Saturday, November 14, 2015

John Wesley's Testimony

John Wesley's journal, January 8, 1738: In the fullness of my heart, I wrote the following words: - “By the most infallible of proofs, inward feeling, I am convinced

“1. Of unbelief; having no such faith in Christ as will prevent my heart from being troubled; which it could not be, if I believed in God, and rightly believed also in him: 
“2. Of pride, throughout my life past; inasmuch as I thought I had what I find I have not: 
“3. Of gross irrecollection; inasmuch as in a storm I cry to God every moment; in a calm, not:
“4. Of levity and luxuriancy of spirit, recurring whenever the pressure is taken off, and appearing by my speaking words not tending to edify; but most by my manner of speaking of my enemies. 

“Lord, save, or I perish! Save me, 
“1. By such a faith as implies peace in life and in death:
“2. By such humility, as may till my heart from this hour for ever, with a piercing uninterrupted sense, Nihil est quod hactenus feci (I have done nothing hitherto); having evidently built without a foundation: 
“3. By such a recollection as may cry to thee every moment, especially when all is calm: Give me faith, or I die; give me a lowly spirit; otherwise, mihi non sit suave vivere (Let life be a burden to me.)
“4. By steadiness, seriousness, sobriety of spirit; avoiding, as fire, every word that tendeth not to edifying; and clever speaking of any who oppose me, or sin against God, without all my own sins set in array before my face.”

May 19, 1738:  My brother had a second return of his pleurisy. A few of us spent Saturday night in prayer. The next day, being Whit-Sunday, after hearing Dr. Heylyn preach a truly Christian sermon, (on, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost:” “And so,” said he, “may all you be, if it is not your own fault,”) and assisting him at the holy communion, (his Curate being taken ill in the church,) I received the surprising news, that my brother had found rest to his soul. His bodily strength returned also from that hour. “Who is so great a God as our God?” 

I preached at St. John’s, Wapping, at three, and at St. Bennett’s, Paul’s-Wharf, in the evening At these churches, like. wise, I am to preach no more. At St. Autholin’s I preached on the Thursday following. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I had continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart: Something of which I described, in the broken manner I was able, in the following letter to a friend:

“O why is it, that so great, so wise, so holy a God will use such an instrument as me! Lord, ‘let the dead bury their dead!’ But wilt thou send the dead to raise the dead? Yea, thou sendest whom thou wilt send, and showest mercy by whom thou wilt show mercy! Amen! Be it then according to thy will! If thou speak the word, Judas shall cast out devils. 

“I feel what you say, (though not enough,) for I am under the same condemnation. I see that the whole law of God is holy, just, and good. I know every thought, every temper of my soul, ought to bear God’s image and superscription. But how am I fallen from the glory of God! I feel that ‘I am sold under sin.’ I know, that I too deserve nothing but wrath, being full of all abominations: And having no good thing in me, to atone for them, or to remove the wrath of God. All my works, my righteousness, my prayers, need an atonement for themselves. So that my mouth is stopped. I have nothing to plead. God is holy, I am unholy. God is a consuming fire: I am altogether a sinner, meet to be consumed. 

“Yet I hear a voice (and is it not the voice of God?) saying, ‘Believe, and thou shalt be saved. He that believeth is passed from death unto life. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ 

“O let no one deceive us by vain words, as if we had already attained this faith! (That is, the proper Christian faith.) By its fruits we shall know. Do we already feel ‘peace with God,’ and ‘joy in the Holy Ghost?’ Does ‘his Spirit bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God?’ Alas, with mine He does not. Nor, I fear, with yours. O thou Savior of men, save us from trusting in anything but Thee! Draw us after Thee! Let us be emptied of ourselves, and then fill us with all peace and joy in believing; and let nothing separate us from thy love, in time or in eternity.” 

What occurred on Wednesday, May 24th, I think best to relate at large, after premising what may make it the better understood. Let him that cannot receive it ask of the Father of lights, that He would give more light to him and me. 

