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John Greenfield
Power From On High

3. The Spirit's Witness
(Abridged Text)

 
"Every day had given them occasion of showing a meekness, which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth....."
 
One result of their baptism in the Holy Spirit was a joyful assurance of their pardon and salvation. This made a strong impact on people in many countries, including the Wesleys.

In 1736, John and Charles Wesley sailed to America as Anglican missionaries. A company of Moravian immigrants were also on the vessel. During a terrible storm, they all faced the danger of shipwreck. John Wesley wrote in his journal:

"At seven, I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behavior. Of their humility, they had given a continual proof by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired and would receive no pay, saying, 'It was good for their proud hearts,' and 'their loving Saviour had done more for them.' And every day had given them occasion of showing a meekness, which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. Here was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger and revenge. In the midst of the Psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards: 'Were you not afraid?' He answered, 'I thank God, no.' I asked: 'But were not your women and children afraid?' He replied mildly: 'No, our women and children are not afraid to die' (1927:3536).

In Georgia, John Wesley sought spiritual counsel from the Moravian Bishop, A. G. Spangenberg. Back in England in 1738 the Wesley brothers became intimately acquainted with the Moravians, especially Peter Boehler who later became a leading Moravian bishop.

On 4 March, 1738, Wesley wrote in his diary: 'I found my brother at Oxford recovering from his pleurisy; and with him Peter Boehler: by whom (in the hand of the great God) I was, on Sunday, the 5th, clearly convicted of unbelief; of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved. Immediately it struck into my mind, "Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others who have not faith yourself?" I asked Boehler whether he thought I should leave it off, or not. He answered, "By no means." I asked; "But what can I preach?" He said: "Preach faith till you have faith." Accordingly, Monday, 6, I began preaching this new doctrine, though my soul started back from the work. The first person, to whom I offered salvation by faith alone, was a prisoner under sentence of death.

Eventually John Wesley came to assurance of salvation. His own testimony reads;

Wednesday, May 3, 1738. My brother had a long and particular conversation with Peter Boechler. And it now pleased God to open his eyes; so that he also saw clearly, what was the nature of that one true living faith, whereby alone "through grace" we are saved.

Wednesday, May 24. 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 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.

Friday, May 26. My soul continued in peace, but yet in heaviness, because of manifold temptations. I asked Mr. Telchig, the Moravian, what to do. He said, "You must not fight with them as you did before, but flee from them the moment they appear, and take shelter in the wounds of Jesus."

The Methodists and Moravians often met together then for Bible study and prayer. George Whitefield's biographer wrote:

Whitefield began the New Year (1739) as gloriously as he ended that which had just expired. He received Sacrament, preached twice, expounded twice, attended a Moravian love feast in Fetter Lane, where he spent the whole night in prayer to God, psalms and thanksgivings, and then pronounced "this to be the happiest New Year's Day he had ever seen."

This love feast at Fetter Lane was a memorable one. Besides about sixty Moravians, there were present not fewer than seven of the Oxford Methodists, namely John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Wesley Hall, Benjamin Ingham, Charles Kinchin and Richards Hitchins, all of the ordained clergymen of the Church of England. Wesley writes: "About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried 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!"

What the Moravians imparted to John Wesley is summarized by one of his biographers, W. H. Fitchett:

"In substance it was three things which lie in the very alphabet of Christianity, but which somehow the teachings of a godly home, of a great University, and of an ancient Church, and of famous books, had not taught Wesley. There are that salvation is through Christ's Atonement alone, and not through our own works; that it's sole condition is faith; and that it is attested to the spiritual consciousness by the Holy Spirit. There truths today are platitudes; to Wesley they were, at this stage of his life, discoveries."

Wesley's estimate of the Moravian revival which resulted in his own conversion was prophetic. When Peter Boehler, nine years his junior, left England for America after several months, Wesley recorded in his journal:

"Peter Boehler left London to embark for Carolina. Oh what a work hath God begun since his coming into England! Such a one as shall never come to an end, till Heaven and earth pass away!"

Peter Boehler wrote to Count Zinzendorf, saying "The English people made a wonderful to do about me' and though I could not speak much English, they were always wanting me to tell them about the Saviour, His blood and wounds, and the forgiveness of sins."

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