Holy Adulterers

John Wesley preaching John Wesley preaching at a meeting house in Nottingham, England, in 1747. Note that his listeners are separated by gender which was customary at the time.

Had not the bulletin already gone to print, I would have changed the title of the sermon to “Holy Adulterers” in reference to the preface of the 1739 edition of John and Charles Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems which reads, in part:

Directly opposite to this [a solitary religion] is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. “Holy solitaries” is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. “Faith working by love” is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection. “This commandment have we from Christ, that he who loveth God love his brother also;” and that we manifest our love “by doing good unto all men, especially to them that are of the household of faith.”

The point is that you can’t be a Christian by yourself. For John and Charles Wesley the heart of the Christian Gospel of love of God and love of neighbor. You cannot learn to love either alone, a community of faith is necessary.

You can find a copy of Hymns and Sacred Poems and many other materials from John and Charles wesley online at The Duke Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition.