The Shocking Sins of John Wesley

While celebrating our anniversary in Stillwater, Minnesota last week, my bride, Cathy, graciously agreed to accompany me to Loome Theological Booksellers -- a treasure trove of used and rare books.   I was like a kid in the candy store!

I found Albert Outler's work on John Wesley's theology for $2 on the bargain table, and snapped it up immediately.   What a find!  I've heard of this book for years and am now reading it during my daily quiet time. It contains so many rich insights.

John Wesley was a practical, rather than systematic theologian.  He was a thinking doer --  too busy leading a revival movement to sit down and write a comprehensive book of doctrines.  Wesley's beliefs, however, can be gleaned from his vast collection of journals, sermons and letters.  Outler does exactly that: drawing John Wesley's thoughts into grand themes that reflect Methodist understanding and priorities.  

I found this excerpt from the introduction insightful.  John Wesley had failed as a missionary to America, and was on his journey home.  God used this painful experience as a mirror -- to reveal how much he needed grace.  Although a very religous (and often self-righteous) rule-keeper, he was shocked to realize how much he lacked spiritually.  This soul searching led to his Aldersgate experience a few months later, when his "heart was strangely warmed."

We cannot be gracious to others until we embrace it for ourselves.  We cannot know the depth of grace until we see the extent of our need for it.  

On the ship back to England, John Wesley wrote to his brother, Samuel, "by the most infallible proofs, inward feeling, I am convinced,

1. Of unbelief; having no such faith in Christ as will prevent my heart from being troubled; which it could not be, if I believed in God

2. Of pride throughout my life past, inasmuch as I thought I had what I find I do not have

3. Of gross irrecollection; inasmuch as in a storm I cry to God every moment, but in calm, I do not

4. Of levity and luxuriance of spirit, recurring whenever the pressure is off, and appearing by my speaking words that do not edifying; but most by my manner of speaking of my enemies.

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