The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

explicates the Methodist belief of prima scriptura. This method bases its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are chiefly scripture, along with tradition, reason, and Christian experience.

Wesley insisted that scripture is the first authority and contains the only measure whereby all other truth is tested. It was delivered by authors who were divinely inspired. It is a rule sufficient of itself. It neither needs, nor is capable of, any further addition. The scripture references to justification by faith as the gateway to scriptural holiness are: Deut. 30:6; Ps. 130:8; Ezek. 36:25, 29; Matt. 5:48; 22:37; Luke 1:69; John 17:20–23; Rom. 8:3–4; II Cor. 7:1; Eph. 3:14; 5:25–27; I Thess. 5:23; Titus 2:11–14; I John 3:8; 4:17.

Wesley wrote that it is generally supposed that traditional evidence is weakened by length of time, as it must necessarily pass through so many hands in a continued succession of ages. Although other evidence is perhaps stronger, he insisted: "Do not undervalue traditional evidence. Let it have its place and its due honour. It is highly serviceable in its kind, and in its degree". Wesley states that those of strong and clear understanding should be aware of its full force. For him it supplies a link through 1,700 years of history with Jesus and the apostles. The witness to justification and sanctification is an unbroken chain drawing us into fellowship with those who have finished the race, fought the fight, and who now reign with God in his glory and might.

Although scripture is sufficient unto itself and is the foundation of true religion, Wesley wrote: "Now, of what excellent use is reason, if we would either understand ourselves, or explain to others, those living oracles". He states quite clearly that without reason we cannot understand the essential truths of Scripture. Reason, however, is not a mere human invention. It must be assisted by the Holy Spirit if we are to understand the mysteries of God. With regard to justification by faith and sanctification Wesley said that although reason cannot produce faith, when impartial reason speaks we can understand the new birth, inward holiness, and outward holiness.

Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity. "What the scriptures promise, I enjoy". Again, Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally. John Wesley was assured of both justification and sanctification because he had experienced them in his own life. What Christianity promised (considered as a doctrine) was accomplished in his soul. Furthermore, Christianity (considered as an inward principle) is the completion of all those promises. Although traditional proof is complex, experience is simple: "One thing I know; I was blind, but now I see." Although tradition establishes the evidence a long way off, experience makes it present to all persons. As for the proof of justification and sanctification Wesley states that Christianity is an experience of holiness and happiness, the image of God impressed on a created spirit, a fountain of peace and love springing up into everlasting life.

Regarding the experience dimension, John Wesley strongly believed in justification and sanctification, and the Christian experience of holiness, happiness, peace, and love (paraphrasing the last paragraph in the previous quote). However, I was curious about John Wesley's view on spiritual experiences specifically, and according to the article Wesley, the Almost Charismatic:

So, what are the results of our DNA test? Is Wesley a charismatic? Did he hold to the belief and practice that the gifts of the Spirit are normative in the life of the believer or at least for himself? Wesley did not seem to espouse or teach the notion that supernatural manifestations of the Spirit are normative for the believer, which characterizes PCR Christians. Yet, in practice, the charismata clearly operated through Wesley and the early Methodists in quite a regular or normative manner. With that said, Wesley can be considered a charismatic on one of two counts, making him half a charismatic, or playing on Wesley’s “an almost Christian” – “an almost charismatic.” The four inferences drawn from Wesley concerning the gifts of the Spirit further serve as correctives for a proper balance for Wesleyans of all stripes, who often neglect the miraculous power of God, and for today’s PCR movement, which often lacks a robust doctrine of sanctification and sound theology for its supernatural experiences. Simply put, all of the work of the Spirit should be normative in our lives, including the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit gives gifts to and produces fruit in every true believer. No Christian should ever settle for anything less than the promises of God in scripture. Yet, in agreement with the scriptures and Wesley, the various operations of the Spirit should be prioritized and given their proper place in the scheme of salvation. We note in 1 Corinthians 13 that the fruit of love, which is eternal, is greater than the gifts of prophecy or tongues, which are temporal. Wesley’s holiness hermeneutic, resonating with scripture, also prioritizes character over charisma, fruit over gifts, and holiness over power.

