Wednesday with the Wesleys

II. We are to inquire, secondly, what could have been done which he hath not done in it, with regard to spiritual helps?

1. Let us consider this matter from the very beginning. Two young clergymen, not very remarkable in any way, of middle age, having a toler able measure of health (though rather weak than strong), began, about fifty years ago, to call sinners to repentance. This they did, for a time, in many of the churches in and about London. But two difficulties arose:first, the churches were so crowded that many of the parishioners could not get in; secondly, they preached new doctrines —that we are saved by faith and that “without holiness no man could see the Lord” [cf. Heb. 12:14]. For one or other of these reasons, they were not long suffered to preach in the churches. They then preached in Moorfields, Kennington Common and in many other public places. The fruit of their preach ing quickly appeared. Many sinners were changed both in heart and life. But, it seemed, this could not continue long. For every day one clearly saw these preachers would quickly wear themselves out; and no clergy man dared to assist them. But soon one and another, though not or dained, offered to assist them. God gave a signal blessing to their word. Many sinners were thoroughly convinced of sin, and many truly converted to God. Their assistants increased, both in number and in the success of their labours. Some of them were learned, some unlearned. Most of them were young, a few middle-aged. Some of them were weak; some, on the contrary, of remarkably strong understanding. But it pleased God to own them all, so that more and more brands were plucked out of the burning.

2. It may be observed that these clergymen, all this time, had no plan at all. They only went hither and thither, wherever they had a prospect of saving souls from death. But when more and more asked, “What must I do to be saved?” they were desired to meet all together. Twelve came the first Thursday night; forty the next; soon after, a hundred. And they continued to increase, till, three or four and twenty years ago, the London society amounted to about twenty-eight hundred.

3. But how should this multitude of people be kept together? And how should it be known whether they walked worthy of their profession? They were providentially led, when they were thinking on another thing, namely, paying the public debt, to divide all the people into little companies, or classes, according to their places of abode, and appoint one person in each class to see all the rest weekly. By this means it was quickly discovered if any of them lived in any known sin. If they did, they were first admonished and, when judged incorrigible, excluded from the society.

John Wesley “The Vineyard of the LORD”

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