Celebrities or Servants – How Christian Leadership should be

William Chalmers Burns


After a short while in China, Hudson Taylor met someone who had a huge impact on him and helped further shape his own ministry.

A Bright New Star Arrives on the Christian Scene
By today’s standards, the Scotsman William Burns could have been as great a celebrity as any successful leader. He could have published extensively, taken speaking engagements across Britain and America. He had, after all, just witnessed a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Sensing his own call to take the gospel to the nations, Burns had considered India as well as China but had suddenly been offered the opportunity – as his first ministerial assignment – to preach in Dundee for Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

M’Cheyne was already well known in Scotland and had gathered a large congregation. Humanly speaking it would be fairly tough to match his standard of leadership. For Burns, this was his first regular preaching assignment – but something unusual happened!

Holy Spirit Revival!
Undeterred by a possible nonresponsive Scottish reserve, Burns had prayed for and now preached for conversion, trusting God for the power of the Holy Spirit![i]

The meetings went well, and returning for a meeting in his home town of Kilsyth, he preached there and the power of God fell. He describes the scene:

[I began] ‘to plead with the unconverted before me instantly to close with God’s offers of mercy, and continued to do so until the power of the Lord’s Spirit became so mighty upon their souls as to carry all before it, like the rushing mighty wind of Pentecost !

During the whole of the time that I was speaking, the people listened with the most riveted and solemn attention, and with many silent tears and inward groanings of the spirit;

but at the last their feelings became too strong for all ordinary restraints, and broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of joy and praise from some of the people of God.’[ii]

Returning to Dundee, at the regular Thursday evening prayer meeting, he told the congregation news of the outpouring he had just witnessed.

The Holy Spirit was poured out once again and every night for four months meetings were held and thousands felt the impact. One biographer says ‘the whole city was moved as family after family were converted![iii]

The Relative Obscurity of Faithfulness
Following such a hugely successful season of evangelistic preaching we might have expected Burns to redirect his steps and stay in the UK. However, he followed through with his conviction, left Scotland, and became an obscure missionary to China where he spent the rest of his life.

What a great encouragement he was to Hudson Taylor, as was Taylor to him. Burns followed Taylor’s example of adopting Chinese rather than European dress.

But what a lesson for us – in a day when publishers and people so love the celebrity status of our leaders, to observe one of the most highly gifted Christian leaders move out of the publishing spotlight into years of humble ‘unseen’ service for those who don’t know Christ.

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Memoir of the Rev William C Burns, Islay Burns (London, James Nisbet, 1873) (Current edition: Lightning Source, UK)

[ii] ibid

[iii] Old Time Revivals, John Shearer (Revival Library)

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Convenience v Compassion in Christian Missions

Saving a Drowning Man – Hudson Taylor and Us

Rivers around Shanghai in the 1800s


Sometimes people are heartless, cruel, self-centred. We are rightly shocked by blatant selfishness and disregard for others.

During his first stay in China Hudson Taylor had numerous evangelistic interactions with locals. He learnt the language, gave out New Testaments and many tracts and sought to communicate the amazing love of God in Jesus Christ.

But one moment of high drama in his travels caught my attention many years ago and I trust this account of it will have a significant impact on your own life:

The Boat Journey
Writing in his ‘Retrospect’ Taylor describes a journey towards the city of Sungkiang, about 30 miles from Shanghai.

‘Among the passengers on board the boat was one intelligent man, who in the course of his travels had been a good deal abroad, and had even visited England, where he went by the name of Peter.

As might be expected he had heard something of the gospel, but had never experienced its saving power.  On the previous evening I had drawn him into an earnest conversation about his soul’s salvation.  The man listened with attention, and was even moved to tears, but still no definite result was apparent.

I was pleased, therefore, when he asked to be allowed to accompany me, and to hear me preach.’

A Sudden Splash
‘I went into the cabin of the boat to prepare tracts and books for distribution on landing with my Chinese friend, when suddenly I was startled by a splash and a cry from outside.

I sprang on deck and took in the situation at a glance.  Peter was gone! The other men were all there, on board, looking helplessly at the spot where he had disappeared, but making no effort to save him.

A strong wind was carrying us rapidly forward in spite of a steady current in the opposite direction, and the low-lying, shrubless shore afforded no landmark to indicate how far we had left the drowning man behind.

A drag net
I instantly let down the sail and leaped overboard in the hope of finding him.  Unsuccessful, I looked around in agonising suspense, and saw close to me a fishing boat with a peculiar drag net furnished with hooks, which I knew would bring him up.

“Come!”, I cried, as hope revived in my heart.  “Come and drag over this spot directly; a man is drowning just here!”

“Veh bin” (it is not convenient), was the answer.

“Don’t talk of convenience!” I cried in agony, “a man is drowning I tell you!!”

“We are busy fishing,” they responded, “and cannot come.”

“Never mind your fishing,” I said, “I will give you more money than many day’s fishing will bring; only come!  Come at once!”

“How much money will you give us?”

“We cannot stay to discuss that now! Come, or it will be too late.  I will give you five dollars.” (A lot of money).

“We won’t do it for that!” replied the men.  “Give us twenty dollars, and we will drag the net.”

“I do not possess so much; do come quickly, and I will give you all that I have!”

“How much may that be?”

“I don’t know exactly, about fourteen dollars.”

At last, but even then slowly enough, the boat was paddled over, and the net let down.  Less than a minute sufficed to bring up the body of the missing man.

The fishermen were clamorous and indignant because their exorbitant demand was delayed while efforts at resuscitation were being made.  But all was in vain – his life was gone!

Guilty?
Were not those fishermen actually guilty of this poor Chinaman’s death, in that they had the means of saving him at hand, if they would have used them?

Assuredly, they were guilty. And yet, let us pause before we pronounce judgement against them, lest a greater than Nathan answer, “Thou art the man!”

Is it so hard-hearted, so wicked a thing to neglect to save the body? Of how much sorer punishment, then, is he worthy who leaves the soul to perish, and Cain-like says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Our Challenge
‘The Lord Jesus commands, commands me, commands you, into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.

Shall we say to Him, “No!  It is not convenient!”? Shall we tell Him that we are busy fishing and cannot go?  That we have purchased five oxen, or have married, or are engaged in other and more interesting pursuits, and cannot go?

Before long we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body.

Let us consider who it is that said,

‘Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter,
O hold them back!
If you say, “But we did not know this!”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his works?’

(Prov 24:11-12)[i]

Taylor’s challenge to us should shake us to the core. While so many are bemoaning this or that evangelistic method, and often leaving the churches even less confident than before, we ought to examine everything with a clear eye on the goal to go and speak to our communities.

Really though, how many times have we hesitated to share the gospel because ‘it is not convenient’? Let’s make a decision to change…

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] JH Taylor, Retrospect, ‘With love to China’ (Bethany) p. 116-119

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

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

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

Jonathan Edwards’ Critical Mistake

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards and Plurality of Eldership, Part Two

So, some of the teenagers and twenties had got hold of a book. It was an illustrated manual of midwifery and was causing a stir amongst them. (For the first part of the story read here)

The numbers involved quickly increased, with an accusation that the keeper of the book was charging a fee for others to look at it. Some then made inappropriate comments to young women who reported the whole story to Edwards.

The Inadequacy of ‘One Man Ministry’
Edwards, so grateful to God of the work done amongst the young people during the revivals of nearly a decade ago, was horrified.

His hopes for a continued reformation amongst them and their younger siblings seemed dashed. His ambition for them to make religion the guiding influence in their lives seemed to be faltering. His expectation that the families of Northampton should live in holiness was shaken.

The details shocked him and, while doubtless calming himself internally, he began a process which would finally and irreversibly alienate him from the majority of his congregation.

Edwards began an inquiry. He preached a sermon which touched on the matter, called for an after meeting and a committee of investigation was formed.

It is difficult to imagine that what happened next would have taken place if Edwards had been in a Biblically functioning Eldership team, where key pastoral decisions and directions could be debated and discussed.

But Edwards held a solitary leadership position, in the Congregational Church in Northampton. Therefore, while he legitimately sought to lead the young people to godliness, his own sense of shock was not tempered by the wisdom of pastoral peers.

A Surprising Pastoral Blunder
And so he made the mistake from which he never recovered. During the public meeting, he read out the names of those alleged to be involved; both those suspected of lewdness and those who would be called upon to give further information. It was a long list of names, and with each name called another set of parents dropped their heads in disbelief and shame – and anger.

The sources reveal some confusion about whether a distinction was made between those accused and those merely mentioned as witnesses. That confusion may well be a reflection of the tumult that followed the meeting!

The list included members of many of the families of the town, most of whom were members of the church. They were understandably horrified that they had been exposed in this way, and doubtless regretting they had ever agreed to a formal inquiry. The strength of feeling against Edwards was intense.

It was a monumental pastoral blunder.

Next time we’ll consider some leadership lessons from the saddest period of Jonathan Edwards’ life as he strove to live a Godward and obedient life.

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Jonathan Edwards and the Naughty Book

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards and Plurality of Eldership (Part One)

One of the shock stories of American church history is the apparently sudden sacking of the great Jonathan Edwards.

Many are surprised that someone of Edwards’ intellectual and theological calibre could go so quickly from ‘You’re on fire!’ (and news of the ‘fire’ had spread all around the English speaking world) to ‘You’re fired!’

Controversies
There were a number of controversies, none of which directly arose from the revivals in the 1730’s.

Sometimes it is asserted that the controversy that led to Edwards’ sacking was around his insistence that admission to communion should be exclusively for those who were trusting Christ for their salvation.

This, Edwards felt, was clearly the Biblical norm, rather than allowing those who had a nominal  faith. But the church disagreed and this indeed became the final straw.

But the communion controversy (and discerning true conversion), while important, wasn’t the original cause of bad feeling between Pastor and people. Something had happened earlier that Edwards had seriously bungled.

The Naughty Book
In 1744, a report came to Edwards that some of the young people (actually, late teenagers and several in their twenties) had got hold of an illustrated manual for midwives. This was a source of fascination, giggling (we’re told) and lewd comments. An increasing number were trying to gain access to look at the book and finally the matter was brought to Edwards.

What he did next leads us directly into our theme of the New Testament teaching on local churches being led by a plurality (several) of elders rather than just one.

For the next installment of this story read here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Violence Seems to Triumph – The First Methodist Martyr

(Methodism and the Mob Part 6)

The Mob Reacts – The Death of William Seward

How do you respond when you hear that a Christian missionary is in trouble for distributing Christian literature, or for some other attempt to communicate the Christian faith?

Maybe your first response is to assume that the believer lacked wisdom. You may be right, of course. Christians can get carried away as they try and verbalise how wonderful they think Jesus Christ is. Each incident needs to be assessed separately.

But on the other hand, we’ve got to a slightly strange place when our assumption is that a follower of Christ trying to share their faith is automatically over-zealous or unwise.

