Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Praise God with one heart

I continue to gain, in these busy days, much enjoyment from reading the letters of John Wesley. I take about twenty minutes in them in the morning at my desk at work, after I have finished devotions and poured a cup of coffee. I'm currently reading in Volume 2, in the letters from the year 1745. I found this jewel a couple of days ago.

It is evidently one work with what we have seen here. Why should we not all praise God with one heart?

Whoever agrees with us in that account of practical religion...I regard not what his other opinions are, the same is my brother and sister and mother. I am more assured that love is of God than that any opinion whatsoever is so. Herein may we increase more and more.

In reading Wesley's letters, I've found out what a combative fellow he was at this point of his ministry. Of course, since he was calling men to live by faith, and to put that faith into practice through subsequent works, he spoke contrary to the State church, which practiced, regardless of what their printed doctrine might say, that salvation was by attention to the means of grace administered by the church. So for Wesley to say that salvation had nothing to do with the church rubbed a bunch of clergymen the wrong way.

But the common man responded to him, and he preached to thousands in churches and tens of thousands in fields after the churches were closed to him. Was it to some extent jealousy that caused the clergy to oppose Wesley so vigorously? Their own parishioners wouldn't sit in their churches, but would stand outside for an hour and drink in what Wesley said.

In this letter, Wesley writes to Lord Grange, thanking him for a copy of a letter, which apparently "shows a truly Christian spirit." This all had something to do with the work being done in other places possibly including in America by Jonathan Edwards and Gilbert Tennent. The letter was apparently a breath of fresh air for Wesley, who had seen mostly opposition.

In Wesley's reply, I find my own breath of fresh air. Today the church seems more divided than ever, not just by denominations but also by worship practices, end times beliefs, and politics. We spend way too much time focusing on our differences and not enough on what binds us together. Wesley was able to see that, regardless of his doctrinal disagreements with George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, et. al., they were all engaged in "one work", so "why should we not all praise God with one heart?"

Wesley goes on to note that "love is of God", but opinions may not be. And he says, concerning love, "Herein may we increase more and more." May it always be so.

No comments: