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 7 Romans 3: 23-5

Introductory Comment

On Sunday 1 July 1739, Charles records in his journal, 'I preached my sermon on justification before the University, with great boldness. All were very attentive. One could not help weeping.' 1 Even though there is no record of the place or date of preaching on the MS itself, it is plain that the sermon he preached on this occasion was the longer form of his sermon on justification, that is, the sermon on Romans 3: 23-5 which is reproduced here. The link is established by the bidding prayer, written in longhand at the beginning, which makes reference to those 'here in Oxford' including 'the Right Honourable Charles, Earl of Arran, our Honoured Lord and Chancellor'. This information, when combined with Charles's use of the term 'sermon on justification [by faith]' to refer to his shorter sermon on Romans 3: 23-4, printed here as Sermon 6, makes it certain that this was the text he preached before the university.

As was shown in the introduction to Sermon 6, Charles spoke fairly frequently on 'justification by faith' during the course of the next several months; it is not clear whether he used this or the shorter sermon text as the basis of his delivery. It is quite possible of course that he used neither.

This sermon is the longest to have survived, and one wonders how long it must have taken him to deliver it. The text as printed below amounts to close on 10,000 words, which if read at a reasonable speed and without 'adding much extempore' (as we know he was wont to do) would still take a good hour to preach.

The MS is held at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 2 and is in a generally good state of repair. It comprises twenty-one leaves, twenty formed from ten folded sheets, one of which forms the front and back cover. The odd sheet is the one upon which the bidding prayer has been written, which raises the possibility that it may have been a later addition. All sheets are now stitch-bound to make a booklet. The leaves are written recto only, with the exception of two short additions on the verso of leaves 16 and 18. The places where these are to be inserted are clearly indicated in the text on the recto facing.

This sermon was first published by Albin and Beckerlegge as part of their edition of the shorthand sermons, and their original transcription has been invaluable in the preparation of this volume. However, as with the other sermons in the Albin-Beckerlegge edition, this has been thoroughly re-examined and numerous changes made and suggested. The more significant of these have been indicated in the notes.

This sermon draws fairly extensively upon Sermon 6, the shorter sermon on Romans 3: 23-4. It seems certain that the influence is this way round, since the shorter pre-dates this by more than six months. However, as Albin and Beckerlegge note, 3 Charles's use of the

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