Every student of Methodist, and indeed of modern church history, is familiar with the famous passage in which John Wesley describes the striking experience which he underwent on May 24, 1738: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to the society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; … assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death” (Journal, I, 475, 476).
How important was this experience in John Wesley’s spiritual life? Attempts have been made, especially during the present century, to play down its significance. For example, the Belgian Franciscan priest, Father Maximin Piette, in his book John Wesley in the Evolution of Protestantism, says this (p. 306):
This famous conversion, which has been called upon to play so prominent a part in the doctrinal life of the Methodism of the nineteenth century, enjoyed but a very modest role in the founder’s life and in that of his companions. In fact, whether it be considered in its preparation, or be studied in itself and its results, it would seem to have been merely a quite ordinary experience whose effects time was quickly to dull. Had it not been entered in the first extract of the Journal, it is quite possible that Wesley would have entirely forgotten all about it. In any case, subsequent appraisals, made after the lapse of many years, reduce to pitiable proportions the song of praise and victory which first accompanied it.
But concerning this opinion there are two things ...1
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