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?
- L. Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley (vol. 1; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1870), 288. ↩