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Stephen J. Lennox


Source: Wesleyan Theological Journal

Wesley Center Online



For the American holiness movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Bible represented “the grand thesaurus of inspired truth.”[1] The interpretations drawn from that thesaurus, however, differed markedly from those of many contemporaries and from earlier interpreters. How they differed and why represents the focus of this paper. Holiness interpretation can be better understood by comparing it with John Wesley’s theological method, often called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”[2] It was this method which enabled Wesley to maintain both orthodox teaching and evangelical fervor. While altered early on,[3] the quadrilateral continued to influence Methodism. Because the Holiness Movement stood in the tradition of Wesley and desired a similarly ortho­dox and fervent ministry, Wesley’s theological method provides an instructive backdrop for the study of holiness interpretation.

This movement at the turn of the twentieth century was a diverse conglomerate of ecclesiologies, eschatologies, personalities, and patterns of biblical interpretation. In an attempt to capture this diversity, the works of seven influential holiness authors from widely varying perspectives will be considered: Daniel Steele (1824–1914), Beverly Carradine (1848­–1931), W. B. Godbey (1833–1920), Martin Wells Knapp (1853-1901), Reuben Robinson (1860–1942), George D. Watson (1845–1924), and Joseph H. Smith (1855–1946).[4]


Wesley’s Theological Methodology


A brief overview of the four basic components of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral will provide a useful tool for reviewing and assessing bibli­cal interpretation in the American Holiness Movement from 1875–1920.

1. Scripture. Paramount among all sources of authority for Wesley was the Bible. Properly interpreted, it was the source for his teaching and the final court of appeal in dispute. In the preface to “Sermons on Several Occasions” we read, “O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri, a man of one book.”[5]

Scriptural quotations and illusions are scattered liberally throughout Wesley’s writings, prompting Albert Outler to call the Bible Wesley’s “second language.”[6] These frequent quotations demonstrate not only Wesley’s respect for and familiarity with the written Word, but also his conviction that Scripture was “a most solid and precious system of divine truth”[7] and that it should be interpreted by considering “parallel passages of Scripture, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.[8]

2. Reason. Wesley answered the question, “What can reason do in religion,” by saying, “It can do exceeding much, both with regard to the foundation of it, and to the superstructure.” Without it, he continued, how can one “understand the essential truths contained in the Bible. . . . Is it not reason (assisted by the Holy Ghost) which enables us to understand what the Holy Scriptures declare concerning the being and attributes of God,” as well as other important truths.[9] Dangers would accompany any over-emphasis on reason, he well knew, but he saw no substitute for logi­cal reflection.[10] Nor did he find any essential contradiction between rea­son and faith; the truths of Christianity are rational. “It is a fundamental principle with us that to renounce reason is to renounce religion. . . .”[11]

Wesley demonstrated his confidence in the ability of the human mind to grasp the plain teaching of the Word by emphasizing, in his own interpretation and in his advice to others, the literal meaning of the text. He counseled a young believer, “the general rule of interpreting Scripture is this: the literal sense of every text is to be taken, if it be not contrary to some other texts; but in that case the obscure text is to be interpreted by those which speak more plainly.”[12]

 3. Tradition. Consistent with his Anglican heritage, Wesley used Christian tradition from the Apostolic period to the present to shape his theology. He drew from the church’s Fathers, East and West, and encour­aged others to do the same.[13] Such knowledge was important, Wesley said, because the Fathers were “the most authentic commentators on Scripture, as being both nearest the fountain, and eminently endued with that Spirit by whom all Scripture is given.”[14] Because Wesley drew liber­ally from this fountain, his writings possess an eclecticism and a spirit of tolerance for other traditions.[15]

4. Experience. By experience Wesley meant, first, the proper posture from which interpretation should take place. Such experience included the work of the Spirit in awakening the sinner, lifting that person by faith, providing the assurance of salvation, and leading that person by grace to holiness.[16] The Spirit who had inspired those who wrote the Bible was the same Spirit who “continually inspires, supernaturally assists, those that read it with earnest prayer.”[17]

Experience, for Wesley, also meant a source of confirmation for interpretation. According to Donald Thorsen, Wesley believed “empirical knowledge—accumulated accounts of people’s experiences (religious and nonreligious) that are open to public assessment—contributes to the confirmation and understanding of biblical truths.”[18] For example, one reason Wesley altered his views of entire sanctification was because of what he observed in the lives of Methodists.[19]

Wesley formulated his theology from the interplay between these four elements, the Bible always serving as the final authority. Richard Lovelace describes this process using a baseball diamond. “Home plate is Scripture. First base is tradition. Second base is reason and third base experience.”[20] In order to adequately interpret a passage—hit a home run—one must begin at home plate and touch all the bases before return­ing to Scripture.[21]


Interpretation in the Holiness Movement


1. Scripture. Like Wesley, the Holiness Movement regarded the Bible as its highest authority, to be read as a unified product, interpreting Scripture by Scripture.[22] It also shared Wesley’s view that the Holy Spirit was active in inspiring both the original author and the interpreter.[23] The implications drawn from this double inspiration, however, often went far beyond what Wesley had intended.

