I found a statement that caused me to pause:
This grave danger was noticed by John Wesley, since he promised never again to use intentionally the term ‘imputed righteousness,’ when once he found ‘the immense hurt which the frequent use of this unnecessary phrase had done’ (Melville Scott, Crux Crucis, p. 94).
Wow. Imagine that. Wesley is willing to forgo one of the key phrases held so tightly by the Reformed so as to not harm others.
I am directed to this sermon (Sermon 20; Remember, sermons are part of the official doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church):
But, blessed be God, we are not among those who are so dark in their conceptions and expressions. We no more deny the phrase than the thing; but we are unwilling to obtrude it on other men. Let them use either this or such other expressions as they judge to be more exactly scriptural, provided their heart rests only on what Christ hath done and suffered, for pardon, grace, and glory. I cannot express this better than in Mr. Hervey’s words, worthy to be wrote in letters of gold: “We are not solicitous as to any particular set of phrases. Only let men be humbled as repenting criminals at Christ’s feet, let them rely as devoted pensioners on his merits and they are undoubtedly in the way to a blessed immortality.”
Is there any need, is there any possibility, of saying more? Let us only abide by this declaration, and all the contention about this or that “particular phrase” is torn up by the roots. Keep to this,—“All who are humbled as repenting criminals at Christ’s feet, and rely as devoted pensioners on his merits, are in the way to a blessed immortality;” And what room for dispute? Who denies this? Do we not all meet on this ground? What then shall we wrangle about? A man of peace here proposes terms of accommodation to all the contending parties. We desire no better: We accept of the terms: We subscribe to them with heart and hand. Whoever refuses so to do, set a mark upon that man! He is an enemy of peace, and a troubler of Israel, a disturber of the Church of God.
Now, let us ask ourselves as to why John Wesley would forgo the use of the term and offer repentance for using it? Perhaps it is because he felt that the hurt feelings of others would drive them from the church, and thereby lose membership, church staff, and a denomination. Perhaps, I guess, Wesley could simply never want to offer offense. Both of those sound exactly like the John Wesley I know about — along with Jesus, St. Paul, the bevy of saints and martyrs, and even Pope Francis.
Except… not really.
Rather, Wesley was worried about the wounds not to the psyche or the emotional well-being, but to the soul. What troubles him with this phrase was the abuse of it by Christians who chose to use it to remain nominal:
Men who scruple to use, men who never heard, the expression, may yet “be humbled, as repenting criminals at his feet, and rely as devoted pensioners on his merits.” But it has done immense hurt. I have had abundant proof, that the frequent use of this unnecessary phrase, instead of “furthering men’s progress in vital holiness,” has made them satisfied without any holiness at all; yea, and encouraged them to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Imagine that… people using Christian-speak in a way to remain satisfied in their current state. That, according to Wesley, was the real harm, that we were satisfied without holiness of heart and hands, that we had corrupted the intent and instead used it as a salve to prevent us from being healed by God.
Yes, Wesley chose to not use that phrase because of the harm it inflicted, but the harm he was focused on was not on the feelings of the person, but against the Church’s mission and the soul of the individual.