Some stories in Wesley’s journals will catch you a bit off guard if you’re not familiar with just how intense the Methodist revival was. The supernatural was a constant component in his ministry and it came in all kinds of forms—he even casted out demons.
It seems he had sat down to dinner, but had a mind first to end a sermon he had bor rowed on “Salvation by Faith.” In reading the last page, he changed colour, fell off his chair, and began screaming terribly, and beating himself against the ground. The neighbours were alarmed, and flocked together to the house. Between one and two I came in, and found him on the floor, the room being full of people, whom his wife would have kept without; but he cried aloud, “No; let them all come, let all the world see the just judgment of God.” Two or three men were holding him as well as they could. He immediately fixed his eyes upon me, and, stretching out his hand, cried, “Ay, this is he who I said was a deceiver of the people. But God has overtaken me. I said, it was all a delusion; but this is no delusion.” He then roared out, “O thou devil! thou cursed devil! yea, thou legion of devils! thou canst not stay. Christ will cast thee out. I know his work is begun. Tear me to pieces, if thou wilt; but thou canst not hurt me.” He then beat himself against the ground again; his breast heaving at the same time, as in the pangs of death, and great drops of sweat trickling down his face. We all betook ourselves to prayer. His pangs ceased, and both his body and soul were set at liberty. (May 2, 1739. p180)
Sometimes these demonic deliverances did not take too long. For example, it only took about fifteen minutes to deliver one particular woman from a demon that manifested while Wesley was praying for a woman.
We had scarce begun, when the enemy began to tear her, so that she screamed out, as in the pangs of death: but his time was short; for within a quarter of an hour she was full of the “peace that passeth all understanding.” (Sept 3, 1739. p210)
But other deliverances lasted much longer, such as Wesley’s encounter with the young woman from Kingswood. He describes in his journal not only the physical manifestation of these demons, but he also records what the demons said to him.
I found her on the bed, two or three persons holding her. It was a terrible sight. Anguish, horror, and despair, above all description, appeared in her pale face. The thousand distortions of her whole body showed how the dogs of hell were gnawing her heart. The shrieks intermixed were scare to be endured. But her stony eyes could not weep. She screamed out, as soon as words could find their way, ‘I am damned, damned; lost forever. Six days ago you might have helped me. But it is past. I am the devil’s now. I have given myself to him. His I am. Him I must serve. With him I must go to hell. I will be his. I will serve him. I will go with him to hell. I cannot be saved. I will not be saved. I must, I will, I will be damned.’ She then began praying to the devil. (Oct 23, 1739. p222)
Wesley and the others with him began to sing a hymn that was popular at the time, which was written by John’s brother, Charles. “Arm of the Lord, awake, awake!” they sang, which caused the woman to immediately sink down. But then, the demon manifested again, this time even more intensely. Over the next five days, Wesley constantly found himself doing deliverance ministry.
If we decide to ignore all of the supernatural encounters found in Wesley’s life or even if we choose to write them off as ridiculous, we will find ourselves admiring an incomplete and fictional John Wesley. This revivalist, so it seems, was quite Charismatic in his approach to church, because he allowed the Holy Spirit room to work through him not just in the natural, but the supernatural as well. And if Wesley had not allowed the Holy Spirit to use him in such ways, many would not have been touched by God in the way that they had been.
You can read John Wesley’s journals in the public domain.
My studies have also shown an intriguing correlation between demons and alien abduction stories. Check out the last chapter of my new book, Alien Theology, for more info.