Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Note: We have edited this sermon sparingly to update some of the words to modern English for ease of reading.
The Catholic Spirit by John Wesley:
“And when he left there, [Jehu] met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?”* And Jehonadab answered: “It is.” [Jehu said], “If it is, give me your hand.” 2 Kings 10:15.
1. It is allowed even by those who do not pay this great debt, that love is due to all mankind, the royal law, “You shall love you neighbour as yourself,” carrying its own evidence to all who hear it: and that, not according to the miserable construction put upon it by the zealots of old times, “You shall love your neighbour,” your relation, acquaintance, friend, “and hate your enemy;” not so; “I say to you,” said our Lord, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children,” may appear so to all mankind, “of your Father which is in heaven; who makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
2. But it is sure, there is a peculiar love which we owe to those that love God. So David: “All my delight is on the saints that are in the earth, and on such as excel in virtue.” And so a greater than he: “A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another: as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all man kind will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35). This is the love on which the Apostle John so frequently and strongly insists: “This,” he says, “is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). “By this we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought,” if love should call us to this, “to lay down our lives for our brothers” (verse 16). And again: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God. He that loves not, knows not God; for God is love” (4:7, 8). “Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us so, we ought also to love one another the same (verses 10, 11).
3. All men approve of this; but do all men practise it? Daily experience shows the contrary. Where are even the Christians who “love one another as he has given us commandment” how many hindrances lie in the way! The two grand, general hindrances are, first, that they cannot all think alike and, in consequence of this, secondly, they cannot all walk alike; but in several smaller points their practice must differ in proportion to the difference of their sentiments.
4. But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we should. In this way all the children of God are united, despite these smaller differences. These differences may remain, but despite these, Christians lift up one another in love and in good works.
5. Surely in this respect the example of Jehu himself, as mixed a character as he was of, is well worthy both the attention and imitation of every devout Christian. “And when he was departed from there, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he greeted him, and said to him, Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. “If it be, give me your hand.”
The text naturally divides itself into two parts: –First, a question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab: “Is your heart right, as my heart is with you heart” Secondly, an offer made on Jehonadab’s answering, “It is:” “If it be, give me your hand.”
I. 1. And, first, let us consider the question proposed by Jehu to Jehonadab, “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart”
The very first thing we may observe in these words, is, that there’s no inquiry concerning Jehonadab’s opinions. And yet it is certain, he held some which were very uncommon, indeed quite peculiar to himself; and some which had a close influence upon his practice; on which, likewise, he laid such great importance on these that he imposed them upon his children’s children, to their latest posterity. This is evident from the account given by Jeremiah many years after his death: “I took Jaazaniah and his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, . . . and set before them pots full of wine, and cups, and said to them, Drink your wine. But they said, We will not drink wine: for Jonadab,” or Jehonadab, “the son of Rechab, our father” (it would be less ambiguous, if the words were placed thus: “Jehonadab our father, the son of Rechab,” out of love and reverence to whom, he probably desired his descendants might be called by his name), “commanded us, saying, you shall drink no wine, neither oue, nor your sons for ever. Neither shall you build house, nor sow seed; nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents…. And we have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us” (Jer. 35:3-10).
2. And yet Jehu (although it seems to have been his manner both in things secular and religious, to drive furiously) does not concern himself at all with any of these things, but lets Jehonadab abound in his own sense. And neither of them appears to have given the other the least disturbance touching the opinions which he maintained.
3. It is very possible, that many good men now also may entertain peculiar opinions; and some of them may be as singular herein as even Jehonadab was. And it is certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. It is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and shortness of human understanding, that several men will be of several minds in religion as well as in common life. So it has been from the beginning of the world, and so it will be “till the restitution of all things.”
4. But there is more to it: although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it); yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. On the contrary every thinking man is assured they are not, seeing humanum est errare et nescire: “To be ignorant of many things, and mistaken in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.” This, therefore, he is aware of his own lack of understanding. He knows, in the general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particulars he is in error, he does not, perhaps he cannot, know.
5. I say “perhaps he cannot know;” for who can tell how far invincible ignorance may extend or (that comes to the same thing) invincible prejudice –which is often so fixed in tender minds, that it is afterwards impossible to tear up what has taken so deep a root. And who can say, unless he knew every circumstance attending it, how far any mistake is culpable seeing all guilt must suppose some concurrence of the will; Only those who can judge are those who searches the heart.
6. Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart”
7. We may, secondly, observe, that here is no inquiry made concerning Jehonadab’s mode of worship; although it is highly probable there was, in this respect also, a very wide difference between them. For we may well believe Jehonadab, as well as all his posterity, worshipped God at Jerusalem! whereas Jehu did not: he had more regard to state-policy than religion. And, therefore, although he slew the worshippers of Baal, and “destroyed Baal out of Israel,” yet from the convenient sin of Jeroboam, the worship of the “golden calves,” he “departed not” (2 Kings 10:29).
8. But even among men of an upright heart, men who desire to “have a conscience void of offence,” it must needs be, that, as long as there are various opinions, there will be various ways of worshipping God; seeing a variety of opinion necessarily implies a variety of practice. And as, in all ages, men have differed in nothing more than in their opinions concerning the Supreme Being, so in nothing have they more differed from each other, than in the manner of worshipping him. Had this been only in the heathen world, it would not have been at all surprising: for we know, these “by” their “wisdom knew not God;” nor, therefore, could they know how to worship him. But is it not strange, that even in the Christian world, although they all agree in the general, “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth;” yet the particular modes of worshipping God are almost as various as among the heathens
9. And how shall we choose among so much variety? No man can choose for, or prescribe to, another. But every one must follow the dictates of his own conscience, in simplicity and godly sincerity. He must be fully persuaded in his own mind and then act according to the best light he has. Nor has any creature power to constrain another to walk by his own rule. God has given no right to any of the children of men thus to lord it over the conscience of his brethren; but every man must judge for himself, as every man must give an account of himself to God.
10. Although, therefore, every follower of Christ is obliged, by the very nature of the Christian institution, to be a member of some particular congregation or other, some Church, as it is usually termed (which implies a particular manner of worshiping God; for “two cannot walk together unless they be agreed”); yet none can be obliged by any power on earth but that of his own conscience, to prefer this or that congregation to another, this or that particular manner of worship. I know it is commonly supposed, that the place of our birth fixes the Church to which we ought to belong; that one, for instance, who is born in England, ought to be a member of that which is styled the Church of England, and consequently, to worship God in the particular manner which is prescribed by that Church. I was once a zealous maintainer of this; but I find many reasons to abate of this zeal. I fear it is attended with such difficulties as no reasonable man can get over. Not the least of which is, that if this rule had took place, there could have been no Reformation from Popery; seeing it entirely destroys the right of private judgement, on which that whole Reformation stands.
11. I dare not, therefore, presume to impose my mode of worship on any other. I believe it is truly primitive and apostolical: but my belief is no rule for another. I ask not, therefore, of him with whom I would unite in love, Are you of my church, of my congregation? Do you receive the same form of church government, and allow the same church officers, with me? Do you join in the same form of prayer wherein I worship God I inquire not, Do you receive the supper of the Lord in the same posture and manner that I do nor whether, in the administration of baptism, you agree with me in admitting sureties for the baptized, in the manner of administering it; or the age of those to whom it should be administered. No , I do not ask of you (as clear as I am in my own mind), whether you allow baptism and the Lord’s supper at all. Let all these things stand by: we will talk of them, if need be, at a more convenient season, my only question at present is this, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart”
12. But what is properly implied in the question I do not mean, What did Jehu imply by this? What should a follower of Christ understand by this, when he proposes it to any of his brothers?
The first thing implied is this: Is your heart right with God? Do you believe his being and his perfections his eternity, immensity, wisdom, power his justice, mercy, and truth? Do you believe that he now “upholds all things by the word of his power” and that he governs even the most minute, even the most noxious, to his own glory, and the good of them that love him have you any divine evidence, a supernatural conviction, of the things of God Do you “walk by faith not by sight” looking not at temporal things, but towards the eternal things?
13. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, “God over all, blessed for ever” Is he revealed in you soul ?Do you know Jesus Christ and him crucified? Does he dwell in you, and you in him? Is he formed in your heart by faith having absolutely disclaimed all your own works, your own righteousness, have you “submitted yourself to the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus? Are you “found in him, not having your own righteousness, but the righteousness which is by faith”? And are you, through him, “fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life”?