Don’t misunderstand me: the Christian needs to communicate his faith with respect, wisdom and grace, with an ability to listen to others’ objections and beliefs. (see Col 4:4-6)

But the idea that a negative response to an honest attempt at presenting the gospel is always a correction, or, worse, a sign of God’s disapproval, merely reveals our evangelistic immaturity. Jesus made it clear that there would be times when the message would be rejected. Even He was rejected (see John 15:20-21).

And it’s difficult to think of how the Christian Faith advanced from its earliest days apart from believers courageously communicating the gospel to those who didn’t respect the Christian ideals of tolerance and debate.

Another thought before we re-join the 18th century battlefield: put yourself in the position of the hapless ‘missionary’ who is in jail for trying to share the Christian faith. It’s quite likely that you would be your own harshest critic as you retrace the decisions or statements that got you into trouble. My guess is that you’d want folk to pray for you.

The First Methodist Martyr
In October 1740,William Seward and Howell Harris were out again preaching the gospel in Wales. This time, they visited Hay-on-Wye.

Suddenly, someone from the crowd took aim and Seward was hit with a large stone and lay unconscious on the ground.

Dallimore writes, ‘he was carried from the scene unconscious. For a few days he hovered between life and death, but sank steadily lower till on October 22, 1740, his spirit passed away.’ (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.584)

Seward’s death, at age 38, was a blow to the young movement. But it did not stop their passionate preaching. Undeterred, they continued to present the gospel to the masses in Britain.

It was a personal blow to Whitefield, both in terms of friendship and financial support. Seward was helping fund Whitefield’s Orphan House in Georgia and Whitefield now carried that financial burden alone. Tragically, Seward had not made a will (ibid, p.585)

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

John Wesley wrote in his journal for Mon Oct 27th, ‘The surprising news of poor Mr Seward’s death was confirmed. Surely God will maintain his own cause! Righteous art thou O Lord!’

Wesley’s trust in God’s sovereignty is totally appropriate. Is there any individual, or people too hard for God to reach by His grace? No! ‘The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness.’

We might question Seward’s enthusiasm, especially when he had been a target for violence before; the sin, however, was not his, but the one who threw the stone.

And the message of forgiveness of all sins through Jesus Christ continued to be preached throughout Britain during the 1740’s.

See Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To see more on how John Wesley handled a mob situation click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides

John Wesley and so-called ‘Physical Manifestations’

John Wesley Preaching to the Crowds
John Wesley Preaching to the Crowds

Have you ever read John Wesley’s Journals? They are deeply interesting. In a manner similar to Edwards he tries to observe and assess the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who hear the gospel.

‘Signs and Wonders’

Wesley writes that after preaching in one meeting, ‘We then called upon God to confirm his word. Immediately one that stood by (to our no small surprise) cried out aloud, with the utmost vehemence, even as in the agonies of death.

‘But we continued in prayer, till ‘a new song was put in her mouth’…Soon after, two other persons were seized with strong pain, and constrained to ‘roar for the disquietness of their heart.’

‘But it was not long before they likewise burst forth into praise to God their Saviour.’ He adds, ‘signs and wonders are even now wrought by his holy child Jesus.’ (JW Journals, Vol. 1, p.187, Baker Edition)

A few days later a similar thing happened: ‘At Weaver’s Hall, a young man was suddenly seized with a violent trembling all over, and in a few minutes, the sorrows of his heart being enlarged, sunk down to the ground.

‘But we ceased not calling upon God, till he raised him up full of ‘peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ (p.187-8)

Increased Power
Again and again as Wesley preached people were overwhelmed by God’s power. At this early stage Wesley and his fellow leaders were alarmed and concerned to help those who are affected. But then it spread…

During the sermon, as he emphasised the generous offer of mercy to all who come to Christ…’Immediately one, and another, and another sunk to the earth. They dropped on every side as thunderstruck.’ (p.188)

He then gives various descriptions of sorrow being turned to joy in those who were affected.

A Doctor’s Story
On April 30th Wesley recorded this incident:

‘We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came; among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case.

‘Today, one whom he had known many years was the first (while I was preaching in Newgate) who broke out ‘into strong cries and tears.’ He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears.

‘He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud nor yet any natural disorder.

‘But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God.’ (p.189)

Wesley, as Edwards had done before him, was careful not to ridicule or harshly judge those who responded to the power of God’s Spirit in these overt ways.

And, as with Edwards, we must remember that these things were happening primarily in the evangelistic context. They were not a ‘draw card’ as such, but seemed to be evidence of God’s presence and of conviction of sin, and conversion.

Perhaps we need to take a step back from the highly ordered nature of much modern evangelism and ask God to reveal His holiness and power once again.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Joins the Evangelistic Battlefield

John Wesley Preaching
John Wesley Preaching

George Whitefield, the pioneer Evangelist of the 18th Century Christian Awakening’ was thrilled to see his good friend John Wesley come to Bristol and join the work he had begun.

Wesley had heard about Whitefield’s ‘field preaching’, which had been modelled on Howell Harris’ approach in Wales.

There was no guarantee that Wesley would agree with it or participate in it and, being more inclined to formality, he was at first reluctant.

Wesley wrote about his Bristol visit in his journal.

Wesley reluctant at first

‘Saturday, 31. In the evening I reached Bristol and met Mr. Whitefield there.

‘I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday;

‘I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.’

‘April 1.—In the evening (Mr. Whitefield being gone) I began expounding our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field-preaching, though I suppose there were churches at that time also), to a little society which was accustomed to meet once or twice a week in Nicholas Street.

