Who Wesley would send to Hell

A post from a few years ago with John Wesley musings about Hell, muddled Christians, and non-Christians. This sermon is not among his “standard sermons,” so as I understand it is not doctrinal for United Methodists.

John Meunier

Here are two fascinating quotes from one of John Wesley’s later sermons called “On Living Without God.

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 the 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 holines,” I own, “no man shall see the Lord;” but I dare not add, “or clear ideas.”

And this about those who are outside “the Christian dispensation”:

I have no authority from the word of God “to judge those that…

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7 thoughts on “Who Wesley would send to Hell

  1. Wesley’s eschatology is much stronger in his sermons “The Great Assize”, “Of Hell”, “The Almost Christian”, and “Dives and Lazarus”. Wesley believed God was clearly seated on the judgement seat but we sentence ourselves when we reject salvation. Wayne Cordeiro is right, “We live what we believe, everything else is just religious opinion.” Question: How differently would we preach, lead, and equip the laity for the work of the ministry if we truly believed our neighbors, friends, family and communities could face a Christ-less eternity? I believe Wesley lived what he believed and his eschatology was a driving force of his life and ministry!

  2. I did not know there were “non-doctrinal” sermons of Wesley as opposed to “doctrine.” I do recognize that some of Wesley’s commentary does not fit my understanding, such as the “sin” that is; failure to hit the mark, by rebelling against the King. I understand his perspective that non-violent redress of wrongs is the Christian way. This sermon seems to be a core tenet, that belief and faith supersede theological opinion. We can accept persons as in the faith, even though their concepts are confused. Wesley did draw the line if a person persisted in defying the discipline, his or her class card should not be renewed, thus not be an actual member, but an “inquirer”. I would like some of our church leaders be held to that standard.

    1. EDIT: not SOME, but ALL our church leaders should be held to the standards of the Discipline in order to hold office.

    2. The distinction I am drawing is one made by Methodists after Wesley. His “standard” sermons are considered doctrinal standards for United Methodists. There is debate whether these standard sermons include his first 44 or 53 (I think those numbers are right). So when I say non-doctrinal, that is what I mean.

      I’m not sure I’m following your discussion about sin and Wesley. My reading is that Wesley defined sin as conscious, willful breaking of any commandment of God.

  3. I find the idea of a “Christian dispensation” troubling. One realm where Christ is Lord, and one where he is not? Wesley lived before the great missionary explosion of the 19th century, and his own failure as a missionary in Georgia may have colored his thoughts. Admittedly, there have been all sorts of problems with Christian missionaries throughout history. Nevertheless, my Christian friends in Korea (both Catholic and Protestant) are grateful for the missionaries who brought the gospel of Christ to their land. Wesley himself was the beneficiary of the work of missionary monks who brought the gospel to the British isles in the first millennium. When the first generation of Christians moved out into the Roman world, they emphatically did not say, “Who are we to judge these people with their household shrines and public temples? They are under another dispensation.”

    1. I don’t know if Wesley’s concept of the term ‘dispensation’ matches our current usages. He did himself travel to Georgia with the hope of taking the gospel to Native Americans. He did not succeed at this, but certainly did not seem to have any qualms about such missionary work.

      What I think he did recognized, however, is that there were places in his day that the gospel had not been heard, and so he was trying to address questions about what that means for the people there.

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