Mark K. Olson, “The Revival and Methodist Self-Understanding”

, posted by SEA

Abstract: This second installment [you can see the first one here] examines how early Methodists understood Methodism as an eschatological movement, called to help usher in the millennium through the proclamation of salvation and holiness. Wesley’s 1739 Journal and early sermons are explored, along with the eschatological views of leading Methodists. Central to this self-understanding was the linking of the Evangelical Revival to sacred narrative of Christ and to promises of his future millennial reign. In this way Methodists infused their movement with eschatological meaning and purpose.

Introduction

In his classic work on societal awakenings, William McLoughlin repeatedly links the great revivals of the past to millennial aspirations.[1] Even though his focus is on the American scene and its five epochal awakenings,[2] his principles equally apply to the British context since the revivals on both sides of the Atlantic cross-fertilized each other. Great awakenings, says McLoughlin, are “not periods of neurosis (though they begin in times of cultural confusion)” but are “therapeutic and cathartic.” They restore “cultural verve” and empower the people to “overcome the roadblocks” of their “millennial mission.”[3]

McLoughlin’s analysis is important because it points out the organic bond between awakenings, millennial expectations, and group identity.  We saw in the last chapter how millennial expectations fueled Puritan and Pietistic reforms in the seventeenth century. The Evangelical Revival was no exception, for it too was bathed with millennial aspirations and infused with eschatological significance. As we will see below, John Wesley and the early Methodists accomplished this infusion of eschatological significance in two ways. First, they linked the Revival to the sacred narrative of Christ’s first advent and the birth of the Christian faith.[4] Second, they looked to God’s promises of the future and Christ’s millennial reign.[5] In other words, early Methodists believed they were living in historic times, even epochal in God’s redemptive plan, because they linked their present experience to the past narrative of the apostolic era (Gospels and Acts) and to the future hope of Christ’s millennial reign (Revelation). In this way they developed the identity of an eschatological movement.[6]

John Wesley’s 1739 Journal

 To see how this identity developed we begin with Wesley’s 1739 Journal, which in large part reads like the Book of Acts. The linking of the Revival to the sacred narrative is intentional by Wesley, for it serves not only to vindicate his ministry, but also demonstrates the eschatological character of the awakening. Beginning with the Fetter Lane Pentecost on January 1, Wesley records over the next several months that “signs and wonders” followed his ministry as it did in apostolic times.[7] Convulsions, cries of anguish, sighs, and groanings were a common sight wherever Wesley ministered. He tells stories of healings, deliverances, even exorcisms; all meant to infuse the Revival with eschatological significance.[8] To give an example, on April 17 Wesley records that he expounded on Acts 4, the second Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, at the Baldwin Street Society. When he finished, the group “called upon God to confirm his word.” Suddenly, one after another were seized with pain and cried out as if in the “agonies of death,” some as if they were in the “belly of hell”—an obvious allusion to the prophet Jonah. Wesley concluded by paraphrasing Acts 4:30 with the accent on the present time: “So many living witnesses hath God-given that ‘his hand is still stretched out to heal, and that signs and wonders are even now wrought by his holy child Jesus.’”[9] According to Wesley, the apostolic ministry of signs and wonders had returned. The great promise of Joel[10] was now being fulfilled, evidenced by visions, dreams, and the sudden work of sovereign grace.[11]

Even stronger links to the apostolic era are made by the portrayal of Wesley in the Revival narrative. At Baldwin Street the sound of groans and cries could be heard through the audience as Wesley proclaimed “him that is mighty to save.”[12] A Quaker, taken back by all that was happening, suddenly “dropped down as thunderstruck.” Wesley gathered around the man and began to intercede. After the man found relief, he cried out to Wesley before the people, “‘Now I know, thou art a prophet of the Lord.’” Wesley is here portrayed as an evangelical prophet with apostolic authority.[13] On April 2, Wesley went a step further and applied Luke 4:18-19, a clear messianic text, to himself and other revival ministers.[14] For Wesley’s readership, the message could not be more clear: the Revival was a new Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the eschatological Spirit, the same Spirit that worked in Jesus and the apostles. Wesley summed it up many years later, “No ‘former time’ since the apostles left the earth has been ‘better than the present’. None has been comparable to it in several respects. We are not born out of due time, but in the day of his power, a day of glorious salvation, wherein he is hastening to renew the whole race of mankind in righteousness and true holiness.”[15] For John Wesley and the early Methodists, the “day of the Lord” had begun. God was once again “visiting and redeeming his people.”[16]