Wesley’s first, uncomfortable attempts at field preaching

‘Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. ‘

‘Sunday, 8.—At seven in the morning I preached to about a thousand persons at Bristol, and afterward to about fifteen hundred on the top of Hannam Mount in Kingswood.

‘I called to them, in the words of the evangelical prophet, “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;.…come, and buy wine and milk without money and without price” [Isa. 55:1].

Wesley finds his life’s work

‘About five thousand were in the afternoon at Rose Green (on the other side of Kingswood); among whom I stood and cried in the name of the Lord, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” [John 7:38].’ (John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, p.185, Baker Edition, or Christian Classics Library)

So Wesley joined the evangelistic battlefield for the souls of 18th Century England. It has been estimated that by the end of his life he had preached something like 40,000 times, and travelled over 200,000 miles on horseback.

Wesley was not merely picking up Whitefield’s methods for a temporary season; field preaching, founding societies and, later, training leaders, became his life’s work.

© 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

The Conversion of the Wesley Brothers

John (left) and Charles Wesley
John (left) and Charles Wesley

The disappointing ‘missionary’ attempt by the Wesley brothers to serve God in America made them realise they themselves were in real need of salvation (see, John Wesley: the non-Christian).

Charles, the First!
Charles was the first to experience the new birth, the main topic about which Whitefield was now preaching. He heard Whitefield in London and records at the time, ‘Mr Whitefield [preaches] not with persuasive words of man’s wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power. The churches will not contain the multitudes that throng to hear him,’ (Charles Wesley Journals, Vol 1. P.79 Baker)

The brothers had been impressed with the faith of the Moravians on board ship during a storm, and John had received a surprise grilling by the Moravian leader, Augustus Spangenberg, in America. Following these encounters they began seeking them out once they had returned to England.

The Moravian Peter Bohler was leading a regular meeting in London’s Fetter Lane. Dallimore writes, ‘Charles and John were in almost daily contact with Bohler.’
He asked Charles ‘Do you hope to be saved? He replied, ‘I do!’
‘For what reason do you hope it?’ ‘Because I  have used my best endeavours to serve God.’

Charles reports, ‘He shook his head, and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, ‘What, are not my endeavours sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust to.’ (Arnold Dallimore, Charles Wesley, Crossway, p.58-59)

Power on Pentecost Sunday
Charles had discovered the vital doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone as he read Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians.

‘21 May was Pentecost Sunday…[and] the day of Charles Wesley’s conversion.’ Charles said he felt the Spirit of God striving with his spirit ‘till by degrees He chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced…I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.’

John, in his Journal records on that day, ‘I received the surprising news that my brother had found rest to his soul.’

Indeed, Charles wrote: ‘I was in a new heaven and a new earth!’ (See Dallimore, p.61-62)

John Wesley’s ‘heart strangely warmed’
Finally, three days later, at one of the Moravian meetings in Aldersgate Street, John Wesley got his breakthrough.  He had already discussed Justification by faith with Peter Bohler, but this was different.

At 34 years of age (more than ten years older than Whitefield) he was finally born again.

He wrote in his journal:
‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.

I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ (John Wesley Journal, May 24th 1738, Vol. 1. p.103)

After this Wesley followed Whitefield’s example and began preaching both justification by faith and the new birth in the churches. And one by one, the Anglican church leaders resisted him. (see here for further examples of Wesley following Whitefield’s example)

It wasn’t long before these newly converted ‘Methodists’, George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley, began to gather others together to seek God for greater blessings.

1739 was approaching, and little did these men know what a significant year it was to be!

To read something of the amazing influence of the Wesleys click here

To purhcase books click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

John Wesley the Non-Christian

John Wesley
John Wesley

In 1738, three years after Whitefield’s conversion, the Wesley brothers returned from a disastrous ‘missionary’ attempt in America.

John Wesley later acknowledged that while he had gone to America to convert the Indians, it was he himself that needed to get converted.

Storms at Sea
God used various circumstances to unsettle the strong headed John Wesley and show him that he was not saved.  During the outward bound voyage a terrible storm arose, smashing the ship and frightening both passengers and crew, except the Moravian Christians.

‘In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in upon the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on…’ (John Wesley, Journals Vol 1, p.22, 1872 edition reprinted by Baker)

Wesley was petrified by the enormity of the storm and the reality of death. Afterwards he asked one of them whether they were afraid. ‘No!’ the Moravian church planter replied.  Wesley asked about the women and children. Surely they were afraid. ‘Our women are not afraid to die!’

Storms on Land
When the brothers got to America they were not popular. Their strict legalism was at first, a curiosity and later, an irritation, to the settlers.

Wesley arranged a meeting with the Moravian leader, Spangenberg, who had already lived there a year. Wesley had plenty of questions for the Moravian leader about the colony.

However, Spangenberg, having listened carefully to Wesley, felt he needed to ask a few:
‘Do you know yourself?’ he asked.
‘Have you the  witness in yourself? Does the spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?’ Hmmm….Wesley hesitated.
Finally, Spangenberg asked, ‘Do you know Jesus Christ?’
John Pollock writes, ‘Wesley paused in some confusion, then replied lamely, ‘I know he is the Saviour of the world.’
‘True, said the German, ‘but do you know he has saved you?’ Wesley replied uncomfortably, ‘I hope he has died to save me!’
Again Spangenberg pressed the question, ‘Do you know, yourself?’
Wesley replied, ‘I do!’ (‘But I fear they were vain words’ he later wrote) (John Pollock, John Wesley, Hodder, p.68-69)

Storms in Love
But his internal problems quickly became external ones! The worst of it was when John, seeking to win the hand of the pretty Sophy Hopkey, was shocked to discover that another man had asked for her hand in marriage. And, in direct contradiction to the encouraging signs Wesley felt he had received, Sophy married this chap!

