that was a point their conductors had forgot.

‘At length one said, “Why, they pretend to be better than other people…and besides, they prayed from morning to night.”

‘Mr. S asked, “But have they done nothing besides?”

“Yes Sir!”, said an old man, “An’t please your worship, they have convarted my wife. Till she went among them she had such a tongue! And now she is as quiet as a lamb!”

“Carry them back, carry them back,” replied the Justice, “and let them convert all the scolds in the town!”
(From John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.378)

Gal 5:22-23 says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Preaching on his Father’s Grave

John Wesley Preaches from his Father's Grave

On Sunday June 6th 1742 John Wesley, the English Evangelist re-visited his home town, Epworth in Lincolnshire.

This was the town of his birth and his father had been the Pastor of the St. Andrew’s Anglican Church there. The Wesley children had been raised there.

Prior to the Sunday service beginning Wesley offered to assist the Curate with the service, either by preaching or ‘reading prayers’ (from the Book of Common Prayer, then used by Anglicans).

The curate wasn’t keen, and we pick up the story from Wesley’s Journal:

‘He did not care to accept my assistance. The church was exceeding full in the afternoon, a rumour being spread that I was to preach.

‘But the sermon on ‘Quench not the Spirit’ was not suitable to the expectation of many of the hearers. Mr. Romney told them one of the most dangerous ways of quenching the Spirit was by enthusiasm; and enlarged on the character of an enthusiast…’

It’s quite likely that John Wesley, his friends and many of the people could clearly understand that the dodgy ‘character’ being described was Wesley himself!

‘Mr. Wesley will preach in the graveyard!’
Wesley continues, ‘After sermon, John Taylor stood in the church-yard, and gave notice, as the people were coming out, ‘Mr. Wesley, not being permitted to preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o’clock.’

‘Accordingly at six I came, and found such a congregation as I believe Epworth never saw before.

‘I stood near the east end of the church, upon my father’s tomb stone and cried, ‘The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’

We might expect that many left the Church of England because of the combination of the Curate’s and Wesley’s behaviour. And they did. But Wesley remained a loyal Anglican to the very end, urging new converts to attend the very churches that were teaching against the evangelical movement and preaching specifically against him and Whitefield.

In fact, because some who had left what they considered an unbelieving church were urging others to leave, Wesley, the very same day he had defied the Curate, decided to stay in Epworth and plead with several to remain within the Church of England.

It was a religious loyalty and tension that he struggled with all through his life.

While he was in Epworth he preached every evening of that week from his father’s grave to great crowds who continued to hear him. (all quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.377)

It was only near the end that he finally faced the inevitable and laid hands on the first apostolic delegate to America, Thomas Coke. Coke, in turn, had authority to appoint other leaders over the Methodist work in America.

So the Methodist movement, finally freed from its traditional English roots, became established in its own right and for many years became a mighty mouthpiece for evangelical Christianity around the world.

More next time…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Christmas Miracle – Back from the Brink of Death

Christmastime with John Wesley

In December 1742 John Wesley and trainee leader Thomas Meyrick travelled to the North of England to preach the gospel.

It was a bitterly cold journey and they both became ill. Meyrick’s sickness, however, took a turn for the worse and twice he was feared dead.

Wesley tells the story of this particular event in his journal.

‘Wed 15th Dec. [Each of us had caught] a violent cold by riding the day before. Mine gradually wore off; but Mr Meyrick’s increased, so that on Friday, he took his bed…’

The Physician fears the worst

Mon 20th…they told me the Physician said, he did not expect Mr. Meyrick would live till morning. I went to him but his pulse was gone.

‘He had been speechless and senseless for some time. A few of us immediately joined in prayer: (I relate the naked fact) Before we had done, his sense and his speech returned.

‘Now he that will account for this by natural causes has my free leave: But I choose to say, This is the power of God.’

Keep praying and never give up!

Sat 25th Dec. ‘The Physician told me he could do no more; Mr. Metyrick could not live over the night. I went up and found them all crying about him; his legs being cold, and (as it seemed) dead already.

‘We all kneeled down, and called upon God with strong cries and tears.

‘He opened his eyes, and called for me; and from that hour he continued to recover his strength till he was restored to perfect health.

‘I wait to hear who will either disprove this fact, or philosophically account for it.’

(From John Wesley’s Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.405-6)

A life of service to God

You might wonder what happened next – especially as he sank back into sickness after the initial bout of prayer.

Well, he did indeed recover and live a further 28 years, finally dying in 1770 (see here).

Prayer is not automatic. We come to a Person, to God the Father, who knows our need. But we can come with strong encouragements that He hears us according to His purpose and will.

Jesus said, ‘For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Matt 7:8 – see the verses in their context here)

What are you asking God for?

© 2009 Lex Loizides