Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 15 December 2013 (#229)

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

 

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing[1]the Christmas hymn – (some would say the greatest Christmas hymn of all time) – was written by Charles Wesley in 1739. On the same day as he put together the words for this hymn, Charles Wesley composed two more hymns and [among those that love hymns] both are absolute classics today: 1) O For a Thousand Tongues [expressing rapturous worship], and 2) Christ the Lord Is Risen Today [celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead].

What came over Charles Wesley to have such a brilliant day for hymn writing? What inspires a man to pour out words about God which stand the test of centuries? I give you a few samples from these hymns and just listen to the emotions of exuberance and joy which exalt a most wonderful God.

 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing[2]

 

Hark! the herald angels sing / Glory to the newborn King … God and sinners reconciled: / Joyful all ye nations rise, / Join the triumph of the skies … Christ is born in Bethlehem …

Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings … Born that man no more may die, / Born to raise the sons of earth, / Born to give them second birth: Hark! The herald angels sing / Glory to the newborn King.

 

 

Slide 1

 

O For a Thousand Tongues[3]

 

Glory to God, and praise and love / Be ever, ever given …

On this glad day the glorious Sun / Of Righteousness arose; / on my benighted soul he shone / and filled it with repose. / Sudden expired the legal strife, / ’twas then I ceased to grieve; / My second, real, living life / I then began to live.

Then with my heart I first believed, / Believed with faith divine, / Power with the Holy Ghost received / to call the Saviour mine. / I felt my Lord’s atoning blood / Close to my soul applied; / me, me he loved, the Son of God, / for me, for me he died! …

O for a thousand tongues to sing / my dear Redeemer’s praise! / The glories of my God and King, / The triumphs of his grace …

 

 

Slide 2

 

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today[4]

 

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! / Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! / Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! / Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

 

What possessed Charles Wesley to have such triumph in his heart that such words tumble out of him and how come that we – Christians throughout centuries – sing them? What is this? There are clues in the samples that I gave you. What was special about the day that Charles Wesley wrote all three hymns – one after the other in gratitude and joy and love of God? The clues are especially strong inO For a Thousand Tongues”. Here are the words again:

 

Slide 3

 

O For a Thousand Tongues[5]

 

Glory to God, and praise and love / Be ever, ever given …

On this glad day the glorious Sun / Of Righteousness arose; / on my benighted soul he shone / and filled it with repose. / Sudden expired the legal strife, / ’twas then I ceased to grieve; / My second, real, living life / I then began to live.

Then with my heart I first believed, / Believed with faith divine, / Power with the Holy Ghost received / to call the Saviour mine. / I felt my Lord’s atoning blood / Close to my soul applied; / me, me he loved, the Son of God, / for me, for me he died! …

O for a thousand tongues to sing / my dear Redeemer’s praise! / The glories of my God and King, / The triumphs of his grace …

 

Charles Wesley wrote these amazing hymns on the day – the (first) anniversary – of his conversion (21 May 1738). This was the day when the glorious sun of righteousness arose in his life and, with his heart, he first believed. This was when his second, real, living life, he then began to live.

Is there anything that strikes you in Charles Wesley’s words? How certain was he of his salvation? Was it just a nice sentiment – some concept of the mind – some educated Bible thinking? This morning – if you are not a Christian and want to become one, what can you learn from these words? Becoming a Christian – entering into a relationship with the living God – is an experience: “On my benighted soul he shone / and filled it with repose … Power with the Holy Ghost received / to call the Saviour mine. / I felt my Lord’s atoning blood / Close to my soul applied; / me, me he loved, the Son of God, / for me, for me he died!”

God is not a theory but a real – hands-on – Father in heaven who made the world and anything that is in it and he sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ from heaven to earth – to be born as a human baby in Bethlehem – to redeem the world.

This is what the Bible says about Jesus – John 1:11-13: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

It was Jesus’ experience that many did not receive him – as many reject him today. There are many – (maybe even you) – that are not that keen on God because the existence of God or the acceptance of God would mean our submission to him and who wants to submit to anyone – even to God – even a good God? However, those that push through this sinful reluctance and receive Jesus Christ – put their faith in him – become the born again children of God. Something happens to them that is giving them a brand-new life. They are birthed by God into a relationship with him whereby we are loved by him and cared for by him as his children.

Do you know what I am talking about? I want to tell you the story of Charles Wesley’s conversion because his was a difficult birth and you can learn from his struggles. (Maybe you can avoid his mistakes.)

Three years before his conversion – in 1735 – Charles Wesley was ordained as priest in the Church of England and he was zealous enough in his convictions to cross the ocean by ship and serve as a missionary in the colony of Georgia. This is a most important opening statement because it is offensive but also enlightening. According to his own account, three years before his conversion, Charles Wesley became a priest and missionary which means that you can even be a priest – zealous and preaching the Bible – but at the same time be missing out on a relationship with God and salvation.

Charles Wesley reached a crisis point on the ship to Georgia. He was anything but a slack Christian which we know because his brother recorded their common way of living in his journal:

 

Slide 4

 

John Wesley Journal – 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 ...

 

Bible reading, prayer, discipling others, being accountable to others – for hours every day meant that Charles Wesley was an intense Christian – a dedicated pastor – he didn’t need to repent of ignoring or rebelling against the laws of God – but later he would label his existence on the ship (and elsewhere) as thelegal night” – the time of being in the dark with rules and regulations but not a relationship with God.

The crisis came in a storm – (at least for his brother):

 

John Wesley 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 …

 

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.

 

How come that John Wesley and his brother Charles were such dedicated – intensely committed – believers but could not die – did not know how? In a storm, their faith and confidence in God deserted them. They were gripped with fear – not faith in a loving God for eternal life. What went wrong or what was missing? What could be missing in you?

A few years after his first voyage to Georgia, Charles Wesley was back in England where his search continued. He was in close contact with another German – Peter Boehler – who belonged to the same Christian movement – the Moravians – as the Germans on the ship to Georgia. He challenged him with the truth:

 

Charles Wesley – Journal 1738

 

Monday, February 20 – I began teaching Peter Boehler English …

 

Friday, February 24 – … the toothache returned more violently than ever. I smoked tobacco; which set me a-vomiting, and took away my senses and pain together. At eleven I waked in extreme pain, which I thought would quickly separate soul and body. Soon after Peter Boehler came to my bedside. I asked him to pray for me. He seemed unwilling at first, but, beginning very faintly, he raised his voice by degrees, and prayed for my recovery with strange confidence.

Then he took me by the hand, and calmly said, “You will not die now.” I thought within myself, “I cannot hold out in this pain till morning. If it abates before, I believe I may recover.”

He asked me, “Do you hope to be saved?” “Yes.” “For what reason do you hope it?” “Because I have used my best endeavours to serve God.” He shook his head, and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, “What, are not my endeavours a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust to.”

By the morning my pain was moderated …

 

Slide 5

 

 For what reason do you hope to be saved?” – This is the question and Charles Wesley – the ordained priest – the Bible reading and praying church member – got it wrong. He said: “I hope to be saved because I have used my best endeavours to serve God.” This was wrong and remains wrong today. Your own efforts – and be they soaked in blood, sweat and tears – are not going to make any difference in your standing before God. It’s not that God wants you to be careless about your commitment to obedience but none of your efforts achieve salvation for you because none of your efforts overcome the basic problem of falling short of God’s standard of holiness. We cannot make ourselves good enough:

 

 

Galatians 2:15-20: We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

 

Galatians 3:10-14: For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

 

Slide 6

 

Faith – not human works – is the key to salvation. It is faith that justifies us before God and makes us ready to receive the Holy Spirit by whose power we live as Christians. Back to Charles Wesley:

 

Monday, February 27 – … I had prayed that my pains might not outlast this day; and was answered …

 

Tuesday, February 28 – … Dear Brother, – I borrow another’s hand, as I cannot use my own … Dr Manaton told me he expected to have found me dead at his second visit … I had kept in a week before the pleurisy (pneumonia?) came, and taken physic twice. At midnight it seized me so violently, that I never expected to see the morning … Dr Manaton called in Dr Fruin. They bled me three times, and poured down draughts, oils, and apozems without end. For four days the balance was even. Then, as Spenser says, “I over-wrestled my strong enemy.” Ever since I have been slowly gathering strength …

One consequence of my sickness you will not be sorry for, – its stopping my sudden return to Georgia …

 

