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Historical Development of Wesley’s Doctrine of the Spirit

It is clear that he believed that the Spirit of God was doing an extraordinary work through the Methodist revival in America and England, which he associated with the great latter-day glory. His focus of God’s redemption moved beyond the borders of England and America toward a global vision of salvation.

“The General Spread of the Gospel” 1783

The emphasis on universal work of the Spirit becomes even more extensive in “The General Spread of the Gospel” (1783). He not only acknowledged the work of the Spirit in Great Britain and Ireland, and America, but he also thought it would spread throughout the world. He speculated:

Probably it will spread from these to the Protestants in France, to those in Germany, and to those in Switzerland; then Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and all other Protestant nations in Europe. May we not suppose that the same leaven of pure and undefiled religion, of the experimental knowledge and love of God, of inward and outward holiness, will afterwards spread to the Roman Catholics in great Britain, Ireland, Holland; in Germany, France, Switzerland….And may it gradually be diffused from provinces of Turkey, in Albyssinia, yea, and in the remotest parts, not only of Europe, but of Asia, Africa, and America? And in every nation under heaven, we may reasonably believe, God will observe the same order which he has done from the beginning.64

Wesley’s universal vision of the work of the Holy Spirit included people in every country and in every part of the world. From the previous excerpt there can be no doubt that Wesley was an inclusivist who “believed that God’s Spirit was at work everywhere in the world extending God’s prevenient graciousness among all peoples.”65

The Spirit offers Christ’s cosmic salvation to all the people of the world regardless of their nationality, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or gender. Wesley goes on to say that the latter-day glory will be a time that God will have “accomplished all those glorious promises made to the Christian Church, which will not then be confined to this or that nation, but will include all the inhabitants of the earth.”66 Thus, the latter Pentecost will be greater than the first Pentecost because it will fulfill all of the promises of the first. Finally, Wesley believed that the end-time work of the Spirit had already begun in his day with the rise of the Methodist movement and that it would continue to spread throughout the world. He said:

He is already renewing the face of the earth: And we have strong reason to hope that the work he hath begun, he will carry out on unto the day of the Lord Jesus; that he will never intermit this blessed work of the Spirit, until he has fulfilled all his promises, until he hath put a period to sin, and misery, and happiness, and re-established universal holiness and happiness, and caused all the inhabitants of the earth to sing together, “Hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”67

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Category: Church History

About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Winfield H. Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is also the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and an adjunct professor at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting (Seedbed, 2016), Rediscovering John Wesley (Pathway Press, 2005), Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Simeon Press, 2013), Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (NavPress, 2011), and Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship (Seedbed, 2016). Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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