Sunday, February 28, 2010

e-sunday school

John Wesley should be considered as one of a few authentic anglo Christian evangelicals, even by secularists, or non-believers who don't approve of modern Christendom. Wesley rightly protested Calvinist predestination and affirmed Arminian concepts--(supporting Arminius when the Reformer and his gang were reforming Europe cost many an Arminian--and papist, for that matter--his head). Arminius and his followers only slightly altered calvinist dogma on sola fide and the "Elect" (sort of the gated community of church-goers, supposedly determined by G*d, like eons ago), but Arminius does allow for a modicum of freedom, and suggested something like merit (ie good works, rather than zealous faith) might be important in regards to salvation.... Wesley sided with the Arminians, and regularly denounced calvinism (ie presbyterians, and the underlying credo of many mainstream evangelicals...tho' the "free will" protestants have their own might say, Calvinists aren't christians. Then, according to Catholic tradition, PROTESTANTS, taken as a whole, ARE NOT CHRISTIANs, as a matter of definition. That said, Justice is not a matter of how many brunches at La Misa's you've eaten, either.... ).

Wesley's sermons do not lack for intellectual power though his language's a bit quaint, and not the sort of chi chi literary rhetoric preferred by most liberals (even judeo-christian ones). In the quoted sermon, he refers to Locke, Hobbes, quotes in latin, and greek: not exactly Billy Bob chanting from the Book of Revelation at the local baptick warehouse. Coleridge admired Wesley, as did other thinkers of the day. Wesley has a certain zealous preacherly aspect as well, but Wesley and his methodists zealously attacked slavery, and aristocratic privilege of all sorts (including the judiciary). Wesley also detested Hume (not without some reason. Hume, a regular at Baron d'Holbach's soirees, generally backed the Torys, and was a neo-con of the day, who made racist remarks......). .

As with Locke, Wesley generally praises reason, and does not care for "enthusiasm"-- he opposed the David Koreshes and John Hagees of the day, and...masonic nuts as well (also noted in Locke's American sons, Jefferson & Co. tho' masonry did migrate to the colonies). Contrary to some allegations, Wesley attempted to reconcile religion and science, and accepted Newtonian principles for the most part, though he did at times object to deists and empirical mechanists, ala Hobbes; Wesley's criticism of empiricism seems slightly rationalist (he quoted Leibniz at times...). Though one hesitates to call Wesley a liberal, he, like Locke, generally opposed the monarchy and aristocracy....but, well, read the Wiki. Or don't.

From John Wesley's Sermons-- The Case Of Reason Impartially Considered

"""""1. And, First, reason cannot produce faith. Although it is always consistent with reason, yet reason cannot produce faith, in the scriptural sense of the word. Faith, according to Scripture, is "an evidence," or conviction, "of things not seen." It is a divine evidence, bringing a full conviction of an invisible eternal world. It is true, there was a kind of shadowy persuasion of this, even among the wiser Heathens; probably from tradition, or from some gleams of light reflected from the Israelites. Hence many hundred years before our Lord was born, the Greek Poet uttered that great truth, --

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, whether we wake, or if we sleep.

But this was little more than faint conjecture: It was far from a firm conviction; which reason, in its highest state of improvement, could never produce in any child of man.

2. Many years ago I found the truth of this by sad experience. After carefully heaping up the strongest arguments which I could find, either in ancient or modern authors, for the very being of a God, and (which is nearly connected with it) the existence of an invisible world, I have wandered up and down, musing with myself: "What, if all these things which I see around me, this earth and heaven, this universal frame, has existed from eternity? What, if that melancholy supposition of the old Poet be the real case, --

oih per jullvn geneh, toih de kai andrvn;

What, if 'the generation of men be exactly parallel with the generation of leaves?' if the earth drops its successive inhabitants, just as the tree drops its leaves? What, if that saying of a great man be really true, --

Post mortem nihil est; ipsaque mors nihil?

Death is nothing, and nothing is after death?

How am I sure that this is not the case; that I have not followed cunningly devised fables?" -- And I have pursued the thought, till there was no spirit in me, and I was ready to choose strangling rather than life.

3. But in a point of so unspeakable importance, do not depend upon the word of another; but retire for awhile from the busy world, and make the experiment yourself. Try whether your reason will give you a clear satisfactory evidence of the invisible world. After the prejudices of education are laid aside, produce your strong reasons for the existence of this. Set them all in array; silence all objections; and put all your doubts to flight. Alas! You cannot, with all your understanding. You may repress them for a season. But how quickly will they rally again, and attack you with redoubled violence! And what can poor reason do for your deliverance? The more vehemently you struggle, the more deeply you are entangled in the toils; and you find no way to escape.

4. How was the case with that great admirer of reason, the author of the maxim above cited? I mean the famous Mr. Hobbes. None will deny that he had a strong understanding. But did it produce in him a full and satisfactory conviction of an invisible world? Did it open the eyes of his understanding, to see beyond the bounds of this diurnal sphere? O no! far from it! His dying words ought never to be forgotten. "Where are you going, Sir?" said one of his friends. He answered, "I am taking a leap in the dark!" and died. Just such an evidence of the invisible world can bare reason give to the wisest of men!

5. Secondly. Reason alone cannot produce hope in any child of man: I mean scriptural hope, whereby we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God:" That hope which St. Paul in one place terms, "tasting the powers of the world to come;" in another, the "sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" That which enables us to say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope; -- to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; which is reserved in heaven for us." This hope can only spring from Christian faith: Therefore, where there is not faith, there is not hope. Consequently, reason, being unable to produce faith, must be equally unable to produce hope. Experience confirms this likewise. How often have I laboured, and that with my might, to beget this hope in myself! But it was lost labour: I could no more acquire this hope of heaven, than I could touch heaven with my hand. And whoever of you makes the same attempt will find it attended with the same success. I do not deny, that a self-deceiving enthusiast may work in himself a kind of hope: He may work himself up into a lively imagination; into a sort of pleasing dream: He may "compass himself about," as the Prophet speaks, "with sparks of his own kindling:" But this cannot be of long continuance; in a little while the bubble will surely break. And what will follow? "This shall ye have at my hand, saith the Lord, ye shall lie down in sorrow."

6. If reason could have produced a hope full of immortality in any child of man, it might have produced it in that great man whom Justin Martyr scruples not to call " a Christian before Christ." For who that was not favoured with the written word of God, ever excelled, yea, or equalled, Socrates? In what other Heathen can we find so strong an understanding, joined with so consummate virtue? But had he really this hope? Let him answer for himself. What is the conclusion of that noble apology which he made before his unrighteous judges? "And now, O judges! ye are going hence to live; and I am going hence to die: Which of these is best, the gods know; but, I suppose, no man does." No man knows! How far is this from the language of the little Benjamite: "I desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better!" And how many thousands are there at this day, even in our own nation, young men and maidens, old men and children, who are able to witness the same good confession!

7. But who is able to do this, by the force of his reason, be it ever so highly improved? One of the most sensible and most amiable Heathens that have lived since our Lord died, even though he governed the greatest empire in the world, was the Emperor Adrian. It is his well-known saying, "A prince ought to resemble the sun: He ought to shine on every part of his dominion, and to diffuse his salutary rays in every place where he comes." And his life was a comment upon his word: Wherever he went, he was executing justice, and showing mercy. Was not he then, at the close of a long life, full of immortal hope? We are able to answer this from unquestionable authority, -- from his own dying words. How inimitably pathetic!



Animula, vagula, blandula,
Hospes, comesque corporis,
Quae nunc abibis in loca,
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis jocos!

Which to the English reader may see translated into our own language, with all the spirit of the original: --

Poor, little, pretty, fluttering thing,
Must we no longer live together?
And dost thou prune thy trembling wing,
To take they flight, thou know'st not whither?

Thy pleasing vein, they humorous folly,
Lies all neglected, all forgot!
And pensive, wavering, melancholy,
Thou hop'st, and fear'st, thou know'st not what.

8. Thirdly. Reason, however cultivated and improved, cannot produce the love of God; which is plain from hence: It cannot produce either faith or hope; from which alone this love can flow. It is then only, when we "behold" by faith "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us," in giving his only Son, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life, that "the love of God is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." It is only then, when we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God," that "we love Him because he first loved us." But what can cold reason do in this matter? It may present us with fair ideas; it can draw a fine picture of love: But this is only a painted fire. And farther than this reason cannot go. I made the trial for many years. I collected the finest hymns, prayers, and meditations which I could find in any language; and I said, sung, or read them over and over, with all possible seriousness and attention. But still I was like the bones in Ezekiel's vision: "The skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.""""""

That's more faith hope and charity than the usual merican preacher--or priest--will expend in a decade.


TC said...

Some variants on the "inimitably pathetic" Hadrian lyric animula blandula, vagula.

J said...

Classicist I am not (small spanglish, less latin) but rather impressed that Wesley, supposed evangelical moralist would quote Caesar Hadrian at all--according to trad. not exactly pious--along with the greek references, Hocke/Lobbes, etc.

Have been when time allows perusing Gibbon (the whole thing, not the bon mots one gets in college town). He showers praise on Hadrian--tho' generally downplays the purges. Hadrian more or less liquidated the Levant--not just of jews, but christians and any and all who refused to acknowledge the gods of the Empire...

Hadrian and his retinue had a few pleasure craft with which they would sail up and down the Nile: and once, after a spat soul-mater (agape-istic of course) jumped over board, and was devoured by crocs...

Most of Hadrian's villa still stands in hills above Roma, right...

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