Fetter Lane Society
The Moravians in England had established the Fetter Lane Society at No. 33 Fetter Lane in London. This society’s purpose was to provide discipleship and accountability based on the model set out in Philip Spener’s book, Pia Desideria.
It was with this group that John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and a number of other young men joined to conduct a Watch Night Service on December 31, 1738.
The Moravians in Germany, following the early church, had a custom of fellowshipping at a common meal, called a love feast (agape) prior to taking communion. On this New Year’s Eve, this meal and communion service was conducted.
Following the meal and communion, and as the new year arrived, the 60 young men that had gathered continued with their praying and worshipping the Lord when, according to the journal of John Wesley, dated January 1, 1739:
Mr. Hall, Hinching, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutching, and my brother Charles were present at our love feast in Fetter Lane with about 60 of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch 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.
The renowned evangelist George Whitefield, who was present at the love feast, said the following concerning the days that followed;
It was a Pentecostal season indeed, sometimes whole nights were spent in prayer. Often we have been filled as with new wine, and often I have seen them overwhelmed with the Divine Presence, and cry out, Will God, indeed, dwell with men on earth? How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven!
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Fetter Lane was so powerful, and what those young men experienced so real, that it set an anchor in their souls—they had experienced something they would never forget.
Within a few months of that Watch Night service, George Whitefield and the Wesleys were preaching in the fields.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Fetter Lane Watch Night Service on December 31, 1738 – January 1, 1739, was the spiritual inauguration for the public ministry of the Wesleys and the beginning of the Methodist Church.
The subsequent spreading revival cut across denominational lines and involved every segment of society.