14. Is your faith energoumenh di agaphs, –filled with the energy of love? Do you love God (I do not say “above all things,” for it is both an unscriptural and an ambiguous expression, but) “with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”? Do you seek all your happiness in him alone And do you find what you seek? Does your soul continually “magnify the Lord, and your spirit rejoice in God your Saviour” having learned “in everything to give thanks, do you find “it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful” Is God the centre of your soul, the sum of all your desires? Are you accordingly laying up your treasure in heaven, and counting all things else dung and dross? Has the love of God cast the love of the world out of your soul? Then you are “crucified to the world;” You are dead to all below; and your “life is hid with Christ in God.”?
15. Are you employed in doing, “not your own will, but the will of him that sent you” –of him that sent you down to sojourn here awhile, to spend a few days in a strange land, till, having finished the work he has given you to do, you return to your Father’s house? Is it your meat and drink “to do the will of your Father who is in heaven” Is your eye single in all things always fixed on him always looking to Jesus? Do you point to him in whatsoever you do in all your labour, your business, your conversation aiming only at the glory of God in all, “whatsoever you do, either in word or deed, doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus; giving thanks unto God, even the Father, through him”?
16. Does the love of God constrain you to serve him with fear, to “rejoice to him with reverence”? Are you more afraid of displeasing God, than of death or hell? Is nothing so terrible to you as the thought of offending the eyes of his glory? Upon this ground, do you “hate all evil ways,” every transgression of his holy and perfect law; and in fact “exercise yourself, to have a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man”
17. Is your heart right toward your neighbour? Do you love as yourself, all mankind without exception? “If you love those only that love you, what reward do you have”? ” Do you “love your enemies”? Is your soul full of good-will, of tender affection, toward them? Do you love even the enemies of God, the unthankful and unholy? Does your soul yearn over them? Could you “wish yourself” temporally “accursed” for their sake? And do you show this by “blessing them that curse you, and praying for those that despitefully use you, and persecute you”?
18. Do you show your love by your works? While you have time as you have opportunity, do you in fact “do good to all men,” neighbours or strangers, friends or enemies, good or bad? Do you do them all the good you can; endeavouring to supply all their needs; assisting them both in body and soul, to the uttermost of your power –If you are of this mind, may every Christian say, yes. If you are, but sincerely desirous of it, and following on until you attain, then “your heart is right, as my heart is with your heart.”
II. 1. “If it be, give me your hand.” I do not mean, “Be of the same opinion.” You need not: I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot, it does not depend on my choice: I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. You keep your opinion and I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to change to my opinions, or change me to yours. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Leave all opinions to one side and the other: only “give me your hand.”
2. I do not mean, “Embrace my modes of worship,” or, “I will embrace yours.” This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. You hold fast to what you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. I believe the Episcopal form of church government to be scriptural and apostolical. If you think the Presbyterian or Independent is better, so be it, and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized; and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you think otherwise, so be it, and follow your own persuasion. It appears to me, that forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitable to your own judgement. My sentiment is, that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized; and that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master: however, if you are not convinced of this act according to the light you have. I have no desire to dispute with you one moment on any of the preceding points.Put all these smaller points to the side. Let them never come into sight “If your heart is as my heart,” if you love God and all mankind, I ask no more: “give me your hand.”
3. I mean, first, love me: and not only as you love all mankind; not only as you love your enemies, or the enemies of God, those that hate you, that “despitefully use you, and persecute you;” not only as a stranger, as one of whom you know to be neither good nor evil, –I am not satisfied with this, –no; “if your heart be right, as mine with your heart,” then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother; as a brother in Christ, a fellow citizen of the New Jerusalem, a fellow soldier engaged in the same warfare, under the same Captain of our salvation. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint heir of his glory.
4. Love me (but in a higher degree than you do the bulk of mankind) with the love that is long-suffering and kind; that is patient, –if I am ignorant or out of the way, bearing and not increasing my burden; and is tender, soft, and compassionate still; that do not envy me, if at any time it pleases God to prosper me in his work even more than you. Love me with the love that is not provoked, either at my faults or infirmities; or even at my acting (if it should sometimes so appear to you) not according to the will of God. Love me so as to think no evil of me; to put away all jealousy and evil-surmising. Love me with the love that covers all things; that never reveals either my faults or infirmities, –that believes all things; is always willing to think the best, to put the fairest construction on all my words and actions, –that hopes all things; either that the thing related was never done; or not done with such circumstances as are related; or, at least, that it was done with a good-intention, or in a sudden stress of temptation. And hope to the end, that whatever is missing will, by the grace of God, be corrected; and whatever is lacking, supplied, through the riches of his mercy in Christ Jesus.
