Hester Ann Rogers Inspires Women to Holiness

Hester Ann Rogers was born on January 31, 1756, in Cheshire, England.

Her father was a Church of England clergyman who died when she was nine years of age.

Confirmed – but not converted – four years later, young Hester continued in spiritual rebellion until Mr Simpson, the new curate, appeared at their local church. He was – horrors! – a ‘Methodist’! And when he preached on John 6:44 Hester “wept aloud … ran home … went upstairs” and there, upon her knees, commenced her pilgrimage to the cross. She attended Methodist meetings – much to her mother’s disgust – and was soon truly converted.

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On 19 August, 1784, she married James Rogers – a Methodist preacher – and became a class-leader and personal worker herself. James was Wesley’s resident assistant and Hester was Wesley’s housekeeper toward the end of his life.

Her Memoirs and Letters became ‘best sellers’ in early Methodist circles. Her emphasis on ‘entire sanctification’ did much to popularise that particular doctrine. The Methodist notion of holiness involved an experience, subsequent to conversion, where a person’s commitment to holy living is accentuated by a touch from God. Hester claimed this experience and called it the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”. The term did not have any of the Pentecostal connotations which would become prevalent a century later, but spoke of a cleansing of thought and deed, leading to ‘full salvation’.

Because of the influence of her writings, Hester is counted as one of the leading women of the early Methodist movement.

When John Wesley died, Hester and James were at his bedside. “We have come to rejoice with you,” she – or her husband – said, “you are going to receive your crown.”

Three years later – on 10 October, 1794, aged 39 – shortly after giving birth to a son, she too, went to receive her Heavenly reward.

Hester’s testimony was widely circulated and impacted many women in the following century, who were inspired by her devotion to the Lord and depth of personal encounter with Him.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

William Bramwell Brings Revival

This is the day that … William Bramwell died, in 1818, at the age of 59.

The exact date of his birth, in February 1759, is unknown. But the amazing results of his evangelism around England are well documented.

Fifteen hundred converted in Sheffield (1795); 500 converted in Leeds (1801); 450 converted in Hull (1804) – and so it goes.

Born to a Church of England family Bramwell’s quest for spiritual reality led him to the Catholic Church for a season, during which he mutilated his finger tips as a act of piety. He returned to the Church of England but was drawn to the dissenters, the Methodists, through a friend. He finally agreed to hear a Methodist preacher and was instantly excited by the experience. It was under the preaching of John Wesley, himself, that Bramwell found the glorious liberty of being a child of God. Thus he spent the rest of his life proclaiming the Methodist sanctification message.

In the years following Wesley’s death, Bramwell was the leading Methodist preacher, even though there were many who opposed him.

His first revival came after a year of earnest preaching, home visitation and prayer in Dewsbury. He enlisted the assistance of a woman of prayer, whom he had earlier led to Christ, Miss Anne Cutler, who came to be known as “Praying Nanny”.

When revival broke out and many were converted, also experiencing ‘entire sanctification’, it set the stage for many such revivals to follow.

Interesting anecdotes abound in the life of this early Methodist preacher. For example, he would not speak to “a lazy, pre-occupied congregation! If they did not give him their undivided attention he would close the service … because a sort of insult had been poured on the gospel” (They Dared to be Different, page 119).

“He married a holy woman whom he saw about once every six weeks, his travelling and preaching keeping him away so constantly…” (Men and Women of Deep Piety, page 52).

And the story is told of two women who had been to hear Mr Bramwell preach (Life-Changing Evangelism). “How is it,” asked one, “that every time we hear Mr Bramwell preach, he tells us things we never knew before?” “Perhaps,” replied the other, “it is because he lives much closer to God than we do … and God tells him things He tells nobody else…”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Nudity, Purity and Sex

Australia has been distracted in recent days with questions about an art show of naked children. Police raided the exhibition last Thursday and seized some of the images of naked 12 and 13 year old children. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke out against the display, while the artistic community defended the show. Questions emerge such as “was there consent” and were the images “sexualised”. Art advocates point out that the naked body has been the focus of art for thousands of years.

This is timely for me, as it raises an issue which I have recently been thinking about. I believe that nudity is, in itself, a distortion of sexuality. I believe that our personal nakedness is a divine preserve. When we become lax about the sanctity of the naked body we have already crossed an important line in the loss of purity.

In all the debate that is now going on about the child photos there is recognition that some display of nudity is pornographic and an abuse of people’s privacy. I contend that any display of nudity should be seen as a violation of a sacred preserve. Now, before you dub me a wowser, take a moment to think a little further through the issue, with the Bible as your reference point. Follow me through the following notes.

As I tackle sexual deviancy in its various forms I have come to realise the importance of teaching on ‘purity’. Purity is a lost quality in the west, where sensuality and the “what’s in it for me” mentality reign supreme.
As I teach my Straight Talk on Sex material around the world I find myself more optimistic than I should be. I keep expecting Christians to have an understanding of and a commitment to moral purity. In my own childhood, although addicted to lustful thoughts and sexual obsessions, I carried an acute sense of my own impurity. I continue to be surprised, although I should not be, when I find Christians and Christian leaders who have abandoned the key ground of purity.
So let me challenge your thinking about ‘purity’ and relate that to nudity and sex.

The Call To Purity.

The starting point of each of our lives is that we have been created by God. Furthermore, we have been created in the image of God. So we are to be holy just as our heavenly Father is holy (Leviticus 11:45,19:2). We have a creation mandate, to be holy, just like God, who created us in His holy likeness. If we are not holy we defy God, rebel against His creative purpose for our lives and destroy the very thing God sought to establish. We cannot be unholy, for any reason. No matter how unholy those around us are, we must live in the fear of God and be holy and pure before Him.
Paul the Apostle insisted on this level of purity 4,000 years after the creation, as he set things in order within the infant church. Paul insisted that believers should “possess their body in sanctification and honour” (1Thessalonians 4:4). He exhorts Christians to “cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” and to “perfect holiness in the fear of God” (2Corinthians 7:1).
Jesus Christ demands our holiness. He instructed His followers to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And the Apostle Peter added his voice to the case, saying that we are not to live by the lusts that we had before we were Christians , but are to be holy in all our lifestyle, just as God is holy (1Peter 1:14-16).
So, purity is not an optional extra for Christians. It is not something for the more devoted to think about, which ordinary Christians can ignore. No, indeed! Purity is something that is mandatory for all people who want to walk with God. And we have that from the Old Testament, from Christ, from Paul and from Peter.

The Spirit-Flesh Tension
God created us in His image. God also gave us human flesh. Our flesh is an area of vulnerability for us, as it is tempted to seek indulgence of its appetites. We are torn between our calling to be like God, and our lusts to be self-seeking and indulgent. God refers to this problem of the human condition by saying that man is “also flesh” (Genesis 6:3). The implication is that man is a spirit being, made in the image of God who is spirit, but man is also flesh, pulled by lusts. Mankind has a pull in both directions – toward God and holiness and toward self and degradation.
Christians need to be transformed from the old self-indulgent, fleshly lusts, into glorious freedom from self-indulgence. Look at the way Paul puts this case. 1Thessalonians 4:3-8 “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel (body) in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence (sensuality), even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. He therefore that despises (the calling to holiness and the sanctity of the human body) despises not man, but God, who has also given to us his Holy Spirit.”
Now, let me package this up in a simple summary for you. You are created by a holy God and you have a divine mandate to be holy. Your flesh pulls you toward self-indulgence, lusts and degradation. Christ has paid for your sins, so you can be forgiven, and the Holy Spirit is given to empower you to put your flesh to death so you can live free of your fleshly lusts and glorify God.

Nakedness / Nudity
The human body is the starting point of purity. God created the human body to be kept sacred by each individual. Personal nakedness is a divine and sovereign element of human purity. To expose the body, or to go further toward sensual and sexual activity, is sinful and degrading.

As soon as Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden he knew that he was naked and he felt shame (Genesis 3:10). Adam was not ashamed of seeing Eve’s nakedness, because she was ‘one flesh’ with him, but he was ashamed of letting God see his nakedness, since nakedness is private, not for public display.

Noah’s godly sons would not look on his nakedness, because they knew that it was a sacred preserve of their father’s purity. Even though drunkenness had left Noah exposed on the floor of his tent, these sons took pains not to see his nakedness. They maintained their own and their father’s purity.

When a beautiful woman presents herself in a sensual manner, to attract the attentions of men, she demeans herself and degrades her value – she no longer holds her body as something honourable (1Thessalonians 4:4). She is toying with her nakedness, even when she does not expose it, by seeking to arouse sexual interest. She has demeaned her created holiness and lowered herself to the level of a pig. Proverbs 11:22 “Like a gold jewel in a pig’s snout, so is a fair woman who is indiscreet.”
When a man looks on a woman to lust after her, even though he does not see her nakedness his attention is drawn to exploiting it, and that lusting is deemed to be the same as committing adultery with her (Matthew 5:28). Lusts bring corruption into human society (2Peter 1:4) and those lusts actively contend within and war against the soul of a person (1Peter 2:11).
When a couple marries, God establishes a moral miracle, where the two independent bodies are deemed by God to be one body (one flesh) and so the nakedness and sexual intimacy between the couple is now moral and not impure. They are allowed to see and enjoy each other’s nakedness, even though no-one else is allowed to. Nakedness is still sacred, but it can now be shared between the husband and wife. The sexual freedom enjoyed by a married couple is undefiled, within the sanctity and privacy of their own marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).
When a society becomes lax about nakedness it has become impure. When people stop protecting the sanctity of their own body and the body of others, impurity has contaminated the society. When people dress in an alluring manner and when nudity is exposed on movies, TV, magazines and billboards, impurity takes over. The people are despising God. When people will not treat their own nakedness and the nakedness of humanity as a sacred preserve given them by a holy God, they are despising God, Himself. It is an act of rebellion against God. I remind you of 1Thessalonians 4:8 “He therefore that despises (the calling to holiness and the sanctity of the human body) despises not man, but God, who has also given to us his Holy Spirit.”
This is what I am saddened to see in too many Christian circles. The refusal to honour the sanctity of the human body and each person’s personal nakedness is a mockery of purity and it is rebellion against God. Yet churches and church leaders are guilty of exactly that.
Christians are called to put their flesh to death, with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24), and they do that not by human effort but by relying on the Holy Spirit to empower them (Romans 8:13). This results in Christians living a life that is free from lusts and the pressures created by their flesh (Galatians 5:17), and they are able to live in the ‘glorious liberty of the Children of God’ (Romans 8:21). They then live in purity, and enjoy the fullness of joy which God created for them.

A disclaimer: The flesh is able to be enslaved by lusts, but God gave us our flesh and He has made provision for us to enjoy life in our bodies. Christians crucify their lusts, and then enjoy the natural life which God gave them. God intends us to enjoy our human existence in our human bodies. God created an idyllic garden resort for Adam and Eve, with the best tasting and the prettiest plants. God designed woman’s beauty as a gift for her husband to enjoy. God commends eating the sweet honeycomb. God encourages us to be ravished by our wife, to be satisfied with her breasts and to live joyfully with her. We are not sentenced to morbid existence, killing every pleasure. But we are to live in the fear of God, bringing our body under, so that we live out of our spirit and glorify God in our body and our spirit. Having done so, we will enjoy many delights through the five senses which God gave us.