Book Review: The Sermons of John Wesley

ken-collins-the-sermons-of-john-wesleyJust received a newly published collection of The Sermons of John Wesley edited by Ken Collins and Jason Vickers. This collection is unique from the ones I’ve collected over the years (including an 1847 two-volume set I got from a retired pastor when I started in ministry) in that it’s not ordered chronologically, as most volumes tend to be. Instead, Collins and Vickers have put the sermons together according to the Wesleyan Order of Salvation, starting with Original Sin, progressing through Justification by Faith, New Birth, and Christian Perfection, and all the way toward New Creation. Each sermon comes with a commentary and a helpful outline that makes for easy study.

It’s always been interesting to me that Wesley focused much less on the traditional question-answer catechism that I grew up with in the Reformed tradition, and instead relied on the Anglican Articles of Religion and this collection of his own sermons as the theological grounding for the early Methodist lay preachers. Every Circuit Rider would have had a volume of these sermons next to their Bible in the saddlebag and he rode from town to town either in the English countryside or the American wilderness. Wesley’s theology was inherently practical, designed to be preached and lived out more than memorized or debated.

It’s also interesting that while most of us Methodist preachers study Wesley’s sermons in seminary, rarely have we leaned into them as a framework for our own preaching in the Methodist tradition. As I look at the way this collection is put together, it strikes me that it provides a great outline for a preacher to use in putting together a sermon series on the theology of Methodism, updating Wesley’s 18th century language and style for the 21st century.

Grab a copy of The Sermons of John Wesley and you’ll see what I mean!

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