| The text is quoted by St. Paul
from some unknown source: 'Wherefore he saith.' Severian, who has
been followed by many modern commentators, thinks it was a verse from
an early Christian hymn:
'E-YCLpe, 6 KUOC68WV,If 'so, it was most happily chosen by the greatest of Christian hymnwriters as his text on this occasion.
|| On original sin, see note
on Sermon V, sec. i.
|| 'Birth from above.' This is
the rendering of the phrase in
John iii. 3, adopted by Coverdale
and the Bishops' Bible of l572. The
more usual rendering is 'again.'
The papyri furnish examples of both
meanings, Westcott, after a full
discussion of the passage, decides in
favour of 'again.'
It is observable that regeneration is here described (1) as figured out, not effected, by baptism; (2) as the beginning, not the complete attainment, of sanctification. Cf. Sermon 1, ii. 6.
|| The 'sinews and flesh' are
taken to mean the outward form of religion.
|| Cf. with this and the two following sections, Sermon XV, i. 6-10.
|| The phrase 9'XeyXos llve@,aa7-or
does not occur in the New Testament.
It was probably suggested by
John xvi. 8, 'He shall convict
(iXi-itet) the world in respect of sin,
etc.,' and Heb. xi. 1, 'Faith is the
IXe7Xot of things not seen.' The
preacher does not distinguish so
accurately as his brother the witness
Of our own spirit and the witness of
the Spirit of God.
||'Child of the devil.' But see
note on Sermon II, i. 13.
||'Cast thyself into them.'
A curious application of the story
of Jonah; as Jonah escaped the
storm by being cast into the sea, so
we, to escape God's judgements, must
acquiesce in them, judge ourselves
by His standards.
|| Compare Augustine,
Confessions, I. 1: 'Thou hast created us
for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it finds rest in Theo.' And
John Wesley's translation of Tersteegen's hymn, 'Verborgne
Gottesliebe du,' made at Savannah in 1736,
and printed in Psalms and Hymns,
1738; Hymn 531 in the present
At rest, till it finds rest in Thee.
|| The reference is to the Collect
at the beginning of the Communion
Service: 'Cleanse the thoughts of
our hearts by the inspiration of Thy
|| 'Anointed with the Holy
Ghost.' Evidently a reminiscence
of Acts x. 38; it is said there, not
of every Christian, but of our Lord.
This is the sort of slip which can
hardly be avoided at times by one
whose memory is so richly stored
with Scripture phrases as Charles
Wesley's was. The late Dr. Pope
was usually very happy in his use of
Scripture; but once in the Didsbury
Chapel he is reported to have said,
speaking of the providential care of
God, 'Yes, brethren, we are not
ignorant of his devices.' Then suddenly recollecting the context, he
ejaculated in horror, 'I beg your
pardon!' The next quotation is
even less appropriate. 'Pure religion' should rather be translated
'Pure and undefiled religious service, or observance'; and it is
defined, in contradistinction to the
Pharisaic idea of ecclesiastical ceremonial, as 'visiting the fatherless
and the widow,' etc. The passage
has no relation to the main contention of this paragraph.
|| 'Agonizing.' Charles Wesley
takes this as the closest representative in English of the
in Luke xiii. 24. In the Notes John
translates it, 'Agonize. Strive as
in an agony.' But none of the English versions has dared to adopt it.
|| III. 6.
||'Neither is it possible,' etc.
But John Wesley wrote to his
brother Samuel on October 23, 1738,
five months after his conversion,
'This witness of the Spirit I have
not.' He writes again in November,
'This witness, I believe, is necessary
for my salvation. How far invincible ignorance may excuse others,
I know not.' The question is proposed in Minutes, August 2, 1745
(Charles being present): 'Q. 1. Is
an assurance of God's pardoning love
absolutely necessary to our being
in His favour?' The gist of the
answers is: '(1) There may be exempt
cases; (2) We incline to think it is
not necessary to outward holiness;
(3) In regard to Papists, Quakers,
and others who deny that they have
it, love hopeth all things; (4) As to
those who die without it, we determine nothing; we leave his soul in
the hands of Him that made it; (5)
We allow that there may be infinite
degrees in seeing God.' The question is discussed again in Minutes,
June 16, 1747. After proving that
the doctrine of assurance is scriptural, he asks (Q. 10) whether matter
of fact does not prove that justifying
faith does not necessarily imply
assurance; and two cases are specifically mentioned under the disguise
of initials. The answer is, 'This
contains the very strength of the
cause'; and the explanation which
follows is not at all decisive. There
may be exempt cases; general doctrines must not be grounded on a
few experiments; a moral life does
not prove that a man has faith; we
do not know enough to judge certainly
about these persons. But if they
have not conscious faith, they are
not Christian believers; yet it is
not to be supposed that they can die
in such a state. In 1745 John
Wesley writes to John Smith probably a pseudonym for Thomas
Secker), 'I will still believe, none is
a true Christian till he experiences
it,' i.e. the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, which none can have 'without perceiving it as clearly as he
does the light of the sun.' But on
the other hand, John Wesley, in a
letter to Charles (Works, xii. 113),
says, 'If justifying faith necessarily
implies such an explicit assurance of
pardon, then every one who has it
not ... is under the wrath and under
the curse of God. But this is a supposition contrary to Scripture as
well as to experience.' In Sermon XIV (1767) he allows that there
may be a real degree of long-suffering,
of gentleness, of fidelity, meekness, temperance, before we have a
testimony of our acceptance; though
we are not to rest here, but continually to cry to God for the witness
of the Spirit.
