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

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

Sermon 17 Luke 16: 8

Introductory Comment

Charles's sermon on Luke 16: 8 comes from his period in America. The MS carries annotation to the effect that it was 'preached at Frederica May 9. 1736' 1 and again at Savannah on 25 July of the same year, which was Charles's last full day in Georgia. 2 A shorthand note at the end indicates that Charles has transcribed the text, though from what source he does not say; it reads simply 'transcribed May 6. 1736 at Frederica'. There is no entry in the journal for 6 May 1736; however, as Outler notes, 3 Charles did transcribe John's sermon on John 13: 7 (Sermon 18 below) on 7 May 1736, which indicates that he was working with his brother's MSS at this time.

The fact that Charles indicates that he has transcribed this sermon clearly raises the question of authenticity. This subject has been discussed already and need not be entered into again here. Suffice it to say that even if this is a copy of another's sermon (as opposed to, perhaps, a fair copy of one of his own MSS—an hypothesis worth considering) it yet reveals something of Charles's own theological persuasion and homiletic art for, as has been argued already, there is every reason to think that he did far more than copy out word for word the texts of which he made use. In this context his use of square brackets in the MS text ought to be noted carefully. Their function is far from clear; they do not bracket off any words or phrases that seem in themselves significant. It may be that these were words that Charles felt might be omitted in the spoken form of the sermon should that seem appropriate in view of the time and the audience. Alternatively, and this also seems a perfectly plausible suggestion, they may contain Charles's own interpolations into the text from which he is transcribing. 4 Certainly these words can be omitted when reading the text with no obvious hiatus.

The MS for this sermon is held at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester. 5 It comprises sixteen leaves made from eight folded sheets. These have been stitch-bound to form a small booklet. The text of the sermon is found on leaves 2-16, which have been written recto only. Leaf 1 forms the front cover and has information written verso and recto. The MS is in a good state of repair, though leaves 1 and 16 have become detached, and there are no missing sections. There is some strike-through but it can, with one exception indicated below, be reasonably confidently recovered.

-314-

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