In my last post on John Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist,” I wrote about his assertion that holding specific religious opinions was not a mark of Methodist. He continues on from there to discuss language:
Neither are words or phrases of any sort. We do not place our religion, or any part of it, in being attached to any peculiar mode of speaking, any quaint or uncommon set of expressions. The most obvious, easy, common words, wherein our meaning can be conveyed, we prefer before others, both on ordinary occasions, and when we speak of the things of God. We never, therefore, willingly or designedly, deviate from the most usual way of speaking; unless when we express scripture truths in scripture words, which, we presume, no Christian will condemn.
I have read this pamphlet of Wesley’s a dozen times, but I must confess to not being enough of a historian of his day to understand the issue he is getting at here.
For our day, of course, this is a strong encouragement to make sure we are learning to speak in the words and language that are used by regular, typical, ordinary, plain people. With all our graduate degrees and upper-middle class values, this may be a challenge to many of us.
Neither do we affect to use any particular expressions of Scripture more frequently than others, unless they are such as are more frequently used by the inspired writers themselves. So that it is as gross an error, to place the marks of a Methodist in his words, as in opinions of any sort.
I suppose this means that our frequent use of words such as “prevenient grace” when trying to justify our distinctiveness miss the mark. How about “open minds, open hearts, open doors”?
Do we place too much emphasis on special words and phrases to explain who we are?