Wesley and the German
Written by Arlene:
“Please, sir, I must talk to you.” The young Englishman wiped clammy hands on his clothing as the door swung open to his knock.
“Herein … come in.” The German stepped to one side while sweeping his arm toward the parlor. There, a crackling fire beckoned the younger man.
“Thank you, thank you, sir.” John Wesley took a proffered seat, rested his hands on both knees and leaned forward. The Moravian minister sat across from him.
“You seem much troubled, mein Herr,” the German spoke in a gentle tone.
“I am, I am.” Wesley now wiped his face. “I must have answers.”
“How I can be of assistance in this?” Herr Boehler asked. He rang for tea. “I prefer good German coffee, but …” A shrug. “For now, I live in England and must adapt to her ways. A soft chuckle. “Especially for her sons. Now, Herr Wesley, about your dilemma?”
The young Anglican priest stood to pace the room. After several agitated turns, he stood by the fire and blurted, “Sir, how does one achieve peace?”
The German’s eyebrows arched. “You haf no peace?” An incredulous shake of the head. “’Tis a pity, my friend.”
Wesley moved to his chair. Back to the fire. Returned to his chair. Paused. Sat. The carefully turned hair and immaculate robe belied his soul agony. “You Moravians are a mystery to me.”
“How do you come to know my people?” Herr Bohler asked.
“When my brother, Charles, and I sailed to Georgia last year …” Wesley began. “We encountered a storm at sea. A storm so fierce, even the seasoned seamen begged God for mercy. Everyone wept in terror. Everyone — except the Moravians.”
A gentle smile touched the German’s lips. “It is good to hear my people are steadfast in faith.”
“That is just it,” John continued. “Every evening of our long voyage, the Moravians gathered on the deck to sing hymns of praise to God. In the midst of that tempest, they struggled to their usual place just like every other time, each holding on to whatever they could to keep on their feet and not be swept overboard. Everyone sang with the same beauty and serenity as before. Even the children sang with no trace of fear in their little voices.” He paused with drooping shoulders. The German waited.
“After the storm, I wanted to know. I needed to know. How people can sing in the face of impending death? I approached their leader.”
“His answer?” The minister leaned forward.
“He asked how I could be a priest for the Church of England and not know the peace of the Almighty within me.”
“Same as now,” Wesley cried. “I have begged God for peace. Many times. On my knees. I read the Holy Scriptures for hours every day. I pray. I visit the sick. I go to the prisons. I live as a pauper.” He threw both hands wide. “For what?”
“You do not do this for Gott?”
“Of course. Every hour of my life is lived for God.”
“Then, mein Freund, help me understand.”
“I do not have your peace!” John cried in anguish. “No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I work, my soul remains empty. Unsatisfied.” Wesley slumped back into the chair. “No peace,” he muttered.
“You cannot get this peace through works,” Herr Boehler explained.
“But, I must,” Wesley interrupted, leaping to his feet again. “The Bible says so. Faith without works is dead.”
“You appear to know works but not grace. The grace of the Almighty One. You cannot please him with many works, long hours of prayer and fasting. No.” He shook his head. “It is all grace. ‘For by grace are ye saved and not by works.’ That is what Paul wrote in his letter to Ephesus.”
“I cannot see it.” Wesley’s voice quivered.
“Friend, come to our gathering this evening. At Aldersgate. We begin a study of the book of Romans.”
That very night, as one man read from Martin Luther’s introduction for Romans, Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He experienced God’s unfathomable grace to achieve the long desired peace.
I do not have to work to please an implacable God. No. He is grace, truth, life and love. England does not know this love. I must go and share it with her. To my dying breath, I must share this news