Evangelical Voices

Across the Atlantic, evangelicals were convinced the awakening had millennial overtones. Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) believed the “days of the apostles” had returned.[17] The signs and wonders witnessed in America paralleled those on British soil. As did Wesley, Edwards interpreted the physical manifestations to be a “great struggle” in which “Satan the old inhabitant seems to exert himself like a serpent disturbed and enraged,” only to have his kingdom overthrown by a greater power.[18] The Revival was the “dawning” of millennial glory.[19] His generation was living on the precipice of human history, located between the fifth and sixth vials in God’s timetable. Accordingly, Edwards anticipated the destruction of the papal Antichrist by 1866, after the forces of the Antichrist, Islam, and Heathenism join for one last-ditch effort to overthrow Christ’s rule through his church. Yet, before this final battle, Edwards believed God would pour out his Spirit in an extraordinary fashion leading to the expansion of the evangelical gospel. This end-time revival will convert the masses of nominal Christians, draw in the Jewish people, overthrow the powers of Islam and Heathenism, and finally destroy “Satan’s visible kingdom on earth,” the Papacy.[20]

Evangelicals of all stripes saw themselves as the true eschatological community, the restorers of the apostolic faith, the custodians of the Reformation, and the heralds of God’s final act to inaugurate Christ’s millennial kingdom. By common consensus evangelicals held to the basic contours of Protestant eschatology: historicism, the papal Antichrist, the conversion of the Jews, and the hope of a global evangelical faith. Where they began to part paths with one another was over the question of premillennialism or postmillennialism. While the latter position still dominated, the premillennial views of Joseph Mede were influencing a greater number of evangelicals, including leading Methodists like Charles Wesley, John Fletcher, and Joseph Benson. While John Wesley’s writings are consistently postmillennial, he did flirt with premillennialism for a short period.[21] It should be remembered that during the eighteenth century the two models were not so far apart as in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when premillennialism took on a dispensational flavor.

Scriptural Christianity

One of the most significant documents in the early years of the Revival is Wesley’s university sermon Scriptural Christianity, preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, in 1744. It should be noted at the outset, Wesley’s purpose is not to lay out his millennial views; instead, his aim is to castigate the university and city for its nominal religious faith, “Is this city a Christian city? Is Christianity, scriptural Christianity, found here?” (IV.3). But this is what makes the sermon so insightful for our purposes. The fact that Scriptural Christianity embodies a robust millennialism in its core argument is telling about early Methodist self-understanding. Using Acts 4:31 as his text, Wesley describes the transformative power of the Gospel working in individual believers, spreading from person to person, and becoming a global faith.[22] As he did in his 1739 Journal, Wesley links the Revival to the great redemptive moments of the past and the future, for in this way he infuses the present with eschatological significance. The Revival is a return of apostolic Christianity, the dawn of millennial glory, the forerunner of a global evangelical faith, in holiness as well as in creed. In the end, Scriptural Christianity is more than a critique of nominal Christianity found in the institutions of church and state, its salvo opens a window into the self-understanding of early Methodists, and of Wesley himself.[23]

This self-understanding permeated early Methodism to a degree that is often not realized by contemporary Wesleyans. Since Wesley was reticent to endorse specific eschatologies and timetables, it is often assumed that early Methodists had little interest in eschatology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Early Methodists, including Wesley, were immersed in the culture of the Revival, and that culture was eschatological at its core. In an important study, Kenneth Newport catalogues the millennial fervor of many early Methodists.[24] One example given by Newport concerns a new Methodist convert, John Brown of Tanfield Lea. Having been converted the day before, apparently by a dream, Brown, caught up with eschatological fervor, rode through town “hollowing and shouting and driving all the people before him, telling them God had told him he should be a king, and should tread all his enemies under his feet.”[25]

