“Let me be homo unius libri.”
This John Wesley quote is found in the Preface to Wesley’s Standard Sermons, a collection compiled to help Methodist Local Preachers promote scriptural holiness throughout the land.
Homo unius libri – Latin for “a person of one book”. The book Wesley was referring to was the Bible. Wesley’s quote reflects his conviction that the Bible was the most important book for guiding his thinking and living. It was the Book of all books.
But we must not misunderstand Wesley. He was not implying that Methodists should be educated and taught from only the Bible. Wesley himself wrote many books, and he did not confine his education, reading or writing to the Bible. In fact, the Bible itself teaches us to learn wisdom and receive wise education from many different sources.
Do you remember King Lemuel? I didn’t. His name appears – only once – in the Bible. Proverbs 31 verse 1.
“The sayings of King Lemuel-- an inspired utterance his mother taught him.”
The Bible says he was a king, but he wasn’t any known king of Israel or Judah. Presumably he was not from Israel or Judah. His name appears nowhere else in Scripture. Most scholars think he was an Arab.
But this foreign king’s sayings have been included as part of the Jewish Scriptures.
Proverbs 31:1 makes clear that his inspired sayings were taught to him by his mother.
We don’t know who she was either. Just a couple of weeks ago in May, many of us honoured our mothers on Mothers’ Day. God, here in Proverbs 31:1, shows us that the words of a wise mother became part of God’s own inspired Scriptures.
That’s one of the many ways the God of the Bible seeks to educate us. Not just through the teaching of holy priests, pastors or popes. Not just through religious teachers from our own religious traditions. The God of the Bible educates through mothers and foreigners. (The book of Proverbs also features the words of human fathers. So many will rightly observe Fathers Day also in June.)
Like John Wesley, let us be homo unius libri (“people of one Book). And that one Book of books teaches us receive an education from God, not just through holy sermons and holy Scripture, but also through human mothers, human fathers, and foreign kings.
On TRAC Together for God's Word, Worship, Welcome, Witness and Wonder
Rev Dr Gordon Wong
This article was first published in the Jun 2017 issue of the Methodist Message, and is reproduced here with permission.