The Spirit not only guided the search of Scripture, it was his person and work for which American holiness advocates searched. Without intending to disparage the rest of the Trinity or disregard the “scarlet thread” of redemption, they believed it their God-appointed mission to point out another thread, the “white one of the promise of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Ghost.”[24] The proclamation of this promise, they believed, was the special calling of the Holiness Movement.[25]

One wonders how comfortable Wesley would have been with such an approach to Scripture. He was troubled when his chosen successor, John Fletcher, described entire sanctification as the baptism of the Spirit. It was Fletcher’s emphasis, however, which proved more persuasive in the American milieu, especially as articulated by Phoebe Palmer. By the end of the nineteenth century, entire sanctification, narrowly defined as a second crisis experience subsequent to regeneration, accompanied by external manifestations and heightened morality and described as a per­sonal Pentecost, came to be identified as the central truth of the Bible. “The Bible is perfectionism,” said Godbey. “Theologians may howl and Satan may rage, but the Bible is a book on perfectionism.”[26]

Part of the reason the Holiness Movement came to this conclusion was the tremendous growth and influence it experienced in the last quar­ter of the nineteenth century. The wide appeal of Palmer’s “altar theol­ogy,” the international and trans-denominational spread of the holiness doctrine, and the success of the National Camp Meeting Association con­firmed the view that entire sanctification was the “crowning experience of the Christian life.”[27] This narrowed definition was then hardened in the crucible of controversy that erupted over holiness in the late nineteenth century. Most of the polemic contained in holiness writings was directed, not against the world, but against the apostate church, that is, against those who opposed the movement’s understanding of entire sanctification. “Just as the leaders of Judaism blindly resisted the Holy Ghost,” said Godbey, “so the leaders of fallen Christianity at the present day ostracize and interdict the holiness people, who are preaching just what the apostles preached.”[28] One should not draw up a creed in the heat of controversy, warned Daniel Steele in 1897, for then one cannot be sure that all error has been excluded and all truth included.[29] It was a warning which his own movement failed to follow.

To identify the Bible as perfectionism went well beyond Wesley’s belief that “the living center of every part of inspired Scripture was the call to be holy, and the promise of grace to answer that call.”[30] The focus of holiness advocates made it natural to read the rest of the Bible in light of this truth. Leon Hynson has called this the “holiness hermeneutic.”[31] Examples of it are found almost everywhere.

One holiness author was complimented by his publisher for being able to find entire sanctification “in many portions of the Old Testament where few people have ever thought to look for either the doctrine or the experience.”[32] The Song of Songs was interpreted as allegorically teach­ing second blessing holiness.[33] The book of Revelation, said Martin Wells Knapp, can only be mastered by magnifying “the great central truth, ‘holiness triumphant,’ which gleams from every chapter.”[34] Israel ’s his­tory was read as an allegory of the journey from sin to entire sanctifica­tion.[35] While this more-than-literal reading of the Bible was not new, the extent to which it was employed by holiness interpreters is unique within the Methodist tradition and among Evangelicals of this period of Ameri­can church history.

Against the example of Wesley and over the objections of some of its own leaders,[36] the Holiness Movement reveled in finding the deeper truths “imbedded and hidden away in the Bible for the recognition and future use of all generations.”[37] They did not ignore the historical context, but quickly passed over it to discover the more important spiritual truths built upon it.[38] It was, they said, their special relationship with the Holy Spirit which made possible such interpretations. Christians have always claimed to interpret by means of the Spirit, but the holiness movement went further. It professed to be completely purified of the sinful nature, indwelt by the Spirit of God, and thus perfectly prepared to interpret God’s Word. “Now for the first time,” remarked Beverly Carradine con­cerning the results of entire sanctification, “the real depth of certain Bible expressions are understood and the heart fairly revels in them.”[39] Like Jesus’ second touch on the eyes of the blind man, said Carradine, “we see into the Word of God as never before. Passages that were obscure and mysterious become luminous with a deeper and truer meaning. The Bible becomes a new book and an illuminated one at that.”[40] George Watson spoke for the movement when he wrote:


. . . a plain man entirely sanctified, without learning, and with the Bible in his hands, has an understanding of the divine promises, sees farther into the prophecies of God, gets a firmer grasp on God’s Word, than all the doctors of divinity that are not sanctified.[41]


Ironically, the same holiness interpreters who claimed to receive interpretations from the Spirit did not hesitate to interpret the Scriptures for others.[42] Earlier, Augustine had highlighted the inconsistencies of such a practice: “Why does he not rather send them direct to God, that they too may learn by the inward teaching of the Spirit without the help of man?”[43]

2. Reason. Wesley considered reason an invaluable aid in biblical interpretation, but the Holiness Movement was not so sure. Although it is “blessed to be sanctified, and even more blessed to be intelligently sancti­fied,” Carradine noted, “it is not by reasoning that the world knows God or the things of God.”[44] Watson conceded a place to reasoning and theol­ogy, but insisted that God’s work goes beyond what can be grasped by “mere brains and carnal reason.”[45] Far better than the “slow process of reasoning” is the God-given ability to discriminate between truth and error[46] when the Spirit of God speaks to the inner spirit of the Christian through intuitions and “instinctive perceptions of divine verities” which are “superior to logic.”[47] The science of determining the logical and plain sense of a passage was supplanted by the “lightning flash of intuition, that leaps over the plodding process of slow reason and knows things more surely without learning them, than reason does with all its logic.”[48] This devaluation of reason may be why the movement became preoccupied with the more-than-literal sense of Scripture. The Spirit, in sending this lightning flash of intuition, was “marvelously lighting up some obscurity in the Scriptures, or revealing whole trains of new truth.”[49] To discover the true hidden meaning of these obscurities and to announce the new truth became the objective.

Late nineteenth-century America was not a good time to proclaim the importance of reason in biblical interpretation. Not only were there strident critics outside the church, but voices within the ecclesiastical scholarly community were challenging cherished beliefs. Such challenges convinced the Holiness Movement that it had sufficient cause to abandon Wesley’s loyalty to reason. The pejorative assessment of reason also arose, in part, from the populist hermeneutic,[50] the predominant approach to the Bible among American Protestants from the Colonial period through the Civil War.[51] Surpassing the Reformation’s emphasis on Sola Scriptura, the populist hermeneutic identified the common person as fully capable of understanding the Bible. Because each person was believed to have the capacity through the physical senses and an innate moral sense to gain knowledge of the natural world and the moral universe, regardless of level of education, it was common sense, not reason, that was the true essential. This elevation of common sense was nurtured by Scottish Real­ism, the reigning philosophy of nineteenth-century America . Originally developed to refute the skepticism of Hume and the idealism of Berkeley , it was widely embraced in the United States as philosophical support to this country’s innate self-confidence.[52]

By the late 1800s, the populist hermeneutic had lost much of its prominence. Some groups abandoned it, while others like the Holiness Movement continued to employ it with a few modifications. Common sense remained an essential for proper biblical interpretation, but some­thing more was needed. Not surprisingly, it was during this period that entire sanctification came to be seen as the key to understanding the Bible. The sanctified individual with common sense had everything nec­essary to interpret Scripture. “The Bible is a plain book,” said Godbey, “needing nothing but common sense and the Holy Ghost to understand it.”[53]

3. Tradition. W. B. Godbey’s assessment of tradition was shared by many in the Holiness Movement: “Martyr blood and fire,” he judged, “had kept the Church humble, poor, unpopular, and despised three hun­dred years. Meanwhile she had no creed but the Bible.” With the conver­sion of Constantine came popularity, influence, wealth, the paganization of Christianity, and the first human creed. This was the first of many, “thus recognizing and inaugurating human authority, going off into eccle­siasticism, no longer content with New Testament Simplicity.”[54] These human digressions piled up to form a sad trail of tradition, a trail of com­promise.

Actually, the Holiness Movement did not so much reject tradition as redefine what it was and how it should be used. Convinced that “God has always had a true people on the earth,”[55] the movement traced a line for­ward from the New Testament period-the “golden days” of holiness[56] across a narrow ridge of orthodoxy to the time of the Holiness Movement.[57] Godbey saw this slender line of piety traversing the Waldenses in the third century through the Moravians to the Methodists. He also included the Augustinian a Kempis, the French Catholic mystic, Fenelon, and the Quaker founder, George Fox.[58] Less important than knowing the identity of each element in this pure lineage was knowing that such a lineage existed and that the modern Holiness Movement was a direct descendant.

Unlike Wesley who valued the church Fathers because they came so close to the fountain, holiness authors preferred more contemporary heroes such as Madame Guyon, John Bunyan, John Fletcher, Richard Watson, Hester Rogers, and, of course, the Wesleys. John Wesley had used the early church Fathers to shape his teaching, while the Holiness Movement used more recent figures to prove it was right. Tradition was now defined, not broadly as the work of God among his people in the past, but narrowly as God’s work of sanctification among his people, especially in the centuries immediately preceding their own. For the Holi­ness Movement, tradition was not used as a source of writings to guide the interpretation of the Bible, but for examples to illustrate their favorite doctrine found in it.

The devaluation of tradition began, for American Methodists as far back as Asbury himself, whom Outler considers to have had “next to no sense of tradition.”[59] It also owed something to the populist hermeneutic which considered tradition the cause of schism, worldliness, and dead for­malism. The “Christian” movement of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell began with the expressed purposes of restoring the New Testament church[60] and giving everyone the right to privately interpret the New Testament.[61] “We are persuaded that it is high time for us not only to think, but also to act for ourselves; to see with our own eyes, and to take all our measures directly and immediately from the Divine Standard.[62] “No creed but the Bible” became a common rallying cry in nineteenth century Protestantism. Wesley’s dependence on the opinions of the past stood little chance of survival in this atmosphere. It is not surprising that the Holiness Movement considered creeds to “have had more to do with originating and perpetuating the divisions in the Church than anything else.” Indeed, said Godbey, “Creed making has been the fatal mistake of Christendom.”[63]

The devaluation of tradition was, in part, a symptom of the modernization of American society taking place at the turn of the last century. Among the components of this process, according to Peter Berger, were a future rather than a past orientation and an emphasis on individual choice over the will of society.[64] While the Holiness Movement would have bristled at the idea that it was influenced by modernism, its words make it rather obvious. There is clearly a future orientation in Godbey’s view that God revealed the discovery of Codex Sinaiticus in 1859, “just in time to boom the present holiness movement, the glorious millennial dawn” which has finally arrived after the “long, dark chasm of intervening ages” or the “devil’s millennium.[65] When it celebrated the ability of each per­son, who, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, was said to be able to arrive at interpretations completely novel, it revealed its prejudice toward the pre­sent and against the past.

4. Experience. In some ways, experience filled the same role for the Holiness Movement as it did for Wesley. Both considered Christian expe­rience the proper stance for accurate biblical interpretation. Differences in how Christian experience was defined and the extent to which experience shaped interpretation, however, produced dissimilar results.

Christian experience, for holiness interpreters, meant entire sanctifi­cation, narrowly defined in terms of what it was, how it was received, and what it would produce.[66] Having embraced the creed of second-blessing holiness, they were convinced that only the entirely sanctified could prop­erly interpret the Bible. Godbey counseled interpreters to get all the rocks of depravity eliminated from the heart, leaving it soft, tender, and filled with perfect love. Then one could go down into the profound mysteries of revealed truth, be flooded with new spiritual illuminations, and progres­sively be “edified by fresh revealments of the Divine attributes in glory, though you never saw a college nor inherited Solomonic genius.”[67]

With Wesley, the movement also regarded experience as a source of information to help refine interpretation. Carradine found “some scripture passages can only be unlocked by experience. We may think we under­stand; but it requires more than a knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, and the laws of exegesis to clear up the mystery.” The relative values he ascribed to exegesis and experience can be seen in his reference to the former as “exit Jesus” and to the latter as “Commentary Life.”[68] One of the strengths of Wesley’s quadrilateral was its system of checks and balances which prevented another element from dominating Scripture. Holiness interpretation, by minimizing reason and tradition, became a bilateral of Scripture and experience and lost its balance. As it tilted, holiness interpretation came to be dominated by experience rather than Scripture.

When the movement read the Bible through experience, it discovered entire sanctification in places where a natural reading of the text does not suggest it. They found holiness proof-texts in the prohibition against wearing a garment mixed with wool and linen, the process of cleansing the leper, and many other places.[69] Old Testament texts were interpreted to show how the second blessing came to Abraham, Jacob, Isaiah, and many others.[70] Wherever Scripture spoke of two of anything or when something occurred twice, this was seen to teach a second definite work of grace. Passages like the second cleansing of the temple by Jesus, the two sisters of Lazarus, the two elements which flowed from Christ’s side and the double touch on the eyes of the blind man were all treated as holiness texts.[71] In fact, confessed Godbey, “If I were to notice everything in the Bible setting forth this glorious double salvation, it would take me the balance of my life.”[72] Far from being derided within the movement, practices like these were lauded as commendable; the ability to do so was sought in prayer.[73]

Anticipating the criticism that might come for such practices, the movement developed criteria by which to test the validity of an interpretation, one of the more important being whether or not it “harmonizes with the experience” of a Christian.[74] Carradine was certain that manna typified salvation since both are bread from heaven, are sweet to the soul, and both seem to disappear in the heat and struggle of the day. “If this is not a true picture of the regenerated life,” he noted, “then have we failed to see, hear, and feel correctly.”[75] These interpreters would, of course, claim they were reading the text properly. Prior to exegeting a passage, Watson asserted, “I will give a simple exegesis of the words. I do not wish to add anything to the Word or to take anything from it, but simply explain the Word as it lies there.” In the preceding sentence, however, he confessed, “I never knew how to read that text in my life until the Lord gave me the experience which the text contains.”[76]

There are several reasons why experience became so important to the Holiness Movement. Viewing experience as the test of truth owed something to a pragmatic American society which had practically canon­ized the seventeenth century English philosopher, Francis Bacon. To those who wanted to discover the sanctified life, Carradine suggested that they “try the Baconian or experimental method.”[77]

