In an earlier post on Wesleyan Degrees of Love we spoke about the practical application of Christian charity (e.g., doing good all men’s souls) as it pertained to the Methodist people. The second-half of the same essay then covered Anglican opinion Benevolence, mapping out an older view of Love as it was often constrained by Duty. One of my favorite methodist commentators (next to Dr. Clarke) is the so-called church Methodist, Joseph Benson. Mr. Benson resisted the administration of sacraments among methodist preachers as well as venturing an earlier project with Dr. Fletcher make the Wesleyite Connexion subsidiary to the Church of England. Consequently, Benson gives much privy to Anglican opinion. In this case, he provides us further insight on God’s universal Love, though by Degree, by the scriptural verses,”I loved Jacob, And Esau I hated”. Continue reading
In the course of examining the grievances of mid-19th century Evangelicals in the Protestant Episcopal Church, especially their concerns with the Prayer Book, I ran across Wesley’s possible influence on the 1785/89 Liturgy. Whatever proof remains of this influence may very well boil down to a correct rendition of dates. This is likely a work in progress. Continue reading
Many volumes could be written on Wesley’s relation to the Church of England (indeed much has been had), and while Wesley’s declared loyalty to the Church is without doubt, the attitude and actions of his people and their preachers was sometimes less clear. It appears there was something of a change in opinion about the Church among methodists as the 18th century passed.
Likewise, at a relatively early date, Wesley is fairly optimistic about the ‘glory of the methodists’. In his 1745 “A Farther Appeal”, Wesley dismisses accusations against the Evangelical Revival for schism, mentioning the sense zealotry for the Church spread by methodism. Of societal members, Wesley mentions four types that commune with the Anglican pale:
Among the several groupings of methodists from Britain, the Wesleyans were distinct for their discipline or form of organization, namely, the class meeting. While George Whitfield’s fame has been passed to us by his incredible gift of public oration, John Wesley’s legacy was secured by the formation of the United Societies and their rather systematic monitoring life and manners.
For the Wesleyans, religious monitoring required the keeping of class papers by lay-leaders. Lay-leaders typically were charged with classes of no more than twelve members. In his class book, the lay-leader would tabulate the spiritual grace of each member, drawing tables with ledgers and rows that registered the progress of each soul.
Within John Wesley’s 1787 sermon on the ‘Duty of Reproving our Neighbor‘ there is a curious part that touches Anglican ‘Degrees of Love’. This is surprising given the stereotype of evangelicals which abstract the physicality of men. Here, Wesley accounts for a certain priority with man’s familial relations as it pertains within the universal commission of the Gospel.
After speaking on the kinds of sin anxious for reproof, Wesley is compelled to identify who properly constitutes our neighbor. He begins with a general and naturally catholic admission that our neighbor consists of all men by reason of a Creator, since “every child of man, everyone that breathes the vital air, all that have souls” may be offered salvation. As part of the salvific plan repentance is a condition where Christians have a brotherly role to call out sin. If we let a fellow man’s sin pass our reproof, Wesley says, “their blood will God require at our hands”.(1)