Posts Tagged ‘John Wesley’
John Wesley’s counsel to a young preacher whose preaching gift was, if not declining, certainly stagnating:
What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is lack of reading.
I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little.
And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it.
Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.
Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer.
You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this.
You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.
Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.
Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.
It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher.
Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow.
Do not starve yourself any longer.
Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether.
Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular yours.
HT: Justin Taylor.
My son just fell downstairs. He was at the top with his hands full when he slipped and rolled to the bottom. I heard the heavy thuds as he dropped and made it to the bottom of the stairs pretty much as he did. He was, naturally, shocked and upset, but mercifully unhurt, as far as we can tell. A few cuddles and an eventual biscuit dried his tears, and he recovered his equanimity (and the cuddly toy that had made the descent with him). We checked Knuckles (the dog) for bumps, bruises and breaks, and fed him a little biscuit, and found that he was also OK.
It was at this point that I wondered why he was struggling to use his right hand. Had he, after all, injured himself? No, one of the reasons why he had fallen was because he was clutching a few copper coins: he could not grab the bar that he usually holds on to properly. But notice, he made it all the way to the bottom, and through the recovery, without once relinquishing his grip on that which, had he only held it more lightly, might have prevent him falling in the first place. He was holding it through his descent, and kept his grip upon it to the very end.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk 8:36-37).
Many men fall with their hands full, and suffer far worse than a few bruises and tears. There is a fall from which no man recovers, and many descend because they are grasping after the things of this life. When they reach the bottom, that which they held on to so fiercely is found to be worth nothing at all. In the final analysis, and counted in the light of eternity, untold millions would be no more than a few coppers if for the sake of holding them we fall, descend and eventually land in hell. There is a time to let go of the stuff of this life, and get hold of Jesus Christ.
For more counsel on the use of money, Gary Brady posts an excellent review of John Wesley’s attitude to and employment of his wealth.
Lewis Allen lists questions supplied by John Wesley for two or three warm-hearted and close-knit friends to use when in each other’s company as a means of mutual spiritual (self-)examination.
As Martin Downes notes, our answers to these questions should send us to Calvary, not to Sinai.
If you find these stimulating, you might also enjoy this record of the kind of questioning that went on among the Calvinist Methodists of Wales when they gathered together.
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
- Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
- Do I grumble and complain constantly?
- Is Christ real to me?
A gentleman by the name of Mike Elgan posts a fierce and forthright piece on Work Ethic 2.0: Attention Control. Some key quotes follow.
On the deliberate distractions of the interweb:
Columnist David Brooks, commenting in the Dec. 16th New York Times about Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book called “Outliers,” made a statement as profound as it was accurate: “Control of attention is the ultimate individual power,” he wrote. “People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them.”
But why is that truer now than ten or twenty years ago? Why will it be truer still ten or twenty years from now? As I wrote in May, Internet distractions evolve to become ever more “distracting” all the time — like a virus. Distractions now “seek you out.”
Distractions mask the toll they take on productivity. Everyone finishes up their work days exhausted, but how much of that exhaustion is from real work, how much from the mental effort of fighting off distractions and how much from the indulgence of distractions?
On the need for diligent focus:
The need for “attention,” rather than “hard work,” as the centerpiece of the new work ethic has arisen along with the rise of distractions carried on the wings of Internet protocol. In one generation, we’ve gone from a total separation of “work” from “non-work” to one in which both work and play are always sitting right in front of us.
Now, we find ourselves with absolutely nothing standing between us and a universe of distractions — nothing except our own abilities to control attention. Porn, gambling, funny videos, flirting, socializing, playing games, shopping — it’s all literally one click away. Making matters worse, indulging these distractions looks just like work. And it’s easy to work and play at the same time — and call it work. These new, increasingly compelling distractions get piled on to older ones — office pop-ins, e-mail, IM, text messages, meetings and others.
On true productivity:
A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who’s “multi-tasking” all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption.
It’s time we upgraded our work ethic for the age we’re living in, not our grandparents’ age. Hard work is still a virtue, but now takes a distant second place to the new determinant of success or failure in the age of Internet distractions: Control of attention.
I think it was John Wesley who essentially divided his day into five minute sections, and asked at the end of each of them whether he had used it wisely. Our Bibles issue a similarly forthright command: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5.15-16).
So, how long have you just spent browsing the internet? How long did it take you to read this post? What will you do next?
The following excerpt comes from [Some of the] Great Preachers of Wales by Owen Jones (my edition is from Tentmaker Publications). In the section on Daniel Rowlands, Jones speaks of the societies or church meetings that sprang up as the preaching of these men gripped the souls of God’s people, with the aim of the mutual edification of God’s people.