The Holiness Movement was not made up largely of well-educated persons;[78] these were individuals for whom “a simple word or tear or metaphor or illustrative incident has done more to kindle a fire in a cold heart than a whole ton of the cold coal of logical argument would have done.”[79] It is not surprising, therefore, that experience should weigh so heavily. The importance of experience among holiness interpreters can also be explained as a reaction to the intellectual revolution that was underway at that time. Discoveries like those of Charles Darwin, the rising importance of sociology and psychology, and the study of comparative religions brought challenges to the faith. The element of this intellectual revolution that dealt the severest blow to the church, however, was biblical criticism. Until this period, there had been general agreement that the Bible was the Word of God and that it could be interpreted using common sense. Growing respect for biblical criticism from Europe brought an end to this American consensus. In 1870 most Americans, including most academics, agreed on what it meant for the Bible to be the Word of God. By 1900, Christians contended with each other as to how the Bible was the Word of God. And the academic world at large had asked if it were at all.[80]

For the Holiness Movement, the whole question was settled by the experience of entire sanctification. Once people have experienced the second blessing, they are never again troubled with doubts of the inspiration of the Bible. The hungry person, finding bread that perfectly satisfies and nourishes, has no difficulty with the sophistry which would prove it was made of chaff and not of wheat.[81] After this experience, “the enemy is no longer able to keep you in doubt about the divinity of Christ or the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. . . . Nothing but the Holy Ghost can make all of these things real to us, but, bless the Lord! He can do it.”[82]

The intellectual revolution helped to make the late nineteenth century a time of suspended judgment. As was observed by Charles Kingsley, this was a generation when “few of us deeply believe anything.”[83] These lines from the English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861), expressed the sentiment of the period on both sides of the Atlantic :


Oh say it, all who think it,

Look straight, and never blink it!

If it is so, let it be so,

And we will all agree so;

But the plot has counterplot,

It may be, and yet be not.[84]


It was by experiencing entire sanctification that one was able to deal with the complexity of the day. “We walk amid quagmires and crooked paths,” said Watson, “but the sanctified believer walks on marble.”[85] With the certainty of knowledge being questioned, it was reassuring to know that “one experience in the converted or sanctified life is worth ten thou­sand theories.”[86] By experiencing God’s love one apparently can know God with a swiftness, a certainty and a personal communion, that sur­passes all the boasted knowledge of science, and furnishes the only true interpretation of creation and providence.”[87] This assumption helps to fur­ther explain how experience came to play such an important role in the epistemology of the Holiness Movement. Lacking what was needed to dispute the critics and reassert certainty, the movement turned for refuge to their own experience. Within this shelter, they were able to maintain their faith against the prevailing winds.




Holiness biblical interpretation in the late nineteenth and early twen­tieth centuries did not take shape in a vacuum. The heritage of Wesley and American Methodism, the relative absence of higher education among its holiness adherents, a culture where people were their own interpreters, success on the campgrounds, conflict with other Christians, tumultuous societal forces, and growing isolation from others, shaped what the Holi­ness Movement found within the pages of the Bible. Because these influ­ences went generally unrecognized and unacknowledged by the move­ment, their effect was even more potent in shaping interpretation.

By the late nineteenth century the Holiness Movement had lost its trans-denominational constituency and was speaking to itself. Without a critical audience, there was no one to challenge its novel interpretations. By neglecting the Wesleyan Quadrilateral’s “built-in” critical audience - ­the scrutiny of reason and the rich heritage of the past - what remained was a hollow hermeneutic. When experience filled this vacuum, what resulted often were interpretations far different from what the Scriptural authors intended. Ironically, such interpretations may well have hindered outsiders—those who did not share the presuppositions implicit in the holiness hermeneutic—from embracing what the movement considered the crowning experience of Christianity.


[1] W. B. Godbey, Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 2, Hebrews - Jude (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1897), 375.


[2] The notion of the Wesleyan quadrilateral was first proposed by Albert Out­ler in the late 1960s. A good account of Outler’s intention and a fuller develop­ment of this method can be found in Donald A. D. Thorsen, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience as a Model of Evan­gelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury/Zondervan, 1990). Outler’s essay, “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral In John Wesley,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 20:1 (Spring 1985), 7–18, provides a summary of his views. Some have questioned the existence of a quadrilateral. Ted Campbell considers the identifi­cation of tradition anachronistic to Wesley (Ted A. Campbell, “The ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral’: The Story of a Modern Methodist Myth,” Doctrine and Theology in the United Methodist Church, ed. Thomas A. Langford, Nashville: Kingswood-Abingdon, 1991), 154-161. Comparing holiness interpretation to Wesley’s quadrilateral is not meant to imply that the quadrilateral is the only proper way to interpret the Bible or that Wesley is the only standard by which to evaluate his followers.


[3] Albert Outler suggests that changes were made in the quadrilateral long before the late nineteenth century. “Wesley’s theological method was distinctive, and maybe unique, because one cannot identify any of his disciples who adopted it as a whole or in his theological spirit” (Outler, “Quadrilateral,” 16).


[4] Daniel Steele was a highly respected Methodist Episcopal educator and pastor. Author of several commentaries and popular works on holiness, he remained a loyal Methodist all of his life. See Daniel Steele, Love Enthroned: Essays on Evangelical Perfection, rev. ed. (New York: Methodist Book Concern, 1875), 275, 278–79; Minutes of the New England Conference, Methodist Episco­pal Church, 1915, 130. Carradine, another loyal Methodist, represents the South­ern branch of that church. Converted and called into pastoral ministry from a career in business, he became a nationally known holiness evangelist and writer (Beverly Carradine, The Sanctified Life [ Cincinnati : M.W. Knapp, 1897], 59). W. B. Godbey, one of the more colorful figures in the Holiness Movement, was probably its most prolific author, including a complete commentary on and new translation of the New Testament. In the late 1890s he left the ME Church and gave his aid to various radical branches of the Holiness Movement (cf. D. William Faupel’s Preface to Six Tracts by W. B. Godbey, [New York: Garland Publishing, 1985], vii–xvii; Godbey Autobiography of Rev. W. B. Godbey, A.M. [Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1909]). Knapp also began his ministry among the Methodists, but left in 1901 because of the conflict over his holiness evangelistic work. He established the monthly paper, The Revivalist, as well as God’s Bible School and Missionary Training Home (American Methodism, 1867–1936, ATLA Monograph Series 5 [Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1974], 100–4; Knapp, Out of Egypt, Into Canaan [Cincinnati: Office of the Revivalist, 1898], especially 187­92). Reuben Robinson, better known as “Uncle Buddy,” rose from abject poverty in the South to become a widely traveled evangelist. Leaving the Methodist Epis­copal Church over the issue of sanctification, he joined the Church of the Nazarene in 1906 (Reuben Robinson, My Life’s Story [Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing, 1928]; Chickens Come Home to Roost [Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1958]). Watson, after several successful ME pastorates, began a world-wide evangelistic and writing ministry. In 1896 he left the ME Church to join the Wesleyan Methodists (Eva M. Watson, Glimpses of the Life and Work of, George Douglas Watson [Cincinnati: God’s Bible School and Revivalist, 1929]). Smith also served several ME churches before beginning full-time evangelism. A member of the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holi­ness, he became its president in 1925 (Delbert Rose, A Theology of Christian Experience: Interpreting the Historic Wesleyan Message [Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1965]).


[5] John Wesley, Preface, Sermons on Several Occasions (London: Epworth Press, 1944 [1787]), vi.


[6] Outler, “Quadrilateral,” 13.


[7] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (London: Epworth, 1948 [1754]), 9. Helpful treatments of this material include Timothy L. Smith, “John Wesley and the Wholeness of Scripture,” Interpretation 39 (1985), 246–62, and Basic United Methodist Beliefs: An Evangelical View, ed. James V. Heidinger II (Wilmore, KY: Good News, 1986), 19–25.


[8] Wesley, Preface, Sermons on Several Occasions, vi.


[9] John Wesley, “The Case of Reason Considered,” The Works of John Wes­ley, reprint from 1872 ed. ( Grand Rapids : Zondervan), VI: 354.


[10] Ted Campbell describes reason as “reflection on experience” (“Myth,” 157). Wesley felt sufficiently familiar with logic to write a Compendium of Logic (1750).


[11] John Wesley, “To Dr. Rutherford,” 28 March 1768, Letters ( Telford ed.), v:364, cf. Thorsen, 169.


[12] John Wesley, “Letter to Sam Furly,” 10 May 1755, The Letters of John Wesley, ed. John Telford (London: Epworth, 1931), 111:129. Wesley was how­ever, influenced by the Pietist view that the “drama of the race—of Creation, Fall and Redemption—is to be reenacted in each life” (Claude Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century, 1799-1870, vol. 1 [New Haven: Yale Univer­sity Press, 1972], 18.)


[13] Smith, 250.


[14] John Wesley, “Address to the Clergy,” The Works of John Wesley (1872 ed.), X:484.


[15] Thorsen, 168.


[16] Smith, 248.


[17] Wesley, Notes, 794. Something of how this works is described in the Preface, Sermons on Several Occasions, vi.


[18] Thorsen, 214.


[19] John L. Peters, Christian Perfection and American Methodism (Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury-Zondervan, 1985 [1956]), 30–31. Cf. Thorsen, 214–15.


[20] Richard Lovelace, “Recovering Our Balance,” Charisma, August, 1987, , 80, as quoted in Thorsen, 72.


[21] Thorsen, 72.


[22] George D. Watson, Love Abounding and Other Expositions on the Spirit­ual Life (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1891), 52-53.


