JOHN WESLEY  The Itinerant Personal Worker

     John Wesley (1703-1791) founder of the Methodist Church and an itinerant evangelist declared that he had only one point of view, "to promote, so far as I am able, vital, practical religion; and by the grace of God, beget, preserve and increase the life of God in the soul of men."

     Empowered in 1739 by the Holy Spirit for works of service Wesley wrote in his personal Journal, "about three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer...the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.'"

     John Wesley was convinced that all the world needed to hear the good news of Christ's salvation. Instead of confining himself to only the churches, John believed his call was to travel from place to place and reach the working class people. His travels took him over 250,000 miles preaching the gospel in churches, the market places or any place a crowd would hear him.

     In his personal Journal he records some of his many experiences in sharing the gospel:

     At eleven I preached at Brarfield to about three thousand, on the spirit of nature, of bondage, and of adoption. Returning in the evening, I was exceedingly pressed to go back to a young woman in Kingswood...I went. She was nineteen or twenty years old; but, it seems, could not write or read. I found her on the bed, two or three persons holding her. It was a terrible sight. The thousands of distortions of her whole body showed how the dogs of hell were gnawing her heart. The shrieks intermixed were scarce to be endured. But her stony eyes would not weep. She screamed out, as soon as words could find their way, "I am damned, damned; lost forever! Six days ago you might have helped me. But it is past. I am the devil's now. I have given myself to him. His I am. Him I must serve. With him I must go to hell. I will be his. I will serve him. I will go with him to hell. I cannot be saved. I will not be saved. I must, I will, I will be damned!" She then began praying to the devil. We began:

     "Arm of the Lord, awake, awake!" She immediately sunk down asleep; but as soon as we left off, broke out again, with inexpressible vehemence: "Stony hearts, break! I am warning to you. Break, break, poor stony hearts! Will you not break? What can be done for stony hearts? I am damned that you may be saved. Now break, now break, poor stony hearts! You need not be damned, though I must." She then fixed her eyes on the corner of the ceiling, and said: "There he is: ay, there he is! Come, good devil, come! Take me away. You said you would dash my brains out: come do it quickly. I am yours. I will be yours. Come just now, Take me away."

     We interrupted her by calling upon God: on which she sunk down as before: and another young woman began to roar out as loud as she had done. My brother now came in, it being about nine o'clock. We continued in prayer till past eleven; when God in a moment spoke peace into the soul, first of the tormented, and then of the other. And they both joined in singing praise to Him who had "stilled the enemy and the avenger" (1:297-298; Oct. 23, 1739).

     A violent rain began just as I set out, so that I was thoroughly wet in a few minutes. Just at that time the woman (then three miles off) cried out, "Yonder comes Wesley, galloping as fast as he can." When I was come, I was quite cold and dead, and fitter for sleep than prayer. She burst out in a horrid laughter, and said, "No power, no power; no faith, no faith. She is mine; her soul is mine. I have her, and will not let her go."

     We begged of God to increase our faith. Meanwhile her pangs increased more and more; so that one would have imagined, by the violence of the throes, her body must have been shattered to pieces. One who was clearly convinced this was no natural disorder, said, "I think Satan is let loose. I fear he will not stop here." And added, "I command thee, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to tell if thou hast commission to torment any other soul." It was immediately answered, "I have L--y C--r and S--h J--s." (Two who lived at some distance, and were then in perfect health.)

     We betook ourselves to prayer again; and ceased not till she began, about six o'clock, with a clear voice and composed, cheerful look: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" (Oct. 27, 1739).

     I preached once more at Bradford, at one in the afternoon. The violent rains did not hinder more, I believe, than ten thousand earnestly attending to what I spoke on those solemn words: "I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."

     Returning in the evening, I called at Mrs. J--'s, in Kingswood. S--h J--s and L--y C--r were there. It was scarce a quarter of an hour before L--y C--r fell into a strange agony; and presently after, S--h J--s. The violent convulsions all over their bodies were such as words cannot describe. Their cries and groans were too horrid to be borne, till one of them, in a tone not to be expressed, said: "Where is your faith now? Come, go to prayers. I will pray with you. `Our Father, which art in heaven.'" We took the advice, from whomsoever it came, and poured out our souls before God, till L--y C--r's agonies so increased, that it seemed she was in the pangs of death. But in a moment God spoke: she knew His voice; and both her body and soul were healed (1:301-302; Oct. 28, 1739).

     I found myself much out of order. However, I made shift to preach in the evening: but on Saturday my bodily strength quite failed, so that for several hours I could scarce lift up my head (May 8, 1741). I was obliged to lie down most part of the day, being easy only in that posture. Yet in the evening my weakness was suspended, while I was calling sinners to repentance. But at our love-feast which followed, beside the pain in my back and head, and the fever which still continued upon me, just as I began to pray, I was seized with such a cough, that I could hardly speak. At the same time came strongly into my mind, "Theses signs shall follow them that believe. I called on Jesus aloud, to "increase my faith," and to "confirm these words of His grace." While I was speaking my pain vanished away; the fever left me; my bodily strength returned; and for many weeks I felt neither weakness nor pain. "Unto thee, O Lord, do I give thanks" (1:454-455; May 10, 1741).

     I took my leave of Newcastle, horse was so exceedingly lame that I was afraid I must have lain by too. We could not discern what it was that was amiss; and yet he would scarce set his foot to the ground. By riding thus seven miles, I was thoroughly tired, and my head ached more than it had done for some months...I then thought, "Cannot God heal either man or beast, by any means, or without any?" Immediately my weariness and headache ceased, and my horse's lameness in the same instant. Nor did he halt any more either that day or the next. A very odd accident this also! (3:236; March 17, 1746).

     This being my birth-day, the first day of my seventy-second year, I was considering, How is this, that I find just the same strength as I did thirty years ago? That my sight is considerably better now, and my nerves firmer than they were then? That I have none of the infirmities of old age, and have lost several I had in my youth? The grand cause is, the good pleasure of God, who doth whatsoever pleases Him. The chief means are, 1. my constantly rising at four, for about fifty years. 2. my generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world. 3. my never travelling less, by sea or land, than four thousand five hundred miles a year (10:9; June 28, 1774).

John Wesley's contribution to the gospel cause included being a pioneer in the publication of a monthly magazine and the invention of the gospel tract in evangelism.