May 21, 1738: Charles Wesley's Experience of Assurance

By Steve Manskar

Wesleyan leadership may 21 1748
Charles Wesley

Most United Methodists know that John Wesley experienced assurance of his salvation at a Moravian society meeting on May 24, 1738 in a room somewhere on Aldersgate Street in London. They need to be reminded that his younger brother, Charles, had a similar experience three days earlier, on May 21, Pentecost Sunday. The following is part of Charles journal entry recounting the events of that day. He immediately set pen to paper and composed two great hymns, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” and “Where Shall My Wondering Soul Begin”.

The Methodist movement emerged from the Wesley brother’s evangelical experiences in May 1738.

From the Journal of Charles Wesley:

The Day of Pentecost. Sun., May 21st, 1738. I waked in hope and expectation of His coming. At nine my brother and some friends came, and sang a hymn to the Holy Ghost. My comfort and hope were hereby increased. In about half-an-hour they went: I betook myself to prayer; the substance as follows :-- "Oh Jesus, thou hast said, 'I will come unto you ; 'thou hast said, ' I will send the Comforter unto you ; thou hast said, 'My Father and I will come unto you, and make our abode with you.' Thou art God who canst not lie; I wholly rely upon thy most true promise: accomplish it in thy time and manner." Having said this, I was composing myself to sleep, in quietness and peace, when I heard one come in Mrs. Musgrave, I thought, by the voice) and say, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt he healed of all thy infirmities." I wondered how it should enter into her head to speak in that manner. The words struck me to the heart. I sighed, and said within myself, "O that Christ would but speak thus to me from Christ of my recovery, soul and body. . . . I rose and looked into the Scripture. The words that first presented were, "And now, Lord, what is my hope? truly my hope is even in thee." I then cast down my eye, and met, "He hath put a new song in my mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall put their trust in the Lord." Afterwards I opened upon Isaiah 40:1: "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God: speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sin." I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. My temper for the rest of the day was, mistrust of my own great, but before unknown, weakness. I saw that by faith I stood; by the continual support of faith, which kept me from falling, though of myself I am ever sinking into sin. I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness, (I humbly hope to be more and more so,) yet confident of Christ's protection.

Where shall my wandering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
And sing my great deliverer’s praise?

O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God!
Should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
blest with this antepast of heaven!

And shall I slight my Father’s love,
Or basely fear his gifts to own?
Unmindful of his favors prove,
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
Refuse his righteousness to impart,
By hiding it within my heart?

Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots and publicans and thieves;
He spreads his arms to embrace you all,
Sinners alone his grace receive.
No need of him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.

Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin;
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in.
He calls you now, invites you home:
Come, O my guilty brethren, come.

For you the purple current flowed
In pardon from his wounded side,
Languished for you the eternal God,
For you the Prince of Glory died,
Believe, and all your guilt’s forgiven,
Only believe—and yours is heaven.