Which of the Thirty-Nine Articles Did John Wesley Remove to Create the Methodist Articles of Religion?
Our Sunday School class is reading Wesley for Armchair Theologians, which mentioned that John Wesley removed 15 of the Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion to create his own version for the nascent Methodist denomination. A member of our class asked the obvious question, “Which articles did he remove?” A quick search on the Internet wasn’t able to answer the question, so I’ve done a little research.
Wesley apparently wrote these articles specifically for the American Methodist Church, as an entity distinct from the Church of England. His 23rd article refers specifically to the government of the United States.
Note: I’m not a theologian, not even an armchair one. This list is based on a simple comparison between the Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571) and the Methodist Articles of Religion.
Wesley made edited or deleted the following articles:
Deleted: Article 3 – The Descent of Christ into Hell
Edited: Article 6 – The sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation
Wesley retains the list of canonical Old Testament and New Testament books, but removes any mention of the Apocrypha (Esdras, Baruch, Maccabees, etc.)
Deleted: Article 8 – The Three Creeds
Edited: Article 9 – Original or Birth Sin
Wesley deletes several sentences reading “… so that the flesh lusts always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserves God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle confesses that concupiscence and lust has itself the nature of sin.”
Deleted: Article 13 – Works before Justification
Deleted: Article 15 – Christ alone without Sin
Edited: Article 16 – Sin after Baptism
Wesley changed the title to “Of Sin After Justification.”
Deleted: Article 17 – Predestination and Election
Deleted: Article 18 – Obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ
Edited: Article XIII – Of the Church
Wesley deleted “As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome has erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.”
Deleted: Article 20 – The Authority of the Church
Deleted: Article 21 – The authority of General Councils
Deleted: Article 23 – Ministering in the Congregation
Deleted: Article 26 – The unworthiness of Ministers does not hinder the effect of the Sacraments
Edited: Article 27 – Baptism
Wesley removes “…whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God, by the Holy Spirit are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed, and grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.”
Deleted: Article 29 – The wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord’s Supper
Deleted: Article 33 – Excommunicated Persons, how they are to be avoided
Deleted: Article 35 – Of Homilies
Deleted: Article 36 – Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers
Edited: Article 37 – Of the Civil Magistrates
The original article asserts that Queen Elizabeth is the chief ruler of England and that Christians should submit to being governed. The “Bishop of Rome” has no authority; the laws of the country may put Christians to death; Christians may be ordered to wear weapons and serve in wars. The Methodist version of the article specifically refers to the United States government, with no mention of England, and asserts more simply the US is to be governed by its elected leaders according to the powers given to them in the Constitution, and that no foreign power should have jurisdiction over the states. There is no reference to death penalties, conscription, or avowed loyalty to that government, though loyalty may be implied, and a 1939 “legislative enactment” added an unnumbered article that reads, “It is the duty of all Christians, and especially of all Christian ministers, to observe and obey the laws and commands of the governing or supreme authority of the country of which they are citizens or subjects or in which they reside, and to use all laudable means to encourage and enjoin obedience to the powers that be.”).