May 24, 1738 – the day that John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed. The day that he received the assurance of salvation – that God truly had forgiven him of his sins. Wesley grew up as a preacher’s kid. He was saved from the fire as he quotes “as a brand plucked from the burning.” He studied at Oxford and was ordained as a deacon and then a priest in the Anglican Church and yet, he felt something was missing. All of that changed on this day in 1738. Here is what Wesley writes in his journal.
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a 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 faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will.
After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.John Wesley’s Journal Entry for May 24, 1738
Three days earlier, his brother Charles also had his own conversion experience. Charles has given us a wonderful hymnody, writing over 6,000 hymns. On the first year anniversary of his conversion he wrote, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Today we sing several of the verses but here are the original verses:
. Glory to God, and praise and love,
Be ever, ever given;
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.
2. On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of righteousness arose,
On my benighted soul he shone,
And filled it with repose.
3. Sudden expired the legal strife;
‘Twas then I ceased to grieve.
My second, real, living life,
I then began to live.
4. Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine;
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Saviour mine.
5. I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me he loved – the Son of God
For me, for me he died!
6. I found and owned his promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I know,
When written on my heart.
7. O For a thousand tongues to sing
My dear Redeemer’s praise!
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
8. My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the world abroad
The honors of Thy name.
9. Jesus! the Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.
10. He breaks the power of cancell’d sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood avail’d for me.
11. He speaks, – and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
The humble poor believe.
12. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosen’d tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
13. Look unto him, ye nations; own
Your God, ye fallen race;
Look, and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.
14. See all your sins on Jesus laid;
The Lamb of God was slain;
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.
15. Harlots, and publicans, and thieves,
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes,
From crimes as great as mine.
16. Murderers, and all ye hellish crew,
Ye sons of lust and pride,
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Saviour died.
17. Awake from guilty nature’s sleep,
And Christ shall give you light,
Cast all your sins into the deep,
And wash the AEthiop white.
18. With me, your chief, ye then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.
Let us celebrate a man, whose conversion, some say changed the course of history in the 18th Century England.