Since Methodism is really no narrow sect, but what Chalmers styled "Christianity in earnest," we shall not be blamed for divulging the open secret of the early success of that spiritual uprising, which has quickened the pulse of our common Christianity throughout the world. Listen, and I will disclose that secret, for we have not taken out a patent right, and do not intend to. The secret of American Methodism is not in its doctrines. Arminius had lived and fought his great battle with Calvinism, and died ninety-four years before Wesley was born. In theology, Wesley simply adhered to the Arminian section of the Church of England. Nor is that secret to be found in the unique ecclesiasticism which this spiritual movement took on. The spirit existed before it embodied itself in a form. What is the essential characteristic of that spirit?
A young man of thirty-three, a presbyter of the Church of England, a fellow of Lincoln College and a Greek lecturer at Oxford, in 1736 went to the colony, of Georgia as a missionary. Stepping on the shore at Savannah, one of the first men he met was the Moravian elder, August Gottlieb Spangenberg. Wesley asked his advice how to act in his new sphere of labor. Spangenberg replied, " My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?" Wesley was surprised at such questions. They were new to him. He was at a loss how to answer. The Moravian continued, "Do you know Jesus Christ?" This was easier, and the Oxford priest replied, "I know he is the Saviour of the world." "True," said Spangenberg, "but do you know he has saved you?" This question is the seed-germ of Methodism. For two years it lay germinating in the heart of Wesley as a mystery. "Do you know that Jesus Christ saves you? " Then in an evening Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, while a person was reading that faith alone justifies, in the preface to Luther's Epistle to the Romans, Wesley experienced an amazing change. "I felt my heart strangely warmed, and an assurance was given me that Christ had taken away my sins, even mine. And I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart."
Here is the secret. An assurance of sins forgiven and an open testimony before all. In other words, it is the rising of the day-star in the heart, and the opening of the mouth in confession. It is the immediate contact of the Holy Spirit with the human soul, affording a certainty beyond a doubt of pardon and adoption into the family of God.
This doctrine, written in all the evangelical creeds of Protestant Christendom, but lying dead and inoperative, or taught as the privilege of a select few, Wesley published to the vicious and neglected masses of colliers, sailors, soldiers, operatives and peasants; flying like the angel of the Apocalypse, over England, Scotland and Ireland, preaching Jesus a living, present and conscious Saviour, in forty-four thousand sermons.
This great privilege of the direct witness of the Spirit I gladly proclaim to you. You may each ever have within your own bosom a satisfactory and joyful assurance that Christ Jesus is your personal, present and perfect Saviour. The path to that blessed experience is not made by proud philosophy, but by humble faith. "Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"
— From Jesus Exultant, Chapter 8.