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Friday, March 14, 2014

"The Germans Calmly Sang On"

The Wesleyan revival set in motion a series of "happenings" that led to significant reforms in England. Those reforms [including the abolition of slavery, and more] touched the world, as far off as Africa, America and India. But to have a fuller understanding of Wesley and the Wesleyan revival, one must understand the people God used to get the preacher himself on track: the Moravians.   

In 1735, Wesley spent eight weeks on board a wooden ship crossing the wide Atlantic with 80 English and 26 Moravians from Germany. They were sailing to the New World colony of Georgia. A young Wesley was on his way to convert Indians to Anglicanism. In his journal, he wrote of a fierce gale arising just as the Moravians were starting to sing:  

"In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, 'Was [sic] you not afraid?' He answered, 'I thank God, no.' I asked, 'But were not your women and children afraid?' He replied, mildly, 'No; our women and children are not afraid to die.' A couple of sentences later, Wesley added: "This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen."

The personal, living faith demonstrated by the Moravians deeply impressed Wesley. It was a kind of faith he had not known for himself. At the time of the storm, Wesley was fearful of death. Upon his arrival in Georgia, Wesley got to know a Moravian Pastor by the name of Spankenberg. This man asked Wesley if he personally knew Jesus Christ. That question led to many more questions.

Through Wesley's continuing contact with the Moravians, observing their lives lived by simple faith in Christ, he was drawn to the Scriptures. Eventually, after returning to England, Wesley experienced his own "great change," to use the language William Wilberforce employed in describing his personal encounter with Christ years later. 

Before I get off this history kick I'm on, I must dedicate more space to the Moravians. Why? Because of their theology of work, which provided a driver for their enthusiastic integration of faith, business, and profit-making.

Did I say profit making? Yes, profit making!

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