Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to John Wesley (Sort of)


Here is an extensive quote of John Wesley from his comments on Revelation 4:8. The portions that I have italicized are the portions where Wesley brings out the meaning of holy as having to do with being the whole. The quote reads:

4:8 Each of them hath six wings - As had each of the seraphim in Isaiah's vision. Two covered his face, in token of humility and reverence: two his feet, perhaps in token of readiness and diligence for executing divine commissions. Round about and within they are full of eyes. Round about - To see everything which is farther off from the throne than they are themselves. And within - On the inner part of the circle which they make with one another. First, they look from the centre to the circumference, then from the circumference to the centre. And they rest not - O happy unrest! Day and night - As we speak on earth. But there is no night in heaven. And say, Holy, holy, holy - Is the Three - One God. There are two words in the original, very different from each other; both which we translate holy. The one means properly merciful; but the other, which occurs here, implies much more. This holiness is the sum of all praise, which is given to the almighty Creator, for all that he does and reveals concerning himself, till the new song brings with it new matter of glory. This word properly signifies separated, both in Hebrew and other languages. And when God is termed holy, it denotes that excellence which is altogether peculiar to himself; and the glory flowing from all his attributes conjoined, shining forth from all his works, and darkening all things besides itself, whereby he is, and eternally remains, in an incomprehensible manner separate and at a distance, not only from all that is impure, but likewise from all that is created. God is separate from all things. He is, and works from himself, out of himself, in himself, through himself, for himself. Therefore, he is the first and the last, the only one and the Eternal, living and happy, endless and unchangeable, almighty, omniscient, wise and true, just and faithful, gracious and merciful. Hence it is, that holy and holiness mean the same as God and Godhead: and as we say of a king, His Majesty; so the scripture says of God, His Holiness, Heb 12:10. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. When God is spoken of, he is often named the Holy One: and as God swears by his name, so he does also by his holiness; that is, by himself. This holiness is often styled glory: often his holiness and glory are celebrated together, Lev 10:3; Isa 6:3. For holiness is covered glory, and glory is uncovered holiness. The scripture speaks abundantly of the holiness and glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And hereby is the mystery of the Holy Trinity eminently confirmed. That is also termed holy which is consecrated to him, and for that end separated from other things: and so is that wherein we may be like God, or united to him. In the hymn resembling this, recorded by Isaiah, Isa 6:3, is added, The whole earth is full of his glory. But this is deferred in the Revelation, till the glory of the Lord (his enemies being destroyed) fills the earth.

You should note too that Wesley has reversed Bengel's understanding that holy means properly whole and only secondly separate. Wesley has reversed the order of primary and secondary. He has however, kept the meaning of "all his attributes conjoined." That is what I mean by whole.

So here again is proof of another major Reformer of the church who recognizes that holy means whole, in some shape or form. This was something I was not taught growing up and probably you were not taught as well.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon