Osteening Wesley?

Here are some words from John Wesley that I quoted recently. In copying the quote, I took out words that I thought would strike our contemporary ears as too negative.

Let thy religion be the religion of the heart. Let it lie deep in thy inmost soul. Be … amazed and humbled to the dust by the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. …. Let the whole stream of thy thoughts, words, and actions flow from the deepest conviction that thou standest on the edge of the great gulf, thou and all the children of men, just ready to drop … into everlasting glory …! Let thy soul be filled with mildness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering towards all men; — at the same time that all which is in thee is athirst for God, the living God; longing to awake up after his likeness, and to be satisfied with it! Be thou a lover of God and of all mankind! In this spirit do and suffer all things! Thus show thy faith by thy works; thus “do the will of thy Father which is in heaven!” And, as sure as thou now walkest with God on earth, thou shalt also reign with him in glory!

Does Wesley lose his punch if we take out the vileness and hellfire?


3 thoughts on “Osteening Wesley?

  1. Yes.

    Let me suggest this kind of editing leads us almost to miss Wesley’s point entirely.

    I don’t know that it would do so in every case, but in this case, it does.


    Because here Wesley’s point is about a choice between two kinds of foundations that lead to two very different destinies. And one of those is no less catastrophic than Hell itself.

    Leaving out those references could lead one to believe the choices are simply between a suboptimal (but perhaps survivable) life and destiny and a better one.

    In fact the choice Wesley seeks to pose here is between eternal life and eternal destruction.

    We must always remember that in Wesley and for the early Methodists, it is never solely a matter of desiring to be saved from sin. Also required of Methodists is to desire to flee the wrath to come. Again, for us it is not a choice between a damaged life and a less damaged one. It is a commitment to living in the way of life (sanctification) or finding ourselves, now and in the age to come, obliterated in the coming of God’s wrath and thus entirely incapable of seeing the Lord.

    Somehow, some folks have gotten it into their heads that fear is always to be avoided as in anyway a motivator for anything good. I simply fail to understand this, apart from the awareness that fear makes us feels bad, and we may not like to feel bad. But fear is one of the better motivators, in point of fact, for all kinds of good. It only becomes problematic when fear becomes the primary motivator of all of our actions, and not, as it were, a spur to get us moving again when love, the best motivator, may have grown slack.

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