The High Church Roots of John Wesley's Appeal to Primitive Christianity
Vol. 37/No. 2 (1995)
The High Church Roots of John Wesley's Appeal to Primitive Christianity
Kelly D. Carter
Vancouver, British Columbia
Within Protestantism appeals to the ancient church for ecclesiastical life and doctrine have a long history.(1) Early in the era of the Reformation Zwingli, the Anabaptists, Bullinger, Bucer, and Calvin were looking to the NT to restore the primitive Christian faith, taking antiquity as their standard against the aberrations they were convinced lived in the church of their day.(2) Even prior to this, the Paulicians, Bogomils, Waldenses, Lollards, the Unity of the Brethren, and the Christian humanists had attempted their own versions of restoring the ancient church. John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Erasmus, and Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples were all attempting in their respective eras and locales to initiate reform using more or less the ancient precepts and practices of the early church. Their perceptions of primitive Christianity, ascertained from the Scriptures, acted in each case as a foundational standard for reform.(3)
Impulses toward restoring the ancient church and seeking a standard for faith and practice in primitive Christianity were notably present in England during and shortly following the Reformation.(4) During the reign of Edward VI, Protestant influence, especially from Reformed sources, infiltrated the Church of England through Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Martin Bucer, et al., and it is proper to see these precursors of the Elizabethan Settlement as, in a sense, a first wave of English primitivistic concern. Primitivism, then, cannot be entirely separated from the roots of the established Church of England, despite Anglican tendencies to accentuate its links with Catholic traditionalism, and despite a penchant on the part of historians to link English appeals to primitive Christianity with the later and better defined Puritan movement.(5) Certainly primitivism was a cardinal constituent of Puritanism, but an interest toward following primitive precedents can also be traced in the Elizabethan Settlement and later Anglicanism. In fact, even though a call for primitive Christianity is typically associated with Puritan reform, there still existed, following the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne in 1660 (in the person of Charles II), and following the Act of Conformity in 1662, a considerable concern on the part of many High Church Anglicans for the Christianity of antiquity.(6)
A concern for primitive Christianity was also present among the earliest Methodists in eighteenth-century England, and this was particularly so of John Wesley himself. However, because Puritanism's primitivistic stance was already well established and well known in Wesley's day, and because Methodism for so long stayed closely united to the Church of England, Wesley's primitivism tends to be ignored vis à vis Puritanism's strong emphasis on ancient precedent. It is also tempting to view Methodist primitivism, when it is given its due, as stemming directly from Puritan influences. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to examine the foundations of the emphasis on primitive Christianity which was present among the early Wesleyan Methodists, particularly John Wesley. Wesley's primitivism will be examined in terms of its High Church Anglican background, with special reference to his contact with High Church primitivism, the Religious Societies movement, the religious predispositions of Wesley's own family, and the impact of primitivism on later changes in Wesley's thinking.
