The Conviction and Conversion of John Wesley

On February 1, 1738, he writes, “It is now two years and almost four months since I left my native country in order to teach the Georgian Indians the nature of Christianity — but what have I learned myself in the meantime? Why (what I the last of all suspected), that I, who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God. I am not mad, though I thus speak, but I speak the words of truth and soberness, if haply some of those who will still dream may awake and see that, as I am, so are they. Are they learned in philosophy? So was I. In ancient or modern languages? So was I also. Are they versed in the science of divinity? I too have studied it many years. Can they talk fluently upon spiritual things? The very same could I do. Are they plenteous in alms? Behold, I gave all my goods to feed the poor. Do they give of their labor as well as of their sub­stance? I have labored more abundantly than they all. Are they willing to suffer for their brethren? I have relinquished my friends, repu­tation, ease and country. I have put my life into my hand, wandering into strange lands. I have given my body to be devoured by the sea, to be parched with heat, to be consumed by toil and weariness, or whatsoever God should please to bring upon me. Does all this (be it more or less, it matters not) make me ac­ceptable to God? Does all I ever did or can know, say, give, do or suffer justify me in His sight? Yea, or the constant use of all the means of grace? Or that I am, as touching outward moral righteousness, blameless? Or, to come closer yet, the having a rational con­viction of all the truths of Christianity? Does all this give me a claim to the holy, heavenly, divine character of a Christian? By no means!

This, then, have I learned in the ends of the earth: that I am fallen short of the glory of God, that my whole heart is altogether corrupt and abominable, and, consequently, my whole life (seeing that it cannot be that an evil tree should bring forth good fruit) is alienated from the life of God. I am a child of wrath, an heir of Hell. My own works, my own sufferings and my own righteousness are so far from making any atonement for the least of my sins, which are more in number than the hairs of my head. The best of them need atonement or they cannot abide His righteous judgment. Having the sentence of death in my heart, and having nothing in or of myself to plead, I have no hope but that of being justified freely through the redemption that is in Jesus.

If it were said that I have faith (for many such things have I heard from many miserable comforters), I answer, so have the devils a sort of faith, but still they are strangers to the covenant of promise. The faith I want is a sure trust and confidence in God; that through the merits of Christ my sins are forgiven and I am reconciled to the favor of God. I want that faith which enables everyone who has it to cry out, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

On the 24th of May, nearly four months after these words were written, while sitting and listening to the reading of Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, while he was de­scribing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, John Wesley trusted in Christ and was saved. His own words are, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He has taken away my sins — even mine — and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

And now, dear reader, how is it with your own soul? Have you thus trusted Christ? Have you the assurance that your sins are taken away; and that you are saved from the law of sin and death? The sure word of the Lord says, “All that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39). Thus we see every true believer is saved and knows it, as we read, “The Spirit of God beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16). “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). If you are still unsaved, there is no need that you should spend so much time as John Wesley did trying to gain salvation by your own works and prayers. God says that you cannot do anything to please Him (Rom. 8:8; Heb. 11:6). Your heart is de­ceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). Every imagination of it is only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). So it is impossible for you to do anything else but sin, but still God loves you. If you really believe that you are guilty and worthy of Hell, you may be saved as you read, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The mo­ment a poor, lost, guilty sinner be­lieves in Jesus, that moment that one is saved!

The Conviction and Conversion of John Wesley was condensed and revised. Permission was given for anyone to reproduce and distribute this article from God’s Bible School, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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