Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wesley Wednesday: A Charles & John Combination

 As I was singing my way through "Wesley Hymns" (Lillenas Publishing), I came upon the following hymn from Charles Wesley, as well as the quote by John.  They provide an important reminded that we keep our priorities in their proper order.


O my all-sufficient God,
Thou know'st my heart's desire;
Be this only thing bestowed;
I nothing else require,
Nothing else in earth or skies,
Not through all eternity;
Heav'n itself could not suffice:
I seek not Thine, but Thee.

One design you are to pursue to the end of time, the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this; love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought, and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever you desire or fear, whatever you seek or shun, whatever you think, speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being (from John Wesley's A PLAIN ACCOUNT OF CHRISTIAN PERFECTION).

Friday, March 1, 2024

The 2024 Annual Report of the Board of General Superintendents

 The 100th session of the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene recently concluded their annual meeting in Overland Park, Kansas.  During the meeting the Rev'd. Dr. Fili Chambo, General Superintendent, delivered the annual report on behalf of the Board of General Superintendents.  Bishop Chambo's report can be viewed, here.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Wesley Wednesday: A Timely Word

Once again Facebook reminded me of a great Wesley quote.  This time from two years ago.  How timely this quote seems to be for the Church.  It comes from Sermon 90: "An Israelite Indeed."

This then is real, genuine, solid virtue.  Not truth alone, nor conformity to truth.  This is a property of real virtue, not the essence of it.  Not love alone, though this comes nearer the mark; for 'love' in one sense 'is the fulfilling of the law'.  No: truth and love united together are the essence of virtue or holiness.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Wesley Wednesday: From Sermon 9

 Today, my Facebook feed drew my attention back to two posts I made one year ago.  Both of the posts came from John Wesley's Sermon 9: "The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption."  These two quotes will
serve as today's Wesley Wednesday quotes:

How lively a portraiture is this [Romans 7] of one "under the law"!  One who feels the burden he cannot shake off; who pants after liberty, power, and love, but is in fear and bondage still!  Until the time that God answers the wretched man crying out, "Who shall deliver me" from this bondage of sin, from this body of death?  -  "The grace of God, through Jesus Christ thy Lord."

And, of the "natural man" who is in a state of spiritual sleep, John Wesley says:
Why is it that he is in no dread of God?  Because he is totally ignorant of him: . . . saying, "God is merciful;" confounding and swallowing up at once in that unwieldy idea of mercy all his holiness and essential hatred of sin, all his justice, wisdom, and truth. . . . Or he fancies . . . that Christ came to . . . save his people IN, not FROM their sins, to bring them to heaven without holiness . . .

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: A False Dichotomy, December 20, 2023

 John Wesley relayed the following account in his Journal on January 1, 1739:

Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles were present at our love feast in Fetter Lane, with about sixty of our brethren.  About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground.  As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, "We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord!"

It is unfortunate that some people present a false dichotomy between the freedom and spontaneity expressed in the power of the Holy Spirit and the formal liturgy of the Church.  They pit "revivalism" over against "sacramentalism" and "formalism."  It is even more unfortunate when those within the Wesleyan camp do this.

John Wesley, on the other hand, held all of this together.  He was committed to extemporaneous prayer and to the written prayers of the Church.  He gathered for extemporaneous prayer meetings and for the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  He was committed to God at work through the revival and through the sacraments.  For him, the Methodist Society Meetings were essential, and so was the corporate worship of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.  

Further, the above excerpt of Wesley's Journal is an example of these complimentary commitments.  In the quote, one finds a love feast and apparent spontaneous prayer, along with the manifest power of God in their midst.  What is interesting is the response of those Anglicans.  With one voice they declared, "We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord!"  -  This is a quote of the Te Deum Laudamus, a prayer from the 4th Century.  It was known to those faithful Anglicans, because it was a regular response to the Old Testament lesson during the Daily Office of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.

