John Wesley had been struggling with despair. He worried that he should leave the ministry. The faith he did have seemed weak and of little comfort. When he confided this to his friend Peter Böhler, a leader in the Moravian church, Böhler counseled him on the nature of grace and advised him to “Preach faith until you have it. And then because you have it you will preach faith.”
Wesley followed this advice, preaching in a prison whereby a man was immediately converted. Wesley was astonished and committed to study the New Testament and discovered that the longest recorded delay in salvation was three days while Paul waited for his eyes to open (Acts 9). Christian friends of Wesley’s confirmed that they, too, had experienced immediate conversions. Wesley cried to the Lord to help his unbelief.
And on May 24, 1738 (275 years ago), he opened his bible early in the morning and read 2 Peter 1:4
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” (KJV)
In the evening, he attended a meeting at a Moravian meeting room on Aldersgate Street (London) where someone read from Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle of Romans.
At about 8:45pm
“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 in 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.”
John and his friends sought out his brother Charles at about 10pm to share the good news
where they shared a hymn and prayer before departing (Charles had experienced his Pentecost 3 days earlier, when he wrote that “The Spirit of God chased away the darkness of my unbelief”).
In the course of their ministries, John Wesley rode and preached from horseback approximately 250,000 miles and Charles Wesley wrote between 6,000 – 7,000 hymns.
The Stamps Theological Library has a large collection of books related to the Wesleys. If you would like to start with a biography, here are a few selections:
Collins, Kenneth J. A Real Christian: The Life of John Wesley. Abingdon Press, 1999.
Heitzenrater, Richard P. John Wesley His Own Biographer. Abingdon Press, 1984.
Tyson, John R. Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley. Eerdmans, 2007.
Image of John Wesley from AnglicanHistory.org
Information for this post gathered from A. Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves, eds. This Day in Christian History (Christian History Institute, 2005).