Experiencing the Truth of Scripture: A Perspective from Methodist History -- By: Robert E. Coleman

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 013:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: Experiencing the Truth of Scripture: A Perspective from Methodist History
Author: Robert E. Coleman

Experiencing the Truth of Scripture:
A Perspective from Methodist History

Robert E. Coleman

The dynamics of the Christian faith centers in experiencing the truth of God’s Word. Whether in individuals or mass revival movements, when the Scripture is believed, blessings come; when it is questioned or compromised, decline and ruin follow.

Reality of Experience

This principle can be seen in operation through the history of the church, but to bring it into focus, I want to look at the origin of the Methodist revival.

It can be said to have begun in the search of John Wesley for personal faith, which climaxed at a small Moravian chapel on May 24, 1738. Notice how the Bible guided his quest. Waking early that morning, he read in his New Testament, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Then he opened his Bible again. This time his eyes fell on the verses of Jesus: “Thou are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). All morning these promises kept running through his mind.

In the afternoon he went to the stately St. Paul’s Cathedral, where he was especially moved by the choir’s singing of Psalm 130: “Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord;

Lord, hear my voice.” The final verse seemed to stir the soul: “O Israel, trust in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.”

Those words were still echoing in his mind as he made his way to the little meeting on Aldersgate Street. We are not told how the service progressed, though it is known that the lesson that evening spoke of the transformation resulting from the new birth. As the young clergyman listened, about a quarter before nine, something happened. He explained it this way:

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.1

Wesley then “testified openly” to all what he “felt” in his heart.2 Having witnessed to those present, he went with some friends to tell his good news to his brother Charles, who lay sick in a house nearby. Rushing into his room, John exclaimed, “I ...

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