Why we celebrate Wesley Day
Beloved people of God, it pleased God to choose for Methodist Church a day, 24th May, like this when the Protestants and Revivalists all over the world especially the Methodists to reflect briefly on the lives, times, and works of the Wesleys with reference to the duo – John and Charles Wesley.
Our Venerable fathers in the LORD, John and Charles Wesley received of the LORD that great gift of God, that is, the gift of TOTAL RENEWAL and CONVICTION on May 24, 1738 and after it, as an Evangelist, he John declared “IT PLEASED GOD TO KINDLE A FIRE, WHICH I TRUST SHALL NEVER BE EXTINGUISHED”.
“THE WORLD IS MY PARISH”. That fire that kindled the hearts of the Wesleys is what has brought us here this evening, 24th May, 2019. Some are in their socio-political meetings, while others are in their places of comfort but you are here to remember the works of the Wesleys and the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Wesleys. Will you surrender yourself unto the Holy Spirit for GOD to REKINDLE THAT REFINING FIRE THROUGH YOUR LIFE? Your life and affairs as it happened to the Wesleys will not remain the same as you surrender to Him. Remember, that fire kindled by the Holy Spirit of God has forever burned as Charles Wesley fully expressed later in the MHB 387:6:
Refining fire, go through my heart
Illuminate my soul
Scatter thy life through every part
And sanctify the whole – Amen.
Thereafter, John started preaching salvation by faith to unprecedented audiences. His sole aim was to bring back true Christianity that was almost eluding England.
At this period, morals were rotten and Christianity was decaying. Honour and credit worthiness were the key words of Wesley’s religious intercourse.
Being the cornerstone of a sound religious reputation, these qualities made him exceptional in the Anglican Communion after his conversion.
John Wesley in his letter to The Rev. John Fletcher in 1766 said, “Unity and Holiness” are the two things he, John Wesley, wants from Methodist. Also in his sermon at the “Fountain of the City Road Chapel”, John Wesley reminded the people called Methodist and the Christendom that “Methodism is the old religion, the religion of the Bible, the religion of the Primitive Church.
This old religion is no other than LOVE – the love of God and mankind. This LOVE is the greatest medicine of life, the never failing remedy of all the evils of a disordered world and all vices and mysteries of man. Is it possible to recapture this greatest medicine of life and vision? Beloved, I would that all Methodists and non-Methodist in this Akwa Ibom State and beyond will recapture this greatest medicine of life and the vision of LOVE for God and one another.
John and Charles Wesley actually changed Christendom for the better. The tools used were the founding of Methodist Church, Open Air Preaching, Fervent Evangelism, Ministering the Gospel in songs, Advent of love offering and revival of Fasting which were not there before their time. They pioneered these frontiers that added colour to the Christian religion.
Some grievances drove the Anglican authorities to close their pulpit against John and Charles Wesley. They were the target of public opinions against their itinerant preaching in the morning when people were still in bed. This forced the English Lords to call their religious enthusiasm “superstitious noises”.
Second, the English crown rarely liked how the Wesley brothers lowered religion to the capacity of the down trodden who were their major crowd.
The sights of their audience reminded the British powers that leaving John and Charles Wesley in the English Church could cause unwanted revolution.
As a result, when they preached in June 1738 at a public square in London, their opponents brought an ox to disperse their crowd of about 20,000 people. But a surprising thing happened.
The ox that was obedient to the owners became disobedient and refused their bidding. In the second command, it faced its handlers, ran through them and there was a great panic without touching Wesley’s audience.
Another predominant reason for their excommunication was how Wesley’s audience often reacted emotionally by screaming, shouting, crying penitently and fainting to a near death point after hearing their provocative sermons.
From all indications, the social temper in the Church of England was rather high. They saw them as rebels.
Owing to these facts, John and his brother Charles Wesley (1707-1788) who had his evangelical awakening on a Whitsunday three days before John, were excommunicated.
These two brothers, now ecclesiastical leaders without denominations, were unprepared to return to the English Church. They preached the gospel wherever people gathered and went into open-air preaching, using fields, large outdoor spaces and motor parks.
This became the origin of crusade. They also travelled extensively on horsebacks delivering their charismatic sermons that sent listeners into immediate conversions. The nature and development of these approaches to Christianity identified them and their numerous converts as the Methodists.
How do you and I maintain the legacies of these our fore-bears? Can we properly examine our ways and return to the reality of the gospel and Christianity.
May you enjoy your evening in the presence of God and may the Holy Spirit with the refining fire bring a similar warm heart experience to you and I.
The Most Rev. Chimezuo O. N. Nwankpa
Archbishop & Bishop of Uyo