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

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Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37450
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11


Wesley’s conversion was a difficult process, one that John himself struggled to understand. Though brought up in a pastor’s 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 day’s 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 Lord’s 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.

Interesting thread! I have been reading the journals of George Whitefield where he states that he was saved in the midst of the holy club and then I would think he would renounce all these "works" they were doing but he continued with them finding them a sufficient means of exhibiting the grace of God working in his life. The sad evangelical stance on the holy club was that it was all legalism but it wasn't! If a person was saved those fruits that were being shown in the holy club where fine.

God even used the unconverted wesley many times to counsel the converted whitefield. Wesley did receive a proper understanding of justification from the example and piety of the moravians. He afterward had times to be around the moravians that he accounted times where they were enraptured with the presence of God and reality in the Christian life.

Christian perfectionism is quite dangerous and it definitely catered to problems in the assurance of this experience in welsey's life. He who "doubts" is damned! what a awful scripture to have to face in the light of such thinking. Many good men of God have had low points of doubting and crying out to God, this is biblical and not strange. But I would say most of the while wesley's conversion was firm, resolute and strong. It is non sense to try and show from some various letters and quotes that he doubted his salvation most of his ministry.

But what this does teach us is that welsey was a man like us with like passions! Oh how we can be used of God also.

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2007/8/13 18:21Profile

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


So I object to the title of this thread.

ok? Not sure what this means. If I said, "john wesley was not saved" and then went on to give a dissertation on his thought life...then you would have a reason to accuse someone of playing God and sitting in judgment. But that is not what is going on.

I was simply posting something an elder at my church wrote because I wanted to get a better idea of why someone would have such strong opinions of a man whose theology and person I very much respect. There are many people here who know history and Wesley much more than I, so I hoped to get older, wiser perspectives.

I like you and respect you very much, Krispy, as I have told you in private. And I apologize if I upset you. But if you are accusing me of judging a man's salvation based on a four word question in the title to a long post, that is something I most definitely do not appreciate.

Your most recent post said you weren't aiming your thoughts at any one in particular, something just set you off. I hope this was the case in your first post as well. Let us please not make this personal...I hope I have not mislead folks in my intentions of this post.

Grace and Peace

Denver McDaniel

 2007/8/13 20:20Profile

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri


But what this does teach us is that welsey was a man like us with like passions!

One of the greatest challenges to holding to such teachings too strongly is that a person begins to view themselves no longer as a 'person of like passions' but somehow needing to maintain a larger than life spirituality. This makes it almost impossible for the person to ever:

1) Admit they were wrong
2) Apologize
3) Ask forgiveness
4) Repent

To do any of these is an admission of guilt. To admit any of these is to suggest that the person is not 'perfect'. And though I strongly believe that men ought to strive to walk even as Christ walked- I am also aware of my own shortcomings and have to be willing to confess (acknowledge) them. The challenge is to believe in perfection without condemning one's own self as a hypocrite. To believe God will give us all things that pertain to life and godliness and yet still be able to repent of our own sins and not just glaze over them as if they didn't happen or were not as bad as someone elses.

Add to this an Oberlin type "justification by sanctification" and you have the receipe for an individual (such as I used to be) that is on the defensive every time a person 'claims' or even 'suggests' that one can live a sinless Christian life. The logic at work reasons that if a person 'can' live sinlessly then all that do [u]not[/u] live sinlessly are without excuse and are therefore unsaved (non-Christians). God will save the 'sinless' ones and the others will be cast into the fire. If I know I am not sinless then I reason that all people are sinful to some degree- even Peter and Paul which brings me assurance. I am not advocating this reasoning- I am just trying to articulate how it works. This is why in many cases discussions on Christian Perfection create more heat than light. Because some people's assurance of salvation is on the line. They are pressing towards the mark- but they know they have not attained. To then undercut all the NT passages that show men of God in a less than perfect light- explaining them away one wau or the other to prove polemically the 'doctrine' of Entire Sanctification creates a serious amount of kenetic energy.

Robert Wurtz II

 2007/8/14 8:49Profile

Joined: 2010/4/15
Posts: 1

 Re: John Wesley not saved?

Many people know this part of the story. What many don’t 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).

While I don't have time to look up the letter that is quoted from 1766, I did have time to look up the above quote from John Wesley's journal. It is dishonest to say that John Wesley was speaking of himself when the journal entries from January 1 and January 4, 1739 clearly show that he was speaking of someone other than himself. Read the entries yourself in the text that follows:

{John Wesley's journal entry, Mon . January 1, 1739. — Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hatchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love-feast in Fetter-Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing constant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.”

