Methodists are Mythical Creatures #2

For those who did not read last Thursday's post, this is a continuation of it.  You don't necessarily need to read that post to get the gist of what is being said here, but you would do well to read it.  What I am doing is making the assessment that a Methodist is a mythical creature (ie a true Methodist does not exist) if you define Methodist by the same definition of John Wesley.  Again, I point you to the previous post if you are looking for a little more background info and context. (Please don't comment on this post unless you have at least skimmed the beginning of last Thursday's post.)

Again, this post is a response to a tract Wesley wrote entitled "The Character of a Methodist" and we continue in paragraph 6.

6. [A Methodist] is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as having in him "a well of water springing up into everlasting life," and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. "Perfect love" having now "cast out fear," he "rejoices evermore." He "rejoices in the Lord always," even "in God his Saviour;" and in the Father, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received the atonement."
 Again, we see John Wesley declaring, only not explicitly, that a Methodist is perfect.  Of course we know that Wesley taught Christian perfection, but this tract goes a long way toward telling us what this "Christian Perfection" looks like.  Wesley uses very absolute terms to describe a Methodist, a Methodist is "always happy".  This is a standard which the Christ Himself, though perfect, never obtained.  Happy always is a perfection beyond perfect, an utter impossibility.  Can you yet be happy when the name of God is blasphemed before you?  My fellow United Methodist, are you a Methodist by Wesley's standard?  I have never met a man or woman who was happy for 24 straight hours, let alone happy 'always'.  Beyond always being happy, the Methodist also "rejoices in the Lord always",  um, yeah... no comment.  Essentially what we see Wesley saying is that the Methodist is someone who perfectly keeps the Law.  Now let's be fair, Wesley is not saying that a Methodist is justified by the Law, he is saying that a justified Methodist upholds the Law completely.  Again let's be fair, I know that many will falsely make this accusation, but he is not falling into the Galatian error of justification by works.  Let's move on to the eight paragraph.

8. For indeed he "prays without ceasing." It is given him "always to pray, and not to faint." Not that he is always in the house of prayer; though he neglects no opportunity of being there. Neither is he always on his knees, although he often is, or on his face, before the Lord his God. Nor yet is he always crying aloud to God, or calling upon him in words: For many times "the Spirit maketh intercession for him with groans that cannot be uttered." But at all times the language of his heart is this: "Thou brightness of the eternal glory, unto thee is my heart, though without a voice, and my silence speaketh unto thee." And this is true prayer, and this alone. But his heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing.
Does this even need comment?  I certainly believe this tract to adequately describe the desire which the Spirit grants believers.  We long in our inward parts for this perfection, this perfect union, this absolute uprightness.  Yet let us be clear that we still struggle and fail constantly to reach the standards of God, the very standards which we desire to reach.  However according to Wesley a Methodist is someone who does not fail, does not sin, does not cease in prayer... EVER.  The Methodist is "never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing."  Are you convinced yet that a Methodist in Wesley's terms is a figment of the imagination?  Again, I am not saying that it is okay to NOT pray without ceasing, it is sin to stop, which is why we continually need the blood of Christ!

10. For [The Methodist] is "pure in heart." The love of God has purified his heart from all revengeful passions, from envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind temper or malign affection.
 11. Agreeable to this his one desire, is the one design of his life, namely, "not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him." His one intention at all times and in all things is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He has a single eye.
As if this is not enough, and I have skipped much, to prove that a Methodist is a mythical creature, let me sum up the whole shebang with the entire 13th paragraph.  For those who love Wesley (and much of what he has done and said I love) please explain what follows to me.

 13. All the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might. For his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore, loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength. He continually presents his soul and body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God; entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has, and all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has received, he constantly employs according to his Master's will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body. Once he "yielded" them "unto sin" and the devil, "as instruments of unrighteousness;" but now, "being alive from the dead, he yields" them all "as instruments of righteousness unto God."
So member of the United Methodist Church, or other Wesleyan tradition, have you met the standard of Wesley's sect?  Later in the tract Wesley asserts that what he has put forth is just basic fundamental Christianity.  The reality is that he has just expressed the Law from the New Testament to the utter neglect of the Gospel.  This tract is an utter fail, one which could lead followers of Wesley in only two possible directions, the first being despair, for they will never achieve the 'Methodist' standard.  Or the other being delusion, actually believing they have met that standard, though they obviously have not.

I'd love to hear from a real 'Methodist' respond here, I've always wanted to meet a fairytale creature.


Dave Pettengill said...

Hey Jay,
I read the article from Wesley that you had mentioned to me awhile back and as I read the list I had many similar thoughts. Always happy? I know just in that one area not even counting the other ones you have mentioned I fail. As you have said even Jesus was not happy all the time...was he happy when he turned the tables over? Was he happy when Lazarus died? Was he happy in the garden before his crucifixion? Those are just a few examples as well of times I don't think happiness would have described Jesus at that point in time. I think as I read those descriptions from Wesley it reminded me how much I am in need of God's grace because on my own I am lost.

Whit said...

Yes Jay,
I have wondered about this myself and am "happy" to answer within my view of the social principles:
"Always Happy...", well here goes...
Scripture - NOT - From his behavior, I do not believe that Jesus was never once unhappy.
Tradition - NOT - I cannot judge others, but I have never known anyone, Christian or not, who has not shown a single sign of unhappiness at one time or another.
Experience - NOT - I fail the test here myself.
Reason - NOT - In this world, it doesn't seem believable or even logical that anyone could be "always happy", without exception.
So from my interpretation, anything that walks unlike a duck or quacks unlike a duck, is most likely not a duck.