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crsschk
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 John Wesley's Letters

Wish to present these here with indeed something of an 'agenda'. Normally we frown upon such things when they are dragged in here and that is due to them being very lopsided. That is not my intent. It is however something that has longed troubled and frustrated me to no end to somehow speak to this long running feud over C&A constructs.

Would spare everyone a long preamble and point to where this originally stemmed from;

[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?viewmode=flat&order=0&topic_id=26704&forum=35&post_id=&refresh=Go]"Calvinism Is Not The Issue!" - Paul Washer[/url]

I would like to add one thing however. We can be very, very clever in our use of sacred writ when it comes to our combined passions and convictions over theological jargon. Yes, it is worth discussing, unfortunately it seems predominantly that it is rarely the case, a discussion, but more resembling an all out warfare. The cleverness comes in many ways, as an example, a footnote or even a salutation of "With all due respect" when we then launch off or end up tearing into an opponent with a verbosity of words. I do not think the Lord is either impressed nor ignorant of these things.

I do want to cut to the heart, to the core of this matter and it has been my observation that there were some who understood these things better than others. That could hold their ground as it were, but far better could hold their [i]peace[/i]. Even that ground itself was a ground of considering, a readiness to change, at the very least, a willingness to truly understand ground.

I also found it slightly ironic that one of these first letters I wish to present was written to another great letter writer, one that we have had some recent discussion and who some of us have been quite taken with in his heart, his study of the heart and his heartfelt manner;

[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?viewmode=flat&order=0&topic_id=26483&forum=35&post_id=&refresh=Go]Letters of John Newton[/url]

A search of the same would produce many excerpts. With that, the first of these ...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[b]To John Newton[/b] (1)

Londonderry, May 14, 1765

Dear Sir:

Your manner of writing needs no excuse. I hope you will always write in the same manner. Love is the plainest thing in the world. I know this dictates what you write; and then what need of ceremony?

You have admirably well expressed what I mean by an [i]opinion[/i] contradistinguished from an [i]essential[/i] doctrine. Whatever is "compatible with a love to Christ and a work of grace," I term an opinion (2). And certainly the holding "particular election" and "final perseverance" is compatible with these. "Yet what fundamental error (you ask) have you opposed with half [i]that frequency and vehemence[/i] as you have these opinions?" So doubtless you have heard. But it is not true. I have printed near fifty sermons, and only one of these opposes them at all. I preach about eight hundred sermons in a year. And taking one year with another, for twenty years past, I have not preached eight sermons in a year on the subject. But, "how many of your best preachers have been [i]thrust out[/i] because they dissented from you in these particulars?" Not one, best or worst, good or bad, was ever "thrust out" on this account. There has been not a single instance of the kind. Two or three (but far from "the best" of our preachers) voluntarily left us after they had embraced those opinions. But it was of their own mere motion. And two I should have expelled for immoral behaviour, but they withdrew and [i]pretended[/i] "they did not hold our doctrine." Set a mark therefore on him who told you that tale and let his word for the future go for nothing.

"Is a man a believer in Jesus Christ, and is his life suitable to his profession?" are not the [i]main[/i] but [i]sole[/i] inquiries I make in order to his admission in our Society. If he is a Dissenter, he may be a Dissenter still. But if he is a churchman, I advise him to continue so, and that for many reasons, some of which are mentioned in the tract upon that subject (3).

When you have read what I have wrote on occasion of the letters lately published, I may say something more on that head.(4) And it will then be time enough to show you why some [i]part[/i] of those letters [i]could not[/i] be wrote by Mr. Hervey.

I think on justification just as I have done any time these seven and twenty years, and just as Mr. Calvin does. In this respect I do not differ from him an hair's breadth.

[i]Cont. Sorry to abrupt it here, but must get going to work.[/i])


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Mike Balog

 2009/1/5 9:37Profile
crsschk
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 Re: John Wesley's Letters

[i]Cont.[/i]

But the main point between you and me is [i]perfection[/i]. "This," you say, "has no prevalence in these parts. Otherwise I should think it my duty to oppose it with my whole strength, not as an 'opinion', but as a dangerous mistake which appears to be subversive of the very foundations of Christian experience and which has, in fact, given occasion to the most grievous offenses."

