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John Wesley: Can Any Christian Revival Continue?

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

I fear, wherever riches have increased, (exceeding few are the exceptions,) the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore do I not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.

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Christ & Non-Christians

worldview1Question: What do we do with the fact that there have been billions of people who died before Christ came to be among us on this earth?  Or what about those who never learned about the saving power of Christ? How is it fair that these never had a chance for salvation? What guidance do the Scriptures give us on this issue, and what has the historic Church said about it?

For many years I have been fascinated by the Wesleyan theological tradition — which happens to be the theological tradition of the United Methodist Church and many other denominations. And in studying this, I discovered that the historic Methodist approach to this issue is a bit different from the ideas commonly heard in the evangelical world today. (more…)

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Adam Clarke’s Advice to a Young Preacher

Adam Clarke (1760–1832)

Adam Clarke (1760–1832)

This is one of several items I re-blog every once in a while. And, here’s why. It illustrates one of the huge gulfs between contemporary Methodism and the original Methodism that arose under the leadership of John Wesley. Methodism originally combined: serious Biblical study, impassioned preaching, a personal experience of faith, a serious discipline for spiritual formation and the service of God in the world.

This is from a letter by Adam Clarke to a young man contemplating the ministry. Readers will find this advice a bit (ehem!) challenging. Actually, I think it is good advice myself, though I’d (of course) update the reference works, and have to acknowledge I’m quite a bit more “rusty” on biblical languages (and thus much more reliant on secondary sources) than I wish I were.

First (after the divider rule) I quote Adam Clarke at length. Then (after the next divider) I give some reflection on why I think these remarks are important. (more…)

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John Wesley: The Original Design of the Methodists

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

Afterwards I met the society, and explained to them at large the original design of the Methodists, viz., not to be a distinct party, but to stir up all parties, Christians or Heathens, to worship God in spirit and in truth; but the Church of England in particular; to which they belonged from the beginning. With this view, I have uniformly gone on for fifty years, never varying from the doctrine of the Church at all; nor from her discipline, of choice, but of necessity: So, in a course of years, necessity was laid upon me, (as I have proved elsewhere,)

1.     To preach in the open air.
2.     To pray extempore.
3.     To form societies.
4.     To accept of the assistance of Lay Preachers:

And, in a few other instances, to use such means as occurred, to prevent or remove evils that we either felt or feared.

—  Journal: April 12, 1789.

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What John Wesley Actually Said About the Bible

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley saw the Methodist movement as a return to the original life & faith & experience of Christianity. He wanted to return to the faith of the apostles and the early church — to find that same dynamic quality of faith and life that the early Christians had. So, Scripture had a place of central importance in Wesley’s teaching and preaching.

In Wesley’s view, devotion to the teachings of the Scripture is absolutely essential for the task of keeping and renewing the Christian faith.

So, in light of this, I’ve gathered together on this page everything substantive that John Wesley said about the Bible. I have not attempted to “tone down” or alter any of his opinions — though I have updated the language in the first quote. My goal here has been completeness.

Yes, there is some room for argument about what he may have meant by some of these remarks — of course. And, I certainly wouldn’t say the man was in any way infallible.

But, here is what he actually said. (more…)

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Whatever Happened to the Wesleyan Movement?

John & Charles Wesley

John & Charles Wesley

The message of the Wesleys and of the subsequent “Methodist” movement was a message of radical faithfulness to God. It affirmed an optimism of grace which believed that people’s lives could be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and that society could be changed — through the impact of prayer and through the impact of people who were filled with love for God and love for others. It was a movement that saw a progressive and liberating movement in Scripture that made it clear to them that the institution of slavery — the buying and selling of human beings — was wrong. It allowed them to see that God was calling both men and women into the service of Christ. It was a radical message of inward and outward holiness.

It can be hard to sustain a radical message. (more…)

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