CS Lewis and the Puritans

CS Lewis at his desk
CS Lewis at his desk

What did CS Lewis think of the Puritans?
It is sometimes implied that Lewis leant equally towards Catholic as Protestant doctrine. Some may assume that his thoughts on hell and the afterlife imply he was unimpressed with the theological emphasis of the works of the English puritans.

But in his academic masterpiece of literary criticism, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (excluding drama), he demonstrates a thorough, personally informed view of the major theological influences on that century and those that followed.

His discussion of puritan and reformed thinking is not only easy to grasp but thoroughly enjoyable. Typical Lewis.

Here are a few gems to whet your appetite…

A correct understanding of the goal of puritanism
‘The puritans were so called because they claimed to be purists or purifiers in ecclesiastical polity: not because they laid more emphasis than other Christians on ‘purity’ in the sense of chastity.’

A correct understanding of the nature of ‘puritan’ experience
‘We want, above all, to know what it felt like to be an early Protestant.

One thing is certain. It felt very unlike being a ‘puritan’ such as we meet in nineteenth-century fiction. Dickens’s Mrs. Clennam, trying to expiate her early sin by a long life of voluntary gloom, was doing exactly what the first Protestants would have forbidden her to do. They would have thought her whole conception of expiation papistical. On the Protestant view one could not, and by God’s mercy, need not, expiate one’s sins.’

Luther understood Paul correctly, according to CS Lewis
Luther understood Paul correctly, according to CS Lewis

Tyndale and Luther properly understood Paul’s doctrine of Justification by Faith and not by works
‘In the mind of a Tyndale or Luther, as in the mind of St. Paul himself, this theology was by no means an intellectual construction made in the interests of speculative thought. It springs directly out of a highly specialized religious experience; and all its affirmations, when separated from that context, become meaningless or else mean the opposite of what was intended…’

‘Catastrophic Conversion’ essential to an experience of joy (or bliss)
‘The experience is that of catastrophic conversion.

The man who has passed through it feels like one who has waked from a nightmare into ecstasy.

Like an accepted lover, he feels that he has done nothing, and never could have done anything, to deserve such astonishing happiness. Never again can he ‘crow from the dunghill of desert’.

All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. And all will continue to be free, unbounded grace.

His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place.

Fortunately they need not. Bliss is not for sale, cannot be earned.

‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once.

He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved.

It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang.’

To read the next post (CS Lewis on Predestination) click here

To read a review of AN Wilson’s biography on Lewis click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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Baptism in the Spirit part 1

Agostino Cerasi’s ‘Gamba Player’ (The Gamba was an earlier version of the Bass Viol Charles Finney would have played)

Spiritual Tranquillity
When the precocious legal apprentice Charles Finney was converted to Christianity in 1821 it was the fulfilment of a fairly rigourous intellectual inquiry. He was, therefore, surprised by the depth of emotion he experienced in its aftermath.

The initial feeling was one of a deep and steady peace. ‘The repose of my mind was unspeakably great…The thought of God was sweet to my mind, and the most profound spiritual tranquillity had taken full possession of me.’[i]

After returning from the woods, where he had finally surrendered his life to Christ, he went to the law office which was empty and began playing his Bass Viol. ‘But as soon as I began to play and sing those sacred words, I began to weep. It seemed as if my heart was all liquid…I wondered at this and tried to suppress my tears, but could not.

I wondered what ailed me that I felt such a disposition to weep. After trying in vain to suppress my tears, I put up my instrument and stopped singing.’[ii]

Soon Finney’s boss arrived and they spent the afternoon moving books into another office.

‘After dinner we were engaged in removing our books and furniture to another office. We were very busy in this, and had but little conversation all the afternoon. There was a great sweetness and tenderness in my thoughts and feelings. Everything appeared to be going right, and nothing seemed to ruffle or disturb me in the least.

A desire to pray
Just before evening the thought took possession of my mind, that as soon as I was left alone in the new office, I would try to pray again…

Just at evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fireplace, a good large fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just as it was dark Esq. Wright, seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me goodnight and went home.

I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my inward feelings seemed to rise and pour themselves out; and the impression on my mind was, “I want to pour my whole soul out to God.”

The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room behind the front office, to pray. There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light.

Meeting Jesus, face to face
As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for sometime afterward, that it was wholly a mental state.

On the contrary it seemed to me that I met Him face to face, and saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet.

I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance…

I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect scarcely anything that I said.

But I know, as soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had just made of large wood was nearly burned out.

The Holy Spirit descended upon me
But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.’[iii]

Next time we’ll examine Finney’s detailed description of God’s power ‘pouring’ into him. You can read it here

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22

[ii] ibid, p.22

[iii] ibid p.23

Suffering, Sickness and Healing

PJ Smyth

Message of the Month – PJ Smyth

How should Christians respond when they are suddenly struck down with an illness? In the midst of suffering, are we to run away from medicine and trust only in prayer, or should we view prayer merely as a means of psychological comfort whilst trusting only in the prognosis of the medical professionals? Or, is there a faith-filled position which embraces both prayer and scientific medicine? And what about the Devil’s role in all this, and the role of vigourous resistance?

This message is by PJ Smyth who leads GodFirst Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was preached at the Newfrontiers ‘Together on a Mission’ conference in England in 2011.

It’s not a message on healing as such, but rather covers the broader range of pastoral issues that arise when we face serious sickness – including the source of sickness, and how we handle our approach towards recovery.

But it’s not merely academic. PJ was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, which was successfully treated. He tells the story in the message.

In terms of an overview of the Christian approach to the challenge of sickness and healing I think it is probably the best message I have heard on the subject, and which, in my opinion, reaches the correct conclusions.

But what do you think?

For the Video click here

For the Audio click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Message of the Month John Piper

Working for your Joy!

John Piper

The search for genuine joy in the battle of life is a search that concerns every person.

The soul’s thirst for satisfaction drives men and women, Christian and non-Christian, to try a myriad of promises – and often leaves them feeling empty, short-changed, duped.

In this compelling message, John Piper argues that the chief aim of the Christian leader is to make joy the ultimate aim of each person – by pointing them to the only ultimately satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ.

Joy in Christ is the goal of the Christian life – Joy, Piper asserts, is not just the icing on the cake, it is the cake!!

John Piper - working for the joy of all peoples

The link below is to a video, but if you don’t have access to fast internet (as most people don’t yet), then there is a link on the page to an mp3 version of the message.

The context of this message was a 300 leaders conference in London, hosted by Newfrontiers Pastor Tope Koleoso. I hope you enjoy it.

The Message (click the link): Working for your Joy

© Church History / Lex Loizides

Message of the Month Vishal Mangalwadi

Message of the Month – Vishal Mangalwadi

Vishal Mangalwadi

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve had a kind of love affair with India for most of my adult life.

Nevertheless my admiration for Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi is anything but sentimental. I am genuinely impacted every time I hear him speak. It’s the same kind of impact I felt when I first read the works of Francis Schaeffer.

Somewhat guided by his notes (!), but also peppered with stunning digressions and off-the-cuff insights, his teaching energises me every single time.

Vishal's book about the role of the Bible in creating the West

He is currently working on a book about the central influence of the Bible in the development of the Western World, which, coming from an Eastern perspective, is intriguing.

This message is part of his material for that book. To be honest, I could have chosen any one of these messages but I thought the title alone might grab your interest.

The Message – Vishal Mangalwadi: ‘Why are some so rich while other are so poor?’

For more on Vishal Mangalwadi click here

Vishal’s stunning book ‘India – the Grand Experiment’

Other books for sale by Vishal

© 2011 Church History Blog / 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

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

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

Threatened at Gunpoint – The Methodist Revival Advances

(Methodism and the Mob Part 4)

John Cennick

Howell Harris did not only preach in Wales, of course, but ventured into England as well.

On one occasion he was preaching with fellow Methodist John Cennick in Swindon in Wiltshire, South West England.

Before long there was a strong reaction and considerable gang of trouble makers were out to stop these Evangelists from preaching.

Threatened with Guns
Cennick wrote, ‘The mob fired guns over our heads, holding the muzzles so near to our faces that Howell Harris and myself were both made as black as tinkers with the powder. We were not affrighted, but opened our breasts, telling them we were ready to lay down our lives.…

Splattered with Sewerage
‘Then they got dust out of the highway and covered us all over; and then they played an engine upon us, which they filled out of the stinking ditches.

‘While they played on brother Harris, I preached; and when they turned the engine upon me, he preached. This they continued till they spoiled the engine; and they threw whole buckets of water and mud over us.

‘After we left the town, they dressed up two images, called one Cennick and the other Harris, and then burnt them.

The home and family of the hospitable attacked
The next day they gathered about the home of Mr. Lawrence, who had received us, and broke all of his windows with stones, cut and wounded four of his family, and knocked down one of his daughters.’ (John Cennick, Memorable Passages relating to the Awakening in Wiltshire (unpublished, but referred to in Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press, p.142, and Christian History)

Pressing on until grace wins
Yet these heroes continued to proclaim the gospel message, overcoming the resistance and transforming the culture. If ever we needed an encouragement to persevere then here it is, in the heroism of the 18th Century Evangelists.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
© 2009 Lex Loizides

Supernaturally Healed Whilst Preaching

You may not agree with all of John Wesley’s theology. Indeed, some of his statements are baffling.

But one thing you can’t deny is that he was a seriously hard worker. His commitment to preaching and teaching and leading was phenomenal.
And sometimes he got sick.

