Wesley’s primitivist elucidation

Today, another quotation from E.H. Broadbent (The Pilgrim Church, p. 294):

[John] Wesley’s determined adherence to the Established Church prevented him from seeing those principles which are taught in Scripture regarding the churches of God, and he never attempted to follow up his Gospel preaching by forming churches, on the New Testament pattern, of whose who believed.  Yet in 1746 he wrote, “On the road I read over Lord King’s account of the Primitive Church.  In spite of the vehement prejudice of my education, I was ready to believe … that originally every Christian congregation was a church independent of all others!”

Dear John, why, if you were indeed ready to believe, did you not continue along the path of restoration?  What caused you to retain all the peripheral “stuff” of Christianity?

A piercing voice is heard, through the millennia, above Wesley’s sincere, yet ultimately short-falling, question:  why, oh why, do we continue to depend on man-made church structures?  Why do we hold so tenaciously to a-biblical and even un-biblical hierarchies?  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Anglican Church within which Wesley was working, or the United Methodist Church that he spawned, or the Roman Catholic institution, or the Church of Christ, or “River of Grace Ministries,” a stereotypical nondenominational church where Joe Jones, “founding pastor,” calls the shots.  They are all man-made structures.

It’s been said that

  1. When the early church “moved” to Greece, it became a philosophy.
  2. When it moved to Rome, it became an institution.
  3. When it moved to Europe, it became a culture.
  4. When it moved to America, it became a business.

However, this is not the end of the story.  God, help us.  Move us backward in principle as we move forward in time.

Wesley’s pietist exclamation

John Wesley’s pietist, evangelistic zeal had a major impact on the Christian world.  On at least one occasion, though, another portion of that world made an impact on him.

He had sailed to Georgia, along with his brother Charles (the hymn writer), on a missionary trip to the natives.  It seems that, on this voyage, Wesley had the pleasure of companionship with some pietist Moravians whom he learned to respect.  Their influence doubtless led to what he said upon return, as well as leading him to seek out more Moravian influence once ashore.  At any rate, his exclamation gives us something to think about:

“I went to America to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me?!”

– quoted in E.H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, p. 289