In 1730, John Wesley traveled to America on a mission trip to the new colony of Georgia. On this journey, he met a group of Moravian Christians from Germany. While on the boat, a storm came upon them and struck fear in the hearts of many, including John Wesley. However, the Moravians were at peace, worshiping God in the midst of the storm. When the storm was over Wesley asked them, "Were you not afraid?" They replied; "No. We are not afraid to die, our peace and assurance is in Jesus."
This experience brought Wesley face-to-face with his own lack of faith. Even though he had the head knowledge and his particular observance of the Word of God, something was still missing.
Wesley's time in America was a failure, leaving him completely overwhelmed, exhausted, and questioning his own faith in God. From his journal entry he wrote:
"I went to America to convert others, who will convert me. Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief: I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near. But let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled"
Encouragement From a Friend
When Wesley returned to England, he was greatly troubled by his failure and questioned whether he should continue in the ministry. It was a friend and colleague by the name of Peter Böhler, who encouraged Wesley. Wesley reflected:
"How could I preach to others and not have faith myself?"
Böhler told him:
"By no means neglect the talent which God has given you...Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith" - Journal, Vol. 1 p. 442
And preach it he did. Over the next couple months, Wesley would preach messages of faith in spite of his struggle to have it for himself.
"I had been preaching 'faith alone' since March 6, yet with little fruit...my heart was not in it, although that was about to change."
Aldersgate Street | London, England
May 24, 1738
"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's 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." - Journal, Vol. 1 p. 472
It was this experience at Aldersgate, that would change Wesley's entire life. This experience of the Holy Spirit moving on Wesley's heart at Aldersgate gave him a great assurance that his sins were forgiven.
Aldersgate then became the moment when all his learning, all of his education, all of his head knowledge of God was now realy in his heart. He felt this moment of grace from God and was compelled to share the good news of Salvation through grace by faith with all.
This message would transform England and the United States and ultimately impact the world. This experience of grace was the beginning of Methodism.