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John Wesley (1703-1791). Though John Wesley, the father of Methodism, was born into in a pious home, received much instruction in personal godliness, made every attempt to live an exemplary life, and was ordained to the ministry by the age of 22, he did not experience conversion and assurance until his mid-30's.  Soon afterwards, he joined his brother Charles, along with the evangelist George Whitefield, in open air evangelism, and from that time forth, he tirelessly preached the Christ of his own experience, and by the time of his death at age 88, had had traveled 250,000 miles on horseback, preached 42,000 sermons, and written over 200 books. Though he remained a member of the Anglican Church his entire life, he was forced out of many pulpits in England because of his strong preaching, and upon his death in 1791, the number of "Methodists" (Wesley’s new denomination named for their methodical procedure in meeting, study, prayer, and weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper), was estimated at over 100,000.  Most religious and even secular historians agree that Wesley's influence during the revivals of the 18th century in general, and on the public morals of the British Isles in particular, was profound. Though he was not favorable toward the Reformed doctrines of election and predestination, to the point of often straining his friendship with Whitefield, Wesley’s Arminianism differs from that of today in its rejection of antinomianism, and in its strong emphasis on self-examination and holy living.

The Almost-Christian

From A Sermon by John Wesley

What Is In Being Almost A Christian

A. It implies having at the very least the moral standards of the heathen. First it implies heathen honesty such as the common heathens expected one of another, and many of them actually practiced:  not to be unjust; not to take away their neighbor's goods, not to oppress the poor, use extortion, cheat or overreach either the poor or rich, to defraud no man of his right; and, if it were possible, to owe no man anything.  Second, some regard was to be paid to truth and justice, and accordingly, they did not esteem wilful liars of any sort, accounting them the disgrace of human kind, and the pests of society.  Also, there was a sort of love and assistance which they expected one from another. Thus far, in the lowest account of it, heathen honesty went; the first thing implied in the being almost a Christian.

C.  It Implies sincerity. By sincerity I mean, a real, inward principle of religion, from whence these outward actions flow. And, indeed if we have not this, we have not heathen honesty; So that, if a man only abstains from doing evil in order to avoid punishment, to avoid the loss of his friends, or his gain, or his reputation, we could not with any propriety say, this man is even almost a Christian. If he has no better principle in his heart, he is only a hypocrite altogether.  Sincerity, therefore, is necessarily implied in the being almost a Christian; a real design to serve God, a hearty desire to do his will.

What Is In Being Altogether A Christian

C.  Last is the ground of all, even faith.

1.  There is simple faith.  Very excellent things are spoken of this throughout the oracles of God. "Every one," saith the beloved disciple, "that believeth is born of God." "To as many as received him, gave he power to become the sons of God. even to them that believe on his name." And "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Yea, our Lord himself declares, "He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and cometh not into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life."

2. There is faith unto repentance.  Here let no man deceive his own soul. "It is diligently to be noted, the faith which bringeth not forth repentance, and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith, but a dead and devilish one. For, even the devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin: that he wrought all kinds of miracles, declaring himself very God: that, for our sakes, he suffered a most painful death, to redeem us from death everlasting; that he rose again the third day: that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father and at the end of the world shall come again to judge both the quick and dead. These articles of our faith the devils believe, and so they believe all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet for all this faith, they be but devils. They remain still in their damnable estate lacking the very true Christian faith." [Homily on the Salvation of Man.] 

3. There is "purifying faith."  Now, whosoever has this faith, which "purifies the heart" (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein) from "pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness" from "all filthiness of flesh and spirit." It is a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that, by the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; whereof doth follow a loving heart, to obey his commandments."  Such love is stronger than death, both to God and to all mankind; love that doeth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict,-whosoever has this faith thus working by love is not almost only, but altogether, a Christian.


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