Source of Faith (A Hymn on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral)
by F. Richard Garland
United Methodist pastor and hymn writer F. Richard Garland has composed this hymn based on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, with each stanza relating to one of the Quadrilateral's principles.
F. Richard Garland writes:
My primary resource for seeking to understand the “Wesley Quadrilateral” has been an article by Dr. Albert C. Outler entitled “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in Wesley” which appeared in the Wesleyan Theological Journal, Volume 20, Number 1, Spring 1985.
Outler asserts that, for Wesley, the Holy Scriptures stand first and foremost, subject to interpretations informed by Christian Antiquity, critical reason, and an existential appeal to the Christian experience of grace. We are called to open our eyes and ears to God’s address to us in Scripture. Our knowledge of God and the things of God comes from a trusting faith in God in Christ as Grace Incarnate, grace being the one constant in the order of salvation.
As for tradition, Wesley seems to be somewhat of two minds on this theme. While he is rooted in Anglican tradition, he spoke often of Christian Antiquity, by which he meant the very early primitive church, including the church of The Book of Acts. In fact, many scholars believe that is what he had in mind to create when he went to Georgia as a missionary. What we have called tradition in the quadrilateral was, for Wesley, a much larger vision than what the modern church, as well as her critics, often have in mind.
In the first place, the work of reason had a far different meaning for Wesley that most of us in the twenty-first century assume it to be. For Wesley, reason was directed toward a knowledge of God and the things of God. One cannot understand the 'Wesleyan Quadrilateral' without a thorough understand of the freely given, unmerited grace of God, which, by the way, is also at the core of his understanding of experience. Wesley believed that there had to be a reason for everything that led us to a deeper understanding of God. Much, if not most, of the context for his understanding of reason was his concern that the rationality in the Enlightenment tended toward a rejection of 'supernaturalism.' While he saw in logical order a paradigm for the order of being itself, he made room for a sense of mystery and recognized the limits of reason. He saw intuition as a spiritual sensing that revealed our capacity for God. He felt that our knowledge of God is always prevenient and is experienced as an inward change of heart; that is, reason is supported by the experience of grace.
For Wesley, experience was seen as means to conversion; that is, a receiving of the biblical revelation in the heart by faith. Its purpose was for salvation. "Words cannot express what the children of God experience. But perhaps one might say that the 'testimony of the Spirit' is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God, that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given Himself for me - that all my sins are blotted out and that I, even I, am reconciled to God." Wesley’s understanding of Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace plays a very significant role in his understanding of experience.