Weakness and Fever
Here’s an incident from May 1741 which is encouraging. Wesley claims (and I have no reason to doubt the claim) that he was supernaturally healed mid-sermon!!

Friday 8th May, 1741
‘I found myself much out of order. However, I made shift to preach in the evening: but on Saturday my bodily strength quite failed, so that for several hours I could scarce lift my head.

‘Sunday 10th. I was obliged to lie down most part of the day, being easy only in that posture.

‘Yet in the evening my weakness was suspended while I was calling sinners to repentance.

‘But at our love-feast which followed, beside the pain in my back and head, and the fever which still continued upon me, just as I began to pray, I was seized with such a cough that I could hardly speak.

Believing and Receiving
‘At the same time came strongly into my mind, ‘These signs shall follow them that believe.’ I called on Jesus aloud, to ‘increase my faith’ and to ‘confirm the word of his grace.’

‘While I was speaking, my pain vanished away; the fever left me; my bodily strength returned; and for many weeks I felt neither weakness nor pain. ‘Unto thee, O Lord, do I give thanks.’
(John Wesley Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.310)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

God’s Abiding Presence

Jonathan Edwards

The American colonial town of Northampton (now MA), had experienced numerous seasons of spiritual excitement.

A Cycle of Harvests

Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards grandfather, had led the Northampton church from 1672 and had referred to a cycle of harvests which had brought many of its inhabitants to faith in Christ.

When Jonathan Edwards began his pastoral ministry there (beginning in 1727) he was also able to record amazing outpourings of the Holy Spirit.

George Whitefield’s visit to the town in 1740 seemed to fan into flame the longings and passions of a people hungry for the presence of God.

As Whitefield left Northampton for New York the work was continuing with great power.

‘Great attention in the town’
Edwards wrote, ‘there appeared an awakening and deep concern among some young persons who were in a Christless state…in about a month or six weeks, there was a great attention in the town, both as to the revival of professors [those already converted, or ‘professing’ faith] and the awakening of others.’ (Quoted in Jonathan Edwards, Iain Murray, Banner of Truth, p.164)

But this was no short lived excitement lasting only briefly after the Evangelists’ visit. In May 1741, Edwards preached in someone’s home and wrote that ‘one or two [believers] were so greatly affected with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine things’ that the impact was noticeable, ‘having a very visible effect upon their bodies.’

Indeed, he noted that after the regular church services that some of the folk attending were ‘so overcome that they could not go home, but were obliged to stay all night where they were.’ (ibid, p.165)

Iain Murray in his treatment of this period suggests that Edwards is referring to a morning or afternoon service and not an evening service, which can only mean that they were having these encounters with God for many hours!

Absolute Sovereignty
‘Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.’ declared Edwards and he seemed surprisingly (refreshingly?) open to God’s Spirit moving in power upon the people as an undeniable feature of the revival.

If we look around the world today, at the great ‘harvests’ of South America, China and Africa it is practically impossible not to notice the similarity of phenomena, and the resultant increase of new followers of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is still powerfully active around the world and many thankful Christian leaders can echo Edwards’ words of 1741,

‘There was an appearance of a glorious progress of the work of God upon the hearts of sinners, in conviction and conversion, this summer and autumn, and great numbers, I think we have reason to hope, were brought savingly home to Christ.’ (ibid, p.165)

For more resources on Jonathan Edwards visit the excellent Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield visits Jonathan Edwards (part 3)

George Whitefield twenties
George Whitefield, probably in his twenties

Part Three (see Part One and Part Two)

In the autumn of 1740, English Evangelist George Whitefield finally met the man he had so respected, Jonathan Edwards. Both these men were Reformed, (or, ‘Calvinistic’) in their theology and practice, preaching the gospel fervently and trusting God to move the people to respond.

Whitefield had already blazed a trail of powerful evangelistic work in England, Scotland and Wales and had seen multiple thousands gathered to hear the message of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley, his brother Charles and a small army of newly converted leaders had taken up the movement in Britain and were not only continuing to proclaim the message to the unconverted but were gathering the new converts into small groups (classes) and mid-week congregations (or ‘societies’ as they called them).

Whitefield’s fame was now legendary, and his visits to colonial America had already been wildly successful. He had been born again only 5 years previously and was just 25 years old. Jonathan Edwards had been eager to meet him and to have him preach in the church he pastored in Northampton, New England.

Jonathan Edwards on George Whitefield’s Visit
In a letter to Thomas Prince, Edwards described the impact of Whitefield’s visit:

‘He preached here four sermons in the meeting-house (besides a private lecture at my house) – one on Friday, another on Saturday, and two upon the Sabbath.

‘The congregation was extraordinarily melted by every sermon; almost the whole assembly being in tears for a great part of sermon time.

‘Mr. Whitefield’s sermons were suitable to the circumstances of the town, containing just reproofs of our backslidings, and, in a most moving and affecting manner, making use of our great profession and great mercies as arguments with us to return to God, from whom we had departed.

‘Immediately after this, the minds of the people in general appeared more engaged in religion, showing a greater forwardness to make religion the subject of their conversation, and to meet frequently together for religious purposes, and to embrace all opportunities to hear the Word preached.

‘The revival at first appeared chiefly among professors and those that had entertained the hope that they were in a state of grace, to whom Mr. Whitefield chiefly addressed himself.

‘But in a very short time there appeared an awakening and deep concern among some young persons that looked upon themselves as in a Christless state; and there were some hopeful appearances of conversion; and some professors were greatly revived.

‘In about a month or six weeks, there was a great alteration in the town, both as to the revivals of professors and awakenings of others.’ (Letters and Personal Writings (WJE Online Vol. 16) at the Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University)

It’s great to see how God raised up an itinerating Evangelist to help a Pastor who was seeking to impact his town with the gospel. Their friendship and mutual respect continued for the rest of their lives.

To read George Whitefield’s remarkable comments on Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ family life go here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards (part 1)

When he was just 25 years old, the English Evangelist George Whitefield visited the American town of Northampton, the town made famous by a revival in the 1730’s.

An article in the Princeton Theological Review (Vol 2, No.4, 1904), makes reference to the impact of  the Great Awakening in both Great Britain and America, noting that ‘The chief personal bond between the two branches of this evangelistic movement was George Whitefield’.

New Friends

One of the great joys of this visit, and of real interest to us, is the meeting and subsequent friendship of Whitefield and Edwards, the Evangelist and the Theologian.

Whitefield describes their meeting in his journal:

‘Friday, October 17, 1740
When I had taken a little Refreshment, we crossed the Ferry to Northampton, where no less than 300 Souls…were savingly brought Home to the dear Lord Jesus about 5 or 6 Years ago.

‘Their Pastor’s Name is Edwards, Successor and Grandson to the great Stoddard, whose Memory will be always precious to my Soul, and whose Books…I would recommend to all.

‘Mr. Edwards is a solid, excellent Christian, but at present weak in Body.

‘I think, I may say I have not seen his Fellow in all New-England. When I came into his Pulpit, I found my Heart drawn out to talk of scarce any Thing besides the Consolations and Privileges of Saints, and the plentiful Effusion of the Spirit upon the Hearts of Believers.

‘And, when I came to remind them of their former Experiences, and how zealous and lively they were at that Time, both Minister and People wept much; and the Holy Ghost enabled me to speak with a great deal of Power.’
(George Whitefield Journals, unedited version, Quinta Press – but see here for Banner of Truth edition)

And so, these two giants in their fields met and became firm friends.

For Part 2 of this story see here

For more resources on Jonathan Edwards visit the excellent Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Struggling for Life: Multitudes Race to Hear the Gospel Being Preached

A young couples’ morning is turned upside down when they hear news that George Whitefield, the famous English Evangelist, will be preaching in a nearby town.

It’s October 23 1740, and farmer Nathan Cole throws down his tools, runs to the house, unties the horse and he and his wife begin the fervent race towards the field where Whitefield is about to preach.

They had to cover 12 miles in a short time. But as they discovered, thousands of others were eagerly running, riding, racing towards the great event.

If you are picking up the story here then you might like to read Part One.

(Part Two)
A low rumbling thunder
Nathan continues the story:

‘Then I saw before me a great cloud or fog.

‘I first thought it was from the great river but as I came nearer the road I heard a noise something like a low rumbling thunder and I presently found out it was the rumbling of horses feet coming down the road and this cloud was a cloud of dust made by the running of horses feet.

‘It rose high into the air above the tops of the hills and trees.

‘And when I came closer into the cloud I could see men and horses slipping along  – it was like a steady stream of horses and their riders, scarcely a horse more than his length behind another all of a lather and foam with sweat, their breath rolling out of their nostrils.

‘I found a [gap] between two horses to slip in my horse.  No one spoke a word but everyone pressing forward with great haste.

‘When we got down to the old meeting house there was a great multitude.  It was said to be three or four thousand and when I looked towards the great river I could see ferry boats running swift forwards and backwards bringing over loads of people, and the oars rowed nimble and quick.

‘Everything, men, horses and boats seemed to be struggling for life.’

(Sources: Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield Vol.1, Banner of Truth, p541 and John Pollock, George Whitefield, Hodder, p164f)

To be continued…

Read Part Three here

© Lex Loizides

Spiritual Hunger and Satisfaction in Whitefield’s Ministry – an Eye Witness Account

George Whitefield
George Whitefield

(Part One)
Four Thousand Gather in an American Field
The same power, which attended George Whitefield’s evangelistic meetings in Britain, was also very evident in America.

