18th century England was rife with immorality; the people yearned for a spiritual leader. John Wesley (1703-1791) filled that gap as a superb evangelist, scholar and spiritual authority. He knew that many people yearned to be saved by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. He also knew, based on personal experience, the importance of assurance of salvation for all Christians.
Early in his career, after a failed missionary journey to Georgia, Wesley returned to England bitter and disillusioned. He told Peter Boehler, a Moravian, of his experience and his inner struggle. On May 24, 1738, Boehler convinced him to go to a meeting. Here is Wesley's description of what happened:
"In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, 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."
Wesley desired that all his fellowmen receive that same salvation and that same assurance of salvation.
Assurance is revealed in different ways. In the words of William Burt Pope,
“Given to the pardoned sinner it is a sense of unspeakable relief to the conscience; in the heart of the adopted child it is the irrepressible filial confidence; in the regenerate spirit sanctified to God it is the silent seal of a Divine indwelling, abiding in the soul as the awful sense of the Triune God within and deepening into the assurance that He fills the whole heart, or the witness of entire sanctification.”
How can we receive assurance; perhaps through the words of a particular preacher or a particular author? Unfortunately, some preachers lack principle and will disappoint us in the end. Also, if we depend on a powerful book such as, hypothetically, The Case for God, it is only a matter of time until someone writes another book called The Case Against the Case for God. Dependence on people or props will eventually leave us quivering in our boots.
Alternately, we can pray this simple prayer every day and God will give us assurance!
Almighty God, I pray that the Holy Spirit will occupy and purify my heart, make known to me the will of God, help me discern the truth, be Lord of my life and keep me on the path of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.