And regarding the apparent cessation of charismatic experiences among Christians over the course of history, John Wesley offered this explanation:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the church for more than two or three centuries We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby heaped riches, and power, and honour, upon the Christians in general; but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not (as has been vulgarly supposed,) "because there was no more occasion for them," because all the world was become Christian. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause was, "the love of many," almost of all Christians, so called, was "waxed cold." The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine his Church, could hardly "find faith upon earth." This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church -- because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.

Source: The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 89

In other words, John Wesley placed high importance on scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. When it comes to the realm of experience, he particularly emphasized the pursuit of holiness and the manifestation of the fruit of the spirit. Moreover, he remained receptive to the display of charismatic gifts, attributing their decline in church history to the diminishing strength of spiritual fervor in Christians, perhaps due to an increasing reliance on institutional structures.

Which denominations hold similar views?

Additional resources:

In particular, the last article concludes:

The gifts of the Spirit combined with the doctrine of priesthood of all believers were one of the main axioms of early Reformation. However, later writings of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions neglected both the idea of the priesthood of all believers and of the perpetuity of Spiritual gifts, thus minimizing experiential aspects of the Christian religion. Wesley’s break with cessationism is variously interpreted today. Some claim that Wesley set the stage for the practices of the modern Charismatic movement. Others argue that Wesley’s emphasis on Spiritual gifts and implication of laity in the spiritual affairs was just a marginal note in his theology of holy life. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Wesley saw the gifts of the Spirit as a natural part of Christian experience connecting it with the doctrine of sanctification. For him, the lack or rarity of manifestations of the Spirit during long centuries of Christian dispensation was due to the declining spiritual life of the Church. In essence, the love of many “grew cold”. Wesley’s focal desire was to restore the piety and love of early Christians through indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Experience of spiritual assurance, fruits of the Spirit, gifts and even supernatural manifestations of the Spirit were for Wesley, a natural consequence of God’s power among true Christians, working for the edification of the saints and the spreading of the Gospel. It is important to note that although Wesley saw extraordinary gifts as a legitimate Christian experience, his treatment of gifts was different in regards to the blessing of assurance and the fruits of the Spirit. While he actively sought for spiritual assurance and for the fruits of Spirit (love, peace, meekness and so on), Wesley was more passive in expecting the manifestations of gifts of the Spirit. His main argument in regards to the gifts was that “they are available for Christians today” but he never made it a matter of doctrine to receive them, as it was the case with fruits of the Spirit or the assurance of the justification.

  • 1
    None of the above properly represents the the actual words of John Wesley. The article linked to above states Upon examination of Wesley's work, Albert Outler theorized that Wesley . . . . etc. . . . etc. . . . .etc. So this is all based on one person;s theory of what they supposed John Wesley believed. I would prefer to see direct quotes of John Wesley himself, which would be academically more substantial.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 18:17
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    The second articles states four general assertions one can make about Wesley . . . . etc . . . . . .etc . . . . . . . etc. So, again we are being invited to consider 'assertions' made about Wesley and we are not being shown what the man himself actually spoke and wrote.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 18:20
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    As for 'wide acceptance' that would be very difficult to estimate. Nor do I know how it would be 'estimated'. This would, necessarily, be based on anecdotal opinion and could never be factually substantiated.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 18:22
  • @NigelJ Here is a blog post including explicit quotes of John Wesley. Here is a journal article arriving at similar conclusions.
    – user61679
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 23:12
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    I don't know if I've entirely answered your question, but I thought it a shame that there be no answer given at all. So I highlighted some commonalities (and some differences) between my faith and the principles highlighted in the question. Commented Jan 2 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


I'll offer the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Scripture is considered authoritative, we will be judged by what it teaches, and it is a clear guide to distinguish between true & false doctrine. However, unlike Wesley, Latter-day Saints believe in an open canon of scripture.

