John Wesley and Me

Letter to a Roman Catholic

To a Roman Catholic
DUBLIN July 18, 1749.

1. You have heard ten thousand stories of us who are commonly called
Protestants, of which, if you believe only one in a thousand, you
must think very hardly of us. But this is quite contrary to our
Lords rule, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’; and has many ill
consequences, particularly this — it inclines us to think as hardly
of you. Hence we are on both sides less willing to help one another,
and more ready to hurt each other. Hence brotherly love is utterly
destroyed; and each side, looking on the other as monsters, gives
way to anger, hatred, malice, to every unkind affection, which have
frequently broke out in such inhuman barbarities as are scarce named
among the heathens.

2. Now, can nothing be done, even allowing us on both sides to
retain our own opinions, for the softening our hearts towards each
other, the giving a check to this flood of unkindness, and restoring
at least some small degree of love among our neighbors and
countrymen? Do not you wish for this? Are you not fully convinced
that malice, hatred, revenge, bitterness, whether in us or in you,
in our hearts or yours, are an abomination to the Lord? Be our
opinions right, or be they wrong these tempers are undeniably wrong.
They are the broad road that leads to destruction, to the nethermost
hell.

3. I do not suppose all the bitterness is on your ride. I know there
is too much on our side also — so much, that I fear many
Protestants (so called) will be angry at me too for writing to you
in this manner, and will say, ‘ It is showing you too much favor;
you deserve no such treatment at our hands.’

4. But I think you do. I think you deserve the tenderest regard I
can show, were it only because the same God hath raised you and me
from the dust of the earth, and has made us both capable of loving
and enjoying Him to eternity; were ~ only because the Son of God has
bought you and me with His own blood. How much more, if you are a
person fearing God (as without question many of you are) and
studying to have a conscience void of offence towards God and
towards man!

5. I shall therefore endeavor, as mildly and inoffensively as I can,
to remove in some measure the ground of your unkindness, by plainly
declaring what our belief and what our practice is; that you may see
we are not altogether such monsters as perhaps you imagined us to
be.

A true Protestant may express his belief in these or the like
words:–

6. As I am assured that there is an infinite and independent Being,
and that it is impossible there should be more than one; so I
believe that this one God is the Father of all things, especially of
angels and men; that He is in a peculiar manner the Father of those
whom He regenerates by His Spirit, whom He adopts in His Son as
co-heirs with Him, and crowns with an eternal inheritance; but in a
still higher sense the Father of His only Son, whom He hath begotten
from eternity.

I believe this Father of all, not only to be able to do whatsoever
pleaseth Him, but also to have an eternal right of making what and
when and how He pleaseth, and of possess­ing and disposing of all
that He has made; and that He of His own goodness created heaven and
earth and all that is therein.

7. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Savior of the world, the
Messiah so long foretold; that, being anointed with the Holy Ghost,
He was a Prophet, revealing to us the whole will of God; that He was
a Priest who gave Himself a sacrifice for sin, and still makes
intercession for transgressors; that He is a King, who has all power
in heaven and in earth, and will reign till He has subdued all
things to Himself.

I believe He is the propel natural Son of God, God of God, very God
of very God; and that He is the Lord of all, having absolute supreme
universal dominion over all things; but more peculiarly our Lord,
who believe in Him, both by conquest, purchase, and voluntary
obligation.

I believe that He was made man, joining the human nature with the
divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of
the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well
after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and
unspotted virgin.

I believe He suffered inexpressible pains both of body and soul, and
at last death, even the death of the cross, at the time that Pontius
Pilate governed Judaea under the Roman Emperor; that His body was
then laid in the grave, and His soul went to the place of separate
spirits; that the third day He rose again from the dead; that He
ascended into heaven; where He remains in the midst of the throne of
God, in the highest power and glory, as Mediator till the end of the
world, as God to all eternity; that in the end He will come down
from heaven to judge every man according to his works, both those
who shall be then alive and all who have died before that day.

8. I believe the infinite and eternal Spirit of God, equal with the
Father and the Son, to be not only perfectly holy in Himself, but
the immediate cause of all holiness in us; enlightening our
understandings, rectifying our wills and affections, renewing our
natures, uniting our persons to Christ, assuring us of the adoption
of sons, leading us in our actions, purifying and sanctifying our
souls and bodies, to a full and eternal enjoyment of God.

9. I believe that Christ by His Apostles gathered unto Himself a
Church, to which He has continually added such as shall be saved;
that this catholic (that is, universal) Church, extending to all
nations and all ages, is holy in all its members, who have
fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that they have
fellowship with the holy angels, who constantly minister to these
heirs of salvation; and with all the living members of Christ on
earth, as well as all who are departed in His faith and fear.

