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