1. I believe, till I was about ten years old I had not sinned away that “washing of the Holy Ghost” which was given me in baptism; having been strictly educated and carefully taught, that I could only be saved “by universal obedience, by keeping all the commandments of God;” in the meaning of which I was diligently instructed. And those instructions, so far as they respected outward duties and sins, I gladly received, and often thought of. But all that was said to me of inward obedience, or holiness, I neither understood nor remembered. So that I was indeed as ignorant of the true meaning of the Law, as I was of the Gospel of Christ.

2. The next six or seven years were spent at school; where, outward restraints being removed, I was much more negligent than before, even of outward duties, and almost continually guilty of outward sins, which I knew to be such, though they were not scandalous in the eye of the world. However, I still read the Scriptures, and said my prayers, morning and evening. And what I now hoped to be saved by, was, 1. Not being so bad as other people. 2. Having still a kindness for religion. And, 3. Reading the Bible, going to church, and saying my prayers. 

3. Being removed to the University for five years, I still said my prayers both in public and in private, and read, with the Scriptures, several other books of religion, especially comments on the New Testament. Yet I had not all this while so much as a notion of inward holiness; nay, went on habitually, and, for the most part, very contentedly, in some or other known sin: Indeed, with some intermission and short struggles, especially before and after the holy communion, which I was obliged to receive thrice a year. I cannot well tell what I hoped to be saved by now, when I was continually sinning against that little light I had; unless by those transient fits of what many Divines taught me to call repentance. 

4. When I was about twenty-two, my father pressed me to enter into holy orders. At the same time, the providence of God directing me to Kempis’s “Christian Pattern,” I began to see, that true religion was seated in the heart, and that God’s law extended to all our thoughts as well as words and actions. I was, however, very angry at Kempis, for being too strict; though I read him only in Dean Stanhope’s translation. Yet I had frequently much sensible comfort in reading him, such as I was an utter stranger to before: And meeting likewise with a religious friend, which I never had till now, I began to alter the whole form of my conversation, and to set in earnest upon a new life. I set apart an hour or two a day for religious retirement. I communicated every week. I watched against all sin, whether in word or deed. I began to aim at, and pray for, inward holiness. So that now, “doing so much, and living so good a life,” I doubted not but I was a good Christian. 

5. Removing soon after to another College, I executed a resolution which I was before convinced was of the utmost importance, - shaking off at once all my trifling acquaintance. I began to see more and more the value of time. I applied myself closer to study. I watched more carefully against actual sins; I advised others to be religious, according to that scheme of religion by which I modeled my own life. But meeting now with Mr. Law’s “Christian Perfection” and “Serious Call,” although I was much offended at many parts of both, yet they convinced me more than ever of the exceeding height and breadth and depth of the law of God. The light flowed in so mightily upon my soul, that every thing appeared in a new view. I cried to God for help, and resolved not to prolong the time of obeying Him as I had never done before. And by my continued endeavor to keep His whole law, inward and outward, to the utmost of my power, I was persuaded that I should be accepted of Him, and that I was even then in a state of salvation. 

6. In 1730 I began visiting the prisons; assisting the poor and sick in town; and doing what other good I could, by my presence, or my little fortune, to the bodies and souls of all men. To this end I abridged myself of all superfluities, and many that are called necessaries of life. I soon became a by-word for so doing, and I rejoiced that my name was cast out as evil. The next spring I began observing the Wednesday and Friday Fasts, commonly observed in the ancient Church; tasting no food till three in the afternoon. And now I knew not how to go any farther. I diligently strove against all sin. I omitted no sort of self-denial which I thought lawful: I carefully used, both in public and in private, all the means of grace at all opportunities. I omitted no occasion of doing good: I for that reason suffered evil. And all this I knew to he nothing, unless as it was directed toward inward holiness. Accordingly this, the image of God, was what I aimed at in all, by doing his will, not my own. Yet when, after continuing some years in this course, I apprehended myself to be near death, I could not find that all this gave me any comfort, or any assurance of acceptance with God. At this I was then not a little surprised; not imagining I had been all this time building on the sand, nor considering that “other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid” by God, “even Christ Jesus.” 

7. Soon after, a contemplative man convinced me still more than I was convinced before, that outward works are nothing, being alone; and in several conversations instructed me, how to pursue inward holiness, or a union of the soul with God. But even of his instructions (though I then received them as the words of God) I cannot but now observe, 1. That he spoke so incautiously against trusting in outward works, that he discouraged me from doing them at all. 2. That he recommended (as it were, to supply what was wanting in then) mental prayer, and the like exercises, as the most effectual means of purifying the soul, and uniting it with God. Now these were, in truth, as much my own works as visiting the sick or clothing the naked; and the union with God thus pursued, was as really my own righteousness, as any I had before pursued under another name.

8. In this refined way of trusting to my own works and my own righteousness, (so zealously inculcated by the mystic writers,) I dragged on heavily, finding no comfort or help therein, till the time of my leaving England. On shipboard, however, I was again active in outward works; where it pleased God of his free mercy to give me twenty-six of the Moravian brethren for companions, who endeavored to show me “a more excellent way.” But I understood it not at first. I was too learned and too wise. So that it seemed foolishness unto me. And I continued preaching, and following after, and trusting in, that righteousness whereby no flesh can be justified. 

9. All the time I was at Savannah I was thus beating the air. Being ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, which, by a living faith in Him, bringeth salvation “to every one that believeth,” I sought to establish my own righteousness; and so labored in the fire all my days. I was now properly “under the law;” I knew that “the law” of God was “spiritual; I consented to it that it was good.” Yea, “I delighted in it, after the inner man.” Yet was I “carnal, sold under sin.” Everyday was I constrained to cry out, “What I do, I allow not: For what I would, I do not; but what I hate, that I do. To will is “indeed” present with me: But how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good which I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me:” Even “the law in my members, warring against the law of my mind,” and still “bringing me into captivity to the law of sin.” 

10. In this vile, abject state of bondage to sin, I was indeed fighting continually, but not conquering. Before, I had willingly served sin; now it was unwillingly; but still I served it. I fell, and rose, and fell again. Sometimes I was overcome, and in heaviness: Sometimes I overcame, and was in joy. For as in the former state I had some foretastes of the terrors of the law, so had I in this, of the comforts of the Gospel. During this whole struggle between nature and grace, which had now continued above ten years, I had many remarkable returns to prayer; especially when I was in trouble: I had many sensible comforts; which are indeed no other than short anticipations of the life of faith. But I was still “under the law,” not “under grace:” (The state most who are called Christians are content to live and die in:) For I was only striving with, not freed from, sin. Neither had I the witness of the Spirit with my spirit, and indeed could not; for I “sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” 

11. In my return to England, January, 1738, being in imminent danger of death, and very uneasy on that account, I was strongly convinced that the cause of that uneasiness was unbelief; and that the gaining a true, living faith was the “one thing needful” for me. But still I fixed not this faith on its right object: I meant only faith in God, not faith in or through Christ. Again, I knew not that I was wholly void of this faith; but only thought, I had not enough of it. So that when Peter Bohler, whom God prepared for me as soon as I came to London, affirmed of true faith in Christ, (which is but one,) that it had those two fruits inseparably attending it, “Dominion over sin, and constant Peace from a sense of forgiveness,” I was quite amazed, and looked upon it as a new Gospel. If this was so, it was clear I had not faith. But I was not willing to be convinced of this. Therefore, I disputed with all my might, and labored to prove that faith might be where these were not; especially where the sense of forgiveness was not: For all the Scriptures relating to this I had been long since taught to construe away; and to call all Presbyterians who spoke otherwise. Besides, I well saw, no one could, in the nature of things, have such a sense of forgiveness, and not feel it. But I felt it not. If then there was no faith without this, all my pretensions to faith dropped at once. 

