These introductory thoughts to Wesley’s Standard Sermons were offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 3, 2018. Throughout the month of June, I will be in transition–welcoming our fourth child into the world and moving to take a new appointment at Franklin United Methodist Church.
Below I have provided an adaptation to my introductory remarks for the four standard sermons of John Wesley that will be explored each week at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church. I have also included links to scripture, Wesley’s full sermons, and a handout (including a redaction and editing of a few of Wesley’s key points) to be used in small group discussion below. I should be back to posting my Sunday sermons and Teaching the first week of July. As always, if you have question, I hope you’ll join the discussion below and be in-formed.
The Standard Sermons of John Wesley were published in four volumes between 1746 and 1760. These 44 sermons “set forth those doctrines which [Wesley] said, ‘I embrace and teach as the essentials of true religion.” In 1755, Wesley published his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament. These two publications formed the bedrock of Methodist teaching and scriptural understanding. They provided practical tools for preachers and laypersons to explore the Scriptures and the basic teachings of the Christian faith as understood by Wesley.
In 1763, Wesley produced a “Model Deed” for Methodist properties, which stipulated that the trustees for each preaching house were responsible for ensuring that the preachers in their pulpits “preach no other doctrine than is contained in Mr. Wesley’s Notes Upon the New Testament and four volumes of Sermons.”
These writings, then, contained the standard exposition of Methodist teaching. They provide a model and measure for adequate preaching in the Wesleyan tradition.
To this day, Wesley’s Standard Sermons and the Explanatory Notes remain foundational doctrinal teachings of The United Methodist Church.
For the next four weeks, you will be introduced to four of the Standards:
“Salvation by Faith”
“The Almost Christian”
“The Way of the Kingdom”
and, “Marks of the New Birth”
While time will not allow us to unpack these sermons in their entirety, you will be introduced to their core arguments. If you would like to read these sermons in their entirety—which I hope you will at some point—I’d encourage you to peruse the links below or look up one or more of the following resources:
Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit (Nashville: The Upper Room, 2001) is a devotional resource that offers prayers based upon the Standard Sermons.
Wesley Center Online provides many of Wesley’s works (his sermons, Explanatory Notes, Wesley’s Journal, his Christian library, a bunch of interesting stuff) alongside scholarly articles free of charge.
Reclaiming the Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2007) is a superb study of 13 of Wesley’s standard sermons. This book provides both commentary and strategies for reading what can often be dense arguments of Wesley.
For the ambitious Methodism scholar (or nerd), you could always consider going all out and purchasing Wesley’s complete annotated works or purchasing Kenneth Kinghorn’s editing of Wesley’s sermons into modern English. However, you do it, I’d encourage you to read these sermons in their entirety at some point; after all, they are the foundational teachings of our faith—what Wesley often described as “true religion.”
As you read Wesley’s sermons, you’ll note how conversational they all are. The questions provided in the small group handout are not fabricated, they are questions that Wesley invites us to ponder together in his text. These are the foundational questions of the Christian faith: questions (and answers) we should be familiar with.
As you read and study these texts it is my prayer that you will reconnect with the roots of our heritage as Wesleyan Methodist Christians; and, that you come to know and experience grace anew, and grow from faith to faith, from grace to grace, until at length, you are made perfect, grown into the full stature of the fullness of Christ.
Salvation by Faith
The Almost Christian
The Way to the Kingdom
Marks of the New Birth
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), p57
 The Book of Discipline, p57-58.