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John Wesley on Differences of
Opinion Among Christians
If there [is] a difference of
opinion, where is our religion, if we cannot think and let think?
-John Wesley, “The Lord Our Righteousness,” preached at the Chapel in
West-Street, Seven Dials, Sunday, November 24, 1765.
From the "Preface" to
Sermons On Several Occasions,
1872 Reprint of the 1771 edition of the Sermons
But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, although I take it upon
myself to teach others. It is probable many will think this, and it is very
possible that I have. But I trust, whereinsoever I have mistaken, my mind is
open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God
and man, "What I know not, teach thou me!"
Are you persuaded that you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely
that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon
a change of circumstances. Point out to me a better way than I have yet
known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the
path I have accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it,
labour with me a little; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to
bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to
quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not
be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard
names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much
in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me
run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way
Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be
small hopes of finding the truth. If once anger arises, [aute kapnos],
(as Homer somewhere expresses it,) this smoke will so dim the eyes of my
soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God’s sake, if it be
possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not
kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame.
If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be a loss
rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be
preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge
of many truths, and yet be carried into Abraham’s bosom. But if we die
without love, what will knowledge avail? Just as much as it avails the devil
and his angels!
The God of love forbid that we should ever make the trial. May he prepare
us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts with all his love,
and with all joy and peace in believing!
[Note: No copyright
claim is made for the original text of this article by John Wesley.
However, all other information contained on this page is copyrighted,
2018 by Dennis
Bratcher and CRI/Voice, Institute.]
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