12. When I met Peter Bohler again, he consented to put the dispute upon the issue which I desired, namely, Scripture and experience. I first consulted the Scripture. But when I set aside the glosses of men, and simply considered the words of God, comparing them together, endeavoring to illustrate the obscure by the plainer passages; I found they all made against me, and was forced to retreat to my last hold, “that experience would never agree with the literal interpretation of those scriptures. Nor could I therefore allow it to be true, till I found some living witnesses of it.” He replied, he could show me such at any time; if I desired it, the next day. And accordingly, the next day he came again with three others, all of whom testified, of their own personal experience, that a true living faith in Christ is inseparable from a sense of pardon for all past, and freedom from all present, sins. They added with one mouth, that this faith was the gift, the free gift of God; and that he would surely bestow it upon every soul who earnestly and perseveringly sought it. I was now thoroughly convinced; and, by the grace of God, I resolved to seek it unto the end, 1. By absolutely renouncing all dependence, in whole or in part, upon my own works or righteousness; on which I had really grounded my hope of salvation though I knew it not, from my youth up. 2. By adding to the constant use of all the other means of grace, continual prayer for this very thing, justifying, saving faith, a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for me; a trust in Him, as my Christ, as my sole justification, sanctification, and redemption.

13. I continued thus to seek it, (though with strange indifference, dullness, and coldness, and unusually frequent relapses into sin,) till Wednesday, May 24. I think it was about five this morning, that I opened my Testament on those words, “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4.) Just as I went out, I opened it again on those words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was, “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint. If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? For there is mercy with thee; therefore shalt thou be feared. O Israel, trust in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins.” 

14. 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 me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

15. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there, what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught, that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation: But that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes with holdeth them, according to the counsels of his own will. 

16. After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations; but cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror. 

17. May 25, 1738: The moment I awaked, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon him, and my soul waiting on him continually. Being again at St. Paul’s in the afternoon, I could taste the good word of God in the anthem, which began, “My song shall be always of the loving kindness of the Lord: With my mouth will I ever be showing forth thy truth from one generation to another.” Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change?” I answered, (yet not I,) “That I know not. But this I know, I have ‘now peace with God.’ And I sin not today, and Jesus my Master has forbid me to take thought for the morrow.” 

18. “But is not any sort of fear,” continued the tempter, “a proof that thou dost not believe?” I desired my Master to answer for me; and opened his Book upon those words of St. Paul, “Without were fightings, within were fears.” Then, inferred I, well may fears be within me; but I must go on, and tread them under my feet. 

May 26, 1738: My soul continued in peace, but yet in heaviness because of manifold temptations. I asked Mr. Telchig, the Moravian, what to do. He said, “You must not fight with them, as you did before, but flee from them the moment they appear, and take shelter in the wounds of Jesus.” The same I learned also from the afternoon anthem, which was, “My soul truly waiteth still upon God: For of Him cometh my salvation; He verily is my strength and my salvation, He is my defense, so that I shall not greatly fall. O put your trust in Him always, ye people; pour out your hearts before Him; for God is our hope.” 

May 27, 1738: Believing one reason of my want of joy was want of time for prayer, I resolved to do no business till I went to church in the morning, but to continue pouring out my heart before Him. And this day my spirit was enlarged; so that though I was now also assaulted by many temptations, I was more than conqueror, gaining more power thereby to trust and to rejoice in God my Savior. 

May 28, 1738:  I waked in peace, but not in joy. In the same even, quiet state I was till the evening, when I was roughly attacked in a large company as an enthusiast, a seducer, and a setter-forth of new doctrines. By the blessing of God, I was not moved to anger, but after a calm and short reply went away; though not with so tender a concern as was due to those who were seeking death in the error of their life. This day I preached in the morning at St. George’s, Bloomsbury, on, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith;” and in the afternoon at the chapel in Long-Acre, on God’s justifying the ungodly; - the last time (I understand) I am to preach at either. “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” 

May 29, 1738: I set out for Dummer with Mr. Wolf, one of the first-fruits of Peter Bohler’s ministry in England. I was much strengthened by the grace of God in him: Yet was his state so far above mine, that I was often tempted to doubt whether we had one faith. But, without much reasoning about it, I holden here: “Though his be strong and mine weak, yet that God hath given some degree of faith even to me, I know by its fruits. For I have constant peace; - not one uneasy thought. And I have freedom from sin; - not one unholy desire.”






