by Rev. Kristin Sachen, Global Ministries News
On May 24, 1738, John Wesley, burdened by the rejection of his enthusiastic gospel message by his Anglican brothers, went very unwillingly to an evening society meeting in Aldersgate-street, London. But, as he records in his journal, about a quarter to nine he felt his 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.” Wesley’s Aldersgate experience is identified as a turning point in his spiritual growth, a time in which the faith he preached so boldly became real for and in him.
When we remember “Aldersgate Day,” what exactly is it that we are commemorating? Here is a man who had been “washed in the Holy Ghost” as an infant in his baptism, been brought up in a Christian home, studied the Bible, prayed regularly, entered into holy orders, founded a reforming movement, engaged in good works, and used all the means of grace at his disposal. What could possibly have happened to him on that May evening that is worth our notice today?
There may be several ways to describe it, but the significance of Aldersgate could be described as the day Wesley joined the human race. Up to that point, he certainly identified with the unworthiness of humanity, drawing up lists of his failings and sins that are astounding in their detail. But he never quite saw himself in the same light as those who joyfully accepted faith in Christ as God’s gift of salvation. He didn’t have the sense of forgiveness that his Moravian friend Peter Bohler taught him was the fruit of true faith. He was caught in the dance of either trying to earn God’s love or feeling unworthy of ever receiving it. On May 24, his heart melted a bit, his humanity was revealed, and he knew he was just one of those for whom Christ died – no better, no worse. He let go and let God do the work of salvation in him.
On May 24 we commemorate the founder of Methodism’s heart-warming experience, and find another opportunity to be among those who receive the gift of God’s forgiveness, and not just the ones who offer it.
Hear the good news: