In 1733, John Wesley would have been about 20 years old. He was just finishing up his studies at Oxford University, and yet already involved in the ministries and evangelism. Before his days, it was widely discussed that humanity played either the main role or no role in salvation. More recently, John Calvin had expanded on earlier theologians’ work to state that humanity played absolutely no role as salvation is concerned. It seems almost specifically to that belief that he preaches his sermon “The Circumcision of the Heart”.
He begins his message with a quote from Romans 2:29, that “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit and not in the letter.” Wesley doesn’t waste much time before revealing what he is speaking of here: Holiness. His second point would have been something they were familiar with: God’s work in our lives “implies humility”. It is something being worked in us. Calvinists of those days would have connected with his words here, and he discusses further how unable we are on our own to do anything but “add sin to sin”.
But what could be easily missed in that same sentence, he expands on further later on. That along with humility to allow God to do His work, comes faith, hope and charity. That Wesley connects these things as part of the experience of salvation, would have been hard to swallow for many who had already accepted that their heart has nothing to do with the work God is doing in and through them.
But these three things cannot be overlooked, Wesley believes. It is the process of God to bring His love to perfection in our lives, and we are very much involved. We respond, both to God and to His creation, and are given faith through God’s grace.
Going Where God Is Moving.
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