I used to ask this question all the time, and so here it is again. Could John Wesley actually preach in any of our pulpits if he were a young seminarian today?
This hit home when I was reading his sermon “The First Fruits of the Spirit.” The sermon is largely taken up with questions about sin and the freedom from condemnation that comes from Jesus Christ. At one point, he considers the case of a person who had a “come to Jesus” experience at some point in the past, but is now living in willful sin. Wesley says he can make no judgment about whether or not the hypothetical person really was justified in the past.
But this I know, with the utmost degree of certainty, “he that committeth sin is of the devil.” Therefore, thou art of thy father the devil. It cannot be denied: for the works of thy father thou doest. O flatter not thyself with vain hopes! Say not to thy soul, “Peace peace!” For there is no peace.
And he does not hold back are suggesting a cure.
Cry aloud! Cry unto God out of the deep; if haply he may hear thy voice. Come unto him as at first, as wretched and poor, as sinful, miserable, blind and naked! And beware thou suffer thy soul to take no rest, till his pardoning love be again revealed; till he “heal thy backslidings,” and fill thee again with the “faith that worketh by love.”
This preaching was not popular in Wesley’s day. The most common reaction to his preaching in a church pulpit, especially in the early years, was to be told not to bother ever coming back to that church.
So, of course, we should not expect him to be popular in today’s church. So the question I find myself struggling with is whether this kind of preaching is necessary, whether it is popular or not.