Christian History Home > 1982 > Issue 1 > The Moravians and John Wesley
The Moravians and John Wesley
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The worldwide influence of the 18th century Moravian missionaries was extraordinary. One notable example is the impact they had on John Wesley, leading directly to his conversion experience. Wesley’s Journal, covering the years 1736–1738, is replete with comments of his observations of and encounters with the Moravians (often calling them “the Germans”). A few selections of highlights give insight into the characters and spirit of the Moravian movement and its impression on the founder of the Methodists.
Sunday, January 25, 1736
Wesley is on board a ship bound for America and observes the Moravians in the midst of life-threatening storms.
At seven I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behaviour. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired, and would receive no pay, saying, “it was good for their proud hearts,” and “their loving Saviour had done more for them.” And every day had given them occasion of showing a meekness which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck, or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the Spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger, and revenge. In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Was you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.”
From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbours, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.
Tuesday, February 24, 1736
In Savannah, Georgia
At our return the next day, (Mr. Quincy being then in the house wherein we afterwards were,) Mr. Delamotte and I took up our lodging with the Germans (the Moravians). We had now an opportunity, day by day, of observing their whole behaviour. For we were in one room with them from morning to night, unless for the little time I spent in walking. They were always employed, always cheerful themselves, and in good humour with one another; they had put away all anger and strife, and wrath, and bitterness, and clamour, and evil-speaking; they walked worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called, and adorned the Gospel of our Lord in all things.
Saturday, February 28, 1736
They met to consult concerning the affairs of their Church; Mr. Spangenberg being shortly to go to Pennsylvania, and Bishop Nitschman to return to Germany. After several hours spent in conference and prayer, they proceeded to the election and ordination of a Bishop. The great simplicity, as well as solemnity, of the whole, almost made me forget the seventeen hundred years between, and imagine myself in one of those assemblies where form and state were not; but Paul the tent-maker, or Peter the fisherman, presided; yet with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
Saturday, March 4, 1738
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