Saturday, June 4, 2011

John Wesley: How to Read the Scripture

Today I head to West Ohio Annual Conference, where I will spend this week as a delegate representing my district. To me, Annual Conference is like a weeklong United Methodist party. I have gone every year since I was six months old, and it is by far my favorite week of the year. The only bad news is that I will not have any reliable way to connect to the internet, so this will be my last entry for a few days.

In honor of this thoroughly United Methodist week of my summer, I thought I would share John Wesley’s “How to Read the Scripture,” which I read for the first time last semester while I was writing a paper on Wesleyan hermeneutics. I have been wanting to post it on here since the beginning of the summer; it reflects the way I approach Scripture as informed by my faith tradition. While my academic training in biblical studies certainly informs my hermeneutic, I think it is also important to acknowledge the ways in which my upbringing and journey as a United Methodist also shape my understanding of Scripture. So, here it is:

“If you desire to read the scripture in such a manner as may most effectually answer this end, would it not be advisable,

1. To set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening for that purpose?

2. At each time if you have leisure, to read a chapter out of the Old, and one out of the New Testament: if you cannot do this, to take a single chapter, or a part of one?

3. To read this with a single eye, to know the whole will of God, and a fixt resolution to do it? In order to know his will, you should,

4. Have a constant eye to the analogy of faith; the connexion and harmony there is between those grand, fundamental doctrines, Original Sin, Justification by Faith, the New Birth, Inward and Outward Holiness.

5. Serious and earnest prayer should be constantly used, before we consult the oracles of God, seeing "scripture can only be understood thro' the same Spirit whereby it was given." Our reading should likewise be closed with prayer, that what we read may be written on our hearts.

6. It might also be of use, if while we read, we were frequently to pause, and examine ourselves by what we read, both with regard to our hearts, and lives. This would furnish us with matter of praise, where we found God had enabled us to conform to his blessed will, and matter of humiliation and prayer, where we were conscious of having fallen short.

And whatever light you then receive, should be used to the uttermost, and that immediately. Let there be no delay. Whatever you resolve, begin to execute the first moment you can. So shall you find this word to be indeed the power of God unto present and eternal salvation.”

From John Wesley, Preface to Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament
EDINBURGH, April 25, 1765.

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