John Wesley’s Methodist Revival Movement (II)

How can people see Jesus Christ if it is not the strong work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man? If it not the Holy Spirit illuminates the inner sin of the people, how can people be convicted with grieves and regrets? In the history of the church, we see that when religion became more and more rigid, God will raise some people at that time to awaken the heart of the slumber, to bring shaking to the spirit. At this time, many people will experience the true rebirth and renewal of faith, this is the work of God, that is every generation needs a revival! Every generation needs to undergo a revival. If the revival Movement only stays in the previous generation, then as for this generation, the revival movement will only have a few monuments (Monument, historical relics) to remember of. In the eighteenth century, Britain had a great revival movement, which was John Wesley’s evangelistic revival movement. This influence continued even to this day, especially in relation to the Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the century, so some scholars said : “Pentecostal movement is an extension of the original evangelism like word becomes flesh.” Meaning Pentecostal movement absorbed John Wesley’s concept of the evangelism and used it to replace the concept of “complete sanctification”.

At that time, the Anglican Church mainly evangelize the upper class, while the Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church preached to the middle class and merchants, and John Wesley’s evangelical specifically preached the gospel to the poor low-level working class. The sentimental sermons of the Wesleyan brothers were actually unpopular in the mainstream church, at that time, so they were often driven out of the church and they were not allowed to preach with passion in the church, so they had to focus on Some outside Christian groups, even held large-scale open air evangelical meetings to preach to many miners. Many of the lower class people were deeply touched by him. Thousands of people shed tears and made decision to believe in Jesus.

John Wesley’s revival movement has a special feature. Unlike the history of the church, some mystics only pursue their own holiness and wholeness, they preferred spiritual pursuits, and then lived separated from the group, pursuing isolation from the world. The sanctification Wesley was pursuing was not only the deeper inner work of the Holy Spirit, but to enable one to have “complete love”, ​​love for God and man and “elimination of inner sins”, and from then on, to go into basic level of the society to serve others.

John Wesley said: “I look upon all the world as my parish” which means that the whole world is the object of my evangelism! He added:” Give me a hundred people who are not afraid of anything except sin and desire nothing but God, I will shake the world.). Once while he was preaching, he found somebody was asleep. He suddenly shouted: “Fire, fire!”, the sleeping person was shocked and stood up and asked: “Where is the fire?”, Wesley said: “The fire of hell is for those who sleep during preaching. “John Wesley’s style of evangelism and the passion of stirring up the church had not only awakened the hearts of thousands of people, but also brought great reformation to British society at that time. So we said that the revival of the church could bring greater blessings to the society, so that the British society avoided the violence and bloodshed that happened in the French Revolution.

John Wesley’s belief in social reform

John Wesley was convinced of one truth that “everyone who loves God will love his brother.” He thought that if someone saw some  brothers and sisters were not clothed, or lacked daily bread, but not offered help, only told them to [go in peace]! That is very shameful. Therefore, while he spread the gospel, he did not neglect to help the poor and helpless people to solve their difficulties in lives. He believed that the sanctification of Christians must also be done in society and it must be implemented in the people, because real Sanctification (or perfection) is the complete love for God and man. It is spreading the gospel, to lead sinners out of hell, and enter heaven. Social reform is a by-product of the gospel movement, so the social reform of Methodist is originated from the passion of the heart for evangelism.

John Wesley is a man with organizational ability. He organized those who was seeking God into class and band. The class consists of twelve people. The class leader met with the class members at least once a week, to discipline life and to offer advice. He also collect contribution to help the poor. During meeting, they shared their spiritual experiences, confessed their sins one to another, interceded and exhorted each other, implemented the lessons of the Bible into practical life, make covenant with each other, love one another, and implement discipline. Band was attended by people who have assurance of salvation, consists of about six people. Each person was supervised by the head of the team. They talked about their personal spirituality, accept exaltation, reject sinful life, and be eager to do good. Wesley’s class meeting system was managed by regular believers, so that the middle and lower classes of the society can get a sense of belonging and identity, so that they could be loyal to within and caring for the society on the outside.

