From “The Marks of the New Birth” (1741)
A scriptural mark of those who are born of God, and the greatest of all, is love; even “the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them,” (Rom. 5:5). “Because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son in their hearts, crying, Abba, Father!,” (Gal. 4:6). By this Spirit, continually looking up to God as their reconciled and loving Father, they cry to him for their daily bread, for all things needful, whether for their souls or bodies. They continually pour out their hearts before him, knowing “they have the petitions which they ask of him,” (1 John 5:15).
Their delight is in God. He is the joy of their heart; their “shield,” and their “exceeding great reward.” The desire of their soul is toward him; it is their “meat and drink to do his will;” and they are “satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while their mouth praises him with joyful lips,” (Ps. 63:5). And, in this sense also, “everyone who loves him that begat, loves him that is begotten of him,” (1 John 5:1). His spirit rejoices in God his Savior. He “loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”
He is so “joined to the Lord,” as to be one spirit. His soul hangs upon him, and chooses him as altogether lovely, “the chief among ten thousand.” He knows, he feels what that means, “My beloved is mine, and I am his,” (Song 2:16)…
The necessary fruit of this love of God is the love of our neighbor, of every soul which God has made, and not excepting our enemies… This is a love whereby we love every man as ourselves, just as we love our own souls. No, our Lord has expressed it still more strongly, teaching us to “love one another even as he has loved us.”
Accordingly, the commandment written in the hearts of all those that love God, is no other than this, “As I have loved you, so love you one another.” Now, “herein we perceive the love of God, in that he laid down his life for us,” (1 John 3:16). “We ought,” then, as the apostle justly infers, “to lay down our lives for the brethren.” If we feel ourselves ready to do this, then do we truly love our neighbor. Then “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we” thus “love the brethren,” (1 John 3:14). “Hereby know we” that we are born of God, that we “dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his” loving “Spirit.” (1 John 4:13). For “love is of God; and everyone that” thus “loves is born of God, and knows God,” (1 John 4:7).
John Wesley (1703-1791) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, and the founder of the Methodist movement. After experiencing a profound conversion in 1738, he began a ministry of itinerant evangelistic preaching, travelling an average of 8000 miles a year and making thousands of converts. He sparked a renewal in preaching and discipleship that swept across the Anglo-American world and is one of the fathers of evangelicalism. He first preached the sermon “The Marks of the New Birth” at the Foundery Chapel in London, the very first Methodist chapel, on April 3, 1741. He repeated it many more times in subsequent years. He is commemorated on March 3 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches. The text is adapted for contemporary readers.