Just so my brother and I reasoned thirty years ago: "We think it our duty to oppose predestination with our whole strength, not as an 'opinion,' but as a dangerous mistake which appears to be subversive of the very foundations of Christian experience and which has, in fact, given occasion to the most grievous offenses."

That it has given occasion to such offenses, I know. I can name time, places and persons. But still another fact stares me in the face: Mr. Haweis and Mr. Newton hold this: and yet I believe these have real Christian experience. But if so, this [doctrine of predestination] is only an "opinion." It is not subversive (here is clear proof to the contrary) "of the very foundations of Christian experience." It is "compatible with a love to Christ and a genuine work of grace." Yea, many hold it at whose feet I desire to be found in the day of the Lord Jesus. If, then, I "oppose this with my whole strength," I am a mere bigot [i]still[/i]. I leave you in your calm and retired moments to make the application.

But how came this opinion [[i]i.e.[/i] perfection] into my mind? I will tell you with all simplicity. In 1725 I met with Bishop Taylor's [i]Rules of Holy Living and Dying[/i]. I was struck particularly with the chapter upon [i]intention[/i], and felt a fixed intention to "give myself up to God."(5) In this I was much confirmed soon after by the [i]Christian Pattern[/i], and longed to "give God all my heart." This is just what I mean by "perfection" now. I sought after it from that hour,

In 1727 I read Mr. Law's [i]Christian Perfection[/i] and [i] Serious Call[/i], and more explicitly resolved to be "all devoted to God in body, soul and spirit."

In 1730(6) I began to be [i]homo unius libri,[/i](7) to study (comparatively) no book but the Bible. I then saw in stronger light than ever before that "only one thing is needful" [[i]cf.[/i] Lk. 10:42], even "faith that worketh by that love" [Gal. 5:6] of God and man, all inward and outward holiness. And I groaned to love God with "all my heart," and to serve Him "with all my strength."

[i]Cont.[/i]


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Mike Balog

 2009/1/7 9:27Profile
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 John Wesley's Letters

January 1, 1733, I preached the sermon on "The Circumcision of the Heart," which contains all that I now teach concerning salvation from [i]all sin[/i] and loving God with an [i]undivided heart[/i].(8) In the same year I printed (the first year I ventured to print anything), for the use of my pupils, [i]A Collection of Forms of Prayer[/i]. And in this I spoke explicitly of giving "the whole heart and the whole life to God." This was then, as it is now, my idea of perfection, though I should have started at the [i]word[/i].

In 1735 I preached my farewell sermon at Epworth, in Lincolnshire. In this likewise I spoke with the utmost clearness of having "one design, one desire, one love," and of pursuing the "one end" of our life in [i]all[/i] our words and actions.

In January 1738 I expressed my desire in these words:(9)

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy [i]pure love alone![/i]
O may Thy love [i]possess me whole[/i]
My joy, my pleasure, my crown.
Strange flames far from my heart remove!
My [i]every[/i] act, word, thought, be love.

And I am still persuaded, this is what the Lord Jesus hath bought for me with his own blood.

Now, whether [i]you[/i] desire and expect this blessing or not, is it not an astonishing thing that you or any man living should be disgusted at [i]me[/i] for expecting it? Is it not more astonishing still that well-nigh all the religious world should be up in arms concerning it? and that they should persuade one another that this hope is "subversive of the very foundations of Christian experience"? Why, then, whoever retains it cannot possibly have any Christian experience at all! Then my brother, Mr. Fletcher and I, and twenty thousand more, who [i]seem[/i] both to fear and love God, are in reality children of the devil and in the road to eternal damnation!

In God's name, I entreat you, make me sensible of this! Show me by plain strong reasons what dishonour this hope does to Christ;(10) wherein it opposes justification by faith or any fundamental truth of religion. But do not wrest and wiredraw(11) and colour my words as Mr. Hervey (or Cudworth) has done, in such a manner that when I look in that glass, I do not know my own face! "Shall I call you (says Mr. Hervey) my father or my friend? For you have been both to [i]me[/i]." So I was. And you have as well requited me! It is well, my reward is with the Most High.