Thur. 4. — One who had had the form of godliness many years, wrote the following reflections: — “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. Indeed, what I might have been I know not, had I been faithful to the grace then given, when, expecting nothing less, I received such a sense of the forgiveness of my sins, as till then I never knew. But that I am not a Christian at this day, I as assuredly know, as that Jesus is the Christ. “For a Christian is one who has the fruits of the Spirit of Christ, which (to mention no more) are love, peace, joy. But these I have not. I have not any love of God. I do not love either the Father or the Son. Do you ask, how do I know whether I love God, I answer by another question, ‘How do you know whether you love me?’ Why, as you know whether you are hot or cold. You feel this moment, that you do or do not love me. And I feel this moment, I do not love God; which therefore I know, because I feel it. There is no word more proper, more clear, or more strong. “And I know it also by St. John’s plain rule, ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ For I love the world. I desire the things of the world, some or other of them, and have done all my life. I have always placed some part of my happiness in some or other of the things that are seen. Particularly in meat and drink, and in the company of those I loved. For many years I have been, yea, and still am, hankering after a happiness, in loving, and being loved by one or another. And in these I have from time to time taken more pleasure than in God. “Again, joy in the Holy Ghost I have not. I have now and then some starts of joy in God: But it is not that joy. For it is not abiding. Neither is it greater than I have had on some worldly occasions. So that I can in no wise be said to ‘rejoice evermore;’ much less to ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ “Yet again: I have not ‘the peace of God;’ that peace, peculiarly so called. The peace I have may be accounted for on natural principles. I have health, strength, friends, a competent fortune, and a composed, cheerful temper. Who would not have a sort of peace in such circumstances? But I have none which can with any propriety be called, a ‘peace which passeth all understanding.’ “From hence I conclude, (and let all the saints of the world hear, that whereinsoever they boast, they may be found even as I,) though I have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor, I am not a Christian. Though I have endured hardship, though I have in all things denied myself and taken up my cross, I am not a Christian. My works are nothing, my sufferings are nothing; I have not the fruits of the Spirit of Christ. Though I have constantly used all the means of grace for twenty years, I am not a Christian.}

If this is representative of the scholarship of Iain Murray, all of his claims must be carefully checked for fidelity.

 2010/4/15 22:02Profile

Joined: 2007/6/27
Posts: 1573
Omaha, NE


If we would rightly judge ourselves; then we
would not be judged. The only way to rightly
know Wesley is by the fruits of his ministry.
Since he was mightily used of GOD, I would
venture to say he was consecrated, devoted,
and saved!!

Martin G. Smith

 2010/4/15 22:20Profile

Joined: 2009/12/12
Posts: 592


Just reading this thread title made me chuckle. For those pressing in, you know what I mean. Where's Neil? Amen my brother?


 2010/4/15 23:43Profile


Thankyou Pilate, a sobering disclosure showing how careful we must be when so many are seeking to uphold their pet doctrines rather than search for the truth.

I think Wesley was basically an honest man....but confused. If you read his sermons before he went to America you can see that he was a believer, one cannot have that understanding of scripture otherwise, and how many unbelievers would go on mission where their lives would be in danger if all they had were notions?

Because of his contact with the Moravians, however, he knew that he was lacking something - which is a common reaction of honest men to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, who meet believers that actually are living the crucified life, and not those who only have aspirations. To desire to be holy is not the same as being holy and therefore displaying their detatchment from the world, as did the Moravians. John was afraid because he still had not entered into the life in which the flesh is crucifed, and unfortunately many believers are in the same state and therefore not saved.

This inspired him to avidly read the holiness writers on his return to seek the way of holiness taught by the early fathers, medieval Christian mystics and the early Quakers.
For some reason, Wesley confused this teaching of the Via Triplex with the later teaching of the Second Blessing. I have not yet traced his source for the later which came to be known as Keswick teaching, if indeed he had one but nethertheless, he was not consistent.

The via Triplex view is the there are three stages known as purgation, illumination and finally union with Christ or glorification in this life as it is known in the scriptures which is also sometimes called entire sanctification 1Thes 5:23 for those who deny it, as the state is one of sinless perfection (sadly many today are proud to say they are not perfect even though the scriptures commands it.)

Between stages one, two and three there are `dark nights` of intense suffering for those who venture on this path. I believe that John had gained the illumination stage yet believed he was in union, as many do who dwell there and taught others likewise but the reality of that stage is however, the lack of the power to live without sin (man cannot do this with his own strength).

Here is the reason why sinless perfection, which does not teach that man can never sin again, but DOES teach that in that state one will not sin unless one falls from it, has a bad name - those who are claiming perfection are not perfected. Even though we see that Murray was wrong in what he said, due to careless scholarship or worse, Wesley did in fact have struggles. He did not feel the union and therefore have assurance that he was walking in the fullness of the new life nor did he have the discernement.

