THE WESLEY FELLOWSHIP QUARTERLY
The Wesley Fellowship – Founded 1985
Hon. President: Rev. John Lawson, M.A., B.D.(Cantab.), B.Sc.(Agric.)(Lond.)
Chairman: Rev. Dr Herbert McGonigle
Secretary: Mr Paul S. Taylor, M.A., Stonebridge Cottage,
Back Lane, Shearsby, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, U.K. LE17 6PN
Tel/Fax: 0116-247 8679. E-mail: email@example.com
The Executive Committee includes the above officers together with:
Book Sales: Rev. Tony Tamburello, 106 Burnley Road, Colne,
Lancashire, BB8 8JA
Tel/Fax: 01282-859014. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Publicity Officer: Mr Ian Lockhart
Editor: Mr William T. Graham
See the new Wesley Fellowship Web Site at:
This summer has seen many conferences, study groups and worship services convened and books, monographs and magazine articles published to celebrate the tercentenary of John Wesley's birth. There was a large and particularly well-organised international conference at Manchester University in mid June and many (if not all) of the Papers from that conference will be published later. At the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, a Wesley Research Centre was launched on June 18th. Its purpose is to promote and facilitate the serious and scholarly study of Wesleyan theology, history, biography and experience. In addition to the Wesley Studies offered for the BA and MA degrees at the college, this Research Centre will provide academic supervision for those wanting to pursue the various areas of Wesley theology and history, and related subjects, to the levels of both MPhil and PhD degrees. All degrees from Nazarene Theological College are granted through its affiliation with Manchester University. For further information on this, write to The Director, Wesley Research Centre, Nazarene Theological College, Dene Road, Manchester M20 2GU, or MWRC@nazarene.ac.uk.
The next meeting of the Wesley Fellowship will be on Saturday, 18th October, at Zion Church of the Nazarene in Handsworth, Birmingham. We look forward to enjoying the usual good fellowship of the day and two very informative Papers. The first will be brought by Mr Bill Graham, editor of our WF Newsletter, and the topic will be 'John Wesley's "Christian Library."' Mr John Wood will bring the second Paper, dealing with 'The Peculiar People,' a 19th century religious group in Essex with Wesleyan roots. We've not had any previous Papers on either of these interesting subjects so I hope you'll make a special effort to be with us in Birmingham on October 18th.
Question: I read in an anthology of quotations that John Wesley said that he burned his sermons every seven years, because he felt he should be able to compose better sermons than he had done earlier. Is this true?
Answer: The answer to this question is quite simple - No! - John Wesley definitely did not write that. In an answer in this column a few years ago I ventured the suggestion that John Wesley is one of the most misquoted writers found in Church History. Statements are made about what Wesley wrote without careful checking of the sources, then these statements are 'quoted' by others and so the errors are repeated. This so-called quotation is a good example of what might be called perpetuated misinformation. In September 1778 John Wesley was visiting Tiverton in Devon and in his Journal he recorded his 'musing.' He remembered having heard a preacher say many years earlier. 'Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame if I cannot write better sermons now than I could seven years ago.' Note that Wesley said he heard someone else say this! Then he added. 'Whatever others can do, I really cannot. I cannot write a better sermon on the Good Steward than I did seven years ago; I cannot write a better on the Great Assize than I did twenty years ago; I cannot write a better on the Use of Money than I did nearly thirty years ago' (Journal, 6:209). Not only did John Wesley not say that he burned his sermons every seven years; he clearly disagreed with the suggestion!
Editor’s Note: Dr McGonigle is willing to consider questions on Wesleyan theology, history and experience for answers in this Newsletter, also locating Wesley quotes, etc. Such questions should be sent in the first instance via the Secretary.
