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

By Charles Wesley; Kenneth G. C. Newport | Go to book overview

Sermon 14 Luke 16: 10

Introductory Comment

All of the sermons printed above have an excellent claim to being original Charles Wesley compositions. For some the case is indisputable, and for the remainder it is very strong. Sermons 14-23 in this volume, however, are somewhat more problematic. Most are identified by Charles himself as copies from his brother's MSS, while the origin of the others is unknown. The reasons for including such sermons in this volume have been discussed in Chapter 4 .

Most problematic of all is this sermon on Luke 16: 10, for almost nothing of its history is now recoverable. There is no evidence of when or where it was preached, how extensively it was used by Charles, or any particular circumstances surrounding its original composition. It is not mentioned in the journal, nor, as far as is known, in the extant MS letters. 1 However, this should not be taken as evidence against its use by, and perhaps even origin with, Charles. The sermon on John 4: 41 is similarly absent from the record in the journal and letters, but its authenticity is almost beyond doubt.

As was stated in Chapter 4 , no MS for this sermon has survived, in either John's or Charles's hand. The only form of it known is the one printed in the 1816 edition of the sermons. 2 This is also problematic for, as has been seen, it is clear from the other sermons printed in that edition that the editor has frequently deviated from the text of the MS forms, and that editorial policy has presumably left its mark here also. Allowance for this fact must be made, and those using this sermon in support of reconstructions of Charles's theology will need to exercise caution.

The lack of a MS is regrettable also in that it may well have been the case, as frequently with the others, that the MS carried some information regarding when and where the sermon was preached and whether it had been 'transcribed' from another's, perhaps John's, copy. As has been noted, there is no evidence to suggest that John ever wrote or preached a sermon on this precise text, but that he did must remain a possibility since our knowledge of John's sermon register is patchy.

The authenticity of this sermon must, then, remain open to question. However, as has been argued at length in Chapter 4 , these doubts and uncertainties are not sufficient to warrant its wholesale rejection. What it reveals about Charles's own views is clearly going to be somewhat conjectural and open to dispute. However, those conjectures are worth making and the disputes worth having in the light of the better evidence afforded by the other texts which can be more confidently recovered.

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