John Wesley's Thoughts upon necessity in his search for the middle verity
The hypothesis of this paper is twofold. Firstly, Wesley was preoccupied with the issues being discussed by the British moralists; especially, the issue of liberty and necessity as this had a direct bearing on his doctrine of salvation. Secondly, the Methodist leader was attempting constantly to fulfill the enlightenment project of providing a rational basis for and justification of morality. Wesley's preoccupation with these issues in the development of his doctrine of entire sanctification promoted the constant need to balance his theological expression. Wesley's Thoughts upon Necessity published in 1774 was no isolated step into "the arcanum of speculative theology." Throughout his life Wesley argued for free will in the hope of exonerating God from being identified as the author of evil. This argument culminates in his essay against the evidently compatibilist and deterministic arguments of Jonathan Edwards, David Hartley, and Lord Kames. Wesley's central doctrine was entire sanctification. Since this doctrine's support derived from the twin pillars of original and actual sin, a refutation of the notion that man is not a free agent had to be made to prevent the collapse of his theology. The tension could not be relieved by logical explication, and it persisted in the various theological corollaries to the necessity issue. The incompatibility of the tenets of human freedom and divine omnipotence/omniscience prompted Wesley into a constant balancing of his theological expression on the paradox obtaining between the tenants of orthodox Christain belief. He remained a "free-willer" while guarding reason against the excesses of religion and promoting the cause of true religion in the face of that same reason.