Saturday, November 8, 2014

Conditional salvation

This is John Wesley's holistic interpretation of God's message to humanity as revealed in the old and new testaments:

 "We have received it as a maxim, that 'a man is to do nothing in order to justification.' Nothing can be more false. Whoever desires to find favour with God,—should 'cease from evil, and learn to do well.' Whoever repents, should do 'works meet for repentance.' And if this is not in order to find favor what does he do them for?

Review the whole affair.

1. Who of us is now accepted of God? He that now believes in Christ, with a loving, obedient heart.

2. But who among those who never heard of Christ? He that feareth God, and worketh righteousness according to the light he has.

3. Is this the same with ' he that is sincere?' Nearly, if not quite.


4. Is not this 'salvation by works?' Not by the merit of works, but by works as a condition."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What is saving faith?

The following is an excerpt from John Wesley's sermon entitled "On Faith" in which he describes saving faith.  I do not think a more accurate representation of the Bible's message exists in all of man-made literature.

10. But what is the faith which is properly saving; which brings eternal salvation to all those that keep it to the end? It is such a divine conviction of God, and the things of God, as, even in its infant state, enables every one that possesses it to “fear God and work righteousness.” And whosoever, in every nation, believes thus far, the Apostle declares, is it accepted of him.” He actually is, at that very moment, in a state of acceptance. But he is at present only a servant of God, not properly a son. Meantime, let it be well observed, that “the wrath of God” no longer “abideth on him.”

11. Indeed, nearly fifty years ago, when the Preachers, commonly called Methodists, began to preach that grand scriptural doctrine, salvation by faith, they were not sufficiently apprised of the difference between a servant and a child of God. They did not clearly understand, that even one “who feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him.” In consequence of this, they were apt to make sad the hearts of those whom God had not made sad. For they frequently asked those who feared God, “Do you know that your sins are forgiven?” And upon their answering, “No,” immediately replied, “Then you are a child of the devil.” No; that does not follow. It might have been said, (and it is all that can be said with propriety,) “Hitherto you are only a servant, you are not a child of God. You have already great reason to praise God that he has called you to his honorable service. Fear not. Continue crying unto him, ‘and you shall see greater things than these.’”

12. And, indeed, unless the servants of God halt by the way, they will receive the adoption of sons. They will receive the faith of the children of God, by his revealing his only begotten Son in their hearts. Thus, the faith of a child is, properly and directly, a divine conviction, whereby every child of God is enabled to testify, “The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” And whosoever hath this, the Spirit of God witnesseth with his spirit, that he is a child of God. So the Apostle writes to the Galatians: “Ye are the sons of God by faith. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father;” that is, giving you a childlike confidence in him, together. With a kind affection toward him. This then it is, that (if St. Paul was taught of God, and wrote at, he was moved by the Holy Ghost) properly constitutes the difference between a servant of God, and a child of God. “He that believeth,” as a child of God, “hath the witness in himself.” This the servant hath not. Yet let no man discourage him; rather, lovingly exhort him to expect it every moment.

