John Wesley’s Methodist Revival Movement (ㄧ)


The Pietism that Germany emerged from the Lutheran Church in the seventeenth century emphasized individual beliefs and spiritual experiences, and the Moravians subsequently inherited this spiritual heritage. With the flow of godly spirits, the two great revival movements of the eighteenth century have a deep relationship with this. One is to drive the revival movement of the Methodist Church led by John Wesley (1703-1791). Methodism (1738-1791), the other is the Great Awakening (1726-1750, led by Edwards and Whitefield) in the United States at the time of the British colony. Pietism, social concern, and mission are the three characteristics of John Wesley’s Methodism.

At that time, the British society in the eighteenth century was the advocate of the deism of the upper class (referring to a religious idea that was mainly popular in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. This religious thought emphasizes the natural religion that opposes the revelation of religion, the deists of them Believe that the universe is perfect, therefore there is no need for special revelation, do not believe in miracles, signs and wonders, most people in the lower classes are illiterate, entertaining vulgar, drunken atmosphere was very prevalent . The industrial revolution that took place in the eighteenth century brought about serious social problems: the problem of child labor, women workers, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor in society. Workers living in poverty, working all day long like animals, mentally depressed. When they got a break, they gambled and drank. At that time, there were one salon in every six houses in London. The life of the nobility was very extravagant. At the time, they also monopolized the legislative and executive powers of the state. They manipulated the law and became a tool for oppressing the people. What was even more inhuman was that the black people in Africa were transported out of the country for trafficking, social morality was corrupted, brothels were full of crimes, superstitions, and fornication were rising; officials were demanding for bribes and corrupted.

The original Anglican Church (Anglican Church, Anglican Association, great emphasis on religious ceremonies), under the control of the nobility, had become a state institution, with form and fashion but no spiritual vitality, and worship only focused on rituals so the believers lost the passion, priests were pampered, spirituality was low, and problems of alcoholism often occurs. The poor wanted nothing to do with the church and were rarely cared for. It was In such circumstances, John Wesley began the great revival of Britain.

John Wesley’s father was the pastor of an Anglican Church. The Anglican Church was the British state religion. His mother gave birth to 19 children. Only 11 children survived. John Wesley ranked fifteenth. His brother Charlie ranked eighteen. Because there were so many children, this pastor’s family life was very hard. However, John and Charlie did well in their studies. Their academic performance were excellent and were both admitted to Oxford School. Oxford was the best school in the UK at the time, they studied there and later entered into graduate school. During that time, John Wesley returned to his hometown once, and took a break from school to help his father to pastor at home. Later he was also ordained as pastor and accepted the duties of the so-called priest.

The beginning of the Methodist

In 1729, John Wesley returned to Oxford University. He worked as a student tutor while going to graduate school, He formed a studying club. With students they studied together, ministered together, and doing social services. They went to the prison to preach. This group of young students, had a set way to pray and study the Bible, a set of habits, they did everything in accordance with the rules, serious in their behavior, so people call this studying club as people following the rules (Methodist), which evolved to (the Methodist Church) today.

John Wesley’s Methodist revival movement became such a huge trend, really resulted from three leaders. The First is John Wesley, the second was his brother Charlie Wesley, a writer of hymns, and the third is their co-worker, Whitefield. The revival of the Methodist group, led by John Wesley, brought deep influence to the Holiness  movements, the Pentecostal movement, and the Charismatic movement.

In theology, John Wesley emphasized the “second blessing” (full sanctification) after “justification by faith”, that is, the completeness and holiness of the Christian; this does not mean that the believer is completely sinless after believing in the Lord, but it means they don’t like to sin, no longer have desire for sin, and remove all sin through thorough repentance, to open up oneself to be filled with the love of God (a complete love, pure love, is the life practice of loving God and loving people), Then break the power of sin, to live a life that is set apart, living out a full and holy life. This affects the “second blessing” of the holiness movement cleansed by the Holy Spirit, and the second blessing of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal movement and the Charismatic movement. That is:

※ Wesley’s “Second Blessing” means complete sanctification (born again  → sanctification)
※ The “second blessing” of the holiness movement refers to complete surrender (born again → spiritual baptism and full of the Holy Spirit)
※ Pentecostal movement “Second Blessing” refers to the sign of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and tongues (born again → filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues )

John Wesley proposes a dynamic view of grace, which believes that human salvation means the healing of a person’s inner soul, a continuous healing, the ability to actively to continue to breathe in the Holy Spirit, and to continuously renew the image of God in us. Wesley’s view of sanctification is different from the sanctification of Calvin and Martin Luther. Martin Luther thinks that when we are alive, it is impossible to achieve perfection. Martin Luther said: Christians are both sinners and righteous people. But John Wesley believes that when Christians are alive, it is possible to reach perfection. Sanctification is the second grace after the Christian is born again. Because of the pursuit of Christians, the complete devotion, the simple faith, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we can remove sinfulness and be filled with the complete love of God. This is the realm that can be obtained in this life, and it is the grace that is completed in an instant. This is John Wesley, different from other sects in theology. They emphasize on the pursuit of people and the responsibility of people, and had become the hallmark of today’s Methodist.

John Wesley (1703-1791), later called “the originator of Pentecost”, because the Pentecostal movement absorbed Wesley’s view of the Holy Spirit and sanctification. He believed that born again was only the first work of grace of the Holy Spirit. The work was not complete, and Christians need to experience the so-called Second work of Grace. This second work of grace allows the Holy Spirit to do the complete work in the life of the believer. The Pentecostal believe used this two-stage structure (born again and salvation to complete sanctification) to emphasize that Christians not only be born again, but also have the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit or baptism of the spirit (using the baptism of the spirit to replace the term of full sanctification) ); and the experience of this baptism of the spirit is obvious, and speaking in tongues is the evidence of this experience.

“Wesley personally was very hungry for the gift of speaking in tongues. He had once prayed eagerly to God for not having this gift. Because he believed that when people worship God, words of man sometimes seems dry, not enough to express the deep worship in the heart, It must be expressed in tongues, so he confirmed that speaking in tongues is a rich spiritual experience.” In an all-night prayer meeting, the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit fell upon him and his Methodist friends. John Wesley wrote this experience in the diary: “At about three in the morning, when we were still praying, God’s supernatural powers fell on us surprisingly and many people cried because of the overflowing joy. In addition, many people fell to the ground. When we gradually awoken before the wonderful and awesome Almighty God, we shouted in unison: “Praise God! Only Christ is the Lord!”

In fact, as early as 1735, John Wesley and his younger brother Charles Wesley had gone to Georgia to evangelize the Indians. This mission period was not long (about two or three years) and was not a very successful process, but at least it had an important impact on the spiritual life of the two brothers. First of all, there were two factors that made the Wesleyan brothers spiritually shocked: first, on the boat to America through the group of German Moravia brothers who have a godly life, when they encountered heavy storms on the way, they were about to sink and die, the passengers were desperate. Only Moravia’s faith group (including women and children) gathered on the deck to continue to sing and praise the Lord, and did some humble chores for other passengers. When they were hit by people or they were thrown to the ground, they would just stand up and walk away. You  couldn’t find any complaints out of their mouths. Wesley was deeply touched. John was musing the deeper level of faith again in his heart. Another factor was From a Georgian The bishop of the Moravian Brotherhood, called Sbonborn, asked John Wesley a couple of questions: “Is there inner witness evidence of the Holy Spirit to testify that you are a child of God?”, “Do You know Jesus Christ? Are you sure that He has saved you?” These two seemingly simple questions caused John Wesley to thinki about whether his relationship with Christ Jesus was established on clear and secured foundation once again.

Shortly after returning to England in 1738, John met another pastor, Peter Bohler of Moravia, who emphasized to John Wesley that (1) Justification by faith, (2) ) The heart must have an Assurance of Salvation, and (3) overcome all the sinful hold on us. John Wesley was deeply impressed by these beliefs and believed that it was consistent with the Bible and the experience of many witnesses, so he began to preach these truths. Pastor Bohler encouraged John Wesley to say: “Preach faith until you have it.” Then, because you have faith, you should preach it even more.”

On May 24, 1738, Wesley took part in a meeting in London’s Alders Gate. During the meeting, he felt that his heart was getting warm”, and he finally received the above mentioned three intrinsic assurances of faiths (justification by faith, the affirmation of salvation, and the victory over the power of sin), because some people read the preface to the book of Roman written by Martin Luther in the meeting, the preface said : “Because of the faith of man in Christ, God will work to change the heart.” This experience of salvation really affected every aspect of his experience. This experience is very similar to the experience of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a doctor of theology. He had been teaching at the seminary for a while before he was born again, and John Wesley was the same. He had been a pastor for several years. They went to preach, they went to do social services, but it was by this time, he was truly born again. His enthusiasm from this experience, combined with his brothers Charlie Wesley and Whitefield, formed a revival flame in Britain.

This kind of experience that emphasized the individual’s salvation by faith is the “new doctrine” that the leaders of the contemporary Anglican Church considered as unnecessary. They felt it is enough to be saved by the baby baptism alone. Soon, most of the Anglican church gates were closed to Wesley, and they had to meet on the streets. In April 1739, Whitefield invited John to a place called Bristol in the southwestern part of England to conduct missionary work, to organize a large number of new coal miners, to shepherd them with Christian doctrine, and to train them to become disciples. This was the gift that Wesley was best at. This revival movement had directly affected British society, such as the abolition of slavery and the protection of women and children’s welfare.

John Wesley believes that the whole process of “sanctification” is basically the love for God and love for others . Therefore, sanctification is the process of God’s infinite power and manifestation in the limited believers ; therefore, sanctification is not a completely static situation (this is what Wesley constantly denies), but a dynamic situation that keeps moving forward. John Wesley emphasizes that the joyful and personal relationship between believers and the Father must be carried out in the worship of God and the love of man .

  1. Love the lost means to “give them Christ”  during Evangelism.
  2. Love the poor means provide social care – preparing a house for orphans and widows, providing free medical care, food, clothing, education, and Sunday school.
  3. Love of the new believers means to train them to make disciples – group shepherding, if the believers were expelled by their parish church (the actions often taken by the contemporary Anglicans against the followers of the Methodists), they will hold a communion for them; provide new believers hymn and spiritual scriptures, study materials, prayers, leaflets, children’s prayers, daily lessons, songs; publishes spiritual works for adults (including theology and spirituality), monthly spiritual journals. John Wesley wrote more than 400 different publications during his lifetime.
  4. In the Christian community, love others means to honestly put away prejudice and work together to gain the soul of the lost, plus a sincere spirit of unity.
  5. His heart of loving the whole world, enable him to say: “The world is my parish.” Places he had been to for missions included Georgia, Germany, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Since 1769, Wesley sent a Methodist missionary to work in North America.

The work load of John Wesley’s life was amazing. During his fifty-two years of service, he walked or ride the horse averaged 4,000 miles every year and preached about 40,000 messages. But his greatest success was the ability to gather, organize, and train people to become spiritual leaders, including men and women. Through the maturity of the groups, local leaders, and travel evangelists, Wesley can sustain the passion for missions and bearing many spiritual fruits. He never neglected the teaching and training of the new believers, so that they could become disciples. One of the most commonly words John Wesley used to encourage the co-workers was: to save the soul, which is your most fundamental and important work. His diary often recorded that he was attacked by mobs when he preached the gospel everywhere. At the time of his death, there were 80,000 congregations in the United Kingdom and about 60,000 in the United States. Today, the Methodist Church has more than 40 million believers all over the world.

(Source: Christian Revival Story Collection)