Edited by Robert V. Rakestraw  (April 17, 2017)

Is the Holy Spirit sometimes a troublemaker?

fire thessalonians verse
[John Wesley’s Journal, July 6, 1739]. “I pressed a serious Quaker to tell me why he did not come to hear me as formerly. He said, because he found we were not led by the Spirit; for we fixed times of preaching beforehand; whereas we ought to do nothing unless we were sensibly moved thereto by the Holy Ghost. I asked whether we ought not to do what God in Scripture commands, when we have opportunity: Whether the providence of God thus concurring with his word, were not a sufficient reason for our doing it, although we were not at that moment sensibly moved thereto by the Holy Ghost. He answered, it was not a sufficient reason. [To him, this] was to regard ‘the letter that killeth.’ God grant that I may so regard it all the days of my life!”

“In the afternoon I was with Mr. [George] Whitefield, [my close friend from our Oxford ‘holy club’ student days], just come from London, with whom I went to Baptist-Mills, where he preached concerning ‘the Holy Ghost, which all who believe are to receive;’ not without a just, though severe, censure of those who preach as if there were no Holy Ghost.”

“Sat. 7.—I had an opportunity to talk with him [Whitefield] of those outward signs which had so often accompanied the inward work of God [when I preached. He objected to the physical manifestations – sensationalism in his opinion – that my listeners sometimes experienced.] I found his objections were chiefly grounded on gross misrepresentations of matter of fact.  But the next day he had an opportunity of informing himself better: For no sooner had he begun (in the application of his sermon) to invite all sinners to believe in Christ, that four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without either sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third had strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time, I trust, we shall all suffer God to carry on his own work in the way that pleaseth Him.”

From An Extract of the Rev. Mr. John Wesley’s Journal, Vol. I, in The Works of John Wesley, Third Ed., Vol.I (Baker, 1979 reprint of 1872 ed. Issued by Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London), p. 210. The above selection may be found, along with other articles and essays, on Dr. Rakestraw’s website blog, gracequestministries.org., where you may sign up to receive automatically postings such as this at no cost, and where you may order his books GraceQuest and Heart Cries. You may write to him at bob@gracequestministries.org