Tuesday, April 25 – Soon after five, as we were met in our little chapel, Mrs Delamotte came to us. We sang, and fell into a dispute whether conversion was gradual or instantaneous. My brother was very positive for the latter, and very shocking; mentioned some late instances of gross sinners believing in a moment. I was much offended at his worse than unedifying discourse. Mrs Delamotte left us abruptly. I stayed, and insisted a man need not know when first he had faith. His obstinacy in favouring the contrary opinion drove me at last out of the room. Mr Broughton was only not so much scandalized as myself. After dinner he and my brother returned to town. I stayed behind and read them the Life of Mr Halyburton: one instance, but only one, of instantaneous conversion …

 

On account of this episode, why do you think that Charles Wesley’s journey into salvation was so difficult? He had no faith for instantaneous faith.

 

Friday, April 28 – No sooner was I got to James Hutton’s, having removed my things thither from his father’s, than the pain in my side returned, and with that my fever. Having disappointed God in his last visitation, he has now again brought me to the bed of sickness. Towards midnight I received some relief by bleeding. In the morning Dr Cockburn came to see me; and a better physician, Peter Boehler, whom God had detained in England for my good. He stood by my bedside, and prayed over me, that now at least I might see the divine intention, in this and my late illness. I immediately thought it might he that I should again consider Boehler’s doctrine of faith; examine myself whether I was in the faith; and if I was not, never cease seeking and longing after it, till I attained it.

 

What is the greatest gift that God can give a person in Charles Wesley’s position? Answer: a hunger and thirst for saving faith which indeednever ceases seeking and longinguntil the desire is met by experiencing peace with God.

 

Monday, May 1 – Mr Piers called to see me. I exhorted him to labour after that faith which he thinks I have, and I know I have not. After receiving the sacrament, I felt a small anticipation of peace, and said, “Now I have demonstration against the Moravian doctrine that a man cannot have peace without assurance of his pardon. I now have peace, yet cannot say of surety that my sins are forgiven.” The next and several times after that I received the sacrament, I had not so much as bare attention, God no longer trusting me with comfort, which I should immediately turn against himself.

For some days following I felt a faint longing for faith; and could pray for nothing else. My desires were quickened by a letter of Mr Edmunds, seeking Christ as in an agony.

 

Saturday, May 6 – God still kept up the little spark of desire, which he himself had enkindled in me; and I seemed determined to speak of, and wish for, nothing but faith in Christ. Yet could not this preserve me from sin; which I this day ran into with my eyes open: so that after ten years’ vain struggling, I own and feel it absolutely unconquerable. By bearing witness to the truth before Miss Delamotte, Mr. Baldwyn, and others, I found my desires of apprehending Christ increased.

 

What served as another piece of evidence for Charles Wesley’s separation from God at the time – his lack of faith and relationship with God? After ten years of vain struggling, he could not gain victory over some personal sins. To him – apparently relying on his own strength – they were absolutely unconquerable.

 

Thursday, May 11 – I was just going to remove to old Mr Hutton’s, when God sent Mr Bray to me, a poor ignorant mechanic, who knows nothing but Christ; yet by knowing him, knows and discerns all things. Some time ago I had taken leave of Peter Boehler, confessed my unbelief and want of forgiveness, but declared my firm persuasion that I should receive the atonement before I died. His answer was, “Be it unto thee according to thy faith.”

Mr Bray is now to supply Boehler’s place. We prayed together for faith. I was quite overpowered and melted into tears, and hereby induced to think it was God’s will that I should go to his house, and not to Mr Hutton’s. He was of the same judgment. Accordingly I was carried thither in a chair.

His sister I found in earnest pursuit of Christ; his wife well inclined to conversion. I had not been here long, when Mr Broughton called. I hoped to find him altered like myself; but, alas! his time is not yet come. As to M. Turner, he gave her up; “but for you, M. Bray,” said he, “I hope you are still in your senses, and not run mad after a faith which must be felt.” He went on contradicting and blaspheming. I thought it my duty to withstand him, and to confess my want of faith. “God help you, poor man,” he replied: “if I could think you have not faith, I am sure it would drive me to despair.” I put all my hopes of ever attaining it, or eternal salvation, upon the truth of this assertion, “I have not now the faith of the Gospel.”

As soon as he left us, Mr Bray read me many comfortable scriptures, which greatly strengthened my desire; so that I was persuaded I should not leave his house, before I believed with my heart unto righteousness.

 

Friday, May 12 – I waked in the same blessed temper, hungry and thirsty after God. I began Isaiah, and seemed to see that to me were the promises made, and would be fulfilled, for that Christ loved me. I found myself more desirous, more assured I should believe. This day (and indeed my whole time) I spent in discoursing on faith, either with those that had it, or those that sought it; in reading the Scripture, and in prayer.

I was much moved at the sight of Mr Ainsworth, a man of great learning, above seventy, who, like old Simeon, was waiting to see the Lord’s salvation, that he might depart in peace. His tears, and vehemence, and childlike simplicity, showed him upon the entrance of the kingdom of heaven. In the afternoon I read Isaiah with Mr Edmunds: saw him full of promises, and that they belonged to me. In the midst of our reading, Miss Claggetts came, and asked that they might hear us. We were all much encouraged to pursue the glorious prize held out to us by the evangelical Prophet.

When the company was gone, I joined with Mr Bray in prayer and the Scripture, and was so greatly affected, that I almost thought Christ was coming that moment. I concluded the night with private vehement prayer.

 

Saturday, May 13 – I waked without Christ; yet still desirous of finding him. Soon after W. Delamotte came, and read me the 68th Psalm, strangely full of comfortable promises. Toward noon I was enabled to pray with desire and hope, and to lay claim to the promises in general.

The afternoon I spent with my friends, in mutual exhortation to wait patiently for the Lord in prayer and reading. At night my brother came, exceeding heavy. I forced him (as he had often forced me) to sing a hymn to Christ, and almost thought He would come while we were singing: assured He would come quickly. At night I received much light and comfort from the Scriptures.

 

Sunday, May 14 – The beginning of the day I was very heavy, weary, and unable to pray; but the desire soon returned, and I found much comfort both in prayer and in the word, my eyes being opened more and more to discern and lay hold on the promises. I longed to find Christ that I might show him to all mankind; that I might praise, that I might love him.

Several persons called today, and were convinced of unbelief. Some of them afterwards went to Mr Broughton, and were soon made as easy as Satan and their own hearts could wish.

 

Monday, May 15 – I finished Halyburton’s Life with Miss Claggetts, &c. I found comfort in the 102nd Psalm.

 

Tuesday, May 16 – I waked weary, faint, and heartless. My brother Hall coming to see me, I urged him to examine himself, whether he was in the faith. Two questions decided the matter: “Are you sure that is light?” “Yes.” “Are you as sure of the things unseen; of Christ being in you of a truth?” “Yes; infinitely surer.” In the afternoon I seemed deeply sensible of my misery, in being without Christ.

 

Wednesday, May 17 – I experienced the power of Christ rescuing me in temptation. Today I first saw Luther on the Galatians, which Mr Holland had accidentally lit upon. We began, and found him nobly full of faith. My friend, in hearing him, was so affected, as to breathe out sighs and groans unutterable. I marvelled that we were so soon and so entirely removed from him that called us into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel. Who would believe our Church had been founded on this important article of justification by faith alone I am astonished I should ever think this a new doctrine; especially while our Articles and Homilies stand unrepealed, and the key of knowledge is not yet taken away.

From this time I endeavoured to ground as many of our friends as came in this fundamental truth, salvation by faith alone, not an idle, dead faith, but a faith which works by love, and is necessarily productive of all good works and all holiness.

I spent some hours this evening in private with Martin Luther, who was greatly blessed to me, especially his conclusion of the 2nd chapter. I laboured, waited, and prayed to feel “who loved me, and gave himself for the.” [See “O For a Thousand Tongues” lyrics: “me, me he loved, the Son of God, for me, for me he died!] When nature, near exhausted, forced me to bed, I opened the book upon, “For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make upon earth.” After this comfortable assurance that He would come, and would not tarry, I slept in peace.

 

Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians helped Charles Wesley and this is not surprising because Martin Luther had travelled the same journey from thelegal nightto salvation by faith through grace. How was it possible for the church to lose this foundational teaching on salvation, have it rediscovered by Luther in the 1500s, only to lose it again in the 1700s – the time of Charles Wesley? This begs the question: Do we still know and understand the dynamics of salvation today?

