The Conviction and Conversion of John Wesley

On February 1, 1738, Wesley 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 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 deranged in saying this, but I speak the words of truth and soberness, if perhaps some of those who still dream may awake and see that, as I am, so are they. Are they learned in philosophy and in ancient or modern languages? So was I. Are they versed in the science of divinity? I too have studied it many years. Can they talk fluently on spiritual things? I could do the very same thing. Are they plenteous in alms? 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 given up my friends, my repu­tation, my ease, and my country. I have put my life into my hands, 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 that I ever did, or can know, say, give, do, or suffer, justify me in His sight? Does the constant use of all the means of grace, or that I am blameless in outward moral righteousness, or, to come closer yet, that I have a rational belief in all the truths of Christianity, give me a claim to the holy, heavenly, divine character of a Christian? By no means! This, then, have I learned: (1) that I come short of the glory of God; (2) that my whole heart is altogether corrupt and abominable, and, consequently, my whole life is alienated from the life of God; (3) that I am a child of wrath, an heir of hell. My own works, my own sufferings, and my own righteousness, can never atone for the least of my sins, which are more in number than the hairs of my head. Having then the sentence of death in my heart, and having nothing in or of myself to plead, I have no hope except of being justified freely through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.

If it is 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 God’s covenant of promise though Jesus. The faith that I need is a sure trust and confidence in God; that through the merits of Christ my sins would be forgiven and I would be reconciled to the favor of God. I need that faith which would enable 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 those words were written, while listening to the reading of Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans (Luther de­scribed the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ), John Wesley trusted in Christ and was saved. His own words were, “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 has saved me from the law of sin and death.”

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And now, dear reader, how is it with your own soul? Have you 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). Every true believer knows that he or she is saved, for we read that the Spirit of God bears 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 (Jesus), 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 he or she is saved! You can be saved now by simply asking Jesus to save you.

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

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