Whatever the details, the conclusion was that he barred her from taking communion and was then pursued for defamation of character by the husband.

He was also attacked by another of the young wives there. Pollock records that a certain Mrs. Hawkins became convinced that Wesley had slandered her. She invited him to her home where she ‘threatened to shoot him, then set upon him with a pair of scissors; she swore at him, tore his cossack, and threw him on to her bed where she cut off one side of his long hair.’ The shocked and humbled Wesley was finally rescued by the husband and servants. Pollock adds, ‘the story of the little parson’s adventures was soon all over the colony.’

One congregant was particularly amused to watch Wesley in the pulpit and recorded that he preached ‘with his hair so long on one side, so short on the other’! (Pollock, p.73-74)

Finally, the controversy surrounding Sophy Hopkins grew to such an extent that John and Charles fled back to England.

Although, he was one of those who used the fairly common Methodist expression, ‘The whole world is my parish’. They never returned to America.

Both brothers were now more convinced than ever that they needed to get right with God themselves, before trying to get others right.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Law Cannot Produce Life – Only the Gospel Can

So George Whitefield, merely months before becoming one of England’s youngest and most popular preachers, discovers that he needs to be born again in order to get right with God. He discovers that spiritual life is imparted by God through faith.

But strangely, he then acts in the opposite direction – throwing himself into a round of even more exacting religious exercises and good works, desperately trying to appease God.

The young Charles Wesley
The young Charles Wesley

Self-denial, satanic oppression, sickness and scaring Charles Wesley!
He increases his fasts, he stops eating fruit, giving the money he would have spent to the poor, he goes outside in rain and storm to cry out to God and confess his sinfulness.

Rather than finding relief from any of these exercises he becomes even more disconsolate, fearful and insecure. Feeling himself to be horribly oppressed by the devil he finally decides to ‘forsake’ all, including his new friends and stays in his study for days on end. He becomes physically ill and his tutor sends a physician.

His gloomy, depressed demeanour, the terrible loss of weight, all of this alarms the other students.

Charles Wesley is way out of his depth, doesn’t know what to do, and so refers him to his older brother John (already in his thirties, clearly the leader by this time, but not yet converted).

John painstakingly talks George down from the extremity of legalism in which he is bound and gives him Thomas a Kempis to read. Perhaps John realises even at this point that the strictness of the lifestyle he is promoting, the intensity of examination of every moment, is not working.

Locked in the second half of Romans 7

George seemed to have been caged in experience into what Paul merely illustrates in Romans 7:7-25.

There, Paul illustrates the inability of the Law to produce freedom from sin. Life is in the Gospel not in the Law. George Whitefield, having been awakened to the rightness of God’s Commands, then went on to try and justify himself through religious duty to fulfill those Commands. But Paul clearly demonstrates that the Law cannot produce life – only Christ can.

But, as in Paul’s illustration, so in real life, and as Whitefield was about to experience – the bondage of the cycle of sin and death is broken only by the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Finally the breakthrough
Whitefield had come to that great pre-conversion cry, ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me?’ (Rom 7:24)

In his Journal he records, ‘God was pleased to set me free in the following manner. One day, perceiving an uncommon drought and a disagreeable clamminess in my mouth and using things to allay my thirst, but in vain, it was suggested to me, that when Jesus Christ cried out, ‘I thirst!’ His sufferings were near at an end. Upon which I cast myself down on the bed, crying out, ‘I thirst! I thirst!’’

From Mourning to Dancing
Although it seems a small thing – to be desperately thirsty, and to somehow see that when Christ cried out that He thirsted, it was near the end of His anguish – yet, here’s the point, when George Whitefield cried out to God, God intervened and heard him.

‘Soon after this’, writes George, ‘I found and felt in myself that I was delivered from the burden that had so heavily oppressed me. The spirit of mourning was taken from me and I knew what it was truly to rejoice in God my Saviour; and, for some time, could not avoid singing psalms wherever I was…’

‘Thus were the days of my mourning ended. After a long night of desertion and temptation, the Star, which I had seen at a distance before [referring to the doctrine of the New Birth in Scougal’s book], began to appear again, and the Day Star arose in my heart.

Now did the Spirit of God take possession of my soul, and, as I humbly hope, seal me unto the day of redemption.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth, p.58)

Well, he had wrestled and struggled and, at last, discovered God’s free and Sovereign grace. Being now certain of the new birth in his own experience he began to proclaim the message of it to the English speaking world.

To read more about Whitefield click here
To read the first part of Whitefield’s story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Born Again – The Conversion Experience

Evangelist George Whitefield
Evangelist George Whitefield

While George Whitefield was doing menial tasks for the richer students at Oxford University, his own interests became intensely focussed.

He discovered that his experience in the ‘public house was now of service to me’, in that he was able to serve others diligently and humbly. Yet he could not throw in his lot with the other servitors, whom he felt would become a bad influence on him.

He was aiming for higher things.

Religion vs. Being Born Again
He began to read the books that Charles Wesley, his new friend, lent him. One small volume had a real impact on him, Henry Scougal’s ‘The Life of God in the Soul of Man.’ (see Piper on Scougal)

Whitefield realised that, to get right with God, he needed to be born again, not merely to increase his religious efforts.

‘At my first reading it, I wondered what the author meant by saying, ‘That some falsely placed religion in going to church, doing hurt to no one, being constant in the duties of the closet [ie. private prayer], and now and then reaching out their hands to give alms to their poor neighbours.’