Wishing all happiness to you and yours, I am, dear sir,
Your affectionate brother and servant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~







Footnotes.

1. Copied here from the holograph in the Leete Collection, Southern Methodist University; [i]cf. Letters[/i], IV. 297-300. John Newton (1725-1807) was a converted slave trader who was, at the time of this letter, rector of Olney, where he collaborated with William Cowper in what came to be the [i]Olney Hymns[/i] (1779); [i]cf.[/i] John Newton, [i]Journal of a Slave Trader, 1750-1754,[/i] Bernard Martin and Mark Spurrell, eds. (1962). Under the influence of Whitefield and others, he had adopted a vigorous Calvinism, and although he was a friend of Wesley's and a supporter of the Revival, he was mildly dubious of Wesley's use of lay preachers and strongly opposed to his doctrine of "perfection."

This letter is noteworthy for it's autobiographical history of the development of the doctrine in Wesley's thought, for it's summary presentation of his prime distinction between "an opinion contradistinguished from an essential doctrine," and for his blunt assertion that "on [i]justification[/i]" he does not differ from "Mr. Calvin" by "an hair's breadth." [i]Cf. The Arminian Magazine[/i] (1780), 441-44, for a further incident in the relations between Newton and Wesley.

2. [i]Cf. Journal[/i], III, 320; VII, 389; [i]Letters[/i], II, 110; IV, 297; [i]Works[/i], VI, 199; VIII, 244-46, 249, 340-41; IX, 56-57; X, 347-48.

3. [i]Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England[/i] (1760), first published as Sec. 13 of [i]A Preservative Against Unsettled Notions in Religion[/i] (Bristol, 1758).

4. A reference to a controversy that had arisen over [i]Eleven Letters from the late Rev. Mr. Hervey to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley[/i], published posthumously in 1764; [i]cf.[/i] Tyerman, [i]Life[/i], II, 526-30. Wesley believed that William Cudworth, erstwhile friend now turned foe, had altered Hervey's text in order to widen the distance between the two former members of the Oxford Holy Club.

5. See above, p.7.

6.Manuscript defective here.

7. "A man of only one book"; see below, p.89.

8. [i]Cf. Sermons[/i] (Sugden), I, 263-79.

9. Johann Gerhardt, trans. by John Wesley, published in [i]Hymns and Sacred Poems[/i] (1739).

10. Manuscript defective; this reading conjectural.

11. Wesley first wrote [i]withdraw[/i], then amended it to [i]wiredraw; cf. Oxford Dictionary[/i], XII.


[url=http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=3z8V4DgB2iYC&dq=outler+wesley&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=513Swsx8zZ&sig=PjO_mJ3HDQls0OiOBynUlonxJGk&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPP1,M1]John Wesley[/url]


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Mike Balog

 2009/1/8 7:56Profile









 Re: John Wesley's Letters

Interesting that what was mentioned here happened BEFORE his conversion May 24, 1738.

http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=5951&loc_id=639,624


Old Joe

 2009/1/8 23:00
crsschk
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 Re: John Wesley's Letters

Quote:
Interesting that what was mentioned here happened BEFORE his conversion May 24, 1738.




'Londonderry, May 14, 1765'

?


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Mike Balog

 2009/1/9 0:10Profile
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 Re:

Quote:
Interesting that what was mentioned here happened BEFORE his conversion May 24, 1738. http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=5951&loc_id=639,624 Old Joe



I take it that you mean Wesley established his views of perfection prior to his heart being 'strangely warmed'?


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Robert Wurtz II

 2009/1/9 6:21Profile
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 Re:

As I read this letter it becomes more evident to me (and I have thought this in the past) that even the chiefest of friends are in danger when they speak of subjects and the one [i]assumes[/i] the other is saying one thing when indeed they are saying another.

The term [u]perfection[/u] has always struck me when men would use it in a different way than when I read it in the scriptures. Just a personal observation. it is interesting how my esword Webster emphasizes completeness when using the term 'perfect' but the modern web version of Webster (who knows who Webster is anymore) defines it first as:

1 a: being entirely without fault or defect : flawless

When I hear a man say 'perfect' this is the exact definition I use. What complicates the matter is that my formal training in engines dealt strongly with [i]tolerances[/i] and measurements that go to a thousandth of an inch at times (or less). The training also dealt with interdependent systems that were never 'perfect' but could be brought to a point of acceptable functionality under all conditions.

Understand, for example, that your car faces many challenges if you live in a seasonal climate or a hilly terrain. Some cars run 'perfect' as far as their owner is concerned because they have never seen a -25 F morning or a 15,000 foot mountain slope along I-70 in Colorado. Some have never weathered the brutal heat of the California desert.

So when someone says to me that the used car they are selling runs perfect I automatically run that statement through what I call the [i]Springfield Hyperbole Correction Theorem[/i] (The "Springfield Formula" for short). This is an imaginary theorem designed to take into account variables that the one making the claims are either intentionally or mistakenly ignoring. It seeks to get a more accurate picture of an exaggerated claim.

So for me personally, I can see why so many people challenged Wesley on perfection. And I have read many pages of explanations, etc., but the word itself automatically conjures up things that the person does not mean. There is no way around it. So my first instinct is to challenge the notion. Jesus is our example of 'perfect'. It is a hard thing for me to imagine that with [u]all[/u] things considered I would ever attain to being a flawless example a true facsimile of the inward and outward perfection of Jesus Christ.

So I automatically pour those former concepts and definitions into my understanding. In conversation we rarely have the luxury of reading through all the footnotes. I think this is why all the confusion happens.


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Robert Wurtz II

 2009/1/9 7:02Profile
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 Re: John Wesley's Letters

Quote:
But how came this opinion [[i]i.e.[/i] perfection] into my mind? I will tell you with all simplicity. In 1725 I met with Bishop Taylor's [i]Rules of Holy Living and Dying[/i]. I was struck particularly with the chapter upon [i]intention[/i], and felt a fixed intention to "give myself up to God."(5) In this I was much confirmed soon after by the [i]Christian Pattern[/i], and longed to "give God all my heart." This is just what I [b]mean[/b] by "perfection" now. I sought after it from that hour,



Dear Robert, excellent thoughts here and just where I am convinced these things run afoul.

Quote:
As I read this letter it becomes more evident to me (and I have thought this in the past) that even the chiefest of friends are in danger when they speak of subjects and the one [i][b]assumes[/b][/i] the other is saying one thing when indeed they are saying another.



Quote:
The term [u]perfection[/u] has always struck me when men would use it in a [b]different[/b] way than when I read it in the scriptures.



Quote:
So for me personally, I can see why so many people challenged Wesley on perfection. And I have read many pages of explanations, etc., but the word itself automatically conjures up things that the person does not [b]mean[/b].




All my emphasis here goes without saying I suppose and taking off on that very interesting "Springfield Formula" would emphasize again ...

Quote:
This is an imaginary theorem designed to take into account variables that the one making the claims are either intentionally or mistakenly ignoring.



As applicable to all these things. "Variables".

What is most interesting in these dualistic and I am abusing the word to mean 'sword fights' of theological constructs is how even with an [i]explanation[/i] there is the over doing of it by assimilation and launching off on whatever ones peccadillo's might be. That it isn't enough in itself to take the man at his word but must be truncated, overstated and often frankly just misappropriated.

If anything this is what drives me to frustration and grief, that our [i]imaginary theorem's[/i] or as Philologos has put it and I paraphrase, [i]The little schemes we cook up in our heads[/i] will ignore and displace what was [b]meant[/b] with what is [b]assumed[/b] even when presented with contrary evidences.

I think it is difficult and have been musing much on all this ... That the idea might be a simple merging of disagreements ala [i]"Can't we all just get along"[/i] as some sort of false unity, that there is nothing to be disputed or challenged - That cannot be and still be honest about it. But perhaps if anything, it's that very often these disagreements are not so wide as we might [i]think[/i] and are very often the product of simply misunderstanding or of overshooting, overstating.

