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Historical Development of Wesley’s Doctrine of the Spirit

3 In A Plan Account of Christian Perfection, Wesley notes, “In the year 1725, being in the twenty-third year of my age, I met with Bishop Taylor’s Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying. I reading several parts of this book, I was exceedingly affected; that part in particular which relates to purity of intention. Instantly I resolved to dedicate all my life to God, all my thoughts and words, and actions; being thoroughly convinced, there was no medium; but that every part of my life (not some only) must either be a sacrifice to God, or myself, that is, in effect, to the Devil.” See also Albert Outler, Preface to Sermons.

4 Wesley, John. The Works of John Wesley. Jackson, Thomas. Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998). 6:366-67.

5 Oulter, Albert. Introduction. John Wesley. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964) p.9.

6 For various discussions on Wesley’s use of the Eastern fathers see Randy L. Maddox, “John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy: Influences, Convergences, and Differences.” The Asbury Theological Journal 45, no. 2 (Fall 1990). 29-53); Kenneth J. Collins, “John Wesley’s Critical Appropriation of Tradition in His Practical Theology.” Wesleyan Theological Journal. Vol. 35, no. 2, Fall, 2000; Ted A. Campbell, John Wesley and Christian Antiquity: Religious Vision and Cultural Change. (Nashville, TN: Knigwood Books, 1991).

7 Outler notes that there was a “deepening influence of Greek Catholic spirituality (with its distinctive pneumatology that Wesley embraced wholeheartedly).” Introduction. Sermons,1:36. See also Burgess, Stanley M. The Holy Spirit: Eastern Christian Traditions. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989.) See chapters 15 & 21 for discussion on the pneumatology of Macarius and Ephrem.

8 John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology. 24.

9 Ibid, 27.

10 Ibid, 30.

11 Ibid, 30.

12 McGonigle, Herbert. John Wesley and the Moravians. (England: The Wesley Fellowship, 1993.)

13 Works, 1:23. Journal, Feb., 7, 1736.

14 Works, Journals, May, 1738.1:102. One can find a unique self-analysis in Wesley’s journal entries during the months just prior to his “Aldersgate experience.” There is a trajectory that was set into motion through Wesley’s correspondence and interaction with the Moravians. To understand the nature of these events one cannot overlook this connection.

15 McGonigle, Moravians. p.24.

16 See specifically sermons The Witness of the Spirit I (1746), The Witness of the Spirit II (1767), and The Witness of Our Own Spirit (1746).

17 To see some of Wesley’s references to the soteriological work of the Holy Spirit before 1738, see sermons; “The Circumcision of the Heart.” (1733), “A Single Intention” (1736), and “On Love.” (1737).

18 Heitzenrater, Richard P., “Great Expectations: Aldersgate and the Evidences of Genuine Christianity.” Randy Maddox ed. Aldersgate Reconsidered. (Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1990). p.52

19 Works, Journal, 1:103.

20 Albert Outler, John Wesley. (New York: Oxford Press, 1964). p.52.

21 Larry W. Wood. The Meaning of Pentecost in Early Methodism: Rediscovering John Fletcher as Wesley’s Vindicator and Designated Successor. (Scarecrow Press, 2003). Quoting from Richard Heiztzenriter. Mirror and Memory. p. 108-109.

22 Heitzenrater, Richard P., “Great Expectations: Aldersgate and the Evidences of Genuine Christianity.” Randy Maddox ed. Aldersgate Reconsidered. (Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1990). p.90.

23 Wesley shared his personal struggles that followed Aldersgate in his journals from September 1738 to April 1739.

24 Wesley, Journals, June 7, 1738.

25 See “The Rift with the Moravians,” Outler, John Wesley, p. 353.

26 Collins, Kenneth J., The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesley’s Theology. (Nashville, TN: Abigdon Press, 1997). 131-152.

27 Heitzenrater, Richard P., “Great Expectations”, p. 71.

28 Works, 1:162-163. Journals, October 6, 1738.

29 Works, 1:160.

30 Outler, Introduction, John Wesley. p.15.

31 Works, 1:164. Journals, November 12, 1738.

32 The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works: Extracted from the Homilies of the Church of England. (1738).

33 Outler, Introduction, John Wesley, 16.

34 Works, 1: 185. Journals, April 2, 1739.

35 Heitzenrater, Richard P., “Great Expectations”, p. 75.

36 Outler, “A Focus on the Holy Spirit.”p.167.

37 Works, 5:11. “Salvation by Faith.”

38 Ibid, 5:10-11.

39 Works, 5:38, “Scriptural Christianity.”

40 Ibid, 5:47.

41 Wesley attached the following footnote to the sermon, “It was not my design, when I wrote, ever to print the latter part of the following sermon: But false and scurrilous accounts of it which have been published, almost in every corner of the nation, constrain me to publish the whole, just as it was preached; that men of reason may judge for themselves.” Works, 5:37.