Let’s take a closer look at the kind of excitement generated when it was announced that he would be preaching. There is little doubt that the description of the gathering we are about to enjoy is not exceptional but was rather typical of Great Awakening meetings certainly until 1745 in America.

On October 23 1740, during his second American visit, he preached at Middletown, Connecticut. Whitefield states in his Journal with unpretentious familiarity, ‘Preached to about four thousand people at eleven o’clock.’

Obviously, he felt there was nothing particularly unusual about the meeting.  History has, however, preserved a spectator’s account of the same meeting, which makes fascinating reading.

Nathan Cole

Nathan Cole, one of the 4000 present, describes the scene when the news that Whitefield would preach was announced:

‘Now it pleased God to send Mr. Whitefield into this land and I longed to see and hear him.

‘Then one morning, all on a sudden, there came a messenger who said, ‘Mr. Whitefield is to preach at Middletown this morning at 10 O’clock.

‘I was in my field at work.  I dropped my tool that I had in my hand and ran home and through the house and bade my wife to get ready quick to go and hear Mr. Whitefield preach.

‘I ran to my pasture for my horse with all my might, fearing that I should be too late to hear him and took up my wife and went forward as fast as I thought the horse could bear,

‘and when my horse began to be out of breath I would get down and put my wife on the saddle and bid her ride as fast as she could and not stop or slack for me except I told her.

‘And so I would run until I was almost out of breath and then mount my horse again.

‘We improved every moment to get along as though we were fleeing for our lives, fearing we should be too late to hear the sermon, for we had twelve miles to ride in little more than an hour.’

(Sources: Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield Vol.1, Banner of Truth, p541 and John Pollock, George Whitefield, Hodder, p164f)
To be continued…

Read Part Two here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Why didn’t Wesley become a Reformed Charismatic?

John Wesley and John Calvin - nearly but not quite!
John Wesley and John Calvin - nearly but not quite!

Wesley was miraculously healed while reading Paul on predestination
There are several accounts of physical healings during the Great Awakening.

But one is particularly amazing, seeing as it happened to John Wesley, avowed opponent of the Doctrine of Predestination. Now that statement cries out for explanation, so without any further ado let’s cut to Wesley’s journal entry for the period of 15th to 17th May 1739:

‘Wed 15 – I explained at Greyhound Lane, the latter part of the fourth chapter to the Ephesians. I was so weak in body, that I could hardly stand; but my spirit was much strengthened.

Bed-ridden all day
‘I found myself growing sensibly weaker all Thursday; so that on Friday, 17, I could scarce get out of bed, and almost as soon as I was up, was constrained to lie down again.

‘Nevertheless I made shift to drag myself on, in the evening, to Short’s Gardens.

‘Having, not without difficulty, got up the stairs, I read those words, (though scarce intelligibly, for my voice too was almost gone), ‘Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.’ (Romans 8:29)

Instant healing while reading about God’s predestinating grace
‘In a moment both my voice and strength returned: And from that time, for some weeks, I found such bodily strength as I had never done before, since my landing in America.’ (JW Journals, Baker edition, p. 306-7)

It’s amazing that God would heal Wesley, who had so misunderstood the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation, while he was reading that particular verse.  But it didn’t soften him up or even cause him to pause.

When Wesley decided to preach so vehemently against predestination (and, therefore against Whitefield and Edwards) he asked that God would confirm his position. When the Spirit began to touch people with power, Wesley wrongly interpreted that as a divine confirmation of his rejection of predestination.

Why wasn’t Wesley consistent and view his instant healing as an endorsement of the verse? Because he’d already drawn a lot, to ‘preach and print’ against the Reformed position.

So the healing didn’t turn Wesley from his Arminianism to either a Reformed or a Charismatic position, nor did it cause him to become a forerunner of the modern Reformed Charismatic movement!

Wesley continued in his prejudice against election and probably interpreted the healing as God strengthening him to contradict the doctrine.

Shame that! Because of Wesley’s somewhat flawed (and inconsistent) means of gaining guidance, his continued determination to publicly blast election effectively divided the new converts’ loyalty, created bickering within the new movement, and caused energy to be directed away from the mission and onto this important, though secondary issue.

And that, folks, is why Wesley nearly (coulda, shoulda), but didn’t become a Reformed Charismatic!!

© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Thoroughly English Street Brawl

Beau Nash, the A-list dandy of the 18th Century!
Beau Nash, the A-list dandy of the 18th Century!


Or, how to deal with a pompous toff!

An incident recorded by John Wesley in his journals became widely known both for its humour and for the quick-witted way Wesley dealt with his objector, Beau Nash.

Nash was the unrivalled leader of fashion in Bath, a popular figure at parties, an A-list celebrity. He knew how to put on the kind of ball that Jane Austen’s characters would die for. But he had a run-in with John Wesley (not known for his fashion sense or party-going!). So the story was of great interest to Wesley’s readers.

