Wesley does not speak here about theological compromise. Instead, he demonstrates a rare ability to segregate the essential from nonessential elements in the Christian faith.
Every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true; (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it;) yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assured they are not… “To be ignorant of many things and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.” This, therefore, he is sensible is his own case. He knows in the general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particular he mistakes, he does not, perhaps he cannot, know…
Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him whom he desires to unite in love that single question, “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”…
But what is properly implied in the question? … The first thing implied is this: Is they heart right with God?…Does the love of God constrain thee to serve Him with fear? … Is they heart right toward thy neighbor?… Do you show your love by your works?… Then, “thy heart is right, as my heart is with they heart.”
“If it be, give me thy hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not: I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot; It does no depend on my choice; I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. Keep you your opinion, I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute these points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other: Only “give me thine hand.”
I do not mean, “Embrace my modes of worship;” or, “I will embrace yours.” This also is a thing which does no depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold you fast that which you believe is most acceptable government to be Scriptural and Apostolic. If you thing the Presbyterians or Independents are better, think so still, and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized; and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you are otherwise persuaded, be so still, and follow you own persuasion. It appears to me, that the forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitably to your own judgment. My sentiment, is that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized; and that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master; however, if you are not convinced of this, act according to the light you have. I have not desire to dispute with you one moment upon any of the preceding heads. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into light. If thin heart is as my heart, if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: “Give me thine hand” (Works, V, 494-499)
Perhaps we too can exercise some discernment and divide the essential from the non-essential, loving one another as the result.
2 thoughts on “Wesley on the catholic Spirit”
I have heard the following of both Whitefield and Wesley, who had such differences that they in matters of Christian practice. Who knows which one actually said it.
Whitefield/Wesley was asked if he would see the other in heaven, to which he replied, No. The person felt that what they thought was the preacher’s thoughts on the eternal state of the other had been confirmed. However, the preacher went on to explain that what was actually meant was that the person in question would be so close to the Throne of God in the midst of eternal worship, and that the person being asked would be much farther back, and thereby, he would not be able to see him in heaven. So close to God’s glory that they could not be seen.
Brother Jason, thanks. I had not read that before you offered it up. Where are you going to seminary? I’m a graduate of Denver Seminary, or as the official name says Denver Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary.
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