I’ve been browsing through a new book called The Quotable Wesley edited by Dave Armstrong. It is an excellent resource which lists quotes from Wesley by topic starting with “Absolution” and goes all the way to “Zeal”. So it really is an “A-Z” compendium of quotes from John Wesley. I found some of the quotes to be intriguing but left me with lots of questions like this one on “Baptism and Being ‘Born Again.‘”
“I baptized John Smith (late an Anabaptist) and four other adults at Islington. Of the adults I have known baptized lately, one only was at that time born again, in the full sense of the word; that is, found a thorough inward change by the love of God filling her heart. Most of them were only born again in a lower sense, [that is], received the remission of sins. And some (as it has since too plainly appeared) neither in one sense nor the other. (Journal, January 25, 1739)” (p. 37)
Here he uses “born again” with two different senses: a full sense and a weaker sense. This really makes me want to learn more about this distinction.
From previous reading on Wesley I knew that he was quite adamant about not leaving the Anglican church. Many of the quotes under the caption “Anglicanism: Opposition to Separation and a New Denomination” bear that out. For example:
“Such is our rule, that if any man separate from the [Anglican] Church, he is no longer a member of our Society. (Quoted in ‘Steadfast unto the End,’ chap. 22 in Coll. A, 156)” (p. 20)
“I still think, when the Methodists leave the Church of England, God will leave them.” (p. 21)
But then I read this which I think shows the progression in his thought.
“I believe if we had left then the [Anglican] Church, we should not have done a tenth part of the good we have done; but I do not trouble myself on this head. I go calmly and quietly on my way, doing what I conceive to be the will of God. I do not, will not, concern myself with what will be when I am dead. I take no thought about that. (Letter to Thomas Taylor [February 24, 1786], in Letters, 216)” (p. 21-22)
This quote may come as a surprise to some Protestants on “Mary: Perpetual Virginity of“:
“The blessed Virgin Mary who, as well after as before she brought him forth continued a pure and unspotted virgin. (A Letter to a Roman Catholic [July 18, 1749], in Coll. C, 305″ (p. 163)
Likewise I was quite surprised to learn that Wesley was in favor of praying for the dead: “[Oh,] grant that we, with those who are already dead in they faith and fear, may together partake of a joyful resurrection. (Quoted in ‘Of Prayers for the Dead,’ chap. 13 in Coll. A, 84)” (p. 208)
Some quotes provide a pastor’s sting like this one on gossip: “Of all gossiping, religious gossiping is the worst; it adds hypocrisy to uncharitableness and effectually does the work of the devil in the name of the Lord. (Letter to a young disciple [June 20, 1772], in Works [S], 7:92).” (p. 111)
I was also surprised to learn he wasn’t much of a fan of Martin Luther. “I read over Martin Luther’s Comment on the Epistle to the Galatians. I was utterly ashamed. How have I esteemed this book. . . . how blasphemously does he speak of good works and of the law of God!. . . Here (I apprehend) is the real spring of the grand error of the Moravians. They follow Luther, for better or worse. (Quoted in ‘Of Justification by Faith,’ chap. 11 in Coll. A, 76) (p. 91)
But he could still speak of him as “highly favored of God and a blessed instrument in his hand.” (p. 161)
This book is loaded with quotes on a wonderful mix of topics. A topical index in the back makes it easy to quickly access the topic that most interests you. Many of the quotes are actually quite long running a page or more. These provide a little more context than just a brief quote which I found very helpful.
The Quotable Wesley is from Beacon Hill Press. It is a paperback with 288 pages.
Dave Armstrong is a prolific author who has been defending Christianity since 1981. His other compilations of Christian quotations include The Quotable Newman (Sophia Institute Press, 2012) and The Wisdom of Mr. Chesterton (Saint Benedict Press, 2009). Dave has written many books of Christian apologetics, such as Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies? (Lulu, 2010) and Christian Worldview Vs. Postmodernism (Lulu, 2007). He has been happily married since 1984 and resides in southeast Michigan with his wife, Judy, and four children.