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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

24 May 1738 (3)


THE DAY WESLEY'S HEART WAS STRANGELY WARMED

Read Wesley's earlier entry here

9. All the time I was at Savannah I was thus ‘beating the air’. Being ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, which by a living faith in him bringeth salvation ‘to every one that believeth’, I sought to establish my own righteousness, and so laboured in the fire all my days. I was now properly ‘under the law’; I knew that ‘the law’ of God was ‘spiritual’; ‘I consented to it that it was good.’ Yea, ‘I delighted in it, after the inner man.’ Yet was I ‘carnal, sold under sin’. Every day was I constrained to cry out, ‘What I do, I allow not; for what I would I do not, but what I hate, that I do.’ ‘To will is indeed present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.’ For ‘the good which I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.’ ‘I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me,’ even the ‘law in my members warring against the law of my mind’, and still ‘bringing me into captivity to the law of sin’.

10. In this vile, abject state of bondage to sin I was indeed fighting continually, but not conquering. Before, I had willingly served sin: now it was unwillingly, but still I served it. I fell and rose and fell again. Sometimes I was overcome and in heaviness. Sometimes I overcame and was in joy. For as in the former state I had some foretastes of the terrors of the law, so had I in this of the comforts of the gospel. During this whole struggle between nature and grace (which had now continued above ten years) I had many remarkable returns to prayer, especially when I was in trouble; I had many sensible comforts, which are indeed no other than short anticipations of the life of faith. But I was still ‘under the law’, not ‘under grace’ (the state most who are called Christians are content to live and die in); for I was only ‘striving with’, not ‘freed from sin’. Neither had I ‘the witness of the Spirit with my spirit’. And indeed could not; for I ‘sought it not by faith, but (as it were) by the works of the law’.

11. In my return to England, January 1738, being in imminent danger of death, and very uneasy on that account, I was strongly convinced that the cause of that uneasiness was unbelief, and that the gaining a true, living faith, was the ‘one thing needful’ for me. But still I fixed not this faith on its right object: I meant only faith in God, not faith in or through Christ. Again, I knew not that I was wholly void of this faith, but only thought I had not enough of it. So that when Peter Böhler, whom God prepared for me as soon as I came to London, affirmed of true faith in Christ (which is but one) that it had those two fruits inseparably attending it, ‘dominion over sin, and constant peace from a sense of forgiveness’, I was quite amazed, and looked upon it as a new gospel. If this was so, it was clear I had not faith. But I was not willing to be convinced of this. Therefore I disputed with all my might and laboured to prove that faith might be where these were not, especially where that sense of forgiveness was not. For all the Scriptures relating to this I had been long since taught to construe away, and to call all ‘Presbyterians’ who spoke otherwise. Besides, I well saw no one could (in the nature of things) have such a sense of forgiveness and not feel it. But I felt it not. If then there was no faith without this,e all my pretensions to faith dropped at once.

12. When I met Peter Böhler again, he readily consented to put the dispute upon the issue which I desired, viz., Scripture and experience. I first consulted the Scripture. But when I set aside the glosses of men, and simply considered the words of God, comparing them together and endeavouring to illustrate the obscure by the plainer passages, I found they all made against me, and was forced to retreat to my last hold, that experience would never agree with the literal interpretation of those Scriptures. Nor could I therefore allow it to be the true till I found some living witnesses of it. He replied, he could show me such at any time; if I desired it, the next day. And accordingly the next day he came again with three others, all of whom testified of their own personal experience that a true, living faith in Christ is inseparable from a sense of pardon for all past, and freedom from all present sins. They added with one mouth that this faith was the gift, the free gift of God, and that he would surely bestow it upon every soul who earnestly and perseveringly sought it. I was now thoroughly convinced. And, by the grace of God, I resolved to seek it unto the end, (1) by absolutely renouncing all dependence, in whole or in part, upon my own works or righteousness, on which I had really grounded my hope of salvation, though I knew it not, from my youth up; (2) by adding to ‘the constant use of all the’ other ‘means of grace’, continual prayer for this very thing, justifying, saving faith, a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for me; a trust in him as my Christ, as my sole justification, sanctification, and redemption.

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