Classic Conversion Stories – John Wesley


John Wesley was miserable.   

If anyone should have been confident about their “religion” it was Wesley. After all, he had been a missionary to the Indians; he was an Anglican priest; he had done open air evangelism; he had been involved in prison ministry. He was an Oxford scholar. His personal spiritual habits included reading the Bible and regular prayer. He was sensitive to sin and tried to do what was right and holy.  

However, none of these activities or positions had given him peace about his own destiny.  Was he right with God?  Was he saved?  Was he going to heaven? All of these questions plagued him. 

He had spent considerable time praying, studying the Bible and reading various books during his dilemma.  He had sought counsel from other preachers and friends.  All to no avail.

On a now historic night he was invited to a meeting where all of this changed:  

That evening he reluctantly attended a meeting in Aldersgate. Someone read from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans. About 8:45 p.m. “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my 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.” (excerpt from   

After this night Wesley’s doubts faded.  He had peace about his destiny and salvation.  Although he might have experienced some doubt’s later, his writing and speaking was never again full of agony about this issue. 

Notice from his own words what brought this peace, “…I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins,…”  It was faith in Christ that brought an end to Wesley’s doubts. 

Notice that is wasn’t his religious activity.  It wasn’t his: 

  • Missionary service
  • Pastoral position
  • Service for God
  • Or Oxford Scholarship

His conversion also sounds different from some of the calls for salvation we hear today… 

  • “Get right with God”
  • “Ask Jesus into your heart”
  • “Give your life to Jesus”
  • “Give your heart to Jesus”
  • “Come forward and pray to get saved”
  • “Turn your life over to God”
  • “Confess all your sins”
  • “Join the church”
  • “Get the second blessing”

Wesley doesn’t indicate any of these things were a part of his salvation or assurance.  In fact, he had done many of these! But they didn’t bring him peace.  Only the firm confidence and belief that Christ had paid for his sins did. 

Not much has changed in almost 300 years.  In fact, it hasn’t changed since the time of Christ or even before.  Salvation comes from faith in Christ not from being religious, moral, or working for brownie points with God. 

Jesus sums it up best: 

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47


8 Responses

  1. Hello,
    I love your site. Stop by mine.

  2. Yep… notice it was LUTHER who was being read… 🙂
    Good post… we Lutherans cringe at the mandate for conversion experiences. Simple trust in the Lord Jesus… that’s it. You and I… we could get along nicely.

    I started posting my sermons to my congregation’s blog. My blog has not had any major posts in a long time…


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  4. I think it is fascinating that John Wesley, who was Arminian, was saved like a Calvinist. I find this similarity in experience occurring in many famous historic Christians like: Luther, Finney, and Brainerd.

    Remember, it was only after Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed that he felt he did trust in Jesus Christ. In other words, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans 9:16).

  5. Spoken like a true Calvinist 🙂

  6. John Wesley certainly got saved long before he ever got assurance of it that day when someone read Luther’s “Preface to the
    epistle to Romans, because the Word says whosoevershall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved which he had already done many times. However, his “assurance” that day was not enduring the rest of his life, as at the end of his life it is recorded he said…”I never loved God, or other believers”, and this was after he was in his 60s.
    That’s the trouble with “Weslian doctrine”..Saved today, lost tomorrow, and half dozen times between… ITS A MISERABLE DOTRINE !
    Art Sims, on February 10, 2012 at 1:34pm

  7. This is why our assurance cannot depend on the way we feel today – it depends entirely on the truth which always remains the same: Jesus died and rose again in order to take the punishment due to all of us, that ‘whoever believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life’. Trust not in feelings, but in the enduring and unchanging Word of God. That is joy, that is peace, on bad days and good.

  8. repent of your sins and believe in Jesus and His work on the cross for forgiveness. Striving to live holy in and of itself has no power to regenerate someone. It is in believing the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, that you can receive the Holy Spirit and be born again (Eph. 1). May the cross of Christ be glorified!

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