When John Wesley saw the actual needs of the society at that time, he began to have compassion and started many charitable causes: he set up orphanages, established home for the elderly, and accommodated widows who were old and helpless; and free clinic for people, also helps the unemployed to implement the work-for-payment method and taught the poor skills to make a living, so that they could become self-reliant to get what they needed for life..

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the act of selling slaves was soaring. Every year, 60,000 black were captured from all over Africa and transported to the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Portugal and other countries as slaves. This behavior was deeply hated by John Wesley. He condemned the slave trade and said that it was the worst “act of rogue”, so he advocated the liberation of slaves and wrote a very sharp article to advocate, he even said to the Methodist: “slaves owners are not allowed to take Holy Communion, slaves owners are not allowed to participate in church fellowships.” At that time, a member of Congress in the United Kingdom name William Wilberforce (1759 ~ 1833) was in full swing against slavery. So in 1791, John Wesley wrote a letter to Wilberforce three days before his death, encouraging him by saying “God raised you up, is for you to accomplish the glorious great things,” and encouraged him not stop his actions. After more than 30 years of hard work of Wilberforce, the slave trade was finally abolished in 1807, and all slaves in Britain were completely liberated in 1833.

John Wesley’s co-worker Whitefield

One worth mentioning was an important co-worker of John Wesley named, George. Whitefield, (1714-70), John Wesley pursued more in the way of the spirit. Every time he finished his preaching, he would bring the congregation together to pursue the infilling of the Holy Spirit. (Some people would  shake, some would scream and shout.); but Whitefield was more natural, he said that the Holy Spirit will work by Himself. But no matter what, the Holy Spirit always work strongly in their gatherings, every time after they finished their messages, many people would believed in the Lord. Their gifts of preaching were both very evident.

Whitefield carried a strong evangelical gift and the ability to make impromptu speeches. He was a forerunner of evangelism full of wind and fire. When he preached, he rejected the normal pastoral habit of “reading the manuscripts”, but relying on the Holy Spirit, releasing God’s message freely in every evangelistic meeting. Sometimes when he pleaded with the people to accept Christ as Savior, he would burst into tears and cry and caused the heart of those who are heart-hardened be softened.

Whitefield was born in a poor environment, when he later worked in a bar, he learned to drink, steal, lie and curse. Two years later he left the bar and went to Oxford to work and study at the same time. He met the famous evangelist John Wesley, His deep spiritual life began from that point on. But Whitefield also experienced spiritual struggles for several months. He always wanted to rely on his own efforts for Christ to be formed in him, so he fasted and prayed, dealing hard with his heart and carried out a series of severe self-chastening. As a result, he couldn’t sleep or eat,  He said, “I couldn’t meditate at all. Even my ability to think was gone, my memory was getting worse, my soul was withered. There was no life, only God knew how many nights I laid awake in bed, burdened by how I felt, I kept mourning, I fell to the ground all day and even all week, asking God to give me freedom, to rescue me from the arrogant thoughts that came out of the pit of hell.” Whitefield realized that he was relying on his own strength, and liked legalism, he was trapped in exhaustion and totally desperate, only when he throw himself into the grace of God again, he said at that moment, “Suddenly, there was an assurance of faith flooded my wearied heart and soul!” He finally felt deeply the “Peace in the Lord” from God, and this process of spiritual struggle became the most important turning point in his life, and he often used this testimony in his sermon.

Although Whitehead was once a wild and slutty youth, he accepted Christ wholeheartedly, and dedicated himself totally, to be filled by the Holy Spirit, and became one of the most impactful evangelists of all times. He often prayed and read the scriptures at the same time, making his sermons full of power. When he was twenty-two, he wrote about this experience. He said, “In the early morning or at noon or in the evening or in the middle of the night, it was actually all day, and the blessed Jesus came to me and refreshed my soul and my mind, if the trees in the forest could speak, they would tell you how I and some other people enjoyed the sweet communion with God. Sometimes, when I walked, I felt the ecstasy in my soul that my heart was about to burst out of my body; there were other times, the infinite beauty of God caused me to be prostrated on the ground.”

Whitefield sometimes preached two or three times a day; he could speak to 20,000 people outdoors, and people could still clearly hear what he was saying. He lived like this from the age of twenty-two when he began to minister to the age of fifty-six when he died. He brought the message to every corner of the English-speaking world. He could be considered the founder of the Great Awakening in the United States. In 1740, the evangelist Whitefield came from United Kingdom to the United States for a evangelical tour. The fire of revival was re-kindled and once the news of him preaching came out, the workers miles away would immediately laid down their tools, and farmers in the fields would quit their work to come, the number of audience often reached thousands of people, that the church could not accommodate, it had to be held outdoor, people came In droves to accept Jesus Christ.

The Great Awakening Movement reached its peak in 1740. Whitefield went to the United States all together seven times, 15 times  to Scotland, and twice to Ireland. He preached more than 18,000 times in his life. More than several millions of people had heard him in person. He continued to preach in different cities in the UK, and established two large chapels in London, and put a lot of effort into the establishment of an orphanage in Georgia in United States.

Wherever he went, the power of the gospel manifested. The following was an example of his own record of the great outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit. The time was Sunday November 2, 1740. He said: “Half hour before the sermon I felt depressed, before I left my apartment I could only bow before the Lord and said to Him: I am a poor sinner. I am amazed that Christ can be so merciful and kind to such a despicable person. When I was on the road, I felt even weaker, when I stepped on the platform. I would rather be silent than to speak, but when I started to preach, the whole congregation was shocked, and the sound of shouting and crying came from all directions. My heart was greatly moved, even I could not say anything, I was overwhelmed by the merciful love of God. When I came down from the podium, a woman said to me, “Look, what God did for me this evening.” I saw her daughter shouting in great grief: “Oh, My Jesus! My Jesus!”

Another child who could barely stand up on the stairs. People asked him why was he crying? He said: “How can one not cry? These words were like knife stabbed straight into my heart.” I went back home and laid in my bed, in the amazing stillness, admiring God’s love that is vast and boundless, free and glorious yet humbling. The divine comfort came like tidal waves, surging in with great speed, that my fragile tent could hardly accommodated. ”

Whitefield often wrote in his diary “powerful preaching.” “I think the meaning of power is the expansion of the soul. There is a joyful state of mind that came to me from above, so I can speak freely and clearly and powerful, people will be touched when they heard it.” His reputation was wild spread. He accepted many invitations. He preached many times a day. Although his health was not good, he continued to preach, Some advised him not to be too tired, but he said: “I would rather wear out than to decay [Note 2]; I would rather die in doing than to just die. [Note 3]”, he was only fifty-six years old, and he died because of overwork and exhaustion of physical strength. Later he was Buried under the pulpit of a church in the United States (the Presbyterian church of the Newburyport, Massachusetts).

The ministry of Whitefield had set a good example for us in honoring God. He believed that anyone who is willing to believes in Christ will be saved. He once said the same thing to John Wesley. “The whole world is my parish. Wherever my Master calls me, I am ready to go immediately and proclaim His eternal gospel.” The focus of his message is on God’s holiness, and on man’s sinfulness and helplessness, and the redemption of Jesus Christ.

What is the secret of such a huge influence in the life of Whitefield ? Simply put, it is his integrity and his love for the soul. He lived a holy life, whether it is about money or morality, he maintained his integrity till the end, and his compassion for the lost sinner, just like John Wesley testified about him: “The Holy Spirit pour God’s love into his heart, and filled him with a tender and selfless love towards people, From there flowed an endless stream of eloquent words, sweeping the people in front of him and created a wonderful feeling, causing the hard-hearted sinners became irresistible to this love, this often makes his head sweat like a pool (sweat), eyes like fountain (crying with tears). Based on the history of that time, John Wesley said: “No one had called as many sinners to repentance and turn to God like he did”

(Source: Christian Revival Story Collection)