 

[More Martin Luther connections – “HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING” by D. James Kennedy: If ever there was an ecumenical hymn, it is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” It was written by an Anglican minister who became a Methodist. The music was composed by a Jew who became a Lutheran. When words and music were wed together by Dr William H. Cummings, they produced one of the greatest Christmas hymns of all time: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

“HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING” by D. James Kennedy: However, the carol was still not very popular in that time. It was set to several different melodies and never really caught on for over a hundred years. Then there was born in Germany the grandson of a Jewish philosopher, a man by the name of Felix Mendelssohn who was a great composer. His mother or grandmother (I don’t quite remember which) discovered a manuscript of an oratorio written by an unknown composer. At least in that day he was an unknown composer, but today he is known as the greatest musician who ever lived. His name: Johann Sebastian Bach, and the composition was The Passion According to St. Matthew—a magnificent piece.

Mendelssohn determined he was going to present the oratorio in Berlin—orchestra, chorus, and all. In preparation for that, he began to study the life of Johann Sebastian Bach and found that this man was a committed Christian, and he liked what he read about him. He discovered that Bach had become a Christian through the writings of Martin Luther. He began to study those writings, and in the process, Mendelssohn was converted to Christ—a Jew who became a Lutheran.

Mendelssohn wrote a song, on request, for the celebration of the anniversary of Gutenberg’s printing press. He never dreamt it would be used for sacred words. In fact, he said he didn’t think it could be used in that way, and with that conviction, he died. Fifty years later William Cummings discovered that the music fit beautifully with Wesley’s poem, and he wed the two and gave us, a hundred and fifty years later, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” which has, without doubt, become one of the most beloved of all the Christmas carols, and rightly so.]

 

Thursday, May 18 – In the approach of a temptation, I looked up to Christ, and confessed my helplessness. The temptation was immediately beat down, and continually kept off by a power not my own. About midnight I was waked by the return of my pleurisy. I felt great pain and straitness at my heart; but found immediate relief by bleeding. I had some discourse with Mr Bray; thought myself willing to die the next moment, if I might but believe this; but was sure I could not die, till I did believe. I earnestly desired it.

 

Friday, May 19 – At five this morning the pain and difficulty in breathing returned. The Surgeon was sent for; but I fell asleep before he could bleed me a second time. I was easier all day, after taking Dr Cockburn’s medicines. I had not much desire. I received the sacrament; but not Christ. At seven Mrs Turner came, and told me, I should not rise from that bed till I believed. I believed her saying, and asked, “Has God then bestowed faith upon you” “Yes, he has.” “Why, have you peace with God” “Yes, perfect peace.” “And do you love Christ above all things” “I do, above all things incomparably.” “Then you are willing to die” “I am; and would be glad to die this moment; for I know all my sins are blotted out; the handwriting that was against me is taken out of the way, and nailed to his cross. He has saved me by his death; he has washed me with his blood; he has hid me in his wounds. I have peace in Him, and rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”

Her answers were so full to these and the most searching questions I could ask, that I had no doubt of her having received the atonement; and waited for it myself with a more assured hope. Feeling an anticipation of joy upon her account, and thanking Christ as I could, I looked for him all night with prayers and sighs and unceasing desires.

 

Saturday, May 20 – I waked much disappointed, and continued all day in great dejection, which the sacrament did not in the least abate. Nevertheless God would not suffer me to doubt the truth of his promises. Mr Bray, too, seemed troubled at my not yet believing, and complained of his uneasiness and want of patience. “But so it is with me,” says he, “when my faith begins to fail, God gives me some sign to support it.” He then opened a Testament, and read the first words that presented, Matt. ix. 1: “And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes and Pharisees said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine own house. And he arose, and departed to his house. And when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto man.”

It was a long while before he could read this through, for tears of joy: and I saw herein, and firmly believed, that his faith would be available for the healing of me.

 

THE DAY OF PENTECOST – Sunday, May 21 1738 – I waked in hope and expectation of His coming. At nine my brother and some friends came, and sang a hymn to the Holy Ghost. My comfort and hope were hereby increased. In about half-an-hour they went: I betook myself to prayer; the substance as follows:

“Oh Jesus, thou hast said, ‘I will come unto you’; thou hast said, ‘I will send the Comforter unto you’; thou hast said, ‘My Father and I will come unto you, and make our abode with you.’ Thou art God who canst not lie; I wholly rely upon thy most true promise: accomplish it in thy time and manner.” Having said this, I was composing myself to sleep, in quietness and peace, when I heard one come in (Mrs Musgrave, I thought, by the voice) and say, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt he healed of all thy infirmities.” I wondered how it should enter into her head to speak in that manner. The words struck me to the heart. I sighed, and said within myself, “Oh that Christ would but speak thus to me!” I lay musing and trembling: then thought, “But what if it should be him? I will send at least to see.” I rang, and Mrs Turner coming, I desired her to send up Mrs Musgrave. She went down, and, returning, said, “Mrs Musgrave has not been here.” My heart sunk within me at the word, and I hoped it might be Christ indeed. However, I sent her down again to inquire, and felt in the meantime a strange palpitation of heart. I said, yet feared to say, “I believe, I believe!’ She came up again and said, “It was I, a weak, sinful creature, spoke; but the words were Christ’s: He commanded me to say them, and so constrained me that I could not forbear.”

I sent for Mr Bray, and asked him whether I believed. He answered, I ought not to doubt of it: it was Christ spoke to me. He knew it; and willed us to pray together: “but first,” said he, “I will read what I have casually opened upon: “Blessed is the man whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin, and in whose spirit is no guile.”

Still I felt a violent opposition and reluctance to believe; yet still the Spirit of God strove with my own and the evil spirit, till by degrees he chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced, I knew not how nor when; and immediately fell to intercession.

Mr Bray then told me, his sister had been ordered by Christ to come and say those words to me. This she afterwards confirmed, and related to me more at large the manner of her believing. At night, and nearly the moment I was taken ill, she dreamt she heard one knock at the door: she went down, and opened it; saw a person in white; caught hold of and asked him who he was; was answered, “I am Jesus Christ,” and cried out, with great vehemence, “Come in, come in!”

She waked in fright. It was immediately suggested to her, “You must not mind this: it is all a dream, an illusion.” She continued wavering and uneasy all Friday till evening prayers. No sooner were they begun than she found herself full of the power of faith, so that she could scarce contain herself, and almost doubted whether she was sober. At the same time she was enlarged in love and prayer for all mankind, and commanded to go and assure me from Christ of my recovery, soul and body. She returned home repeating with joy and triumph, “I believe, I believe”: yet her heart failed her, and she durst not say the words to me that night.

On Sunday morning she took Mr Bray aside, burst into tears, and informed him of the matter; objecting she was a poor weak sinful creature, and should she go to a Minister? She could not do it; nor rest till she did. He asked whether she had ever found herself so before. “No, never.” “Why, then,” said he, “go. Remember Jonah. You declare promises, not threatenings. Go in the name of the Lord. Fear not your own weakness. Speak you the words: Christ will do the work. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hath he ordained strength.”

They prayed together, and she then went up, but durst not come in till she had prayed again by herself. About six minutes after she had left him, he found and felt, while she was speaking the words, that Christ was with us. I never heard words uttered with like solemnity. The sound of her voice was entirely changed into that of Mrs Musgrave. (If I can be sure of anything sensible.) I rose and looked into the Scripture. The words that first presented were, “And now, Lord, what is my hope truly my hope is even in thee.” I then cast down my eye, and met, “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall put their trust in the Lord.” Afterwards I opened upon Isaiah xl. 1: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God: speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sin.”

I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. My temper for the rest of the day was, mistrust of my own great, but before unknown, weakness. I saw that by faith I stood; by the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin. I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness, (I humbly hope to be more and more so,) yet confident of Christ’s protection.

 

Finally, Charles Wesley was helped into receiving faith – the precious gift from God – and he learned to accept and rest in this gift. This was not an easy journey for him and – in general – this is true about any Christian’s faith. Sometimes it is a struggle to hang on to God trusting him in difficult circumstances. The Bible talks about God testing our faith and he does. Therefore, invest the same energy and determination to have that kind of faith which puts you in touch with God and changes your life – the faith which makes way for God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

 

1 Peter 1:6-7: So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

 

Did you also notice how on the day of his conversion, Charles Wesley also received his prophetic calling: “God has put a new song in my mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God. Many shall see it,