From “The Great Assize” (1758)
Should you not bear it in your minds all the day long, that a more awful day is coming? A large assembly this! But what is it to that which every eye will then behold, the general assembly of all the children of men that ever lived on the face of the whole earth?… Here a man is questioned concerning one or two facts, which he is supposed to have committed: there we are to give an account of all our works, from the cradle to the grave; of all our words; of all our desires and tempers, all the thoughts and intents of our hearts; of all the use we have made of our various talents, whether of mind, body, or fortune, until God said, “Give an account of your stewardship, for you may be no longer steward.”
In this court, it is possible, some who are guilty may escape for want of evidence; but there is no want of evidence in that court. All men, with whom you had the most secret intercourse, who were privy to all your designs and actions, are ready before your face. So are all the spirits of darkness, who inspired evil designs and assisted in the execution of them. So are all the angels of God; those eyes of the Lord, that run to and fro over all the earth, who watched over your soul, and labored for your good, so far as you would permit. So is your own conscience, a thousand witnesses in one, now no more capable of being either blinded or silenced, but constrained to know and to speak the naked truth, touching all your thoughts, and words, and actions. And is conscience as a thousand witnesses? — yes, but God is as a thousand consciences! O, who can stand before the face of the great God, even our Savior Jesus Christ!
See! See! He comes! He makes the clouds his chariots! He rides upon the wings of the wind! A devouring fire goes before him, and after him a flame burns! See! He sits upon his throne, clothed with light as with a garment, arrayed with majesty and honor! Behold, his eyes are as a flame of fire, his voice as the sound of many waters! How will ye escape? Will you call to the mountains to fall, on you, the rocks to cover you? Alas, the mountains themselves, the rocks, the earth, the heavens, are just ready to flee away! Can you prevent the sentence?…
Can you doubt this, when you remember, that the Judge of all is likewise the Savior of all? Has he not bought you with his own blood, that you might not perish, but have everlasting life? O make proof of his mercy, rather than his justice; of his love, rather than the thunder of his power! He is not far from every one of us; and he is now come, not to condemn, but to save the world he stands in the midst! Sinner, does God not now, even now, knock at the door of your heart? O that you may know, at least in this your day, the things that belong unto your peace! O that you may now give yourselves to him who gave himself for you, in humble faith, in holy, active, patient love! So shall you rejoice with exceeding joy in his day, when he comes in the clouds of heaven.
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. This sermon was delivered at the Assizes, the termly judicial session held in Bedford, England on March 10, 1758. Wesley is commemorated on March 3 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches. The text is adapted for contemporary readers.