The Great Awakening
I. The Old Side/ New Side responses to the Great Awaking
A. New Side
1. Log College – William Tenet – Bible College degree, revival preachers
2. Emotional response – weeping, fainting and shrieking sign of Spirit’s reviving of America (Puritan post-millennialism)
3. Those charged by church for “intruding” refused to accept discipline
4. Pamphlet war criticizing old side ministers – that doctrine had overtaken spiritual vitality
B. Old Side
1. Synod of Philadelphia (Presbyterian Church) forbids pastors from intruding into another minister’s congregation
2. Synod required Log College graduates to submit credentials to a synod’s examination before licensure and ordination
3. Censured New Brunswick Presbytery in 1739 for ordaining Log College grad in defiance of the synod’s Examination Act
C. Synod of Philadelphia protested Old Side – ejected from synod
D. New Side winning popular support – to present day (Democratization of American Christianity)
II. John Wesley
A. Background – A time of widespread corruption in the Church of England. Puritan clergy kicked out of church in the restoration of 1660 (William and Mary on throne). Formal Christianity was still intact, but the life of the religion was in danger. The church was passive during this time, not wanting to be overly emotional about everything, like the Puritans.
B. Family – Wesley’s great grand father, Bartholomew Wesley, was a Puritan who lost his living as pastor in 1662 at the time of the Restoration. His grandfather John (from whom he got his name) was a protégé to John Owen. Wesley’s parents were convinced Anglicans and returned to the church. Doctrinally his father was still a Puritan, especially in matters of devotion. His wife Susanna also believed this, other than this they were Puritans. Wesley was raised in a home where the Anglican and Puritan traditions were very much alive.
C. Upbringing – At 6, his house caught on fire and he almost lost his life. John would refer to this incident many times later, saying God seemed to have a special purpose to his life. At 17, he entered Oxford – a bright student. 1728 became a priest in the Church of England. Read arminians and moralists. Younger brother Charles a great hymn writer in the history of the church. Charles and John formed the “Holy Club” at Oxford. The disciplines of the club were regular meetings for fellowship, encouragement, education, helping the poor, reading the Greek NT together, etc….a very disciplined bunch. John Wesley regarded it as the most intense spiritual moment of his life, yet says he wasn’t yet converted. His life was filled with spiritual activities that were only moralistic.
D. Conversion – When father died. John declined to take father’s pastorate; set sail for Georgia as missionary. In violent storm at sea he despaired for his life, yet noted Moravian missionaries who showed deep piety and faith/ deeply impressed John.
Had a rough time in Georgia and did not have an effective ministry/ felt alienated by American Englishmen/ returned to England disillusioned. Attended a prayer meeting conducted by Moravians/ hears there a reading of Martin Luther on justification by faith and his response as he recorded it in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed; I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation and an assurance he had given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.” This is usually dated as the conversion of Wesley in 1738/ leads to a dramatic change in him in terms of what he preached and even in terms of how he preached.
E. Ministry – John preaches extemporaneously, calling people to conversion. His brother Charles looked upon this as fanaticism. John sought to spread Scriptural holiness over the land. In 1738, he preached a great sermon at Oxford called Salvation by Faith which caused a great uproar; he was accused of antinomianism. Was known as an enthusiast and as a result many pulpits were closed to him. Returned to America and in 1739 preached his first open air sermon. Thousands would turn out to hear the preaching. It is estimated that he preached 40,000 sermons in his life time.
F. Problems – Wesley couldn’t work well with anyone/ always had to be in charge. Exaggerated theological differences/ broke from friend Whitfield (later reconciled with him) John had a strong moralism but also love for the gospel/ remembered the reading of Martin Luther on free grace. He broke with some who had been leaders in his movement in 1742 who thought him too moralistic, accusing them of being antinomian. Saw Arminianism as answer to luke-warm Christianity, as it emphasized the availability of grace on one hand and the call to the free will to the life of holiness on the other. J. I. Packer calls him a “confused Calvinist” and not a deliberate Arminian. Wesley was not a great theologian; he was a great preacher and organizer.
G. Organization – “Societies” of his followers (later “Methodists). The society meetings must never conflict with the regular meetings of the church. Societies broken down into smaller “classes,” consisting of 12 members; this was in Wesley’s mind the heart of Methodism. Met every week for fellowship and follow-up, this was the essential disciplinary structure. He never intended that this society would conflict with the formal Church of England, but they became functioning congregations in the 1770s for Methodists. Wesley began ordaining Methodist clergy. Charles opposed this strongly; “Who made you a Bishop?”
H. Death – Wesley died as a minister in good standing in the Church of England. But his followers slowly began to act like a church/ after his death broke away from the Church of England and formed the Methodist Church/ adopted an Episcopal form of church government.
I. Theology – John was not well read, nor was he a very good theologian; denied the imputed righteousness of Christ. Perfectionism. If God commands perfection, then we must be able to achieve it. Developed the doctrine of second blessing from I John, as a spiritual blessing of perfectionism. John never claimed that he had reached this state of perfection.
J. Ironies – John eschewed hierarchy of the church of England, but then developed similar structures and hierarchy. John poor theologian but preached grace and many converted. John helped lead America to New Side position.