Sermon Illustrations

John Wesley’s Diary:

July 7, 1739. — I had an opportunity to talk with him (some preacher friend) of those outward signs which had so often accompanied the inward work of God. I found his objections were chiefly grounded on gross misrepresentations of matter of fact. But the next day he had an opportunity of informing himself better: For no sooner had he begun (in the application of his sermon) to invite all sinners to believe in Christ, than four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without either sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third had strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time, I trust, we shall all suffer God to carry on his own work in the way that pleaseth Him.

June 15, 1739. — While I was earnestly inviting all sinners to “enter into the holiest” by this “new and living way,” many of those that heard began to call upon God with strong cries and tears. Some sunk down, and there remained no strength in them; others exceedingly trembled and quaked: Some were torn with a kind of convulsive motion in every part of their bodies, and that so violently, that often four or five persons could not hold one of them. I have seen many hysterical and many epileptic fits; but none of them were like these, in many respects. I immediately prayed that God would not suffer those who were weak to be offended. But one woman was offended greatly; being sure they might help it if they would; — no one could persuade her to the contrary; and she got

three or four yards, when she also dropped down, in as violent an agony as the rest. Twenty-six of those who had been thus affected (most of whom, during the prayers which were made for them, were in a moment filled with peace and joy) promised to call upon me the next day. But only eighteen came; by talking closely with whom, I found reason to believe that some of them had gone home to their house justified. The rest seemed to be waiting patiently for it.

When you talk about “Old Time Religion” to a lot of people it means great emotionalism, fantastic signs, people slain in the Spirit, and all sorts of Spiritual manifestations, demonstrations, and wonders. And it obviously DID occur. John Wesley’s preaching’s was often accompanied by it. But if that is what you focus on – you will miss the whole thing. John Wesley was not focused on charismatic happenings – He was focused on holiness and changed lives. As you read his diaries you will find he could care less about the manifestations. He never ‘primed the pump’ or worked people up. But the Holy Spirit did reveal Himself -and people were slain by the Spirit and demons were cast out of people – as the Spirit willed. I don’t think we should seek the manifestations. We should seek the Master. Don’t pray for the signs. Pray for the Spirit. Don’t seek the outward signs – seek the inward signs. When the Holy Spirit comes – His desire is not to impress people – but to change lives.

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