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Discussion Forum : Revivals And Church History : John Wesley not saved?

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BeYeDoers
Member



Joined: 2005/11/17
Posts: 370
Bloomington, IN

 John Wesley not saved?

The church I have been attending for several months does a great job of preaching against sin, unlike most churches I've ever been in. They are Calvinist in theolgy, which I am most definitely not, but I can agree to disagree if they can. However, some of the pastors and elders are very much opposed to Wesley and his theology. I don't know if they go as far as crying "heretic!" but it's not too far from that. The following was written by one of the elders:

One of the great joys of my life has been reading the books written by Iain Murray. Pastor Murray was the former assistant of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel in London. He also pastored churches in England and Australia, as well as working for the Banner of Truth publishing company. I could list all of Murrays books and tell of the impact they have made on my life but that would take too long.

Recently, Ive enjoyed reading one of his books, Wesley and the Men Who Followed (Banner, 2003). He answered some questions Ive had about John Wesley for many years.

Wesleys conversion was a difficult process, one that John himself struggled to understand. Though brought up in a pastors home, he went off to Oxford University as an unconverted man...

He used to meet with a group of friends (including George Whitefield and his brother Charles) for Bible study. The members of the group rose early for lengthy devotions and tried not to waste a moment of the day. In the evening they wrote in a Diary and would examine the days activities to see if they had committed any fault. They took the Eucharist each Sunday and fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. Saturdays were used to prepare for the Lords Day. They were deeply committed to the Church of England and believed in its doctrine. They visited prisoners and the poor and contributed from their meager income to run a school for the children of prison inmates. These activities, they believed, would contribute to the salvation of their own souls. Clearly the group was not evangelical and it did not bring the satisfaction that each of the members sought from the group.

Wesley left Oxford still in an unregenerate state. Ordained in 1735 he and his brother left for the wilds of America to serve as missionaries to the Indians and colonists in the state of Georgia. Their time there was a failure. Three years later, Wesley wrote, I went to America to convert Indians, but, oh, who shall convert me?

After their return to England, John sought out some Moravian Christians. He had had contact with some in Georgia and they had challenged his lack of assurance of salvation. One of the Moravians, Peter Bohler, was instrumental in helping the Wesley brothers toward an understanding of justifying faith. On 24 May 1738, John went to a meeting in Aldersgate Street in London. Someone read from the Preface of Martin Luthers commentary on Romans. Wesley wrote the following in his journal: About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

Many people know this part of the story. What many dont know is that within a year (January 1739), Wesley was writing in his journal,

"My friends affirm I am mad, because I said I was not a Christian a year ago. I affirm I am not a Christian now For a Christian is one who has the fruits of the Spirit of Christ, which (to mention no more) are love, peace, joy And I feel this moment I do not love God joy in the Holy Ghost I have not though I have constantly used all the means of grace for twenty years, I am not a Christian (Murray 2003:8-9).
Whats going on here? I never could figure it out. Then I recently came across this letter written by John to his brother Charles in June of 1766.

In one of my last [letters] I was saying that I do not feel the wrath of God abiding on me; nor can I believe it does. And yet (this is the mystery), I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen And yet, to be so employed of God! And so hedged in that I can neither get forward nor backward! Surely there was never such an instance before, from the beginning of the world! If I ever have had that faith, it would not be so strange. But I never had any other evidence of the eternal or invisible world than I have now; and that is none at all, unless such as faintly shines from reasons glimmering ray. I have no direct witness (I do not say, that I am a child of God, but) of anything invisible or eternal.
And yet I dare not preach otherwise than I do, either concerning faith, or love, or justification, or perfection. And yet I find rather an increase than a decrease of zeal for the whole work of God and every part of it. I am borne along, I know not how, that I cant stand still. I want all the world to come to what I do not know. (Quoted in Stephen Tomkins, 2003, John Wesley: A Biography, Eerdmans, p. 168.)


Once again, whats going on here? How could Wesley criss-cross England on horse-back, preaching himself into exhaustion, for a faith he seems to wonder if he actually possessed? Murray helped me to understand that several things were at work.

