If John Wesley was living and preaching today we would not invite him to speak in our churches or Bible conferences (even though we do sing his hymns) because of his Arminian theology. But now that he is dead it is okay to quote him and refer to his works! John was the 15th child of Samuel and Suzannah Wesley born in 1703 at Epworth, England. Ordained a priest in the Anglican Church, a year later in 1729, he joined the “Holy Club,” which his brother Charles, and others, had recently formed. Immediately he was made its leader. Because of their methodical procedure in meeting, study, prayer and weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, they were dubbed “Methodists.” Before dying at age 88, he spent most of his life in itinerant ministry, traveling more than 250,000 miles preaching over 40,000 sermons, mostly on horseback! Now just think of that for a moment 40,000 sermons over 250,000 miles of rugged terrain on horseback! No air-conditioning, lumbar seating, headrest, am/fm stereo radio with cassette/CD, compass, GPS, miles traveled odometer, or McDonalds where he could get a hot cup of coffee and take a little break. Just lots of time to think, pray, prepare messages and reflect upon being “holy!” Not only did he preach more than 40,000 sermons but more than 200 writings are ascribed to his name. I have in my personal library a valued two-volume edition of Wesley’s sermons (140 of them) printed in 1836. Their pages are stained with time but the messages still timeless.
There is such a need for holiness among our people today. Augustine said that, “To be sound in faith and holy in life–this is the kernel of Christianity.” Much more recently Jerry Bridges stated, “Holiness is not a series of do’s and don’t’s, but a conformity to God’s character in the very depths of our being.” To show the seriousness of Wesley’s commitment, based somewhat upon our knowledge of his writings, he once said, “The first priority of my life is to be holy, and the second goal of my life is to be a scholar.” It reminds me of Robert Murray McCheyne’s garden prayer, “Lord, I want to be as holy as a pardoned sinner can be!” Truly, holiness is not a place to stop, but a highway to travel, not only for us who proclaim His Word, but also for those to whom we preach. Following are the twenty-two questions the members of John Wesley’s Holy Club asked themselves each day in their private devotions over 200 years ago. Just typing them brings conviction to my soul, and rightly so. Both we, and those we minister to, must continually bare our souls before the Lord and cry out, “Lord, here‘s my life, no argument!” Would we dare become a part of “John Wesley’s Holy Club?”
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
- Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
- Can I be trusted?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the Publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
- Do I grumble or complain constantly?
- Is Christ real to me?
“And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.”
— Maynard H. Belt