On a cold winter’s day in 1738, Charles Wesley was sick in bed with a tooth-ache. The pain was great enough that he thought that his soul and body would soon separate. So Wesley asked his good friend, Peter Bohler to pray for him, which he did. Wesley then explained their discussion:
[Peter Bohler] asked me, “Do you hope to be saved?” “Yes.” “For what reason do you hope it?” “Because I have used my best endeavours to serve God.” He shook his head, and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, “What, are not my endeavours a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust.” (Source)
At that point in time, Charles Wesley was just like the Jews of whom Paul wrote, “I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:2-3). It’s no wonder why Peter Bohler went away sorrowful. He longed for Charles to know true grace, just at Paul did the Jews: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1). It is only through Christ that one is made righteous, as Paul wrote, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).
But, such was the state of Charles Wesley’s soul at this time. He was trusting in his religious zeal for his salvation, not in the finished work of Christ. This was the thrust of the “Holy Club” that Charles and his brother John formed during their days in Oxford together. They were pursuing zeal for Christ, with (or without) faith in Christ. Rather than their efforts leading them to see their own sin (i.e. Romans 3:20), it drove them to continue working and striving for their own righteousness. Such striving gave no hope for them.
The good news is that a few months later, Charles came to trust in Christ alone for his salvation. In his journal on May 21, 1738, he wrote, ” I saw that by faith I stood. … I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness, … yet confident of Christ’s protection.” (Source) Charles Wesley was never the same.
This was Paul’s hope for the Jews, … that they too would come see that we stand by faith, not by our works. Believe this and you will never be the same.