Wesley writes, ‘Tues 5th June 1739 – There was great expectation at Bath of what a noted man was to do to me there, and I was much entreated not to preach because no-one knew what might happen.

By this report I also gained a much larger audience, among whom were many of the rich and great.

I told them plainly, the Scripture had concluded them all under sin; high and low, rich and poor, one with another.

The ‘Champion’, Beau Nash, takes Wesley on
Many of them seemed to be a little surprised and were sinking into seriousness when their champion appeared, and coming close to me, asked by what authority I did these things.

I replied, ‘By the authority of Jesus Christ, conveyed to me by the (now) Archbishop of Canterbury, when he laid hands upon me and said, ‘Take thou authority to preach the Gospel.’’

He said, ‘This is contrary to Act of Parliament: this is a conventicle.’

I answered, ‘Sir, the conventicles mentioned in that Act (as the preamble shows) are seditious meetings. But this is not such. He is no shadow of sedition, therefore it is not contrary to that Act.’

He replied, ‘I say it is. And beside, your preaching frightens people out of their wits.’

‘Sir, did you ever hear me preach?’

‘No!’

‘How then can you judge of what you never heard?’

‘Sir, by common report!’

‘Common report is not enough. Give me leave, Sir, to ask, is not your name Nash?’

‘My name is Nash.’

‘Sir, I dare not judge of you by common report, I think it is not enough to judge by.’

Here he paused awhile, and, having recovered himself, said, ‘I desire to know what this people comes here for.’ On which one replied, ‘Sir, leave him to me. Let an old woman answer him. You, Mr. Nash, take care of your body. We take care of our souls, and for the food of our souls we come here!’

He replied not a word, but walked away.’
(John Wesley Journals, vol. 1, Baker edition, p.198-9)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Whitefield on the Romance of Preaching

George Whitefield Preaches in the Fields
George Whitefield Preaches in the Fields

Speaking without notes

In 1739, George Whitefield was himself new to open air preaching, and had probably not imagined speaking to such multitudes as he now regularly addressed.

Speaking of those early days of revival power he wrote,

‘As the scene was new and I had just begun to be an extempore preacher [ie, preaching without notes], it often occasioned many inward conflicts.

‘Sometimes when twenty thousand people were before me, I had not, in my own apprehension, a word to say either to God or them.

‘But I never was totally deserted, and frequently so assisted, that I knew by happy experience what our Lord meant by saying, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’.’

And now, here is one of my all time favourite quotes of any preacher and certainly of Whitefield himself. This statement is full of feeling, beautifully worded and straight from the experience of seeing the impact of the cross of Christ. What a description of gospel preaching! He writes,

Thousands and thousands drenched in tears

‘The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields, with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me.’

It is surely a delight to know that such sights are not confined to the past but are happening today.

Such multitudes, and even larger, are being regularly seen in Africa, India, South America and many other parts of the world. But let’s not only rejoice in what God has done in the past or in what God is doing in other places – let’s cry out to God for our cities, towns and rural regions, that He would ‘rend the heavens and come down’ (Isaiah 64:1), revealing the truth of the cross of Christ in our world.

(All quotes from Gillies Memoirs of George Whitefield, p.38, quoted by in A Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.268)

For more on the amazing life of George Whitefield click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Wesley and the Surprise of the Holy Spirit’s Power

During times of revival one of the greatest challenges is surely the effects upon those who are directly impacted by the Spirit’s power.

Paul talked about the importance of ‘demonstrations of the Spirit and of power’. (1 Cor 2:4)

It seems in 1739, as such things were taking place, Whitefield and Wesley were initially passive about the effects, the outcries, the falling down that was taking place amongst certain people who heard them.

Those who were overwhelmed physically in the meetings were not necessarily believers, but even sometimes those who were opposing the work.

‘The groanings of some, the cries of others’

Wesley notes the different reactions of those who witnessed such things. His comments assume impartiality. He was careful not to hinder what was happening in the meetings. In fact, it’s likely that he would have not been able to stop what was happening.

In his Journal entry of May 1st 1739 he writes, ‘Many were offended again, and indeed much more than before.

‘For at Baldwin Street, my voice could scarce be heard amidst the groanings of some, and the cries of others, calling aloud to Him that is ‘mighty to save’.

‘I desired all that were sincere of heart to beseech with me the Prince exalted for us, that he would ‘proclaim his deliverance to the captives’.

‘And he soon showed that he heard our voice. Many of those who had been long in darkness saw the dawn of a great light; and ten persons, I afterwards found, then began to say in faith, ‘My Lord and my God.’

A frustrated and then thunderstruck Quaker

‘A Quaker, who stood by, was not a little displeased at the dissimulation of those creatures, and was biting his lip and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunderstruck.