1. The Autumn 2003 Meeting of the Wesley Fellowship will be held (D.V.) at the usual venue, Zion Church of the Nazarene, Brearley Street, Handsworth, Birmingham, on Saturday 18th October 2003. The day will begin from 10.30 am, when drinks will be served by our friends at Zion, before the meeting begins formally at 11.00 am. PLEASE PUT THIS EVENT IN YOUR DIARY AND PLAN TO BE WITH US! Two papers will be presented at the meeting. The first paper will be given by Wesley Fellowship Executive Member, Bill Graham, on the subject of 'John Wesley's Christian Library'. This will be followed by a break for lunch when drinks will again be provided - but please remember to bring your own food! The afternoon session will include a presentation of a paper by the Revd John Wood, B.D., M.Phil., of Harwich, Essex, with the intriguing title, 'The Peculiar People: A Nineteenth Century Methodist Off-Shoot in Essex'. The meeting should end by about 3.30pm. If you are planning to travel (from outside the Birmingham area) by car to the meeting at Zion Church, the best route for most people is to leave the M5 motorway at West Bromwich (Junction 1) and then follow the main A41 road towards the centre of Birmingham. After passing the West Bromwich Albion Association Football Club stadium ("The Hawthorns") and several sets of traffic lights, continue to proceed along the A41 (Holyhead Road). About two miles after leaving the motorway, look out for the Murco Petrol Station on the right hand side of the road and turn sharply right at this traffic-light controlled junction into Booth Street. After a few hundred yards along Booth Street, the Zion Church of the Nazarene is on the right, at the junction with Brearley Street. If you travel by train to Birmingham New Street Station, buses 74, 78, and 79 travel north from the city centre and drive along Soho Road and Holyhead Road where they will stop, on request, near the Booth Street junction. From here it is a short walk, of several hundred yards, along Booth Street to Zion Church (on the right) at the junction of Brearley Street. It is also possible to travel from Birmingham city centre (Snow Hill Station) to Zion Church by means of the West Midlands light rail Metro tram system (which runs between Wolverhampton and Birmingham). Book to "Booth Street, Handsworth Station". This leaves just a short walk along Booth Street, to the Zion Church, situated at the junction with Brearley Street.
2. The Wesley Fellowship Spring 2004 Meeting will be held in Birmingham from 10.30am, a little earlier date than usual, on Saturday 3rd April 2004. It will again be held at the same venue, at Zion Church, Handsworth, Birmingham. Further details about speakers and subjects will be available later.
3. Residential Conference, Autumn 2004. The next Wesley Fellowship residential conference is to be held again at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire. The dates are Friday afternoon 17th to Sunday afternoon 19th September 2004. Please make this a priority entry in your next year's diary! More details will be given as soon as they are finalised. In the meantime we would welcome any further ideas that members may want to send us as to how we can make this conference the best ever!
4. Membership Subscriptions. We value highly the fellowship of all our members. There are a number who have not yet paid their subscriptions for this current year (due on 1st April 2003). If you wish to continue in membership, please remember to send your annual subscription to the Secretary as soon as possible (the amounts are as follows: Students/Senior Citizens: £4.00; Individual Membership: £10.00; Married Couples: £12.00; Overseas Members: £15.00 or US$20.00).
5. Cliff College Centenary Lectures. Cliff College is celebrating its 1904-2004 centenary with six lectures that ‘reflect the main themes or charisms that have guided the college over the last 100 years’. Full details of how to book places can be obtained from the College Administration Office (tel: 01246 582321). The Lectures have titles such as ‘Evangelical’ (Dr. Ian Randall, 25 Sept. 2003); ‘Holiness’ (Rev. D. Paul C. Smith, 29 Nov. 2003); and ‘Discipleship’ Dr. Elaine Storkey, 29 April 2004).
William Grimshaw of Haworth by Faith Cook. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997, pp. xv, 342. ISBN 0-85151 734X. £12.95, Paper Back).
William Grimshaw (1708-63) was the pioneer evangelist of the 18th century revival in Yorkshire. He had been a pleasure-seeking curate in Todmorden when a change of heart in 1734 led eventually to permanent changes in his life and ministry. Arthur Skevington Wood tells us (in The Inextinguishable Blaze, 1960, pp. 144-5) that to begin with, 'He gave up his pleasurable practices and started to pray four times a day….The passing of his first wife, Sarah, in 1739 broke his heart and his thirst for God assumed a redoubled intensity.' Both Dr Wood and Faith Cook point out that it was his constant meditation on the Word, and careful re-reading of John Owen on Justification by Faith, that finally resulted in Grimshaw's conversion by 1742. Grimshaw's own words were, 'I have had a glorious vision of the third heaven.' Commenting on this experience two decades later, in a letter to Henry Venn, Grimshaw writes 'I was now willing to renounce myself…and embrace Christ as my all in all.' His radical transformation brought him a sense of pardon and assurance which lived vividly with him throughout the following arduous and unusual evangelistic ministry in Haworth and further afield in what became known as the 'Haworth Round.'
Faith Cook has given us a splendid biography of the 'Haworth Parson' which begins with a useful Introduction to Grimshaw's life, sketching Haworth as it was in the 18th century and as it is today. Her treatment of his conversion experience makes challenging reading for those who consider a Christian conversion as little more than 'making a decision'. This biography, written in Faith Cook's engaging style, deals interestingly with Grimshaw's personal eccentricities as well as his passion for the souls of his parishioners. We meet again some of the well-known personalities, taken up by God and mightily used by Him, in that most remarkable of centuries - names such as Henry Venn, William Romaine, Benjamin Ingham, Selina Hastings as well as John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield all appear here in the story of this truly remarkable, godly and loveable man. The book has an adequate index and - as a special bonus for this Yorkshire born reviewer! - some quite magnificent colour pictures of Haworth and Haworth Moor. Yet the life of William Grimshaw is a brilliant picture in itself. He was a man possessed by a passionate love for God, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the hearts and minds of those who God had put in his pastoral care.
The Apostle Paul's vivid testimony, 'For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain' sums up the life of William Grimshaw and provides the author with titles for her last two chapters. But then follows the reproduction of 'William Grimshaw's Creed' (in Appendix 3) written by him, in December 1762, to the Revd Mr Romaine. Here the 'Parson of Haworth' sets out his beliefs in the form of a classic historic creed. It contains twenty-six paragraphs of 'I believe….' And concludes with, 'My greatest grief [is] that I have done so little for JESUS; and my greatest joy that JESUS has done so much for me.'
There are two reasons why you should not be without this book. The first is that Faith Cook has given us a portrait of a man of remarkable spiritual character and much of what she has written is not easily available to the general reader or student of the 18th century revival. The second reason is that you will find here a life that will stir your own faith to an increased dependency and expectation of God. This book is commended without reservation.
Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley's Evangelical Arminianism by Herbert Boyd McGonigle. (Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 0QS, UK / Waynesboro, GA, 30830-2047, USA: Paternoster Press, 2001, reprinted with corrections (in the Paternoster Press series: Studies in Evangelical History and Thought) 2003. pp. xvi, 350. £24.99). ISBN 1-84227-045-1.
This book was previously reviewed in the January 2002 edition of the Wesley Fellowship Quarterly. It has now been reprinted and appears in a newly designed cover (this time as part of Paternoster’s very welcome series of ‘Studies in Evangelical History and Thought’, which includes an interesting range of titles as varied as R.T. Kendall’s Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 and John Kenneth Lander’s Tent Methodism: 1814-1832). The book under review, Sufficient Saving Grace, now, for the first time, proudly displays the publisher’s web address (at www.paternoster-publishing.com) - and it appears that Paternoster Press have begun to make some effort to improve their once particularly unhelpful website. Sadly, the website is still not as well managed and up-to-date as it really should be if it is to do full justice to the promotion of the many excellent books (such as this one!) in their catalogue. For example, Dr McGonigle’s book is illustrated on the web site – but still with its earlier, silvery cover that it had when first printed as part of the Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs series. Furthermore, there are embarrassing misspellings on the website blurb (that are not to be found in the book’s own similarly worded blurb); the retail price of books is not clearly marked; moreover, new books (such as Lander’s Tent Methodism) are not even mentioned at all – even when using the website’s ‘search engine’! Paternoster really should correct these matters if they are to act as good stewards in presenting the work of God’s people and to let the world know in the best way possible of their fine catalogue of books!
Now to the particular book under review, Sufficient Saving Grace. I am pleased to report that Herbert McGonigle’s fine text remains intact. Thankfully, the one serious irritation that I had when this book was first reviewed has now been eliminated in that the index has now been completely reset to remove the annoying misdirections that were only too frequently met when the book was first published. However, one curious new printing error has apparently crept into this reprinted edition of the book – because the title-page informs us that the publisher is now ‘Pasternoster’ Press, surely a classic typographical error!
Now that I have dealt with the personal grumbles, everything else I have to say about this book is commendatory because the author has produced an excellent account of importance to all people who have an interest in the history of theology or Methodism. The text is based on Dr McGonigle’s PhD thesis, which when first submitted to the University of Keele, won wide acclaim from an international range of scholars as an outstanding piece of meticulous Wesleyan research and scholarship. Paternoster are to be congratulated for publishing this book and thereby making it available to a wider reading public. The book describes and explains the origins, nature, and development of John Wesley’s particular kind of evangelical Arminian theology. It carefully outlines the theological debate and tensions surrounding the early 17th century revision of Calvinism by the Leiden University Professor Jacobus Arminius and the resulting controversy surrounding the disputed ‘Five Points’ of the Dutch Remonstrants. The author then examines the effect and spread of this Remonstrant teaching from Holland and shows that, although the Arminian theology did reach England within a few years of this divisive Synod of Dort, there was already in the country a form of ‘an English Arminian school of thought’. He shows that this doctrine can be traced back in England to the first half of the 16th century, during the short reign of the Tudor ‘boy King’ Edward VI. This teaching originated, argues Dr McGonigle, from well before the time of Arminius. This was due to the influence of Lutheranism on Archbishop Cranmer evidenced clearly on 19 June 1553, when he promulgated the ‘Forty-Two Articles of Religion.’ This fundamentally defined the accepted doctrinal statements of Reformed thinking in the Church of England, to be later enshrined in the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 (that were still officially effective in Wesley’s time - and later). Evidence to support this is presented to show that there were ‘influential anti-predestinarian scholars and preachers in England’ in the 16th century. Careful attention is also given to explain how objections to Calvinism first arose in English Protestantism and how later, during the reign of ‘Bloody’ Mary Tudor, both predestinarians and anti-predestinarians alike were burned at the stake. The various revisions of the Articles in the reign of Elizabeth; the theological debates in the reign of James I; the promotion of ‘high-Anglican Arminianism’ by Archbishop Laud during the reign of Charles I; and the dominance of Calvinism after the Puritan victory in the Civil War, are all carefully described and discussed by Dr McGonigle. He goes on to explain how, after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, ‘English Calvinism suffered an increasing eclipse during the remainder of the 17th century’. This was partly due to the influence of the Cambridge Platonists as well as other factors such as the rise of an influential group of ‘holy living’ theologians such as Jeremy Taylor, so that Anglicanism ‘did not so much attack Calvinism as ignore it’. After setting out this general historical background, Dr McGonigle then explains how John Wesley became ‘an Epworth Arminian’ by being educated and moulded through the indirect and direct influence of his ancestors - particularly his mother and father. This meant that Wesley was brought up in an Epworth rectory with a distinctly English theological heritage in that it was ‘a home marked by Anglican devotion, Puritan piety, rigid discipline and a love of learning and good books’. Evidence is presented to argue convincingly that, although Wesley was aware from his Oxford student days of the teaching of Arminius and the Dutch Remonstrants, his own emerging Arminianism really had its direct foundation in seventeenth century Anglican theology. The major part of the book examines the historical and theological evidence — using a fully documented and now accurately indexed account — to demonstrate that John Wesley developed and followed a form of practical evangelical Arminianism. Wesley’s theology is shown to be based on his understanding of the Bible’s teaching on sin, grace and salvation - and that his reasoning did not depend on the ‘Five Points’ of high Calvinism.
Dr McGonigle gives close attention to Wesley’s teaching on original sin, justification by faith, the witness of the Spirit, and what John Wesley designated as Methodism's 'grand depositum' - the doctrine of scriptural holiness. This book is recommended without hesitation to anyone who would like to learn more about the basis and development of John Wesley’s theology. It is a carefully researched book and, in this reviewer’s opinion, it is not only an important scholarly contribution to Wesley studies, but also a book that is surprisingly easy to read and enjoy.
CD-ROM (Reference: TB214), ‘John Wesley: His Life, Times and Legacy’, 2003 (Methodist Publishing House, 4 John Wesley Road, Peterborough, England, PE4 6ZP. Tel. 01733 325002. £14.99 + postage).
Everything in this new John Wesley CD-ROM is attractively presented, the format is easy to follow and there are links to more detailed information - both about the life of John Wesley and the world of the eighteenth century. There are good illustrations - and users who would prefer to do so may even choose to have the story read to them. There are options for Powerpoint presentations and suggestions for acts of collective worship in primary and secondary schools. There is also a wealth of information including a great deal of detail as to how the Methodist movement developed into the Methodist Church and an invitation to find out more, with information about places to visit and other resources. It is an exciting package and represents good value for money.
Among such a vast treasury of information, it is almost inevitable that there will be the occasional spelling or typing error – and Moravian, Spangenberg, Varanese, and Culloden are to be found here among the words misspelled, but these are small quibbles. Also, of the sisters at Stanton Rectory, John courted Sarah (Sally) Kirkham and not Betty. More seriously, the Journal reference cited for 24 May 1738 mistakenly substitutes 'God' for 'Christ' so that the 'quotation' is made to read, ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in God. God alone for my salvation.’ But, of course, this is not what John Wesley actually wrote! He wrote that, at Aldersgate Street, while the reader of Luther's commentary on Romans ‘was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation.' This unfortunate ‘slip’ rather spoiled the whole effect for the present reviewer, but the writer and collator (Jean Dowson) has said that this will all be corrected in a revised second edition, hopefully soon to be available - and I, for one, very much look forward to it.
(WF member Rev. Dr John M. Haley, is a minister in the Plymouth & Devonport Circuit)
Wesley Fellowship 2003.