10. I believe God forgives all the sins of them that truly repent
and unfeignedly believe His holy gospel; and that at the last day
all men shall rise again, every one with his own body.

I believe that, as the unjust shall after their resurrection be
tormented in hell for ever, so the just shall enjoy inconceivable
happiness in the presence of God to all eternity.

11. Now, is there anything wrong in this? Is there any one point
which you do not believe as wall as we?

But you think we ought to believe more. We will not now enter into
the dispute. Only let me ask, If a man sincerely believes thus much,
and practices accordingly, can any one possibly persuade you to
think that such a man shall perish everlastingly?

12. ‘But does he practice accordingly?’ If he does not, we grant all
his faith will not save him. And this leads me to show you in few
and plain words what the practice of a true Protestant is.

I say, a true Protestant: for I disclaim all common swearers,
Sabbath-breakers, drunkards; all whoremongers, liars, cheats,
extortioners; in a word, all that live in open sin. These are no
Protestants; they are no Christians at all. Give them their own
name: they are open heathens. They are the curse of the nation, the
bane of society, the shame of mankind, the scum of the earth.

13. A true Protestant believes in God, has a full confidence in His
mercy, fears Him with a filial fear, and loves Him with all his
soul. He worships God in spirit and in truth, in everything gives
Him thanks; calls upon Him with his heart as well as his lips at all
times and in all places; honors His Holy name and His Word, and
serves Him truly all the days of his life.

Now, do not you yourself approve of this? Is there any one point you
can condemn? Do not you practice as well as approve of it? Can you
ever be happy, if you do not? Can you ever expect true peace in this
or glory in the world to come, if you do not believe in God through
Christ? if you do not thus fear and love God? My dear friend,
consider, I am not persuading you to leave or change your religion,
but to follow after that fear and love of God without which all
religion is vain. I say not a word to you about your opinions or
outward manner of worship. But I say, all worship is an abomination
to the Lord, unless you worship Him in spirit and in truth, with
your heart as wall as your lips, with your spirit and with your
understanding also. Be your form of worship what it will, but in
everything give Him thanks, else it is all but lost labor. Use
whatever outward observances you please; but put your whole trust in
Him, but honor His holy name and His Word, and serve Him truly all
the days of your life.

14. Again: a true Protestant loves his neighbor — that is, every
man, friend or enemy, good or bad–as himself, as he loves his own
soul, as Christ loved us. And as Christ laid down His life for us,
so is he ready to lay down his life for his brethren. He shows this
love by doing to all men in all points as he would they should do
unto him. He loves, honors and obeys his father and mother, and
helps them to the uttermost of his power. He honors and obeys the
King and all that are put in authority under him. He cheerfully
submits to all his governors, teachers spiritual pastors, and
masters. He behaves lowly and reverently to all his betters. He
hurts nobody by word or deed. He is true and just in all his
dealings. He bears no malice or hatred in his heart. He abstains
from all evil-speaking lying and slandering; neither is guile found
in his mouth. Knowing his body to be the temple of the Holy Ghost he
keeps it in sobriety, temperance, and chastity. He does not desire
other men’s goods; but is content with that he hath, labors to get
his own living, and to do the whole will of God in that state of
life unto which it has pleased God to call him.

15. Have you anything to reprove in this? Are you not herein even as
he? If not (tell the truth), are you not con­demned both by God and
your own conscience? Can you fall short of any one point hereof
without falling short of being a Christian?

Come, my brother and let us reason together. Are you right, if you
only love your friend and hate your enemy? Do not even the heathens
and publicans so? You are called to love your enemy to bless them
that curse you, and to pray for them that despitefully use you and
persecute you. But are you not disobedient to the heavenly calling?
Does your tender love to all men–not only the good, but also the
evil and unthankful–approve you the child of your Father which is
in heaven? Otherwise, whatever you believe and whatever you
practice, you are of your father the devil. Are you ready to lay
down your fife for your brethren? and do you do unto ail as you
would they should do unto you? If not, do not deceive your own soul:
you are but an heathen still. Do you love, honor and obey your
father and mother and help them to the utmost of your power? Do you
honor and obey all in authority? all your governors, spiritual
pastors, and masters? Do you behave lowly and reverently to all your
betters? Do you hurt nobody by word or deed? Are you true and just
in all your dealings? Do you take care to pay whatever you owe? Do
you feel no malice, or envy, or revenge, no hatred or bitterness to
any man? If you do, it is plain you are not of God; for all these
are the tempers of the devil. Do you speak the truth from your heart
to ail men, and that in tenderness and love? Are you an ‘Israelite
indeed, in whom is no guile’? Do you keep your body in sobriety,
temperance, and chastity, as knowing it is the temple of the Holy
Ghost and that, ff any man defile the temple of God, him will God
destroy? Have you learned, in every state wherein you are, therewith
to be content? Do you labor to get your own living abhorring
idleness as you abhor hell-fire ? The devil tempts other men; but an
idle man tempts the devil: an idle man’s brain is the devil’s shop,
where he is continually working mischief. Are you not slothful in
business? Whatever your hand finds to do, do you do it with your
might? And do you do all as unto the Lord, as a sacrifice unto God,
acceptable in Christ Jesus?