An excerpt from another one of his letters caught me as to where I find commonality in these 'old saints', whatever their particular stripe - Puritan or that particularly clever way of putting it [i]Wesley Calvinistic[/i] if I get it right ...

[color=0000FF]"In the year 1726 I met with Kempis's [i]Christian's Pattern[/i]. The nature and extent of [i]inward religion[/i], the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever before. I saw that giving even [i]all my life[/i] to God (supposing it possible to do this and go no further) would profit me nothing unless I gave my [i]heart[/i], yea, [i]all my heart[/i] to him.

I saw that "simplicity of intention and purity of affection," [i]one design[/i] in [i]all[/i] we speak or do and [i]one desire[/i] ruling all our tempers, are, indeed, "the wings of the soul," without which she can never ascend to the mount of God."[/color]

([i]Italics[/i], Wesley's)

Just here is where awhile back a certain threatening I had proposed would have been perfect. This out-take presented alongside a John Newton or any other Puritan and a multitude of similar old dead guy's, presented without naming them ... What "hairs breadth" could be found between them? And in my idea at the time, to present out takes and quotes from a variety of constructs, without naming them (at first) who would be able to distinguish who said what, when they are saying the one and same thing ...

[i]Inward religion[/i] or "Heart religion" - Religion of the heart - Students of the heart, like Newton, like Wesley, like Brooks and Chambers and the whole like ... hearted, and like headed - That is what is presented here on SI predominantly and I believe whole heartedly, to abuse the word, is precisely not only what the Lord wrought in exposing and demanding of us, by parable and by disciple but throughout the scriptures, the [i] twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the [b]heart[/b].[/i]

This is the commonality that matters and strangely that which seems to go by the way side while we are all caught up in fine tuning our theological engines, tweaking them into 'perfection' as you so well articulated, not recognizing how well that engine might run in the Mohave but so poorly in the Alps.


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Mike Balog

 2009/1/9 9:12Profile









 Re:

Quote:

crsschk wrote:
Quote:
Interesting that what was mentioned here happened BEFORE his conversion May 24, 1738.




'Londonderry, May 14, 1765'

?




That was a recount of events that happened before his conversion. Shows how far one can go and not yet be converted.

[b]January 1, 1733[/b], I preached the sermon on "The Circumcision of the Heart," which contains all that I now teach concerning salvation from all sin and loving God with an undivided heart.(8) In the same year I printed (the first year I ventured to print anything), for the use of my pupils, A Collection of Forms of Prayer. And in this I spoke explicitly of giving "the whole heart and the whole life to God." This was then, as it is now, my idea of perfection, though I should have started at the word.

[b]In 1735[/b] I preached my farewell sermon at Epworth, in Lincolnshire. In this likewise I spoke with the utmost clearness of having "one design, one desire, one love," and of pursuing the "one end" of our life in all our words and actions.

[b]In January 1738[/b] I expressed my desire in these words:(9)

O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone!
O may Thy love possess me whole
My joy, my pleasure, my crown.
Strange flames far from my heart remove!
My every act, word, thought, be love.


Old Joe

 2009/1/9 9:50









 Re:

Quote:

RobertW wrote:
Quote:
Interesting that what was mentioned here happened BEFORE his conversion May 24, 1738. http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=5951&loc_id=639,624 Old Joe



I take it that you mean Wesley established his views of perfection prior to his heart being 'strangely warmed'?



No, I meant prior to his conversion.

"An expanded excerpt from the diary of John Wesley, reprinted on the 100th anniversary of his May 24, 1738, conversion by The Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review, Volume XX. New Series, Vol. IX, 1838. "

"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. "

Here is his own admission...

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/2/

"I did go thus far for many years, as many of this place can testify; using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offence; redeeming the time; buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace; endeavouring after a steady seriousness of behaviour, at all times, and in all places; and, God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God; a hearty desire to do his will in all things; to please him who had called me to "fight the good fight," and to "lay hold of eternal life." [b]Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian. [/b]"

There is an analysis of Wesley's changed views of Christian perfection as he matured in Christ. Can't find it at the moment, but I will try and dig it up.

Old Joe

 2009/1/9 9:59





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