42 See also sermon “The First Fruits of the Spirit” (1746), which Wesley argues that, “These are they indeed “walk after the Spirit.” Being filled with faith and with the Holy Ghost, they possess in their hearts and show forth in their lives, in the whole course of their words and actions, the genuine fruits of the Spirit of God, namely, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance, ” and whatsoever else is lovely or praiseworthy. “They adorn in all things the gospel of God our Saviour;” and give full proof to all mankind, that they are indeed actuated by the same Spirit “which raised up Jesus from the dead.” Works, 5:89.

43 This was an argument that was important enough for him to write a second discourse by the same title in 1767, over twenty years later. See also “The Witness of Our Own Spirit.” (1746); and “The Nature of Enthusiasm.” (1750).

44 Works, 5:115.

45 Ibid, 5:115

46 Ibid, 5:115.

47 Outler, “Spirit and Spirituality in John Wesley.” p.168.

48 Works, 5:118.

49 Ibid, 5:118.

50 Ibid, 5:120.

51 Ibid, 5:122.

52 Outler, Introduction, Sermons. 46. Cited in Wood, Meaning of Pentecost.

53 Ibid, 46.

54 Wesley continued to publish and distribute Edwards works even in the later stage. An Extract from the Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (Bristol, 1773); and rev. ed. of the A Narrative of Surprising conversions, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit, and Thoughts (1773). See also “The Work of God in North America,” where Wesley connects Edwards and the revival in New England to the extended work of God in North America. Works, 7:410.

55 Jonathan Edwards, The Great Awakening, Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. C.C. Goen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 4:560.

56 Works, 6:307. “The Signs of the Times.”

57 Larry Wood has written a compelling book that demonstrates the critical influence that John Fletcher had on Wesley and early Methodism. His influence can especially be seen in the Wesley’s later sermons. For a more detailed discussion on this vital connection see Wood, Larry. The Meaning of Pentecost in Early Methodism: Rediscovering John Fletcher as Wesley’s Vindicator and Designated Successor. (Scarecrow Press, 2003). p.9.

58 Ibid, See chapter 5: “Wesley’s Authorized Interpreter and Designated Successor.” p.75-94.

59 Ibid, p.10.

60 Wood, Larry. Meaning of Pentecost. p.168.

61 Works, 2:74-75. “A Caution Against Bigotry.”

62 Letter to Mary Bosanquet (June 13, 1771). Telford, John, ed. The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley. 8 vols. (London: Epworth Press, 1931) 5:257.

63 Works, 7:427. “On Laying the Foundation of the New Chapel, Near City-Road, London” (1777).

64 Ibid, 6:282-283. “The General Spread of the Gospel.”

65 Runyon, Theodore. The New Creation: John Wesley’s Theology Today. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) p.33.

66 Ibid, 6:287.

67 Ibid, 6:288.

68 Works, 6:309. “Signs of the Times.”

69 Ibid, 6:308.

70 Ibid, 6:311.

71 Starkey, Lycurgus, M. The Work of the Holy Spirit: A Study in Wesleyan Theology. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962). p.140. For further discussion on the ecumenical significance of pneumatology see also the works of the following contemporary theologians: Clark Pinnock, Jürgen Moltmann, and Wolfhart Pannenberg.

72 There are a number of books and articles that have discussed the theological connection between the Wesleyan-Holiness movement and Pentecostalism. A few of them are: Donald Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. (New Jersey: Hendrickson Publishers, 1897); D. William Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel:The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought. (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996); Steve J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom. (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997); and Vinson Synan, The Holiness- Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1997). Steven J. Land urges both Wesleyan-Holiness and Holiness/Pentecostals to collaborate together in developing a distinctive theology of the church, salvation, and mission. “The Triune Center: Wesleyans and Pentecostals Together.” Wesleyan Theological Journal 34:1. (1999). Veli-Matti Karkkainen has demonstrated that pneumatology is a major category in the Roman Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue of recent years. (Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective; Ad Ultimum terrae: Evangelization, Proselytism and Common Witness in the Roman Catholic Pentecostal Dialogue (1990-1997); An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives).

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About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Winfield H. Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is also the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and an adjunct professor at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting (Seedbed, 2016), Rediscovering John Wesley (Pathway Press, 2005), Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Simeon Press, 2013), Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (NavPress, 2011), and Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship (Seedbed, 2016). Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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