‘Alas!’ though I, ‘if this be not true religion, what is?’

An inward change of heart was needed. What Scougal called, the ‘union of the soul with God, and Christ formed within us.’ Whitefield writes, ‘a ray of Divine light was instantaneously darted in upon my soul, and from that moment…did I know that I must be a new creature.’ (GW Journals, Banner of Truth, p.47)

A pre-evangelistic flurry!
At last he’d seen it! Not religious duty, but the life of God coming and changing us! And he immediately began communicating it to others even though he had not yet experienced it himself!

Whitefield realised that the New Birth was absolutely central for an individual’s relationship to God and for any hope of getting to heaven. It was a clear-as-day revelation to him – and it was to become the pivotal emphasis in his preaching.

The New Birth not a New Teaching

This doctrine of the New Birth didn’t begin with Whitefield, of course, nor with Henry Scougal.

In John’s Gospel we’re told that a highly religious man, Nicodemus visited Jesus one evening to ask him questions. Nicodemus was a well known teacher, and was a respected authority on Scripture.

Yet Jesus cuts across Nicodemus’ expectations by telling him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

Faith Comes to Life
The new birth is, as Whitefield discovered, an inner work of God. As you learn more about Jesus Christ, on hearing about His perfect life, His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead – faith is aroused! Faith that perhaps wasn’t there before!

As it begins to dawn on you that Jesus truly and specifically died on the cross for your sins, to forgive you of every one, and present you before God as holy – faith is aroused, and springs up!

This faith, as it comes alive causes a desire for Christ and for His forgiveness. We find ourselves being drawn to God! We long for His forgiveness and for His purposes in our lives. We are willing to turn from sin and live for Him.

My friend, you can discover right now what George Whitefield discovered hundreds of years ago: that God loves you deeply, that He is willing to forgive your sins, and bring you home to Himself. You can have a brand new start and come into a right relationship with God today.

Why don’t you ask God to turn you around and make you into a follower of Jesus Christ?

You’ll need to find a church. You can begin by looking here.

To read more about Whitefield click here

To read the first part of the life of Whitefield click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Humble Beginnings of England’s Greatest Evangelist

Gloucester in 1725
Gloucester in 1725

George Whitefield’s Birthplace
England’s greatest Evangelist had humble beginnings. Whitefield was born at the Bell Inn, Gloucester, where his father was the landlord.

Tragically, when George was only two, his father died. His mother struggled to keep the Inn going. She re-married, but things didn’t go well. At one point George missed a year of school to help his mother run the Inn.

She was determined to get George a good education, put him back into school and discovered a means of getting him to Oxford University, to prepare him for a clerical position. As biographer John Pollock puts it, ‘his mother wormed an Oxford servitorship out of an influential friend.’ (John Pollock, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, Lion, p.6)

A servitorship enabled a poorer student to study at Oxford University by working as a servant to fee paying students.

Oxford
Once Whitefield got to Oxford he became aware of an eccentric group of students who went by the nick-name of ‘The Holy Club’. They were also mocked as ‘methodists’ because of their strict lifestyle. Whitefield knew that they were trying to save their souls by being good and by doing good.

He was afraid to approach them, feeling his inferiority as a servitor. Yet he was drawn to them. They seemed serious and courageous.

The closest he dare come to them was to attend a midweek church service, which was considered unusual for any except the most devout.

One of the notorious ‘Holy Club’ men, the tender hearted Charles Wesley noticed him and invited him to breakfast. Whitefield was overjoyed and returned from the breakfast with a small collection of books. But more importantly, he had received a precious invitation to the next meeting of the Holy Club.

To read more about Whitefield click here

To read the first part of the life of Whitefield click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Cultivating Humility

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

One of Winston Churchill’s most famous and funny quips concerned his political opponent Clement Attlee. Apparently interrupting a Churchill rant, a friend said, ‘But surely, Mr. Churchill, you admit that Mr. Attlee is a humble man?’ To which Churchill replied, ‘He is a humble man, but then he has much to be humble about!’

Churchill himself was, of course, criticised many times for his over confidence!

To dwell on the quality of humility is good for the soul.

Jonathan Edwards, in his careful style, does just that in his sermons on 1 Corinthians 13. The sermons were collected together and published as ‘Charity and its Fruits’. Here are a few quotes that go right to the heart of the matter.

On Self-Centredness
‘As you have not made yourself, so you were not made for yourself.’ (Charity and its Fruits, Banner of Truth, p.181)

On Self-importance
‘Humility tends also to prevent an arrogant and assuming behaviour. He that is under the influence of an humble spirit…when he is amongst others…does not carry it toward them as if he expected and insisted that a great deal of regard should be shown to himself.

His behaviour does not carry with it the idea that he is the best amongst those about him, and that he is the one to whom the chief regard should be shown, and whose judgment is most to be sought and followed.’ (p.139-140)

Mocking Others
[Those who are humble] ‘are not found treating with scorn and contempt what others say, or speaking of what they do with ridicule and sneering reflections, or sitting and relating what others may have spoken or done, only to make sport of it.’ (p. 141)

Self-Interest
‘If you are selfish, and make yourself and your own private interests your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interests as well as you can.

But if you do not selfishly seek your own, but do seek the things that are Jesus Christ’s, and the things of your fellow-beings, then God will make your interest and happiness his own charge, and he is infinitely more able to provide for and promote it than you are.’ (p.184)

More next time…

You can purchase ‘Charity and its Fruits’ by Jonathan Edwards here
You can read more about Jonathan Edwards’ ministry here
© 2009 Lex Loizides

Sarah Edwards and Foretastes of Heavenly Glory!

