Saturday, September 14, 2019

Give me [not] thine hand?

"a catholic spirit is not speculative latitudinarianism.  It is not indifference to all opinions.  This is the spawn of hell, not the offering of heaven.  This unsettledness of thought, this being 'driven to and fro, and tossed about with every wind of doctrine' [(Eph 4:14)], is a great curse, not a blessing; an irreconcilable enemy, not a friend, to true catholicism.  A man of a truly catholic spirit has not now his religion to seek.  He is fixed as the sun in his judgment concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine.  'Tis true he is always ready to hear and weigh whatsoever can be offered against his principles.  But as this does not show any wavering in his own mind, so neither does it occasion any.  He does not halt between two opinions [(1 Kg 18:21)], nor vainly endeavor to blend them into one.  Observe this, you who know not what spirit ye are of [(Lk 9:55 AV)], who call yourselves men of a catholic spirit only because you are of a muddy understanding; because your mind is all in a mist; because you have no settled, consistent principles, but are for jumbling all opinions together.  Be convinced that you have quite missed your way:  you know not where you are.  You think you are got into the very spirit of Christ [(Rom 8:9)], when in truth you are nearer the spirit of antichrist [(1 Jn 4:3)].  Go first and learn [(Mt 9:13)] the first elements of the gospel of Christ [(Heb 5:12)], and then shall you learn to be of a truly catholic spirit."

     John Wesley, "Catholic spirit" (Sermon 39) III.1, underscoring mine.  In III.2 Wesley then moves on to the rejection of "any kind of practical latitudinarianism"; in III.3, to that of "indifference to all congregations"; and so forth.
  • 1 Ki 18:21:  between the Lord and Baal!
  • Lk 9:55 AV, i.e. as present in some manuscripts:  "But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."  Cf. Mk 8:33 on the "Satan"ism of a rebuked Peter, along with the several other passages in which Jesus "rebukes" an ultimately spiritual adversary.
  • Rom 8:9:  "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (AV).
  • 1 John 4:3:  the speculative latitudinarian is here being accused of, in effect, denying "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh", "that Jesus is the Christ", etc.  For "antichrist" language occurs only in 1 (and 2) John, the epistle that, for Rob Wall, constituted Wesley's "canon within the canon" (Robert W. Wall, "John’s John: a Wesleyan theological reading of 1 John," Wesleyan theological journal 46, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 105–41).
  • "spawn of hell":  to cite Mt 23:15 in conjunction with this would be to push things too far, though it would be interesting to know what, more precisely, that phrase served to denominate in Wesley's time.
Thus, the speculative latitudinarian (as here described, to a greater or a lesser extent, of course, also a specifically 18th-century figure) should be understood to be (or so it seems to me) among those to whom Wesley would extend not the hand of a specifically Christian fellowship, but only, at most, the "strong and cordial affection"—the "universal love"—due even to one's "enemies" (III.4, though even there—i.e. in sec. III more generally, but III.4-6 more specifically—the context seems to be still an at least nominally "Christian" one).  Cf. the reference to taking "this word in the strictest sense" at the head of III.5.