THREE RIVERS DISTRICT
May 24 is a significant date for United Methodists. On Wednesday, May 24, 1738, John Wesley experienced his "heart strangely warmed." This Aldersgate experience was crucial for his own life and became a touchstone for the Wesleyan movement.
Wesley reports that as he was in a gathering on Aldersgate Street in London, while someone was reading the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary to the book of Romans (not the kind of reading one might expect to be especially inspirational). Charles Wesley only a few days before had also had a conversion experience in the same place. The building where the meetings took place no longer exists. Aldersgate Street has been shortened by common Methodist usage to simply Aldersgate. The word has come to represent both the place and the experience.
Here is Wesley journal entry for 24 May 1738:
“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.”
When read by itself, this one journal entry seems to suggest this God-moment happened unexpectedly. The same is true when we hear others report similar experiences. Most often, however, these special encounters with the Holy Spirit come to those who are seeking, those who have opened their hearts to receive something special from God.
John Wesley’s experience at Aldersgate transformed his belief and preaching, ultimately leading to the formation of the Methodist Church. Without Aldersgate, Methodism as we know it today may not have happened. But Aldersgate is not just about the past, or just about John Wesley. His experience, so memorably and vividly expressed in his journal, demonstrates the difference it makes knowing God for ourselves.
Dr. Bradley G Call
Three Rivers District
Rev. Dr. Brad Call
415 Walnut St
Coshocton OH 43812
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