[b]JOHN WESLEY'S GREAT HUNGER FOR HOLINESS[/b]
One day John Wesley (founder of Methodism) made the great discovery - that "without holiness no one can see the Lord" (Heb 12:14). This he understood to mean that unless a person had purity of heart and life, entrance into heaven would be forfeited. Fearing for his soul, Wesley started to systematically and methodically structure his life around the great goal of taking time to be holy.
*Wesley's Method of Seeking Holiness
Together with his brother Charles, John Wesley organised other likeminded persons into a 'holy club', where mutual encouragement (Christian Conference) could be given to each other. 'Encourage one another daily, .....so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness' (Heb 3:13).
b)Holy Habits as Means of Grace
They regularly read and studied the scriptures together, engaged in prayer, practiced fasting and other forms of abstinence. They encouraged each other to go without fail to the House of Worship for "the public worship of God' and the 'supper of the Lord' (Holy Communion).
Wesley believed that the methodical commitment to these spiritual habits would result in the Grace of God being channelled inot a person's life, hence he considered these 'Holy Habits' to be 'means/channels of Grace', enabling a person with God's help to walk the road of holiness towards eternal life. (Mt 7:13,14)
Hence the 3 General Rules of the Methodist societies are:
* Do no harm, avoid evil of every kind,
* Do good of every possible sort,
* Attend upon all the ordinances of God (Holy Habits).
'For whoever would love life and see good days must ... turn from evil and do good'
(1 Pet 3:10-11)
Wesley believed in Social Holiness
It must not be thought that Wesley was only thinking of saving hi soul in his practice of Methodism. In fact John Wesley had a strong social conscience. His quest for holiness included engaging in social action. 'In 1730 I (John Wesley) began visiting the prisons, assisting the poor and sick in town and doing what other good I could, by my presence, or my little fortune, to the bodies and souls of all men.'
Wesley's great discovery of Salvation Faith
Surprisingly, Wesley's comprehensive method of holiness did not satisfy him. Something vital was missing. Even as he practived his Methodism, he admitted to himself -'In this refined way of trusting to my own works and my own righteousness ..... I dragged on heavily, finding no comfort or help therein'. 'For it is by Grace you have been safved, through Faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the Gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast'.(Eph 2:8,9)
Wesley finally found help ..... 'When Peter Boehler, whom God prepared for me, affirmed of true faith in Christ,.....which has two fruits inseparably atending it, "Dominion over sin, and constant peace from a sense of forgiveness" ..... I looked upon it as a new Gospel'.
The Aldersgate Turning-point
In May 24, 1738 - Wesley experienced that great life changing moment which we call his Aldersgate experience:
'In the evening, i went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. 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.'
Now Wesley had a definite worthwhile message for the world - salvation and forgiveness from sin through faith in Jesus Christ, which gives us holiness, which in turn prepares us for heaven.
Therefore the General Rules of the Methodist Societies teach us how to both, prepare to seek for salvation and also to mature in that salvation which is received only as a free gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. 'They know (the Methodist) indeed, that at the same time a man is justified (forgiven), sanctification (holiness) properly begins,' says John Wesley Wesley.
This holiness which we seek for before salvation and grow progressively in, after salvation, includes a strong sense of Christian social responsibility to the needy in both church and society. As Wesley says, he knows of no other holiness other than social holiness!
Wesley believed in the Second Blessing
Writing in 1761 to a Mrs Crosby, he says :
'The work of God goes on mightily here (London) ..... I believe, within five weeks, six (persons) have received remission (forgiveness) of sins, and five (persons) received a second blessing'.
What did Wesley mean by a second blesing? To let him explain himself:
'All experience as well as Scripture show this salvation to be both instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified (forgiven), it gradually increases from that moment ..... till, in another instant, the heart is clensed and filled with pure love of God and man. But even that increases more and more.'
In other words, Wesley believed that holiness or sanctification was received in a person's life the moment he or she was converted to Christ. However the convert has to grow and develop in that holiness or Christlike character. During this period of gradual development, Wesley believed that the Holy Spirit was able to choose a moment in the person's life where He would come in with all his loving fullness and power. This experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit was usually subsequent to salvation and hence - referred to as a second blessing.
To quote from the Methodist Discipline:
'Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanseth from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power, and we are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts, and to walk in His Holy commandments blameless'.
Wesley believed this sanctification to be both an experience of the heart as well as a process of life.
In conclusion - a Wesleyan experience of scriptural holiness must include the following:
Holiness received as a free gift from God at conversion to Christ.
Repentance from sin before and after conversion. THis repentance includes going against the sins of society (social holiness) such as gambling, drug abuse, abortion, oppression of the poor, drunkeness etc. (See 'General Rules' and 'Social Creed')
The progressive, gradual growth of the convert in Christlike character through the practicing of Holy Habits and Christian Conference.
The earnest seeking after, in prayer and commitment, for a deeper work of the holy Spirit in the life of the convert (the 'second blessing'- see 'A plain account of Christian Perfection' by John Wesley).
'If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who as him.' (Lk 11:13)
'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - for they shall be filled." (Mt 5:6)
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon