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John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 25th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings (sorry I’m a bit late today). 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 Tenth” is the 25th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 10th 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 Tenth.” 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: 

‘This is the law and the prophets.’ Whatsoever is written in that law which God of old revealed to mankind, and whatsoever precepts God has given by ‘his holy prophets which have been since the world began’, they are all summed up in these few words, they are all contained in this short direction. And this, rightly understood, comprises the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth. [23]


One sentence summary:  

Jesus warns against several of the main hindrances of Christianity (such as judging others and casting pearls before swine) and concludes with the Golden Rule.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent?

If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

– Matthew 7:1-12


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

1. In Matthew 7:1-12 Jesus identifies the main hindrances to Christianity and ends with application.
2. In Matthew 5, Jesus described inward religion, “the dispositions of the soul which constitute real Christianity.” In Matthew 6, Jesus shows “how all our actions… may be made holy… by a pure and holy intention.”
3. In the beginnings of Matthew 7, Jesus identifies “the most common and most fatal hindrances of this holiness.”
4. The first hindrance is judging.
5. This caution is needed at every stage of the Christian life.
6. This caution is for non-Christians as well as Christians.
7. Jesus especially cautions non-Christians against judging hypocrisy in Christians.
8. Judging is not only speaking evil of someone, it is also thinking evil of another.
9. “The thinking of another in a manner that is contrary to love is that judging which is here condemned.”
10. “We may not only fall into the sin of judging by condemning the innocent, but also… by condemning the guilty in a higher degree than he deserves.”
11. Judging shows a lack of love “which never draws an unjust or unkind conclusion from any premises.”
12. Another snare to be avoided is condemning a person where there is insufficient evidence.
13. Christians should hesitate to immediately believe a person’s self-accusation.
14. The problem of judging others would be largely solved if we consistently applied Matthew 18:15-17.
15. Once you have addressed the problem of judging others, still be careful you are not too quick to help that you “cast your pearls before swine.”
16. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.”
17. Be “very unwilling” to make this determination, but once it is clear someone is proud of their shame and separation from the will of God, do not cast your pearls before them.
18. And yet even if all your attempts to persuade someone fail, there is still prayer.
19. “It is in compassion to the hardness of our hearts, so unready to believe the goodness of God, that our Lord is pleased to enlarge upon this head, and to repeat and confirm what he hath spoken.”
20. God is ready and willing to give good gifts to all who ask.
21. “But that your prayer may have its full weight with God, see that ye be in charity with all men.”
22. The golden rule is recognized well beyond Christianity.
23. This summarizes “the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth.”
24. This can be understood positively (do to others what you would want them to do to you) or negatively (do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you).
25. “It is clear to every man’s own conscience, we would not that others should judge us, should causelessly or lightly think evil of us.”
26. “Let us love and honor all men. Let justice, mercy, and truth govern all our minds and actions.”
27. “This is pure and genuine morality.”


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth” 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

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

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.