[23] W. B. Godbey (Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 3, Ephesians­Philemon [God’s Revivalist, 1898], 159–60) implied such double-inspiration when, at the end of his commentary on Colossians, he confessed, “The Blessed Holy Spirit, who gave to Paul this wonderful epistle, has illuminated the forego­ing expositions.”


[24] Martin Wells Knapp, Lightning Bolts from Pentecostal Skies (Cincinnati: Office of the Revivalist, 1898), 13, 140.


[25] W. B. Godbey, Ephesians–Philemon, 111, 191.


[26] W. B. Godbey, Christian Perfection (Louisville: Pentecostal Publishing, 1886), 108–109.


[27] Beverly Carradine, Sanctification (Columbia, SC: Pickett, 1890), 202.


[28] W. B. Godbey, Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 5, Acts and Romans (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1899), 121.


[29] Daniel Steele, The Gospel of the Comforter (Rochester, PA: Schmul, n.d. [1897]), 272.


[30] Smith, 246.


[31] Cf. Hynson’s work on this topic, “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in the American Holiness Tradition,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 20:1 (Spring 1985), 19-33.


[32] W. McDonald, from the Introduction to George D. Watson, Coals of Fire: Being Expositions of Scripture on the Doctrine, Experience, and Practice of Christian Holiness (Boston: McDonald, Gill & Co., 1886), 3.


[33] George D. Watson, The Divine Love Song: An Exposition of the Song of Solomon ( Salem , OH : Schmul, n.d.).


[34] Martin Wells Knapp, Holiness Triumphant, or Pearls from Patmos (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1900), 6.


[35] Knapp Out of Egypt , Into Canaan .


[36] There is nothing of the allegorical in Steele’s commentary on Joshua. Instead, he confines himself to the historical and critical questions. Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3, Book of Joshua, ed. D. D. Whedon, (New York: Nelson and Phillips, 1873). Cf. Steele’s criticisms of the Plymouth Brethren for their more-than-literal interpretation in A Substitute for Holiness or Antinomian­ism Revived; or The Theology of the So-Called Plymouth Brethren Examined and Refuted, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Christian Witness, 1899 [1878]), 76.


[37] Beverly Carradine, Second Blessing in Symbol, 2nd ed. (Louisville: Pick­ett, 1896 [1893]), 27; Revival Sermons (Dallas: Holiness Echoes, n.d. [1897]), 45. Steele believed such interpretation flourishes among those whose minds “are eas­ily captivated by types which are purely fanciful, the cunning inventions of men” (Substitute, 76).


[38] Carradine, Sanctification, 133.


[39] Carradine, Revival Sermons, 90.


[40] Carradine, Second Blessing, 212.


[41] G. Watson, Love Abounding, 167.


[42] For examples of such injunctions, cf. Carradine, Sanctified Life, 114–15; Robinson, A Pitcher of Cream (Louisville: Pentecostal Publishing, 1906), 156; Knapp, Christ Crowned Within (Cincinnati: Revivalist Publishing House, 1893) 195; Out of Egypt, 142; Double Cure (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist Office, 1898), 81; Godbey, Spiritual Gifts and Graces (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist Office, 1895), 45; Godbey, Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 7, Gospels part 2 (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist Office, 1900), 533; Work of the Holy Spirit (Louisville: Pickett, 1902), 71; The Bible (Nashville: Pentecostal Mission Pub­lishing, n.d.), 44; Illumination (Greensboro, NC: Apostolic Messenger, n.d.), 31.


[43] Preface to On Christian Doctrine, 623. Augustine, vol. 18 of Great Books of the Western Word, ed. by Robert Maynard Hutchins (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952).


[44] Beverly Carradine, The Old Man (Chicago: Christian Witness, 1896), 262–63.


[45] George D. Watson, Love Abounding, 352, 77.


[46] George D. Watson, A Pot of Oil or the Anointed Life as Applied to Prayer, the Mental Faculties, the Affections and Christian Service (n.p., n.d., [1900]), 32.


[47] George D. Watson, Steps to the Throne (Dallas: Holiness Echoes, n.d. [1898]), 29.


[48] George D. Watson, Our Own God, Psalm 67:6: Treating the Personali­ties, the Knowledge, and the Fellowship of God (Cincinnati: Revivalist Office, 1904), 3.


[49] G. Watson, Steps to the Throne, 30.


[50] The background and development of the populist hermeneutic and its importance for holiness interpretation are examined more fully in Stephen J. Lennox, “Biblical Interpretation in the American Holiness Movement, 1875­–1920” (Ph.D. diss., Drew University, 1992).


[51] For the background in which the populist hermeneutic developed in America , cf. Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).


[52] Richard W. Pointer, “Scottish Realism,” Dictionary of Christianity in America, eds. Daniel G. Reid, Robert D. Linder, Bruce L. Shelley, Harry S. Stout (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).


[53] Godbey, Hebrews - Jude, 232.


[54] Godbey, Ephesians-Philemon, 209. “No creed but the Bible” was one of the hallmarks of the populist hermeneutic.


[55] Godbey, Ephesians-Philemon, 210.


[56] Knapp, Lightning Bolts, 72.


[57] W. B. Godbey, Sanctification (Dallas: Chandler Pub., 1956 [1884]), 10; Daniel Steele, Milestone Papers: Doctrinal, Ethical and Experimental on Chris­tian Progress (Salem, OH: Schmul, n.d. [1878]), 154.


[58] W. B. Godbey, Sanctification, 10. Godbey appears to identify the Waldenses as the predecessors of those who followed the teaching of Peter Waldo in the twelfth-century. Steele would add the Lollards and Mystics to this slender line of piety (Milestone Papers, 154).


[59] Albert C. Outler, “‘Biblical Primitivism’ in Early American Methodism,” The Wesleyan Theological Heritage, eds. Thomas C. Oden and Leicester R. Longden (Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury-Zondervan, 1991), 150.


[60] Restorationism in American Protestantism was linked with the populist hermeneutic in its desire to return to the days when the religious leaders were fishermen, there was minimal religious establishment and (supposedly) no interfering creeds of tradition. Such views blended with the understanding that the Bible was to be interpreted normatively—a book whose characters and events provide models to be followed today. Normativity is important to the populist hermeneutic because it makes the Bible so much easier to interpret.


[61] For an overview of this Christian tradition in contemporary dialogue with a holiness body, the Church of God (Anderson), see Barry Callen and James North, Coming Together In Christ. Pioneering a New Testament Way To Christian Unity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997).


[62] “Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington” (Washington, PA, 1809), as quoted in Hatch, Democratization, 162.


[63] W. B. Godbey, “Church-Bride-Kingdom” (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1905), 61. In Six Tracts by W. B. Godbey.


[64] Peter Berger, “Toward a Critique of Modernity,” Religion and the Sociology of Knowledge: Modernization and Pluralism in Christian Thought and Structure, ed. Barbara Hargrove (NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1984), 339, 342.


[65] Godbey, Ephesians-Philemon, 111. Codex Sinaiticus is an important manuscript of the entire New Testament and portions of the Old, dated to the middle of the fourth century and discovered in a monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai by Constantin Tischendorf. Godbey considered this the “pure, inspired orig­inal” and “a copy of the first volume ever compiled,” dating it “far back in the very blaze of the Apostolic age” (Bible, 14–16).


[66] Among the authors studied, Steele stands as the exception to this narrow­ing. Cf. Half-Hours with Saint Paul and Other Bible Readings (Rochester, PA: Schmul, n.d. [1894]), 239–40.


[67] W. B. Godbey, Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 6, Gospels, part 1 (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist Office, 1900), 403.


[68] [68] Beverly Carradine, Heart Talks, 3rd ed. (Cincinnati: M. W. Knapp, 1899) 207; The Better Way (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1896), 244; Golden Sheaves, 4th ed. (Chicago: Christian Witness, 1904 [1901]), 30. Cf. Knapp, Revival Kindlings (Cincinnati: Revivalist Publishing, 1890), 323.


[69] W. B. Godbey, Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 1, Revelation (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1896), 231; Carradine, Sanctification, 98.


[70] G. Watson, Coals of Fire, 7–28; Carradine, Sanctification, 110–11; W. B. Godbey, Visions ( Greensboro , NC : Apostolic Messenger, n.d.), 10; Knapp, Out of Egypt , 62.


[71] Carradine, Sanctification, 90, 95-96; Knapp, Double Cure, 31–32.


[72] W. B. Godbey, Holiness or Hell (Louisville: Pentecostal Publishing, 1899 [1893]), 139–40.


[73] Robinson, Chickens, 75.


[74] Carradine, Second Blessing, 33.


[75] Carradine, Second Blessing, 29.


[76] G. Watson, Love Abounding, 304


[77] Carradine, Better Way , 179.


[78] Carradine, Sanctified Life, 194; Knapp, Double Cure, 2.


[79] Knapp, Revival Kindlings, 10.


[80] Mark A. Noll, Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship and the Bible in America , Society of Biblical Literature Confessional Perspectives (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), 11.


[81] Steele, Love Enthroned, 261.


[82] Reuben Robinson, Honey in the Rock (Cincinnati: God’s Revivalist, 1913), 176, 113; cf. G. Watson, Love Abounding, 327.


[83] As quoted in Walter E. Houghton, “Character of the Age,” Backgrounds to Victorian Literature, ed. Richard A. Levine (San Francisco: Chandler, 1967), 39. It was the controversy with this Anglican cleric which led John Henry Newman to write his Apologia pro vita sua.


[84] As quoted in Houghton, 37. This unfinished poem deals with the nature of humanity.


[85] G. Watson, Love Abounding, 173.


[86] Carradine, Sanctification, 8.


[87] G. Watson, Our Own God, 3.