And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:21)
This is one of the many verses of Scripture that John Wesley quoted in an article he wrote entitled “The Character of a Methodist“.
Wesley writes that a Methodist is someone in whom “this commandment is written in his heart, that he who loveth God, love his brother also. And he accordingly loves his neighbour as himself; he loves every man as his own soul. His heart is full of love to all mankind.”1
After describing several other characteristics of a Methodist, Wesley then wrote (paragraph 17):
“These are the principles and practices of our sect, these are the marks of a true Methodist… If (any one should) say, ‘Why these are only the common, fundamental principles of Christianity!’ you have said;
I reply: Indeed. This is the very truth. I know they are… and I would to God that you, and everyone, would also know that I, and all who follow my judgment, do vehemently refuse to be distinguished from other men, by any but the common principles of Christianity. The plain, old Christianity that I teach, renouncing and detesting all other marks of distinction.“2
In other words, Wesley said that the fundamental characteristics of Methodists should be the fundamental characteristics of all Christians, plain and simple. So when Wesley preached—and Wesley preached a lot—he was not trying to preach Methodism. He was trying to preach basic Christianity.
Whilst this issue of Methodist Message features various aspects of our Methodist heritage, we should, like Wesley, “vehemently refuse to be distinguished from other men, by any but the common principles of Christianity.”
May our Methodist heritage inform and inspire us on our journey through life with all true disciples of Jesus Christ, loving God with all our hearts by loving our neighbours as ourselves.
1 John Wesley, “The Character of a Methodist” (paragraph 9).
2 John Wesley, “The Character of a Methodist” (paragraph 17). This is a paraphrase.