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and in them all.' "96 Members of the Church were composed of all those whom God had called out of the world. The building was no vital part of the Church.97 This conception of the Church, Wesley claimed to have received from Paul, whose congregations were animated by one common hope of immortality, one faith, and one outer baptism. The National Church of England was a part of this universal Church; but was not the only true Church; rather a part of the larger unit which was the only true Church. In this Wesley declared that his account of the Church was agreeable to the Nineteenth Article of Religion of the Church of England, which stated that any Church in which the true Word of God was preached, and the sacraments were duly administered, was a part of the true Church. And still in view of this Article, Wesley plainly stated that he would include within the Church of England people who had wrong opinions, notwithstanding that the Nineteenth Article declared specifically to the contrary.
In the matter of schism, Wesley was as unorthodox as in his idea of the Church. Roman Catholics defined schism as a separation from the Church of Rome, while the Churchmen defined it as a separation from the Church of England. Wesley pronounced both of these views as equally incorrect; for schism was not separation from the Church; but separation in the Church, and separation from any church according to Scripture, with or without cause, was not schism. He felt so sure of his stand in this matter, that he went to the Bible for his proof.99 He qualified this a little, when he admitted that a causeless separation from a body of living Christians might be schism. Whether schism be with, or without, cause, it nevertheless did much harm, because in all cases of schism there must be much of hard feeling and little of love. 100
Is schism ever justified ? In answer to this question, Wesley preached, “I am now, and have been from my youth, a mem
96 Works, Sermon On the Church, p. 157.
ber of the Church of England. And I have no desire nor design to separate from it, till my soul separates from my body. Yet if I was not permitted to remain therein, without omitting what God requires me to do, it would then become meet and right, (and my bounden duty to separate from it without delay," and he further added, that the sin of separation would not lie upon John Wesley.101. And yet after making such a statement as this, Wesley concluded by exhorting all to be peace makers, and to remain within the Church of England. Wesley did not believe in schism in the concrete; but clearly recognized it in the abstract. He might have been loyal in his actions toward the Church; but from the Church of England's point of view, he certainly was heretical in his thinking. It was this manner of thinking about the Church that gave him such freedom for action when the time for ordinations was ripe. SECTION VII. THE ORTHODOXY OF EARLY METHODIST
DOCTRINE The clergy thought that much of Wesley's doctrine was heresy. Downes said that Methodism had its counterpart in any important heresy that had ever afflicted the Church, and that it could rightfully be compared with Gnosticism, Donatism, etc. 102 Richard Hill edited a very comprehensive list of statements to bring out the contrast between the various expressions made by the Methodists upon the subjects of justification, perfection, etc. 103 Wills, whose writings we have heard of, went even farther and declared that the Methodists garbled texts of Scripture, so that they might fit into their system of doctrine, to such an extent that they were quite unsound and unscientific in their treatment of the Bible. 104 And when the Methodists ventured to assert that the clergy deviated from the doctrines contained in the Articles and Homilies of the Church of England, this was pronounced an "infamous and groundless libel.”105 This unsound attitude of the Methodists toward the orthodoxy
101 Ibid., p. 166.
Methodism Examined, p. 12ff.
of the Established Church was supposed by the clergy to be fruitful of much harm; because the Methodists "set the nearest and dearest relations at variance; disturbed the quiet of families; nay, threw whole neighborhoods and parishes into confusion."106
Especially strong were the clergy in their condemnation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which they felt the Methodists maintained. This was a principle "irrational and unscriptural."107
“All persons who pray or preach extempore, by a pretended inward direction of the Holy Spirit, address the eternal God with an abominable lie in their mouths." There was, in the opinion of some, no such thing as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to believe in the contrary was one cause of enthusiasm. 108 This attitude of the clergy toward Methodist doctrine did not change, and even the late Canon Overton held to the opinion that the new birth, guidance of the Holy Spirit, justification by faith, as preached by the Methodists, were anticlerical. 109
Wesley's answer to these clerical attacks was to make a strong plea for an intelligent understanding of the facts of the case. He retorted to the vicious attacks of Downes, “I utterly disclaim the 'extraordinary gifts of the spirit,' and all other ‘influences and operations of the Holy Ghost' than those that are common to all Christians”; and then told Downes that he was ignorant of the facts.110 When Dr. Potter wrote that the Methodists pretended to cure the sick by inspiration, Wesley answered, “I deny that I, or any in connection with me . . . do now, or ever did, lay claim to those extraordinary operations of the spirit.”111 To Mr. Fleury, Wesley disclaimed “as he had a hundred times before, and ten times in print,” that he had any inspiration not common to all real Christians; and since this gentleman insisted upon the fact that Wesley told an untruth, Wesley curtly replied, "If you should see fit to write anything more about the Methodists, I beg you would first learn
