Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church;

Message: The Kingdom For Keeps – 08 – Sermon On The Mount Series; Date: 24 April 2011 (Easter Sunday).

For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org.

 

 

Strangely Warmed

 

(See appendix for extended excerpts of John Wesley’s Journal on his conversion.)

 

Jesus preached with authority. From the beginning he knew that his words would remain because he would remain. For instance, when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he included references to himself that – (already then) – foreshadowed his power and influence in eternity. This is what he said – Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you … because of me. Rejoice … great is your reward in heaven … ” [Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:21-48: “You have heard that it was said … But I tell you … ”] Matthew 7:21-24: “ … Many will say to me on that day [the day of judgement when this world comes to an end], ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ … ” Jesus would be the judge in eternity; therefore he was so sure of himself, saying – Matthew 7:24: “ . everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

At the time none of his audience had much of an idea that Jesus was the Son of God who had come to earth as a man. But everyone recognized that somehow his preaching was different. At the close of the Sermon on the Mount the reaction among his listeners was unanimous – Matthew 7:28: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not like others [original: and not as their teachers of the law].” From the beginning Jesus had this kind of authority because he knew that nothing would ever diminish his words. People like us would make an attempt to silence him and – when Jesus was in his thirties – they nailed him to a cross but he rose from the grave; then confirmed everything that he had preached before and commissioned his disciples to keep going in his name – Matthew 28:18-20: “Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

Therefore – coming back to the Sermon on the Mount – what does this mean for us today? It means that the Sermon is still true. When Jesus rose from the dead – on Easter Sunday – today –  he did not come with a new message but backed up his former preaching. And this is what he preached – listen to a few summary statements – Matthew 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets … I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished … I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect . as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:33: “ . seek first his kingdom and his righteousness … ” Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:15-20: “ … every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit … Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire … ” Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven … ” [Matthew 7:24: “ . everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”]

Therefore – this is the message on Easter Sunday. This is what Jesus had preached with authority. This lies at the core of the Christian life and is backed up by the resurrection. It’s simple: Do the will of our Father in heaven and you will be saved.

How are you hearing this? What I want to do now is to go back three hundred years in history and look at the person of John Wesley (from England). He was an amazing man. During his life he preached more than 40,000 times – usually preaching two or three times a day – traveled over 250,000 miles – mainly on horseback – converted thousands in open-air preaching – (in a time before microphones and sound-speakers) – and left behind 135,000 members in the Methodist movement with 541 itinerant preachers. He changed England and impacted the world. There is a Wesleyan-Methodist church even here in Toowoomba. His songs are still famous.

I think that this morning – (just for a little while) – it will be helpful for us to go back in time and see God and the world through his eyes. I think that his personal history will open up new perspectives for us today.

John Wesley believed the Sermon on the Mount and strove to obey God to the utmost of his power. He became a minister of the Anglican Church and set out for America to convert the native Indians. This is what he wrote about his daily routine on the ship. It will give you an idea of his zealous dedication:

 

October 1735 … Our common way of living was this:— From four in the morning till five, each of us used private prayer. From five to seven we read the Bible together ... At seven we breakfasted. At eight were the public prayers. From nine to twelve, I usually learned German ... At twelve we met to give an account to one another what we had done since our last meeting, and what we designed to do before our next. About one we dined. The time from dinner to four, we spent in reading to those whom each of us had taken in charge, or in speaking to them severally, as need required. At four were the evening prayers; when either the second lesson was explained, (as it always was in the morning,) or the children were catechized and instructed before the congregation. From five to six we again used private prayer. From six to seven I read in our cabin to two or three of the passengers ... At seven I joined with the Germans in their public service ... At eight we met again, to exhort and instruct one another. Between nine and ten we went to bed ...

 

John Wesley was disciplined and determined to seek God and please him. And he doubted not that he was a good Christian. Why should he? He writes: “And by my continued endeavour 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 ... in a state of salvation.” “I omitted no sort of self-denial ... I omitted no occasion for doing good.”

Yetthen the Atlantic Ocean kept battering the ship with violent storms and John Wesley made a surprising discovery. He feared death and he was very much afraid of coming face-to-face with God. He wrote in his journal:

 

1735 … Sun. 23 At night I was awaked by the tossing of the ship and roaring of the wind, and plainly showed I was unfit, for I was unwilling, to die ... Sat. 17 … At seven in the evening they were quieted by a storm. It rose higher and higher  … I lay down in the great cabin, and in a short time fell asleep, though very uncertain whether I should wake alive, and much ashamed of my unwillingness to die. O how pure in heart must he be, who would rejoice to appear before God at a moment’s warning … Fri. 23. — In the evening another storm began. In the morning it increased, so that they were forced to let the ship drive. I could not but say to myself, “How is it that thou hast no faith?” being still unwilling to die …

 

John Wesley knew that something was wrong. If God was so wonderful, why was he frightened? And he realized that on the same ship other Christians did not seem to have the same problem. He wrote:

 

Sun. 25. — At noon our third storm began. At four it was more violent than before … We spent two or three hours after prayers, in conversing suitably to the occasion, confirming one another in a calm submission to the wise, holy, gracious will of God … At seven I went to the Germans … 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 between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English; The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.” From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbors, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.

 

John Wesley kept exploring his problem. What was wrong with him? How would you have helped him? John Wesley received some counsel from another pastor which surprised him even further. He wrote:

 

Sat. 7 ... Mr. Spangenberg, one of the Pastors of the Germans. I soon found what spirit he was of; and asked his advice with regard to my own conduct. He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God? “I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused, and said, “I know he is the Saviour of the world.” “True,” replied he; “but do you know he has saved you?” I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” but I fear they were vain words ...

 

What sort of question was this: “Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God?” The question of the German pastor was based on the Bible. For instance – we read in Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” But John Wesley was confused and surprised by the question because it assumed an experience of God. He knew from books – the education of the mind – that Jesus was the Saviour of the world. He knew the theory that Jesus might even save him but he did not know the same in his heart because he had never heard the Spirit assure him of the fact. He had never had the experience of the Holy Spirit communicating with his spirit.

Hence – when Wesley returned from America he arrived at a radical conclusion: He was not a Christian. He wrote:

 

Tues. 24 ... “I went to America, to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near: But let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘To die is gain!’ I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun My last thread, I shall perish on the shore! “I think, verily, if the Gospel be true, I am safe: For I not only have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor; I not only give my body to be burned, drowned, or whatever God shall appoint for me; but I follow after charity, (though not as I ought, yet as I can,) if haply I may attain it.

I now believe the Gospel is true. ‘I show my faith by my works,’ by staking my all upon it. I would do so again and again a thousand times, if the choice were still to make. Whoever sees me, sees I would be a Christian. Therefore ‘are my ways not like other men’s ways.’ Therefore I have been, I am, I am content to be, ‘a by-word, a proverb of reproach.’ But in a storm I think, ‘What if the Gospel be not true? Then thou art of all men most foolish. For what hast thou given thy goods, thy ease, thy friends, thy reputation, thy country, thy life? For what art thou wandering over the face of the earth?’ — A dream, ‘a cunningly-devised fable!’ O! Who will deliver me from this fear of death? What shall I do? Where shall I flee from it? Should I fight against it by thinking, or by not thinking of it?

 

Was John Wesley a Christian at that point? What do you think? His brother Charles was also a minister and he became very angry when John questioned his faith. Of course he was a Christian. But who was right: John or Charles? And what about you? Are you a Christian? [Later – based on his own experience – John Wesley (cf. Charles Finney, Martin Luther) would challenge thousands of church-going Christians and tell them plainly that they were also not saved. They were only Christians in name. They were deceived. This was not a popular message.]

This is getting difficult now. What happened to the simplicity of the Sermon on the Mount: Do the will of our Father in heaven and you will be saved? Do to others what you would have them do to you and you will be saved? It did not seem to work. John Wesley did more than most but his salvation remained in doubt. Maybe right now – in the midst of our possible confusion – for us – this is actually welcome news. We do breathe a sigh of relief, saying: “Thank God that the hard work of obedience is a dead-end.” Wesley gave all of his possessions to the poor, prayed for hours and suffered much persecution. This life-style may sound too radical for us today when we rather sit at home and eat chocolate Easter eggs.

On the whole – and this is why it is good to talk about a man that lived three hundred years ago – our modern culture – by comparison – even in the church – is shallow. In our nation – in 2011 – most people do not worry whether God is going to accept them or not. Many have a sense that there is a God – and they are happy to say so in a conversation – but they never make an attempt of checking out what he is like. It is assumed that God is happy minding his own business – (such as running the world for our benefit) – and it is assumed that a vague acknowledgement of God’s existence is good enough for heaven. [Yet, even for us modern people this kind of vague assurance may disappear when we are lashed by the same life-threatening storms as Wesley on his Atlantic crossing.]

It is not. John Wesley had failed in his quest for obedience but he had not misread the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount was clear  – Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven … ” And the Bible in general confirmed the same message Romans 6:1-14: “ … do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires … but rather … offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness … ” Romans 8:12-13: “ … we have an obligation … if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live … ” Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity … witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy … and envy … I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore … as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Twice Jesus was asked the pointed question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:16; Luke 10:25)? And twice his answer insisted on obedience – Matthew 19:17: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” Luke 10:28: “Do this [obey the commandments] and you will live.” The last book of the Bible contains Jesus’ letters to seven churches – communicated to John in a prophetic encounter – and they substantiate – once again – that Jesus was not softening in his demand for obedience. For instance, he wrote to the church in Ephesus – Revelation 2:4-6: “ . I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love … Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place [cast you out from my presence] … ”

Wesley was not willing to water down these Bible references. When he preached on the Sermon on the Mount, he said: “Some hoped that Jesus was abolishing the old religion. They felt that it was possible. He was bringing in another one. They imagined that Jesus would show them an easier way to Heaven. But Jesus refutes in these words those vain hopes ... [when he proclaimed:] ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.’ ... ” (John Wesley: The Sermon On The Mount, Alachua: Bridge-Logos 2010, p142).

Maybe today – in Toowoomba – on Easter Sunday – we would not mind an easier way – an easier Gospel – an easing on the radical demands for obedience. The life-style of discipline – prayer, mission, spiritual warfare, loving our enemies, sacrificing money, fasting – can make you whinge sometimes. Yet, John Wesley did not look for comfort. He did not accommodate himself to the low standards of institutional religion. He had witnessed something among some Germany Christians in the middle of a storm and he was determined to have the same in his own life.

Listen again to what he wrote in his journal and listen to what he was desiring from God. Listen to what he thought was the solution to his problem:

 

If it be said, that I have faith, (for many such things have I heard, from many miserable comforters,) I answer, So have the devils, — a sort of faith; but still they are strangers to the covenant of promise. So the apostles had even at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus first “manifested forth his glory;” even then they, in a sort, “believed on him;” but they had not then “the faith that overcometh the world.” The faith I want is, “a sure trust and confidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, my sins are forgiven, and I reconciled to the favor of God.” I want that faith which St. Paul recommends to all the world, especially in his Epistle to the Romans: That faith which enables every one that hath it to cry out, “I live not; but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I want that faith which none can have without knowing that he hath it; (though many imagine they have it, who have it not;) for whosoever hath it, is “freed from sin, the” whole “body of sin is destroyed” in him: He is freed from fear, “having, peace with God through Christ, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.”And he is freed from doubt, “having the love of God shed abroad in his heart, through the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;” which “Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God.” ...

 

John Wesley never doubted the importance of obedience but he now wanted the kind of faith – the kind of experience – that made him successful in obeying the will of God and also assured him of salvation. I quote him again. He wrote: “The faith I want is, ‘a sure trust and confidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, my sins are forgiven ... ’ [that is: assurance] ... I want that faith which ... none can have without knowing that he has it ... for whosoever has it, is ‘freed from sin’, the whole ‘body of sin is destroyed’ in him [that is: victory and success over sin]. He is freed from fear, ‘having, peace with God through Christ, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.’ And he is freed from doubt, ‘having the love of God shed abroad in his heart, through the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;’ which ‘Spirit itself bears witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God.’ ...”

Is this a new thought for us? Frequently our modern version of Christianity encourages us to have faith in Jesus but does not explain that this faith is an experience which assures us of salvation and makes us successful in obedience. Can I ask you: In your life – is faith more than a theory about God? Are you a Christian?

True faith made all the difference for John Wesley. Previously he had tried so hard to obey God in his own strength. The rigorous disciplines were all his own efforts and he failed but now he was awakened to the prospects of assurance and success or to use his own words: “happiness and holiness”. He wrote:

 

... Peter Bohler, whom God prepared for me as soon as I came to London, affirmed of true faith in Christ ... that it had those two fruits inseparably attending it, ‘Dominion over sin, and constant Peace from a sense of forgiveness,’ I was quite amazed ...

 

... I met Peter Bohler again who now amazed me more and more, by the account he gave of the fruits of living faith, — the holiness and happiness which he affirmed to attend it ...

 

... I met Peter Bohler once more. I had now no objection to what he said of the nature of faith; namely, that it is (to use the words of our Church) ‘a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favor of God.’ Neither could I deny either the happiness or holiness which he described, as fruits of this living faith. ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,’ And, ‘He that believeth hath the witness in himself,’ fully convinced me of the former: As, ‘Whatsoever is born of God, doth not commit sin;’ and, ‘whosoever believeth is born of God,’ did of the latter.

 

John Wesley came to the point where he accepted the truth about faith in Jesus Christ which was not yet in his own life. He accepted that he was not yet a Christian but wanted to become one. How did saving faith come to him? How would it come to you?

For John Wesley it was struggle. He had to unlearn so much false doctrine and traditional thinking and read the Bible with fresh eyes. One of his problems was that he could not understand how you could receive something so powerful as saving faith in an instant – in a moment. He wrote:

 

… 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 thereof other than instantaneous conversions; scarce any so slow as that of St. Paul, who was three days in the pangs of the new birth. I had but one retreat left; namely, “Thus, I grant, God wrought in the first ages of Christianity; but the times are changed. What reason have I to believe he works in the same manner now?”

 

Wesley had to acknowledge that the Bible witness was clear. People could be converted in a moment. Faith would come in an instant. And this can happen to you this morning. You can be saved in a moment. However, Wesley – like many of us Christians today – did not back down easily. When we don’t like what the Bible says, then we claim that God has changed his modes of operation (cf. spiritual gifts). Onlythere were too many testimonies of living Christians that verified the Bible truth. Hence – Wesley wrote: “ ... I was beat out of this retreat too, by the concurring evidence of several living witnesses; who testified, God had thus wrought in themselves; giving them in a moment such a faith in the blood of his Son, as translated them out of darkness into light, out of sin and fear into holiness and happiness. Here ended my disputing. I could now only cry out, ‘Lord, help thou my unbelief!’”

At last – Wesley surrendered to the truth. He was ready now to receive saving faith for himself. But it did not come to him – at least not straight away. If you want faith, when and how do you think that it will come to you? Wesley became desperate and was ready to give up preaching. How could he preach and how could he now preach his new insights when he himself was not yet in possession of faith? Why was there a delay?

In this critical time – Wesley received good counsel which you may take for yourself. He wrote:

 

... I was, on Sunday, the 5th, clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved. Immediately it struck into my mind, ‘Leave of preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?’ I asked Bohler, whether he thought I should leave it is or not. He answered, ‘By no means.’ I asked, ‘But what can I preach?’ He said, ‘Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.’

 

This is good advice: “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” In other words – do not lower the standard of God’s truth to the standard of your current experience. Preach – speak – testify – hold on to the truth of God until God makes the reality of his truth come alive in you. As you wait on him, do not lower the standard of what you can expect from him. Confess all of his truth because this aligns yourself with him and positions you to receive from him.

Trust that God is faithful. He will confirm his truth in your life. This is how it happened for John Wesley. He wrote:

 

… 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.

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.”

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.

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 counselsof his own will.

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.

 

When Wesley was convinced of the truth about faith, he resolved to seek this faith for himself but it was not easy. A certain indifference, dullness and coldness and unusually frequent relapses into sin came to bother him. Yet, he ignored his feelings and kept going until – one day – God spoke to him again through a Scripture verse in his prayer time on 5am in the morning and then another verse as he was leaving home. In the evening he was not keen to go to a church meeting but he went anyway. Sometimes you just have to go anyway. And then it happened – quietly and unnoticed by others. As Wesley was listening to how Martin Luther described the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, Wesley’s own heart wasstrangely warmed”. It wasn’t a thunderbolt experience but suddenly there was a new kind of trust in Jesus Christ – he was real – he was alive – he was loving – he had taken away his sins – he was taking away his sins – on his account Wesley was forgiven and blameless before God – and when Wesley came home, he experienced a new authority over temptations. He could resist them and not sin. At long last – happiness and holiness were his. He was a Christian.

You can become a Christian this morning. As you hear the truth – as you hear about God’s promises and the gift of faith – if you want – God canstrangely warmyour heart. Seek him. Seek the gift of faith. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

If you resolve to seek God and receive saving faith today – in a moment – according to the Bible – you may also need to hear what happened to Wesley immediately after his conversion. He was not yet perfect in his faith. He had some growing and maturing to do. For this reason he even went to Germany and paid a visit to the community in Herrnhut which was the home-base of the Germans that impressed him so much on the ship to America and back in England. He was not too proud to be instructed further for three months. Therefore, seek good instruction. Be immersed in the truth. [See his Journal on his time in Germany and read how the Germans further unpacked the relationship between saving faith and assurance. There are people who attain saving faith but only later experience assurance.]

Furthermore – and I close with this – faith – trusting Jesus – is connecting us with God and his power which means that when our obedience is challenged – and it was challenged in Wesley’s case because the enemy (Satan and his kingdom of darkness) always fights back when people are lost to him – we overcome differently from before. John Wesley wrote:

 

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.’

 

Don’t fight by focusing on the temptation but flee by focusing on Jesus and the blood which he poured out for you. There is power in the blood of Jesus. Flee to him. Let him provide the strength. This is real. This is the authority by which Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. This is an experience. This is the only way that you win the battle – by saving faith.

This morning – seek the happiness and holiness – the assurance and success – that comes by saving faith in Jesus Christ. Let your heart bestrangely warmed”. Amen.

 


 

Appendix: Extended Excerpts Of John Wesley’s Journal On His Conversion

 

THE WORKS OF JOHN WESLEY, VOLUME I, JOURNALS, OCT. 14, 1735 - NOV. 29, 1745

by John Wesley

 

... Tuesday, OCTOBER 14,1735. — Mr. Benjamin Ingham, of Queen’s college, Oxford, Mr. Charles Delamotte, son of a merchant, in London, who had offered himself some days before, my brother Charles Wesley, and myself, took boat for Gravesend, in order to embark for Georgia. Our end in leaving our native country was not to avoid want, (God having given us plenty of temporal blessings,) nor to gain the dung or dross of riches or honor; but singly this, — to save our souls; to live wholly to the glory of God.

In the afternoon we found the Simmonds off Gravesend, and immediately went on board ...We now began to be a little regular. Our common way of living was this:— From four in the morning till five, each of us used private prayer. From five to seven we read the Bible together, carefully comparing it (that we might not lean to our own understandings) with the writings of the earliest ages. At seven we breakfasted. At eight were the public prayers. From nine to twelve, I usually learned German, and Mr. Delamotte, Greek. My brother writ sermons, and Mr. Ingham instructed the children. At twelve we met to give an account to one another what we had done since our last meeting, and what we designed to do before our next. About one we dined. The time from dinner to four, we spent in reading to those whom each of us had taken in charge, or in speaking to them severally, as need required. At four were the evening prayers; when either the second lesson was explained, (as it always was in the morning,) or the children were catechized and instructed before the congregation. From five to six we again used private prayer. From six to seven I read in our cabin to two or three of the passengers, (of whom there were about eighty English on board,) and each of my brethren to a few more in theirs. At seven I joined with the Germans in their public service; while Mr. Ingham was reading between the decks, to as many as desired to hear. At eight we met again, to exhort and instruct one another. Between nine and ten we went to bed, where neither the roaring of the sea, nor the motion of the ship, could takeaway the refreshing sleep which God gave us ...

Sun. 23. — At night I was awaked by the tossing of the ship and roaring of the wind, and plainly showed I was unfit, for I was unwilling, to die ...

Sat. 17. — Many people were very impatient at the contrary wind. At seven in the evening they were quieted by a storm. It rose higher and higher till nine. About nine the sea broke over us from stem to stern; burst through the windows of the state cabin, where three or four of us were, and covered us all over, though a bureau sheltered me from the main shock.

About eleven I lay down in the great cabin, and in a short time fell asleep, though very uncertain whether I should wake alive, and much ashamed of my unwillingness to die. O how pure in heart must he be, who would rejoice to appear before God at a moments warning! Toward morning, “He rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”

Sun. 18. — We returned God thanks for our deliverance, of which a few appeared duly sensible. But the rest amount, (among whom were most of the sailors) denied we had been in any danger. I could not have believed that so little good would have been done by the terror they were in before. But it cannot be that they should long obey God from fear, who are deaf to the motives of love.

Fri. 23. — In the evening another storm began. In the morning it increased, so that they were forced to let the ship drive. I could not but say to myself, “How is it that thou hast no faith?” being still unwilling to die. About one in the afternoon, almost as soon as I had stepped out of the great cabin door, the sea did not break as usual, but came with a full, smooth tide over the side of the ship. I was vaulted over with water in a moment, and so stunned that I scarce expected to lift up my head again, till the sea should give up her dead. But thanks be to God, I received no hurt at all. About midnight the storm ceased.

Sun. 25. — At noon our third storm began. At four it was more violent than before. Now, indeed, we could say, “The waves of the sea were mighty, and raged horribly. They rose up to the heavens above, and” clave “down to hell beneath.” The winds roared round about us, and (what I never heard before) whistled as distinctly as if it had been a human voice. The ship not only rocked to and fro with the utmost violence, but shook and jarred with so unequal, grating a motion, that one could not but with great difficulty keep one’s hold of any thing, nor stand a moment without it. Every ten minutes came a shock against the stern or side of the ship, which one would think should dash the planks in pieces. At this time a child, privately baptized before, was brought to be received into the church. It put me in mind of Jeremiah’s buying the field, when the Chaldeans were on the point of destroying Jerusalem, and seemed a pledge of the mercy God designed to show us, even in the land of the living.