13. It is easy to observe, that all the sorts of faith which we can conceive are reducible to one or other of the preceding. But let us covet the best gifts, and follow the most excellent way. There is no reason why you should be satisfied with the faith of a Materialist, a Heathen, or a Deist, nor, indeed, with that of a servant. I do not know that God requires it at your hands. Indeed, if you have received this, you ought not to cast it away; you ought not in anywise to undervalue it; but to be truly thankful for it. Yet, in the meantime, beware how you rest here: Press on till you receive the Spirit of adoption: Rest not, till that Spirit clearly witnesses with your spirit, that you are a child of God." ~ John Wesley

The entire sermon may be found at the following link: http://wesley.nnu.edu/.../the.../sermon-106-on-faith/


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Charles H. Spurgeon's Testimony

"Can you not remember, dearly-beloved, that day of days, that best and brightest of hours, when first you saw the Lord, lost your burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on your way in peace? My soul can never forget that day . . . [I had been about five years in the most fearful distress in mind, as a lad. If any human being felt more of the terror of God's law, I can indeed pity and sympathize with him. Bunyan's Grace Abounding contains, in the main, my history. Some abysses he went into I never trod; but some into which I plunged he seems to have never known] . . . Dying, all but dead, diseased, pained, chained, scourged, bound in fetters of iron, in darkness and the shadow of death, Jesus appeared unto me. My eyes looked to Him; the disease was healed, the pains removed, chains were snapped, prison doors were opened, darkness gave place to light. What delight filled my soul!—what mirth, what ecstasy, what sound of music and dancing, what soarings towards Heaven, what heights and depths of ineffable delight! Scarcely ever since then have I known joys which surpassed the rapture of that first hour.

"I can testify that the joy of that day was utterly indescribable. I could have leaped, I could have danced; there was no expression, however fanatical, which would have been out of keeping with the joy of my spirit at that hour . . . My spirit saw its chains broken to pieces, I felt that I was an emancipated soul, an heir of Heaven, a forgiven one, accepted in Christ Jesus, plucked out of the miry clay and out of the horrible pit, with my feet set upon a rock, and my goings established. I thought I could dance all the way home. I could understand what John Bunyan meant, when he declared he wanted to tell the crows on the ploughed land all about his conversion. He was too full to hold, he felt he must tell somebody. Between half-past ten o'clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o'clock, when I was back again at home, what a change had taken place in me!

"I had passed from darkness into marvelous light, from death to life. Simply by looking to Jesus, I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, "Something wonderful has happened to you;" and I was eager to tell them all about it . . . the moment before, there was none more wretched than I was, so, within that second, there was none more joyous. It took no longer time than does the lightning-flash; it was done, and never has it been undone . . . the bruises that my soul had suffered were healed, the gaping wounds were cured, the broken bones rejoiced, the rags that had covered me were all removed, my spirit was white as the spotless snows of the far-off North; I had melody within my spirit, for I was saved, washed, cleansed, forgiven, through Him that did hang upon the tree." ~ Charles H. Spurgeon

Charles H. Spurgeon was born at Essex, England, June 19, 1834; was converted on December 15, 1850; preached his first sermon in 1851 at age 16; became a pastor in 1852; published more than 1900 sermons during his lifetime; and died in 1892.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Equating saving faith with initial sanctification

In recent years, I have learned that it is a mistake to equate "saving faith" with "initial sanctification" as they are not necessarily experienced simultaneously. In fact, I believe that this is more often the case than not. In my lifetime, I have experienced two different church cultures where this mistake was paramount. In my experience, the teaching that "saving faith" cannot exist without "initial sanctification" inevitably leads to either despair or presumption depending on the particular emphasis of the church culture. In church cultures that emphasize the power of initial sanctification, seekers fight the demon of despair and have difficulty moving forward in faith. In church cultures that emphasize the power of saving faith, seekers think they are candidates for entire sanctification when it is initial sanctification that they actually need. Below is an example of early Methodist theology that explores the ramifications of equating "saving faith" with "initial sanctification":

“Are there not many pious and judicious ministers in the Churches of England and Scotland, as well as among the dissenters, who dare not countenance the present revival of the power of godliness, chiefly because they hear us sometimes unguardedly assert that none have any faith but such as have the faith of assurance; and that the wrath of God actually abides on all those who have not that faith? If we warily allowed the faith of the inferior dispensations, which such divines clearly see in the Scriptures, and feel in themselves; would not their prejudices be softened, and their minds prepared to receive what we advance in defence of the faith of assurance?”

