Sunday, May 23, 2010

A thorough Christian conversion

Act 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

"Saul was not an apostle at this time; he was not even a Christian; and the Holy Ghost, which he received now, was given more to make him a thorough Christian convert than to make him an apostle." ~ Adam Clark in his Bible commentary for the preceding verse

True faith is the gift of God

John Wesley's journal, April 22nd, 1738: "I met Peter Bohler once more. I had now no objection to what he said of the nature of faith . . . But I could not comprehend what he spoke of an instantaneous work. I could not understand how this faith should be given in a moment: How a man could at once be thus turned from darkness to light, from sin and misery to righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost. I searched the Scriptures again, touching this very thing, particularly the Acts of the Apostles: But, to my utter astonishment, found scarce any instances there of other than instantaneous conversions; scarce any so slow as that of St. Paul, who was three days in the pangs of the new birth." ~ John Wesley

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Satisfied beyond all doubt

“The strong and lively exercises of a spirit of childlike, evangelical, humble love to God, give clear evidence of the soul's relation to God as his child; which does very greatly and directly satisfy the soul . . . the saint stands in no need of multiplied signs, or any long reasoning upon them . . . the saint sees and feels plainly the union between his soul and God; it is so strong and lively, that he cannot doubt of it . . . the Spirit of God gives the evidence by infusing and shedding abroad the love of God, the spirit of a child, in the heart, and our spirit, or our conscience, receives and declares this evidence for our rejoicing.

“Many have been the mischiefs that have arisen from that false and delusive notion of the witness of the Spirit, that it is a kind of inward voice, suggestion, or declaration from God to man, that he is beloved of him, and pardoned, elected, or the like, sometimes with, and sometimes without a text of Scripture; and many have been the false and vain (though very high) affections that have arisen from hence. And it is to be feared that multitudes of souls have been eternally undone by it.” ~ Jonathan Edwards in A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Perceptible Inspiration and Invincible Ignorance

"Therefore the distinguishing doctrines on which I do insist in all my writings and in all my preaching will lie in a very narrow compass. You sum them all up in Perceptible Inspiration. For this I earnestly contend; and so do all who are called Methodist preachers. But be pleased to observe what we mean thereby. We mean that inspiration of God's Holy Spirit whereby He fills us with righteousness, peace, and joy, with love to Him and to all mankind. And we believe it cannot be, in the nature of things, that a man should be filled with this peace and joy and love by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit without perceiving it as clearly as he does the light of the sun.

This is (so far as I understand them) the main doctrine of the Methodists. This is the substance of what we all preach. And I will still believe none is a true Christian till he experiences it; and, consequently, ‘that people at all hazards must be convinced of this -- yea, though that conviction at first unhinge them ever so much, though it should in a manner distract them for a season. For it is better that they should be perplexed and terrified now than that they should sleep on and awake in hell.’

I do not, therefore, I will not, shift the question; though I know many who desire I should. I know the proposition I have to prove, and I will not move an hair’s breadth from it. It is this: ‘No man can be a true Christian without such an inspiration of the Holy Ghost as fills his heart with peace and joy and love, which he who perceives not has it not.’ This is the point for which alone I contend; and this I take to be the very foundation of Christianity. . . .

It would doubtless be wrong to insist thus on these things if they were ‘not necessary to final salvation’; but we believe they are, unless in the case of invincible ignorance. In this case, undoubtedly many thousands are saved who never heard of these doctrines; and I am inclined to think this was our own case, both at Oxford and for some time after. Yet I doubt not but, had we been called hence, God would first, by this inspiration of His Spirit, have wrought in our hearts that holy love without which none can enter into glory."

~ John Wesley, December 30, 1745 letter to John Smith (the pen name of an anonymous writer thought to be Dr. Thomas Secker who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury)