It took John Wesley some hardship to get to revival. He tried pastoring in Georgia for a short time before returning to England beat and broken. But then, while attending a service where a message that Martin Luther had written was being read aloud, Wesley remarked that,
”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.”
A few months later, he shared yet another experience in which, “The love of God was shed abroad in my heart, and a flame kindled there, so that my body was almost torn asunder. I loved. The Spirit cried strong in my heart. I trembled: I sung: I joined my voice with those that excel in strength.”
And then, by the end of the year, things got crazy. Wesley and his friends got together to pray and as New Years Eve became New Years Day, God showed up tangibly. “About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.”
Revival was pouring out and the Methodist movement came into existence. People got saved, knocked to the ground, delivered from demons, healed, raised from the dead, and more. God continued to pour out his love on Wesley, empowering him for the ministry he was doing and reminding him of the love he needed to do it with.
Unfortunately, Methodism is remembered by most today (including those in the Methodist stream themselves) as a simple pursuit of holiness and reason. Some might even tell you that God doesn’t do those kinds of things anymore and take on the cessationist view that the gifts died out with the apostles. I believe, however, that Methodism would not be around today if it wasn’t for the supernatural presence and love of God being shed on Europe. There’s no way people were flocking to fields simply to hear pastors preach rational sermons about living the right life—no, there was a presence they were looking for. Word had gotten around about people falling to the ground and convulsing under the power of the Holy Spirit and outsiders wanted to know what these crazy people at these crazy meetings were all about. Was their God real or were they fabricating the experiences?
We’ve watered down and normalized the voice of Methodism. We’ve also made it easier to become a pharisee and shame others by putting so much focus on holiness alone, when holiness is meant to walk hand in hand with the beauty of the love of God.
There are many more supernatural stories we could talk about in Methodism, but that would require a whole book. If you’re interested in reading for yourself, you can check out Wesley’s journals on public domain. Or to engage the topic head on, see Frank Billman’s, The Supernatural Thread In Methodism: Signs and Wonders Among Methodists Then and Now.
Wesley, John, and John Emory. “May 24, 1738.” The Journal of the Reverend John Wesley. p. 74.
Ibid, “July 6, 1738.” p. 116.
Ibid, “January 1, 1739.” p. 117.