A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
Believed and Taught by The Reverend Mr. John Wesley,
From the Year 1725, to the Year 1777.
The Works of John Wesley (1872 ed. by Thomas
Jackson), vol. 11, # 29, pp. 366-446.
What I purpose in the following papers is, to give a plain and distinct account
of the steps by which I was led, during a course of many years, to embrace the
doctrine of Christian perfection. This I owe to the serious part of mankind,
those who desire to know all “the truth as it is in Jesus.” And these only
are concerned in questions of this kind. To these I would nakedly declare the
thing as it is, endeavouring all along to show, from one period to another, both
what I thought, and why I thought so.
In the year 1725, being in the twenty-third year of my age, I met with Bishop
any serious person doubt of this, or find a medium between serving God and
serving the devil?
In the year 1726, I met with Kempis’s “Christian’s Pattern.” The nature
and extent of inward religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in
a stronger light than ever it had done before. I saw, that giving even all my
life to God (supposing it possible to do this, and go no farther would profit me
nothing, unless I gave my heart, yea, all my heart, to him.
saw, that “simplicity of intention, and purity of affection,” one design in
all we speak or do, and one desire ruling all our tempers, are indeed “the
wings of the soul,” without which she can never ascend to the mount of God.
A year or two after, Mr. Law’s “Christian Perfection” and “Serious
Call” were put into my hands. These convinced me, more than ever, of the
absolute impossibility of being half a Christian; and I determined, through his
grace, (the absolute necessity of which I was deeply sensible of,) to be
all-devoted to God, to give him all my soul, my body, and my substance.
any considerate man say, that this is carrying matter too far? or that anything
less is due to Him who has given himself for us, than to give him ourselves, all
we have, and all we are?
In the year 1729, I began not only to read, but to study, the Bible, as the one,
the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion. Hence I saw, in
a clearer and clearer light, the indispensable necessity of having “the mind
which was in Christ,” and of “walking as Christ also walked;” even of
having, not some part only, but all the mind which was in him; and of walking as
he walked, not only in many or in most respects, but in all things. And this was
the light, wherein at this time I generally considered religion, as an uniform
following of Christ, an entire inward and outward conformity to our Master. Nor
was I afraid of anything more, than of bending this rule to the experience of
myself; or of other men; of allowing myself in any the least disconformity to
our grand Exemplar.
On January 1, 1733, I preached before the University in St. Mary’s church, on
“the Circumcision of the Heart;” an account of which I gave in these words:
“It is that habitual disposition of soul which, in the sacred writings, is
termed’ holiness; and which directly implies, the being cleansed from sin
‘from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit;’ and, by consequence the
being endued with those virtues which were in Christ Jesus the being so
‘renewed in the image of our mind,’ as to be ‘perfect as our Father in
heaven is perfect.”‘ (Vol. V., p. 203.)
the same sermon I observed, “‘Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of
the commandment.’ It is not only ‘the first and great’ command, but all
the commandments in one. ‘Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are
pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,’ they are all comprised
in this one word, love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness: The
royal law of heaven and earth is this, ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy
strength.’ The one perfect good shall be your one ultimate end. One thing
shall ye desire for its own sake,—the fruition of Him who is all in all. One
happiness shall ye propose to your souls, even an union with Him that made them,
the having ‘fellowship with the Father and the Son,’ the being ‘joined to
the Lord in one spirit.’ One design ye are to pursue to the end of time,—the
enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they
tend to this; love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step
you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every
affection, and thought and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever ye
desire or fear, whatever ye seek or shun, whatever ye think speak, or do, be it
in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your
being.” (Ibid., pp. 207–208.)
concluded in these words: “Here is the sum of the perfect law, the
circumcision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the
whole train of its affections.—Other sacrifices from us he would not, but the
living sacrifice of the heart hath he chosen. Let it be continually offered up
to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered
to share with him; for he is a jealous God. His throne will he not divide with
another; he will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted there,
but what has Him for its ultimate object. This is the way wherein those children
of God once walked, who being dead still speak to us: ‘Desire not to live but
to praise his name; let all your thoughts, words, and works tend to his
glory.’ ‘Let your soul be filled with so entire a love to Him that you may
love nothing but for his sake.’ ‘Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast
regard to his glory in all you actions.’ For then, and not till then, is that
‘mind in us, which was also in Christ Jesus,’ when in every motion of our
heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we ‘pursue
nothing but in relation to him, and in subordination to his plea sure;’ when
we too neither think, nor speak, nor act, to fulfil ‘our own will, but the
will of Him that sent us;’ when, ‘whether we eat or drink, or whatever we
do,’ we do it all ‘to the glory of God.’” (Ibid., p. 211.)
may be observed, this sermon was composed the first of all my writings which
have been published. This was the view of religion I then had, which even then I
scrupled not to term perfection. This is the view I have of it now,
without any material addition or diminution. And what is there here, which any
man of understanding, who believes the Bible, can object to? What can he deny,
without flatly contradicting the Scripture? what retrench, without taking from
the word of God?
In the same sentiment did my brother and I remain (with all those young
gentlemen in derision termed Methodists) till we embarked for
That strives with thee my heart to share?
the beginning of the year 1738, as I was returning from thence, the cry of my
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not
this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly
awakened? But what have I wrote, to this day, which is either stronger or
In August following, I had a long conversation with Arvid Gradin, in
in sanguine Christi; firma fiducia in Deum, et persuasio de gratia divina;
tranquillitas mentis summa, atque serenitas et pax; cum absentia omnis desiderii
carnalis, et cessatione peccatorum etiam internorum.
in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of his favour;
the highest tranquillity, serenity, and peace of mind, with a deliverance from
every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.
was the first account I ever heard from any living man, of what I had before
learned myself from the oracles of God, and had been praying for, (with the
little company of my friends,) and expecting, for several years.
9. In 1739, my brother and I published a volume of “Hymns and Sacred Poems.” In many of these we declared our sentiments strongly and explicitly. So, page 24,—
Let all our actions tend
Earth then a scale to heaven shall be;
Lord, arm me with thy Spirit’s might,
Eager for thee I ask and pant,
Heavenly Adam, life divine,
would be easy to cite many more passages to the same effect. But these are
sufficient to show, beyond contradiction, what our sentiments then were.
The first tract I ever wrote expressly on this subject was published in the
latter end of this year. That none might be prejudiced before they read it, I
gave it the indifferent title of “The Character of a Methodist.” In this I
described a perfect Christian, placing in the front, “Not as though I had
already attained.” Part of it I subjoin without any alteration:—
Methodist is one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his
soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart,
and the desire of his soul, which is continually crying, ‘Whom have I in
heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth whom I desire besides thee.’ My
God and my all! ‘Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for
ever.’ He is therefore happy in God; yea, always happy, as having in him a
well of water springing up unto everlasting life, and over-flowing his soul with
peace and joy. Perfect love living now cast out fear, he rejoices evermore. Yea,
his joy is full, and all his bones cry out, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten me
again unto a living hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved
in heaven for me.’
he, who hath this hope, thus full of immortality, in everything giveth thanks,
as knowing this (whatsoever it is) is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning
him. From him therefore he cheerfully receives all, saying, ‘Good is the will
of the Lord;’ and whether he giveth or taketh away, equally blessing the name
of the Lord. Whether in ease or pain, whether in sickness or health, whether in
life or death, he giveth thanks from the ground of the heart to Him who orders
it for good; into whose hands he hath wholly committed his body and soul, ‘as
into the hands of a faithful Creator.’ He is therefore anxiously ‘careful
for nothing,’ as having ‘cast all his care on Him that careth for him;’
and ‘in all things’ resting on him, after ‘making’ his ‘request known
to him with thanksgiving.’
indeed he ‘prays without ceasing;’ at all times the language of his heart is
this, ‘Unto thee is my mouth, though without a voice; and my silence speaketh
unto thee.’ His heart is lifted up to God at all times, and in all places. In
this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing. In
retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever
with the Lord. Whether he lie down, or rise up, ‘God is in all his
thoughts:’ He walks with God continually; having the loving eye of his soul
fixed on him, and everywhere ‘seeing Him that is invisible.’
loving God, he ‘loves his neighbour as himself;’ he loves every man as his
own soul. He loves his enemies, yea, and the enemies of God. And if it be not in
his power to ‘do good to them that hate’ him, yet he ceases not to ‘pray
for them,’ though they spurn his love, and still ‘despite. fully use him,
and persecute him.’
he is ‘pure in heart.’ Love has purified his heart from envy, malice, wrath,
and every unkind temper. It has cleansed him from pride, whereof ‘only cometh
contention;’ and he hath now ‘put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness
of mind, meekness, long-suffering.’ And indeed all possible ground for
contention, on his part, is cut off. For none can take from him what he desires,
seeing he ‘loves not the world, nor any of the things of the world;’ but
‘all his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name.’
to this his one desire, is this one design of his life; namely, ‘to do, not
his own will, but the will of Him that sent him.’ His one intention at all
times and in all places is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth.
He hath a single eye; and because his ‘eye is single, his whole body is full
of light. The whole is light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth
enlighten the house.’ God reigns alone; all that is in the soul is ‘holiness
to the Lord.’ There is not a motion in his heart but is according to his will.
Every thought that arises points to him, and is in ‘obedience to the law of
the tree is known by its fruits. For, as he loves God, so he ‘keeps his
commandments;’ not only some, or most of them, but all, from the least to the
greatest. He is not content to ‘keep the whole law and offend in one point,’
but has in all points ‘a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards
man.’ Whatever God has forbidden, he avoids; whatever God has enjoined, he
does. ‘He runs the way of God’s commandments,’ now He bath set his heart
at liberty. It is his glory and joy so to do; it is his daily crown of
rejoicing, to ‘do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.’
the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might; for
his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And
therefore, loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength;
he continually presents his soul and ‘body a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable to God;’ entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has,
all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has, he constantly employs according
to his Master’s will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his
consequence, ‘whatsoever he doeth, it is all to the glory of God.’ In all
his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this, which is implied in
having a single eye, but actually attains it; his business and his refreshments,
as well as his prayers, all serve to this great end. Whether he ‘sit in the
house, or walk by the way,’ whether he lie down, or rise up, he is promoting,
in all he speaks or does, the one business of his life. Whether he put on his
apparel, or labour, or eat and drink, or divert himself from too wasting labour,
it all tends to advance the glory of God, by peace and good-will among men. His
one invariable rule is this: ‘Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do it all in
the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, even the Father, through
do the customs of the world at all hinder his ‘running the race which is set
before him.’ He cannot therefore ‘lay up treasures upon earth,’ no more
than he can take fire into his bosom. He cannot speak evil of his neighbour, any
more than he can lie either for God or man. He cannot utter an unkind word of
any one; for love keeps the door of his lips. He cannot ‘speak idle words; no
corrupt conversation’ ever ‘comes out of his mouth;’ as is all that is not
‘good to the use of edifying,’ not fit to ‘minister grace to the
hearers.’ But ‘whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are’ justly ‘of good report,’ he thinks, speaks, and
acts, ‘adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.’”
are the very words wherein I largely declared, for the first time, my sentiments
of Christian perfection. And is it not easy to see, (1.) That this is the very
point at which I aimed all along from the year 1725; and more determinately from
the year 1730, when I began to be homo unius libri,
“a man of one book,” regarding none, comparatively, but the Bible? Is it not
easy to see, (2.) That this is the very same doctrine which I believe and teach
at this day; not adding one point, either to that inward or outward holiness
which I maintained eight-and-thirty years ago? And it is the same which, by the
grace of God, I have continued to teach from that time till now; as will appear
to every impartial person from the extracts subjoined below.
I do not know that any writer has made any objection against that tract to this
day; and for some time, I did not find much opposition upon the head, at least,
not from serious persons. But after a time, a cry arose, and, what a little
surprised me, among religions men, who affirmed, not that I stated perfection
wrong, but that “there is no perfection on earth;” nay, and fell vehemently
on my brother and me for affirming the contrary. We scarce expected so rough an
attack from these; especially as we were clear on justification by faith, and
careful to ascribe the whole of salvation to the mere grace of God. But what
most surprised us, was, that we were said to “dishonour Christ,” by
asserting that he “saveth to the uttermost;” by maintaining he will reign in
our hearts alone, and subdue all things to himself.
