Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 11th, 2016 by Joel Watts

Sermon 36 and… did Wesley steal from St. Ignatius of Antioch?

Outler (p277), in his anthology of Wesley’s sermons, notes that Sermon 36 has some at least one remarkable connection to The Epistle to the Ephesians, by St. Ignatius of Antioch. He refers to 14.1, but if you examine the whole of Sermon 36, you’ll note some other connections.

In St. Ignatius’s letter we read,

None of these things is hid from you, if you perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sins; nor does he that possesses love hate anyone. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.

You get the general sense that chapter 14 neatly sums of Wesley’s thesis. More, however, are mentions of the tree. Wesley does so in I.3:

Inasmuch as all the fruit, every word and work, must be only evil continually, if the tree be evil, if the dispositions and tempers of the heart be not right before God; — but likewise because as important as these things are, they are little considered or understood

Anyway, I think that Fr. John used St. Ignatius here. We do know that Wesley admired St. Ignatius,

“This work of God in the soul of man is so described in the following treatise, as I have not seen it in any other, either ancient or modern, in our own or any other language; so that I cannot but value it, next to the holy Scripture, above any other human composition, except only the ‘Christian’s Pattern,’ and the small remains of Clemens Romanus, Polycarp, and Ignatius.”1

In Sermon 132, Wesley notes,

This is the religion of the primitive Church, of the whole Church in the purest ages. It is clearly expressed, even in the small remains of Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, and Polycarp; it is seen more at large in the writings of Tertullian, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Cyprian; and, even in the fourth century, it was found in the works of Chrysostom, Basil, Ephrem Syrus, and Macarius. It would be easy to produce “a cloud of witnesses,” testifying the same thing; were not this a point which no one will contest, who has the least acquaintance with Christian antiquity.

Anyway, I wonder if we could trace other traces of these ancient fathers in Wesley’s works?

  1.  L. Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley (vol. 1; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1870), 288.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

8 Responses to “Sermon 36 and… did Wesley steal from St. Ignatius of Antioch?”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    While footnoting and citing sources has been around since at least the Renaissance, I’m not sure the concept penetrated theology until later.

    After all, if the source of all divine revelation is divine, then human penmanship is irrelevant. It would be like Michelangelo signing The Last Judgment on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

    Furthermore, rewrites may have been seen as the ultimate compliment to both God and man. It was a way of saying these ideas are worth preserving.

    • I think that’s fairly correct. I would also add that Wesley, in a sermon may not have thought it expedient to suggest to his very protestant audience, that they look at a very Catholic writer

      • Know More Than I Should says

        Several decades ago, while perusing some of Luther’s works and 17th century English Protestant texts, I discovered they were remarkably similar to Catholic ideology.

        Now, speaking of Wesley, here’s a trivia question:

        Other than being white, male, married, famous, and Christian, what do John Wesley, Charles Taze Russell, Herbert W. Armstrong, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell have in common?

        • Ministers? Although I doubt that is the answer. Founders of denominations? Preachers? I bet it is something more obscure.

          • Btw, just as a note for iPhone users…been having trouble with the latest software upgrade…wifi tends to stall. Saw that disabling JavaScript solved problem, and makes browsing much faster. Yet, you can’t comment, at least here, without JavaScript enabled. Very strange behavior.

          • Know more Than I Should says

            I’m sorry, I couldn’t enumerate all the potential exclusions.

            While the answer is obscure, primary because pomposity seldom admits failure, it is nonetheless fascinating.

            All of the above named famous names were technically false prophets. Each predicted the end of the world at a time that has passed.

          • Fellow sufferers of AD. Apocalyptic Dysfunction.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Thoroughly appropriate.

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