We spent two or three hours after prayers, in conversing suitably to the occasion, confirming one another in a calm submission to the wise, holy, gracious will of God. And now a storm did not appear so terrible as before. Blessed be the God of all consolation! At seven I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behavior. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired, and would receive no pay, saying, “it was good for their proud hearts,” and “their loving Savior had done more for them.” And everyday had given them occasion of showing a meekness which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck, or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger, and revenge.

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 between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English; The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Was you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.” From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbors, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.

Mon. 26. — We enjoyed the calm. I can conceive no difference comparable to that between a smooth and a rough sea, except that which is between a mind calmed by the love of God, and one torn up by the storms of earthly passions ...

Sat. 7. — Mr. Oglethorpe returned from Savannah with Mr. Spangenberg, one of the Pastors of the Germans. I soon found what spirit he was of; and asked his advice with regard to my own conduct. He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God? “I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused, and said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.” “True,” replied he; “but do you know he has saved you?” I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” but I fear they were vain words ...

Mon. 26. My brother and I set out for Charlestown, in order to his embarking for England; but the wind being contrary, we did not reach Port-Royal, forty miles from Savannah, till Wednesday evening. The next morning we left it. But the wind was so high in the afternoon, as we were crossing the neck of St. Helena’s sound, that our oldest sailor cried out, “Now every one must take care for himself.” I told him, “God would take care for us all.” Almost as soon as the words were spoken, the mast fell. I kept on the edge of the boat, to be clear of her when she sunk, (which we expected every moment,) though with little prospect of swimming ashore, against such a wind and sea. But, “How is it that thou hadst no faith?” The moment the mast fell, two men caught it, and pulled it into the boat; the other three rowed with all their might, and “God gave command to the wind and seas;” so that in an hour we were safe on land ...

Sun. 8. — 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 rightlybelieved 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; 12 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. “4. By steadiness, seriousness, x 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.”

This morning, after explaining these words of St. Paul, “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God,” I exhorted my fellow-travelers with all my might, to comply with the apostle’s direction. But “leaving them afterwards to themselves,” the seriousness they showed at first soon vanished away.

On Monday, 9, and the following days, I reflected much on that vain desire, which had pursued me for so many years, of being in solitude, in order to be a Christian. I have now, thought I, solitude enough. But am I, therefore, the nearer being a Christian? Not if Jesus Christ be the model of Christianity. I doubt, indeed, I am much nearer that mystery of Satan, which some writers affect to call by that name. So near, that I had probably sunk wholly into it, had not the great mercy of God just now thrown me upon reading St. Cyprian’s works. “O my soul come not thou into their secret!” Stand thou in the good old paths.

Fri. 13. — We had a thorough storm, which obliged us to but all close; the sea breaking over the ship continually. I was at first afraid; but cried to God, and was strengthened. Before ten, I lay down: I bless God, without fear. About midnight we were awakened by a contused noise of seas and wind and men’s voices, the like to which I had never heard before. The sound of the sea breaking, over and against the sides of the ship, I could compare to nothing but large cannon, or America thunder. The rebounding, starting, quivering motion of the ship much resembled what is said of earthquakes. The Captain was upon deck in an instant. But his men could not hear what he said. It blew a proper hurricane; which beginning at southwest, then went west, northwest, north, and, in a quarter of an hour, round by the east to the southwest point again. At the same time the sea running (as they term it) mountain-high, and that from many different points at once, the ship would not obey the helm; nor indeed could the steersman, through the violent rain, see the compass. So he was forced to let her run before the wind, and in half an hour the stress of the storm was over.

About noon the next day it ceased. But first I had resolved, God being my helper, not only to preach it to all, but to apply the word of God to every single soul in the ship; and if but one, yea, if not one of them will hear, I know “my labor is not in vain.” I no sooner executed this resolution, than my spirit revived; so that from this, day I had no more of that fearfulness and heaviness, which before almost continually weighed me down. I am sensible one who thinks the being in orco, as they phrase it, an indispensable preparative for being a Christian, would say, I had better have continued in that state; and that this unseasonable relief was a curse, not a blessing. Nay, but who art thou, O man, who, in favor of a wretched hypothesis, thus blasphemest the good gift of God? Hath not He himself said, “This also is the gift of God, if a man have power to rejoice in his labor?” Yea, God setteth His own seal to his weak endeavors, while He thus “answereth him in the joy of his heart.”

Tues. 24. — We spoke with two ships, outward-bound, from whom we had the welcome news, of our wanting but one hundred and sixty leagues of the Land’s-end. My mind was now full of thought; part of which I writ down as follows: —“I went to America, to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near: But let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘To die is gain!’ I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun My last thread, I shall perish on the shore! “I think, verily, if the Gospel be true, I am safe: For I not only have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor; I not only give my body to be burned, drowned, or whatever God shall appoint for me; but I follow after charity, (though not as I ought, yet as I can,) if haply I may attain it. I now believe the Gospel is true. ‘I show my faith by my works,’ by staking my all upon it. I would do so again and again a thousand times, if the choice were still to make. Whoever sees me, sees I would be a Christian. Therefore ‘are my ways not like other men’s ways.’ Therefore I have been, I am, I am content to be, ‘a by-word, a proverb of reproach.’ But in a storm I think, ‘What if the Gospel be not true? Then thou art of all men most foolish. For what hast thou given thy goods, thy ease, thy friends, thy reputation, thy country, thy life? For what art thou wandering over the face of the earth?’ — A dream, ‘a cunningly-devised fable!’ O! Who will deliver me from this fear of death? What shall I do? Where shall I flee from it? Should I fight against it by thinking, or by not thinking of it?

A wise man advised me some time since, ‘Be still, and go on.’ Perhaps this is best, to look upon it as my cross; when it comes, to let it humble me, and quicken all my good resolutions, especially that of praying without ceasing; and at other times, to take no thought about it, but quietly to go on ‘in the work of the Lord.’” ...

It is now two years and almost four months since I left my native country, in order to teach the Georgian Indians the nature of Christianity: But what have I learned myself in the mean time? Why, (what I the least of all suspected,) that I who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God. “I am not mad,” though I thus speak; but “I speak the words of truth and soberness;” if haply some of those who still dream may awake, and see, that as I am, so are they. Are they read in philosophy? So was I. In ancient or modern tongues? So was I also. Are they versed in the science of divinity? I too have studied it many years. Can they talk fluently upon spiritual things? The very same could I do. Are they plenteous in alms? Behold, I gave all my goods to feed the poor. Do they give of their labor as well as of their substance? I have labored more abundantly than they all. Are they willing to suffer for their brethren? I have thrown up my friends, reputation, ease, country; I have put my life in my hand, wandering into strange lands; I have given my body to be devoured by the deep, parched up with heat, consumed by toil and weariness, or whatsoever God should please to bring upon me.

But does all this (be it more or less, it matters not) make me acceptable to God? Does all I ever did or can know, say, give, do, or suffer, justify me in his sight? Yea, or the constant use of all the means of grace? (Which, nevertheless, is meet, right, and our bounden duty.) Or that I know nothing of myself; that I am, as touching outward, moral righteousness blameless? Or (to come closer yet) the having a rational conviction of all the truths of Christianity? Does all this give me a claim to the holy, heavenly, divine character of a Christian? By no means. If the Oracles of God are true, if we are still to abide by “the law and the testimony;” all these things, though, when ennobled by faith in Christ, 15 they are holy and just and good, yet without it are “dung and dross,” meet only to be purged away by “the fire that never shall be quenched.”