Methodist Interest in Eschatology

One of the factors that aroused Methodist interest in the 1740s was the geopolitical tensions between pro-Catholic France and pro-Protestant Britain. The ’45 Rebellion filled the nation with panic as the Young Pretender came close to entering London. It was during this period that Charles Wesley (1707-1788) began to take personal interest in biblical prophecy. In an exchange of letters, John Robertson shared with Charles that according to his calculations the millennium would begin in 1836.[26] Over the next several years, Charles applied himself to the study of Daniel and Revelation. It appears that Methodists were proclaiming the end may be near because one of the public criticisms leveled against Wesley (and the Methodists) was that he taught the Revival signaled the arrival of the Day of the Lord.[27] Apocalyptic panic struck London in 1750 when the city was battered by a series of earthquakes. Luke Tyerman describes the fear that captured the hearts of many when a soldier, carried away by enthusiasm, prophesied that half of London and Westminster would be destroyed by another quake in April.[28] The churches and Methodist chapels were filled to overflowing as thousands fled the city to await the apocalypse. Charles preached several times The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes, published that spring (and again in 1756), pointing out that these mighty shakings are God’s judgment on human sin.[29]

The 1750s saw the flowering of Methodist interest in eschatology. Vincent Perronet (1693-1785) wrote to his son in the early fifties that the “beginning of alarming providences” could now be seen, if only a “sinking world” could see that “the end of all things is at hand.”[30] Critic Richard Hardy pointed out in 1753 that one of Methodism’s chief errors was “‘confidently asserting, that the millennium is at hand.’”[31] By the middle of the decade, Europe exploded into war when the two titans, Britain and France, fought over global colonial supremacy.[32] The opening of hostilities in June 1755 was followed by poor harvests, a severe cattle plague, and the great Lisbon earthquake on November 1. In a matter of minutes over 60,000 souls were engulfed as the shocks were felt throughout much of Europe. Fear struck many hearts as people wondered if the world would soon end. Seeing an evangelistic opportunity, Wesley quickly published Some Thoughts Occasioned by the Late Earthquake at Lisbon.[33] He rebuts the idea that earthquakes are caused by natural forces and instead attributes them to God’s sovereign judgment on human sin. The tract turns apocalyptic when Wesley includes a somewhat lengthy exposition on Edmond Halley’s prediction that the return of the great comet in 1758 (now named after him) could bring apocalyptic destruction upon the earth. Early in 1756 Charles published a collection of seventeen hymns for a National Fast Day on February 6th.[34] In these hymns Charles’ premillennial aspirations become evident as the signs of war, earthquake, famine, plague, and national confusion point to the Lord’s soon return. Believing the seventh trumpet is soon to sound, Charles anticipates the Lord to descend from heaven, meeting his rising bride in the clouds, to begin the “grand millennial reign.” [35] He firmly believed Christians must “watch and pray” to be “counted worthy to escape all the judgments coming on the world, and to stand before the Son of Man.”[36]

Another early Methodist who expected Christ’s soon return was John Fletcher (1729-85). Like Charles, Fletcher was a premillennialist and studiously poured over prophetic numbers to decipher the chronology of end-times events. He too looked for Rome’s fall, along with every form of “antichristianism.” Fletcher believed “the greatest wonders and signs shall attend these revolutions, insomuch that Turks and Jews, heathens and savages, will know the hand of the Lord.” However, Fletcher differed from standard premillennialism by espousing a third coming of Christ at the end of the millennium. His letter to John Wesley in late 1755 confirms the deep interest Methodists took in trying to decipher the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.[37] Fletcher closes with a strong appeal to not judge rashly, nor to “utter vain predictions in the name of the Lord.” Instead, Methodists were admonished to remain “watchful,” “rousing people out of their sleep, of confirming the weak brethren, and building up in our most holy faith those who know in whom they have believed.” Like Charles, Fletcher called Methodists to fervent prayer to hasten Christ’s return, when the “saints raised from the dead shall converse with living saints.”

The Perfection Revival

Methodism’s identity as an eschatological movement exploded into apocalyptic enthusiasm in early 1762 when George Bell taught that the millennium was already breaking forth. A new wave of revival was sweeping through the societies with hundreds professing the experience of Christian perfection. The revival, which began in Yorkshire, spread far and wide. Against this backdrop of charged emotions, Bell and his loyal followers began to entertain visions in which they saw Satan bound and cast into the bottomless pit, with the angel placing a seal on him to keep him from deceiving the nations (Rev. 20:2-3).[38] Wesley later recorded in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection that Bell and his supporters taught they would never die, they could not be tempted, nor could they feel pain or grief anymore. Believing the charismata of the Spirit had returned, Bell and other perfectionists claimed the gifts of prophecy, discerning of spirits, and gifts of healing.[39] They professed the gift of Adamic perfection: being already one with God, having died and risen with Christ, seated with him in the heavenly realm, taken up into his heavenly throne, now living in the New Jerusalem, free from all works (i.e. the means of grace).[40] To promote their gospel of millennial perfectionism, Bell began to hold meetings for only their supporters. This led to the infection of schism, which spread like gangrene through the societies and frustrated any attempt by Wesley to bring correction or balance. Towards the end of 1762, Bell’s fanaticism reached its peak when he prophesied the world would end in a great apocalyptic conflagration on February 28, 1763. How he arrived at this date remains a mystery. As the day approached, Bell gave a solemn farewell to William Briggs, “‘Farewell – I shall see your face no more before we hear the last trumpet’!”[41] On that fateful night, Wesley remarked that he went to bed at his usual time and enjoyed a peaceful sleep.

Though Bell was shown to be an apocalyptic fanatic, Methodists continued to show an interest in the end-times. Joseph Benson (1748-1821), one of the most successful circuit riders, preached the soon coming of Christ, even within his lifetime. At a Methodist chapel in Colchester in 1797, John Stevens told his audience that the Antichrist (Rome) was soon to fall and the fields were “white unto harvest” (Jn 4:35). Stevens felt the church must make great haste to evangelize before the end arrives.[42] David Simpson, before his death in 1799, published a detailed work on biblical prophecy. He too believed the Roman Antichrist and the “Mahomentans” would fall in the near future, followed by the conversion of the Jews. “It is not very improbable,” writes Simpson, “that this generation shall not pass away before most of these things be fulfilled.”[43]

In 1780 James Kershaw (d. 1797), a personal acquaintance of Wesley, published a two-volume work on the Book of Revelation. Newport points out that Kershaw was a premillennialist, though, like Fletcher, he endorsed a third coming of Christ after the millennium.[44] Kershaw furthered agreed with the position of William Whiston by advocating the return of Christ around the year 2,000. Since Genesis states that God created the world in six days, and 2 Peter 3:8 teaches that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” Kershaw concluded that with a 4000 BC creation date the end of this present age must happen around AD 2000.[45] Although Kershaw held the end would not fully arrive until many years later, he remained confident the world was advancing according to a definite timetable, with Methodists called by God to prepare people for the end.

Another Methodist deeply concerned with prophetic events was Thomas Taylor (1738-1816). Wesley spoke well of his work in Ireland and in 1796 he was elected president of the Wesleyan conference. Taylor, who leaned more toward postmillennialism, published fifteen sermons on the subject in 1789. Believing his generation was close to the eschatological renewal, Taylor looked for the destruction of the Antichrist, the binding of Satan, the cessation of strife, the universal spread of the gospel, the ingathering of the Jewish people, and the conversion of the nations. After these conditions are met, wrote Taylor, the Lord Jesus will establish his kingdom on the earth. Significant to our study was Taylor’s belief that the Antichrist will be defeated by the preaching of the “pure gospel of Christ.” This began in the twelfth century with the Waldenses and Albigenses, symbolized by the first vial in Revelation 16, and continued up to the present time. Taylor saw himself (and Methodism) as more than a preacher, but as an “instrument in God’s hands, a divine weapon used by the Almighty to deliver another withering, perhaps the last, blow against Antichrist.”[46]

John Wesley believed that God had chosen Methodism to “spread scriptural holiness over the land,”[47] and thereby prepare the way for the Lord’s millennial reign. Along with other evangelicals, he held that his generation was living on the precipice of human history: God was now doing a new work; the eschatological Spirit had been poured out; the gospel was going forth into all the world; the Day of the Lord was at hand. Although Luther once stated that revivals do not last beyond a generation (thirty years), Wesley testified that this revival had prospered for above five decades and was still gaining momentum. In light of God’s promises to his church, what could this mean but the “dawn of ‘the latter day glory’”?[48] Wesley concluded that the Revival was the greatest work of God since apostolic times.[49]

Methodist Eschatological Identity

Through the centuries, Christians have often looked back to a golden era when the church was pure and her doctrine and holiness were pristine. Protestants, by definition, hold that the church became corrupt and needed reform and renewal. As Wesley surveyed church history, cognizant as he was of the great movements of God in the past, he noted how religious nominalism continued to sap the life out of the church and her witness.  Applying the words of the Apostle Paul—“the mystery of iniquity doth already work”—Wesley recognized that even the great Protestant communions were not immune to this sinister disease. Had not the “reformers themselves complained that the Reformation was not carried far enough?” quipped Wesley.[50] Focusing on the “circumstantials of religion,” the “reformation of opinions and rites and ceremonies,” these great churches had left out the “essentials of religion,” the “entire change of men’s tempers and lives.”[51]

