During the closing service, the speaker Rev. Dr. Peter Au, currently the Principal of Canadian Chinese School of Theology at Tyndale Seminary, preached from Zechariah 3:2. He used this passage to reflect on the life of John Wesley, the man who started the Methodism movement.
John Wesley’s parents had 19 children but unfortunately only 7 survived. Wesley was the fifteenth child. When Wesley was 5, there was a fire at the rectory one night when the entire household was sleeping. Wesley was trapped on the second floor in his bedroom. The rest of the family had escaped the rectory. Calm in the midst of fire burning around him, Wesley got on a chair at the window and shouted for help. The neighbours saw him and managed to rescue him just seconds before the roof collapsed. His mother, Susanna remembered the verse from the Bible, “brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). She gave thanks to God and kept in her heart the purpose God may have had for him. Like John Wesley, we need God’s grace and mercy to save us from our sins.
Fast forward to 20 years later, John Wesley sailed to Georgia to share the Gospel to the Indians there. The first few several months on the ship were perilous, and the ship met storm after storm. It seemed the ship would fail. Wesley was fearful that he would perish during the storm. He then observed a group of Moravians still singing praises and worshipping God in the midst of the raging storm. Wesley was impacted and intrigued by their strong faith in God so *that he began to realise his spiritual inadequacy.
Upon arriving in Georgia, Wesley faced many difficulties and challenges. Between 1736 and 1737, John Wesley had a discouraging ministry. Failing miserably in his mission he left to return to England, discouraged and beaten.
On the evening of 24 May 1738, a depressed Wesley very reluctantly attended a service at Aldersgate Street, London. He heard a reading of Martin Luther’s preference to the “Epistle to the Romans”. About a quarter before nine, while the speaker was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, Wesley felt His heart strangely warmed. It was at that moment that he felt he did trust in Christ alone for salvation, and that God had taken away his sins and saved him from the law of sin and death. This heart-warming experience had impacted His ministry. It was the pivotal point in his life and the Methodist movement.
What Wesley didn’t know was that just a few days before, his brother Charles Wesley had his encounter with God and had experienced His peace and presence. In 1735, George Whitefield (a close friend from Oxford days) also had a life-changing experience.
The speaker reminded us, no matter who you are: the pastor, the lay leaders, or a member of the congregation, we are all saved through faith. We all desire an Aldersgate’s experience for ourselves like John Wesley did. We should practice personal acts of holiness, which include spending time with God in reading His Word and in prayers, partaking in Holy Communion, and so on. These are the means by which God sanctifies and transforms the believer. Next, we should also practice social holiness as John Wesley set the example for us: to visit those in prison, care for the orphans and voicing out against social injustice such as what Wesley did with the abolition of the Slave Trade.
May we, the Methodists, continue to grow in holy living as well as doing charitable deeds for the glory of God.
Reported by Rev Candy Liong