‘The agony he was in was even terrible to behold. We besought God not to lay folly to his charge. And he soon lifted up his head and cried aloud, ‘Now I now thou art a prophet of the Lord.’ (All quotes from John Wesley Journals, Vol 1, p.189-190, Baker edition)

I don’t think Wesley is trying to puff himself up by recording the man’s words. But whereas the Quaker had been sceptical of the whole event, he now realised that God was working.

Some thoughts for us as we seek Revival

The question for us is, would we invite our non-Christian friends to this? My own answer is simply this, that in a time of outpouring, or revival, clearly God is working in a concentrated way. The posture of the leaders is critical.

But Wesley could hardly be heard because so much was happening in the congregation. We ought to desire God’s spirit to sweep through a town, congregation, meeting and accomplish His purposes.

That is very different to a situation where in a church meeting one or two individuals appear to be behaving strangely in a very public way, and where this behaviour is, by implication, presented as authoritative confirmation of God’s presence or favour. God’s Spirit may indeed be working there, and, it’s true, maybe only in one or two people. But in terms of handling that situation, I would refer us to 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul argues for the kind of leadership that brings security (peace and order) even in the context of seeking to release the powerful charismatic gifts in the congregation.

Where there is a delight in disorder we have gone beyond the bounds of the New Testament and we must regain our missional perspective. But when God breaks in with real power, especially in the context of mission, we should not to try and tie everything down and become guilty of quenching the Spirit.

These things can be difficult to discern and to lead, as we’ll see when we come on to the Welsh Revival of 1904, but our hope and prayer is surely that God would break in. That’s where our need is right now.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

A Prayer Meeting that Changed the World

An English Newspaper from December 1738
An English Newspaper from December 1738

In November 1738 the 24 year old George Whitefield returned to Great Britain from his first trip to America. It had been a great success.

When he arrived in London he records that he attended a meeting in Fetter Lane. On December 8th he records, ‘In the evening went to a truly Christian Society in Fetter Lane, and perceived God had greatly watered the seed sown by my ministry when last in London. The Lord increase it more and more.’ (GW Journal, Banner Edition, p.194)

Indeed the Awakening was moving forward quickly.

Christmas Day with George Whitefield

Whitefield preached very early that Christmas morning, 1738. ‘About four this morning, went and prayed and expounded to another Society in Redcross Street, consisting of near two or three hundred people and the room was exceedingly hot. I had been watching unto prayer all night, yet God vouchsafed so to fill me with His blessed Spirit that I spoke with as great power as ever I did in my life.’ (GW Journal, p.194)

But it was New Year’s Eve which was perhaps the most significant meeting for many of the leaders of the Awakening. Whitefield merely records it as another great time of prayer, but Wesley, who was ‘catching up’ somewhat with Whitefield’s spirituality, gives us more detail and was clearly impacted by what happened:

A famous New Year’s Party!

‘Mon. Jan. 1, 1739 – Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles, were present at out love-feast in Fetter Lane, with about sixty of our brethren.

‘About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried our for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.

‘As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.’ (John Wesley Journal, Baker edition, p.170)

Whitefield, writing of the same occasion, said, ‘O that our despisers were partakers of our joys!’ (GW Journal, p.196) And looking back on that brief season after returning from America, as friends gathered in London to pray, he wrote:

New wine!

‘Sometimes whole nights were spent in prayer. Often have we been filled as with new wine. And often have we seen them overwhelmed with the divine presence and crying out, ‘Will God indeed dwell with men upon earth? How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven!’ (John Gillies, Memoirs of the Life of George Whitefield, Dilly, p.34)

This amazing season of prayer, and this company of sixty, mainly young men would usher in a new day for the British Isles.

For a famous incident in Bristol, where the blackened faces of coal miners were whitened by their tears click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Preparing to be Filled with the Spirit – Letters to Wesley

John Wesley
John Wesley

Gathering Information on the health of the new believers

In John Wesley’s Journal entry for December 5th 1738 he writes,

‘About this time, being desirous to know how the work of God went on among our brethren in London, I wrote to many of them concerning the state of their souls.’ He then quotes from some of the replies he received.

The experiences described, and which he includes in his journal may well have been the perfect preparation for him to be positive about the outpouring of the Spirit that took place on January 1st 1739. This outpouring, during an all night prayer meeting, has arguably been portrayed as the beginning, the spark, of the Great Awakening in the British Isles.

[N.B. In sharing these quotes I am encouraging us to learn about the processes of church history. I am noting openness to the Holy Spirit exhibited by the early Methodist leadership –  just on the eve of a mighty breakthrough that  radically affected their generation. I am not endorsing Wesley’s later teaching on sinless perfection.]

Sealed with the Spirit

One of the letters Wesley quotes from includes the following remarkable statements:

‘Now St. Paul says, ‘After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Spirit of promise.’ So it was with me.

