John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 18th 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!


Background:

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 Third” is the 18th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 3rd 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 Third.” 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: 

Yet think not that you can always avoid it [persecution], either by this or any other means. If ever that idle imagination steals into your heart, put it to flight by that earnest caution: ‘Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.’ ‘Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’ But will this screen you from persecution? Not unless you have more wisdom than your Master, or more innocence than the Lamb of God.

Neither desire to avoid it, to escape from it wholly; for if you do, you are none of his. If you escape the persecution you escape the blessing, the blessing of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. If you are not persecuted for righteousness sake you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. ‘If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will also deny us.’ [III.10]


One sentence summary:  

Wesley unpacks Jesus’s teaching of the blessings of heart purity, peacemaking, and persecution for righteousness.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” – Matthew 5:8-12


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

I. Blessed are the pure in heart

1. The love of neighbor springs from love of God.
2. The pure in heart are purified through faith in Jesus.
3. People have often been told only to avoid outward impurities.
4. God admits no excuse for retaining anything which is an occasion to impurity.
5. Marriage itself may not be used as pretense to give loose to our desires.
6. God will bless them with clearest communications of his Spirit.
7. The pure in heart do more particularly see God.
8. They see God in his ordinances.
9. No swearing or oaths.
10. The Lord is not forbidding swearing in judgment in truth, by a magistrate.
11. God is in all things is the great lesson.

II. Blessed are the peacemakers

1. Jesus starts with the religion of the heart, now he shifts to what they are to do.
2. Peacemakers refers to all manner of good.
3. They work to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4. Peacemakers do good as far and to as many as possible.
5. They do good to the full extent of their power to the bodies of all people.
6. They rejoice even more if they can do good to the souls of people.
7. Blessed are they who continually are employed in the work of faith and the labor of love.

III. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

1. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
2. All who live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution.
3. They are persecuted for righteousness sake.
4. They are persecuted by those who don’t know God.
5. Persecution is a medicine to heal grievous backsliding of God’s people.
6. It is rare that persucution leads to death, but it can be expected to lead to loss of your job or friendship.
7. This comes to everyone: people revile and persecute you and say evil against you for Jesus’s sake.
8. The scandal of the cross is not yet ceased.
9. We ought not knowingly bring persecution on ourselves.
10. But also don’t think you can wholly avoid it.
11. Rejoice when persecuted because it unites you to Christ and the saints.
12. Do not let persecution turn you out of the way of meekness and love.
13. Teaching on loving enemies and praying for them. Pray for those who persecute you.

IV. Behold Christianity in its native form, as delivered by its great author!


Resources:

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

Check out my brief summaries of the first seventeen 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

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

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.