This, then, have I learned in the ends of the earth — That I “am fallen short of the glory of God:” That my whole heart is “altogether corrupt and abominable;” and, consequently, my whole life; (seeing it cannot be, that an “evil tree” should “bring forth good fruit:”) That “alienated” as I am from the life of God,” I am “a child of wrath”, 16 an heir of hell: That my own works, my own sufferings, my own righteousness, are so far from reconciling me to an offended God, so far from making any atonement for the least of those sins, which “are more in number than the hairs of my head,” that the most specious of them need an atonement themselves, or they cannot abide his righteous Judgment; that “having the sentence of death” in my heart, and having nothing in or of myself to plead, I have no hope, but that of being justified freely, “through the redemption that is in Jesus:” I have no hope, but that if I seek I shall find Christ, and “be found in him not having my own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9.)

If it be said, that I have faith, (for many such things have I heard, from many miserable comforters,) I answer, So have the devils, — a sort of faith; but still they are strangers to the covenant of promise. So the apostles had even at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus first “manifested forth his glory;” even then they, in a sort, “believed on him;” but they had not then “the faith that overcometh the world.” The faith I want is, “a sure trust and confidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, my sins are forgiven, and I reconciled to the favor of God.” I want that faith which St. Paul recommends to all the world, especially in his Epistle to the Romans: That faith which enables every one that hath it to cry out, “I live not; but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I want that faith which none can have without knowing that he hath it; (though many imagine they have it, who have it not;) for whosoever hath it, is “freed from sin, the” whole “body of sin is destroyed” in him: He is freed from fear, “having, peace with God through Christ, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.”And he is freed from doubt, “having the love of God shed abroad in his heart, through the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;” which “Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God.” ...

FROM FEBRUARY 1, 1737-8, TO HIS RETURN FROM GERMANY.

... Sat. 4. — I found my brother at Oxford, recovering from his pleurisy; and with him Peter Bohler; by whom (in the hand of the great God) I was, on Sunday, the 5th, clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved. Immediately it struck into my mind, “Leave of preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?” I asked Bohler, whether he thought I should leave it is or not. He answered, “By no mean.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”

Accordingly, Monday, 6, I began preaching this new doctrine, though my soul started back from the work. The first person to whom I offered salvation by faith alone, was a prisoner under sentence of death. His name was Clifford. Peter Bohler had many times desired me to speak to him before. But I could not prevail on myself so to do; being still (as I had been many years) a zealous assertor of the impossibility of a death-bed repentance ...

Thur. 23. I met Peter Bohler again who now amazed me more and more, by the account he gave of the fruits of living faith, — the holiness and happiness which he affirmed to attend it. The next morning I began the Greek Testament again, resolving to abide by “the law and the testimony;” and being confident, that God would hereby show me, whether this doctrine was of God ...

Sat. 22. — I met Peter Bohler once more. I had now no objection to what he said of the nature of faith; namely, that it is (to use the words of our Church) “a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favor of God.” Neither could I deny either the happiness or holiness which he described, as fruits of this living faith. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God:” And, “He that believeth hath the witness in himself,” fully convinced me of the former: As, “Whatsoever is born of God, doth not commit sin;” and, “whosoever believeth is born of God,” did of the latter. 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. I had but one retreat left; namely, “Thus, I grant, God wrought in the first ages of Christianity; but the times are changed. What reason have I to believe he works in the same manner now?”

But on Sunday, 23, I was beat out of this retreat too, by the concurring evidence of several living witnesses; who testified, God had thus wrought in themselves; giving them in a moment such a faith in the blood of his Son, as translated them out of darkness into light, out of sin and fear into holiness and happiness. Here ended my disputing. I could now only cry out, “Lord, help thou my unbelief!”

I asked P. Bohler again, whether I ought not to refrain from teaching others. He said, “No; do not hide in the earth the talent God hath given you.” Accordingly, on Tuesday, 25, I spoke clearly and fully at Blendon to Mr. Delamotte’s family, of the nature and fruits of faith. Mr. Broughton and my brother were there. Mr. Broughton’s great objection was, he could never think that I had not faith, who had done and suffered such things. My brother was very angry, and told me I did not know what mischief I had done by talking thus. And, indeed, it did please God then to kindle a fire, which I trust shall never be extinguished.

On Wednesday, 26, the day fixed for my return to Oxford, I once more waited on the Trustees for Georgia: But, being straitened for time, was obliged to leave the papers for them, which I had designed to give into their own hands. One of these was the instrument whereby they had appointed me Minister of Savannah; which, having no more place in those parts, I thought it not right to keep any longer. P. Bohler walked with me a few miles, and exhorted me not to stop short of the grace of God. At Gerard’s Cross I plainly declared to those whom God gave into my hands, the faith as it is in Jesus: As I did next day to a young man I overtook on the road, and in the evening to our friends at Oxford. A strange doctrine, which some, who did not care to contradict, yet knew not what to make of; but one or two, who were thoroughly bruised by sin, willingly heard, and received it gladly.

In the day or two following, I was much confirmed in the “truth that is after godliness,” by hearing the experiences of Mr. Hutchins, of Pembroke College, and Mrs. Fox: Two living witnesses that God can (at least, if he does not always) give that faith whereof cometh salvation in a moment, as lightning falling from heaven.

Mon. MAY 1. — The return of my brother’s illness obliged me again to hasten to London. In the evening I found him at James Hutton’s, better as to his health than I expected; but strongly averse from what he called “the new faith.” This evening our little society began, which afterwards met in Fetter-Lane.

Our fundamental rules were as follow: —IN obedience to the command of God by St. James, and by the advice of Peter Bohler, it is agreed by us,

1. That we will meet together once a week to “confess our faults one to another, and pray one for another, that we may be healed.”

2. That the persons so meeting be divided into several bands, or little companies, none of them consisting of fewer than five, or more than ten persons.

3. That every one in order speak as freely, plainly, and concisely as he can, the real state of his heart, with his several temptations and deliverances, since the last time of meeting.

4. That all the bands have a conference at eight every Wednesday evening, begun and ended with singing and prayer.

5. That any who desire to be admitted into this society be asked, “What are your reasons for desiring this? Will you be entirely open; using no kind of reserve? Have you any objection to any of our orders?” (which may then be read.)

6. That when any new member is proposed, every one present speak clearly and freely whatever objection he has to him.

7. That those against whom no reasonable objection appears, be, in order for their trial, formed into one or more distinct bands, and some person agreed on to assist them.

8. That after two months’ trial, if no objection then appears, they may be admitted into the society.

9. That every fourth Saturday be observed as a day of general intercession.

10. That on the Sunday seven-night following be a general love-feast, from seven till ten in the evening.

11. That no particular member be allowed to act in any thing contrary to any order of the society: And that if any persons, after being thrice admonished, do not conform thereto, they be not any longer esteemed as members.

Wed. 3. — My brother had a long and particular conversation with Peter Bohler. And it now pleased God to open his eyes; so that he also saw clearly what was the nature of that one true living faith, whereby alone, “through grace, we are saved.”

Thur. 4. — Peter Bohler left London, in order to embark for Carolina. O what a work hath God begun, since his coming into England! Such an one as shall never come to an end, till heaven and earth pass away ...

