3. Awake, Thou That Sleepest

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This post is part of a series of study guides on the Sermons of John Wesley that I'm putting together, mostly as a way to structure my own reading. Most of the sermons can be read for free online here or here

Date and location

April 4, 1742

University of Oxford

By Charles Wesley

Scripture

"Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Ephesians 5:14)

Outline

  1. The Sleepers
    1. Sleep is the natural state of man
    2. pure darkness
    3. A sinner satisfied in their sin
    4. Some have the form of godliness, but deny the power
    5. Dead unto God
    6. Lacking senses to discern good and evil
    7. Lacking the Spirit of God
  2. The Exhortation (Awake, and arise from the dead)
    1. God is primed to judge you
    2. The morning is approaching - wake up!
    3. We are all bound for an eternity of either happiness or misery
      1. Intense barrage of rhetorical questions
  3. The Promise (Christ shall give thee light)
    1. If you awake and receive Christ you will inherit life

In his own words

"For where is he that loveth either God or his neighbour, as he hath given us commandment? On the one hand are those who have not so much as the form of godliness; on the other, those who have the form only; there stands the open, there the painted sepulchre. So that, in very deed, whosoever were earnestly to behold any public gathering together of the people (I fear those in our churches are not to be excepted) might easily perceive 'that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees': the one having almost as little concern about religion as if there were 'no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit'; and the other making it a mere lifeless form, a dull round of external performances without either true faith, or the love of God, or joy in the Holy Ghost." (III.11)

Preach it today

 

  1. This one of John Wesley's sermons is actually by his brother Charles.
  2. No Methodist that I know of gets this close to hellfire and brimstone. Have we softened the gospel to make it palatable, or are we merely adapting to a society without the Christian theological presuppositions both John and Charles Wesley could assume?
  3. I am completely in awe of how well the brothers Wesley know their Bibles. Charles here strings together quotation after quotation, almost effortlessly. I am humbled.
  4. Charles' intense, pages-long barrage of rhetorical questions makes for powerful reading. In these first four sermons the brothers are almost intentionally trying to offend their elite audience at Oxford University. But a less intensive barrage of rhetorical questions can be a powerful - and not excessively offensive - tool for preachers today trying to encourage their congregations toward introspection.