I think it was in the latter end of the year 1740, that I had a conversation
with Dr. Gibson, then Bishop of London, at
this I endeavoured to show, (1.) In what sense Christians are not, (2.) In what
sense they are, perfect.
In what sense they are not. They are not perfect in knowledge. They are not free
from ignorance, no, nor from mistake. We are no more to expect any living man to
be infallible, than to be omniscient. They are not free from infirmities, such
as weakness or slowness of understanding, irregular quickness or heaviness of
imagination. Such in another kind are impropriety of language, ungracefulness of
pronunciation; to which one- might add a thousand nameless defects, either in
conversation or behaviour. From such infirmities as these none are perfectly
freed till their spirits return to God; neither can we expect till then to be
wholly freed from temptation; for ‘the servant is not above his master.’ But
neither in this sense is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no
perfection of degrees, none which does not admit of a continual increase.
In what sense then are they perfect? Observe, we are not now speaking of babes
in Christ, but adult Christians But even babes in Christ are so far perfect as
not to commit sin. This
does not the Scripture say, ‘A just man sinneth seven times a day?’ It does
not. Indeed it says, ‘A just man falleth seven times.’ But this is quite
another thing; for, First, the words, a day, are not in the text. Secondly, here
is no mention of falling into sin at all. What is here mentioned, is, falling
into temporal affliction.
elsewhere Solomon says, ‘There is no man that sinneth not.’ Doubtless thus
it was in the days of Solomon; yea, and from Solomon to Christ there was then no
man that sinned not. But whatever was the case of those under the law, we may
safely affirm, with
privileges of Christians are in nowise to be measured by what the Old Testament
records concerning those who were under the Jewish dispensation; seeing the
fulness of time is now come, the Holy Ghost is now given, the great salvation of
God is now brought to men by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of
heaven is now set up on earth, concerning which the Spirit of God declared of
old time, (so far is David from being the pattern or standard of Christian
perfection,) ‘He that is feeble among them, at that day, shall be as David,
and the house of David shall be as the angel of the Lord before them.’
the Apostles themselves committed sin; Peter by dissembling, Paul by his sharp
contention with Barnabas. Suppose they did, will you argue thus: ‘If two of
the Apostles once committed sin, then all other Christians, in all ages, do and
must commit sin as long as they live ?’ Nay, God forbid we should thus speak.
No necessity of sin was laid upon them; the grace of God was surely sufficient
for them. And it is sufficient for us at this day.
St. James says, ‘In many things we offend all.’ True; but who are the
persons here spoken of? Why, those ‘many masters’ or teachers whom God had
not sent; not the Apostle himself, nor any real Christian. That in the word we,
used by a figure of speech, common in all other as well as the inspired
writings, the Apostle could not possibly include himself, or any other true
believer, appears, First, from the ninth verse, ‘Therewith bless we God, and
therewith curse we men.’ Surely not we Apostles! not we believers! Secondly,
from the words preceding the text: ‘My brethren, be not many masters,’ or
teachers, ‘knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many
things we offend all.’ We!
Who? Not the Apostles nor true believers, but they who were to ‘receive the
greater condemnation,’ because of those many offences. Nay, Thirdly, the verse
itself proves, that ‘we offend all,’ cannot be spoken either of all men or
all Christians. For in it immediately follows the mention of a man who
‘offends not,’ as the we first mentioned did; from whom therefore he
is professedly contradistinguished, and pronounced a ‘perfect man.’
answer, (1.) The tenth verse fixes the sense of the eighth: ‘If we say we have
no sin,’ in the former, being explained by, ‘If we say we have not
sinned,’ in the latter, verse. (2.) The point under consideration is not,
whether we have or have not sinned heretofore; and neither of these verses
asserts that we do sin, or commit sin now. (3.) The ninth verse explains both
the eighth and tenth: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ As if he had
said, ‘I have before affirmed, The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.’
And no man can say, ‘I need it not; I have sin to be cleansed, from.’ ‘If
we say, we have no sin, that ‘we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves,’ and
make God a liar: But ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just,’ not
only ‘to forgive us our sins,’ but also ‘to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness,’ that we may ‘go and sin no more.’ In conformity,
therefore, both to the doctrine of
is the glorious privilege of every Christian, yea, though he be but a babe in
Christ. But it is only of grown Christians it can be affirmed, they are in such
a sense perfect, as, Secondly, to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers.
First, from evil or sinful thoughts. Indeed, whence should they spring? ‘Out
of the heart of man,’ if at all, ‘proceed evil thoughts.’ If, therefore,
the heart be no longer evil, then evil thoughts no longer proceed out of it: For
‘a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.’
as they are freed from evil thoughts, so likewise from evil tempers. Every one
of these can say, with
therefore, who liveth in these Christians hath ‘purified their hearts by
faith;’ insomuch that every one that has Christ in him, ‘the hope of glory,
purifieth himself even as he is pure.’ He is purified from pride; for Christ
was lowly in heart: He is pure from desire and self-will; for Christ desired
only to do the will of his Father: And he is pure from anger, in the common
sense of the word; for Christ ‘was meek and gentle. I say, in the common
sense of the word; for he is
angry at sin, while he is grieved for the sinner. He feels a displacency at
every offence against God, but only tender compassion to the offender.
doth Jesus save his people from their sins, not only from outward sins, but from
the sins of their hearts. ‘True,’ say some, ‘but not till death, not in
this world.’ Nay,
agreeable to this are his words in the first chapter: ‘God is light, and in
him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we
have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son
cleanseth us from all sin.’ And again: ‘If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness.’ Now, it is evident, the Apostle here speaks of a deliverance
wrought in this world: For he saith not, The blood of Christ will cleanse, (at
the hour of death, or in the day of judgment,) but it ‘cleanseth,’ at the
time present, us living Christians ‘from all sin.’ And it is equally
evident, that if any sin remain, we are not cleansed from ‘all’ sin. If any
unrighteousness remain in the soul, it is not cleansed from ‘all,
unrighteousness. Neither let any say that this relates to justification only, or
the cleansing us from the guilt of sin: First, because this is confounding
together what the Apostle clearly distinguishes, who mentions, first, ‘to
forgive us our sins, and then ‘to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
Secondly, because this is asserting justification by works, in the strongest
sense possible; it is making all inward, as well as all outward, holiness,
necessarily previous to justification. For if the cleansing here spoken of is no
other than the cleansing us from the guilt of sin, then we are not cleansed from
guilt, that is, not justified, unless on condition of walking ‘in the light,
as he is in the light.’ It remains, then, that Christians are saved in this
world from all sin, from all unrighteousness; that they are now in such a sense
perfect, as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and evil
could not be, but that a discourse of this kind, which directly contradicted the
favourite opinion of many, who were esteemed by others, and possibly esteemed
themselves, some of the best of Christians, (whereas, if these things were so,
they were not Christians at all,) should give no small offence. Many answers or
animadversions, therefore, were expected; but I was agreeably disappointed. I do
not know that any appeared; so I went quietly on my way.
Not long after, I think in the spring, 1741, we published a second volume of
Hymns. As the doctrine was still much misunderstood, and consequently
misrepresented, I judged it needful to explain yet farther upon the head; which
was done in the preface to it as follows:—
great gift of God, the salvation of our souls, is no other than the image of God
fresh stamped on our hearts. It is a ‘renewal of believers in the spirit of
their minds, after the likeness of Him that created them.’ God hath now laid
‘the axe unto the root of the tree, purifying their hearts by faith,’ and
‘cleansing all the thoughts of their hearts by the inspiration of his Holy
Spirit.’ Having this hope, that they shall see God as he is, they ‘purify
themselves even as he is pure,’ and are ‘holy, as he that hath called them
is holy, in all manner of conversation.’ Not that they have already attained
all that they shall attain, either are already in this sense perfect. But they
daily ‘go on from strength to strength; beholding’ now, ‘as in a glass,
the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image, from glory to
glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.’
‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;’ such liberty ‘from
the law of sin and death,’ as the children of this world will not believe,
though a man declare it unto them. ‘The Son hath made them free’ who are
thus ‘born of God,’ from that great root of sin and bitterness, pride. They
feel that all their ‘sufficiency is of God,’ that it is He alone who ‘is
in all their thoughts,’ and ‘worketh in them both to will and to do of his
good pleasure.’ They feel that ‘it is not they’ that ‘speak, but the
Spirit of’ their ‘Father who speaketh’ in them, and that whatsoever is
done by their hands, ‘the Father who is in them, he doeth the works.’ So
that God is to them all in all, and they are nothing in his sight. They are
freed from self-will, as desiring nothing but the holy and perfect will of God;
not supplies in want, not ease in pain,
nor life, or death, or any creature; but continually crying in their Inmost
soul, ‘Father, thy will be done.’ They are freed from evil thoughts, so that
they cannot enter into them, no, not for a moment. Aforetime, when an evil
thought came in, they looked up, and it vanished away. But now it does not come
in, there being no room for this, in a soul which is full of God. They are free
from wanderings in prayer. Whensoever they pour out their hearts in a more
immediate manner before God, they have no thought of anything past,
or absent, or to come, but of God alone. In times past, they had wandering
thoughts darted in, which yet fled away like smoke; but now that smoke does not
rise at all. They have no fear or doubt, either as to their state in genera], or
as to any particular action.
The ‘unction from the Holy One’ teacheth them every hour what they shall do,
and what they shall speak;
[nor therefore have they any need to reason concerning it.
They are in one sense freed from temptations; for though numberless temptations
fly about them, yet they trouble them not.
At all times their souls are even and calm, their hearts are steadfast and
unmovable. Their peace, flowing as a river, ‘passeth all understanding,’ and
they ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ For they ‘are
sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption,’ having the witness in
themselves, that ‘there is laid up for’ them a ‘crown of righteousness
which the Lord will give’ them ‘in that day.’
that every one is a child of the devil, till he is thus renewed in love: On the
contrary, whoever has a sure confidence in God, that through the merits of
Christ, his sins are forgiven,’ he is a child of God, and, if he abide in him,
an heir of all the promises. Neither ought he in anywise to cast away his
confidence, or to deny the faith he has received, because it is weak, or because
it is tried with fire,’ so that his soul is ‘in heaviness through manifold
dare we affirm, as some have done, that all this salvation is given at once.
There is indeed an instantaneous, as well as a gradual, work of God in his
children; and there wants not, we know, a cloud of witnesses, who have received,
in one moment, either a clear sense of the forgiveness of their sins, or the
abiding witness of the Holy Spirit. But we do not know a single instance, in any
place, of a person’s receiving, in one and the same moment, remission of sins,
the abiding witness of the Spirit, and a new, a clean heart.
how God may work, we cannot tell; but the general manner wherein he does work is
this: Those who once trusted in themselves that they were righteous, that they
were rich, and increased in goods, and had need of nothing, are, by the Spirit
of God applying his word, convinced that they are poor and naked. All the things
that they have done are brought to their remembrance and set in array before
them, so that they see the wrath of God hanging over their heads, and feel that
they deserve the damnation of hell. In their trouble they cry unto the Lord, and
he shows them that he hath taken away their sins, and opens the kingdom of
heaven in their hearts, righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’
Sorrow and pain are fled away, and sin has no more dominion over’ them.
