A Prologue of Wesley and his Bible

This prolong was written by Dr.W.W.Breckbill, one of the founders of the Evangelical Methodist Church. The publication in which it is written is entitled This We Verily Believe, and was printed in 1973. The board of publications of the Evangelical Methodist Church recommended this publication to their Church, and to us, by saying, "We of the Publication Board commend this treatise on Wesley's 25 Articles to all who want to have a better understanding of John Wesley and his Theology. To God be all the glory!" IMARC wants to thank our friends at the Evangelical Methodist Church for giving us permission to put it on IMARC. In the near future it will also be on their official web site.

IMARC believes that Dr. Breckbill proves by this prolong that Wesley, above all, believed the Bible. Wesley loved "The Book" and defended it. Because Wesley had no written creed for membership, many contend that this allows them to accept as members in the Church those who deny portions of The Book, and those who read into The Book the immorality that they seek to condone. Wesley, as Dr. Breckbill illustrates, would never have approved of this liberal interpretation. May God have mercy on those who twist God's word and Wesley's conviction to find comfort in sin.

The Bible was the most dominant influence in Methodist thought. and the Wesleyan revivals did much to restore the Bible to its former prominence in English life.

The Methodists took a middle ground position between the Calvinists and the Friends or Quakers in their view of the Bible. The Calvinists declared the Bible to be the written Word through which the Holy Spirit speaks. but dealt little with the witness of the Spirit. This has resulted in a cold legalistic fundamentalism. To the Quakers, it was all Spirit and little of the Word. Wesley agreed with the Quakers that the Spirit of God is the real source of divine truth. preceding its historical preservation in a book. But Wesley also believed that all spiritual revelation must be tested and proven by the outward testimony of Scripture. Wesley declared the Bible to be the test tube of every spiritual revelation and what could not stand that test was not to be believed as from God. Wesley said that without the Spirit, the Word is a dead letter, and without the Word. the Spirit flutters as an illusion.

That the Bible was the unique revelation of God was one of the most fundamental convictions of Wesley's theology. He believed that there is a God and that God has revealed Himself in a Book. He believed that man could only understand that Book as God Himself revealed it by His Spirit. In his sermon on "An Appeal To Men of Reason and Religion", Wesley says, "I am a spirit come from God and returning to God... I want to know one thing. the way to heaven... God Himself has condescended to teach me the way... He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to Heaven."

Wesley believed in the full or total inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible in its totality was Gods Word to man. In his journal Wesley states his view concerning inspiration and refuses to believe with the critics that because the Bible came through human instruments they made mistakes or errors. In Wesley's Journal, volume 6. page 117. he writes. '~Nay. if there be any mistakes in the Bible there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book it did not come from the God of truth.

However, Wesley did believe in a practical application of the Bible to life. He felt that purity of doctrine was less important than purity of life. In matters of belief which he considered important, Wesley was far from tolerant. though. He was convinced that the "acid test" of whether a person was a Christian was whether he believed in original sin, which he states clearly in his sermon on "Original Sin" in Volume 2 of his standard sermons. The members of the Oxford Club. organized by Wesley. were all determined to be Bible Christians. However, their Bible study was preeminently practical and their Bible study was primarily for devotion not doctrine. They used the Bible as their authority for both rule and practice.

Wesley was predominantly a textual preacher and not expository in style. Wesley was primarily an evangelist and not a Bible teacher: when he preached. it was not simply to enlighten the reason but to drive for conviction and decision. He pressed the text home for an immediate objective, the spiritual quickening of the hearer.

Of course there are some exceptions to this as we see in his series of thirteen sermons on Jesus Sermon on the Mount. They are expository and Wesley takes pains to present the original setting and observes the original sense of each word and clause before he makes application. But even here he is preaching for results.

Wesley was never content to state principles and leave it to the hearer to be responsible for making the application. His preaching was not designed to merely inform but to convert. His appeal is an intellectual appeal but through the intellect to the conscience.

His preaching was marked by this masterly use of the scriptures, taught at his mothers knee. At times for more than an hour, he preached weaving Scripture after Scripture into the message until more than half of it was Scripture explaining. proving, driving home the truth of the Word. His mind was thoroughly impregnated with Scripture.

As stated above Wesley is not noted for his expository preaching but he did write a complete Commentary on the Old Testament. This writer has a set of the original first edition. His "Notes On The New Testament" is still an authority on the Word and has a large sale today. History has proven that his "New Testament Notes" is one of the most important of Wesley's literary and spiritual legacies.

While Wesley did believe in sound doctrine, he did not believe in twisting the Scriptures to bolster his theology. Wesley can never be accused of bending his scriptural interpretation to a sectarian purpose.

Wesley's Bible exposition is characterized by the dominance of the practical over the theoretical. His sermons do not dwell upon problems of interpretation. He followed his mothers advice in making the Bible a practical book for day by day living.

The early Methodists were concerned with the Bibles devotional and moral values and spent little time on contemplations. Wesley was ever obedient to spiritual knowledge or enlightenment. Wesley believed that obedience to the known will of God must precede and accompany any mastery of the Bible.

Wesley believed that the path to spiritual truth was threefold: Scripture, reason, and experience. The Bible was always first, but reason and experience were the checks in proving the Spirit or discerning the Word. Wesley believed that since God is rational, interpretation of Scripture, if true, should be reasonable and must agree with other phases of revelation and so states it in his sermon, "Free Grace", volume I, page 488.

Wesley always approached the Bible with prayer. His periods of Bible study were always interspersed with periods of prayer. I knelt in Wesley s prayer room where he studied the Word on his knees. Grooves are literally worn into the boards where his knees in prayer pressed into them.

In his notes, he states that as he read the Word, he paused frequently to examine his own life by what he read. He stated that Bible reading and study had little value if not applied to heart and life. Wesley's Bible study always related to experiential piety. The state of the soul and the walk of the believer were an important commentary on the written Word. Wesley and his followers believed that they could understand the deep things of God only to the extent that they were willing to "walk in the light." In his Notes on the New Testament, Wesley says. "Whatever light you then receive should be used to the uttermost, and that immediately. Let there be no delay. Whatever you resolve, begin to execute (put into practical use) the first moment you can. So shall you find this Word to be indeed the power of God unto present and eternal salvation."

Again Wesley wrote, "Thou hast said - 'if any man be willing to do Thy will, he shall know. I am willing to do: let me know Thy will. I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, 'comparing spiritual things with spiritual. I meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those that are experienced in the things of God and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach."

What Wesley understood in the Word, he lost little time in proclaiming. The language of the Bible was second nature to him. He absorbed the Scriptures in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, from childhood through a lifetime of disciplined study. However, Wesley was not a man of theory but action, and what he knew of the Word he lived, applying it to every phase of practical everyday living for God.

May we follow his example and "Walk in his steps."