106 John Free: Sermon, 1758, p. 37.
Evangelical Revival, chap. x, passim.
who and what they are."112 To Dr. Horne, of the University of Oxford, later Bishop of Norwich, he said the same thing: Horne was not justified in bringing charges of heresy against the Methodists until he found out exactly who the Methodists were and what they believed. 113
Wesley felt that if his opponents understood his movement better, they would find him quite orthodox. He urged his so| cieties to obey the Church in the observation of its feast days. 114 When asked whether he did not hold doctrine contrary to the Church; whether he did not make dust of her words; whether he did not bewilder the brains of weak people, Wesley emphatically answered: "No."115 He told Mr. Howard, who had asked what the points of difference were, that there were none; that the doctrines that the Methodists preached were the doctrines of the Church as laid down in her prayers, Articles, and Homi
Of his preaching he said, “I simply described the plain old religion of the Church of England, which is now almost everywhere spoken against under the new name of Methodism."117 Indeed, he continually thought of himself as defending the Church from those who were secretly striving to undermine it, while he declared that all who remained with him as his followers, were mostly Church of England men who loved I her Articles, her liturgy, her Homilies, and her discipline, and unwillingly varied from them in any instance.118
These only would he have about him, 119
No doctrine was held by Wesley that he did not think to be in harmony with the liturgy, Articles, and Homilies of the Church, and he quoted from these sources with great freedom to prove his most fundamental doctrines. 120 He named nine of the Rubrics and professed to have observed them punctually even at the hazard of his life.121 The Canons also he claimed
112 Ibid., vol. v, pp. 485 and 491.
Ibid., p. 438.
Works, vol. vii, p. 402.
Appeal to Men of Reason, Works, vol. v, p. 24.
to obey as well as any man in England. He challenged any one of the clergy to say whether or not he had read over the Canons to his congregation as required; and then stated that he himself fulfilled this law. He professed a most loyal support to all the Canons and denied breaking any. Wesley could not have gone far astray from the doctrines of the Established Church, for the Bishop of Gloucester testified that “Methodism signifies only the manner of preaching; not either an old or a new religion; it is the manner in which Mr. W. and his followers attempt to propagate the plain old religion.” Wesley let this statement of the bishop stand, for it represented his position.122 Stevens summed well Wesley's position in the words: “The theological distinction of Methodism lay not in novel tenets, but in the clearness and the power with which it illustrated and applied the established doctrines of the English Reformation; and in harmony with its own characteristic design, merely confined its teachings to such of these doctrines as related to personal or spiritual religion. If this be true, then one cannot say that the Methodists became estranged from the Church on doctrinal grounds alone. To be sure, Wesley said he was put out of the | churches for preaching justification by faith alone.124 He also said that until he preached this doctrine, he was welcomed into the churches; but a pseudonymous writer, John Smith, takes Wesley to task for this, and reminded Wesley that he was forbidden to preach in the churches before the time when he claimed to have experienced the truth in the doctrine of salvation by faith. 125
Since Wesley did not deny the error of statement which Smith attributed to him, it would seem that doctrine had little to do with the Methodists leaving the churches. When it is a glory peculiar to the Methodists that there is "no other religious society under heaven which requires nothing of men in order to admission to it but a desire to save souls, not opinions—we think and let think; nor modes of worship”when this is the attitude of a group of people, one cannot cor
Letter to Bishop of Gloucester, Works, vol. v, p. 451.
Moore: Life of Wesley, vol. ii, p. 421.