It is appropriate, on John Wesley’s birthday, to consider just a few of the things he taught in the early days of Methodism. Your list might include different ones, but here are mine. I have to admit, I tend toward quotes that bite hard, and leave just a little bit of pain in my gut. I’m a junkie for spiritual abuse, I suppose. My prayer is that these inspire us all toward perfection in love.
Key to John Wesley’s theology, and essential to the effectiveness of the class and band meetings, was his belief that God’s work didn’t end at Salvation:
10. “It is thus we wait for entire sanctification, for a full salvation from all our sins… It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul.” —John Wesley, “The Scripture Way of Salvation”
9. “Our one great business is to rase out of our souls the likeness of our destroyer, and to be born again, to be formed anew after the likeness of our Creator…The one work we have to do is to return from the gates of death to perfect soundness; to have our diseases cured, our wounds healed, and our uncleanness done away.”
8. “At the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment, sanctification begins.”
One of my favorite sermons is on how we should dress. Here are a few quotes to give you an idea what it’s about. If only we could hear this sermon again in many of our churches!
7. “The wearing costly array is directly opposite to the being adorned with good works. Nothing can be more evident than this; for the more you lay out on your own apparel, the less you have left to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to lodge the strangers, to relieve those that are sick and in prison, and to lessen the numberless afflictions to which we are exposed in this vale of tears.”
6. “Many years ago, when I was at Oxford, in a cold winter’s day, a young maid called upon me. I said, "You seem half-starved. Have you nothing to cover you but that thin linen gown?” She said, “Sir, this is all I have!” I put my hand in my pocket; but found I had scarce any money left, having just paid away what I had. It immediately struck me, “Will thy Master say, `Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?” See thy expensive apparel in the same light; thy gown, hat, head-dress! Everything about thee which cost more than Christian duty required thee to lay out is the blood of the poor!“
5. “Let not any of you who are rich in this world endeavour to excuse yourselves from this by talking nonsense. It is stark, staring nonsense to say, "Oh, I can afford this or that.” If you have regard to common sense, let that silly word never come out of your mouth. No man living can afford to waste any part of what God has committed to his trust.”
And more than anything, his trust in God’s ability to work in and through us, regardless of who we are, what we think we know, or the qualifications we use to assert ourselves. John Wesley had a love for God, but was weary of institutionalism.
4. “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!”
3. ““No, Aleck, no! The danger of ruin to Methodism does not lie here. It springs from quite a different quarter. Our preachers, many of them, are fallen. They are not spiritual. They are not alive to God. They are soft, enervated, fearful of shame, toil, hardship… . Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.”
2. “Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”
1. “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.”
And as a bonus, John Wesley’s prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.