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

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The repentance of John Wesley

John Wesley's Journal, 1739, August, Fri . 31. — I left Bristol, and reached London about eight on Sunday morning. In the afternoon I heard a sermon wherein it was asserted, that our repentance was not sincere, but feigned and hypocritical;

1. If we relapsed into sin soon after repenting: Especially, if,
2. We did not avoid all the occasions of sin; or if,
3. We relapsed frequently; and most of all, if,
4. Our hearts were hardened thereby.

O what a hypocrite was I, (if this be so,) for near twice ten years! But I know it is not so. I know every one under the Law is even as I was. Every one when he begins to see his fallen state, and to feel the wrath of God abiding on him, relapses into the sin that most easily besets him, soon after repenting of it. Sometimes he avoids, and at many other times cannot persuade himself to avoid, the occasions of it. Hence his relapses are frequent, and of consequence his heart is hardened more and more.

And yet all this time he is sincerely striving against sin. He can say unfeignedly, without hypocrisy, “The thing which I do, I approve not; the evil which I would not, that I do.” “To will is” even then “present with” him; “but how to perform that which is good” he “finds not.” Nor can he, with all his sincerity, avoid any one of these four marks of hypocrisy, till, “being justified by faith,” he hath “peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This helpless state I took occasion to describe at Kennington, to eight or ten thousand people, from those words of the Psalmist, “Innumerable troubles are come about me; my sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up: Yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me.” ~ John Wesley

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I am not a Christian

I wonder how our modern day altar workers would have counselled John Wesley in the years preceding his new birth. In 1735, John Wesley, the son of a Christian minister and a ministerial graduate of Oxford, possessed more than a decade of ministry experience. On-board a ship en route to America, Wesley encountered some Christians who challenged his conception of scriptural spirituality. These German Moravians left a deep impression of spiritual honesty and spiritual reality upon Mr. Wesley. The full story of John Wesley's interaction with the Moravian Christians and the development of his own spiritual life is diametrically opposed to the psychological techniques exerted upon many modern day seekers.

By their lives and theology, the Moravians convinced John Wesley that he did not have the type of faith promised to New Testament Christians. From the quote below, it appears that John Wesley was astoundingly honest and open about his spiritual shortcomings from the time he first encountered the Moravian Christians on the ship. While he continued to pursue God, it would be greater than two years time before his well-known new birth experience at Aldersgate:

"I told all in our ship, all at Savannah, all at Frederica, and that over and over, in express terms, ‘I am not a Christian; I only follow after, if haply I may attain it.’ When they urged my works and self denial, I answered short, ‘Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and my body to be burned, I am nothing: For I have not charity; I do not love God with all my heart.’ If they added, ‘Nay, but you could not preach as you do, if you was not a Christian;’ I again confronted them with St. Paul: ‘Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, and have not charity, I am nothing.’ Most earnestly, therefore, both in public and private, did I inculcate this: ‘Be not ye shaken, however I may fall, for the foundation standeth sure.’

If you ask on what principle, then, I acted; it was this: ‘A desire to be a Christian; and a conviction that whatever I judge conducive thereto, that I am bound to do; wherever I judge I can best answer this end, thither it is my duty to go.’ On this principle I set out for America; on this, I visited the Moravian Church; and on the same am I ready now (God being my helper) to go to Abyssinia or China, or whithersoever it shall please God, by this conviction, to call me." ~ John Wesley