In the last few days, I have had occasion to consider some of my own shortcomings, and the shortcomings of the church locally and at large, in this respect. These men drew up guidance concerning the grounds, objects and rules of these societies, providing also hymns to be sung in them.
As I re-read this section, I was once more appalled at the shallowness of my relationships with other saints of God. How defensive we are! How high the walls which we build around ourselves! How slow to confess ourselves creatures, sinners, and servants! In our day, should a pastor ask these questions in the course of his regular visitation, he might quickly be accused of intrusion. In a better time, these were the questions that healthy believers were expected to ask of each other.
Are they a little prescriptive? Yes, certainly. Do I agree with every sentiment exactly as it is expressed? No, not necessarily. Are they instructive? Yes, absolutely, and we would do well to consider whether or not this kind of transparent soul-deep dealing with one another would not greatly tend to the health of our own hearts, the hearts of those with whom we are in fellowship, and the well-being of the congregations of which we are a part. Ask yourself these questions first, and prepare to be searched. And then, as you keep reading, you will realise that the questions that had begun to cause you discomfort and even resentment were not even the questions addressed to the healthiest saints.
John Wesley established his first societies in the year 1739, at Bristol; and he speaks of them in his journal, April 14,1739, in the following way: “In the evening three women agreed to meet together weekly, with same intention as those at London, viz., ‘to confess their faults one to another, and pray one for another, that they may be healed.’ At eight, four young men agreed to meet in pursuance of the same design. How dare any man deny this to be (as to the substance of it) a means of grace ordained by God?” These were the first established by John Wesley; those he refers to in London, were societies in the Church of England, formed by pious clergymen, for the same great object of holding “conversations that might tend to mutual edification.”
In the year 1742, a pamphlet was drawn up, entitled: “The Grounds, objects, and Rules of the Societies, or Special Meetings, which have now just begun in Wales. To which are added some Hymns to be sung in them. By Men from the Church of England. Prov. xv. 22; xxiv. 6; xxvii. 17. Bristol : Printed by Felix Farley, in Castle Green. 1742.”
The preface is addressed “To all who have been made ready to deny themselves, and to take up the cross, and to follow the Lamb ; but more particularly to the Societies from the Church of England.” The authors of this pamphlet were Daniel Rowlands, Howel Harris, and Williams, Pantycelyn. The grounds of these meetings are drawn from Scripture: “1. The command of the Holy Ghost, through Paul, that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. 2. If it is our duty to exhort one another daily (Heb. iii. 13), then we ought to come together for that purpose. 3. It was the custom of godly men to assemble together under the Old Testament (Mai. iii. 16) and under the New. So were the disciples assembled together when Christ appeared unto them after His resurrection, and said, ‘Peace be unto you’ (Luke xxiv. 33 36). 4. Our Saviour has promised to be present where there are two or three assembled in His Name, which promise all who have come together from age to age have received (Matt, xxviii. 20).” The objects of these meetings were: “1. In obedience to the commandment, to provoke unto love and to good works (Heb. x. 24). 2. To prevent hardness of heart and backsliding when we are weak in grace, and when our corruptions are strong and temptations numerous (1 Cor. iii. 1, 2, 3). 3. In order that we may better understand the devices of Satan (2 Cor. ii. 11), the deceit of our hearts, and the work and growth of grace in our souls (1 Pet. iii. 8). 4. In order to enlighten one another in the Word of God, and in order to establish and build ourselves up on our most holy faith. 5. In order to exhort one another, and to prevent strifes, hatred, evil surmisings, envy, &c. (i Tim. vi. 4) 6. To have regard for the life and conversation, the spirit and temper, of one another, and to bear one another s burdens (Gal. vi. 2). 7. In order to glorify the work of God’s grace, by speaking to one another of what He has done to our souls, after the example of David (Psa. lxvi. 16). 8. In order to become strong against the enemies of our souls the world, the flesh, and the devil; in order to pray for one another, and to impart to one another whatever new we have known about God, His Son, and about ourselves, since our last meeting.”
To arrive at the above objects, three simple rules were fixed upon: “1. That, after singing and prayer (i Tim. ii. i), we open our bosoms to one another, and disclose, in the simplicity of our hearts, all the good and the evil we see within us, according to the help that is given, and as far as this is becoming in the presence of men. 2. In order to remove all things that prevent the increase of love, that we reveal all the suspicions that lurk in our minds about one another, which come from Satan, the accuser of the brethren, or in any other way. Great is the good we have experienced from this. To neglect this simplicity has enabled Satan to create such contention and strife (Matt, xviii. 15, 16, 17). 3. That we be examined and questioned by one another; because we are so partial to ourselves, and do not come to the point in examining ourselves (2 Cor. xiii. 5).”
The following are some of the questions for self-examination, briefly given: “1. What is our object in everything we undertake, the glory of God or something else? 2. What inducements and motives do we find in ourselves, the love of Christ or self-love? 3. With what will do we walk, the will of God as revealed in His Word or our own? Do we deny ourselves in all things?”
All the followers of Christ are taken to be one in all the great essentials, though there may be every shade of difference between them as to non-essentials ; therefore, no one was refused membership in these societies who complied with the above rules, and could answer the following questions satisfactorily: “1. Have you been convinced of your sins by the Spirit of God, so that you see yourself altogether lost? 2. Do you feel that you cannot see anything of the glory of God and His Son without the light of the Spirit? 3. Have you seen that you are altogether sinful and altogether helpless in that condition? 4. Do you believe that we are to be saved through the imputed righteousness of Christ only; and that this is to be received through faith, and that this faith is through the Spirit of God? 5. Has the Spirit of God made you ready to leave all for Christ? 6. Have you been carefully considering the conditions of salvation? And do you find that the grace of God has enabled you to deny yourself in everything, and submit to the will of Christ? 7. If the Holy Spirit doth not yet witness with your spirit that you are the child of God, do you find that you always seek God with your whole heart? 8. Do you feel that nothing which you have experienced hitherto can give you rest, until you experience Christ within you, and know that you believe in Him; and until you see His righteousness satisfying Divine justice in your behalf, and so kindling a flame of love in your bosom towards Him? 9. Do you believe, and consent to, the fundamental truths – first, about the Trinity; second, election; third, original sin; fourth, justification by faith; fifth, continuance in a state of grace, &c., as they are set forth in the Articles and Homilies of the Church of England? And in regard to those non-essential things, such as church discipline, ceremonies, the manner and time of baptism, &c., where we do not altogether agree perhaps, – Do you promise that you will not trouble your brethren with respect to them? 10. Do you feel that it is the love of Christ that impels you to join us? And do you agree to these rules, looking upon us, and we upon you, as members of the same body, as children of the same Father, as one? And are you willing to keep what you hear in these meetings to yourself; for to speak of these spiritual experiences before the world is to cast pearls before swine?”
These questions were to be asked to those who had entered their names in a previous meeting as wishful to join; and, after having heard the testimony of friends about character, convictions, &c. Provision is made also for those who could not give clear answers as yet. They were to be treated as babes. And in order to meet the requirements of those who were more advanced, who could bear strong meat, a more special meeting still was agreed to; and all who had been in the general society for a length of time, and were of unblemished character, were to be admitted. In this society within society, a series of deeper questions were given, such as: “Do you know that you believe? that you are in the faith? that your sins are forgiven? that Christ died for you in particular? and that He now dwells within you? and that God has loved you with an everlasting love? Does the Spirit of God witness with your spirit that you are the child of God? Do you feel more and more sympathy with those that are tempted? and more pity and consideration and love for all, especially for them that are of the household of faith? Do you feel an increase of spiritual light in yourself, revealing unto you more of the holiness of God and the spirituality of His law; and more of the deceit and wickedness of your own heart, the evil of sin, and the worth of Christ? Is your conscience more tender, condemning you for the first beginnings of sin in your mind? – for every lustful look ? for the beginnings of frivolity and fleshly mirth? for hypocrisy? bitter temper? in their very first beginnings; for idle words? for forgetfulness of God? for vain and corrupt imaginations? What lesson has the Lord taught you since we were here before? How much more do you see of the evil and deceitfulness of your heart? of the devices of Satan? of the depths of the grace of God, and the wonderful work of His grace in yourself? of spiritual and experiential light in His Word? Do you see more of the wonder of God s special love towards yourself? And does this change you to His image? and make you long more for glorifying His Name, and for seeing Him coming to be glorified in His saints? Do the sins of others touch you more? And do you feel that your souls are rooted and grounded more and more in love; so that, notwithstanding your weakness, your corruption and darkness, which caused you pain before, and is still a cause of grief, yet you feel that your full redemption is in Christ; and through the fulness, the might, and the faithfulness of Christ you are still happy in your misfortunes, and can say, when the clouds are darkest, I know whom I have believed ? Can you say – as you have come to see more clearly, by the witness of the water and the blood – that your names are written in the Book of Life? and do you know firmly that neither death, nor life . . . nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, is able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; and that no one can pluck you out of His hand, for the Father is greater than all; and when your earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, can you say that you have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, and that the ground on which you rest all this is the everlasting covenant and the immutability of God?”