When the Lord’s servants speak or write under the influence of the Holy Ghost, their words become scripture (Gospel Principles, chapter 10)

I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written (2 Nephi 29:11)

For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious...And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation. (1 Nephi 13:35-36)

Referring to the role the scriptures will play for the author's descendants in the last days:

wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved. (1 Nephi 15:14)



Tradition tends to be cast in a negative light in the Book of Mormon (e.g. Mosiah 1:5, Alma 9:16, Alma 60:32, Helaman 15:4). This does not mean all tradition is inherently bad, but in a worldview in which revelation from God is ongoing, guidance from God at this time for this time is always going to trump tradition (which may or may not have handed down correctly truth revealed in the past).

(I speak here of theological tradition; the church actually celebrates many cultural traditions across its global footprint, unless those cultural traditions involve violating God's commandments)

An example of this can be seen in health codes. Latter-day Saints believe God has given different health codes to His people at different times, based upon their needs. For example, pork was prohibited in ancient Israel & Judah. It is not prohibited now. Tobacco is prohibited now but is not mentioned (at least not clearly) in ancient texts. One of the reasons for this is given in Doctrine & Covenants 89:4

In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you

Unlike in past dispensations, there are multi-billion dollar efforts today to get people addicted to tobacco, so God gave a warning & commandment against it specific to this dispensation. Any tradition to the contrary is trumped by this present-day instruction.



Reasons is considered essential to spiritual learning. Three of the most cited passages are:

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (Doctrine & Covenants 8:2)

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right (Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-8)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy (Doctrine & Covenants 11:13)

Both mind & heart are involved. Thought must be put in. Inspiration enlightens the mind. This is a theology where the mind and reason are decidedly engaged.



This was the portion of the OP I found the most interesting, and prompted my answer in the first place (okay, I also wrote this post because it's a shame to offer a bounty to try to get an answer and still not get an answer).

Latter-day Saints certainly do believe in the vital role of spiritual experience. The oft-quoted Moroni's promise calls upon people to obtain their own witness of the truth:

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.'

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

And with respect to spiritual gifts Latter-day Saints believe they exist today:

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. (Articles of Faith 1:7)

The experience of God's power and transformation in one's life is essential.

Latter-day Saint writers have long noticed the same historical pattern Wesley highlights. Some time after the apostolic era, the presence of spiritual gifts in Christian communities declined heavily. This historical decline is seen as evidence of general apostasy in the centuries following the New Testament apostles.

The prophet Moroni taught:

And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust (Mormon 9:20).

Wesley's statement on the matter was in fact quoted by Latter-day Saint Tad R. Callister in his book The Inevitable Apostasy, who added:

Almost without exception, Christian historians acknowledge the multiplicity of gifts and miracles in the primitive Church, contrasted with the startling absence of such divine witnesses in later centuries (The Inevitable Apostasy p. 94).

where there is faith, where there is the power of the priesthood of God upon the earth, there will be miracles and manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit. So it has always been, and so it will always be...But when faith diminished and the Church vanished, so did the gifts of the Spirit. Their absence spoke volumes (The Inevitable Apostasy p. 95).

In addition to believing in a Great Apostasy, we believe God's power & authority, and the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have been restored to the earth in modern times.



Latter-day Saints are comfortable with many of the principles in the OP on identifying truth, with notable exceptions (such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' acceptance of ongoing general revelation and an open canon of scripture). As a result, Latter-day Saints theology has many differences to the teachings of Wesley.

The important interplay between the personal line and the priesthood (or prophetic) line of revelation is discussed by apostle Dallin H. Oaks here.

I am grateful for the work of the reformers in challenging what they believed was in error and prompting renewed commitment to seeking truth. However, I believe that what was needed to fully address the challenges Wesley identified was not just a Reformation, but a Restoration.

Disclaimer: these thoughts are the product of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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