Sarah Pierpont Edwards, by John Badger c.1750
Sarah Pierpont Edwards, by John Badger c.1750

We’ve been enjoying Sarah Edwards’ articulate descriptions of being filled with Holy Spirit during the 1741-1742 revival in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Here, she concludes her experience…

Monday morning at the Edwards’ house…
‘So strong were my feelings, I could not refrain from conversing with those around me, in a very earnest manner, for about a quarter of an hour, on the infinite riches of divine love in the work of salvation.’

Carried to the fireside entirely without strength
‘[Then], my strength entirely failing, my flesh grew very cold, and they carried me and set me by the fire.
As I sat there, I had a most affecting sense of the mighty power of Christ, which had been exerted in what he had done for my soul…and of the glorious and wonderful grace of God in causing the ark to return to Northampton.’

Mrs. Edwards leaps for joy!
‘So intense were my feelings, when speaking of these things, that I could not forbear rising up and leaping with joy and exultation.’

The Following Sunday at church…a foretaste of heavenly glory!

‘When I heard him [the preacher, William Williams] say, that those, who have assurance, have a foretaste of heavenly glory, I knew the truth of it from what I then felt: I knew that I then tasted the clusters of the heavenly Canaan: My soul was filled and overwhelmed with light, and love, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body. I could scarcely refrain from expressing my joy aloud, in the midst of the service.’

(From ‘The Narrative of Sarah Pierpont Edwards’, Jonathan Edwards [1743], Family Writings and Related Documents (WJE Online Vol. 41)

This was not ‘mere excitement’
Over-emotional? Iain Murray, himself wary of mere emotionalism, writes, ‘her joy, it should be noted, was far from the exuberance of mere excitement.’ (Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.196)

And her loving husband Jonathan writes of his wife’s ‘season in the Spirit’, ‘It was the greatest, fullest, longest continued and most constant assurance of the favour of God and of a title to future glory that I ever saw…in any person.’ (Quoted by Murray, p.195-6)

May God the Father bless you with similar assurances of His love for you in Christ, by the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Sarah Edwards, the Presence of God and the Dignity of the Priesthood

Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards
Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards

Was Sarah Edwards an over-emotional person? Was she a kind of ‘balance’ for her supposedly unemotional, strict husband Jonathan Edwards?

Or was she an intelligent and articulate woman, highly respected in the community, who had the privilege of personal encounters with God?

Jonathan encouraged her to record her various experiences (covering two and a half weeks in 1742) for the edification of others.

Iain Murray calls her words ‘an amazing testimony to how much of heaven can be enjoyed upon earth.’ (Murray, Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.193)

So without more ado, these are a few excerpts of her story…

The Presence of God
‘Under a delightful sense of the immediate presence and love of God, these words seemed to come over and over in my mind, ‘My God, my all;
my God, my all.’

The presence of God was so near, and so real, that I seemed scarcely conscious of any things else. God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, seemed as distinct persons, both manifesting their inconceivable loveliness, and mildness, and gentleness, and their great and immutable love to me.

I seemed to be taken under the care and charge of my God and Saviour, in an inexpressibly endearing manner; and Christ appeared to me as a mighty Saviour.’

The Dignity of a Royal Priesthood
‘The next day, which was the Sabbath, I enjoyed a sweet, and lively and assured sense of God’s infinite grace, and favour and love to me, in taking me out of the depths of hell, and exalting me to the heavenly glory, and the dignity of a royal priesthood.’

Intense admiration of God’s Grace
‘To my mind there was the clearest evidence, that God was present in the congregation, on the work of redeeming love; and in the clear view of this, I was all at once filled with such intense admiration of the wonderful condescension and grace of God, in returning again to Northampton, as overwhelmed my soul, and immediately took away my bodily strength.’

Back at the house…trying not to leap for joy
‘While I was uttering the words [of one of Isaac Watts’ hymns], my mind was so deeply impressed with the love of Christ, and a sense of his immediate presence, that I could with difficulty refrain from rising from my seat, and leaping for joy.’

(From ‘The Narrative of Sarah Pierpont Edwards’, Jonathan Edwards [1743], Family Writings and Related Documents (WJE Online Vol. 41)

More from Mrs. Edwards next time…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Jonathan Edwards Defends the Effects of the Power of the Spirit

The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God
The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God - Wesley's edited edition

Effects on the body are neutral from a Scriptural point of view
In his ‘Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God’ Edwards once again urges an impartial and judicious evaluation if such physical manifestations take place.

‘A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.

The influence persons are under, is not to be judged of one way or other, by such effects on the body; and the reason is, because the Scripture nowhere gives us any such rule.’ (Jonathan Edwards, Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God’, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth p.91)

But Edwards ‘comes out fighting’ to defend the convictions the Spirit produces
So having stated that they are strictly ‘neutral’ in respect of Scripture he then strongly defends such experiences, even suggesting that it is foolish to be dismissive about them:

‘I do not know that we have any express mention in the New Testament of any person’s weeping, or groaning, or sighing through fear of hell, or a sense of God’s anger;

but is there any body so foolish as from hence to argue, that in whomsoever these things appear, their convictions are not from the Spirit of God?’ (ibid p.93)

and he continues,

‘indeed spiritual and eternal things are so great, and of such infinite concern, that there is a great absurdity in men’s being but moderately moved and affected by them.’ (ibid p.95)

Encouragement for Worship Leaders
To the delight of many current worship leaders, he, perhaps unintentionally, gives us a beautiful apologetic for exuberant worship when he writes,

‘And when was there ever any such thing since the world stood, as a people in general being greatly affected in any affair whatsoever, without noise or stir? The nature of man will not allow it.’ (ibid p.95)

More next time…

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Jonathan Edwards and Authentic ‘Power Encounters’ with God!

Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections
Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections

While arguing that the effects on the body are not in themselves evidence of true conversion, Edwards is careful not to dismiss such effects automatically as being wrong, in and of themselves.

Whether Edwards desired it or not, he found himself pastoring people who claimed to be having wonderful encounters with God. Sometimes they cried, sometimes they remained silent and sometimes they seemed to lose all physical strength.

This was inevitably a concern both to him and to those who heard what was happening. And so, in seeking to discern the way God was working, Edwards finds himself defending the work of the Spirit while urging restraint on those affected by their experience of God’s glory.

As this is a common feature of times of revival we would do well to allow Edwards’ insights and comments to help shape our own opinion.

And in so doing, perhaps our minds and hearts might be prepared for fresh encounters with the ‘the glorious splendour of His majesty’ (Psalm 145:5)!

God’s Glory can ‘overbear’ the body!
In his ‘Treatise Concerning Religious Affections’, Edwards is keen to discern authentic spiritual encounters, and the fruit that follows such encounters. But he very definitely defends the role of emotion, or ‘affections’ as a key element in Christian spirituality. Sometimes these religious affections can overpower us physically.

‘And who that considers what man’s nature is, and what the nature of the affections are, can reasonably doubt but that such unutterable and glorious joys, may be too great and mighty for weak dust and ashes, so as to be considerably overbearing to it?

It is evident by the Scripture, that true divine discoveries, or ideas of God’s glory, when given in a great degree, have a tendency, by affecting the mind, to overbear the body.’ (A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, 1746, Section 2, Yale, http://edwards.yale.edu/)

Good Jonathan Edwards spends so much time considering these ‘power encounters’ that we will spend a few more posts listening both to his eye-witness accounts and to his judicious conclusions.

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here
You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Jonathan Edwards and so-called ‘Physical Manifestations’

What would Jonathan Edwards do?
What would Jonathan Edwards do?

‘Physical Manifestations’
Probably the most controversial feature of the awakening under Edwards was the phenomenon of people crying out, falling over and becoming apparently immobile on the floor. Some were in distress, others described their experience as an inexpressible joy that was full of glory. Either way it has made subsequent historians uncomfortable. Both Whitefield and Wesley saw similar phenomena.

But good Jonathan Edwards does not shy away from accurately and soberly reporting on what was happening.

Physical weakness
‘Some persons [have] had such longing desires after Christ, or which have risen to such degree, as to take away their natural strength.

Some have been so overcome with a sense of the dying love of Christ to such poor, wretched, and unworthy creatures, as to weaken the body.

Several persons have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellency of Christ, that nature and life seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God had showed them a little more of Himself, it would have dissolved their frame.’

Perfectly sober, but not always able to speak!
‘I have seen some, and conversed with them in such frames, who have certainly been perfectly sober, and very remote from any thing like enthusiastic wildness.

And they have talked, when able to speak, of the glory of God’s perfections, the wonderfulness of His grace in Christ, and their own unworthiness, in such a manner as cannot be perfectly expressed after them.’ (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p. p.45)

The phrase which causes an involuntary smile on my face is ‘when able to speak’! ‘They have talked, when able to speak, of the glory of God’s perfections…and their own unworthiness.’

Then and now
We are a good distance from human pride here, but we must be careful not to immediately rubbish any contemporary claims from those we meet who may have had similar encounters with the glory of our gracious God. We must heed Martin Luther’s advice and ‘Let God be God!’

If we are praying for a rekindling of the power of the Christian Faith in our city, town or nation, then we can be sure that we are asking for God the Holy Spirit to come amongst us with fresh power.

Next time, we’ll continue to examine Edwards’ treatment of these ‘power encounters’ that took place under his leadership.

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Jonathan Edwards on Conversion ‘a great and glorious work of God’s Power’

Jonathan Edwards, the great Calvinistic Pastor and Theologian
Jonathan Edwards, the great Calvinistic Pastor and Theologian

In 1735 there was a sudden outpouring of grace on the town of Northampton. Many came to Christ under great conviction of sin and revelation of the sovereignty and justice of God.

Salvation
Having described some of the struggles that some converts went through in terms of a realisation of their sin and guilt before God, Edwards describes the longed-for breakthrough of personal salvation.

He writes,
‘Conversion is a great and glorious work of God’s power, at once changing the heart, and infusing life into the dead soul; though the grace then implanted more gradually displays itself in some than in others.’

In some, converting light is like a glorious brightness suddenly shining upon a person, and all around him: they are in a remarkable manner brought out of darkness into marvellous light.

In many others it has been like the dawning of the day, when at first but a little light appears…and gradually increases.’ (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p.40, 41)

The Newness of things
‘Persons after their conversion often speak of religious things as seeming new to them; that preaching is a new thing; that it seems to them they never heard preaching before; that the Bible is a new book: they find there new chapters, new psalms, new histories, because they see them in a new light.’ (ibid p.44)

‘While God was so remarkably present amongst us by His Spirit, there was no book so delightful as the Bible.’ (ibid p.47)

A love for God
‘Many have spoken much of their hearts being drawn out in love to God and Christ; and of their minds being wrapt up in delightful contemplation of the glory and wonderful grace of God, the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ; and of their souls going forth in longing desires after God and Christ.’ (ibid p.44-45)

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides