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In John Wesley’s preface to his last re-publication of his own writings, he shared an interesting, insightful, and humble admission. It seems that as he went back to ensure correct spelling, grammar, formatting, and clarity, he also found other problems. He found problems with many of his previous theological conclusions as his faith had emerged, matured, and been refined over time.

Here’s Wesley’s own reflection on finding and correcting not only spelling errors, but also theological errors. It’s an excellent example of Wesley’s humility and teachability…

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But as necessary as these corrections were, there were others of a different kind, which were more necessary still.

In revising what I had wrote on so many various subjects and occasions, and for so long a course of years, I found cause for not only literal or verbal corrections, but frequently for correcting the sense also.

I am the more concerned to do this, because none but myself has a right to do it. Accordingly I have altered many words or sentences; many others I have omitted; and in various parts I have added more or less, as I judged the subject required: So that in this edition I present to serious and candid men my last and maturest thoughts, agreeable, I hope, to Scripture, reason, and Christian antiquity. [1]

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Wesley realized something later in his life that all of us need to realize.  The truth does not change, but our understanding of it, our capacity to talk about it with coherence, and our ability to apply it well, does change.

We mature theologically too! We grow. Our beliefs change, though the scriptures cannot be broken.

May we all find the humility that Wesley models here in this little window into his mind. And when we discover that we think differently now than we used to — because we’ve thought more about it than we had before — may we say with him, “I present my…maturest thoughts.” It’s always possible that the way we may have thought about things before, sincere as we were, has needed some maturing (and may yet need more).

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[1] Wesley, J. (1872). The Works of John Wesley, Volumes 1–4 (Third Edition., Vol. 1, pp. iii–iv). London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room.

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