Wesleyan Christians, particularly those from the Holiness and free church branches of Wesleyanism would do well to embrace those forms of worship that helped to shaped John Wesley's faith, as well as the development of his understanding of holiness of heart and life.  They are not opposed to life in the Spirit.  They are vital conduits of such spiritual life.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: Wesley on Omnipotence and Timelessness of God

 In recent years, the omnipotence of God, as well as God's standing outside of (over and above) time, have been called into question by certain theologians from within the Wesleyan tradition.  In particular, Thomas Jay Oord has denied God's omnipotence and has positioned God within time like all of creation.  -  With that in mind, as I was thumbing my way through Dave Armstrong's The Quotable
those two topics quickly caught my eye.  So, what did John Wesley think about God's omnipotence, and how did Wesley understand God's relationship to time?  -  Let's take a look at a couple of Wesley quotes!

On the subject of God's omnipotence, from Sermon 19, "The Unity of the Divine Being," Wesley says:

And he [God] is omnipotent as well as omnipresent: there can be no more bounds to his power than to his presence.  He "hath a mighty arm: strong is his hand, and high is his right hand."  He doeth whatsoever pleaseth him in the heavens, the earth, the sea, and in all deep places.  With men, we know, many things are impossible; "but not with God: with him all things are possible."  Whensoever he willeth, to do is present with him.

Armstrong cites Wesleyana: A Selection of the Most Important Passages in the Writings of the Late Rev. John Wesley, A.M. for the following Wesley quote on God and time:

The almighty, all-wise God sees and knows, from everlasting to everlasting, all that is, that was, and that is to come, through one eternal now.  With him nothing is either past or future, but all things equally present.  He has, therefore, if we speak according to the truth of things, no foreknowledge, no after-knowledge.  This would be ill-consistent with the apostle's words, "With him is no variableness or shadow of turning," and with the account he gives of himself by the prophet, "I the Lord change not."  Yet when he speaks to us, knowing whereof we are made, knowing the scantiness of our understanding, he lets himself down to our capacity and speaks of himself after the manner of men.  Thus, in condescension to our weakness, he speaks of his own purpose, counsel, plan, foreknowledge.  Not that God has any need of counsel, of purpose, or of planning his work beforehand.  Far be it from us to impute these to the Most High, to measure him by ourselves!  It is merely in compassion to us that he speaks thus of himself as foreknowing the things in heaven or earth and as predestinating or foreordaining them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: Is Sanctification a Process or Instantaneous?

 It is sometimes debated in Wesleyan circles as to whether sanctification is a process or an instantaneous crisis.  John Wesley takes up this very issue in his A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.  Here is
what he says about the subject:

17: Questions and Answers on the Doctrine of Sanctification

    "When does inward sanctification begin?
    "In the moment a man is justified.  (Yet sin remains in him, yea, the seed of all sin, till he is sanctified throughout).  From that time a believer gradually dies to sin, and grows in grace."

19: Thoughts on Christian Perfection

    "Is this death to sin, and renewal in love, gradual or instantaneous?
    "A man may be dying for some time; yet he does not, properly speaking, die, till the soul is separated from the body; and in that instant, he lives the life of eternity.  In like manner, he may be dying to sin for some time; yet he is not dead to sin, till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant, he lives the full life of love.  And as the change undergone, when the body dies, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any we had known before, yea, such as till then, it is impossible to conceive; so the change wrought, when the soul dies to sin, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any before, and than any can conceive, till he experiences it.  Yet he still grows in grace, in the knowledge of Christ, in the love and image of God; and will do so, not only till death, but to all eternity."

25: "Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection"

    "25. But is not this the case of all that are justified?  Do they not gradually die to sin and grow in grace, till at, or perhaps a little before, death, God perfects them in love?
    "I believe this is the case of most, but not all. God usually gives a considerable time for men to receive light, to grow in grace, to do and suffer His will, before they are either justified or sanctified; but He does not invariably adhere to this; sometimes He 'cuts short His work'; He does the work of many years in a few weeks; perhaps in a week, a day, an hour.  He justifies or sanctifies both those who have done or suffered nothing, and who have not had time for a gradual growth either in light or grace.  And 'may He not do what He will with His own?  Is thine eye evil, because He is good?'
    "It need not, therefore, be affirmed over and over, and proved by forty texts of Scripture, either that most men are perfected in love at last, that there is a gradual work of God in the soul, or that, generally speaking, it is a long time, even many ears, before sin is destroyed.  All this we know; but we know likewise, that God may, with man's good leave, 'cut short His work,' in whatever degree He pleases, and do the usual work of many years in a moment.  He does so in many instances; and yet there is a gradual work, both before and after that moment; so that one may affirm the work is gradual; another, it is instantaneous, without any manner of contradiction."

26: Brief Summation of Wesley's Views

    "(10) It [Christian Perfection] is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.
    "(11) But is it in itself instantaneous or not?  In examining this, let us go on step by step.
    "An instantaneous change has been wrought in some believers.  None can deny this.
    "Since that change, they enjoy perfect love; they feel this, and this alone; they 'rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.'  Now this is all that I mean by perfection; therefore, these are witnesses of the perfection which I preach.
    "But in some, this change was not instantaneous.'  They did not perceive the instant when it was wrought.  It is often difficult to perceive the instant when a man dies; yet there is an instant in which life ceases.  And if ever sin ceases, there must be a last moment of its existence, and a first moment of our deliverance from it.


In addition to the quotes, above, Wesley takes up this same issue in his sermon, (54) The Scripture Way of Salvation.  In that sermon he says:

    "18.  'But does God work this great work [of Entire Sanctification / Christian Perfection] in the soul gradually or instantaneously?'  Perhaps it may be gradually wrought in some.  I mean in this sense - they do not advert to the particular moment wherein sin ceases to be.  But it is infinitely desirable, were it the will of God, that it should be done instantaneously; that the Lord should destroy sin 'by the breath of his mouth' in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  And so he generally does, a plain fact of which there is evidence enough to satisfy any unprejudiced person.  Thou therefore look for it every moment.  Look for it in the way above described; in all those 'good works' whereunto thou art 'created anew in Christ Jesus'.  . . . Look for it then every day, every hour, every moment.  Why not this hour, this moment?  Certainly you may look for it now, if you believe it is by faith.  And by this token may you surely know whether you seek it by faith or by works.  If by works, you want something to be done first, before you are sanctified.  You think, 'I must first be or do thus or thus.'  Then you are seeking it by works unto this day.  If you seek it by faith, you may expect it as you are: and if as you are, then expect it now.  It is of importance to observe that there is an inseparable connection between these three points - expect it by faith, expect it as you are, and expect it now!  . . .


From the above quotes, it should be clear that, for Wesley, sanctification includes both, a process and an instantaneous crisis moment.  It seems that the issue that many stumble over is a lack of clear distinction between the larger process of sanctification and the more specific moment (instantaneous crisis) of entire sanctification, which takes place within that larger process.  It has been the case that many within the Holiness tradition, the larger Wesleyan/Methodist tradition, and John Wesley, himself, have fallen into the trap of failing to be precise in their language.  Very often "sanctification" (without any qualification) is used when specifically meaning "entire sanctification."  Nevertheless, for Wesley, sanctification is a process in which the crisis moment of entire sanctification takes place.  And, indeed, God may "cut short" the process that leads up to entire sanctification when we seek it by faith.  Further, even after the experience of entire sanctification, we continue to grow in grace.  -  Thanks be to God for His sanctifying grace!

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Commemoration of Phineas F. Bresee


Phineas F. Bresee

Today is the commemoration (or "Feast Day") of Phineas F. Bresee, principal founder of the Church of the Nazarene.  As a means of celebration, I have re-printed the hagiography for Bresee which was published in For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations, Second Edition.  The book was 
published by the Order of Saint Luke and edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson.  I was privileged to have written the following piece on Bresee (the prayer was written by Daniel Taylor Benedict, Jr.):

Phineas Franklin Bresee was born to Phineas and Susan Brown Bresee in Franklin, NY, on December 31, 1838.  At 16, Bresee experienced his own "warmed heart" through a personal faith in Christ.  Soon thereafter, he sensed a call to ministry and was granted a Methodist exhorter's license.  He was ordained a deacon in 1859 and an elder two years later.(301)

In 1867, in Chariton, Iowa, Bresee "entered into the blessing of entire sanctification."(302)  Bresee had been struggling with doubt.  The altar call after his sermon that night produced only one seeker; Bresee, himself.  ". . . [A]s I cried to [the Lord] that night, he seemed to open heaven on me, and gave me . . . the baptism with the Holy Ghost . . . it not only took away my tendencies to worldliness, anger and pride, but it also removed the doubt."(303)  That experience of Christian Perfection would have a huge impact on Breese's ministry.

Bresee served rural charges, and then large, urban churches in Iowa(304) and, after 1883, Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA.  He was appointed presiding elder in West Des Moines (1864)(305) and in Los Angeles.(306)  Further, Bresee served as a delegate to multiple General Conferences.(307)

Me, behind Bresee's pulpit with
my Bresee bobble head
 Education was important to Bresee, as was seen by his serving on the board of Simpson College(308) and the University of Southern California.(309)  Later, Bresee became the president of Pacific Bible College (now Point Loma Nazarene University).(310)

By the mid-1890's, Bresee's commitment to the message of holiness led to his role as vice president of the National Holiness Association (NHA).  The experience of holiness also brought a passion for the poor.  The Church's first miracle after baptism with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was upon a beggar, and so, Bresee reasoned, the priority of a Holy Ghost-baptized church ought to be the poor.(311)  This passion led him to withdraw from the MEC's appointive system in 1894 to serve with the Peniel Mission.  However, while away, preaching for the NHA, Bresee was ousted from the Mission.  He was now left without the Mission or a MEC appointment.(312)

Thus, at the request of a number of southern California's Holiness people, the Church of the Nazarene was organized on October 20, 1895 as a "Christian work, especially evangelistic and city mission work, and the spreading of the doctrine and experience of Christian holiness."(313)  Bresee was the general superintendent of a growing holiness denomination.  A series of mergers with other regional holiness groups established the church as a national denomination in 1908 at Pilot Point, TX.(314)

Bresee served as the denomination's senior general superintendent until his death on November 13, 1915.  He left behind his wife, Maria, six children, and what would become the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Holiness wing of Methodism.

Common Prayer for Pastors, Bishops and Abbatial Leaders

Gracious God, our Shepherd, we thank you for raising up Phineas Bresee as bishop and pastor in your church.  Remembering his faithfulness and care, fill all shepherds of your church with truth in doctrine, fidelity in Word and Sacrament, and boldness and vision in leading the people, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
301 Ingersol, Stan. Nazarene Roots: Pastors, Prophets, Revivalists & Reformers. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 2009. p. 87-88.

302 Bangs, Carl. Phineas F. Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement, and the Church of the Nazarene. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 1995. p. 71-73, 77.

303 Girvin, E.A. Phineas F. Bresee: A Prince in Israel. Kansas City, MO. Nazarene Publishing House. 1916. p. 50-52.

304 Ingersol. p. 88.

305 Kostlevy, William C., Ed. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement. Lanham, Maryland, and London. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 28-29.

306 Bangs. p. 286.

307 Ingersol. p. 88-89.

308 Ibid. p. 88.

309 Kostlevy. p. 29.

310 Ingersol. p. 91

311 Ibid. p. 88-89.

312 Kostlevy. p. 29.

313 Bangs. p. 195-196.

314 Kostlevy. p. 29.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

John Wesley and the Reformation

Today is Reformation Day.  It is the day when Protestant Christians, and most especially Lutherans, celebrate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  -  Why did I say, "and most especially Lutherans"?  Because the Protestant reformation begins with a man named Martin Luther!

Now, Martin Luther did not set out to start the Protestant Reformation, or even to start a new church.  He loved the church.  He had every desire to remain faithful to her. Nevertheless, he encountered some very troubling issues within the church.  Again, it was not his desire to leave the church over these issues.  Rather, it was his desire to try to address these issues so that the church might make some corrections; that it might be . . . "reformed."

And so, on All Hallows' Eve (i.e., the eve of All Saints' Day; what we call "Halloween"), in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his "95 Thesis" on the door of the Wittenberg church.  It was an act seeking an academic debate over certain issues in the Church, not a declaration of a split with Rome.  Nevertheless, this act became the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

That was in 1517, but where does the Wesleyan tradition fit?  How are we connected to Luther and the Protestant Reformation? 

Well, there is one direct connection between Wesley and Luther, and it happened on Aldersgate Street, in London, in 1738.  There, while attending a Society meeting, someone was reading aloud from
Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  It was while hearing this read that John Wesley felt his "heart strangely warmed," and an assurance was given him that God had taken away his sins and had saved him from the law of sin and death.  This has been called Wesley's "evangelical conversion."  It is the touchstone for the Wesleyan doctrine of assurance.  -  Certainly, in that regard, we Wesleyans owe quite a debt to Martin Luther.  -  But, how do we relate to Luther's Protestant Reformation?

To answer that question, I have included the following video from Seedbed, by Dr. Larry Wood.  In it, he  explains the place of John Wesley in the Protestant Reformation.

So, as Dr. Wood explains, we Wesleyans do have our place within the Reformation of the Western Church.

Still, in the midst of observing Reformation day, I think it important to hear another perspective.  A perspective that is articulated in one of my favorite quotes from the late Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse, general superintendent emeritus in the Church of the Nazarene.  He says:

"It is time the Church of Jesus Christ overcame the disjunctions created by the 16th-century Reformation.  What is called for is the 'evangelical catholicism' of John Wesley's 'middle way' in which the two historic Christian traditions were synthesized.  In this synthesis the English Reformer not only recovered for the Church a viable doctrine of holiness but also pointed the way to a scriptural view and practice of the sacraments that is both apostolic and catholic."

It must be admitted that the Reformation did result in many disjunctions.  Some of them are painfully present, to this day.  Even among the children of Wesley, when one seeks to recover his commitment to liturgical and sacramental worship, one is often said to be "too Catholic" (i,e., bad!), rather than recognizing that the desire is simply to be thoroughly Wesleyan and thoroughly Christian.  -  Beyond that, in addition to doctrinal differences, there is still much prejudice between Protestant Christians and Roman Catholic Christians. 

Perhaps, as we observe Reformation Day, it would be a good time for those of us who are Wesleyans to re-read Wesley's Letter to a Roman Catholic.  Perhaps it is also time for us to recognize that, while there are certainly still very significant doctrinal disagreements between Protestants and Roman Catholics, nevertheless, the Protestant Reformation did influence changes that came about in the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation.  

Beyond that, it is worth celebrating that the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church developed The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed by representatives of both traditions on October 31, 1999 (the anniversary of Luther's 95 Theses!).  The World Methodist Council was represented at that historic event and brought a letter of congratulations.  On July 23, 2006, another document was signed by the Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Methodists, adding the Official Common Affirmation of the Methodist Statement of Association with the JDDJ to the original document.  That statement was approved unanimously by the World Methodist Council members, including those representing all seven U.S. based denominations.

Perhaps this, too, is a part of the ongoing re-formation that God is working within His Church.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: September 20, 2023

 The following quote comes from a passage in John Wesley's Sermon 43: The Scriptural Way of Salvation:

    I.8. From the time of our being 'born again' the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled 'by the Spirit' to 'mortify the deeds of the body', of our evil nature. And as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God. We go on from grace to grace, while we are careful to 'abstain from all appearance of evil', and are 'zealous of good works', 'as we have opportunity, doing good to all men'; while we walk in all his ordinances blameless, therein worshipping him in spirit and in truth; while we take up our cross and deny ourselves every pleasure that does not lead us to God.

    9.  It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification, for a full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief, or, as the Apostle expresses it, 'Go on to perfection.' But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love 'rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks'.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: August 2, 2023

 It has been a while since I made a Wesley Wednesday post, but with the songs I have been singing during Morning Prayer, I just had to make one, today!  (Of course, the focus is on Charles Wesley this time.)  -  I am still singing my way through the new Our Great Redeemer's Praise hymnal, and I am in the section on the Lord's Supper.  It is one of the strengths of this hymnal that this section presents several Wesley hymns.  

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook the first verse of "This Eucharistic Feast."  -  For those who may have missed it, I will reprint it, as follows:

1. This Eucharistic feast our ev'ry want supplies,
and still we by His death are blest, and share His sacrifice.
By faith His flesh we eat, who here His passion show,
and God out of HIs holy seat shall all His gifts bestow.

Today's singing included the following two Wesley hymns:

Come to the Feast

1. Come to the Feast, for Christ invites
and promises to feed,
'tis here His closest love unites
the members to their Head.
'Tis here He nourishes His own
with Living Bread from heav'n,
and makes Himself to mourners known,
and shows their sins forgiv'n.

2. Still in His instituted ways
He bids us ask the pow'r,
the pard'ning or the hall'wing grace
and wait th'appointed hour.
'Tis not for us to set our God
a time His grace to give,
the benefit whene'er bestowed
we gladly should receive.

3. Who seek redemption through His love,
His love shall them redeem; He came self-emptied from above
that we might live through Him.
Expect we then the quick'ning word
who at His altar bow;
but if it be Thy pleasure, Lord,
O let us find Thee now.

And . . .

Come Holy Ghost, Thine Influence Shed

1. Come, Holy Ghost, Thine influence shed,
and realize the Sign:
Thy life infuse into the bread,
Thy pow'r into the wine.

2. Effectual let the Tokens prove,
and made by heav'nly art,
fit channels to convey Thy love
to ev'ry faithful heart.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Pentecost Sunday

 Tomorrow, the Church around the world will celebrate the culmination of the Great Fifty Days, the conclusion of the Easter season, the outpouring of the promise of the Father, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Church. - John the Baptizer had declared concerning Jesus, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16, NRSV).  Jesus assured the disciples that it would be to their advantage that He would ascend to the Father, because, in doing so, He would send the Holy Spirit (the Advocate/Comforter/Counselor/Helper - parakletos ) to them (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit would teach them everything and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them (14:26), and the Holy Spirit would "prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement (16:8).

Further, Jesus told the apostles, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NRSV).
On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples saw the fulfillment of the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit as told by John the Baptizer and the Lord Jesus, as well as the prophet Joel.  It is that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we enter into by faith and through our baptism, for St. Paul declares, "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . ." (1 Cor. 12:13, NRSV).* 

This holds special meanings for our family, because my daughter, Sarah, was baptized on Pentecost Sunday 28 years ago, and my son, Matthew, was baptized on Pentecost Sunday 24 years ago, when our district superintendent, the Rev'd. Dr. M. V. Scutt, came to our church in Greencastle (IN) on both occasions to baptize our newborn children.
Pentecost is one of the major feast days of the Church, and it should be a great day of celebration for those of us in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. - I recall a conversation several years ago with a pastor from a Presbyterian (USA) congregation. He confessed, he really didn't know what to do with Pentecost. Now, I do not mean to imply that such is the case for all, or even a majority of Presbyterians. I don't know. However, whatever the case for my Presbyterian brother, Nazarenes, whether espousing a 19th century or a classical Wesleyan view (cf. footnote, below) ought to know how to celebrate Pentecost Sunday.
You see, one of the main benefits of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the possibility of having our hearts cleansed of sin. - As the prophet Ezekiel foretold, there was coming a day when God would ". . . sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statures and be careful to observe my ordinances" (Ezek. 36:25-27, NRSV). And St. Peter, referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the gentiles, argued, "And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us" (Acts 15:8-9).
It is this heart cleansing that has been at the heart of the Wesleyan & Methodist movement, and especially so for the Holiness branches of Methodism. It has been referred to by Wesley in connection with the Biblical doctrines of Entire Sanctification and Christian Perfection. In fact, the spread of scriptural holiness throughout the land was the stated purpose of Methodism, first by John Wesley in London in 1733, and then in America, at the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore in 1784 at the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was the commitment to this purpose that gave rise to the 19th century Holiness Movement within Methodism. And Phineas Bresee said of the Church of the Nazarene, that it is ". . . a part of that body of believers raised up to spread sanctified holiness over these lands, and thus that we are a part of that company who are the real successors of John Wesley and the early Methodists" (Nazarene Messenger, July 15, 1909).

And so, we Wesleyan Christians enthusiastically join our sisters and brothers in Christ from around the world to rejoice and give thanks to God on Pentecost Sunday for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we seek to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
*At this point, those within the Holiness movement will recognize that I take my stand with John Wesley, the Church of history, and those in the classical Wesleyan theological tradition, rather than those who are more consistent with 19th century interpretations. Those debates within the Holiness Movement can be seen in The Wesleyan Theological Journal between 1973 and 1982. Mark Quanstrom discusses it in A Century of Holiness Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in the Church of the Nazarene, 1905-2004 (though his bias toward the 19th century view is apparent in his portrayal of members of "The Trevecca Connection").

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: May 3, 2023

Below is one of three sets of "sayings" that I have framed in my study.  The other two include a number of quotes by early Nazarene general superintendents or theologians concerning the Methodist identity of the Church of the Nazarene and a sacramental quote from the late bishop, Dr. William Greathouse.  This being "Wesley Wednesday, the following quote is, of course, from John Wesley.

Methodism, so called, is the old religion, the religion of the Bible, the religion of the primitive church, the religion of the Church of England . . . as appears from all her authentic records, from the uniform tenor of her liturgy, and from numberless passages in her Homilies.  The scriptural primitive religion of love . . . is to be found in her morning and evening service, and in her daily as well as occasional prayers; and the whole of it is beautifully summed up in that one, comprehensive petition, 'Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy holy name.'

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Wesley Wednesday: April 19, 2023

I have missed a few of these Wesley Wednesdays, but today I wanted to post something from a sermon I recently read by Wesley.  It is Sermon 2: The Almost Christian.  In Kenneth Collins and Jason Vickers' The Sermons of John Wesley: A Collection for the Christian Journey, it is placed as number 10 in their arrangement of those sermons.  -  John Wesley says:

(III).7. But who are the living witnesses of these things? I beseech you, brethren, as in the presence of that God before whom 'hell and destruction are without a covering: how much more the hearts of the children of men!' - that each of you would ask his own heart, 'Am I of that number? Do I so far practise justice, mercy, and truth, as even the rules of heathen honesty require? If so, have I the very outside of a Christian? The form of godliness? Do I abstain from evil, from whatsoever is forbidden in the written Word of God? Do I, whatever good my hand findeth to do, do it with my might? Do I seriously use all the ordinances of God at all opportunities? And is all this done with a sincere design and desire to please God in all things?'

In the introductory comments, it is pointed out that Wesley, here, lifts up what would become the three basic counsels of the General Rules: "avoid evil, do good, and employ the means of grace."  -  I have long asserted that the so called Three Simple Rules as expressed by the late bishop Rueben Job, "Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God," is far too simplistic when compared to the actual General Rules.  However, in addition to being far too simplistic, it simply falls short of accuracy.  "Avoid evil" ("whatsoever is forbidden in the written Word of God") includes much more than "do no harm," and ("seriously") "employ the means of grace" ("at all opportunities") puts specific flesh on the bones of "stay in love with God." 

So, if we must "simplify" the General Rules, let's follow Wesley's own example in doing so.