This is where Methodism shined as a beacon of light. Wesley repeatedly proclaimed that Methodism was nothing more than a recovery of the primitive faith, “plain, old Christianity” as he called it. What marks a Methodist is not his or her opinion regarding “this or that scheme of religion,” nor matters of custom and tradition, but the “common, fundamental principles of Christianity.”[52] Accordingly, Wesley never applied any denominational or doctrinal test for people to join a Methodist society. The only requirement was “a desire to flee from the wrath to come, to be saved from their sins,”[53] and a willingness to participate in the Methodist plan of intentional discipleship.[54] Here was the secret of Methodism’s self-understanding as an eschatological movement. When Wesley declared those now famous words—“the world is my parish”[55]—he was announcing more than a personal mission; he was defining the mission of the Methodist movement that would emerge under his leadership. Given his belief that the Revival was a restoration of apostolic Christianity and that Methodism’s vocation was to “spread scriptural holiness over the land,” Wesley saw Methodism as an eschatological movement to usher in that glorious day. The “time is at hand,” Wesley announced, for God to “set up his kingdom over all the earth”[56] and for the “whole race of mankind” to be renewed in “righteousness and true holiness.”[57] John Wesley’s millennial aspirations could not be stated any clearer.[58]

[1] William G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978, 3-23.

[2] Ibid., Puritan Awakening 1610-1640; First Great Awakening 1730-1760; Second Great Awakening 1800-1830; Third Great Awakening 1890-1920; Fourth Great Awakening 1960-1990(?). Since McLoughlin was writing in the late seventies, he identified the end of the present awakening in keeping with the thirty-year cycle of the prior ones.

[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] Besides the examples given below, Charles Wesley placed great stress on the fact his evangelical conversion happened on Pentecost Sunday (The Journal of Charles Wesley, 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980, I:90).

[5] At times converts used second advent language to express their experience in the new birth (Works 19:26). For example, Charles Wesley’s 1738 sermon on the three states incorporated language of the resurrection state with the emotions of conversion (Kenneth G. C. Newport, The Sermons of Charles Wesley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 139).

[6] “The General Spread of the Gospel” §16, The Works of John Wesley, 34 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1984-Present; hereafter: Works) 2:493; “The Signs of the Times” II.1, Works 2:525.

[7] See Romans 15:18-19, where Paul appeals to signs and wonders to confirm his apostolic ministry.

[8] For healings and deliverances, see Journal: January 21, February 9-17, April 26, 30, May 16, 19, June 15, 24, 25. For exorcisms: May 2 and 21. On June 30 Wesley includes a letter in his Journal from Scottish minister Ralph Erskine, who defends these manifestations as a supernatural work of God overthrowing Satan’s kingdom, and links then to stories in the Gospels (Works 19:76).

[9] Works 19:49; emphasis his.

[10] “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (2:28).

[11] “Journal” Works 19:59-60.

[12] Is. 63:1; Works 19:53.

[13] “Evangelical prophet” is the label Wesley gives Isaiah on April 8, but his use of the term connotes its application to himself.

[14] Works 19:46. In a manner similar to the apostles in Acts 4, Wesley was asked by what authority he exercised his open-air ministry. Wesley’s response mirrors Peter’s, “By the authority of Jesus Christ, conveyed to me by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he laid his hands upon me and said, ‘Take thou authority to preach the gospel’” (Works 19:64). Since Wesley was a staunch believer in apostolic procession, he no doubt understood his ordination included apostolic authority.

[15] “Of Former Times” §23, Works 3:453.

[16] “An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion” §99, Works 11:89.

[17] “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion” (1742), in C. C. Goen, ed. The Great Awakening, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972, 319.

[18] “A Faithful Narrative” (1738), “Distinguishing Marks” (1741), Works 4:163, 230. Wesley takes the same position as Edwards on the revival manifestations.

[19] Ibid., 324.

[20] See chs 22-27 of “A History of the Work of Redemption” (1739); for his eschatology see John F. Wilson, ed. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. IX. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

[21] This topic is addressed in the next chapter.