Unfortunately, the Moravians believed that if one has true faith, then one is totally released from all doubts and Wesley, at least for a time, adopted this belief. If you have any remaining doubts, then you do not yet have true faith. Assurance of salvation, they claimed, always accompanies justification. This understanding of faith and assurance departed from the Puritan understanding that one may have true faith and yet lack an assurance of salvation. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it (WCF, 18,3). Wesley and the Moravians denied this. So whenever any doubts or fears raised their ugly head, it meant that one was not a true believer. (See Murray 2003: 48-55.)

Similarly, Murray points out that Wesley was not clear about the meaning of the witness of the Holy Spirit. The eighth chapter of Romans says that the Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God. Murray has read several sermons on the witness of the Spirit and he is not sure if Wesley ever came to understand this doctrine (Murray 2003:76, note 1).

Finally, Wesley also appears to have had real questions on the nature of justification. At the beginning of his ministry (late 1730s, early 1740s), he clearly held to the historic Protestant doctrine. One of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England states, We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and Wesley wholeheartedly agreed. And yet, later on in his ministry, he started to waver. He began by questioning the reality of the imputation of Christs righteousness in the 1740s and 1750s. The controversy got even worse when the minutes of the 1770 Methodist Conference of Ministers were published. They asked,

Does not talking of a justified or a sanctified state tend to mislead men? Almost naturally leading them to trust in what was done in one moment? Whereas we are every hour and every moment pleasing or displeasing to God, according to our works; -- according to the whole of our inward tempers, and our outward behavior. Any other view of justification will not lead the believer to pursue holiness with vigor and will tend to promote careless living (Murray 2003:221).
After these minutes were published, Wesley had to do a lot of damage control, making clear that he abhorred the doctrine of justification by works. At the very least, however, these brief snippets show us that Wesley was not clear on the nature of justification. And if one is not clear here, you will always face real questions about whether or not you are a Christian.

The evangelicalism in which I was raised didnt help me on any of these topics. I heard many sermons growing up that promoted a Moravian understanding of faith and assurance. If I had any doubts or lacked a full assurance of salvation, I was not a real Christian and needed to receive Christ again. I cant think of any sermons I ever heard on the witness of the Spirit. That was unknown territory. And when I finally came to understand the historic Protestant teaching on justification, it seemed like I was hearing it for the first time. Maybe it was preached but I didnt yet have ears to hear; or maybe it wasnt preached with real clarity.
________________________________________________

What think ye?


_________________
Denver McDaniel

 2007/8/13 11:35Profile
roaringlamb
Member



Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 1519
Santa Cruz California

 Re: John Wesley not saved?

Thank you for posting this. I have wondered much about Wesley's zeal, and while good, much of it seems to be motivated by fear of God, rather than love for God. Thus you see the urging of morals and extra rules to maintain a state of justification.

It seems the Church of England while at the start with the 39 articles held to the Orthodox view of justification by faith through Christ, they began to blur the lines of justification and sanctification and basically said that the one determined the other, which is nothing less than the Roman Catholic semi-Pelagian view.

I would also recommend the book "Revival ans Revivalism" by Murray.


_________________
patrick heaviside

 2007/8/13 12:13Profile









 Re: John Wesley not saved?

Just as we can not sit in judgement of someone's salvation that is here among us, we can not pretend to sit in judgment on someone who lived 300 years ago either. Yes, we can read their writings and determine whether or not we agree with what they wrote... but history is written not by those who lived it, but by those who came after, and it is hardly ever without prejudice.

I read many biographies on Abe Lincoln... half of them show him as a diety almost, others show him as a tyrant. Which is true? Perhaps a little of both... but the point is, even a review of someone's own writings can be slanted. Taken out of context, etc.

People do it everyday to scripture right here on this forum. Why should we trust a quote given out by someone as being something Wesley wrote?

So I object to the title of this thread. Who are we to put ourselves on the throne of God and determine if a man was saved who lived 300 years ago? All any of us know of the man is what the historians have told us.

Thats like trying to determine the true charactor of a public figure based on what we read in the media. Only a fool would do such a thing.

Weigh his teachings against scripture... judge his words. Examine his doctrine. But no one here is qualified to sit in judgement of his personal walk with the Lord.

Krispy

 2007/8/13 12:48
RobertW
Moderator



Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4634
Independence, Missouri

 Re:

Quote:
Weigh his teachings against scripture... judge his words. Examine his doctrine.



The troubling thing about any teaching that borders on justification by sanctification is that folk always end up wondering if they are right with God no matter how they holy and righteous lived. Folk come away wondering if God really loves them.

Another troubling thing is that Christian Perfection can become a stumbling block for those who cannot free themselves from salvation by sanctification. The tendency is to focus the scriptures to prove that Christians can and should walk and live sinlessly. No doubt this is God's design, but are we saved based upon how sanctified we are?

Revivalism strips away assurance. That is the primary strategy. Finney believed folk needed this done to them almost regularly. The sense is that folk need to be 'tightened down' over and over again to keep them spiritually alert and walking in 'holiness'. But this is as crazy as believing that tightening the lug nuts on your car every few weeks is a good thing. In time the metal will fatigue and the bolts will snap off. I think something similar happens to folk who dwell all the time on whether or not they measure up.

Truthfully, more and more each day I think it is dangerous to take hold of God's word and slice and dice the parts out that focus on justification by sanctification. Almost like some ministers are able to 'distill' the most fearful passages into some sort of caustic mixture that sears the soul. When I read Wesley I read a man bound and determined to prove that Christians can live a sinless life from the beginning. Some say he believed it was his calling?

One thing I know for certain; I am NOT perfect. I realize how far short I fall more and more all the time. I see Christians that are not perfect. I see men and women that I know love God- that are not perfect. Sometimes our rhetoric slays us. We talk a game we can't live up to. Men have extrapolated verses of scripture from their contextx to make the 'perfect' believer and then says- "walk ye in it." Makes a lot of people just despair or want to give up who are sincerely trying to live the life. [i]if[/i] Wesley questioned his salvation (and I have not read where he did) it could only mean that he knew he was not perfect.


_________________
Robert Wurtz II

 2007/8/13 13:28Profile
hmmhmm
Moderator



Joined: 2006/1/31
Posts: 4986
Sweden

 Re:

Luke 6:41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


I think many criticize Wesley for his doctrines and teachings who they them selves have not come to the standard of his holy living.... but then they have a "doctrine" to be proud of.

lets take "heed" brethren.


_________________
CHRISTIAN

 2007/8/13 14:30Profile
Eli_Barnabas
Member



Joined: 2005/2/16
Posts: 621
Cache Valley, Utah

 Re:

Quote:
The troubling thing about any teaching that borders on justification by sanctification is that folk always end up wondering if they are right with God no matter how they holy and righteous lived. Folk come away wondering if God really loves them.

Another troubling thing is that Christian Perfection can become a stumbling block for those who cannot free themselves from salvation by sanctification. The tendency is to focus the scriptures to prove that Christians can and should walk and live sinlessly. No doubt this is God's design, but are we saved based upon how sanctified we are?

Revivalism strips away assurance. That is the primary strategy. Finney believed folk needed this done to them almost regularly. The sense is that folk need to be 'tightened down' over and over again to keep them spiritually alert and walking in 'holiness'. But this is as crazy as believing that tightening the lug nuts on your car every few weeks is a good thing. In time the metal will fatigue and the bolts will snap off. I think something similar happens to folk who dwell all the time on whether or not they measure up.

Truthfully, more and more each day I think it is dangerous to take hold of God's word and slice and dice the parts out that focus on justification by sanctification. Almost like some ministers are able to 'distill' the most fearful passages into some sort of caustic mixture that sears the soul. When I read Wesley I read a man bound and determined to prove that Christians can live a sinless life from the beginning. Some say he believed it was his calling?

One thing I know for certain; I am NOT perfect. I realize how far short I fall more and more all the time. I see Christians that are not perfect. I see men and women that I know love God- that are not perfect. Sometimes our rhetoric slays us. We talk a game we can't live up to. Men have extrapolated verses of scripture from their contextx to make the 'perfect' believer and then says- "walk ye in it." Makes a lot of people just despair or want to give up who are sincerely trying to live the life. if Wesley questioned his salvation (and I have not read where he did) it could only mean that he knew he was not perfect.



I appreciate your comments brother Robert.


_________________
Eli Brayley

 2007/8/13 14:53Profile









 Re:

I've noticed something recently on this site, a troubling trend that I havent noticed before... there are folks here that are declaring that you must believe particular pet doctrines in order to be saved.

We've had Calvinists declare right on this forum that if you dont believe in the teachings of Calvin... you're not a Christian.

We've now got believers in "entire sanctification" (a term not found in the Bible!) saying that you are falling short if you're not perfect and sinless.

We've got post-tribbers accusing believers of being apostate if they believe in a pre-trib rapture.

Where is this coming from???

So I dont believe in Calvinism... so what? What in the world does that have to do with my salvation? So I am honest enough to admit that I struggle with the flesh daily... and sometimes lose... so what? This means I'm not saved? So I believe in a pre-trib rapture... so what? Does this mean I'm doomed to hell?

I think perhaps it's time a few people came down off their soap box of pride and start serving their fellow man and reaching the lost for Jesus Christ.

While correct doctrine is important, and while we are to earnestly contend for the faith, and while we are to be Bereans, and while we are to mark and avoid those who teach false doctrine.... I fear many here have forgotten the most important law of all... a law given to us by the ultimate Law Giver (Jesus)... and that is the law of love.

[b]1 Corinthians 13:1-13[/b] [i]Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.[/i]

I have tried to set an example on this forum... I've been in some pretty heated debates about the KJV from time to time. But I dont believe anyone here has ever come away from those debates feeling like I have judged them as a 2nd class Christian, or an apostate, or whatever simply because we dont agree on that issue.

I wish others could do the same with other topics.

We're not saved because we are a Calvinist or an Arminian. Our salvation is not based on when we think the Rapture is. Our salvation is not hinged on what version of the Bible we read. And our salvation certainly is not based on our efforts at being sinless and perfect (especially there is none righteous... no, not one!).

I dont know why this boiled up in me at this particular moment... it's not aimed at anyone in particular... perhaps the Lord just wanted someone to read these words.

Krispy

 2007/8/13 15:35









 Re:

Quote:
... perhaps the Lord just wanted someone to read these words.



That would be me. Somehow your words have comforted me slightly in a difficult time.

The Lord can use anything.

 2007/8/13 15:56
KingJimmy
Member



Joined: 2003/5/8
Posts: 4392
Charlotte, NC

 Re:

As to understanding the ins-and-outs of Wesley's theology, I cannot recommend enough the writings of Kenneth J. Collins. I've yet to come across a writer with a better grasp of Wesley's theology, especially as it changed over time. As to Wesley's "doubts," I think one could liken them to the bi-polar nature of David Brainerd in his experience with God. As Wesley was ever the practical theologian, his understanding of "the witness" of the Spirit was something he wanted to experience every moment of every day.

Thus, if there was a day or two he didn't experience an ever abiding sense of God's presence and witness, he wondered perhaps if he had wandered from the faith and was in danger of hell. Brainerd, if you read his diary, wasn't much different. Practically, the experience is pretty much the same. The only difference is the language used to express the same practical realities.

To call into question Wesley's salvation simply because of a growing (non-calvinist) theology, and a few down days entirely overlooks the the whole of Wesley's life and theology, which, I believe shows he was saved. This elder seems more concerned about establishing a hero worship of one's theological tradition than truly investigating Wesley's thought and life.


_________________
Jimmy Humphrey

 2007/8/13 16:24Profile
Compton
Member



Joined: 2005/2/24
Posts: 2730


 Re:

Quote:
I've noticed something recently on this site, a troubling trend that I havent noticed before... there are folks here that are declaring that you must believe particular pet doctrines in order to be saved.



I can confirm this observation more or less.

Oswald Chambers observed that we must allow for a certain measure of temporary fanatacism in people who have discovered a particular 'new' truth. I certainly can testify to this dynamic in myself. However, in time, what we learn today must be measured against the broader picture. This broader picture not only includes the wisdom of other mature saints in our midst, but also the whole of church history.

Otherwise we'll let our various facets of understanding, or pet doctrines as Kripsy said, become the entire gem we believe in. Even a mystery such as "leaving Babylon" can become the basis for a self-stylized dogma that pits Christians in homes against Christians in buildings...arbitrary yet hurtful and deep divisions sanctioned with only a "to him who has ears..."as a secret cryptic handshake among the 'true remant.'

Quote:
Sometimes our rhetoric slays us. We talk a game we can't live up to.



Thank you Robert for this bit of valuable experience. I take it to heart brother.

MC


_________________
Mike Compton

 2007/8/13 16:41Profile





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