The Sermons of Charles Wesley: A Critical Edition, with Introduction and Notes

By Charles Wesley; Kenneth G. C. Newport | Go to book overview
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Sermon 4 1 John 3: 14

Introductory Comment

Charles preached from his sermon on 1 John 3: 14 at least twenty-one times during 1738 and 1739. The dates and places are recorded on the MS itself and almost all can be confirmed in the journal. These were almost certainly not the only occasions on which he preached from this scripture text, though just how frequently he made use of this particular written sermon cannot be ascertained. However, there is strong evidence for at least one further use. 1 The sermon itself is divided into two very unequal parts; part one is approximately 6,700 words, part two 1,600 words. It appears from the register that during July and August 1738 Charles preached both halves on the same day (even if not back to back); from September 1738, however, he began to preach only one part per visit. On 3 September 1738, for example, he preached part one at St Botolph's, returning the following week (10 September) to preach part two.

There is no reason to think that this is anything other than a Charles Wesley composition. It is written entirely in Charles's idiosyncratic form of Byrom's shorthand, with the exception of the sermon register on the verso of leaf 1, which is in longhand. The MS, now held at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 2 comprises 14 separate leaves which have been stitch-bound to form a booklet. Leaves 13-14 are completely blank, perhaps indicating that Charles proposed to add to the sermon at a later stage, which would have balanced the unequal parts somewhat. Leaves 2-12 contain the sermon itself; 2-11 are written recto and verso, leaf 12 recto only. The verso of leaf 1 to the recto of leaf 12 are numbered by Charles as pages 2-21. The first leaf forms a front cover. The recto is blank while the verso contains the sermon register. As is clear from the transcription here produced, the text of the MS is fairly neat, though there are in places minor additions and deletions, all of which appear to be in Charles's own hand. They have been indicated in the notes.

In 1987 a transcription of this sermon was produced by Albin and Beckerlegge and published by the Wesley Historical Society; extensive use of that transcription has been made here. Proper credit for that ground-breaking work must be given, and it is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to those earlier scholars. However, in preparing this text for publication the original shorthand MS has been thoroughly re-examined, and numerous alterations have been made or suggested to the Albin-Beckerlegge edition. The more significant differences between this form of the text and that presented by Albin and Beckerlegge are indicated in the notes, as are the places where, although the Albin-Beckerlegge reading seems probable, the shorthand itself is insufficiently clear to make the reading certain. In these places a literal, unexpanded form of the shorthand has been given in the notes for the reader's further consideration.

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