[22] The reader might want to read the sermon at this point; Works 1:159-80.

[23] Another example of Wesley’s millennialism influencing his views of the Revival, see his preface to his third Journal extract, written in 1742 (Works 19:4, par. 8). Wesley quotes Rev. 6:2 (“ride on, conquering and to conquer”) in a doxology praising God for the spread of the Revival till the evangelical gospel becomes a global faith.

[24] Newport, Apocalypse & Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis.

[25] Works 19:304.

[26] Newport, 97.

[27] Newport, 93. George Lavington, The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared. London: J. & P. Knapton, 1754, §30, 61-62. Lavington pulled most of his quotations from Wesley’s “Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion.” For example, see Wesley’s comment on the Day of the Lord in “An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion” §99, Works 11:89.

[28] Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley. 3 vols. Stoke-on-Trent: Tentmaker Publications, 2003, 2:71-74.

[29] Located in John Wesley’s Works (Jackson) 7:386-99 (though was written and preached by Charles).

[30] Newport, 96. Randy Maddox confirms that Imrie published the letter in 1755 (A Letter from the Reverend Mr. David Imrie, Minister of the Gospel at St Mungo, in Annandale; To a Gentleman in the City of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: s.n., 1755.)

[31] Ibid., 99.

[32] See chapter one.

[33] Works (Jackson) 11:1-13; Tyerman, 2:223-25; see Works 7:153, footnote Hymn 59.

[34] Works  7:153, introductory note.

[35] Ibid., 7:155-57. In 1754 Charles copied a lengthy letter by the Rev. David Imrie outlining a robust premillennial expectation of the Lord’s return by 1794 (Newport, 124ff.). Randy Maddox confirms that Imrie published the letter in 1755 (A Letter from the Reverend Mr. David Imrie, Minister of the Gospel at St Mungo, in Annandale; To a Gentleman in the City of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: s.n., 1755.)

[36] Newport, 123.

[37] Ibid., 94-95. Fletcher’s letter can be found in Wesley’s Works 26:613-16.

[38] Newport, 97.

[39] Mark K. Olson, John Wesley’s ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection’: The Annotated Edition. Fenwick: Truth in Heart, 2005, ch 20. Wesley had first stated these things in the 1762 tract Cautions and Directions Given to the Greatest Professors in The Methodist Societies in Albert Outler, John Wesley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964, 305.

[40] Ibid., 214. See Outler, John Wesley, 301.

[41] Newport, 97; the last trump refers to 1 Th. 4:16.

[42] Ibid., 98. It is questionable whether Stevens himself was a Methodist, but the general point remains relevant since he was preaching in a Methodist chapel.

[43] Ibid., 113.

[44] Ibid., 109. See Newport for a summary of Kershaw’s complex views.

[45] See ch. 1 n 34.

[46] Newport, 111.

[47] “Minutes of Several Conversations Between the Rev. Mr. Wesley and Others: From the Year 1744, to the Year 1789” Q. 3, Works (Jackson) 8:299; see his 1790 letter to Robert Brackenbury stating the same purpose, Works (Jackson) 13:9.

[48] “The General Spread of the Gospel” §16, Works 2:492-93; “The Signs of the Times” II.1, Works 2:525.

[49] “Of Former Times” §23, Works 3:453; “On God’s Vineyard” IV.4, Works 3:514.

[50] “The Mystery of Iniquity” §29, Works 2:465.

[51] Ibid.

[52] “The Character of a Methodist,” Works 9:33, 34, 41.

[53] “General Rules of the United Societies,” Works 9:70.

[54] Specifically, keeping the General Rules and participating in a society and class.

[55] Works 19:67.

[56] “The Signs of the Times” II.1, 10, Works 2:525, 531. See “The Mystery of Iniquity” §36, Works 2:470.

[57] “Of Former Times” §23, Works 3:453.

[58] Russell Richey makes a similar argument as made in this chapter regarding nineteenth-century American Methodists. This confirms the eschatological character of early Methodism on both sides of the Atlantic. See his “Methodism as New Creation: An Historical Theological Enquiry,” in Douglas Meeks, ed. Wesleyan Perspectives on the New Creation, Nashville: Kingswood Press, 2004, 73-92.

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This article was taken with permission from Dr. Mark K. Olson’s website. Here is a link to the article in its original online location: https://wesleyscholar.com/millennial-aspirations-and-the-problem-of-religious-nominalism/.