The, and this alone is the old religion. This is true, primitive
Christianity. Oh, when shall it spread over all the earth? when
shall it be found both in us and you? Without waiting for others,
let each of us by the grace of God amend one.

16. Are we not thus far agreed? Let us thank God for this, and
receive it as a fresh token of His love. But if God still loveth us,
we ought also to love one another. We ought, without this endless
jangling about opinions, to provoke one another to love and to good
works. Let the points wherein we differ stand aside: here are enough
wherein we agree enough to be the ground of every Christian temper
and of every Christian action.

O brethren, let us not still fall out by the way! I hope to see you
in heaven. And if I practice the religion above described, you dare
not say I shall go to hell. You cannot think so. None can persuade
you to it. Your own conscience tells you the contrary. Then, if we
cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike.
Herein we cannot possibly do amiss. For of one point none can doubt
a moment, — ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in
God, and God in him.’

17. In the name, then, and in the strength of God, let us resolve
first, not to hurt one another; to do nothing unkind or unfriendly
to each other, nothing which we would not have done to ourselves.
Rather let us endeavor after every instance of a. kind, friendly,
and Christian behavior towards each other.

Let us resolve secondly, God being our helper, to speak nothing
harsh or unkind of each other. The sure way to avoid this is to say
all the good we can both of and to one another; in all our
conversation, either with or concerning each other, to use only the
language of love to speak with all Softness and tenderness, with the
most endearing expression which is consistent with truth and
sincerity.

Let us, thirdly, resolve to harbor no unkind thought, no unfriendly
temper, towards each other. Let us lay the axe to the root of the
tree; let us examine all that rises in our heart, and suffer no
disposition there which is contrary to tender affection. Then shall
we easily refrain from unkind actions and word~ when the very root
of bitterness is cut up.

Let us, fourthly, endeavor to help each other on in what­ever we are
agreed leads to the kingdom. So far as we can, let us always rejoice
to strengthen each other’s hands in God. Above all, let us each take
heed to himself (since each must give an account of himself to God)
that he fall not short of the religion of love, that he be not
condemned in that he himself approveth. O let you and I (whatever
others do) press on to the prize of our high calling! that, being
justified by faith, we may have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ; that we may rejoice in God through Jesus Christ, by
whom we have received the atonement; that the love of God may be
shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Let us count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge
of Jesus Christ our Lord; being ready for Him to suffer the loss of
all things, and counting them but dung that we may win Christ.–I am

Your affectionate servant for Christ’s sake.

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9 Comments »

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  2. […] "I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin." (Letter to a Roman Catholic) […]

    Pingback by A Protestant Defense of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity | Aleteia — June 15, 2015 @ 5:39 am

  3. […] "I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin." (Letter to a Roman Catholic) […]

    Pingback by A Protestant Defense of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity | Aleteia Staging — July 21, 2015 @ 6:53 am

  4. […] his Letter to a Roman Catholic, he […]

    Pingback by 5 Protestants Who Surprisingly Defended Mary's Perpetual Virginity | ChurchPOP — June 26, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

  5. […] as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.” – John Wesley, Letter to a Roman Catholic, […]

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  6. Thanks for posting this. I can’t find it anywhere else online.

    Comment by Rick Becker — September 18, 2017 @ 7:09 am

  7. […] frequently misunderstood by Protestants. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote a famous “Letter to a Roman Catholic”. It’s worth the read, marking both how things have changed for the better (Catholics and […]

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  8. […] is frequently misunderstood by Protestants. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote a famous Letter to a Roman Catholic. It’s worth the read, marking both how things have changed for the better (Catholics and […]

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  9. […] “I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.” (Letter to a Roman Catholic) […]

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