May 24, 1738: John Wesley experiences an evangelical conversion. He was born in 1703 in Epworth, England. He was the fifteenth child born to his parents. His father was a rector and his mother’s father had been a Dissenting minister. All the children were home schooled and even the girls were taught to read as soon as possible. They were expected to become proficient in both Latin and Greek and to memorize most of the New Testament. A highlight of his childhood was the fire at the rectory where his parents were able to get all the children, except for John, out safely. He was trapped on the second floor and was grabbed to safety by a parishioner standing on the shoulders of a second man. This story became part of the legend of John Wesley and his mission.
He graduated with a Master of Arts from Christ Church, Oxford and was ordained a deacon in 1725. The following year he read Thomas a Kempis and Jeremy Taylor and began his search for greater truths. He became a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford in 1726 and the next year left his position to lead a church at Wroote, the neighboring town to Epworth. He was ordained a priest in 1728 and returned to teach in November 1729. In the meantime his brother had come to Oxford. The brothers and two other friends began a small club to study and pursue a devout Christian life. John became the leader of the group on his return.
The Holy Club met daily for three hours to pray and study. They also spent several minutes every waking hour in prayer. The church at the time required attendance three times a year but the members of the club took communion every Sunday. They fasted on Wednesday and Friday until 3 PM, as was usual in early church practices. They visited jailed prisoners and preached to them as well as offered education. They cared for the sick. The times were not particularly religious and they were met with negativity. Outsiders gave the club its name as a form of insult. In 1735, the Wesley brothers sailed to Savannah, Georgia in the colonies and were introduced to Moravians on the journey and taken with their devotion and piety.
Wesley joined the Moravians and found a place to worship. He fell in love with a young woman who married William Williamson. He then deemed her to have lost her faith and refused her communion. This led to his being called to trial. Instead, he fled and returned to England. Moravians in England helped him refocus. On this day, while at a Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, he heard a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans and felt his “heart strangely warmed”. It was this moment that led Wesley to a new type of ministry and eventually would lead to a new sect. Methodists today number approximately 80 million and they continue to help the poor and spread the Good News.
The righteousness of Christ is necessary to entitle us to Heaven, personal holiness to qualify us for it.
I can’t think that when God sent us into the world He had irreversibly decreed that we should be perpetually miserable in it.
Sour godliness is the devil’s religion.
Beware you are not a fiery, persecuting enthusiast. Do not imagine that God has called you (just contrary to the spirit of Him you style your Master) to destroy men’s lives, and not to save them. Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way, never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love. – all from John Wesley
Also on this day: Caveat Emptor – In 1626, Peter Minuit bought Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.
Wedding Disaster – In 2001, the Versailles wedding hall collapsed.
Mary’s Poem – In 1830, Sarah Hale published a poem.
Dot Dot Dash Dash – In 1844, Samuel Morse sent a message to Washington, DC via telegraph.