2004-07-12 - A Lession in Faith
2 Thessalonians 2:14, "And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I have been reading some biographies lately, and in one of them, John Wesley has figured prominently. Biographies that are well-researched and written can be a great window into the times of the person and an encouragement to us today. The time period of Wesley gives us a glimpse of the times during the Great Awakening, although he was primarily centered in England.
John had a fairly good upbringing. It was typical of the times in some respects. His father was a pastor and his mom very pious. His father was a well-paid minister, making 170 pounds a year, when the average minister of the time period only made 40 pounds a year. His mom had 19 children in 19 years, ten dying in infancy. The boys were well-educated, and the women were almost neglected, respecting even basic needs. Both John and his brother Charles (most known or his hymn writing), went to Oxford University, and another brother was a surgeon in London.
While at Oxford, John was a member of a holy club (even leader) and as was common with the times, attended church several times a week. He crossed the Atlantic and came to the New World as a missionary in Georgia, which was the poorest of the Colonies. Charles came over also, but lasted only about six months before heading back. John stayed a bit longer, but ended up fleeing the colony, having been accused of some improprieties.
All the above is well and good, and we know how God used him several years later, when he took over for George Whitefield in England. Whitefield went to the New World as a missionary and selected Wesley, who he had known at Oxford, to maintain his ministry in England. However, what is astonishing to me is that even while leading the holy club at Oxford, going as a missionary overseas, and many other good things, Wesley was not a Christian. He did many good things, but did not experience a work of grace until he returned to England from Georgia. He went through great spiritual struggles while on the ship coming back to England, and spent the first few months in England seeking the salvation of his soul. As he would say, he did find the grace of Christ eventually. As I would say, grace found him.
Wesley was used by God greatly in preaching to thousands at a time. He was certainly a man who God used to reestablish His gospel in England. He had no real theological training, which meant he held to some strange doctrinal combinations. For example, he believed in Christian perfection, but denied the final perseverance of the saints. I'm not sure how both seemingly contradictory views can be held in the same belief system. However, while doctrine was not his strength, preaching was, and God used him greatly in awakening sinners to repentance.
The pondering question for many of us respects Wesley in his early years. He was a missionary, and yet he was unsaved. His Christian works probably far exceeded many of our works, and yet he did many of the works before he was born again. This is why I love Christian biography. There is almost always something in a biography that can cause us to stop and ponder. The example of John Wesley is a good one for every Christian. May we not be found seemingly living the Christian life, without the gospel working in our own hearts.
Soli Deo Gloria,