Knowing they are justified freely through faith in his blood, they have peace
with God through Jesus Christ;’
they ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God,’ and ‘the love of God is shed
abroad in their hearts.’
this peace they remain for days, or weeks, or months, and commonly suppose they
shall not know war any more; till some of their old enemies, their bosom sins,
or the sin which did most easily beset them, (perhaps anger or desire,) assault
them again, and thrust sore at them, that they may fall. Then arises fear, that
they shall not endure to the end; and often doubt, whether God has not forgotten
them, or whether they did not deceive themselves in thinking their sins were
forgiven. Under these clouds, especially if they reason with the devil, they go
mourning all the day long. But it is seldom long before their Lord answers for
himself, sending them the Holy Ghost to comfort them, to bear witness
continually with their spirits that they are’ the children of God. Then they
are indeed meek and gentle and teachable, even as a little child. And now first
do they see the ground of their heart;
which God before would not disclose unto them, lest the soul should fail before
him, and the spirit which he had made. Now they see all the hidden abominations
there, the depths of pride, self-will, and hell; yet leaving the witness in
themselves, ‘Thou art an heir of God, a joint heir with Christ, even in the
midst of this fiery trial;’ which continually heightens both the strong sense
they then have of their inability to help themselves, and the inexpressible
hunger they feel after a full renewal in his image, in ‘righteousness and true
holiness.’ Then God is mindful of the desire of them that fear him, and gives
them a single eye, and a pure heart; he stamps upon them his own image and
superscription; He createth them anew in Christ Jesus; he cometh unto them with
his Son and blessed Spirit, and, fixing his abode in their souls, bringeth them
into the ‘rest which remaineth for the people of God.’”
I cannot but remark, (1.) That this is the strongest account we ever gave of
Christian perfection; indeed too strong in more than one particular, as is
observed in the notes annexed. (2.) That there is nothing which we have since
advanced upon the subject, either in verse or prose, which is not either
directly or indirectly contained in this preface. So that whether our present
doctrine be right or wrong, it is however the same which we taught from the
14. I need not give additional proofs of this, by multiplying quotations from the volume itself. It may suffice, to cite part of one hymn only the last in that volume:—
To all thy people known;
A rest where all our soul’s desire
From every evil motion freed,
Safe in the way of life, above
O that I now the rest might know,
Remove this hardness from my heart,
Come, O my Saviour, come away
The bliss thou hast for me prepared,
Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
anything be more clear, than, (1.) That here also is as full and high a
salvation as we have ever spoken of? (2.) That this is spoken of as receivable
by mere faith, and as hindered only by unbelief? (3.) That this faith, and
consequently the salvation which it brings, is spoken of as given in an instant?
(4.) That it is supposed that instant may be now? that we need not stay another
moment? that “now,” the very “now, is the accepted time? now is the day
of” this full “salvation?” And, Lastly, that, if any speak otherwise, he
is the person that brings new doctrine among us?
About a year after, namely, in the year 1742, we published another volume of
Hymns. The dispute being now at the height, we spoke upon the head more largely
than ever before. Accordingly abundance of the hymns in this volume treat
expressly on this subject. And so does the preface, which, as it is short, it
may not be amiss to insert entire:—
Perhaps the general prejudice against Christian perfection may chiefly arise
from a misapprehension of the nature of it. We willingly allow, and continually
declare, there is no such perfection in this life, as implies either a
dispensation from doing good, and attending all the ordinances of God, or a
freedom from ignorance, mistake, temptation, and a thousand infirmities
necessarily connected with flesh and blood.
First. We not only allow, but earnestly contend, that there is no perfection in
this life, which implies any dispensation from attending all the ordinances of
God, or from doing good unto all men while we have time, though ‘especially
unto the household of faith.’ We believe, that not only the babes in Christ,
who have newly found redemption in his blood, but those also who are ‘grown up
into perfect men,’ are indispensably obliged, as often as they have
opportunity, ‘to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him,’ and to
‘search the Scriptures;’ by fasting, as well as temperance, to ‘keep their
bodies under, and bring them into subjection;’ and, above all, to pour out
their souls in prayer, both secretly, and in the great congregation.
We Secondly believe, that there is no such perfection in this life, as implies
an entire deliverance, either from ignorance, or mistake, in things not
essential to salvation, or from manifold temptations, or from numberless
infirmities, wherewith the corruptible body more or less presses down the soul.
We cannot find any ground in Scripture to suppose, that any inhabitant of a
house of clay is wholly exempt either from bodily infirmities, or from ignorance
of many things; or to imagine any is incapable of mistake, or falling into
But whom then do you mean by ‘one that is perfect?’ We mean one in whom is
‘the mind which was in Christ,’ and who so ‘walketh as Christ also
walked;’ a man ‘that hath clean hands and a pure heart,’ or that is
‘cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit;’ one in whom is ‘no
occasion of stumbling,’ and who, accordingly, ‘does not commit sin.’ To
declare this a little more particularly: We understand by that scriptural
expression, ‘a perfect man,’ one in whom God hath fulfilled his faithful
word, ‘From all your filthiness and from all your idols I will cleanse you: I
will also save you from all your uncleannesses.’ We understand hereby, one
whom God lath ‘sanctified throughout in body, soul, and spirit;’ one who
‘walketh in the light as He is in the light, in whom is no darkness at all;
the blood of Jesus Christ his Son having cleansed him from all sin.’
This man can now testify to all mankind, ‘I am crucified with Christ:
Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ He is ‘holy as God
who called’ him ‘is holy,’ both in heart and ‘in all manner of
conversation.’ He ‘loveth the Lord his God with all his heart,’ and
serveth him ‘with all his strength.’ He ‘loveth his neighbour,’ every
man, ‘as himself;’ yea, ‘as Christ loveth us;’ them, in particular, that
‘despitefully use him and persecute him, because they know not the Son,
neither the Father.’ Indeed his soul is all love, filled with ‘bowels of
mercies, kindness, meekness, gentleness, longsuffering.’ And his life agreeth
thereto, full of ‘the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labour of
love.’ ‘And whatsoever’ he ‘doeth either in word or deed,’ he ‘doeth
it all in the name,’ in the love and power, ‘of the Lord Jesus.’ In a
word, he doeth ‘the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.’
This it is to be a perfect man, to be ‘sanctified throughout;’ even ‘to
have a heart so all-flaming with the love of God,’ (to use Archbishop
Usher’s words,) ‘as continually to offer up every thought, word, and work,
as a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God through Christ.’ In every thought
of our hearts, in every word of our tongues, in every work of our hands, to
‘show forth his praise, who bath called us out of darkness into his marvellous
light.’ O that both we, and all who seek the Lord Jesus in sincerity, may thus
‘be made perfect in one!’”
is the doctrine which we preached from the beginning, and which we preach at
this day. Indeed, by viewing it in every point of light, and comparing it again
and again with the word of God on the one hand, and the experience of the
children of God on the other, we saw farther into the nature and properties of
Christian perfection. But still there is no contrariety at all between our first
and our last sentiments. Our first conception of it was, It is to have “the
mind which was in Christ,” and to “walk as He walked;” to have all the
mind that was in Him, and always to walk as he walked: In other words, to be
inwardly and outwardly devoted to God; all devoted in heart and life. And we
have the same conception of it now, without either addition or diminution.
The hymns concerning it in this volume are too numerous to transcribe. I shall
only cite a part of three:—
That Jesus is thy healing name;
Answer that gracious end in me
Didst thou not die, that I might live,
Thy own peculiar servant claim,
Chose from the world, if now I stand,
The sanctifying Spirit pour,
Purge me from every sinful blot:
The hatred of the carnal mind
O that I now, from sin released,
Now let me gain perfection’s height!
Lord, I believe, thy work of grace
From every sickness, by thy word,
He walks in glorious liberty,
Throughout his soul thy glories shine,
This is the rest, the life, the peace,
O joyful sound of gospel grace!
He visits now the house of clay,
Come, O my God, thyself reveal,
Fulfil, fulfil my large desires,
On Monday, June 25, 1744, our First Conference began; six Clergymen and all our
Preachers being present. The next morning we seriously considered the doctrine
of sanctification, or perfection. The questions asked concerning it, and the
substance of the answers given, were as follows:—
What is it to be sanctified?
To be renewed in the image of God, ‘in righteousness and true holiness.’
What is implied in being a perfect Christian?
The loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul. (Deuteronomy 6:5.)
Does this imply, that all inward sin is taken away?
Undoubtedly; or how can we be Said to be ‘saved from all ‘our uncleannesses?’
Second Conference began August 1, 1745. The next morning we spoke of
sanctification as follows:—
When does inward sanctification begin?
In the moment a man is justified. (Yet sin remains in him, yea, the seed of all
sin, till he is sanctified throughout.) From that time a believer gradually dies
to sin, and grows in grace.
Is this ordinarily given till a little before death?
It is not, to those who expect it no sooner.
But may we expect it sooner?
Why not? For, although we grant, (1.) That the generality of believers, whom we
have hitherto known, were not so sanctified till near death; (2.) That few of
those to Whom
In what manner should we preach sanctification?
Scarce at all to those who are not pressing forward: To those who are, always by
way of promise; always drawing, rather than driving.”
Third Conference began Tuesday, May 13, 1746.
this we carefully read over the Minutes of the two preceding Conferences, to
observe whether anything contained therein might be retrenched or altered on
more mature consideration. But we did not see cause to alter in any respect what
we had agreed upon before.
Fourth Conference began on Tuesday, June the 16th, 1747. As several persons were
present, who did not believe the doctrine of perfection, we agreed to examine it
from the foundation.
order to this, it was asked,
much is allowed by our brethren who differ from us with regard to entire
They grant, (1.) That every one must be entirely sanctified in the article of
death. (2.) That till then a believer daily grows in grace, comes nearer and
nearer to perfection. (3.) That we ought to be continually pressing after it,
and to exhort all others so to do.
What do we allow them?
We grant, (1.) That many of those who have died in the faith, yea, the greater
part of those we have known, were not perfected in love till a little before
their death. (2.) That the term sanctified is continually applied by
What then is the point where we divide?
It is this: Should we expect to be saved from all sin before the article of
Is there any clear Scripture promise of this,—that God will save us from all
There is: ‘He shall redeem
is more largely expressed in the prophecy of Ezekiel: ‘Then will I sprinkle
clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness and from
all your idols will I cleanse you: I will also save you from all your
uncleannesses.’ (Ezekiel 36:25, 29.) No promise can be more clear. And to this
the Apostle plainly refers in that exhortation: ‘Having these promises, let us
cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness
in the fear of God.’ (2 Corinthians 7:1.) Equally clear and express is that
ancient promise: ‘The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of
thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.’
But does any assertion answerable to this occur in the New Testament?
There does, and that laid down in the plainest terms. So
to the same effect is his assertion in the eighth of the Romans, verses 3–4:
‘God sent his Son, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.’
Does the New Testament afford any farther ground for expecting to be saved from
Undoubtedly it does; both in those prayers and commands, which are equivalent to
the strongest assertions.
What prayers do you mean?
Prayers for entire sanctification; which, were there no such thing, would be
mere mockery of God. Such in particular are, (1.) ‘Deliver us from evil.’
Now, when this is done, when we are delivered from all evil, there can be no sin
remaining. (2.) ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall
believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art
in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; I in them, and thou in me,
that they may be made perfect in one.’ (John 17:20–23.) (3.) ‘I bow my
knees unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you,
that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all
saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the
love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye may be filled with all the
fulness of God.’ (Ephesians 3:14, &c.) (4.) ‘The very God of peace
sanctify you wholly. And I pray God, your whole spirit, soul, and body, may be
preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1
What command is there to the same effect?
(1.) ‘Be ye perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matthew
5:48.) (2.) ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ (Matthew 12:37.) But if the love of God fill
all the heart, there can be no sin therein.
But how does it appear that this is to be done before the article of death?
(1.) From the very nature of a command, which is not given to the dead, but to
the living. Therefore, ‘Thou shalt love God with all thy heart,’ cannot
mean, Thou shalt do this when thou diest; but, while thou livest.
From express texts of Scripture: (i.) ‘The grace of God, that bringeth
salvation, hath appeared to all men; teaching us that, having renounced
ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in
this present world; looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify
unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ (Titus 2:11–14.)
(ii.) ‘He hath raised up an horn of salvation for us, to perform the mercy
promised to our fathers; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he
would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies,
should serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the
days of our life.’ (Luke 1:69, &c.)
Is there any example in Scripture of persons who had attained to this?
Can you show one such example now? Where is he that is thus perfect?
