15 November 2006

Motivation (14): J. Wesley

John Wesley (1703-1791), pastor, author, organizational genius, founder of Methodism, key figure in the Great Awakening of the 1740’s, and 3 months Edwards' elder, would not be the first to come to our minds as someone who preached a robust view of the supernatural change wrought in regeneration by which a new set of desires are imported into the heart. But while he may differ as to our role in bringing such a change about, he did not differ on the change itself. Indeed, he may be closer to biblical orthodoxy on this subject than many Calvinistic pulpits today.

"But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The 'eyes of his understanding are opened' (such is the language of the great Apostle); and, He who of old 'commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,' His glorious love, 'in the face of Jesus Christ.' His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, 'Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee'; 'Go and sin no more. . . .' He 'feels in his heart,' to use the language of our Church, 'the mighty working of the Spirit of God' . . . he feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of God works in the heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a 'peace which passeth all understanding.' He many times feels such a joy in God as is 'unspeakable, and full of glory.' He feels 'the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him'; and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil."

"From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when He brings it into life; when He raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God. . . ."

"[E]xcept he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. . . . The reason is plain: all unholy tempers are uneasy tempers: not only malice, hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast; but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. . . . Therefore, as long as they must reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again; consequently, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come."

--Edward H. Sudgen, ed., Wesley's Standard Sermons (London: Epworth, 1951), 2:233-236.

"A . . . scriptural mark of those who are born of God, and the greatest of all, is love; even 'the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them' (Rom. v. 5). 'Because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father!' (Gal. iv. 6). By this Spirit, continually looking up to God as their reconciled and loving Father, they cry to Him for their daily bread, for all things needful, whether for their souls or bodies. They continually pour out their hearts before Him, knowing 'they have the petitions which they ask of Him' (I John v. 15). Their delight is in Him. He is the joy of their heart; their 'shield,' and their 'exceeding great reward.' The desire of their soul is toward Him; it is their 'meat and drink to do His will'; and they are 'satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while their mouth praiseth Him with joyful lips' (Ps. lxiii. 5)."

--Wesley’s Standard Sermons, 1:292.

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