Many people know about John and Charles Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, where their hearts were “strangely warmed”. Less of us know about their Georgia (USA) experience.
Interestingly, John and Charles’ parents, Samuel and Susannah had such a significant impact on their lives. Samuel Wesley actually wanted to be a missionary to Georgia in his old age, but he ended up not going.
John and Charles Wesley then fulfilled their dad’s desire. After being ordained in the Anglican church, they went as missionaries to Georgia! (Isn’t that amazing? Thank God for godly fathers! May we take the baton passed to us!)
Samuel Wesley desired a form of Primitive Christianity, based on the early church of the first five centuries A.D. He also favored social reform, justice and education. He definitely influenced John and Charles in that direction too.
The Wesleys spent a short time in the US (Charles spent about 4 months and John 19 months). They actually had revivals there but John left due to an ugly experience …
John Wesley’s “Romance“
Here is my paraphrase of his romance.
John fell in love with Sophy Hopkey who was just 18 at the time. (He was in his early 30s). She probably liked him too. They actually grew quite close.
But somehow John wanted to be a celibate, for reasons unknown to me. (He was an Anglican priest, right?!) Nevertheless, he then prayed for God’s guidance for the next step – should he marry or not?
John then decided to cast lots. On three slips of paper, he wrote : MARRY HER, THINK ABOUT IT IN A YEAR, THINK OF IT NO MORE. A fellow pastor then drew the lot “Think of it no more” and indeed John put aside his ideas of marrying Sophy. (I have no idea why he used this method – I will ask him when I meet him in the new earth!)
However, many others encouraged John to pursue Sophy, but he showed no interest whatsoever. (I actually think he still liked her!)
And so, Sophy, got married to someone, a certain Mr. Williamson. Months later, when they came to a service where John was serving communion, John refused to serve them the elements!
Infuriated, the Williamsons sought a lawsuit against John Wesley, and thus he left Georgia for UK.
But…all was not lost
Nevertheless, John and Charles’ time in Georgia was not a waste. They had a taste of reality, suffering, nasty churchgoers, failure in romantic relationship (for John), and an experiment in the societies concept.
Going back a disappointed, but much more mature man, I would say Georgia prepared Wesley for Aldersgate.
And so here’s my closing thought…
We all need a Georgia experience before an Aldersgate experience.
Do we not identify the “Georgia” episodes of our life?
The season of pain, sorrow, reality, broken hearts, relationships? Or when we are faced with the harsh reality of ministry which shatters all the naive, rose-tinted ideas we once had? Georgia is when we understand God in a much, much deeper way.
Georgia comes before a new season of hope.
Aldersgate represents a new work of the Holy Spirit.
A hope that’s purified and forged through the fires of disappointment and broken dreams.
A hope oriented on Christ.
A hope that is mature, based on our total dependence on God for all we need in life.
A hope that leads to revival, a fire starting from a heart strangely warmed, that spreads like wildfire through the world.