Monday, August 20, 2012

Exercise of the Presence of God

Exercise of the Presence of God is the last Prudential Means of Grace mentioned in the "Large" Minutes.  To aid his preachers in the practice of this discipline, Wesley suggested reflecting on two questions--
"Do you endeavour to set God always before you? To see his eye continually fixed upon you?"
In sermon 79, the exercise of the presence of God is briefly mentioned in connection with the goal of Simplicity (also known as Purity of Intention or the Single Intention or Faith working by Love).  Curiously, this exercise is not included as an example in sermon 118 "On A Single Eye."

In par. 19 of sermon 79, Wesley cautioned that the exercise of the presence of God should only be practiced after one has repented and received the gift of faith in Christ.

Compared to the other Means of Grace, the Exercise receives minimal attention in Wesley's writings.  I think this is because Wesley followed this discipline while at Oxford, before his Aldersgate experience, and what little faith he had at that time was undermined by the practice.  His reading of devotional books such as those by Thomas à Kempis, Henry Scougal, Jeremy Taylor, and William Law had given him the impression that if he asserted his willpower he would sense God's presence in his soul. 

Wesley's insistence on Repentance-Faith-Holiness as the analogy of faith grows out of this experience of spiritual frustration and doubt.

1 comment:

Laura Felleman said...

The phrase "exercise of the presence of God" is also found in Wesley's "A Christian Library," vol. 23, where it appears twice in an extract of Brother Lawrence, "The Practice of the Presence of God."