After I had believed on Him that ‘justifieth the ungodly,’ I received that seal of the Spirit, which is the ‘earnest of our inheritance.’…

‘then I began to feel the ‘Spirit of God bearing witness with my spirit, that I was born of God.’

‘Because I was a child of God, He ‘sent forth the Spirit of his Son into me, crying, Abba, Father.’ For that is the cry of every new born soul.

The love of God undeniably experienced

‘O mighty, powerful, happy change!…

‘The love of God was shed abroad in my heart, and a flame kindled there, so that my body was almost torn asunder.

‘I loved. The Spirit cried strong in my heart.

‘I trembled: I sung: I joined my voice with those ‘that excel in strength’

Hungering after God!

‘My soul was got up into the holy mount. I had no thoughts of coming down again into the body. I who not long before had called to ‘the rocks to fall on me, and the mountains to cover me,’ could now call for nothing else but, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’

‘Then I could cry out with great boldness, There, O God, is my Surety! There, O death, is thy plague! There, O grave, is thy destruction! There, O serpent, is the Seed that shall for ever bruise thy head!

The Lover and the Beloved

‘O, I thought my head was a fountain of water. I was dissolved in love. ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am his.’ He has all charms.

‘He has ravished my heart. He is my comforter, my friend, my all. He is now in his garden, feeding among the lilies.

‘O, ‘I am sick of love.’ He is altogether lovely, ‘the chiefest among ten thousand.’”

(From John Wesley Journals Vol 1, p.168-169, Baker edition)

Wesley makes no comment on the letters he quotes but leaves judgement to the reader.

Next time we’ll look at the historic gathering on January 1st 1739…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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

Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris part 1

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors

‘Harris is one of the great heroic figures in the Christian Church, and his story is truly an astonishing one.’ Lloyd-Jones (1973)

Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest evangelical teachers of the 20th Century. Few would argue with that. His powerful and faithful teaching ministry both in Wales (1927-1938) and later in London (1939-1968) has continued to inspire leaders and movements around the world.

Leading evangelical preachers such as J.I. Packer and Terry Virgo were powerfully impacted by his passionate expository style of preaching. His was a voice of authority and certainty in an increasingly wishy-washy church context.

In 1950 Packer and others urged Lloyd-Jones to begin a regular teaching conference on the importance of the Puritans and the Puritan movement. Papers were delivered followed by robust discussion chaired (and adjudicated?) by Lloyd-Jones himself.

Lloyd-Jones lectured on many subjects during the conferences (called first, The Puritan and, later, The Westminster Conference).

In 1959 he preached on ‘Revival: An historical and Theological Survey’, in 1964 on ‘John Calvin and George Whitefield’, in 1972 on ‘John Knox – The Founder of Puritanism’ and in 1973 on ‘Howell Harris and Revival’.

It is to this particular lecture that we now turn our attention. We’ve seen something of Harris’ amazing influence in Wales and we shall go on to see his continuing influence in England through the preaching methods of George Whitefield (Harris also pastored Whitefield’s London church in his absence). But what does ‘The Doctor’, as Lloyd-Jones was affectionately called, say of Harris?

Lloyd-Jones’ excellent lectures have been published by the Banner of Truth Trust (the publishing company he helped form) under the title ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’. Page numbers refer to that edition.

On Harris’ conversion

Lloyd-Jones mentions the phrase that was to have such an impact on Harris. He had been in church when, during an announcement for communion, the Minister had said, ‘If you are not fit to take Communion you are not fit to pray, and if you are not fit to pray you are not fit to live, and if you are not fit to live you are not fit to die.’

Lloyd-Jones remarks, ‘These words hit this thoughtless schoolmaster with great force…I emphasise this incident because it reminds us of one of the amazing things about being a servant of God. You can bring people to conviction of sin even through an announcement! You never know what God is going to use; your asides are sometimes more important than your prepared statements.’ (p.285)

On the descending of the Spirit as a definition of Revival

Of particular interest is that Lloyd-Jones emphasises Harris’ encounter with the Holy Spirit as the key experience of his ministry.

This is typical of Lloyd-Jones who was frankly fed up of what he saw as a misunderstanding of the dynamic role of the Holy Spirit which was then prevalent amongst Reformed teachers and preachers. Happily, things have normalised in our day but it was different then and a post conversion experience of the Spirit needed to be constantly emphasised.

Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘What is revival?  Revival is an outpouring of the Spirit of God. It is a kind of repetition of Pentecost. It is the Spirit descending upon people.

This needs to be emphasised in this present age. For we have been told so much recently by some that every man at regeneration receives the baptism of the Spirit, and all he has to do after that is to surrender to what he has already.

But revival does not come as a result of a man surrendering to what he already has; it is the Spirit being poured upon him, descending upon him, as happened on the day of Pentecost.’ (p.289)

To read the Part Two click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides