John Wesley on why Christianity fails

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
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From one of his sermons:

Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Jeremiah 8:22

1. This question, as here proposed by the Prophet, relates only to a particular people, — the children of Israel. But I would here consider it in a general sense, with relation to all mankind. I would seriously inquire, Why has Christianity done so little good in the world? Is it not the balm, the outward means, which the great Physician has given to men, to restore their spiritual health? Why then is it not restored? You say, Because of the deep and universal corruption of human nature. Most true; but here is the very difficulty. Was it not intended, by our all-wise and almighty Creator, to be the remedy for that corruption? A universal remedy, for a universal evil? But it has not answered this intention it never did; it does not answer it at this day. The disease still remains in its full strength: Wickedness of every kind; vice, inward and outward, in all its forms, still overspreads the face of the earth.


But why is it that so little advantage is derived from it to the Christian world? Are Christians any better than other men? Are they better than Mahometans or Heathens? To say the truth, it is well if they are not worse; worse than either Mahometans or Heathens. In many respects they are abundantly worse; but then they are not properly Christians. The generality of these, though they hear the Christian name, do not know what Christianity is.


Now, whatever doctrine is preached, where there is not discipline, it cannot have its full effect upon the hearers.


To bring the matter closer still. Is not scriptural Christianity preached and generally known among the people commonly called Methodists? Impartial persons allow it is. And have they not Christian discipline too, in all the essential branches of it, regularly and constantly exercised? Let those who think any essential part of it is wanting, point it out, and it shall not be wanting long. Why then are not these altogether Christians, who have both Christian doctrine and Christian discipline? Why is not the spiritual health of the people called Methodists recovered?

Read the entire sermon. For Wesley, it is about Christian discipline and doctrine, which seemed to be found only in the Methodists… Surely he is not saying what I think he is saying…

Anyway, but what he is really saying is that many Christians, the world over, do not allow Christianity to work because while they bear the name, they are ignorant of anything actually Christian. I don’t know if he was correct then, but I contend that he is assuredly correct today. Medicine is only useful if you use it properly. Having it on the shelf will allow the sore to fester. To use it incorrectly may lead to something much worse.

Preach it Brother John!

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One Reply to “John Wesley on why Christianity fails”

  1. Let those who think any essential part of it is wanting, point it out, and it shall not be wanting long.

    It is a curious read – I seem to hear some of the authoritarianism I grew up with in this sentence. Such authoritarianism had no authority in itself but did not realize that and used power and violence in repairing what it pointed out as wanting in others.

    Too bad – they were so right they were wrong. Christians bear a title (Christ is not a name) that they do not understand and never will. The Anointing Spirit, the Christ of God, is known to those who find this mysterious obedience of faith. Such an engagement is given by grace to Israel, is know by the same gift among the Gentiles and is ‘in’ the tradition of church but not necessarily in its doctrine. What is done among the Caananites is done among those who are called by this title Christian when they force themselves upon others to make up what they see is lacking in them. Even correct doctrine can be forced – such is not of Christ. If the Lord, the Spirit were to use force, nothing would stand in that Presence.

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