The Sermons of John Wesley

The provision of resources for the theological and spiritual formation of believers has been a matter of deep and abiding concern in the life of the church across space and time. In the ancient and medieval Western church, for example, this concern is on display in resources such as Augustine’s Confessions and Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. In the ancient Eastern church, this concern is perhaps best reflected in Chrysostom’s Baptismal Instructions.

Like their Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox forebears, Protestants have developed significant resources for the theological and spiritual formation of believers. For example, Luther published numerous postils or homilies, an instructive series of sermons whose form was taken up by subsequent Lutheran leaders (Philipp Melanchthon, Martin Chemnitz, Andreas Osiander, and Johann Arndt) to communicate the genius of the faith. This rich history of employing sermons or homilies for theological and spiritual formation, so evident in the Lutheran tradition and present among Puritans as well (Richard Baxter readily comes to mind), was continued in the Anglican communion. Indeed, from the beginning, Anglicans have privileged the so-called Edwardian homilies of Thomas Cranmer in faith formation. However, they have also made ample use of sermons from other divines, including John Jewel, Richard Hooker, and Edward Stillingfleet.

While John Wesley was familiar with many resources used for formation in the ancient, medieval, and magisterial Protestant churches, he was most familiar with the formational materials and practices of his native Church of England. Thus when Wesley grew increasingly concerned about the theological and spiritual formation of the people called Methodists, he began assembling a collection of sermons for their edification. In these sermons, Wesley addressed a wide range of perennial concerns related to Christian living. For example, he dealt at length with the image of God; the origins, nature, and scope of sin; the need for repentance; the nature of faith; justification, regeneration, and sanctification; the place of works; temptations; Christian perfection; and the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the midst of it all. In addressing these and many other concerns, Wesley provided Methodists with a ready resource for their theological and spiritual formation. 

excerpt from: The Sermons of John Wesley: A Collection for the Christian Journey edited by Kenneth J. Collins and Jason E. Vickers Copyright©2013 Abingdon Press. Used with permission.


free excerpt
comments powered by Disqus