an interesting little surprise

While following up on something I said that was recently criticised, I stumbled across an intriguing quotation from John Wesley.  Let me provide the quotation (slightly altered) before explaining the intrigue. 

And their [i.e. the early Christians] labour was not in vain in the Lord. ‘His word ran, and was glorifed. It grew mightily and prevailed.’  But so much the more did offences prevail also. The world in general were offended, ‘because they testified of it, that the works thereof were evil’, . . . The men of pleasure were offended, not only because these men were made, as it were, to reprove their thoughts: (‘He professeth,’ said they, ‘to have the knowledge of God: he calleth himself the child of the Lord: his life is not like other men’s: his ways are of another fashion: he abstaineth from our ways, as from filthiness: he maketh his boast that God is his Father’ . . .)  But much more, because so many of their companions were taken away, and would no more run with them to the same excess of riot . . .

 –J. Wesley, ‘Sermon IV’ from, Semons on Several Occasions (1853), 1.31

What intrigued me was Wesley’s use of quotations, specifically the sources from which the quotations are taken.  Though unmarked, the first appears to be a paraphrase from Acts 19.20–at least the final part of it.  The second quotation, marked with the first set of ellipses, comes from John 7.7–although Wesley adapts the text a little to suit his argument.  Skipping the next quotation for the moment, the final text, marked by the ellipses again, comes from 1 Peter 4.4–this time Wesley simply alludes to the content of that passage. 

It’s the skipped quotation–the one bracketed off in Wesley’s argument–that produced intrigue.  I did a quick search through the rest of the Sermons and found that this is the only time he quotes from this particular source.  The quotation comes from the apocryphal book, Wisdom of Solomon (2.13-16), though Wesley’s use of it is a bit scattered–i.e. his quotation does not match the original wording exactly. 

I was intrigued not only because this was the only time Wesley quotes from this book but also because he does so without qualification or explanation.  It may just be that I am not familiar enough with Wesley’s writing and views on Scripture, but I did not think that he would use an apocryphal text sandwiched between texts that are considered ‘canonical.’  Maybe he was taking his cues from Jude.

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