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went to learn these opinions. 115 Now that the Methodists had left the Moravians they could not be accused of indulging in mysticism. Wesley hereafter was very careful to keep his skirts clear from any form of mysticism. When a very old man, he wrote a letter to Mr. Walter Churchey, and mentioning his brother's hymns, said, “Those of them that savour a little of mysticism I have rather corrected or expunged.” 116
Thus have we seen the cordial dislike of the clergy and Church for any form of enthusiasm. The Methodists were classed as enthusiasts. The fact that they ejected forms of enthusiasm from their midst, as in the case of the French Prophets, Thomas Maxfield, George Bell, and the mysticism of the Moravians; the fact that they kept their movement comparatively free from such fanaticism seemed not to be maturely considered by the clergy. They were enthusiasts, and that was an end to it. The two groups, the Methodists and the Churchmen, had two radically different points of view. Their ideas of religion were different. So long as they remained so both groups could not remain in the Established Church at the same time. Either the Church must be disrupted, or else one group must leave it. The latter happened.
115 Observations Upon the Conduct of Methodists, p. 7.
We have seen that the outlook of the Methodists in the eighteenth century was peculiar. They saw the world around them hastening to destruction, and heard the insistent call to save men from the wrath to come. Their theology and doctrine, therefore, were neither allegorical nor speculative, but entirely practical. Indeed, when Jacob Behmen treated the Lord's Prayer in a highly allegorical manner, John Wesley denounced his method of interpretation.
SECTION I. ORIGINAL SIN The Methodists accounted for the evil in the world by adopting Augustine's theory of the universal corruption of human nature, generally termed original sin, which is distinctive of Western Theology.?
This concept was naturally based on the biblical narrative of the Fall through the sin of Adam. Wesley saw the depravity of man in the universal presence of pain and suffering. Sin came into the world because Adam chose evil rather than good, and in accordance with the curse pronounced upon him, pain followed as a natural consequence. Sin brought suffering, as the pains of childbirth testify, and in the train of suffering came death. By the mercy of God a way of escape came through Christ; but in opposition to the prevailing Calvinism, the Methodists declared that the offered salvation was open for all to accept.
This sin which came in through Adam's fall continued to grow. In Noah's time, when nations appeared such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Jews, Indians, and Asiatics, they were wicked, and Roman poetry showed the evil of the Roman people.
· Divinity and Philosophy of Jacob Behmen, Works, vol. v, p. 705.
Mohammedans, Popish, and Protestant people were evil. Universal misery was at once the consequence and the proof of this universal corruption." Sin extended over the whole earth, for Wesley declared that the people of to-day were just as depraved by nature as they were before the flood. If they were not educated; if they knew not of the grace of God, they could be likened unto animals. Wesley said, “We bear the image of the devil and tread in his steps." If one would not admit this utter proneness to evil he thought as the heathen did. If one frankly admitted this he was Christian in his thinking. To know this moral ailment was the only method of opening the way for a
The pleasant writings of the past about man were all wrong. To appreciate man's true position, one must say with the psalmist that he was "shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Such was Wesley's idea of original sin. He himself was loath to use the term “total depravity”; but that is just what he meant.8 Man was utterly depraved and save for the grace of God there was no hope. He was utterly dependent upon God to get out of this corrupt state. By “being inwardly changed by the almighty operation of the spirit of God” could man be saved.9 Wesley was thoroughgoing in his idea of original sin. To an opponent he said, “Either you or I mistake the whole of Christianity from beginning to end! Either my scheme or yours is as contrary to the scriptural as the Koran is.” His whole system depended upon accepting this doctrine 10
The extended treatment of this doctrine was given in Wesley's The Doctrine of Original Sin. This is one of his masterpieces and was intended to answer in an elaborate manner Dr. John Taylor's book, The Doctrine of Original Sin, which was published in 1750 and had its third edition in that same year.11
Original Sin, Works, vol. v, p. 521.
Dr. Taylor wrote in a very open-minded manner not readily found in his day. He urged his readers to seek the truth above all else, and rejected the use of proof-texts.12 Taylor dealt with this doctrine from the standpoint of a rationalist, maintaining that this doctrine had nothing to do with true religion and that true religion could stand perfect and entire without it.13 He objected that it was injurious to the God of nature who made us, and that made possible the placing of our moral responsibility for our sins upon the shoulders of Adam instead of our own. Taylor's argument was quite anti-Wesleyan.14 He also asserted that God had bestowed upon us "gifts and mercy, privileges and advantages, both in this and in the future world abundantly beyond the reversing of any evils we are subjected to in consequence of Adam's sin.” 15
Other objections were made to this doctrine. Some clergy objected that the term was not found in the scriptures. They reasoned that the guilt of eating the forbidden fruit could not pass beyond Adam and Eve, and that the consequences of their sin could not pass to posterity.16 One critical churchman with quite a modern point of view stated that “persons of a certain temper and cast of mind, can see deity in no other light than that of an almighty tyrant; and love to consider their frail fellow creatures as criminals from the cradle.
Exit is animi tenor in rigorem quendam torvitatemque natura, duram et inflexibilem; affectusque humanos adimit.” 17 In spite of all these objections, the Methodists insisted that mankind was quite guilty, corrupt, and lost.
SECTION II. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH If the doctrine of original sin put man into such an unhappy estate, it was necessary to have some power to save him from this eternal damnation. The Methodists explained this way of escape by means of their doctrine of "justification by faith.”'
12 Taylor : Original Sin, part i, passim.
The whole background for the understanding of this doctrine is that of the complete fall of man.18
Justification by faith was no more original with the Methodists than was the doctrine of original sin. Boehm wrote of it as early as 1714 in England in a manner almost identical with that of Wesley.19
With the Methodists “justification” and “salvation" meant practically the same thing when used in connection with "faith." "A salvation from sin, and the consequences of sin; both were often expressed in the word, justification."20 This salvation was an act of God the Father. It was the pardon and forgiveness of sins, and not being actually made just and righteous. That was called “sanctification.” 21 Whatever else justification might mean, it meant a present salvation. (One was saved from the guilt of all past sin. Being saved from guilt, one was saved from fear; being saved from fear, one was saved from the power of sin; so that he could not be overcome by it.22 This justification came from God as a gift—"of his mere grace, bounty, or favor; his free, undeserved favor; favor altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies.” 23 He who wished to be justified had to fulfill a condition. He had to believe on Him who justified the ungodly. This believing on a God who justified was defined as faith and this faith was the only instrument of justification or salvation.24 This belief, then, in Christ and that through Christ one should be saved, brought justification. It was not speculation, it was not rationalism, it was what the Methodists called “a disposition of the heart,” that saved
Conference defined justification as: “to be pardoned and received into God's favor; into such a state, that if we continue therein, we shall finally be saved.” 26
One form of opposition to this doctrine centered in a dis-
Works, vol. I, p. 13.
28 Minutes 1744, Works, vol. v, p. 194.