In a letter to Melville Horne, Fletcher's successor at Madeley, John Wesley says, 'When fifty years ago my brother Charles and I, in the simplicity of our hearts, told the good people of England that unless they knew their sins were forgiven, they were under the wrath and curse of God, I marvel, Melville, they did not stone us! The Methodists, hope, know better now; we preach assurance as we always did, as a common privilege of the children of God; but we do not enforce it, under the pain of damnation, denounced on all who enjoy it not.' (Southey's Life of Wesley, 1st ed., i. 295.)
Wesley is right in saying that this 'is the main doctrine of the Methodists.' Christianity is not a creed nor a system of ethics; it is an experience, and therefore must be experienced. But he allows that there are degrees in this experience; and if he had more explicitly admitted that through prejudice, or ignorance, or false humility, or temperament, different people may describe their experience in different terms; and if he had not at times complicated the question by his anxiety to determine what will happen to good people who die without having felt able to profess that they enjoyed a definite assurance of salvation, it is hard to see how any objection to his doctrine could be maintained.
|| The temptation to call his
opponents names is one to which an
impassioned orator is peculiarly
liable. The word Antichrist is only
used by St. John, and he employs it
in a perfectly definite sense. It is
'he who denies that Jesus is the
Messiah'; it is the spirit 'which
confesseth not that Jesus is from
God'; it is exhibited by those 'who
do not confess Jesus the Messiah
coming in flesh.' There is no justification for applying it as the preacher
|| The references are as follows:
Article xvii: The doctrine of Election is full of comfort 'to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ.'
Office for Ordering of Deacons: 'Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this Office and Ministration?'
Order for Visitation of Sick: 'The Almighty Lord . . . make thee know and feel that there is none other Name under heaven given to man, in whom, and through whom, thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the name of our Lord Jesus.'
Order for Holy Communion: 'Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit.'
Order for Confirmation: 'Strengthen them . . . with the Holy Ghost the Comforter.'
Office for Ordering of Priests: 'Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands.'
|| The word 'enthusiast' was
almost always used in the eighteenth
century in the sense of 'one who
holds extravagant and visionary religious opinions,' 'one who pretends
to special divine illumination.' No
term of abuse was more often applied
to the early Methodists. Horace
Walpole, in a letter dated October 10,
1766, in describing a sermon by
John Wesley, says, 'Towards the
end he exalted his voice, and acted
very ugly enthusiasm'; in other
words, he appealed to the feelings
of his hearers--a terrible lapse from
the good form which was the crown
of all the virtues with the correct
eighteenth-century wits. For a
more detailed denunciation of the
sins of the time, see Farther Appeal
to Men of Reason and Religion,
Part II, sec. ii.
The 'falling away' is a quotation from 2 Thess. ii. 8. NMatever St. Paul meant by it, he was certainly not thinking of the eighteenth century. But there has hardly ever been an earnest reformer since the beginning of the Christian era who has not thought that he was living in the days of the great Apostasis!
|| 'This place' is, of course, the
University of Oxford. For a fuller
and more severe indictment of it,
see the latter part of Sermon IV
and Sermon CXXXIV.
|| England was engaged in a
war against Spain. Vernon's attacks
on Carthagena and Santiago had
miserably failed; and Walpole, after
twenty-one years of power, found
himself on January 21, 1742, with a
bare majority of three in the House,
and resigned. Carteret and his
'drunken administration' came into
office; and he threw himself with
vigour into the war on behalf of
Maria Theresa. Meanwhile, the
Young Pretender was watching the
course of events, and was preparing
for the attempt to regain the throne,
which came to a head in 1745. Well
might the preacher look forward with
anxiety into the future!