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Marion’s Weekly Reflection
In the 2000 years of the Christian Church there have been periods of deep gloom and depression as the Church failed to come to terms with an ever changing world. However, throughout history, at unhappy times like this, special people answered God’s call to spark a revival and renewal of the Christian Spirit. St. Francis, Martin Luther and the Caroline Devine’s had all answered this call.
By the eighteenth century Britain was becoming a very different country. The industrial revolution was sweeping the country and towns were springing up housing the labourers producing cotton, wool, iron and steel and other commodities. The new towns were grim places, thousands of poor houses, ill health, drunkenness, violence and robbery. The Anglican Church was in decline and so it is no surprise that special people were called by God to breathe new life into it.
Among these were two brothers, John and Charles Wesley. Although they were part of a huge family their mother Susannah made time for each of her children to teach them the Christian faith. They were also taught by their father and grandfather who were both vicars in the Anglican Church.
The eighteenth century was known as a time of the ‘Enlightenment’. Belief in God was based on reason with its appeal to the mind rather than the heart. It was based on the Bible, prayer and good works. This cool, reasonable Christianity gained support in Germany and the Wesley brothers were attracted to its teaching. Both continued their education at Oxford University and with other like-minded students, they founded the ‘Holy Club’. They were called Methodists because its members practised methodical study and prayer. John and Charles were both ordained and became known for their powerful sermons. They both spent time in America preaching to the early settlers there and to Native Americans. It was here in England that they became loved for taking the message of Christianity beyond the Church buildings. If people would refuse to come to Church they would go out to them. Travelling 800 miles on horseback throughout the country they were able to reach both countryside and the new towns where they preached to thousands of people in the open air.
The eighteenth century was a time when in the new towns gin was more available than tea and taverns were built rather than Churches. The Wesley’s preached against the misuse of alcohol. It was during a cholera epidemic that the Wesley’s and their followers were able to convert many people as they worked among them to ease their suffering and bring them God’s love.
John Wesley said ‘I fear wherever riches have increased the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion’. Methodism provided hope of Salvation to the poor. Charles Wesley in his life time wrote thousands of hymns some of them we sing regularly today. His real conversion to faith came when he was reading Romans (Chapter 8). He 6 came to realise that we can’t claim God’s love and forgiveness by good works but only by faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us.
Neither John nor Charles had meant to leave the Anglican Church only to revive it, but eventually permission to preach was refused them. Another denomination had been established with its own buildings, chapels and principles. Methodism became an important part of proclaiming Christ’s gospel.
A DVD about the lives of Jon and Charles Wesley if you would like to borrow it.