Wed. 10. — Mr. Stonehouse, Vicar of Islington, was convinced of “the truth as it is in Jesus.” From this time till Saturday, I was sorrowful and very heavy; being neither able to read, nor meditate, nor sing, nor pray, nor do any thing. Yet I was a little refreshed by Peter Bohler’s letter, which I insert in his own words: —

CHARISSIME ET SUAVISSIME FRATER,

INTENTISSIMO amore te diligo, multum tui recordans in itinere meo, optando et precando ut quamprimium viscera misericordiae crucifixi Jesu Christi, tui gratia jam ante sex mille annos commota, menti tuae appareant: Ut gustare et tunc videre possis, quam vehementer te Filius Dei amaverit et hucusque amet, et ut sic confidere possis in eo omni tempore, vitamque ejus in te et in carne tua sentire. Cave tibi a peccato incredulitatis, et si nondum vicisti illud, fac ut proximo die illud vincas, per sanguinem Jesu Christi. Ne differ, quaeso, credere tuum in Jesum Christum; sed potius promissionum ejus quae pertinent ad miserandos peccatores, coram facie ejus benigna sic mentionem fac, ut non aliter possit quam praestare tibi, quod multis aliis praestitit. O quam multus, quam magnus, quam ineffabilis, quam inexhaustus, est illius amor! Ille certe jamjam paratus est ad auxilium; et nihil potest illum offendere nisi incredulitas nostra. Crede igitur. Fratrem tuum Carolum et Hall nomine meo saluta multum; et admonete vos invicem ad credendum, et tunc ad ambulandum coram facie Domini akribwv et ad pugnandum contra diabolum et mundum nomimwv, et ad crucifigendum et conculcandum peccatum omne sub pedibus nostris, quantum nobis datum est per gratiam secundi Adami, cujus sita excedit mortem prioris Adami, et cujus gratia antecellit corruptionem et damnationem prioris Adami. Dominus tibi benedicat. Permane in fide, amore, doctrina, communion sanctorum; et breviter, in omni quod habemus in Novo Foedere. Ego sum et maneo, Tuus indignus Frater,

PETRUS BOHLER, In agris Southaptonianis, Die 8vo Maii, 1738.

“I LOVE you greatly, and think much of you in my journey, wishing and praying that the tender mercies of Jesus Christ the Crucified, whose bowels were moved towards you more than six thousand years ago, may be manifested to your soul: That you may taste and then see, how exceedingly the Son of God has loved you, and loves you still; and that so you may continually trust in Him, and feel his life in yourself. Beware of the sin of unbelief; and if you have not conquered it yet, see that you conquer it this very day, through the blood of Jesus Christ. Delay not, I beseech you, to believe in your Jesus Christ; but so put Him in mind of his promises to poor sinners, that He may not be able to refrain from doing for you, what He hath done for so many others. O how great, how inexpressible, how unexhausted is his love! Surely he is now ready to help; and nothing can offend Him but our unbelief. “Believe, therefore. Greet in my name your brother Charles and Hall; and admonish one another to believe, and thee to walk circumspectly in the sight of God, to fight lawfully against the devil and the world, and to crucify and to tread all sin under your feet, as far as you are permitted through the grace of the Second Adam, whose life exceeds the death of the first Adam, and whose grace far surpasses the corruption and damnation of the first Adam.” — EDIT.]

“The Lord bless you! Abide in faith, love, teaching, the communion of saints; and briefly, in all which we have in the New Testament. I am, “Your unworthy Brother, “PETER BOHLER

Sun. 14. — I preached in the morning at St. Ann’s, Aldersgate; and in the afternoon at the Savoy chapel, free salvation by faith in the blood of Christ. I was quickly apprised, that at St. Ann’s, likewise, I am to preach no more. So true did I find the words of a friend, wrote to my brother about this time: —“I have seen upon this occasion, more than ever I could have imagined, how intolerable the doctrine of faith is to the mind of man; and how peculiarly intolerable to religious men. One may say the most unchristian things, even down to Deism; the most enthusiastic things, so they proceed but upon mental raptures, lights, and unions; the most severe things, even the whole rigor of ascetic mortification; and all this will be forgiven. But if you speak of faith in such a manner as makes Christ a Savior to the utmost, a most universal help and refuge; — in such a manner as takes away glorying, but adds happiness to wretched man; — as discovers a greater pollution in the best of us than we could before acknowledge, but brings a greater deliverance from it than we could before expect: If any one offers to talk at this rate, he shall be heard with the same abhorrence as if he was goring to rob mankind of their salvation, their Mediator, or their hopes of forgiveness. I am persuaded that a Mortanist or a Novatian, who from the height of his purity should look down with contempt upon poor sinners, and exclude them from all mercy, would not be thought such an overthrower of the Gospel, as he who should learn, from the Author of it, to be a friend of publicans and sinners, and to sit down upon the level with them, as soon as they begin to repent.

“But this is not to be wondered at. For all religious people have such a quantity of righteousness, acquired by much painful exercise, and formed at last into current habits; which is their wealth, both for this world and the next. Now all other schemes of religion are either so complaisant as to tell them they are very rich, and have enough to triumph in; or else only a little rough, but friendly in the main, by telling them their riches are not yet sufficient, but by such arts of self-denial and mental refinement they may enlarge the stock. But the doctrine of faith is a downright robber. It takes away all this wealth, and only tells us it is deposited for us with somebody else, upon whose bounty we must live like mere beggars. Indeed, they that are truly beggars, vile and filthy sinners till very lately, may stoop to live in this dependent condition: It suits them well enough. But they who have long distinguished themselves from the herd of vicious wretches, or have even gone beyond moral men; for them to be told that they are either not so well, or but the same needy, impotent, insignificant vessels of mercy with the others: This is more shocking to reason than transubstantiation. For reason had rather resign its pretensions to judge what is bread or flesh, than have this honor wrested from it — to be the architect of virtue and righteousness. — But where am I running? My design was only to give you warning, that wherever you go, this ‘foolishness of preaching’ will alienate hearts from you, and open mouths against you.” ...

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! 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, 24, 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 endeavour 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, Ta megista hmin kai timia epaggelmata dedwrhtai, ina genhsqe qeiav koinwnoi fusewv. “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 counselsof 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. Thur. 25. — 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.

Fri. 26. — 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.”

Sat. 27. — 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.

Sun. 28. — 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 ...

Mon. 29. — 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.”

Yet on Wednesday did I grieve the Spirit of God, not only by not watching unto prayer, but likewise by speaking with sharpness instead of tender love, of one that was not sound in the faith. Immediately God hid his face, and I was troubled; and in this heaviness I continued till the next morning,

June 1: When it pleased God, while I was exhorting another, to give comfort to my soul, and (after I had spent some time in prayer) to direct me to those gracious words, “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” ...

Tues. 6. — I had still more comfort, and peace, and joy; on which I fear I began to presume: For in the evening I received a letter from Oxford which threw me into much perplexity. It was asserted therein, “That no doubting could consist with the least degree of true faith: That whoever at any time felt any doubt or fear, was not weak in faith, but had no faith at all: And that none hath any faith, till the law of the Spirit of life has made him wholly free from the law of sin and death.”

Begging of God to direct me, I opened my Testament on 1 Corinthians 3:1, etc., where St. Paul speaks of those whom he terms “babes in Christ,” who were “not able to bear strong meat,” nay (in a sense) “carnal;” to whom nevertheless he says, “Ye are God’s building, ye are the temple of God.” Surely then these men had some degree of faith; though, it is plain, their faith was but weak. After some hours spent in the Scripture and prayer, I was much comforted. Yet I felt a kind of soreness in my heart, so that I found my wound was not fully healed. O God, save thou me, and all that are “weak in the faith,” from “doubtful disputations!”

Wed. 7. — I determined, if God should permit, to retire for a short time into Germany. I had fully proposed, before I left Georgia, so to do, if it should please God to bring me back to Europe. And I now clearly saw the time was come ...

Sun. 9. — The Count preached in the old castle at Runneberg, (about three English miles from Marienborne,) where is also a small company of those who seek the Lord Jesus in sincerity. Wednesday, 12, was one of the conferences for strangers; where one of Frankfort proposing the question, — Can a man be justified, and not know it? the Count spoke largely and scripturally upon it, to this effect: —l. Justification is the forgiveness of sins. 2. The moment a man flies to Christ he is justified; 3. And has peace with God; but not always joy: 4. Nor perhaps may he know he is justified, till long after. 5. For the assurance of it is distinct from justification itself. 6. But others may know he is justified by his power over sin, by his seriousness, his love of the brethren, and his “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” which alone prove the spiritual life to be begun. 7. To be justified is the same thing, as to be born of God. (Not so.) 8. When a man is awakened, he is begotten of God, and his fear and sorrow, and sense of the wrath of God, are the pangs of the new birth.

I then recollected what Peter Bohler had often said upon this head, which was to this effect: —1 When a man has living faith in Christ, then is he justified: 2. This is always given in a moment; 3. And in that moment he has peace with God; 4 Which he cannot have without knowing that he has it: 5. And being born of God, he sinneth not: 6. Which deliverance from sin he cannot have without knowing that he has it ...

Several evenings this week I was with one or other of the private bands. On Wednesday and Thursday I had an opportunity of talking with Michael Linner, the eldest of the church, and largely with Christian David, who, under God, was the first planter of it. Four times also I enjoyed the blessing of hearing him preach, during the few days I spent here; and every time he chose the very subject which I should have desired, had I spoken to him before. Thrice he described the state of those who are “weak in faith,” who are justified, but have not yet a new, clean heart; who have received forgiveness through the blood of Christ, but have not received the constant indwelling of the Holy Ghost. This state he explained once from, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” when he showed at large, from various Scriptures, that many are children of God and heirs of the promises, long before their hearts are softened by holy “mourning;” before they are comforted by the abiding witness of the Spirit, melting their souls into all gentleness and “meekness;” and much more, before they are renewed in all that “righteousness” which they “hungered and thirsted after;” before they are “pure in heart,” from all self-will and sin; and “merciful,” as their “Father which is in heaven is merciful.”

A second time he pointed out this state from those words, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, Jesus Christ our Lord. There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Hence also he at large both proved the existence, and showed the nature, of that intermediate state, which most experience between that bondage which is described in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and the full glorious liberty of the children of God described in the eighth, and in many other parts of Scripture. This he yet again explained from the Scriptures which describe the state the Apostles were in, from our Lord’s death (and indeed for some time before) till the descent of the Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost. They were then “clean,” as Christ himself had born them witness, “by the word which He had spoken unto them.” They then had faith, otherwise He could not have prayed for them, that their “faith” might not “fail.” Yet they had not, in the full sense, “new hearts;” neither had they received “the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The fourth sermon which he preached, concerning the ground of faith, made such an impression upon me, that, when I went home, I could not but write down the substance of it, which was as follows: — “The word of reconciliation which the Apostles preached, as the foundation of all they taught, was, that we are reconciled to God, not by our own works, nor by our own righteousness, but wholly and solely by the blood of Christ. “But you will say, ‘Must I not grieve and mourn for my sins? Must I not humble myself before God? Is not this just and right? And must I not first do this, before I can expect God to be reconciled to me?’ I answer, It is just and right. You must be humbled before God. You must have a broken and contrite heart. But then observe, this is not your own work. Do you grieve that you are a sinner? This is the work of the Holy Ghost. Are you contrite? Are you humbled before God? Do you indeed mourn, and is your heart broken within you? All this worketh the self-same Spirit.

“Observe again, this is not the foundation. It is not this by which you are justified. This is not the righteousness, this is no part of the righteousness, by which you are reconciled unto God. You grieve for your sins. You are deeply humble. Your heart is broken. Well; but all this is nothing to your justification. The remission of your sins is not owing to this cause, either in whole or in part. Your humiliation and contrition have no influence on that. Nay, observe farther, that it may hinder your justification; that is, if you build any thing upon it; if you think, ‘I must be so or so contrite. I must grieve more, before I can be justified.’ Understand this well. To think you must be more contrite, more humble, more grieved, more sensible of the weight of sin, before you can be justified, is to lay your contrition, your grief, your humiliation, for the foundation of your being justified; at least, for a part of the foundation. Therefore it hinders our justification; and a hindrance it is which must be removed before you can lay the right foundation.

The right foundation is, not your contrition, (though that is not your own,) not your righteousness; nothing of your own; nothing that is wrought in you by the Holy Ghost; but it is something without you, viz.,the righteousness and the blood of Christ. “For this is the word, ‘To him that believeth on God that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ See ye not, that the foundation is nothing in us? There is no connection between God and the ungodly. There is no tie to unite them. They are altogether separate from each other. They have nothing in common. There is nothing less or more in the ungodly, to join them to God. Works, righteousness, contrition? No; ungodliness only. This then do, if you will lay a right foundation. Go straight to Christ with all your ungodliness. Tell him, ‘Thou, whose eyes are as a flame of fire searching my heart, seest that I am unholy. I plead nothing else. I do not say, I am humble or contrite; but I am ungodly.

Therefore bring me to Him that justifieth the ungodly. Let thy blood be the propitiation for me. For there is nothing in me but ungodliness.’ “Here is a mystery. Here the wise men of the world are lost, are taken in their own craftiness. This the learned of the world cannot comprehend. It is foolishness unto them: Sin is the only thing which divides men from God. Sin (let him that heareth understand) is the only thing which unites them to God; that is, the only thing which moves the Lamb of God to have compassion upon, and, by his blood, to give them access to the Father. “This is the ‘word of reconciliation’ which we preach. This is the foundation which never can he moved. By faith we are built upon this foundation; and this faith also is the gift of God. It is his free gift, which He now and ever giveth to every one that is willing to receive it. And when they have received this gift of God, then their hearts will melt for sorrow that they have offended Him.

But this gift of God lives in the heart, not in the head. The faith of the head, learned from men or books, is nothing worth. It brings neither remission of sins, nor peace with God. Labor then to believe with your whole heart. So shall you have redemption through the blood of Christ. So shall you be cleansed from all sin. So shall ye go on from strength to strength being renewed day by day in righteousness and all true holiness.” ...

 

“‘AN EXTRACT OF A LETTER WROTE BY THE CHURCH OF HERNHUTH, TO THE PRESIDENT OF UPPER LUSATIA, JAN. 24, 1732 ...

“Observing this terrible abuse of preaching Christ given for us, we began to insist more than ever on Christ living in us. All our exhortations and preaching turned on this: We spoke, we writ, of nothing else. Our constant inquiries were, —’Is Christ formed in you? Have you a new heart? Is your soul renewed in the image of God? Is the whole body of sin destroyed in you? Are you fully assured, beyond all doubt or fear, that you are a child of God? In what manner, and at what moment, did you receive that full assurance?’ If a man could not answer all these questions, we judged he had no true faith. Nor would we permit any to receive the Lord’s Supper among us till he could.

“In this persuasion we were, when I went to Greenland, five years ago. There I had a correspondence by letter with a Danish Minister on the head of justification. And it pleased God to show me by him, (though he was by no means a holy man, but openly guilty of gross sins,) that we had now leaned too much to this hand, and were run into another extreme: That Christ in us, and Christ for he, ought, indeed, to be both insisted on; but first and principally Christ for us, as being the ground of all. I now clearly saw, we ought not to insist on any thing we feel any more than any thing we do, as if it were necessary previous to justification, or the remission of sins. I saw that least of all ought we so to insist on the full assurance of faith, or the destruction of the body of sin, and the extinction of all its motions, as to exclude those who had not attained this from the Lord’s table, or to deny that they had any faith at all. I plainly perceived, this full assurance was a distinct gift from justifying faith, and often not given till long after it; and that justification does not imply that sin should not stir in us, but only that it should not conquer.

