Christian History Home > 1983 > Issue 2 > Wesley's Sermon Reprints: The Almost Christian
Wesley's Sermon Reprints: The Almost Christian
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AND many there are who go thus far: ever since the Christian Religion was in the world, there have been many in every age and nation, who were “almost persuaded to be Christians.” But seeing it avails nothing before God, to go only thus far, it highly imports us to consider,
First, What is implied in being almost:
Secondly, What in being altogether a Christian.
I. 1. Now, in the being almost a Christian is implied, first Heathen Honesty. No one, I suppose, will make any question of this; especially, since by heathen honesty here, I mean, not that which is recommended in the writings of their philosophers only, but such as the common heathens expected of one another, and many of them actually practiced. By the rules of this they were taught, that they ought not to be unjust: Not to take away their neighbor’s goods, either by robbery or theft: Not to oppress the poor, neither to use extortion toward any: Not to cheat or overreach either the poor or rich, in whatsoever commerce they had with them: To defraud no man of his right; and, if it were possible, to owe no man any thing.
2. Again, the common heathens allowed, that some regard was to be paid to truth as well as to justice…
3. Yet, again, there was a sort of love and assistance, which they expected one from another…
II. 4. A second thing implied in the being almost a Christian, is the having a Form of Godliness, of that godliness which is prescribed in the gospel of Christ; the having the outside of a real Christian. Accordingly, the almost Christian does nothing which the gospel forbids. He taketh not the name of God in vain: He blesseth and curseth not; he sweareth not at all, but his communication is yea, yea; nay, nay. He profanes not the day of the Lord, nor suffers it to be profaned, even by the stranger that is within his gates. He not only avoids all actual adultery, fornication, and uncleanliness, but every word or look, that either directly or indirectly tends thereto…
6. And in doing good, he does not confine himself to cheap and easy offices of kindness, but labours and suffers for the profit of many, that by all means he may help some. In spite of toil or pain, “Whatsoever his hand findeth to do, he doeth it with his might;” whether it be for his friends, or for his enemies, for the evil, or for the good. For, being not slothful in this, or in any business, as he hath opportunity he doth good, all manner of good, to all men, and to their souls as well as their bodies…
7. He hath the form of godliness, uses the means of grace; yea, all of them, and at all opportunities. He constantly frequents the house of God; and … behaves with seriousness and attention, in every part of the solemn service. More especially when he approaches the table of the Lord, it is not with a light or careless behaviour, but with an air, gesture, and deportment which speaks nothing else, but “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
8. To this, if we add, the constant use of Family Prayer, by those who are masters of families, and the setting times apart for private addresses to God, with a daily seriousness of behaviour: he who uniformly practices this outward religion, has the form of godliness. There needs but one thing more in order to his being almost a Christian, and that is, Sincerity.
III. 9. By Sincerity, I mean, a real, inward principle of religion, from whence these outward actions flow. And, indeed, if we have not this, we have not heathen honesty; no, not so much of it as will answer the demand of a heathen epicurean poet. Even this poor wretch, in his sober intervals, is able to testify:
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