Revivalist V. John Wesley
"Give me one hundred men who love only God with all their heart and hate only sin with all their heart, and we will shake the gates of hell and bring in the kingdom of God in one generation."
Apostle John Wesley declared these words with a passion that embraced his call for a Church to move onto entire sanctification and in this regard he saw revival as having a great cost to bear for us all –to obtain it and to keep it!
Wesley saw revival as bringing a change of lifestyle as to that of the Early Church.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
In grasping John Wesley’s passion for revival it is important to look at entries in his Journals. In Wales Wesley became part of the nonconformist revival of the 1700’s, Richard Morris writing in 1752:
(That) the mad Methodists... have in a manner bewitched the major part of the inhabitants is generally attributed to the indolence and... ignorance of too many of the parochial ministers.
It is interesting to note that the mad Methodists were accused of “bewitching”, an accusation that is being flung at the modern “revivals” but is a distinction between what was going on then to what is going on today. This is what we endeavour to find out in this paper.
Strange "carryings on" are reported in a Wesley journal that relates to a meeting of William Williams.
It is common in the congregations attended by Mr. W.W., and one or two other clergymen, after the preaching is over, for anyone that has a mind to give outa verse of a hymn. This they sing over and over with all their might, perhaps above thirty, yea, forty times. Meanwhile the bodies of two or three, sometimes ten or twelve, are violently agitated and they leap up and down, in all manner of postures, frequently for hours together.
Wesley, however, is most known for his doctrine of perfection and it is this which has so often manifest both in the revivals of history and the true revivals of modern times, although I fail to see the latter in Western society whereas I have witnessed the phenomena in developing countries of the East.
It is appropriate, therefore to present Wesley’s own summary of doctrine so as to see if these points are manifesting in the contemporary revival scene. 1764, upon a review of the whole subject, I wrote down the sum of what I had observed in the following short propositions: --
"(1.) There is such a thing as perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in Scripture.
"(2.) It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to 'go on unto perfection.' (Heb.6:1.)
"(3.) It is not so late as death; for St. Paul speaks of living men that were perfect. (Phil. 3:15.)
"(4.) It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone.
"(5.) It does not make a man infallible: None is infallible, while he remains in the body.
"(6.) Is it sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is 'salvation from sin.'
"(7.) It is 'perfect love.' (1 John 4:18.) This is the essence of it; its properties, or inseparable fruits, are, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks. (1 Thess. 5:16, &c.)
"(8.) It is improvable. It is so far from lying in an indivisible point, from being incapable of increase, that one perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter than he did before.
"(9.) It is amissible, capable of being lost; of which we have numerous instances. But we were not thoroughly convinced of this, till five or six years ago.
"(10.) It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.
"(11.) But is it in itself instantaneous or not? In examining this, let us go on step by step. "An instantaneous change has been wrought in some believers: None can deny this.
"Since that change, they enjoy perfect love; they feel this, and this alone; they 'rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.' Now, this is all that I mean by perfection; therefore, these are witnesses of the perfection which I preach.
"'But in some this change was not instantaneous.' They did not perceive the instant when it was wrought. It is often difficult to perceive the instant when a man dies; yet there is an instant in which life ceases. And if ever sin ceases, there must be a last moment of its existence, and a first moment of our deliverance from it.
"'But if they have this love now, they will lose it.' They may; but they need not. And whether they door no, they have it now; they now experience what we teach. They now are all love; they now rejoice, pray, and praise without ceasing.
"'However, sin is only suspended in them; it is not destroyed.' Call it which you please. They are all love to-day; and they take no thought for the morrow. "'But this doctrine has been much abused.' So has that of justification by faith. But that is no reason for giving up either this or any other scriptural doctrine.
'When you wash your child,' as one speaks, 'throw away the water; but do not throw away the child.' "'But those who think they are saved from sin say they have no need of the merits of Christ.' They say just the contrary. Their language is, 'Every moment, Lord, I want The merit of thy death!'
They never before had so deep, so unspeakable, a conviction of the need of Christ in all his offices as they have now. "Therefore, all our Preachers should make a point of preaching perfection to believers constantly, strongly, and explicitly; and all believers should mind this one thing, and continually agonize for it."
The Works of John Wesley (1872 ed. by Thomas Jackson), vol. 11, pp. 366-446. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection as believed and taught by the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1777