Darrell Stetler II
The Catholic Spirit - John Wesley (Condensed Sermon)
Updated: Feb 14
This is part of a series of some of John Wesley's greatest sermons in condensed, detailed outline format.
The Catholic Spirit by John Wesley
"And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered: It is.
If it be, give me thine hand." 2 Kings 10:15
Everyone realizes “that love is due to all mankind, the royal law, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’…” But certainly “there is a peculiar love which we owe to those that love God.”
David calls us to it: "All my delight is upon the saints that are in the earth, and upon such as excel in virtue."
And Jesus: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35).
And John: "This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1 John 3:11)
But though everyone approves of this idea of love to all mankind, many Christians don’t practice it, for 2 main reasons:
1. they cannot all think alike – their beliefs are different
2. they cannot all walk alike – their practices are different
But differences in these areas need not prevent “our union in affection… Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may."
Let’s examine the text:
I. The question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab, "Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart"
A. Note that there is “no inquiry concerning Jehonadab's opinions.”
1. It is probable that Jehonadab had opinions and practices different than Jehu
2. Possibly Jehonadab was a Rechabite.
B. Good men may “entertain peculiar opinions”
1. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding
2. It will be the same until the ending of all things.
C. “Every man… believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true.”
1. Yet no man can “be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true.”
2. Nay, every thinking man is assured they are not, seeing…to mistake in some [things], is the necessary condition of humanity."
D. Good men may not be able to change their mind or even understand why they believe something.
E. SOLUTION: “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs.
F. There is “no inquiry made concerning Jehonadab's mode of worship;
G. “Even among men of an upright heart,” there are “various ways of worshipping God;”
1. Every man must “be fully persuaded in his own mind and then act according to the best light he has.”
2. Every Christian must be “member of some particular congregation or other” but only by “private judgement”
H. “I dare not… impose my mode of worship on any other.” So I do not ask the one “with whom I would unite in love:
Are you of my church, of my congregation?
Do you receive the same form of church government?
Do you join in the same form of prayer?
Do you receive the supper of the Lord in the same posture and manner that I do?
Do “you agree with me… in the manner of administering [baptism]? or the age of those to whom it should be administered.
Nay, I ask not of you (as clear as I am in my own mind), whether you allow baptism and the Lord's supper at all.
Let all these things stand by: we will talk of them, if need be, at a more convenient season.
I. What does the question mean, then, when we ask it of another Christian?
Is thy heart right with God?
Dost thou believe his being and his perfections his eternity, immensity, wisdom, power his justice, mercy, and truth?
Dost thou believe that he… governs even the most minute, even the most noxious, to his own glory, and the good of them that love him?
Hast thou a divine evidence, a supernatural conviction, of the things of God?
Dost thou "walk by faith not by sight" looking not at temporal things, but things eternal?
Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, "God over all, blessed for ever" Is he revealed in thy soul?
Dost thou know Jesus Christ and him crucified?
Does he dwell in thee, and thou in him?
Is he formed in thy heart by faith?
Having absolutely disclaimed all thy own works, thy own righteousness, hast thou "submitted thyself unto the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus?”
Art thou "found in him, not having thy own righteousness, but the righteousness which is by faith"?
Art thou, through him, "fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life”
Is thy faith …filled with the energy of love?
Dost thou love God …"with all thy heart, …mind, …soul, and …strength"?
Dost thou seek all thy happiness in him alone? And dost thou find what thou sleekest?
Does thy soul continually "magnify the Lord, and thy spirit rejoice in God thy Saviour"
Dost thou find "it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful"?
Is God the centre of thy soul, the sum of all thy desires?
Art thou accordingly laying up thy treasure in heaven?
Hath the love of God cast the love of the world out of thy soul?
Art thou employed in doing, "not thy own will, but the will of him that sent thee"?
Is it thy meat and drink "to do the will of thy Father which is in heaven"?
Is thine eye single in all things always fixed on him, always looking unto Jesus?
