John Wesley on the ‘catholic spirit’

It is very possible, that many good men now also may entertain peculiar opinions; and some of them may be as singular herein as even Jehonadab was. And it is certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding, that several men will be of several minds in religion as well as in common life. So it has been from the beginning of the world, and so it will be “till the restitution of all things.”


Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

Sermon 39 – Catholic Spirit.

I wonder if we could find such fellow believers where we would agree on the essentials – God, God in Christ, Salvation as unmerited gift – and allow for those things which have so previously divided us to actually give their place to those same essentials?

Great sermon by John Wesley. Hope you read it.

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8 Replies to “John Wesley on the ‘catholic spirit’”

  1. I have asked at evening Bible college just how far we go in accepting differences in Christian belief. The answer I got was that, yes, we agree on the major beliefs and accept the differences. I gave the example that Mormons believe in the Trinity etc, but they also believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers. Accepting that different belief is surely going too far.

  2. I have always thought his was the very best of Wesley’s sermons – it is more ecumenically advanced than many Christians today, and for its period, it’s remarkably so. He isn’t saying that doctrinal differences don’t matter, just that they don’t always matter a lot, and seldom matter enough to set Christian against Christian. Pope Benedict, please note – yes, we disagree fundamentally on many things, but I would still happily share communion with you, because we are one in Christ.

  3. Let me paraphrase what John Wesley said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, tolerance or diversity.” If all christians can embrace John Wesley’s tenet, I’m sure the petty divisions among our churches (roman catholic,protestants, evangelical or fundamentalists)will finally be overcome. Let me also suggest that we read the book of Elaine Pagels entitled, “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas.”


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