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Justification by Faith Alone

 

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE

(see lecture #4 and following)

After the “Aldersgate experience” of 1738, Wesley never went back on his insistence on justification by grace through faith.  He is uncompromisingly Protestant.  There have been several attempts at pretending that he espoused a “works-righteousness” as late as the controversial “Minute” of the Conference in 1770, or that he proposed a via media between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Wesley always maintained that he was an Anglican, that the Church of England’s doctrine neither needed nor admitted of any “improvement”, and that the Church of England was undeniably Protestant.

Wesley is utterly consistent with the Magisterial Reformers in maintaining that justification by (grace through) faith is the material principle of the Reformation.  (The formal principle is sola scriptura.)

Note:

(i) justification by faith is “the very foundation of our Church [i.e., Anglican]…and indeed  the fundamental [doctrine] of the Reformed Churches.” (Sermon # 150, “Hypocrisy in Oxford”)
Plainly Wesley understood just’n by faith to be the fundamental doctrine of the Church of England (Anglican), and he understood said church to be “Reformed.”

Wesley would never have agreed with the notion that “Methodism is neither Protestant nor Catholic.”

(ii) the place of justification in Wesley’s theology and in the faith of the church.  “I have not known ten Quakers in my life whose experience went so far as justification.”  (Letter, 1780)

(iii) where justification isn’t held up, the church doesn’t exist.  (Minutes, 1745)

(iv) the faith connected to justification isn’t assent to a proposition (not even the proposition that justification is by faith) but rather trust in a person, the Person of Jesus Christ the Justifier.  At the same time, Wesley never denied the “assent” element in faith, never denied its necessity.

(v) atonement is the ground of justification.
Wesley denounced mysticism because of its undervaluation of the atonement.
Wesley insisted on propitiation.  (God must be appeased; his wrath must be averted.)

(vi) Wesley believed in just’n by faith from the day of his conversion.
“I believe justification by faith alone as much as I believe there is a God….I have never  varied from it, no, not an hair’s breadth from 1738 to this day.” (1766)