Stripped image of John Wesley
Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sermons of John Wesley are a part of the foundational documents of the United Methodist Church. As such, we are required to look to them for guidance. Lately, via media has been criticized, either by people who don’t know much about their Wesleyan heritage or by those who are afraid of the voice of the middle. Yet, when Wesley reached an impasse between two extremes — and that is what we have now, two extremes — he found the middle.

But is it not possible to find a medium between these two extremes? Is there any necessity for us to run either into one or into the other? If we set human laws out of the question, and simply attend to the oracles of God, we may certainly discover a middle path in this important matter In order thereto, let us carefully examine the words of the Apostle above recited. – Sermon 97, On the Obedience to Pastors

But is there any necessity laid upon us of running either into one extreme or the other? May we not steer a middle course?—keep a sufficient distance from that spirit of error and enthusiasm, without denying the gift of God, and giving up the great privilege of his children? Surely we may. In order thereto, let us consider, in the presence and fear of God, – Sermon 10, The Witness of the Spirit, Discourse 1.

This image of existing between error and enthusiasm is found in more of Wesley’s sermons,

Above all, they come with an appearance of love. They take all these pains, only for your good. They should not trouble themselves about you, but that they have a kindness for you. They will make large professions of their good-will, of their concern for the danger you are in, and of their earnest desire to preserve you from error, from being entangled in new and mischievous doctrines. They should be very sorry to see one who means so well, hurried into any extreme, perplexed with strange and unintelligible notions, or deluded into enthusiasm. Therefore it is that they advise you to keep still, in the plain middle way; and to beware of “being righteous overmuch,” lest you should “destroy yourself.” – Sermon 32

In sermon 83, Wesley considers the middle way as suffering with God, allowing him to work. Here, it is neither “holigorountes, despising our sufferings, making little of them, passing over them lightly, as if they were owing to chance, or second causes; nor, on the other hand, ekloumenoi, affected too much, unnerved, dissolved, sinking under them.” His fear was always the Christian rushing between two extremes — sin and self-righteousness. Perhaps this is why he said schism can only come if he was forced to either omit something found in Scripture or add to. In suffering for the Gospel’s sake, Wesley wouldn’t allow schism because of wounds, pains, and hurt — only if the Church of England forced him to withdraw from preaching the full Gospel.

I note Wesley was even favorable of the middle when it came to Scripture.

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