Dost thou point at him in whatsoever thou doest…aiming only at the glory of God in all?
Does the love of God constrain thee to serve him with fear…?
Art thou more afraid of displeasing God, than either of death or hell?
Is nothing so terrible to thee as the thought of offending the eyes of his glory?
Dost thou "hate all evil ways," every transgression of his holy and perfect law;?
Is thy heart right toward thy neighbour? Dost thou love as thyself, all mankind, without exception?
Do you love even the enemies of God, the unthankful and unholy? Do you show this by "blessing them that curse you…?”
Do you show your love by your works?
Do you in fact "do good to all men," neighbours or strangers, friends or enemies?
II. What does it mean to say “Give me thy hand?”
A. What I do not mean:
1. I do not mean, "Be of my opinion." You need not: I do not expect or desire it.
2. I do not mean, "I will be of your opinion." I cannot, it does not depend on my choice
3. I do not mean, "Embrace my modes of worship," or, "I will embrace yours."
B. What I do mean:
1. Love me…with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother; as a brother in Christ, a fellow citizen of the New Jerusalem, a fellow soldier engaged in the same warfare, under the same Captain of our salvation. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint heir of his glory.
2. Love me …with the love that is
long-suffering and kind;
that is patient, If I am ignorant … bearing and not increasing my burden;
that envieth not, if it please God to prosper me in his work more than thee.
that is not provoked, either at my follies or infirmities; or even at my acting (if it should sometimes so appear to thee) not according to the will of God.
think no evil of me;
that covereth all things; that never reveals either my faults or infirmities,
that believeth all things; is always willing to think the best, to put the fairest construction on all my words and actions,
that hopeth all things; either that the [sin] related was never done…that whatever is amiss will, by the grace of God, be corrected; and whatever is wanting, supplied, through the riches of his mercy in Christ Jesus.
3. Commend me to God in all thy prayers;
that he would speedily correct what he sees amiss, and supply what is wanting in me.
that my heart may be more as thy heart, more right both toward God and toward man;
that I may have a fuller conviction of things not seen, and a stronger view of the love of God in Christ Jesus;
that the love of God and of all mankind may be more largely poured into my heart;
that I may be more fervent and active in doing the will of my Father which is in heaven, more zealous of good works, and more careful to abstain from all appearance of evil.
4. Provoke me to love and to good works.
5. Love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth.
6. So far as in conscience [you can}, join with me in the work of God
7. Speak honourably wherever thou art, of the work of God, by whomsoever he works, and kindly of his messengers.
8. sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress,
9. give them a cheerful and effectual assistance…
III. What is a catholic spirit?
A. A catholic spirit is not speculative latitudinarianism. It is not an indifference to all opinions.
B. A man of a truly catholic spirit is not seeking what to believe.
1. He is fixed as the sun in his judgement concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine.
2. he is always ready to hear and weigh whatsoever can be offered against his principles;
3. He does not halt between two opinions, nor vainly endeavour to blend them into one.
4. First [one must] learn the first elements of the gospel of Christ, and then shall you learn to be of a truly catholic spirit.
C. A catholic spirit is not any kind of practical latitudinarianism. It is not indifference as to public worship
D. A catholic spirit is not indifference to all congregations.
1. A man of catholic spirit is fully committed to his own theology and local church.
2. But his heart is enlarged toward all mankind, those he knows and those he does not;
3. For love alone gives the title to this character: catholic love is a catholic spirit.
We live in a day of a strange mixture of "speculative latitudinarianism" (we don't really know what's true, so let's just wander aimlessly), and dramatic tribalism (If you're not one with me on secondary doctrines, you're an enemy of the Gospel).
If there was ever a day this message was needed, it would be ours.
The word "catholic" as used by Wesley means "universal," not Roman Catholic.
For Further Study:
For an overview of the life and influence of John Wesley, check out that link.
To learn more about John Wesley's most famous sermons, click this link.