October 2010 - Vol. 43

Alive in Christ.
by John Wesley

John Wesley (1703-1791) was the founder of the Methodist movement. A brilliant organizer, he formed societies throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. He appointed itinerant, un-ordained preachers to evangelize and care for people in the societies. Wesley wanted every Christian to attain the status of perfect love, wherein the love of God and neighbor would reign in the hearts of people. Wesley preached in the fields, halls, cottages, chapels and in churches that would allow him entry.

[Note: Minor changes, including capitalization style, were made to allow the text to be more accessible to modern readers. Sub-headings were also added. This excerpt is from a sermon titled, The New Birth. Editor]

A living being – but a dead Christian
Before a child is born into the world he has eyes, but sees not; he has ears, but does not hear. He has a very imperfect use of any other sense. He has no knowledge of any of the things of the world, or any natural understanding. To that manner of existence which he then has, we do not even give the name of life. It is then only when a man is born, that we say he begins to live. For as soon as he is born, be begins to see the light, and the various objects with which he is encompassed. His ears are then opened, and he hears the sounds which successively strike upon them. At the same time, all the other organs of sense begin to be exercised upon their proper objects. He likewise breathes, and lives in a manner wholly different from what he did before. 

How exactly does the parallel hold in all these instances? While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not. A thick impenetrable veil lies upon them. He has ears, but hears not. He is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up. He is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God; no intercourse with him. He is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either of spiritual or eternal things. Therefore, though he is a living man, he is a dead Christian. 

A new birth in the Spirit
But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The “eyes of his understanding are opened” (such is the language of the great Apostle Paul). And, he who of old “commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,” his glorious love, “in the face of Jesus Christ.” His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. Go and sin no more.” 

This is the sense of what God speaks to his heart; although perhaps not in these very words. He is now ready to hear whatever “he who teaches man knowledge” (Psalm 94:10) is pleased, from time to time, to reveal to him. He “feels in his heart,” to use the language of our church, “the mighty working of the Spirit of God,” not in a gross, carnal sense as the men of the world stupidly and willfully misunderstand the expression – though they have been told again and again. We mean neither more nor less than this: He feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of God works in his heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

A new creation in Christ
From this time forward it manifestly appears what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life – when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change made in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God when it is “created anew in Christ Jesus,”  and “renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness.” And when the love of the world is changed into the love of God, pride into humility, passion into meekness, hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change in which the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the “mind which was in Christ Jesus.” This is the nature of the new birth: “So is every one who is born of the Spirit.”     

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