Wesley and Primitive Christianity
Students of John Wesley and Methodism have consistently identified Wesley's lifelong concern for primitive Christianity as one of the chief constituents of eighteenth-century evangelicalism.(7) Wesley wanted to restore the nature and characteristics of the primitive church, including its teachings, practices, worship, and, to a lesser extent, its order. Martin Schmidt, one of the premier Wesleyan biographers, says,
To his mind, the pristine Christianity of the Apostles supplied man's every need. All his zeal was devoted to this. He was utterly convinced that primitive Christianity could be restored in his own day and age, and in every generation. . . . Restoration of the primitive Christian stance in its totality was always his guiding principle; never for a single moment did he diverge from this.(8)
Schmidt's opinion is supported in numerous examples from Wesley's letters, sermons, and even in the "Rules of the United Societies," although these are not typically as much overt references to the term "primitive Christianity" (Wesley typically referred to "real Christianity" or "Scriptural Christianity" when addressing the subject) as they are consistent appeals to Scripture and to ancient practice.(9) One instance of Wesley's use of the expression "Primitive Church" is especially significant in that it was written in 1784, in the twilight of Wesley's life. It reveals that even near the end of his long life Wesley was still vitally concerned about practicing Christianity within the parameters of the ancient faith. This had become, with time, a preeminent factor-vis à vis Anglican ecclesiastical policy-in his determining of the course his Methodists should take:
As our American brethren are now totally disentangled both from the State and from the English hierarchy, we dare not entangle them again either with the one or the other. They are at full liberty simply to follow the Scriptures and the Primitive Church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has so strangely made them free [italics mine, KDC].(10)
The pragmatic effects of Wesley's primitivism are indicated in several places throughout his writings and correspondence in the descriptions he offers of the Wesleyan societies and his instructions regarding ecclesiastical practices and personal discipleship. This is seen, for instance, in his "Essay on the Stationary Fasts," in which he appeals to ancient precedent in defense of the fasts which became standard for the Oxford Holy Club and the later societies.(11) Years later in writing his spiritual biography Wesley would say, "The next spring  I began observing the Wednesday and Friday Fasts, commonly observed in the ancient church, tasting no food till three in the afternoon.(12) " Other examples are found in the journal entries for January 21, 1740; May 17, 1740; May 7, 1741; and February 17, 1744, in which Wesley applies the standards of primitive Christianity to the manner in which a Christian is to live.(13) Further, Schmidt has drawn attention to the primitive foundations of the call to apostolic poverty in the Methodists' lay preaching ministry, of obedience to Wesley on the part of his preachers (as Timothy would be to Paul), and of the qualifications of lay preachers being judged in terms of their fruitfulness in ministry.(14)
A good example of Wesley's concern for primitive Christianity is also found in his brief excursion to Georgia in 1736-37. Here he could do evangelistic mission work in a context void of historical precedent and influences, save those of the earliest Christians. Schmidt says of the trip,
One way for Wesley to return to Primitive Christianity was for him to go to a pristine environment where there was no church. Mission to heathens with no background was viewed by him as parallel to the original church's circumstances.(15)
Finally, and perhaps more significant than Wesley's appeal to ancient precedent for the practical carrying out of Christian faith, is the Wesleyan acceptance and acknowledgement of justification by faith, together with its accompanying emphases on assurance, perfection, prayer, confession, and Bible study as the central items in Christian spirituality. These, along with the enthusiasms which from time to time reoccurred en masse (most notably in the 1760s), were perceived as part of a restoration of the Spirit's influence on believers in a manner after the apostolic era. Rack's judgment is telling:
Those in the eighteenth-century movement believed they were experiencing a renewal of the truth and life of primitive Christianity as in the apostolic age, and saw this doctrinally as a renewal of the salvation doctrines of the Reformation.(16)
Evangelicalism, as a whole, aimed to recover a form of "primitive Christianity," defined in terms of the NT-an apostolic Church with a strongly supernaturalist flavour and centering on the teaching of a version of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.(17)
The presence and character of primitivism within Methodism having been elucidated, the task remains of discerning the foundations of Wesley's primitivistic leanings. While some have seen a direct connection between Wesley's primitivism and Puritanism, the following presents the case for grounding Methodism's penchant for the church of antiquity in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century primitivism of High Church Anglicanism.(18)
Primitivism in High Church Anglicanism
With the return of the Stuarts to power in 1660 there arose a pathetic religious and moral atmosphere. At once both great optimism and hope arose among Anglicans because of the restoration, and also great depravity and vice. Maximin Piette describes the period:
There was in evidence a frightful lowering of public and private morals everywhere. . . . Concord and union of minds, harmony of soul, religious piety, recollection, and spiritual interior life had completely disappeared. . . . Religion consisted of useless repetition of useless forms.(19)
The moral depravity and irreligion among those professing allegiance to Anglicanism in the late seventeenth century brought responses from different quarters. First came literary responses from William Cave,(20) William Reeves,(21) Anthony Horneck,(22) Nathaniel Marshall,(23) who were all High Church Anglicans writing to expose the laxness of the official church and to call the church's adherents to the primitive Christian character. These writers were fortunate in that Ussher, Pearson, Fell, and Bull had been pouring over patristic documents, dramatically enhancing the knowledge of patristics among Anglicans of the late sixteenth century.(24) Therefore, when they found it prudent to make moralistic appeals based on ancient precedent, resources were ready at hand. Cave's Primitive Christianity, for example, was dependent on these patristic advancements and, more than anything else, he wished to promote moral purity and practical piety within Anglicanism. In doing so Cave closely examined the church during the first five centuries of Christianity, describing virtually every aspect of the church's life and implying in his call to primitive roots that the church of his own day had fallen. Cave and the others like him were widely read among their peers and during the next century, indicating the power and prevalence of their plea for the nation to reconsider, and conform their practice to, the teachings and practices of earliest Christianity.
Aside from the above literary contributions which called the church to practice the primitivistic faith, there existed among the High Church-oriented Non-Jurors at the end of the eighteenth century a special emphasis on ancient Christianity. Gordon Rupp traces the history of the Non-Jurors and notes their attempts-in response to the liturgical corruptions they perceived as being present after the ascension of William III to the throne-to link themselves, especially their episcopate and liturgy, to the primordial church. They were fond of studying the Fathers, the ancient liturgies, and the Apostolic Constitutions, and they desired to draw a direct line between themselves and a monarchial episcopate begun at Jerusalem.(25)
In light of this, two facts are important for analyzing the roots of John Wesley's emphasis on reviving ancient Christianity. First, there was obvious attention paid by Wesley to the literary productions of High Church Anglicans and others who shared their ecclesiology and their concern for the primitive church. Wesley was well acquainted with Cave's Primitive Christianity, and it and Fleury's The Manners of the Ancient Christians were required reading at Kingswood.(26) In addition to "The Christian Library" Wesley actually included in required reading lists for Kingswood and the Holy Club numerous titles by those who were either High Church or sympathetic with their position. Many of these are strongly oriented toward primitive Christianity; e.g., Grabe's Spicelegium; Wake's Apostolic Epistles and Fathers; Marshall's Penitential Discipline of the Primitive Church; and Robert Nelson's Companion for the Festivals and Fasts of the Church of England.(27) Even if no other direct links between Wesley and the High Church predilection for primitivistic ecclesiology could be found, the literary link is undeniable.
It is further significant that the Non-Juror John Clayton joined the Oxford Holy Club in 1731 or 1732, subsequent to which he became a close friend of John Wesley. According to Green, Clayton joined with the Holy Club largely because it seemed to him like a return to apostolic tradition; while he, in turn, had opportunity through the new society to further the Wesleys' interests in the church of antiquity.(28) In the summer of 1733 Wesley accompanied Clayton to Manchester, where he was introduced to several of Clayton's Non-Juror friends, including John Byrom and Thomas Deacon. The result was Wesley's exposure to the primitivistic emphases of the High Church Non-Jurors, and a section written by Wesley was actually included in the Appendix to Thomas Deacon's A Complete Collection of Devotions.(29) Later Wesley was considered part of a learned group, including Byrom, Deacon, Clayton, and Robert Thyer, which met for discussion of the patristic writings and other theological works.(30) This early acquaintance with the High Church tradition in the form of the Non-Jurors further establishes and strengthens the connection between Wesley's desire for restitution of the ancient church and that High Church part of Anglicanism which had made this so central a theme.
High Church Anglicanism and the Religious Societies
Despite the encouragement from High Churchmen for the Church of England to reorient itself after the pattern of the early Christians, it was early recognized that a practical method for implementing the ancient morality was needed if change was to occur. Such a method was found beginning in London in 1678 with the initiating of what became known as the "Religious Societies.(31) " First at Savoy, and very shortly thereafter at St. Peter and St. Michael, the number of societies multiplied, all of which were under the strict oversight of the state church. Each one was under the direction of a priest, no prayers could be said in the societies other than those stemming from the prayer-book, controversial discussions about ecclesiology or theology were not permitted, and membership was open only to devout Anglicans. Clearly these early societies were inherently committed to a conservative position from their inception, and even in Samuel Wesley Sr.'s day they were characterized by a strong High Church presence.(32)
It was Anthony Horneck, minister at Savoy, who first began advocating the society concept as a means of regulating and modelling the church's adherence to the primitive faith. Horneck was, himself, an adamant proclaimer of the virtues of restoring the ethos of early Christianity, as seen in both his The Happy Ascetik; or The Best Exercise(33) and The Sirenes; or Delight and Judgment.(34) Duffy says of Horneck:
In the heavenly lives of the Primitive Christians Horneck found a model for the Christian life; in the patristic orientation of restoration anglicanism he found an encouragement to revive that strictness of the Primitive Church. The societies were the result.(35)
What is seen in the societies, then, is a desire to reinstate early Christianity within the context of High Church Anglicanism. Like the early church they were involved in holiness-fasting, prayer, frequent communion, charitable works, reading of Scripture-but their liturgy, vestments, hierarchy, and support of the state church kept them fast in the stream of High Churchism.
Despite being suspected of subversion and suffering harassment at the end of the rule of James II, the Religious Societies continued to propagate primitive Christian principles well into the eighteenth century, and Rupp sees them as proliferating in the 1730s.(36) Samuel Wesley was himself committed to the value of societies, having started a Religious Society in close connection to the reformational Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.(37)
It is easy, therefore, to make a connection between these early Religious Societies and John Wesley, especially in light of the character of the Oxford Methodists and the later workings of the Wesleyan side of Methodism. Wesley early on had direct contact with and access to the Religious Societies of the 1730s which were simply the outgrowth of the 1670s High Church movement of Horneck and others. In addition, Wesley's own father was a propagator and participant within the later Reformation Societies movement.
Drawing the connection between Wesley and the Religious Societies is exactly what Henry Rack does, describing in detail the manner in which Wesley adapted the organizational format and primitivistic principles of the Religious Societies for both the Oxford Methodists and the whole "Connexion" of societies later to form. Rack notes the Religious Societies' background behind the "Rules of the United Societies," documents the recruiting of members for Methodism from the older societies, and sees a striking continuity of primitivistic aims. It is true that Rack also documents considerable differences which existed between the Wesleyan Connexion and the older societies. Because the Methodist societies differed both amongst themselves and from the older societies in terms of numerous cultural and societal factors, there was not exact replication from one society to another, either within one generation or across generations.(38) Nonetheless, the similarities between Wesley's Methodist Connexion and the older Religious Societies are profound.
Despite the clear differences between the old societies and the Methodist adaptation of the concept, the point for the purpose of this study is made. John Wesley's notions of primitivistic Christianity were furthered by his contact with the High Church Religious Societies which originated in the latter half of the seventeenth century and continued in the first half of the eighteenth. Early within the formation of the Wesleyan movement John Wesley had seen in the older High Church Religious Societies the model which became for him so central in his attempt to bring ancient Christianity into his England. He, therefore, implemented the society method at Oxford, and he combined his vision of a Religious Society with that of the Moravians when he instituted the society idea in Georgia. The later Methodist Connexion was to a large degree the direct descendant of what Horneck's societies had been. It is interesting that when Wesley later drew up an account of the history of Methodism, he separated the movement chronologically into three stages, in accordance with what he saw as the three types of Religious Societies for which he was responsible.(39)
High Church Anglicanism in the Wesley Family
The High Churchism within Wesley's own family is a well-known and often told story. Both Samuel and Susanna rebelled against the Puritanism of their upbringings to become staunchly supportive of the High Church as adults. Susanna herself, although apparently maintaining the pietistic attitudes toward holiness and the nurture of children which she learned as a child, was devoutly High Church and Non-Juror. Some have questioned whether or not Wesley's tendency to depart from standard High Churchism may have come from the significant impact of Susanna on his spiritual life. Others have doubted this conclusion.(40) What is certain is that, in view of the extreme High Church commitment of both of Wesley's parents, there was no concern in the Wesley household to promote a Puritan primitivism which would later come to fruition in the primitivism of John Wesley the adult Methodist. If an emphasis on primitivism learned as a child was to later take Wesley away from the precepts of the High Church, this would have stemmed from the High Church's primitivistic emphasis, as examined above. In fact, with Samuel Wesley's High Churchism and his role in the Religious Societies movement, and with Susanna's High Churchism and status as a Non-Juror, it would be surprising if High Church primitivism was not a frequent topic of study and discussion in the Wesley home. Obviously, what is known of Wesley's early family life points to a High Church background as the source for the later Methodist emphasis on primitive Christianity.(41)
The Effect of Primitivism on Wesley's
Relationship to High Church Anglicanism
Almost from the inception of the Wesleyan movement there was tension between what Wesley thought constituted authentic Christianity and what he saw at work within the Anglicanism to which he was so committed. His unwillingness to leave the state church is well documented, but so are the numerous ways in which he adapted, over time, High Church Anglicanism to fit his understanding of "real Christianity." Although he "lived and died" within the Anglican communion, Wesley was constantly on the brink of seeing a genuine separation take place between the Methodist Connexion and his beloved Anglican communion.
The appellation "Methodists" was early on tagged onto the Oxford Holy Club because of the methodical piety which began to take shape among its members. This penchant for holiness, in contrast to so much of Anglicanism, was nothing more than Christian concern for right living in light of the gospel of Jesus, but it was perceived by many Anglicans as an attempt to resurrect "works righteousness." With time, numerous other differences surfaced between Wesley's form of Anglicanism and the traditions of the state church. His emphasis on the early church's pattern of fasting, the frequency of celebrating the eucharist, the emphasis on lay ministry and lay preaching, the unwillingness of Wesley to honor the lines separating the dioceses (seen in the fact that he preached where he wanted, often in open fields), an interest in baptism by immersion, the enthusiasms that so often accompanied the field preaching, the creation of the network of societies all carefully arranged and overseen by Wesley, the chapels and preaching houses which Wesley eventually had to register as Dissenting institutions, and, of course, Wesley's ever present emphases upon justification by faith, perfection, and assurance put doctrinal and emotional distance between the Methodists and the established church.(42)
By instituting these changes from within traditional Anglicanism, Wesley hoped to conform his movement to the church he perceived in antiquity, without compromising the relationship he enjoyed with the state church. His preference was to reform Anglicanism in his day, not create a new fellowship. With time this became more difficult. Despite Wesley's efforts to keep his movement staunchly grounded in the Church of England, the progressive nature of his reforms created conflict wherever he perceived the Christianity of the ancient church to be different from the church of his day. Schmidt summarizes well the issue for Wesley:
Primitive Christianity, which John Wesley affirmed with ever-increasing emphasis began to determine more and more his course. It became more and more clear to him that the essential feature was the faith which lays hold of justifying grace and allows itself to be transformed by the Spirit of God. The key to John Wesley's spiritual development is to be found in this living involvement in primitive Christianity.(43)
Perhaps no issue showed as clearly the movement of Wesley away from Anglicanism as that of the ordination controversy. Throughout his ministry Wesley had refused to offer ordination to his lay preachers. Although there was tension over this issue and although some had performed priestly functions (without Wesley's permission) within the Methodist communion, Wesley always reserved the right of ordination for the episcopacy, seeing a direct ancestral connection between the Anglican episcopacy and the early church.(44) However, with the movement of Methodism to North America and then with the Revolutionary War of 1776, the civil roots of that portion of the Methodist Connexion which was in the new United States were severed. The relationship between Anglican Methodists and the established church had been tenuously preserved in England due to historic connections; but in the United States no relationship between church and government would provide Methodists with the same privileges associated with civil religion. There were far fewer ordained Anglicans with Methodist sympathies. Neither was there the direct oversight of John Wesley over the Methodist Connexion. These facts, combined with the unwillingness of the Anglican episcopacy in both the United States and England to ordain priests within Methodism, created havoc in the American branch of Wesley's movement.
Being both intensely practical in his management of Methodism and committed to ancient biblical precedent in ecclesiastical issues, Wesley eventually chose to perform the episcopal function within Methodism and to ordain not only priests, but to give episcopal privileges of ordination to Thomas Coke, and through him to Francis Asbury and others. Telling is the letter which Wesley wrote to the American Methodists explaining his decision (see page ?? above). "They are now at full liberty simply to follow the Scriptures and the Primitive Church," Wesley says. He had become convinced that the offices of elder, pastor, and episcopate were biblically and originally sanctioned to perform the same functions within the church.
When faced with an issue as monumental as the established church's exclusive privilege in ordination (and knowing full well the controversy in which he was involving his movement), Wesley maintained a decisive commitment to primitive Christianity. While he remained an Anglican, the progressive changes created by his adherence to primitivistic Christianity had altered his theology and the course of the Methodist movement.
Because Wesley did move with time toward separation from Anglicanism, it is logical to ask how motivated he was by Dissenters. Certainly there are strong parallels between Wesley and various strains of Puritanism. Was he a closet Puritan?
The best answer is that he was not. It was John Wesley's intention from the outset to remain within the Church of England. This fact is not at all challenged by Wesley's attachment to primitivistic ecclesiastical ideals. In fact, what the above has shown is that Wesley's commitment to primitivism was from the beginning nothing more than a product of his commitment to High Church Anglicanism. What is clear is that in the ecclesiastical milieu of Wesley's day, challenging the church to replicate ancient Christianity was not only acceptable to those committed to Anglicanism, but it was viewed as a means whereby the apathetic and morally reprehensible aspects of Anglicanism could be eradicated. Certainly, for Wesley, and ideally for his contemporaries, replicating the ancient church within the Methodist Connexion should have guaranteed the movement's orthodoxy and its connection to the state church.
Nonetheless, it is the case that uncounted numbers of ecclesiastical revolutions have begun with someone's decision to return to the beliefs and practices of the early church. So often the jettisoning of what is considered orthodoxy is the result of efforts originally intended to do nothing of the sort; encouragement to holiness and commitment are often originally the only objectives.
In many ways Methodism fits this description. It is ironic that the impulse which continued to push Wesley and Methodism toward separation from the Church of England was Wesley's adherence to the call to primitivism which was central for so many High Church Anglicans. Wesley wanted to be High Church Anglican. He read the "correct" literature. He attended a "correct" university. He came from a lineage and an ecclesiastical background calculated to retain him for Anglicanism. He followed a course which led him to accept Holy Orders, and he instructed others heading for the same. But in the end, in terms of his movement's future attachment to Anglicanism, his commitment to High Church primitivism actually proved his undoing. Wesley personally always remained within the Church of England; his movement's commitment to the state church was short lived.
Perhaps such an end will always come when Christians make an adherence to ancient Christianity their goal. There is no denomination, no matter how pristine its conception, which with time does not find itself challenged by those of its number who perceive something of the ancient church to be at odds with their contemporary situation. Because denominations are comprised of imperfect followers of the Lord Jesus, it is appropriate for the faith of the church chronologically closest to Christ and the apostolic age to challenge those farther removed, necessitating continual evaluation and change on the part of those who keep seeking their identity in primitive Christianity.
Therefore, although Wesley was well acquainted with the Puritan impulse, it was not a direct influence from Puritanism which created the parallels between Methodism and the Puritans, but rather these commonalities are seen across numerous like-minded movements who share a desire to reinstate the ancient faith. Seventeenth and eighteenth-century High Church Anglicans emphasizing primitive Christianity would never have admitted their parallels to Puritanism, but parallels existed nonetheless, with Methodism's concern for primitive Christianity tending to prove the connection.
1. The expressions "ancient church," "primitive Christian faith," "primitive church," "primitive Christianity" are typically used by restorationists to refer to the characteristics of the historic church in its various settings as described in the NT. However, there was in the High Church Anglicanism of Wesley's day an extension of the definition of "primitive Christianity" to include the church of antiquity up through the fourth century. Both uses represent appeals to primitive Christianity as a perceived "golden age" of the church, an early time when the church was free from the human accretions which distorted in various ways its doctrine and practice. For Wesley primitive Christianity typically includes the NT era through the third century, although Wesley saw the pre-Constantinian church as progressively moving further from its pristine purity. See Ted A. Campbell, John Wesley and Christian Antiquity: Religious Vision and Cultural Change (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991) 46-53, 108-112.
2. See Paul D. L. Avis, "'The True Church' in Reformation Theology," Scottish Journal of Theology 30 (1977):319-45; also see C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, Discovering Our Roots (Abilene, TX: ACU, 1988) 21-34.
3. See Monroe Hawley, The Focus of Our Faith (Nashville: 20th Century Christian, 1985) 29-66 for a description of these groups as restorationists. Cf. Abraham Friesen, "The Impulse Toward Restitutionist Thought in Christian Humanism," JAAR 44 (March 1976):29-45; C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, Illusions of Innocence: Primitivism in America, 1630-1875, with a Foreword by Robert N. Bellah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988) 7-9; Allen and Hughes, Discovering Our Roots, 11-20.
5. Theodore Dwight Bozeman does a superb job of delineating the primitivistic theme in Puritanism, including its antecedents, in Theodore Dwight Bozeman, To Live Ancient Lives: The Primitivist Dimension of Puritanism (Chapel Hill, NC: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 1988). Cf. Allen and Hughes, Discovering Our Roots, 35-48; Allen and Hughes, Illusions of Innocence, 7-14, 25-32.
6. See Campbell, John Wesley and Christian Antiquity, 9-21. Campbell divides High Church primitivists into conservatives and progressives, the conservatives being those wishing to defend, as is, the Anglicanism of their day, maintaining its doctrine, liturgy, and piety. Progressives he views as defending Anglicanism, but the Progressives were willing to promote alterations in contemporary liturgy and piety.
7. Cf. Frank Baker, John Wesley and the Church of England, (London: Epworth, 1970) 29, 32-33; Ted A. Campbell, Wesley and Christian Antiquity; Henry Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism (London: Epworth, 1989) 90, 158, 175, 514, et al.; Martin Schmidt, John Wesley: A Theological Biography (trans. Norman P. Goldhawk, vol. I: From 17th June 1703 Until 24th May 1738; London: Epworth, 1962) 134, 222.; Martin Schmidt, John Wesley: A Theological Biography (trans. Denis Inman, vol. II part II: John Wesley's Life Mission; London: Epworth, 1973) 191-92.
9. See John Wesley, "Sermon XXII-Sermon on the Mount, VII," in Wesley's Standard Sermons (ed. Edward H. Sugden; 5th ed. ; 2 vols.; London: Epworth, 1961) I. 452, 460. Wesley says, "But we find little mention made in the NT of any of these indifferent circumstances. Nor does it appear that any stress was laid upon them by the Christians of the purer ages. . . . Much less did the Apostles, or the Christians contemporary with them, beat or tear their own flesh" (p. 452; italics mine, KDC). See also John Wesley, "The Nature, Design, and General Rules of the United Societies in London, Bristol, Kingswood, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne," in The Works of John Wesley 14 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1872), vol. VIII: Addresses, Essays, Letters, 269-271; John Wesley, "An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason," in The Works of John Wesley 14 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1872), vol. VIII: Addresses, Essays, Letters, 11. At the end of the "Rules of the United Societies" Wesley writes, "These are the General Rules of our societies; all which we are taught of God to observe, even in his written word, the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice," p. 271. There is clearly a penchant within Wesley to establish the societies on primitivistic biblical foundations.
11. John Wesley, "Essay on the Stationary Fasts," the Appendix in Thomas Deacon, A Compleat Collection of Devotions, both Publick and Private, taken from the Apostolical Constitutions, the Ancient Liturgies and the Common Prayer Book of the Church of England (London, 1734) 73. Cf. Frank Baker, John Wesley and the Church of England (London: Epworth, 1970) 32.
13. John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A. , 8 vols. (ed. Nehemiah Curnock repr. vol. II: 14th June 1738 - 9th April 1742 (London: Epworth, 1938) 332-33, 347, 453; John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A. , 8 vols. (ed. Nehemiah Curnock repr. vol. III: 16th April 1742 - 30th October 1751; London: Epworth, 1938) 116-17. Cf. Schmidt vol. II part 1, 190.
15. Schmidt, vol. I, 132. Cf. "He saw in missionary activity the key to the original meaning of the gospel, the rebirth of primitive Christianity, the existential way towards his own salvation." Ibid., 134.
19. Maximin Piette, John Wesley in the Evolution of Protestantism (London: Sheed and Ward, 1937) 181-182. Cf. Eamon Duffy, "Primitive Christianity Revived; Religious Renewal in Augustan England," in Studies in Church History 14 (1977):288.
22. Anthony Horneck, The Happy Ascetick; or The Best Exercise, Together with a Letter to a Person of Quality, Concerning the Holy Lives of the Primitive Christians (London: 1681). Horneck is actually better known as the initiator of the first Religious Society among Anglicans, in 1678 (see page ??, below).
26. John Wesley, "A Short Account of the School in Kingswood, Near Bristol," in The Works of John Wesley 14 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1872, vol. XIII: Addresses, Essays, Letters) 283-284. We know from Wesley's journal that he read at least twice Fleury's Manners of the Ancient Christians; see John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., 8 vols. (ed. Nehemiah Curnock repr. vol. I: 14th October 1735 - 13th June 1738; (London: Epworth, 1931) 198.
27. See Vivian H. H. Green, The Young Mr. Wesley (New York: St. Martin's, 1961) 274. Cf. Schmidt, vol. II part II, 104-105; Eamon Duffy, p. 298. Rack contends that although numerous Puritan writings are found in "The Christian Library," Wesley's Journal, diary, and other writings reveal a preference for High Church and Catholic material (Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast, 307).
29. Thomas Deacon, A Compleat Collection of Devotions, both Publick and Private, taken from the Apostolical Constitutions, the Ancient Liturgies and the Common Prayer Book of the Church of England (London: 1734). See Baker, John Wesley and the Church of England, 31-32. Cf. Piette, 279; Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast, 90.
31. See G.V. Portus, Caritas Anglicana (London: Mowbrays, 1912) 1-27; F.W.B. Bullock, Voluntary Religious Societies 1520-1799 (St. Leonard's on Sea: Budd and Gillatt, 1963) 125-49. E.G. Rupp offers an informative account of the rise and nature of both the early Religious Societies and their connection to Methodism, 290-95; 327-30. Cf. Dudley W. R. Dahlmann, The Moral Revolution of 1688 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957) 67-108.
32. See Duffy, 290. Piette mentions Woodward's opinion that at the beginning of the reign of William III there were 39 societies in London and Westminster and that by William's death there were over 100 (Piette, 187).
35. Duffy, 290. Cf. Rupp, 290-95. For a contemporary account of Horneck and the rise of the Religious Societies see Josiah Woodward, Account of the Rise and Progress of the Religious Societies in the City of London (3d ed.; London: 1701). Cf. Campbell, John Wesley and Christian Antiquity, 86.
39. See Curnock's annotations in John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley, A. M., 8 vols. (ed. Nehemiah Curnock, repr., vol. I: 14th October 1735 - 13th June 1738; London: Epworth, 1938) 198. Wesley recounts three phases to Methodism: one beginning with the Oxford Club in November 1729; the next beginning in April of 1736 with the society in Georgia; and the final stage beginning in May 1738 in London with the founding of the Fetter Lane Society. Cf. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, 14 vols., vol. XIII, 305-6; Baker, John Wesley and the Church of England, 51.
41. Campbell draws detailed attention to the role of Samuel Wesley in giving his son a vision for Christian antiquity, although he classifies Samuel as a conservative primitivist and John as a progressive (see footnote 6 above). I am mystified as to why Susanna's influence is neglected in Campbell's detailed examination, when clearly her High Church Non-Juror stance was significant for son John. See Campbell, John Wesley and Christian Antiquity, 11-26.
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