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John Wesley and the Mystics

August 05, 2019
JOHN WESLEY MOMENTS
DAVE HANSON


During John Wesley’s early years, and especially his time in Georgia, he read and studied many of the mystical writings of his day and of ancient Christian mystics.

He was very interested in what they had to say about self-denial, solitude, works of charity, and the interior life.

William Law was very influential in Wesley’s life at Oxford. Wesley later wrote Law a scorching letter criticizing him for leading him astray by not talking more about Jesus Christ and Christian assurance. There is some question about whether John mailed this letter or not.

After his Aldersgate experience, John felt that assurance was a gift of God and not the result of spiritual exercises (as the mystics taught). He came to believe that meditation and time spent in prayer was the result of faith in Christ, not the cause of such faith.

He became especially disturbed by the mystic’s idea of the “dark night of the soul,” which they saw as God testing you to see if you would come through that feeling of God’s withdrawal. He rather saw that feeling of desertion by God as a result of our sin.

The Rev. Dave Hanson is a retired pastor and John Wesley scholar.

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