 “. . . You are afraid that the doctrine of this Essay will make 'seekers rest in Laodicean lukewarmness;' but permit me to observe that the seekers you speak of are either forward hypocrites, or sincere penitents. If they are forward hypocrites, preaching to them the faith of assurance will never make them either humble or sincere. On the contrary, they will probably catch . . . at an assurance of their own making; and so they will profess to have the faith for which you contend, when in fact they have only the name and notion of it. The religious world swarms with instances of this kind."

“If, on the other hand, the seekers for whom you seem concerned are sincere penitents; far from being hurt, they will be greatly benefited by our doctrine: for it will at once keep them from chilling, despairing fears, and from false, Crispian [Antinomian] comforts; the two opposite extremes into which upright, unwary mourners are most apt to run. Thus our doctrine, instead of being dangerous to sincere seekers, will prove a Scriptural clue, in following which they will happily avoid the gloomy haunts of Pharisaic despair, and the enchanted ground of Antinomian presumption." ~ John Fletcher of Madeley

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Intellectual honesty and spiritual reality

~ In 1985 Thomas R. Albin first published his research at Cambridge University. Albin did a study of the Wesleyan Revival and put together an amazing array of statistics on the way God worked in the lives of those touched by the Wesleys' ministry. More recently Albin was interviewed in the August 2003 issue of Christianity Today. Using mostly autobiographical accounts from the Arminian Magazine and other early sources, Albin's study used the testimony of 555 Methodist converts from the years 1725‑1790.

His information follows the early Methodist tendency to interpret their spiritual journey around three definite stages: work of prevenient grace leading to awakening and conviction for sin, the experience of justification and the new birth and the experience of entire sanctification. Most of the converts came from some type of church background with few being saved out "of the rough." Of those who included information on their childhood home, 6.2% came from "active irreligious" or "unconcerned or inactive homes." This seems to indicate that the Wesleyan revival was exactly that - a reviving of spiritual life and fervor among those who had some degree of religious training.

The average age of one's awakening was 21 years of age with a time lapse of more than two years between their awakening and new birth experience. "This fact suggests that the evangelical conversion for early Methodism was a slow process involving significant thought and reflection." One has to wonder if our American drive to push people on to an experience has not come back to haunt us . . . Most of the converts were alone when they experienced the new birth. When those who were in a small group are added more than two‑thirds are accounted for. Most of those who were alone were in their own room or home when the blessing came.

The time lapse between the experience of the new birth and entire sanctification was nearly six years on average. Of the 131 cases that experienced this, one‑half were alone. The "single most frequent event," for this blessing was: the deathbed (22.1%), while different types of prayer make up the largest general category (33.2%). Sixteen persons received it during preaching, thirteen in spiritual conversation and eight while going about the routines of life. Perhaps it was Wesley's emphasis to, "expect it every moment," that contributed to such diverse settings of the experience. ~ Mark Horton

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The two gospel axioms

~As a consequence of the doctrine of general redemption, Mr. Wesley lays down two axioms, of which he never loses sight in his preaching. The first is, that ALL OUR SALVATION IS OF GOD IN CHRIST, and therefore OF GRACE;—all opportunities, invitations, inclination, and power to believe being bestowed upon us of mere grace;—grace most absolutely free: and so far, I hope, that all who are called Gospel ministers agree with him. But he proceeds farther; for, secondly, he asserts with equal confidence, that according to the Gospel dispensation, ALL OUR DAMNATION IS OF OURSELVES, by our obstinate unbelief and avoidable unfaithfulness; as we may "neglect so great salvation," desire to "be excused" from coming to the feast of the Lamb, "make light of" God's gracious offers, refuse to "occupy," bury our talent, and act the part of the "slothful servant;" or, in other words, "resist, grieve, do despite to," and "quench the Spirit of grace," by our moral agency. ~ John Fletcher