5 I mean, Secondly, commend me to God in all your prayers; wrestle with him on my behalf, that he would speedily correct what he sees missing in me, and supply what is lacking in me. In your nearest access to the throne of grace, beg of him who is then very present with you, that my heart may be more as your heart, more right both toward God and toward man; that I may have a fuller conviction of things not seen, and a stronger view of the love of God in Christ Jesus; may more steadily walk by faith, not by sight; and more earnestly grasp eternal life. Pray that the love of God and of all mankind may be more largely poured into my heart; that I may be more fervent and active in doing the will of my Father which is in heaven, more zealous of good works, and more careful to abstain from all appearance of evil.
6. I mean, Thirdly, provoke me to love and to good works. Second your prayer, as you have opportunity, by speaking to me, in love, whatsoever you believe to be for my soul’s health. Quicken me in the work which God has given me to do, and instruct me how to do it more perfectly. Yes, “smite me friendly, and reprove me,” whereinsoever I appear to you to be doing rather my own will, than the will of him that sent me. O speak and spare not, whatever you believe may conduce, either to the amending of my faults, the strengthening of my weakness, the building me up in love, or the making me more fit, in any kind, for the Master’s use.
7. I mean, Lastly, love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience you can (retaining still your own opinions, and your own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God; and let us go on hand in hand. And thus far, it is certain, you may go. Speak honourably wherever you are, of the work of God, by whomsoever he works, and kindly of his messengers. And, if it be in your power, not only sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress, but give them a cheerful and effectual assistance, that they may glorify God on your behalf.
8. Two things should be observed with regard to what has been spoken under this last head: the one, that whatsoever love, whatsoever offices of love, whatsoever spiritual or temporal assistance, I claim from him whose heart is right, as my heart is with his, the same I am ready, by the grace of God, according to my measure, to give him: the other, that I have not made this claim in behalf of myself only, but of all whose heart is right toward God and man, that we may all love one another as Christ has loved us.
III. 1. One inference we may make from what has been said. We may learn from this, what is a catholic spirit.
There is scarce any expression which has been more grossly misunderstood, and more dangerously misapplied, than this: but it will be easy for any who calmly consider the preceding observations, to correct any such misapprehensions of it, and to prevent any such misapplication.
For, from this we may learn, first, that a catholic spirit is not speculative latitudinarianism. It is not an indifference to all opinions: this is the spawn of hell, not the offspring of heaven. This unsettledness of thought, this being “driven to and fro, and tossed about with every wind of doctrine,” is a great curse, not a blessing, an irreconcilable enemy, not a friend, to true catholicism. A man of a truly catholic spirit has not now his religion to seek. He is fixed as the sun in his judgement concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine. It is true, he is always ready to hear and weigh whatsoever can be offered against his principles; but as this does not show any wavering in his own mind, so neither does it occasion any. He does not halt between two opinions, nor vainly endeavour to blend them into one. Observe this, you who know not what spirit you are of: who call yourselves men of a catholic spirit, only because you are of a muddy understanding; because your mind is confused; because you have no settled, consistent principles, but are for jumbling all opinions together. Be convinced, that you have quite missed your way; you do not know where you are. You think you are in the very spirit of Christ; when, in truth, you are nearer to the spirit of Antichrist. Go, first, and learn the basic elements of the gospel of Christ, and then shall you learn to be of a truly catholic spirit.
2. From what has been said, we may learn, secondly, that a catholic spirit is not any kind of practical latitudinarianism. It is not indifference as to public worship, or as to the outward manner of performing it. This, likewise, would not be a blessing but a curse. Far from being an help to us, it would, so long as it remained, be an unspeakable hindrance to the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. But the man of a truly catholic spirit, having weighed all things in the balance of the sanctuary, has no doubt, no doubt at all, concerning that particular mode of worship he joins in. He is clearly convinced, that this manner of worshipping God is both scriptural and rational. He knows none in the world which is more scriptural, none which is more rational. Therefore, without rambling here and there, he cleaves close to that, and praises God for the opportunity of so doing.
3. Hence we may, thirdly, learn, that a catholic spirit is not indifference to all congregations. This is another sort of latitudinarianism, no less absurd and unscriptural than the former. But it is far from a man of a truly catholic spirit. He is fixed in his congregation as well as his principles. He is united to one, not only in spirit, but by all the outward ties of Christian fellowship. There he partakes of all the ordinances of God. There he receives the supper of the Lord. There he pours out his soul in public prayer, and joins in public praise and thanksgiving. There he rejoices to hear the word of reconciliation, the gospel of the grace of God. With these his nearest, his best-beloved brothers, on solemn occasions, he seeks God by fasting. These particularly he watches over in love, as they do over his soul; admonishing, exhorting, comforting, reproving, and every way building up each other in the faith. These he regards as his own household; and therefore, according to the ability God has given him, naturally cares for them, and provides that they may have all the things that are needful for life and godliness.
4. But while he is steadily fixed in his religious principles in what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus; while he firmly adheres to that worship of God which he judges to be most acceptable in his sight; and while he is united by the tenderest and closest ties to one particular congregation, –his heart is enlarged toward all mankind, those he knows and those he does not; he embraces with strong and cordial affection neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. This is catholic or universal love. And he that has this is of a catholic spirit. For love alone gives the title to this character: catholic love is a catholic spirit.
5. If, then, we take this word in the strictest sense, a man of a catholic spirit is one who, in the manner above-mentioned, gives his hand to all whose hearts are right with his heart: one who knows how to value, and praise God for, all the advantages he enjoys, with regard to the knowledge of the things of God, the true scriptural manner of worshipping him, and, above all, his union with a congregation fearing God and working righteousness: one who, retaining these blessings with the strictest care, keeping them as the apple of his eye, at the same time loves–as friends, as brethren in the Lord, as members of Christ and children of God, as joint partakers now of the present kingdom of God, and fellow heirs of his eternal kingdom–all, of whatever opinion or worship, or congregation, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; who love God and man; who, rejoicing to please, and fearing to offend God, are careful to abstain from evil, and zealous of good works. He is the man of a truly catholic spirit, who bears all these continually upon his heart; who having an unspeakable tenderness for their persons, and longing for their welfare, does not cease to commend them to God in prayer, as well as to plead their cause before men; who speaks comfortably to them, and labours, by all his words, to strengthen their hands in God. He assists them to the uttermost of his power in all things, spiritual and temporal. He is ready “to spend and be spent for them;” yes, to lay down his life for their sake.
6. You, O man of God, think on these things! If you are already in this way, go on. If you have until now mistook the path, bless God who has brought you back! And now run the race which is set before you, in the royal way of universal love. Take heed, or else you will be either wavering in your judgement, or straitened in your soul: but keep an even pace, rooted in the faith once delivered to the saints, and grounded in love, in true catholic love, till you are swallowed up in love for ever and ever!
Charles Wesley’s hymn, “CATHOLIC LOVE”, added in some editions. We have left this hymn in the original middle English:
Weary of all this wordy strife, These notions, forms, and modes, and names, To Thee, the way, the Truth, the Life, Whose love my simple heart inflames, Divinely taught, at last I fly, With Thee and Thine to live and die.
Forth from the midst of Babel brought, Parties and sects I cast behind; Enlarged my heart, and free my thought, Where’er the latent truth I find The latent truth with joy to own, And bow to Jesus’ name alone.
Redeem’d by Thine almighty grace, I taste my glorious liberty, With open arms the world embrace, But cleave to those who cleave to Thee; But only in Thy saints delight, Who walk with God in purest white.
One with the little flock I rest, The members sound who hold the head. The chosen few, with pardon blest And by th’ anointing Spirit led Into the mind that was in Thee Into the depths of Deity.
My brethren, friends, and kinsmen these Who do my heavenly Father’s will; Who aim at perfect holiness, And all Thy counsels to fulfil, Athirst to be whate’er Thou art, And love their God with all their heart.
For these, howe’er in flesh disjoin’d, Where’er dispersed o’er earth abroad, Unfeign’d, unbounded love I find And constant as the life of God Fountain of life, from thence it sprung, As pure, as even, and as strong.
Join’d to the hidden church unknown In this sure bond of perfectness Obscurely safe, I dwell alone And glory in th’ uniting grace, To me, to each believer given, To all Thy saints in earth and heaven.