Monday, April 13, 2015

John Wesley; Homo Unius Libri

Monday, April 13, 2015
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you:  God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.  1 John 1:5 (NLT)
John Wesley, in the preface to his published sermons declared himself homo unius libri, a man of ONE book:
TO candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart.  I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air.  I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity!  I want to know one thing,—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore.  God himself has condescended to teach me the way.  For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book.  O give me that book!  At any price, give me the book of God!  I have it:  here is knowledge enough for me.  Let me be homo unius libri. [2]
Contemporaries of Wesley (as well as later and modern critics) used the term in a derogatory way as if to say a person of one book was somewhat limited in knowledge, understanding or ideas.[3]  Wesley used it to underscore the importance of Scripture.
Along with Wesley I hold what is generally called a high view of Scripture, that it contains nothing false, only the truth of God.  I’m not a John Wesley scholar, but I believe he got this view from a common friend of ours, Paul, who wrote to Timothy:
You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 
2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NLT)
It was common for the “learned elite” of Wesley’s day to look down on common people.  And for those preachers who went to the common people, with the simple message of the Gospel, a homo unius libri evangelism, it was seen as something of a wasted life.  
Scripture would disagree with that.
The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand. 
Psalm 119:130 (NLT)
What I would suggest, based on history and (mostly) on Scripture itself, is that when a person places more faith in any thought or belief system humanity has created (science, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and so on…), than in the One who gave the Word from above, that person probably hasn’t read Scripture; worse, not even as intellectually-honest as a simple person, that one has read it, and denied what is plain truth.
Call me a Bible-thumper or whatever term fits your unbelief; like Martin Luther, here I stand, God help me, I can do no other; the Bible is God’s Word.
My only real problem with God’s Word isn’t a lack belief – I believe it to the depths of my soul, that it is true and without any error; my biggest problem with the Word of God is Russell not being as obedient to the revealed Word of God as he should be.

For You Today

If you’ve settled in your heart that God has truly given us all we need for salvation and training in righteousness in the Holy Scriptures, you’ve taken one of two steps that place you in right relationship with God.  The other step throughout your entire life is to do what that book says.
Let’s be homo unius libri, a people of one book, AND a people of one obedience to what the book has told us to do.

[1] Title Image: Photograph by Mike Peel, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] John Wesley in the Preface to Sermons (quoted by Henry Craik in A Man of One Book, 1916)
[3] Various sources reported in

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