Book Notes

Ole Brown’s book

John Wesley and the Sacraments

For John Wesley theology was a function of the life of faith, not primarily an academic discipline. Hi theology proiveded conoceptual basis and structure as well as stability and understanding required to keep things on an even keel. He was a creative theologican practically involved in teh application of his doctrine in the renewal of the church. Wesley divided theology into two branches 1) speculative divinity (intellectural discipline of systematizing and understanding the life of faith, speculative faith i.e. assent to doctrines) as correlative, and 2) practical divinity (trust, confidence, and the life of God in man). Wesley didn’t reject the speculative divinity, except that it needed to have something to contribute to the Christian life to have influence on one’s heart and life (Brown 36-37). Wesley assessed theology based on its usefulness as means toward the greater end ( 38).

Hymns, likewise, were published to provide for the needs of believers, in terms of speculative or practical religion.

Comparatively speaking, Wesley distinguised every branch of religion through higher to lower in rank were (38):
1). Love of God and man.
2). Holy Tempers” – gentleness, longsuffering (the mind which was in Christ)
3). Works of mercy to souls or bodies of men
4).Works of piety, useing the means of grace
5). The zeal of the believer

The task of the Methodists is to spread “…scriptural holiness through the land,…leaving everyone to hold his own opinions…” “We think and let think.” He cautioned against bigotry, i.e. too strong an attachment to, or fondness for, our own part, opinion, church and religion (40). Wesley encouraged his followers not to fight against notions, but against sin. For Wesley, religion was nothing but “love of God and man”. Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is but a slender part of religion at best, and sometimes no part at all (39). The living, saving faith is essentially power, trust, conviction and confidence that Christ died for me and that my sins are forgiven (39). He made a distinction between our conceptualizing faith and the “thing itself” – “…a true opinion concerning repentance is wholly different from the thing itself…” Clear conceptions of doctrines such as justification by faith, imputed righteousness, Christian perfection and even the Trinity were not necessary for salvation as long as the actual fact is realized in a person’s life. Even though there might be some confused ideas, the heart may still be right with God. Differences in opinion will be tolerated unless they touch the foundation(41).

Based on scripture and common sense John Wesley built a scheme of grand, essential and fundamental scriptural doctrines.

1). original sin
2). justification by faith
3). sanctification (inward and outward holiness)

Other doctrines Wesley felt were essential include (43):
1). doctrines of the Trinity (the Deity of Christ)
2). the work of Christ (atonement)
3). the work of the Holy Spirit

A doctrine of redemption must include not only man’s need of salvation, as well as God’s willingness and ability to save.
1). God’s love is the cause of our redemption;
2). Jesus is the procurer; and 3).the Holy Spirit is the operative agent and power in the work of salvation purifying the soul, restoring the image of God and sustaining the life of God in man.

When Wesley spoke of God or any person within the Godhead, it was always seen in relation to God’s love and redemption of man.
When Wesley spoke of salvation, it was always seen in the context of the atonement and the ongoing work of salvation through the Holy Spirit. It was impossible for him to speak of one side of a person’s redemption without mentioning the other 43).

The atonement: Christ’s life, death and sacrifice are essential.

  • God’s own justice demands satisfaction and is the principal cause of Christ’s death and suffering, although human sins are the deserving cause.
  • Christ, by offering himself as the satisfaction to God for our sin appeases God’s wrath.
  • He gives himself as ransom and fulfills God’s law

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