This must be the source of our own assurance - the inward witness of the Spirit. If we do not have it then we are not saved, and saved means scripturally saved from sin no matter how hard we try mentally to assure ourselves - it means nothing. The truth is in the witness of the Spirit and it is far better to be distressed with the truth than to blindly go on in false assurance. Those who sin belong to their father the devil as Christ came to destroy his works so that man can be restored to what he fell from.

Baptism saves us (Spirit) that is, but if the assurance is not there then we need to question the experience where we have falsely placed our trust even though we read scriptures to falsely quell our hearts. Scripture is only the truth when the inward Light confimes it as truth for us.

I heard that John did actually attain union later on in his lfe but have not had a good source yet.


 2010/4/16 1:45

Joined: 2004/11/21
Posts: 362
Tulsa OK


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.

I agree with you Jimmy. Wesley theology was living and practical, something he had to experience in his heart by the Holy Spirit. As Luther was used by God to rediscover the biblical doctrine of justification by faith, so was Wesley used of God to rediscover sanctification by faith. Wesley did not teach sanctification by works but he did encourage more than any other in his times the means of grace.

Jesus well said judge the prophet by its fruits. Wesley when persecuted and beaten by his enemies blessed and loved them, that's a fruit - loving your enimies, supernatural love. When his wife draged him down the stairs pulling him from his hair, he did not use force but bravely suffered humiliation - that's another fruit, "giving the other cheek", non violence.

These are only few of many examples of practicle application of the sermon on the mount. Wesley and many godly methodists of his time, were a living illustration of the teachings of Jesus.

I just dont understand the lack of spiritual insight so prevailing with us believers. Because a brother does not fit in our theological camp, we will come up with our prejudices and ignore the facts thats speak for themselves about the life of the man. I really dont care if i was a calvinist or arminian as long as i had the saintly character of someone like David Brainerd (calvinist) or John Fletcher (arminian). What matters is the reality of Jesus Christ in my life, not a dead theology.

I hope we dont become revisionists and rewrite past history of men of God and make them appear what they never were. Some people need to clear off the fog to see better the spiritual reality.

The doctrine of christian perfection according to Wesley if im not wrong was a perfection in holy love. Can we love God with all of our hearts? By the grace of God we can. Can we love men as we love ourselves, by the grace of God we can. Those early methodists like the primitive christians are a living prove of that. If any one thinks that Wesley was inventing the doctrine of perfection he's wrong, the early church fathers taught that, and they were not afraid of the term. This doctrine it has been there in the church since the apostolic times.

Can someone stop sinning and overcome sin? by the grace of God and the power of the blood he can. Can someone stop hating even his enimies? Yes, by the grace of God its possible, otherwise the comandment to love your enimies is impossible for christians and Jesus would have been e liar. Jesus is the truth, and he new that by the power of the cross and the Holy Spirit a man who believed in Him and obeys him will love unconditionaly, because he is a new man in the likeness of Jesus.

L.E.Maxwell in his book, Born Crucified wrote:

Some christians have been frighten by the fanatical extrimes of the perfectionism. Their fears are not without foundation.However we commend to the reader the wise words of Dr. A. J. Gordon:

(Divine truth as revealed in scripture seems often to be between two extremes. If we regard the doctrine of the sinless perfection as a heresy, we regard contentment with sinful imperfection as a greater heresy. And we gravely fear that many Christians make the apsotles words, "If we say that we have not sin, we deceive ourselves," the unconscience justifiation for a low standard of Christian living. It were almost better for one to overstate the possibilities of sanctification in his eager grasp after holiness, than to understate them in his complacent satisfaction with a traditional unholiness. certainly it is not an edifying spectacle to see a Christian worldling throwing stones at a Christian perfectionist).

I dont claim to have the experience of the perfect love that casts out fear but i desire it, because pure love is what matters, without it we are nothing.

I have a question for the my calvinist brothers, How much effective is the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross to cleanse us of sin and unrighteousness?

I really looking for an honest answer, we are talking about the cross, the redemption and how effective they can be against present sin in the believer.

Many old saints with imperfect theology had pure hearts, pure love and holy life, be they puritans,pietists,revivalists. Jesus was their all in all, their sufficiency, their perfection, their holiness, their source of divine life.




 2010/4/16 5:36Profile

Joined: 2007/2/3
Posts: 835
Alberta, Canada


{John Wesley's journal entry, Mon . January 1, 1739. — Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hatchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love-feast in Fetter-Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing constant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.”

In this whole thread, this is the thing that moved me!

How can we, why DO we, carry on without HIM?

About three in the morning, as we were continuing constant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.

...Cried out for exceeding JOY... and fell to the ground!

Oh, we need to repent!

And NOTE WELL: Both Wesley AND Whitfield were there at the time!

...What does God know that we don't?

Allan Halton

 2010/4/16 19:09Profile

Joined: 2009/5/29
Posts: 146


i believe John Wesley,that man of God,was saved.


 2010/4/16 22:05Profile

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