John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 17th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second” is the 17th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 2nd of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.

Key quote: 

And it is impossible to satisfy such a soul, a soul that is athirst for God, the living God, with what the world accounts religion, as with what they account happiness. The religion of the world implies three things: first, the doing no harm, the abstaining from outward sin – at least from such as is scandalous, as robbery, theft, common swearing, drunkenness; secondly, the doing good – the relieving the poor, the being charitable, as it is called; thirdly, the using the means of grace – at least going to church and to the Lord’s Supper. He in whom these three marks are found is termed by the world a religious man. But will this satisfy him who hungers after God? No. It is not food for his soul. He wants a religion of a nobler kind, a religion higher and deeper than this. He can no more feed on this poor, shallow, formal thing, than he can ‘fill his belly with the east wind.’ True, he is careful to abstain from the very appearance of evil. He is zealous of good works. He attends all the ordinances of God. But all this is not what he longs for. This is only the outside of that religion which he insatiably hungers after. The knowledge of God in Christ Jesus; ‘the life that is hid with Christ in God’; the being ‘joined unto the Lord in one Spirit’; the having ‘fellowship with the Father and the Son’; the ‘walking in the light as God is in the light’; the being ‘purified even as he is pure’ – this is the religion, the righteousness he thirsts after. Nor can he rest till he thus rests in God. [II.4]

One sentence summary:  

Wesley explains meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and being merciful and their blessings.

Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” – Matthew 5:5-7

Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second”

I. Blessed are the meek

1. Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
2. The meek are not those who cannot discern good from evil.
3. Nor does it imply being without zeal for God.
4. Meekness is resignation – a calm acquiescence to God’s will.
5. The truly meek can clearly discern what is evil; and they can also suffer it.
6. This divine temper should not only abide, but increase in us day by day.
7. Meekness restrains not only the outward act.
8. Wesley makes the comparison to murder that only happens in the heart.
9. You can be angry at sin but not give way to it.
10. God will not excuse our defects in some areas because of our exactness in another area.
11. Let there be no delay in what so nearly concerns your soul.
12. The meek shall inherit the earth.
13. The meek still have a more eminent part in the “new earth.”

II. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness

1. Our Lord has been more immediately employed in removing the hindrances of true religion.
2. Righteousness is the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
3. This hunger of the soul, this thirst after the image of God, is the strongest of all spiritual appetites.
4. A summary of the “General Rules.” And their insufficiency for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
5. Blessed are they who do thus hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.
6. If God has given you this hunger, pray that it may never cease.

III. Blessed are the merciful

1. The word used by our Lord more immediately implies the compassionate, the tender-hearted; those who, far from despising, earnestly grieve for those that do not hunger after God.
2. This love if of vast importance.
3. Love of neighbor is long-suffering and patient toward all people.
4. In order to overcome evil with good, love is kind.
5. Love does not envy.
6. Love does not hastily condemn.
7. Love is not puffed up.
8. Love is not rude or unwillingly offensive.
9. Love doesn’t seek its own temporal good.
10. Such love is not provoked.
11. Love doesn’t think evil.
12. Love does not rejoice in inequity.
13. Love rejoices in the truth.
14. Love covers all things, except to confront evil.
15. Love thinks the best of others.
16. Love hopes all things.
17. Love endures all things.
18. Even though things look terrible in the face of this ideal, still hope. May your soul continually overflow with love.


Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first sixteen Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.

Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.