John Wesley and Methodist Apostasy

“It is manifest that the public worship of the Roman Church is wholly degenerated from the nature of Christ’s kingdom,” so declared John Wesley.

He protested against Rome’s doctrines of tradition, seven sacraments, transubstantiation (“nonsense, absurdity and self-contradiction,” he called it), pilgrimage, purgatory, indulgences (which “strike at the root of all religion”), veneration of relics, worship of images (“gross, open, palpable idolatry”), the intercession of the Virgin Mary, prayers to saints, papal supremacy, celibacy of clergy, human merit, etc. Thus he called Rome “that apostate church” and the “mother of abominations” filled with “superstition,” “delusion” and “corruption.”

Few Methodist pulpits ring with such strong denunciations of Rome’s idolatry today. Moreover, though Wesley taught the infallibility, clarity and sufficiency of Holy Scripture, Irish Methodism’s Edgehill College inculcates higher criticism of the Bible.

However, Wesley was also a great admirer of Francis of Sales, a Counter-Reformation leader, and Roman Catholic mystics in general. He also made other unbiblical ecumenical remarks about Rome. As one Methodist theologian put it, Wesley was “a very complex man.”

Wesley’s inconsistent analysis of Rome stemmed from his sharing Rome’s cardinal heresy, free will. Both Wesley and Rome believe in a love of God for all men and an ineffectual atonement of Christ dependent on the free will of the sinner. Thus Wesley railed against God’s predestination as “blasphemy” (contrary to Article 17 of the Thirty Nine Articles which he swore to uphold). To say the least, he was often less than clear on the truth of justification by faith alone.

Wesley taught many other errors including resistible grace, the falling away of true saints, sinless perfection, lay preaching and women preaching (again all contrary to the Thirty Nine Articles). As one who claimed miraculous healings and dreams, and encouraged wailing and falling down in his meetings, Wesley is rightly seen as a prominent forerunner of the aberrant charismatic movement.

Though Methodism has departed further than its founder, the seeds of its destruction were already to be found in the teaching of Wesley himself.

By Angus Stewart

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