This is the 28th sermon in this series. I have been publishing one sermon each Tuesday. 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 Thirteenth” is the 28th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 13th 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 Thirteenth.” 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.
I am, secondly, to show the wisdom of him that doth them, that ‘buildeth his house upon a rock.’ He indeed is wise who ‘doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ He is truly wise whose ‘righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.’ He is poor in spirit; knowing himself even as also he is known. He sees and feels all his sin, and all his guilt, till it is washed away by the atoning blood. He is conscious of his lost estate, of the wrath of God abiding on him, and of his utter inability to help himself till he is filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. He is meek and gentle, patient toward all men, never ‘returning evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing’; till he overcomes evil with good. His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He has bowels of love for all mankind, and is ready to lay down his life for his enemies. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind and soul and strength. He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who in this spirit doth good unto all men; and who, being for this cause despised and rejected of men, being hated, reproached, and persecuted, ‘rejoices and is exceeding glad,’ knowing in whom he hath believed; and being assured these light, momentary afflictions will ‘work out for him an eternal weight of glory.’ [II.1]
One sentence summary:
This sermon outlines the difference between building a house on sand or on rock in following Jesus.
Scripture passage for the sermon:
“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock;
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.
And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand;
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
– Matthew 7:21-27
Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth”
1. Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount with these words, “setting his seal to his prophecy, and impressing his whole authority on what he had delivered, that it might stand firm to all generations.”
2. There is no other way than the way outlined by Jesus.
3. This sermon will, first, “consider the case of him who builds his house upon the sand; secondly, to show the wisdom of him who builds upon a rock; and thirdly, to conclude with a practical application.”
I.The case of the one who builds a house upon the sand.
1. Wesley emphasizes the serious consequences of building upon sand, regardless of good intentions or good works.
2. Doing no harm also does not guarantee that you will enter the kingdom of heaven.
3. Doing good works does not guarantee that you will enter the kingdom of heaven.
4. “If any man marvels at this, let him acknowledge he is a stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ; and in particular to the perfect portraiture thereof which he has set before us in this discourse.”
5. None will enter the kingdom of God unless they have this kingdom within them. Jesus reemphasizes this in this passage.
6. Those who “rest in anything short of that religion” which Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount built their house on sand.
II. The wisdom of the one who builds a house upon rock.
1. “He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who in this spirit doth good unto all men; and who, being for this cause despised and rejected of men, being hated, reproached, and persecuted, ‘rejoices and is exceeding glad,’ knowing in whom he hath believed; and being assured these light, momentary afflictions will ‘work out for him an eternal weight of glory.'”
2. The wise person knows her true state before God and she knows the way to the kingdom of heaven: “even now to know, to love, to imitate God, and to believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”
3. It is wise to build upon the rock, which is Jesus Christ himself.
4. This does not mean the Christian is done with trials or temptation. “It still remains for God to prove the grace he hath given: he shall be tried as gold in the fire.”
III. Practical Application
1. Do not mistake things that help one grow in holiness (such as right doctrine or an excellent church) with holiness itself.
2. Avoiding harm is necessary but not sufficient. “When all this harmlessness flows from a right principles it is the least part of the religion of Christ. But in you it does not flow from a right principle, and therefore is no part at all of religion.”
3. Attending all the ordinances of God is important, but still not sufficient. “Faith, mercy, and love of God; holiness of heart; heaven opened in the soul” are essential.
4. Do not rely on your good works. “Learn to hang naked upon the cross of Christ, counting all thou hast done but dung and dross.”
5. Real faith produces inward and outward holiness. “That faith which hath not works, which doth not produce both inward and outward holiness, which does not stamp the whole image of God on the heart, and purify us as he is pure; that faith which does not produce the whole of the religion described in the foregoing chapters, is not the faith of the gospel, not the Christian faith, not the faith which leads to glory.”
6. “Now, therefore, build thou upon a rock. By the grace of God, know thyself.”
7. “Now weep for your sins, and mourn after God till he turns your heaviness into joy.”
8. “Learn in every state wherein you are, therewith to be content… Be angry at sin, as an affront offered to the majesty of heaven; but love the sinner still.”
9. Hunger and thirst for eternal things, not things that perish.
10. “Now, seeing thou canst do all things through Christ strengthening thee, be merciful as thy Father in heaven is merciful. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Love friends and enemies as thy own soul. And let thy love be long-suffering, and patient towards all men.”
11. “Now be thou ‘pure in heart’; purified through faith from every unholy affection, ‘cleansing thyself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God.'”
12. “In a word: let thy religion be the religion of the heart… And as sure as thou now walkest with God on earth, thou shalt also reign with him in glory.”
Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth” in its entirety.
Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-seven Standard Sermons:
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.