Category Archives: John Wesley

2014 Wesley WTS Conference at NNU

Here’s a plug for the 2014 Wesley Conference at NNU. It takes place March 6-8, and is on the topic of the atonement. Guest speakers will include Dr Ben Witherington from Asbury, and Dr Randy Maddox from Duke. In past years, the conference has had free online streaming.

See additional info here: 2014 Wesley WTS Conference

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Election Advice from John Wesley

You can’t go wrong with this advice! From Wesley’s journal, October 3, 1774.

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy.
2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.

 

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The Ghost at Epworth

One of the best documented ghost stories took place in 1716 at the childhood home of John and Charles Wesley. The story was mentioned in the diaries and correspondence of several family members, including Samuel and Susannah Wesley (the parents).  John Wesley also later mentioned the story in the Arminian magazine. At the time the Wesleys had 10 living children, 7 at home.  Samuel Jr was at college, John  (age 12) was in school, Charles (age 8) was also away from home.  The event took place between December 1716 – January 1717.

The following account by Samuel Wesley (along with accounts by other family members) can be found in Memoirs of the Wesley Family, by Adam Clarke, 1817, pages 161-165

AN ACCOUNT OF NOISES AND DISTURBANCES IN MY HOUSE AT EPWORTH, LINCOLNSHIRE, IN DECEMBER AND JANUARY 1716

From the 1st of December my children and servants heard many strange noises, groans, knockings, etc., in every story and most of the rooms of my house, but I hearing nothing of it myself-they would not tell me for some time, because, according to the vulgar opinion, if it boded any ill to me I could not hear it. When it increased, and the family could not easily conceal it, they told me of it.

My daughters, Susannah and Ann, were below stairs in the dining-room, and heard first at the doors, then over their heads, and the night after a knocking under their feet, though nobody was in the chambers or below them. The like they and my servants heard in both the kitchens, at the door against the partition, and over them. The maid-servant heard groans as of a dying man.

My daughter Emilia coming downstairs to draw up the clock and lock the doors at ten o’clock at night, as usual, heard under the staircase a sound among some bottles there, as if they had been all dashed to pieces; but when she looked, all was safe.

Something, like the steps of a man, was heard going up and downstairs at all hours of the night, and vast rumblings below stairs and in the garrets. My man, who lay in the garret, heard someone come slaring through the garret to his chamber, rattling by his side as if against his shoes, though he had none there; at other times walking up and downstairs, when all the house were in bed, and gobbling like a turkey-cock. Noises were heard in the nursery and all the other chambers; knocking first at the feet of the bed and behind it; and a sound like that of dancing in a matted chamber, next the nursery, when the door was locked and nobody in it.

My wife would have persuaded them it was rats within doors, and some unlucky people knocking without; till at last we heard several loud knocks in our own chamber, on my side of the bed; but till, I think, the 21st at night I heard nothing of it. That night I was waked a little before one by nine distinct very loud knocks, which seemed to be in the next room to ours, with a sort of pause at every third stroke. I thought it might be somebody without the house, and having got a stout mastiff, hoped he would soon rid me of it.

The next night I heard six knocks, but not so loud as the former. I know not whether it was in the morning after Sunday, the 23rd, when about seven my daughter Emily called her mother into the nursery, and told her she might now hear the noises there. She went in, and heard it at the bedsteads, and then under the beds, then at the head of it. She knocked, and it answered her. She looked under the bed and thought something ran from thence, but could not well tell of what shape, but thought it most like a badger.

The next night but one we were awaked about one by the noises, which were so violent it was in vain to think of sleep while they continued. I rose, but my wife would rise with me. We went into every chamber and downstairs; and generally as we went into one room, we heard it in that behind us, though all the family bad been in bed several hours. When we were going downstairs, and at the bottom of them, we heard, as Emily had done before, a clashing among the bottles, as if they had been broke all to pieces, and another sound distinct from it, as if a piece of money bad been thrown before us. The same, three of my daughters heard at another time.

We went through the hall into the kitchen, when our mastiff came whining to us, as he did always after the first night of its coming; for then he barked violently at it, but was silent afterwards, and seemed more afraid than any of the children. We still heard it rattle and thunder in every room above or behind us, locked as well as open, except my study, where as yet it never came. After two we went to bed, and were pretty quiet the rest of the night.

Wednesday night, December 26, after or a little before ten, my daughter Emilia heard the signal of its beginning to play, with which she was perfectly acquainted; it was like the strong winding up of a jack. She called us, and I went into the nursery, where it used to be most violent. The rest of the children were asleep. It began with knocking in the kitchen underneath, then seemed to be at the bed’s feet, then under the bed, and last at the head of it. I went downstairs, and knocked with my stick against the joists of the kitchen. It answered me as often and as loud as I knocked; but then I knocked, as I usually do, at my door, 1-23456-7, but this puzzled it, and it did not answer, or not in the same method, though the children heard it do the same twice or thrice after.

I went upstairs and found it still knocking hard, though with some respite, sometimes under the bed, sometimes at the bed’s head. I observed my children that they were frightened in their sleep, and trembled very much till it waked them. I stayed there alone, bid them go to sleep, and sat at the bed’s head by them, when the noise began again. I asked what it was, and why it disturbed innocent children, and did not come to me in my study if it had anything to say to me. Soon after it gave one knock on the outside of the house. All the rest were within, and knocked off for that night.

I went out of doors, sometimes alone, at others with company, and walked round the house, but could see or hear nothing. Several nights the latch of our lodging chamber would be lifted up very often when all were in bed. One night, when the noise was great in the kitchen, and on a deal partition, and the door in the yard, the latch whereof was often lifted up, my daughter Emilia went and held it fast on the inside, but it was still lifted up, and the door pushed violently against her, though nothing was to be seen on the outside.

When we were at prayers and came to the prayer for King George and the prince it would make a great noise over our heads constantly, whence some of the family called it a Jacobite. I have been thrice pushed by an invisible power, once against the corner of my desk in the study, a second time against the door of the matted chamber, a third time against the right side of the frame of my study door as I was going in.

I followed the noise into almost every room in the house, both by day and by night, with lights and without, and have sat alone for some time, and when I heard the noise, spoke to it to tell me what it was, but never heard any articulate voice, and only once or twice two or three feeble squeaks, a little louder than the chirping of a bird, but not like the noise of rats, which I have often heard.

I had designed on Friday, December the 28th, to make a visit to a friend, Mr. Downs, at Normandy, and stay some days with him, but the noises were so boisterous on Thursday night, that I did not care to leave my family. So I went to Mr. Hoole of Haxey, and desired his company on Friday night. He came, and it began after ten, a little later than ordinary. The younger children were gone to bed, the rest of the family and My Hoole were together in the matted chamber. I sent the servants down to fetch in some fuel, went with them, and staid in the kitchen till they came in. When they were gone I heard loud noises against the doors and partition, and at length the usual signal, though somewhat after the time. I had never heard it before, but knew it by the description my daughter had given me. It was much like the turning of a windmill when the wind changes. When the servants returned I went up to the company, who had heard the other noises below, but not the signal. We heard all the knockings as usual from one chamber to another, but at its going off, like the rubbing of a beast against the wall, but from that time till January the 24th we were quiet.

Having received a letter from Samuel the day before relating to it, I read what I had written of it to my family, and this day at morning prayer the family heard the usual knocks at the prayer for the king. At night they were more distinct, both in the prayer for the king and that for the prince, and one very loud knock at the AMEN was heard by my wife and most of my children at the inside of my bed. I heard nothing myself. After nine, Robert Brown, sitting alone by the fire in the back kitchen, saw something come out of the copper-hole like a rabbit, but less, and turned round five times very swiftly. Its ears lay flat upon its neck, and its little scut stood straight up. He ran after it with the tongs in his hands, but when he could find nothing he was frighted, and went to the maid in the parlour.

On Friday, the 25th, having prayers at church, I shortened as usual those in the family at morning, omitting the confession, absolution, and prayers for the king and prince. I observed when this is done there is no knocking. I therefore used them one morning for a trial; at the name of King George it began to knock, and did the same when I prayed for the prince. Two knocks I heard, but took no notice after prayers, till after all who were in the room, ten persons besides me, spoke of it, and said they heard it. No noise at all at the rest of the prayers.

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The Bible and John Wesley

Wesleyan scholar Randy Maddox has written an excellent article about the way John Wesley studied, interpreted, and preached from the Bible.   It’s entitled: ” The Rule of Christian Faith, Practice, and Hope: John Wesley on the Bible (1)” (free registration required).  This article is well worth the read.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Wesley never preached from the apocrypha, even though it was included in the KJV during his time.
  • The Wesleys (John and Charles) utilized a number of translations, including: the Geneva Bible, Luther’s German Bible, and others.
  • The Wesleys studied the Greek and Hebrew texts, they considered the primary languages more authoritative than the KJV.
  • Wesley firmly held that scripture was inspired, however, he believed that it was not always exact on “tangential matters” (genealogies, for example).  Wesley argued that the Bible was “infallibly true”.  The word “inerrancy” was not in use in his time.
  • Wesley believed that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was key to understanding the Bible. “we need the same Spirit to understand the Scripture which enabled the holy men of old to write it.”
  • Wesley preached nearly the entire Biblical canon,  including extensive Old Testament preaching.  There are records(2) that show he preached from all books except: Esther, Song of Songs, Obadiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Philemon, and 3 John.
  • Wesley read the Bible in conference with others. “If any doubt still remains (understanding a difficult passage), I consult those who are experience in the things of God, and then the writings whereby being dead, they yet speak.”
  • Wesley valued the writings of early Christian writers, particularly those of the first three centuries of the church.
  • Wesley read the Bible in conference with the “Rule of Faith”.   He held strongly to the Apostle’s Creed.  What the historical church had spoken on certain matters (such as the Trinity) was important in his thinking.
  • Wesley focused on the value and nature of creation.  He believed that God wanted to redeem all of creation.
  • Wesley was convinced that God’s love for all of humanity was the central teaching of scripture.  He described 1 John 4:19 as “the sum of the whole gospel”.   We love him because he first loved us.   He called First John  “the compendium of all the Holy Scriptures”.  He also frequently referred to Psalm 145:9. The Lord is loving to all, and his mercy is over all his works.
  • Wesley’s favorite passages (as evidenced by the frequency he preached from them) were the book of First John, the book of Romans, 1 Corinthians 13, and Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount).
  • Wesley read the Bible because it was the guide to Christian belief, the guide to Christian behavior, and hope and sustenance for the believer.

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(1) Randy Maddox,  The Rule of Christian Faith, Practice, and Hope: John Wesley on the Bible, Methodist Review, Volume 3, 2011 (Free registration required).

(2) The Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition has compiled a register of all the passages of scripture that John Wesley preached from (that we have record of).   For sources, they used Wesley’s journals, works, and letters.

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Wesley the Inclusivist

It appears that John Wesley was what might be called a “hopeful inclusivist”.  An inclusivist is one who believes that we are saved only through Jesus, however, it is possible to be saved through Jesus without explicit and/or complete knowledge of him.  The following quotes from Wesley give insight to his leanings.  Take special note of Sermon 106, On Faith.

[4-7-11 Post updated to include some additional quotes]

Muslims:

….I have no authority from the Word of God “to judge those that are without.” Nor do I conceive that any man living has a right to sentence all the heathen and Mahometan world to damnation. It is far better to leave them to him that made them, and who is “the Father of the spirits of all flesh;” who is the God of the Heathens as well as the Christians, and who hateth nothing that he hath made. Sermon 125: On Living Without God, point 14.

Heathens and Muslims:

It cannot be doubted, but this plea [lack of  knowledge] will avail for millions of modern Heathens. Inasmuch as to them little is given, of them little will be required. As to the ancient Heathens, millions of them, likewise were savages. No more therefore will be expected of them, than the living up to the light they had. But many of them, especially in the civilized nations, we have great reason to hope, although they lived among Heathens, yet were quite of another spirit; being taught of God, by His inward voice, all the essentials of true religion. Yea, and so was that Mahometan, and Arabian, who, a century or two ago, wrote the Life of Hai Ebn Yokdan. The story seems to be feigned; but it contains all the principles of pure religion and undefiled. Sermon 106, On Faith, I 4.

Heathens, Muslims, Jews:

But with Heathens, Mahometans, and Jews we have at present nothing to do; only we may wish that their lives did not shame many of us that are called Christians. We have not much more to do with the members of the Church of Rome. But we cannot doubt, that many of them, like the excellent Archbishop of Cambray, still retain (notwithstanding many mistakes) that faith that worketh by love. Sermon 106, On Faith, II 3.

Modern Jews:

It is not so easy to pass any judgment concerning the faith of our modern Jews. It is plain, “the veil is still upon their hearts” when Moses and the Prophets are read. The god of this world still hardens their hearts, and still blinds their eyes, “lest at any time the light of the glorious gospel” should break in upon them. So that we may say of this people, as the Holy Ghost said to their forefathers, “The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed ; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Acts 28:27.) Yet it is not our part to pass sentence upon them, but to leave them to their own Master. Sermon 106, On Faith, I 6.

Heathens Who have Never Heard of Christ:

But one considerable difficulty still remains: There are very many heathen nations in the world that have no intercourse, either by trade or any other means, with Christians of any kind. Such are the inhabitants of the numerous islands in the South Sea, and probably in all large branches of the ocean. Now, what shall be done for these poor outcasts of men “How shall they believe,” saith the Apostle, “in Him of whom they have not heard And how shall they hear without a preacher” You may add, “And how shall they preach, unless they be sent” Yea, but is not God able to send them Cannot he raise them up, as it were, out of the stones And can he ever want means of sending them No: Were there no other means, he can “take them by his Spirit,” as he did Ezekiel. (Ezek. 3:12,) or by his angel, as he did Philip, (Acts 8,) and set them down wheresoever it pleaseth him. Yea, he can find out a thousand ways to foolish man unknown. And he surely will: For heaven and earth may pass away; but his word shall not pass away: He will give his Son “the uttermost part of the earth for his possession.” Sermon 63, The General Spread of the Gospel, 24.

Indians (from India), Pakistanis, Pacific Islanders:

We cannot account for his present dealings with the inhabitants of the earth. We know, “the Lord is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all his works.” But we know not how to reconcile this with the present dispensations of his providence. At this day, is not almost every part of the earth full of darkness and cruel habitations In what a condition, in particular, is the large and populous empire of Indostan! How many hundred thousands of the poor, quiet people, have been destroyed, and their carcases left as the dung of the earth! in what a condition (though they have no English ruffians there) are the numberless islands in the Pacific Ocean! How little is their state above that of wolves and bears! And who careth either for their souls or their bodies But does not the Father of men care for them O mystery of providence! Sermon 69 – The Imperfection Of Human Knowledge. II 4

Those with Distorted Ideas of who Christ is:

Perhaps there may be some well-meaning persons who carry this farther still; who aver, that whatever change is wrought in men, whether in their hearts or lives, yet if they have not clear views of those capital doctrines, the fall of man, justification by faith, and of the atonement made by the death of Christ, and of his righteousness transferred to them, they can have no benefit from his death. I dare in no wise affirm this. Indeed I do not believe it. I believe the merciful God regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas. I believe he respects the goodness of the heart rather than the clearness of the head; and that if the heart of a man be filled (by the grace of God, and the power of his Spirit) with the humble, gentle, patient love of God and man, God will not cast him into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels because his ideas are not clear, or because his conceptions are confused. Without holiness, I own, “no man shall see the Lord;” but I dare not add, “or clear ideas.” Sermon 125: On Living Without God, 15.

Roman Catholics:

…the faith of the Roman Catholics, in general, seems to be above that of the ancient Jews. If most of these are volunteers in faith, believing more than God has revealed, it cannot be denied that they believe all which God has revealed, as necessary to salvation. In this we rejoice on their behalf… Sermon 106, On Faith, I 7

 

 

 

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Trailer for Wesley the Movie

Here’s a new trailer for “Wesley the Movie”. It looks pretty good. The production looks to be about the caliber of Luther.

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Great Wesley Quotes

Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.

The world is my parish.

You may be as orthodox as the devil and as wicked.

My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.

Think not the bigotry of another is any excuse for your own.

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

I value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.

When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.

Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago.

If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there is one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.

Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.

Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can. (Dave Ramsey’s motto also)

Believe nothing they say, unless it is clearly confirmed by plain passages of holy writ.

The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.

In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church.

The best of it all is, God is with us. (possibly his last words)

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