John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 24th 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 Ninth” is the 24th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 9th 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 Ninth.” 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: 

To ‘serve mammon’ is, lastly, to obey the world, by outwardly conforming to its maxims and customs; to walk as other men walk, in the common road, in the broad, smooth, beaten path; to be in the fashion; to follow a multitude; to do like the rest of our neighbors; that is, to do the will of the flesh and the mind, to gratify our appetites and inclinations – to sacrifice to ourselves, to aim at our own ease and pleasure in the general course both of our words and actions.

Now what can be more undeniably clear than that we ‘cannot’ thus ‘serve God and mammon’?

Does not every man see that he cannot comfortably serve both? That to trim between God and the world is the sure way to be disappointed in both, and to have no rest either in one or the other? How uncomfortable a condition must he be in, who, having the fear but not the love of God, who, serving him, but not with all his heart, has only the toils and not the joys of religion! He has religion enough to make him miserable, but not enough to make him happy: his religion will not let him enjoy the world, and the world will not let him enjoy God. So that by halting between both he loses both, and has no peace either in God or the world. [11-12]


One sentence summary:  

You cannot serve God and mammon.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek); for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But first seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

– Matthew 6: 24-34


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

1. Many Christians fear God and perform outward service to the Lord, but they also serve mammon.
2. You cannot serve two masters.
3. You cannot serve God and mammon.
4. In order to serve God, we must first trust God.
5. In order to serve God, we must second love God, to “desire God alone for his own sake.”
6. In order to serve God, we must third resemble or imitate him.”
7. In order to serve God, we must obey God and keep his outward commandments.
8. Serving mammon means trusting in wealth and the things we buy with it.
9. Serving mammon means, secondly, loving the world, “desiring it for its own sake.”
10. Third, serving mammon means resembling or being conformed to the world.
11. Fourth, serving mammon means “to obey the world, by outwardly conforming to its maxims and customs.”
12. You cannot comfortably serve both God and mammon, “to trim between God and the world is the sure way to be disappointed in both, and to have no rest either in one or the other.”
13. You cannot serve both and be consistent with yourself.
14. You cannot serve both God and mammon because “there is the most absolute contrariety, and the most irreconcilable enmity, between them.”
15. “Therefore, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
16. This is not to say that God requires that we give no thought whatsoever to the concerns of this life.
17. What is condemned is “the anxious, uneasy care; the care that hath torment; all such care as does hurt, either to the soul or body.”
18. Trust God to provide for your basic needs.
19. God knows your needs and will provide for them if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
20. “Let God have the sole dominion over you. Let him reign without a rival. Let him possess all your heart, and rule alone. Let him be your one desire, your joy, your love; so that all that is within you may continually cry out, ‘The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.'”
21. An interpretation of Romans 10 based on this logic.
22. Connection to Philippians 3.
23. God knows everything you need and will not fail to give you what you need.
24. Don’t worry about tomorrow.
25. “Above all, do not make the care of future things a pretense for neglecting present duty.”
26. Do not fail to do what good you can do today because you are worried about what might happen in the distant future.
27. Do not worry about possible temptations you might face tomorrow. “In every situation the grace of God will be sufficient for you.”
28. Think of tomorrow when it comes. Live today.
29. “Gladly suffer today, for his name’s sake, whatsoever he permits this day to come upon thee. But look not at the sufferings of tomorrow.”


Resources:

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

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-three 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.