“And now first it was that I had that full assurance of my own reconciliation to God, through Christ. For many years I had had the forgiveness of my sins, and a measure of the peace of God; but I had not till now that witness of his Spirit, which shuts out all doubt and fear. In all my trials I had always a confidence in Christ, who had done so great things for me. But it was a confidence mixed with fear: I was afraid I had not done enough. There was always something dark in my soul till now. But now the clear light shined; and I saw that what I had hitherto so constantly insisted on, — the doing so much and feeling so much, the long repentance and preparation for believing, the bitter sorrow for sin, and that deep contrition of heart which is found in some, — were by no means essential to justification. Yea, that wherever the free grace of God is rightly preached, a sinner in the full career of his sins will probably receive it, and be justified by it, before one who insists on such previous preparation ...

Some of the circumstances of this uncommon relation were made more clear to me by the account I received in the afternoon from a student at Hernhuth, ALBINUS THEODORUS FEDER: — “I,” said he, “for three years fought against sin with all my might, by fasting and prayer, and all the other means of grace. But notwithstanding all my endeavors, I gained no ground; sin still prevailed over me; till at last, not knowing what to do farther, I was on the very brink of despair. Then it was, that, having no other refuge left, I fled to my Savior as one lost and undone, and that had no hope but in His power and free mercy. In that moment I found my heart at rest, in good hope that my sins were forgiven; of which I had a stronger assurance six weeks after, when I received the Lord’s Supper here. But I dare not affirm, I am a child of God; neither have I the seal of the Spirit. Yet I go on quietly doing my Savior’s will, taking shelter in his wounds, from all trouble and sin, and knowing He will perfect his work in his own time.

“Martin Döber, when I described my state to him, said he had known very many believers who, if he asked the question, would not have dared to affirm, that they were the children of God. And he added, ‘It is very common for persons to receive remission of sins, or justification through faith in the blood of Christ, before they receive the full assurance of faith; which God many times withholds, till he has tried whether they will work together with him in the use of the first gift. Nor is there any need (continued he, Döber) to incite any one to seek that assurance by telling him, the faith he has is nothing. This will be more likely to drive him to despair, than to encourage him to press forward. His single business, who has received the first gift, is, credendo credere, et in credendo perseverare: (To believe on, and to hold fast that whereunto he hath attained:) To go on, doing his Lord’s will, according to the ability God hath already given; cheerfully and faithfully to use what he has received, without solicitude for the rest.’”

In the conversation I afterwards had with Augustine Neusser, a knife-smith, (another of the Pastors or Teachers of the Church, about sixty years of age,) as also with his brothers, Wensel and Hantz Neusser, the nature of true faith and salvation was yet farther explained to me.

AUGUSTINE NEUSSER spoke to this effect: — “By experience I know, that we cannot be justified through the blood of Christ, till we feel that all our righteousness and good works avail nothing towards our justification. Therefore, what men call a good life, is frequently the greatest of all hindrances to their coming to Christ. For it will not let them see that they are lost, undone sinners; and if they see not this, they cannot come unto Him.

“Thus it was with me. I led a good life from a child: And this was the great hindrance to my coming to Christ. For, abounding in good works, and diligently using all the means of grace, I persuaded myself for thirteen or fourteen years, that all was well, and I could not fail of salvation. And yet, I cannot say my soul was at rest, even till the time when God showed me clearly, that my heart was as corrupt, notwithstanding all my good works, as that of an adulterer or murderer. Then my self-dependence withered away. I wanted a Savior, and fled naked to Him. And in Him I found true rest to my soul; being fully assured that all my sins were forgiven. Yet I cannot tell the hour or day when I first received that full assurance. For it was not given me at first, neither at once; but grew up in me by degrees. But from the time it was confirmed in me, I never lost it; having never since doubted, no, not for a moment.”

What WENSEL NEUSSER said was as follows: — “From a child I had many fits of seriousness, and was often uneasy at my sins: This uneasiness was much increased about fifteen years since by the preaching of Christian David. I thought the way to get ease was, to go and live among the Lutherans, whom I supposed to be all good Christians. But I soon found they, as well as the Papists, were carnal, worldly minded men, About thirteen years ago I came from among them to Hernhuth; but was still as uneasy as before: Which I do not wonder at now; (though I did then;) for all this time, though I saw clearly I could not be saved but by the death of Christ, yet I did not trust in that only for salvation; but depended on my own righteousness also, as the joint condition of my acceptance. “After I was settled here, seeing the great diversity of sects wherewith we were surrounded, I began to doubt whether any religion was true. For half a year these doubts perplexed me greatly; and I was often just on the point of casting off all religion, and returning to the world. ‘The fear of doing this threw me into a deeper concern than ever I had been in before. Nor could I find how to escape; for the more I struggled, the more I was entangled. I often reflected on my former course of life, as more desirable than this:

And one day, in the bitterness of my soul, besought our blessed Savior at least to restore me to that state which I was in before I left Moravia. In that moment He manifested himself to me, so that I could lay hold on him as any Savior, and showed me, it is only the blood of Christ which cleanseth us from all sin. This was ten years since; and from that hour I have not had one doubt of my acceptance. Yet I have not any transports of joy: Nor had I when He thus revealed himself unto me: Only I well remember, that manifestation of himself was like a cool, refreshing wind, to one that is fainting away with sultry heat. And ever since my soul has been sweetly at rest, desiring no other portion in earth or heaven.”

“I was awakened,” said HANTZ NEUSSER, “by my grandfather, when a child, and by him carefully instructed in the New Testament. I married young; and being from that time weak and sickly, was the more earnest to work out my salvation; and nineteen or twenty years ago, I had a strong confidence in our Savior, and was continually warning others against trusting in themselves, in their own righteousness or good works. Yet I was not free from it myself. I did not trust in Him only for acceptance with God. And hence it was, that not building on the right foundation, the blood and righteousness of Christ alone, I could not gain a full victory over my sins, but sometimes conquered them, and sometimes was conquered by them. And therefore I had not a full or constant peace, though I was commonly easy and hoping for mercy.

Sixteen years ago (on Saturday next) I came to my brother Augustine at Hernhuth. There was then only one little house here. Here I continued eight years in much the same state, thinking I trusted in Christ alone; but indeed trusting partly in his, and partly in my own righteousness. I was walking one day in this little wood, when God discovered my heart to me. I saw I had till that hour trusted in my own righteousness, and, at the same time, that I had no righteousness at all; being altogether corrupt and abominable, and fit only for the fire of hell. At this sight I fell into bitter grief, and a horrible dread overwhelmed me; expecting nothing (as I saw I deserved nothing else) but to be swallowed up in a moment. In that moment I beholden the Lamb of God, taking away my sins. And from that time I have had redemption through his blood, and full assurance of it. I have that peace in Him which never fails, and which admits of no doubt or fear. Indeed I am but a little one in Christ; therefore I can receive as yet but little of Him. But from his fullness I have enough; and I praise Him, and am satisfied.” ...

 

JOURNAL, FROM AUGUST 12, 1738, TO NOVEMBER 1, 1739 ...

 

Sat. 30. — One who had been a zealous opposer of “this way,” sent and desired to speak with me immediately. He had all the signs of settled despair, both in his countenance and behavior. He said, he had been enslaved to sin many years, especially to drunkenness; that he had long used all the means of grace, had constantly gone to church and sacrament, had read the Scripture, and used much private prayer, and yet was nothing profited. I desired we might join in prayer. After a short space he rose, and his countenance was no longer sad. He said, “Now I know God loveth me, and has forgiven my sins. And sin shall not have dominion over me; for Christ hath set me free.” And according to his faith it was unto him ...