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Journey to Assurance

May 25, 2023

John and Charles Wesley’s Journey to an Assured and Warmed Heart

May 24, 1738 is remembered for the life-changing experience it was in John Wesley’s spiritual journey.  This spiritual journey that had taken him to Oxford to train for the priesthood, to the Holy Club to seek salvation and holiness, to Georgia where in a letter to John Burton he states that he was going to Georgia in the hope of saving his own soul (Heitzanrater, People, 64).  Georgia was a fiasco on several levels that included ministry mis-steps and relational mis-steps.  So, Georgia is considered a failure at many points unless one considers that this experience seems to “empty” John of any thought that he can save his own soul by effort and serious action.

Wesley’s leaving of Georgia and returning to London become very sad days for him.  He contemplates leaving the vocation of ministry because of his sense of failure in ministry and a lack of assurance of salvation.  In steps Peter Bohler, a Moravian leader who convinces Wesley that one can be made right in a moment by faith.  Wesley is hearing something that his Anglican and family training had not expressed so clearly.  In classic John Wesley fashion he begins to consult the Scriptures and realizes that salvation does occur immediately when one believes and that the only example of a protracted salvation experience is the conversion of Saul (Paul).

Peter Bohler has a profound effect on John and Charles when back in London.  In the midst of this “Legal Night” of seeking the assurance of salvation by endeavors.  Charles became ill, Bohler prayed for him and asked him (according to Charles Wesley’s Journal): “Do you hope to be saved?” “Yes,” I replied. “For what reason do you hope it?” “Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God.” He (Bohler) shook his head and said no more. Charles records in a letter to his brother John that he thought Bohler very uncharitable and said in my heart: “What, are not my endeavors a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust to (1)." And herein lies the problem that John and Charles Wesley faced as they sought assurance of salvation.  No one could ever have an assurance of salvation if they had to rely solely (souly) on their “endeavors.”

This is where John and Charles Wesley find themselves.  They were doing all they could and being serious about their doing but finding no peace and assurance from God because this is not how one can be at peace and assurance with God.  He has provided a way that is through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22).

Peter Bohler commented: “our (Moravian) mode of believing in the Saviour is so easy to Englishmen, that they cannot reconcile themselves to it; if it were a little more artful, they would much sooner find their way into it (2)."


So the question I would pose to all of us is to what degree or extent are we “trusting in our endeavors?”  This can be subtle, as I suspect was the case with the Wesley’s, as they surely were serious about their relationship with God.  Our failure at times to see our efforts or endeavors for God as the Fruit of our relationship with God and NOT the root of our relationship with God.  How might you and I have confused the two?


John Wesley's Sermon #42 (Standard Sermons)—Satan’s Devices

I think this sermon is especially helpful for people who are serious about their relationship with God and how the evil one seeks to incite self-effort


2--Qtd in Tyerman, The Life and Times of The Rev John Wesley, 181.