To some that make this inquiry one might answer, If I knew one here, I would not
tell you; for you do not inquire out of love. You are like Herod; you only seek
the young child to slay it.
more directly we answer: There are many reasons why there should be few, if any,
indisputable examples. What inconveniences would this bring on the person
himself, set as a mark for all to shoot at! And how unprofitable would it be to
gainsayers! ‘For if they hear not Moses and the Prophets,’ Christ and his
Apostles, ‘neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’
Are we not apt to have a secret distaste to any who say they are saved from all
It is very possible we may, and that upon several grounds; partly from a concern
for the good of souls, who may be hurt if these are not what they profess;
partly from a kind of implicit envy at those who speak of higher attainments
than our own; and partly from our natural slowness and unreadiness of heart to
believe the works of God.
Why may we not continue in the joy of faith till we are perfected in love?
Why indeed? since holy grief does not quench this joy; since even while we are
under the cross, while we deeply partake of the sufferings of Christ, we may
rejoice with joy unspeakable.”
these extracts it undeniably appears, not only what was mine and my brother’s
judgment, but what was the judgment of all the Preachers in connexion with us,
in the years 1744, 45, 46 and 47. Nor do I remember that, in any one of these
Conferences, we had one dissenting voice; but whatever doubts any one had when
we met, they were all removed before we parted.
In the year 1749, my brother printed two volumes of “Hymns and Sacred
Poems.” As I did not see these before they were published, there were some
things in them which I did not approve of. But I quite approved of the main of
the hymns on this head; a few verses of which are subjoined:—
Come, Lord, be manifested here,
Swift to my rescue come,
Suffer’d no more to rove
Thy pris’ners release, Vouchsafe us thy peace;
From this inbred sin deliver;
Partner of thy perfect nature,
Turn me, Lord, and turn me now,
Calm, O calm my troubled breast;
Come in this accepted hour,
Come, thou dear Lamb, for sinners slain,
O let it sink into our soul
Pris’ners of hope arise,
Redemption in his blood
Jesus, to thee we look,
Our nature shall no more
Jesu, our life, in us appear,
Unfold the hidden mystery,
In Him we have peace, In Him we have power!
Pronounce the glad word, And bid us be free!
second edition of these hymns was published in the year 1752; and that without
any other alteration, than that of a few literal mistakes.
have been the more large in these extracts, because hence it appears, beyond all
possibility of exception, that to this day both my brother and I maintained,
(1.) That Christian perfection is that love of God and our neighbour, which
implies deliverance from all sin. (2.) That this is received merely by faith.
(3.) That it is given instantaneously, in one moment. (4.) That we are to expect
it, not at death, but every moment; that now is the accepted time, now is the
day of this salvation.
At the Conference in the year 1759, perceiving some danger that a diversity of
sentiments should insensibly steal in among us, we again largely considered this
doctrine; and soon after I published “Thoughts on Christian Perfection,”
prefaced with the following advertisement:—
following tract is by no means designed to gratify the curiosity of any man. It
is not intended to prove the doctrine at large, in opposition to those who
explode and ridicule it; no, nor to answer the numerous objections against it,
which may be raised even by serious men. All I intend here is, simply to declare
what are my sentiments on this head; what Christian perfection does, according
to my apprehension, include, and what it does not; and to add a few practical
observations and directions relative to the subject.
these thoughts were at first thrown together by way of question and answer, I
let them continue in the same form. They are just the same that I have
entertained for above twenty years.
What is Christian perfection?
The loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This implies, that
no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul; and that all the
thoughts, words, and actions, are governed by pure love.
Do you affirm, that this perfection excludes all infirmities, ignorance, and
I continually affirm quite the contrary, and always have done so.
But how can every thought, word, and work, be governed by pure love, and the man
be subject at the same time to ignorance and mistake?
I see no contradiction here: ‘A man may be filled with pure love, and still be
liable to mistake.’ Indeed I do not expect to be freed from actual mistakes,
till this mortal puts on immortality. I believe this to be a natural consequence
of the soul’s dwelling in flesh and blood. For we cannot now think at all, but
by the mediation of those bodily organs which have suffered equally with the
rest of our frame. And hence we cannot avoid sometimes thinking wrong, till this
corruptible shall have put on incorruption.
we may carry this thought farther yet. A mistake in judgment may possibly
occasion a mistake in practice. For instance: Mr. De Renty’s mistake touching
the nature of mortification, arising from prejudice of education, occasioned
that practical mistake, his wearing an iron girdle. And a thousand such
instances there may be, even in those who are in the highest state of grace.
Yet, Where every word and action springs from love, such a mistake is not
properly a sin. However, it cannot bear the rigour of God’s justice, but needs
the atoning blood.
What was the judgment of all our brethren who met at
It was expressed in these words: (1.) Every one may mistake as long as he lives.
(2.) A mistake in opinion may occasion a mistake in practice. (3.) Every such
mistake is a transgression of the perfect law. Therefore, (4.) Every such
mistake, were it not for the blood of atonement, would expose to eternal
damnation. (5.) It follows, that the most~ perfect have continual need of the
merits of Christ, even for their actual transgressions, and may say for
themselves, as well as for their brethren, ‘Forgive us our trespasses.’
easily accounts for what might otherwise seem to be utterly unaccountable;
namely, that those who are not offended when we speak of the highest degree of
love, yet will not hear of living without sin. The reason is, they know all men
are liable to mistake, and that in practice as well as in judgment. But they do
not know, or do not observe, that this is not sin, if love is the sole principle
But still, if they live without sin, does not this exclude the necessity of a
Mediator? At least, is it not plain that they stand no longer in need of Christ
in his priestly office?
Far from it. None feel their need of Christ like these; none so entirely depend
upon him. For Christ does not give life to the soul separate from, but in and
with, himself. Hence his words are equally true of all men, in whatsoever state
of grace they are: ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide
in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me: Without’ (or separate
from) ‘me ye can do nothing.’
every state we need Christ in the following respects (1.) Whatever grace we
receive, it is a free gift from him. (2.) We receive it as his purchase, merely
in consideration of the price he paid. (3.) We have this grace, not only from
Christ, but in him. For our perfection is not like that of a tree, which
flourishes by the sap derived from its own root, but, as was said before, like
that of a branch which, united to the vine, bears fruit; but, severed from it,
is dried up and withered. (4.) All our blessings, temporal, spiritual, and
eternal, depend on his intercession for us, which is one branch of his priestly
office, whereof therefore we have always equal need. (5.) The best of men still
need Christ in his priestly office, to atone for their omissions, their
short-comings, (as some not improperly speak,) their mistakes in judgment and
practice, and their defects of various kinds. For these are all deviations from
the perfect law, and consequently need an atonement. Yet that they are not
properly sins, we apprehend may appear from the words of
explain myself a little farther on this head: (1.) Not only sin, properly so
called, (that is, a voluntary transgression of a known law,) but sin, improperly
so called, (that is, an involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or
unknown,) needs the atoning blood. (2.) I believe there is no such perfection in
this life as excludes these involuntary transgressions which I apprehend to be
naturally consequent on the ignorance and mistakes inseparable from mortality.
(3.) Therefore sinless perfection is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to
contradict myself. (4.) I believe, a person filled with the love of God is still
liable to these involuntary transgressions. (5.) Such transgressions you may
call sins, if you please: I do not, for the reasons above-mentioned.
What advice would you give to those that do, and those that do not, call them
Let those that do not call them sins, never think that themselves or any other
persons are in such a state as that they can stand before infinite justice
without a Mediator. This must argue either the deepest ignorance, or the highest
arrogance and presumption.
those who do call them so, beware how they confound these defects with sins,
properly so called.
how will they avoid it? How will these be distinguished from those, if they are
all promiscuously called sins? I am much afraid, if we should allow any sins to
be consistent with perfection, few would confine the idea to those defects
concerning which only the assertion could be true.
But how can a liableness to mistake consist with perfect love? Is not a person
who is perfected in love every moment under its influence? And can any mistake
flow from pure love?
I answer, (1.) Many mistakes may consist with pure love; (2.) Some may
accidentally flow from it: I mean, love itself may incline us to mistake. The
pure love of our neighbour, springing from the love of God, thinketh no evil,
believeth and hopeth all things. Now, this very temper, unsuspicious, ready to
believe and hope the best of all men, may occasion our thinking some men better
than they really are. Here then is a manifest mistake, accidentally flowing from
How shall we avoid setting perfection too high or too low?
By keeping to the Bible, and setting it just as high as the Scripture does. It
is nothing higher and nothing lower than this,—the pure love of God and man;
the loving God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. It
is love governing the heart and life, running through all our tempers, words,
Suppose one had attained to this, would you advise him to speak of it?
At first perhaps he would scarce be able to refrain, the fire would be so hot
within him; his desire to declare the loving-kindness of the Lord carrying him
away like a torrent. But afterwards he might; and then it would be advisable,
not to speak of it to them that know not God; (it is most likely, it would only
provoke them to contradict and blaspheme;) nor to others, without some
particular reason, without some good in view. And then he should have especial
care to avoid all appearance of boasting; to speak with the deepest humility and
reverence, giving all the glory to God.
But would it not be better to be entirely silent, not to speak of it at all?
By silence, he might avoid many crosses, which will naturally and necessarily
ensue, if he simply declare, even among believers, what God has wrought in his
soul. If, there- fore, such a one were to confer with flesh and blood he would
be entirely silent. But this could not be done with a clear conscience; for
undoubtedly he ought to speak. Men do not light a candle to put it under a
bushel; much less does the all-wise God. He does not raise such a monument of
his power and love, to hide it from all mankind. Rather, he intends it as a
general blessing to those who are simple of heart. He designs thereby, not
barely the happiness of that individual person, but the animating and
encouraging others to follow after the same blessing. His will is, ‘that many
shall see it’ and rejoice, ‘and put their trust in the Lord.’ Nor does
anything under heaven more quicken the desires of those Who are justified, than
to converse with those whom they believe to have experienced a still higher
salvation. This places that salvation full in their view, and increases their
hunger and thirst after it; an advantage which must have been entirely lost, had
the person so saved buried himself in silence.
But is there no way to prevent these crosses which usually fall on those who
speak of being thus saved?
It seems they cannot be prevented altogether, while so much of nature remains
even in believers. But something might be done, if the Preacher in every place
would, (1.) Talk freely with all who speak thus; and, (2.) Labour to prevent the
unjust or unkind treatment of those in favour of whom there is reasonable proof.
What is reasonable proof? How may we certainly know one that is saved from all
We cannot infallibly know one that is thus saved, (no, nor even one that is
justified,) unless it should please ~God to endow us with the miraculous
discernment of spirits. But we apprehend those would be sufficient proofs to any
reasonable man, and such as would leave little room to doubt either the truth or
depth of the work: (1.) If we had clear evidence of his exemplary behaviour for
some time before this supposed change. This would give us reason to believe, he
would not ‘lie for God,’ but speak neither more nor less than he felt; (2.)
If he gave a distinct account of the time and manner wherein the change was
wrought, with sound speech which could not be reproved; and, (3.) If it appeared
that all his subsequent words and actions were holy and unblamable.
short of the matter is this: (1.) I have abundant reason to believe, this person
will not lie; (2.) He testifies before God, ‘I feel no sin, but all love; I
pray, rejoice, and give thanks without ceasing; and I have as clear an inward
witness, that I am fully renewed, as that I am justified.’ Now, if I have
nothing to oppose to this plain testimony, I ought in reason to believe it.
avails nothing to object, ‘But I know several things wherein he is quite
mistaken.’ For it has been allowed, that all who are in the body are liable to
mistake; and that a mistake in judgment may sometimes occasion a mistake in
practice; though great care is to be taken that no ill use be made of this
concession. For instance: Even one that is perfected in love may mistake with
regard to another person, and may think him, in a particular case, to be more or
less faulty than he really is. And hence he may speak to him with more or less
severity than the truth requires. And in this sense, (though that be not the
primary meaning of St. James,) ‘in many things we offend all.’ This
therefore is no proof at all, that the person so speaking is not perfect.
But is it not a proof, if he is surprised or fluttered by a noise, a fall, or
some sudden danger?
It is not; for one may start, tremble, change colour, or be otherwise disordered
in body, while the soul is calmly stayed on God, and remains in perfect peace.
Nay, the mind itself may be deeply distressed, may be exceeding sorrowful, may
be perplexed and pressed down by heaviness and anguish, even to agony, while the
heart cleaves to God by perfect love, and the will is wholly resigned to him.
Was it not so with the Son of God himself? Does any child of man endure the
distress, the anguish, the agony, which he sustained? And yet he knew no sin.
But can any one who has a pure heart prefer pleasing to unpleasing food; or use
any pleasure of sense which is not strictly necessary? If so, how do they differ
The difference between these and others in taking pleasant food is, (1.) They
need none of these things to make them happy; for they have a spring of
happiness within. They see and love God. Hence they rejoice evermore, and in
everything give thanks. (2.) They may use them, but they do not seek them. (3.)
They use them sparingly, and not for the sake of the thing itself. This being
premised, we answer directly,—Such a one may use pleasing food, without the
danger which attends those who are not saved from sin. He may prefer it to
unpleasing, though equally wholesome, food, as a means of increasing
thankfulness, with a single eye to God, who giveth US all things richly to
enjoy: On the same principle, he may smell to a flower, or eat a bunch of
grapes, or take any other pleasure which does not lessen but increase his
delight in God. Therefore, neither can we say that one perfected in love would
be incapable of marriage, and of worldly business: If he were called thereto, he
would be more capable than ever; as being able to do all things without hurry or
carefulness, without any distraction of spirit.
But if two perfect Christians had children, how could they be born in sin, since
there was none in the parents?
It is a possible, but not a probable, case; I doubt whether it ever was or ever
will be. But waving this, I answer, Sin is entailed upon me, not by immediate
generation, but by my first parent. ‘In Adam all died; by the disobedience of
one, all men were made sinners;’ all men, without exception, who were in his
loins when he ate the forbidden fruit.
have a remarkable illustration of this in gardening: Grafts on a crab-stock bear
excellent fruit; but sow the kernels of this fruit, and what will be the event?
They produce as mere crabs as ever were eaten.
But what does the perfect one do more than others? more than the common
Perhaps nothing; so may the providence of God have hedged him in by outward
circumstances. Perhaps not so much; though he desires and longs to spend and be
spent for God; at least, not externally: He neither speaks so many words, nor
does so many works. As neither did our Lord himself speak so many words, or do
so many, no, nor so great works, as some of his Apostles. (John 14:12.) But what
then? This is no proof that he has not more grace; and by this God measures the
outward work. Hear ye Him: ‘Verily, I say unto you, this poor widow has cast
in more than them all.’ Verily, this poor man, with his few broken words, hath
spoken more than them all. Verily, this poor woman, that hath given a cup of
cold water, hath done more than them all. O cease to ‘judge according to
appearance,’ and learn to ‘judge righteous judgment!’
But is not this a proof against him,— I feel no power either in his words or
It is not; for perhaps that is your own fault. You are not likely to feel any
power therein, if any of these hinderances lie in the way: (1.) Your own
deadness of soul. The dead Pharisees felt no power even in His words who
‘spake as never man spake.’ (2.) The guilt of some unrepented sin lying upon
the conscience. (3.) Prejudice toward him of any kind. (4.) Your not believing
that state to be attainable wherein he professes to be. (5.) Unreadiness to
think or own he has attained it. (6.) Overvaluing or idolizing him. (7.)
Overvaluing yourself and your own judgment. If any of these is the case, what
wonder is it that you feel no power in anything he says? But do not others feel
it? If they do, your argument falls to the ground. And if they do not, do none
of these hinderances lie in their way too? You must be certain of this before
you can build any argument thereon; and even then your argument will prove no
more than that grace and gifts do not always go together.
he does not come up to my idea of a perfect Christian.’ And perhaps no one
ever did, or ever will. For your idea may go beyond, or at least beside, the
scriptural account. It may include more than the Bible includes therein, or,
however, something which that does not include. Scripture perfection is, pure
love filling the heart, and governing all the words and actions. If your idea
includes anything more or anything else, it is not scriptural; and then no
wonder, that a scripturally perfect Christian does not come up to it.
fear many stumble on this stumbling-block. They include as many ingredients as
they please, not according to Scripture, but their own imagination, in their
idea of one that is perfect; and then readily deny any one to be such, who does
not answer that imaginary idea.
more care should we take to keep the simple, scriptural account continually in
our eye. Pure love reigning alone in the heart and life,— this is the whole of
When may a person judge himself to have attained this?
When, after having been fully convinced of inbred sin, by a far deeper and
clearer conviction than that he experienced before justification, and after
having experienced a gradual mortification of it, he experiences a total death
to sin, and an entire renewal in the love and image of God, so as to rejoice
evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks. Not that
‘to feel all love and no sin’ is a sufficient proof. Several have
experienced this for a time, before their souls were fully renewed. None
therefore ought to believe that the work is done, till there is added the
testimony of the Spirit, witnessing his entire sanctification, as clearly as his
But whence is it, that some imagine they are thus sanctified, when in reality
they are not?
It is hence; they do not judge by all the preceding marks, but either by part of
them, or by others that are ambiguous. But I know no instance of a person
attending to them all, and yet deceived in this matter. I believe, there can be
none in the world. If a man be deeply and fully convinced, after justification,
of inbred sin; if he then experience a gradual mortification of sin, and
afterwards an entire renewal in the image of God; if to this change, immensely
greater than that wrought when he was justified, be added a clear, direct
witness of the renewal; I judge it as impossible this man should be deceived
herein, as that God should lie. And if one whom I know to be a man of veracity
testify these things to me, I ought not, without some sufficient reason, to
reject his testimony.
Is this death to sin, and renewal in love, gradual or instantaneous?
A man may he dying for some time; yet he does not, properly speaking, die, till
the instant the soul is separated from the body; and in that instant he lives
the life of eternity. In like manner, he may be dying to sin for some time; yet
he is not dead to sin, till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant
he lives the full life of love. And as the change undergone, when the body dies,
is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any we had known before,
yea, such as till then it is impossible to conceive; so the change wrought, when
the soul dies to sin, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any
before, and than any can conceive till he experiences it. Yet he stills grows
iii grace, in the knowledge of Christ, in the love and image of God; and will do
so, not only till death, but to all eternity.
How are we to wait for this change?
Not in careless indifference, or indolent inactivity; but in vigorous, universal
obedience, in a zealous keeping of all the commandments, in watchfulness and
painfulness, in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily; as well as in
earnest prayer and fasting and a close attendance on all the ordinances of God.
And if any man dream of attaining it any other way, (yea, or of keeping it when
it is attained, when he has received it even in the largest measure,) he deceive
his own soul. It is true, we receive it by simple faith: But God does not, will
not, give that faith, unless we seek it with all diligence, in the way which he
consideration may satisfy those who inquire, why so few have received the
blessing. Inquire, how many are seeking it in this way; and you have a
especially is wanting. Who continues instant therein? Who wrestles with God for
this very thing? So, ‘ye have not, because ye ask not; or because ye ask
amiss,’ namely, that you may be renewed before you die. Before you die!
Will that content you? Nay, but ask that it may be done now; to-day, while it is
called to-day. Do not call this ‘setting God a time.’ Certainly, to-day is
his time as well as to-morrow. Make haste, man, make haste! Let
Thy soul break out in strong desire
The perfect bliss to prove;
But may we not continue in peace and joy till we are perfected in love?
Certainly we may; for the
How should we treat those who think they have attained?
Examine them candidly, and exhort them to pray fervently, that God would show
them all that is in their hearts. The most earnest exhortations to abound in
every grace, and the strongest cautions to avoid all evil, are given throughout
the New Testament, to those who are in the highest state of grace. But this
should be done with the utmost tenderness; and without any harshness, sternness
or sourness. We should carefully avoid the very appearance of anger, unkindness,
or contempt. Leave it to Satan thus to tempt, and to his children to cry out,
‘Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his
meekness and prove his patience.’ If they are faithful to the grace given,
they are in no danger of perishing thereby; no, not if they remain in that
mistake till their spirit is returning to God.
But what hurt can it do to deal harshly with them?
Either they are mistaken, or they are not. If they are, it may destroy their
souls. This is nothing impossible, no, nor improbable. It may so enrage or so
discourage them, that they will sink and rise no more. If they are not mistaken,
it may grieve those whom God has not grieved, and do much hurt unto our own
souls. For undoubtedly he that toucheth them, toucheth, as it were, the apple of
God’s eye. If they are indeed full of his Spirit, to behave unkindly or
contemptuously to them is doing no little despite to the Spirit of grace.
Hereby, likewise, we feed and increase in ourselves evil surmising, and many
wrong tempers. To instance only in one: What self-sufficiency is this, to set
ourselves up for inquisitors-general, for peremptory judges in these deep things
of God! Are we qualified for the office? Can we pronounce, in all cases, how far
infirmity reaches? what may, and what may not, be resolved into it? what may in
all circumstances, and what may not, consist with perfect love? Can we precisely
determine, how it will influence the look, the gesture, the tone of voice? If we
can, doubtless we are ‘the men, and wisdom shall die with us.’
But if they are displeased at our not believing them, is not this a full proof
According as that displeasure is: If they are angry, it is a proof against them;
if they are grieved, it is not. They ought to be grieved, if we disbelieve a
real work of God, and thereby deprive ourselves of the advantage we might have
received from it. And we may easily mistake this grief for anger, as the outward
expressions of both are much alike.
But is it not well to find out those who fancy they have attained when they have
It is well to do it by mild, loving examination. But it is not well to triumph
even over these. It is extremely wrong, if we find such an instance, to rejoice
as if we had found great spoils. Ought we not rather to grieve, to be deeply
concerned, to let our eyes run down with tears? Here is one who seemed to be a
living proof of God’s power to save to the uttermost; but, alas, it is not as
we hoped. He is weighed ill the balance, and found wanting! And is this matter
of joy? Ought we not to rejoice a thousand times more, if we can find nothing
but pure love?
he is deceived.’ What then? It is a harmless mistake, while he feels nothing
but love in his heart. It is a mistake which generally argues great grace, an
high degree both of holiness and happiness. This should be a matter of real joy
to all that are simple of heart; not the mistake itself, but the height of grace
which for a time occasions it. I rejoice that this soul is always happy in
Christ, always full of prayer and thanksgiving. I rejoice that he feels no
unholy temper, but the pure love of God continually. And I will rejoice, if sin
is suspended till it is totally destroyed.
Is there no danger then in a man’s being thus deceived?
Not at the time that he feels no sin. There was danger before, and there will be
again when he comes into fresh trials. But so long as he feels nothing but love
animating all his thoughts, and words, and actions, he is in no danger; he is
not only happy, but safe, ‘under the shadow of the Almighty;’ and, for
God’s sake, let him continue in that love as long as he can. Meantime, you may
do well to warn him of the danger that will be, if his love grow cold and sin
revive; even the danger of casting away hope, and supposing, that, because he
hath not attained yet, therefore he never shall.
But what, if none have attained it yet? What, if all who think so are deceived?
Convince me of this, and I will preach it no more. But understand me right: I do
not build any doctrine on this or that person. This or any other man may be
deceived, and I am not moved. But, if there are none made perfect yet, God has
not sent me to preach perfection.
a parallel case: For many years I have preached, ‘There is a peace of God
which passeth all understanding? Convince me that this word has fallen to the
ground; that in all these years none have attained this peace; that there is no
living witness of it at this day; and I will preach it no more.
but several persons have died in that peace.’ Perhaps so; but I want living
witnesses. I cannot indeed be infallibly certain that this or that person is a
witness; but if I were certain there are none such, I must have done with this
misunderstand me. I believe some who died in this love, enjoyed it long before
their death. But I was not certain that their former testimony was true till
some hours before they died.’
had not an infallible certainty then: And a reasonable certainty you might have
had before; such a certainty as might have quickened and comforted your own
soul, and answered all other Christian purposes. Such a certainty as this, any
candid person may have, suppose there be any living witness, by talking one hour
with that person in the love and fear of God.
But what does it signify, whether any have attained it or no, seeing so many
scriptures witness for it?
If I were convinced that none in England had attained what has been so clearly
and strongly preached by such a number of Preachers, in so many places, and for
so long a time, I should be clearly convinced that we had all mistaken the
meaning of those scriptures; and therefore, for the time to come, I too must
teach that ‘sin will remain till death.’”
In the year 1762, there was a great increase of the work of God in
About this time, a friend at some distance from
not over alarmed that Satan sows tares among the wheat of Christ. It ever has
been so, especially on any remarkable outpouring of his Spirit; and ever will be
so, till he is chained up for a thousand years. Till then he will always ape,
and endeavour to counteract, the work of the Spirit of Christ.
melancholy effect of this has been, that a world, who is always asleep in the
arms of the evil one, has ridiculed every work of the Holy Spirit.
what can real Christians do? Why, if they would act worthy of themselves, they
should, (1.) Pray that every deluded soul may be delivered; (2.) Endeavour to
reclaim them in the spirit of meekness; and, Lastly, take the utmost care, both
by prayer and watchfulness, that the delusion of others may not lessen their
zeal in seeking after that universal holiness of soul, body, and spirit,
‘without which no man shall see the Lord.’
this complete new creature is mere madness to a mad world. But it is,
notwithstanding, the will and wisdom of God. May we all seek after it!
some who maintain this doctrine in its full extent are too often guilty of
limiting the Almighty. He dispenses his gifts just as he pleases; therefore, it
is neither wise nor modest to affirm that a person must be a believer for any
length of time before he is capable of receiving a high degree of the Spirit of
usual method is one thing, but his sovereign pleasure is another. He has wise
reasons both for hastening and retarding his work. Sometimes he comes suddenly
and unexpected; sometimes, not till we have long looked for him.
it has been my opinion for many years, that one great cause why men make so
little improvement in the divine life is their own coldness, negligence, and
unbelief. And yet I here speak of believers.
the Spirit of Christ give us a right judgment in all things, and ‘fill us with
all the fulness of God;’ that so we may be ‘perfect and entire, wanting
About the same time, five or six honest enthusiasts foretold the world was to
end on the 28th of February. I immediately withstood them, by every possible
means, both in public and private. I preached expressly upon the subject, both
at West-Street and Spitalfields. I warned the society, again and again, and
spoke severally to as many as I could; and I saw the fruit of my labour. They
made exceeding few converts: I believe scarce thirty in our whole society.
Nevertheless, they made abundance of noise, gave huge occasion of offence to
those who took care to improve to the uttermost every occasion against me, and
greatly increased both the number and courage of those who opposed Christian
Some questions, now published by one of these, induced a plain man to write the
humbly proposed to those who deny perfection to be attainable in this life.
Has there not been a larger measure of the Holy Spirit given under the Gospel,
than under the Jewish dispensation? If not, in what sense was the Spirit not
given before Christ was glorified? (John 7:39.)
Was that ‘glory which followed the sufferings of Christ,’ (1 Peter 1:11,) an
external glory, or an internal, viz., the glory of holiness?
Has God anywhere in Scripture commanded us more than he has promised to us?
Are the promises of God respecting holiness to be fulfilled in this life, or
only in the next?
Is a Christian under any other laws than those which God promises to ‘write in
our hearts?’ (Jeremiah 31:31, &c.;
In what sense is ‘the righteousness of the law fulfilled in those who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit?’ (Romans 8:4.)
Is it impossible for any one in this life to ‘love God with all his heart, and
mind, and soul, and strength?’ And is the Christian under any law which is not
fulfilled in this love?
Does the soul’s going out of the body effect its purification from indwelling
If so, is it not something else, not ‘the blood of Christ which cleanseth’
it ‘from all sin?’
If his blood cleanseth us from all sin, while the soul and body are united, is
it not in this life?
If when that union ceases, is it not in the next? And is not this too late?
If in the article of death; what situation is the soul in, when it is neither in
the body nor out of it?
Has Christ anywhere taught us to pray for what he never designs to give?
Has he not taught us to pray, ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in
heaven?’ And is it not done perfectly in heaven?
If so, has he not taught us to pray for perfection on earth? Does he not then
design to give it?
Do you sincerely desire to be freed from indwelling sin in this life?
If you do, did not God give you that desire?
If so, did he not give it you to mock you, since it is impossible it should ever
If you have not sincerity enough even to desire it, are you not disputing about
matters too high for you?
Do you ever pray God to ‘cleanse the thoughts of your heart, that’ you
‘may perfectly love him?’
If you neither desire what you ask, nor believe it attainable, pray you not as a
help thee to consider these questions calmly and impartially!”
In the latter end of this year, God called to himself that burning and shining
light, Jane Cooper. As she was both a living and a dying witness of Christian
perfection, it will not be at all foreign to the subject to add a short account
of her death; with one of her own letters, containing a plain and artless
relation of the manner wherein it pleased God to work that great change in her
believe while memory remains in me,
gratitude will continue. From the time you preached on
‘Twas worse than death my God to love,
And not my God alone.
Friday my distress was deepened. I endeavoured to pray, and could not. I went to
Mrs. D., who prayed for me, and told me it was the death of nature. I opened the
Bible, on, ‘The fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake
which burneth with fire and brimstone.’ I could not bear it. I opened again,
following account is given by one who was an eye and ear witness of what she
In the beginning of November, she seemed to have a foresight of what was coming
upon her, and used frequently to sing these words:—
‘When pain o’er this weak flesh prevails,
And when she sent to me, to let me know she was ill, she wrote in her note, ‘I suffer the will of Jesus. All he sends is sweetened by His love. I am as happy as if I heard a voice say,—
And angels beckon me away,
Upon my telling her, ‘I cannot choose life or death for you,’ she said, ‘I
asked the Lord, that, if it was His will I might die first. And he told me, you
should survive me, and that you should close my eyes.’ When we perceived it
was the small-pox, I said to her, ‘My dear, you will not be frighted if we
tell you what is your distemper.’ She said, ‘I cannot be frighted at His
The distemper was so very heavy upon her; but so much the more was her faith
strengthened. Tuesday, November 16, she said to me, ‘I have been worshipping
before the throne in a glorious manner; my soul was so let into God!’ I said,
‘Did the Lord give you any particular promise?’ ‘No,’ replied she; ‘it
And all the silent heaven of love.’
On Thursday, upon my asking, ‘What have you to say to me?’ she said, ‘Nay,
nothing but what you know already: God is love.’ I asked, ‘Have you any
particular promise?’ She replied, ‘I do not seem to want any; I can live
without. I shall die a lump of deformity, but shall meet you all-glorious: And,
meantime, I shall still have fellowship with your spirit.’
Mr. M. asked, what she thought the most excellent way to walk in, and what were
its chief hinderances. She answered: ‘The greatest hinderance is generally
from the natural constitution. It was mine to be reserved, to be very quiet, to
suffer much, and to say little. Some may think one way more excellent, and some
another: But the thing is to live in the will of God. For some months past, when
I have been particularly devoted to this, I have felt such a guidance of his
Spirit, and the unction which I have received from the Holy One has so taught me
of all things, that I needed not any man should teach me, save as this anointing
On Friday morning she said, ‘I believe I shall die.’ She then sat up in her
bed and said, ‘Lord, I bless thee, that thou art ever with me, and all thou
hast is mine. Thy love is greater than my weakness, greater than my
helplessness, greater than my unworthiness. Lord, thou sayest to corruption,
Thou art my sister! And glory be to thee, O Jesus, thou art my
Brother. Let me comprehend, with all saints, the length, and breadth, and depth,
and height of thy love! Bless these;’ (some that were present;) ‘let them be
every moment exercised in all things as thou wouldest have them to be.’
Some hours after, it seemed as if the agonies of death were just coming upon
her; but her face was full of smiles of triumph, and she clapped her hands for
joy. Mrs. C. said, ‘My dear, you are more than conqueror through the blood of
the Lamb.’ She answered: ‘Yes, O yes, sweet Jesus! O death, where is thy
sting?’ She then lay as in a doze for some time. Afterwards, she strove to
speak, but could not: However, she testified her love, by shaking hands with all
in the room.
Mr. W. then came. She said, ‘Sir, I did not know that I should live to see
you. But I am glad the Lord has given me this opportunity, and likewise power to
speak to you. I love you. You ‘have always preached the strictest doctrine;
and I loved to follow it. Do so still, whoever is pleased or displeased.’ He
asked, ‘Do you now believe you are saved from sin?’ She said, ‘Yes; I have
had no doubt of it for many months. That I ever had, was, because I did not
abide in the faith. I now feel I have kept the faith; and perfect love casteth
out all fear. As to you, the Lord promised me, your latter works should exceed
your former, though I do not live to see it. I have been a great enthusiast, as
they term it, these six months; but never lived so near the heart of Christ in
my life. You, Sir, desire to comfort the hearts of hundreds by following that
simplicity your soul loves.’
To one who had received the love of God under her prayer, she said, ‘I feel I
have not followed a cunningly-devised fable; for I am as happy as I can live. Do
you press on, and stop not short of the mark.’ To Miss M—s she said, ‘Love
Christ; he loves you. I believe I shall see you at the right hand of God: But as
one star differs from another star in glory,
so shall it be in the resurrection. I charge you, in the presence of
God, meet me in that day all-glorious within. Avoid all conformity to the world.
You are robbed of many’ of your privileges. I know I shall be found blameless.
Do you labour to be found of him in peace,
Saturday morning, she prayed nearly as follows: ‘I know, my Lord, my life is
prolonged only to do thy will. And though I should never eat or drink more,’
(she had not swallowed anything for near eight-and-twenty hours,) ‘thy will be
done. I am willing to be kept so a twelvemonth: Man liveth not by bread alone. I praise thee that there is not a shadow of complaining in our
streets. In that sense we know not what sickness means. Indeed, Lord, neither
life, nor death, nor
things present, nor things to come, no, nor any creature,
shall separate us from thy love one moment. Bless these, that there
may be no lack in their souls. I believe there shall not. I pray in faith.’
Sunday and Monday she was light-headed, but sensible at times. It then plainly
appeared, her heart was still in heaven. One said to her, ‘Jesus is our
mark.’ She replied: ‘I have but one mark; I am all spiritual.’ Miss M.
said to her, ‘You dwell in God.’ She answered: ‘Altogether.’ A person
asked her: ‘Do you love me?’ She said, ‘O, I love Christ; I love my
Christ.’ To another she said, ‘I shall not long be here; Jesus is precious,
very precious indeed.’ She said to Miss M., ‘The Lord is very good; he keeps
my soul above all.’ For fifteen hours before she died, she was in strong
convulsions: Her sufferings were extreme. One said, ‘You are made perfect
through sufferings.’ She said, ‘More and more so.’ After lying quiet some
time, she said, ‘Lord, thou art strong!’ Then pausing a considerable space,
she uttered her last words, ‘My Jesus is all in all to me: Glory be to him
through time and eternity.’ After this, she lay still for about half an hour,
and then expired without a sigh or groan.”
The next year, the number of those who believed they were saved from sin still
increasing, I judged it needful to publish, chiefly for their use, “Farther
Thoughts on Christian Perfection:”—
1. How is ‘Christ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
believeth?’ (Romans 10:4.)
In order to understand this, you must understand what law is here spoken of; and
this, I apprehend, is, (1.) The Mosaic law, the whole Mosaic dispensation; which
this law, proportioned to his original powers, required that he should always
think, always speak, and always act precisely right, in every point whatever. He
was well able so to do: And God could not but require the service he was able to
Adam fell; and his incorruptible body became corruptible; and ever since, it is
a clog to the soul, and hinders its operations. Hence, at present, no child of
man can at all times apprehend clearly, or judge truly. And where either the
judgment or apprehension is wrong, it is impossible to reason justly. Therefore,
it is as natural for a man to mistake as to breathe; and he can no more live
without the one than without the other: Consequently, no man is able to perform
the service which the Adamic law requires.
no man is obliged to perform it; God does not require it of any man: For Christ
is the end of the Adamic, as well as the Mosaic, law. By his death, he hath put
an end to both; he hath abolished both the one and the other, with regard to
man; and the obligation to observe either the one or the other is vanished away.
Nor is any man living bound to observe the Adamic more than the Mosaic law.
[I mean, it is not the condition either of present or future salvation.]
the room of this, Christ hath established another, namely, the law of faith. Not
every one that doeth, but every one that believeth, now receiveth righteousness,
in the full sense of the word; that is, he is justified, sanctified, and
2. Are we then dead to the law?
We are ‘dead to the law, by the body of Christ’ given for us; (Romans 7:4;)
to the Adamic as well as Mosaic law. We are wholly freed therefrom by his death;
that law expiring with him.
3. How, then, are we ‘not without law to God, but under the law to Christ?’
(1 Corinthians 9:21.)
We are without that law; but it does not follow that we are without any law: For
God has established another law in its place, even the law of faith: And we are
all under this law to God and to Christ; both our Creator and our Redeemer
require us to observe it.
4. Is love the fulfilling of this law?
Unquestionably it is. The whole law under which we now are, is fulfilled by
love. (Romans 13:9–10.) Faith working or animated by love is all that God now
requires of man. He has substituted (not sincerity, but) love, in the room of
5. How is ‘love the end of the commandment?’ (1 Timothy 1:5.)
It is the end of every commandment of God. It is the point aimed at by the whole
and every part of the Christian institution. The foundation is faith, purifying
the heart; the end love, preserving a good conscience.
6. What love is this?
The loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and
the loving our neighbour, every man, as ourselves, as our own souls.
7. What are the fruits or properties of this love?
St. Paul informs us at large, love is long-suffering. It suffers all the
weaknesses of the children of God, all the wickedness of the children of the
world; and that not for a little’ time only, but as long as God pleases. In
all, it sees the hand of God, and willingly submits thereto. Meantime, it is
kind. In all, and after all, it suffers, it is soft, mild, tender, benign.
‘Love envieth not;’ it excludes every kind and degree of envy out of the
heart: ‘love acteth not rashly,’ in a violent, headstrong manner, nor passes
any rash or severe judgment: It ‘doth not behave itself indecently;’ is not
rude, does not act out of character: ‘Seeketh not her own’ ease, pleasure,
honour, or profit: ‘Is not provoked;’ expels all anger from the heart:
‘Thinketh no evil;’ casteth out all jealousy, suspiciousness, and readiness
to believe evil: ‘Rejoiceth not in iniquity;’ yea, weeps at the sin or folly
of its bitterest enemies: ‘But rejoiceth in the truth;’ in the holiness and
happiness of every child of man. ‘Love covereth all things,’ speaks evil of
no man; ‘believeth all things’ that tend to the advantage of another’s
character. It ‘hopeth all things,’ whatever may extenuate the faults which
cannot be denied; and it ‘endureth all things’ which God can permit, or men
and devils inflict. This is ‘the law of Christ, the perfect law, the law of
this distinction between the ‘law of faith’ (or love) and ‘the law of
works,’ is neither a subtle nor ‘an unnecessary distinction. It is plain,
easy, and intelligible to any common understanding. And it is absolutely
necessary, to prevent a thousand doubts and fears, even in those who do ‘walk
8. But do we not ‘in many things offend all,’ yea, the best of us, even
against this law?
In one sense we do not, while all our tempers, and thoughts, and words, and
works, spring from love. But in another we do, and shall do, more or less, as
long as we remain in the body. For neither love nor the ‘unction of the Holy
One’ makes us infallible: Therefore, through unavoidable defect of
understanding, we cannot but mistake in many things. And these mistakes will
frequently occasion something wrong, both in our temper, and words, and actions.
From mistaking his character, we may love a person less than he really deserves.
And by the same mistake we are unavoidably led to speak or act, with regard to
that person, in such a manner as is contrary to this law, in some or other of
the preceding instances.
9. Do we not then need Christ, even on this account?
The holiest of men still need Christ, as their Prophet, as ‘the light of the
world.’ For he does not give them light, but from moment to moment: The
instant he withdraws, all is darkness. They still need Christ as their King; for
God does not give them a stock of holiness. But unless they receive a supply
every moment, nothing but unholiness would remain. They still need Christ as
their Priest, to make atonement for their holy things. Even perfect holiness is
acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ.
10. May not, then, the very best of men adopt the dying Martyr’s confession:
‘I am in myself nothing but sin, darkness, hell; but thou art my light, my
holiness, my heaven?’
Not exactly. But the best of men may say, ‘Thou art my light, my holiness, my
heaven. Through my union with thee, I am full of light, of holiness, and
happiness. But if I were left to myself, I should be nothing but sin, darkness,
to proceed: The best of men need Christ as their Priest, their Atonement, their
Advocate with the Father; not only as the continuance of their every blessing
depends on his death and intercession, but on account of their coming short of
the law of love. For every man living does so. You who feel all love, compare
yourselves with the preceding description. Weigh yourselves in this balance, and
see if you are not wanting in many particulars.
11. But if all this be consistent with Christian perfection, that perfection is
not freedom from all sin; seeing sin is the transgression of the law:’ And the
perfect transgress the very law they are under. Besides, they need the atonement
of Christ; and he is the atonement of nothing but sin. Is, then, the term sinless
It is not worth disputing about. But observe in what sense the persons in
question need the atonement of Christ. They do not need him to reconcile them to
God afresh; for they are reconciled. They do not need him to restore the favour
of God, but to continue it. He does not procure pardon for them anew, but
‘ever liveth to make intercession for them;’ and ‘by one offering he hath
perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ (Hebrews 10:14.)
want of duly considering this, some deny that they need the atonement of Christ.
Indeed, exceeding few; I do not remember to have found five of them in
12. Does then Christian perfection imply any more than sincerity?
Not if you mean by that word, love filling the heart, expelling pride, anger,
desire, self-will; rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in
everything giving thanks. But I doubt, few use sincerity in this sense.
Therefore, I think the old word is best.
person may be sincere who has all his natural tempers, pride, anger, lust,
self-will. But he is not perfect till his heart is cleansed from these, and all
its other corruptions.
clear this point a little farther: I know many that love God with all their
heart. He is their one desire, their one delight, and they are continually happy
in him. They love their neighbour as themselves. They feel as sincere, fervent,
constant a desire for the happiness of every man, good or bad, friend or enemy,
as for their own. They rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything
give thanks. Their souls are continually streaming up to God, in holy joy,
prayer, and praise. This is a point of fact; and this is plain, sound,
even these souls dwell in a shattered body, and are so pressed down thereby,
that they cannot always exert themselves as they would, by thinking, speaking,
and acting precisely right. For want of better bodily organs, they must times
think, speak, or act wrong; not indeed through a defect of love, but through a
defect of knowledge. And while this is the case, notwithstanding that defect,
and its consequences, they fulfil the law of love.
as, even in this case, there is not a full conformity to the perfect law, so the
most perfect do, on this very account, need the blood of atonement, and may
properly for themselves, as well as for their brethren, say, ‘Forgive us our
13. But if Christ has put an end to that law, what need of any atonement for
their transgressing it?
Observe in what sense he has put an end to it, and the difficulty vanishes. Were
it not for the abiding merit of his death, and his continual intercession for
us, that law would condemn us still. These, therefore, we still need for every
transgression of it.
14. But can one that is saved from sin be tempted?
Yes; for Christ was tempted.
15. However, what you call temptation, I call the corruption of my heart. And
how will you distinguish one from the other?
In some cases it is impossible to distinguish, without the direct witness of the
Spirit. But in general one may distinguish thus:—
commends me. Here is a temptation to pride. But instantly my soul is humbled
before God. And I feel no pride; of which I am as sure, as that pride is not
man strikes me. Here is a temptation to anger. But my heart overflows with love.
And I feel no anger at all; of which I can be as sure, as that love and anger
are not the same.
woman solicits me. Here is a temptation to lust. But in the instant I shrink
back. And I feel no desire or lust at all; of which I can be as sure, as that my
hand is cold or hot.
it is, if I am tempted by a present object; and it is just the same, if; when it
is absent, the devil recals a commendation, an injury, or a woman, to my mind.
In the instant the soul repels the temptation, and remains filled with pure
the difference is still plainer, when I compare my present state with my past,
wherein I felt temptation and corruption too.
16. But how do you know, that you are sanctified, saved from your inbred
I can know it no otherwise than I know that I am justified. ‘Hereby know we
that we are of God,’ in either sense, ‘by the Spirit that he hath given
know it by the witness and by the fruit of the Spirit. And, First, by the
witness. As, when we were justified, the Spirit bore witness with our spirit,
that our sins were forgiven; so, when we were sanctified, he bore witness, that
they were taken away. Indeed, the witness of sanctification is not always clear
at first; (as neither is that of justification;) neither is it afterward always
the same, but, like that of justification, sometimes stronger and sometimes
fainter. Yea, and sometimes it is withdrawn. Yet, in general, the latter
testimony of the Spirit is both as clear and as steady as the former.
17. But what need is there of it, seeing sanctification is a real change, not a
relative only, like justification?
But is the new birth a relative change only? Is not this a real change?
Therefore, if we need no witness of our sanctification, because it is a real
change, for the same reason we should need none, that we are born of or are the
children of God.
18. But does not sanctification shine by its own light?
And does not the new birth too? Sometimes it does; and so does sanctification;
at others it does not. In the hour of temptation Satan clouds the work of God,
and injects various doubts and reasonings, especially in those who have either
very weak or very strong understandings. At such times there is absolute need of
that witness; without which the work of sanctification not only could not be
discerned, but could no longer subsist. Were it not for this, the soul could not
then abide in the love of God; much less could it rejoice evermore, and in
everything give thanks. In these circumstances, therefore, a direct testimony
that we are sanctified is necessary in the highest degree.
I have no witness that I am saved from sin. And yet I have no doubt of it.’
Very well: As long as you have no doubt, it is enough; when you have, you will
need that witness.
19. But what scripture makes mention of any such thing, or gives any reason to
That scripture, ‘We have received, not the spirit that is of the world, but
the Spirit which is of God; that we may know the things which are freely given
us of God.’ (1 Corinthians 2:12.)
surely sanctification is one of ‘the things which are freely given us of
God.’ And no possible reason can be assigned why this should be excepted, when
the Apostle says, ‘We receive the Spirit’ for this very end, ‘that we may
know the things which are’ thus ‘freely given us.’
not the same thing implied in that well-known scripture, ‘The Spirit itself
witnesseth with our spirit, that we are the children of God?’ (Romans 8:16.)
Does he witness this only to those who are children of God in the lowest sense?
Nay, but to those also who are such in the highest sense. And does he not
witness, that they are such in the highest sense? What reason have we to doubt
if a man were to affirm, (as indeed many do,) that this witness belongs only to
the highest class of Christians? Would not you answer, ‘The Apostle makes no
restriction; therefore doubtless it belongs to all the children of God?’ And
will not the same answer hold, if any affirm, that it belongs only to the lowest
that I affirm that all young men, or even fathers, have this testimony every
moment. There may be intermissions of the direct testimony that they are thus
born of God; but those intermissions are fewer and shorter as they grow up in
Christ; and some have the testimony both of their justification and
sanctification, without any intermission at all; which I presume more might
have, did they walk humbly and closely with God.
20. May not some of them have a testimony from the Spirit, that they shall not
finally fall from God?
They may. And this persuasion, that neither life nor death shall separate them
from Him, far from being hurtful, may in some circumstances be extremely useful.
These therefore we should in nowise grieve, but earnestly encourage them to
‘hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end.’
21. But have any a testimony from the Spirit that they shall never sin?
We know not what God ‘nay vouchsafe to some particular persons; but we do not
find any general state described in Scripture, from which a man cannot draw back
to sin. If there were any state wherein this was impossible, it would be that of
these who are sanctified, who are ‘fathers in Christ, who rejoice evermore,
pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks;’ but it is not
impossible for these to draw back. They who are sanctified, yet may fall and
perish. (Hebrews 10:29.) Even fathers in Christ need that warning: ‘Love not
the world.’ (1
therefore, God may give such a witness to some particular persons, yet it is not
to be expected by Christians in general; there being no scripture whereon to
ground such an expectation.
22. By what ‘fruit of the Spirit’ may we ‘know that we are of God,’ even
in the highest sense?
By love, joy, peace, always abiding; by invariable long-suffering, patience,
resignation; by gentleness, triumphing over all provocation; by goodness,
mildness, sweetness, tenderness of spirit; by fidelity, simplicity, godly
sincerity; by meekness, calmness, evenness of spirit; by temperance, not only in
food and sleep, but in all things natural and spiritual.
23. But what great matter is there in this? Have we not all this when we are
What, total resignation to the will of God, without any mixture of self-will?
gentleness, without any touch of anger, even the moment we are provoked? love to
God, without the least love to the creature, but in and for God, excluding all
pride? love to man, excluding all envy, all jealousy, and rash judging?
meekness, keeping the whole soul inviolably calm? and temperance in all things?
Deny that any ever came up to this, if you please; but do not say, all who are
24. But some who are newly justified do. What then will you say to these?
If they really do, I will say they are sanctified; saved from sin in that
moment; and that they never need lose what God has given, or feel sin any more.
certainly this is an exempt case. It is otherwise with the generality of those
that are justified: They feel in themselves more or less pride, anger,
self-will, a heart bent to backsliding. And, till they have gradually mortified
these, they are not fully renewed in love.
25. But is not this the case of all that are justified? Do they not gradually
die to sin and grow in grace, till at, or perhaps a little before, death God
perfects them in love?
I believe this is the case of most, but not all. God usually gives a
considerable time for men to receive light, to grow in grace, to do and suffer
his will, before they are either justified or sanctified; but he does not
invariably adhere to this; sometimes he ‘cuts short his work:’ he does the
work of many years in a few weeks; perhaps in a week, a day, an hour. He
justifies or sanctifies both those who have done or suffered nothing, and who
have not had time for a gradual growth either in light or grace. And ‘may he
not do what he will with his own? Is thine eye evil, because he is good?’
need not, therefore, be affirmed over and over, and proved by forty texts of
Scripture, either that most men are perfected in love at last, that there is a
gradual work of God in the soul, or that, generally speaking, it is a long time,
even many years, before sin is destroyed. All this we know: But we know
likewise, that God may, with man’s good leave, ‘cut short his work,’ in
whatever degree he pleases, and do the usual work of many years in a moment. He
does so in many instances; and yet there is a gradual work, both before and
after that moment: So that one may affirm the work is gradual, another, it is
instantaneous, without any manner of contradiction.
Perhaps in one place, (2 Corinthians 1:22,) he does not mean so much; but in
another, (Ephesians 1:13,) he seems to include both the fruit and the witness;
and that in a higher degree than we experience even when we are first ‘renewed
in love;’ God ‘sealeth us with the Spirit of promise,’ by giving us ‘the
full assurance of hope;’ such a confidence of receiving all the promises of
God, as excludes the possibility of doubting; with that Holy Spirit, by
universal holiness, stamping the whole image of God on our hearts.
27. But how can those who are thus sealed ‘grieve the Holy Spirit of God?’
St. Paul tells you very particularly, (1.) By such conversation as is not
profitable, not to the use of edifying, not apt to minister grace to the
hearers. (2.) By relapsing into bitterness or want of kindness. (3.) By wrath,
lasting displeasure, or want of tender-heartedness. (4.) By anger, however soon
it is over; want of instantly forgiving one another. (5.) By clamour or bawling,
loud, harsh, rough speaking. (6.) By evil-speaking, whispering, tale-bearing;
needlessly mentioning the fault of an absent person, though in ever so soft a
28. What do you think of those in
There is something very peculiar in the experience of the greater part of them.
One would expect that a believer should first be filled with love, and thereby
emptied of sin; whereas these were emptied of sin first, and then filled with
love. Perhaps it pleased God to work in this manner, to make his work more plain
and undeniable; and to distinguish it more clearly from that overflowing love,
which is often felt even in a justified state.
seems likewise most agreeable to the great promise: ‘From all your filthiness
I will cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I
put within you.’ (Ezekiel 36:25–26.)
I do not think of them all alike: There is a wide difference between some of
them and others. I think most of them with whom I have spoken, have much faith,
love, joy, and peace. Some of these I believe are renewed in love, and have the
direct witness of it; and they manifest the fruit above described, in all their
words and actions. Now, let any man call this what he will; it is what I call
some who have much love, peace, and joy, yet have not the direct witness; and
others who think they have, are, nevertheless, manifestly wanting in the fruit.
How many I will not say; perhaps one in ten; perhaps more or fewer. But some are
undeniably wanting in longsuffering, Christian resignation. They do not see the
hand of God in whatever occurs, and cheerfully embrace it. They do not in
everything give thanks, and rejoice evermore. They are not happy; at least, not
always happy; for sometimes they complain. They say, this or that is hard!
are wanting in gentleness. They resist evil, instead of turning the other cheek.
They do not receive reproach with gentleness; no, nor even reproof. Nay, they
are not able to bear contradiction, without the appearance, at least, of
resentment. If they are reproved or contradicted, though mildly, they do not
take it well; they behave with more distance and reserve than they did before.
If they are reproved or contradicted harshly, they answer it with harshness;
with a loud voice, or with an angry tone, or in a sharp and surly manner. They
speak sharply or roughly, when they reprove others; and behave roughly to their
are wanting in goodness. They are not kind, mild, sweet, amiable, soft, and
loving at all times, in their spirit, in their words, in their look and air, in
the whole tenor of their behaviour; and that to all, high and low, rich and
poor, without respect of persons; particularly to them that are out of the way,
to opposers, and to those of their own household. They do not long, study,
endeavour by every means, to make all about them happy. They can see them
uneasy, and not be concerned; perhaps they make them so; and then wipe their
mouths and say, ‘Why, they deserve it; it is their own fault.’
are wanting in fidelity, a nice regard to truth, simplicity, and godly
sincerity. Their love is hardly without dissimulation; something like guile is
found in their mouth. To avoid roughness, they lean to the other extreme. They
are smooth to an excess, so as scarce to avoid a degree of fawning, or of
seeming to mean what they do not.
are wanting in meekness, quietness of spirit, composure, evenness of temper.
They are up and down, sometimes high, sometimes low; their mind is not well
balanced. Their affections are either not in due proportion; they have too much
of one, too little of another; or they are not duly mixed and tempered together,
so as to counterpoise each other. Hence there is often a jar. Their soul is out
of tune, and cannot make the true harmony.
are wanting in temperance. They do not steadily use that kind and degree of
food, which they know, or might know, would most conduce to the health strength,
and vigour of the body: Or they are not temperate in sleep; they do not
rigorously adhere to what is best both for body and mind; otherwise they would
constantly go to bed and rise early, and at a fixed hour: Or they sup late,
which is neither good for body nor soul: Or they use neither fasting nor
abstinence: Or they prefer (which are so many sorts of intemperance) that
preaching, reading, or conversation, which gives them transient joy and comfort,
before that which brings godly sorrow, or instruction in righteousness. Such joy
is not sanctified; it doth not tend to, and terminate in, the crucifixion of the
heart. Such faith doth not centre in God, but rather in itself.
far all is plain. I believe you have faith, and love, and joy, and peace. Yet
you who are particularly concerned know each for yourself, that you are wanting
in the respects above-mentioned. You are wanting either in long-suffering,
gentleness, or goodness; either in fidelity, meekness, or temperance. Let us
not, then, on either hand, fight about words. In the thing we clearly agree.
have not what I call perfection; if others will call it so, they may. However,
hold fast what you have, and earnestly pray for what you have not.
29. Can those who are perfect grow in grace?
Undoubtedly they can; and that not only while they are in the body, but to all
30. Can they fall from it?
I am well assured they can; matter of fact puts this beyond dispute. Formerly we
thought, one saved from sin could not fall; now we know the contrary. We are
surrounded with instances of those who lately experienced all that I mean by
perfection. They had both the fruit of the Spirit, and the witness; but they
have now lost both. Neither does any one stand by virtue of anything that is
implied in the nature of the state. There is no such height or strength of
holiness as it is impossible to fall from. If there be any that cannot fall,
this wholly depends on the promise of God.
31. Can those who fall from this state recover it?
Why not? We have many instances of this also. Nay, it is an exceeding common
thing for persons to lose it more than once, before they are established
is therefore to guard them who are saved from sin, from every occasion of
stumbling, that I give the following advices. But first I shall speak plainly
concerning the work itself.
esteem this late work to be of God; probably the greatest now upon earth. Yet,
like all others, this also is mixed with much human frailty. But these
weaknesses are far less than might have been expected; and ought to have been
joyfully borne by all that loved and followed after righteousness. That there
have been a few weak, warm-headed men, is no reproach to the work itself, no
just ground for accusing a multitude of sober-minded men, who are patterns of
strict holiness. Yet (just the contrary to what ought to have been) the
opposition is great; the helps few. Hereby many are hindered from seeking faith
and holiness by the false zeal of others; and some who at first began to run
well are turned out of the way.
32. What is the First advice
that you would give them?
Watch and pray continually against pride. If God has cast it out, see that it
enter no more: It is full as dangerous as desire. And you may slide back into it
unawares; especially if you think there is no danger of it. ‘Nay, but I
ascribe all I have to God.’ So you may, and be proud nevertheless. For it is
pride, not only to ascribe anything we have to ourselves, but to think we have
what we really have not. Mr. L—, for instance, ascribed all the light he had
to God, and so far he was humble; but then he thought he had more light than any
man living; and this was palpable pride. So you ascribe all the knowledge you
have to God; and in this respect you are humble. But if you think you have more
than you really have; or if you think you are so taught of God, as no longer to
need man’s teaching; pride lieth at the door. Yes; you have need to be taught,
not only by Mr. Morgan, by one another, by Mr. Maxfield, or me, but by the
weakest Preacher in London; yea, by all men. For God sendeth by whom he will
not therefore say to any who would advise or reprove you, ‘You are blind; you
cannot teach me.’ Do not say, ‘This is your wisdom, your carnal reason;’
but calmly weigh the thing before God.
remember, much grace does not imply much light. These do not always go together.
As there may be much light where there is but little love, so there may be much
love where there is little light. The heart has more heat than the eye; yet it
cannot see. And God has wisely tempered the members of the body together, that
none may say to another, ‘I have no need of thee.’
imagine none can teach you, but those who are themselves saved from sin, is a
very great and dangerous mistake. Give not place to it for a moment; it would
lead you into a thousand other mistakes, and that irrecoverably. No; dominion is
not founded in grace, as the madmen of the last age talked. Obey and regard
‘them that are over you in the Lord,’ and do not think you know better than
them. Know their place and your own; always remembering, much love does not
imply much light.
not observing this has led some into many mistakes, and into the appearance, at
least, of pride. O beware of the appearance, and the thing! Let there ‘be in
you that lowly mind which was in Christ Jesus.’
one instance of this, be always ready to own any fault you have been in. If you
have at any time thought, spoke, or acted wrong, be not backward to acknowledge
it. Never dream that this will hurt the cause of God; no, it will further it. Be
therefore open and frank, when you are taxed with anything; do not seek either
to evade or disguise it; but let it appear just as it is, and you will thereby
not hinder, but adorn, the gospel.
33. What is the Second advice which you would give them?
Beware of that daughter of pride, enthusiasm. O keep at the utmost distance from
it! Give no place to a heated imagination. Do not hastily ascribe things to God.
Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be
from God. They may be from him. They may be from nature. They may be from the
devil. Therefore, ‘believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they
be of God.’ Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before
it. You are in danger of enthusiasm every hour, if you depart ever so little
from Scripture; yea, or from the plain, literal meaning of any text, taken in
connexion with the context. And so you are, if you despise or lightly esteem
reason, knowledge, or human learning; every one of which is an excellent gift of
God, and may serve the noblest purposes.
advise you, never to use the words, wisdom, reason, or knowledge, by way of
reproach. On the contrary, pray that you yourself may abound in them more and
more. If you mean worldly wisdom, useless knowledge, false reasoning, say so;
and throw away the chaff, but not the wheat.
general inlet to enthusiasm is, expecting the end without the means; the
expecting knowledge, for instance, without searching the Scriptures, and
consulting the children of God; the expecting spiritual strength without
constant prayer, and steady watchfulness; the expecting any blessing without
hearing the word of God at every opportunity.
have been ignorant of this device of Satan. They have left off searching the
Scriptures. They said, ‘God writes all the Scriptures on my heart. Therefore,
I have no need to read it.’ Others thought they had not so much need of
hearing, and so grew slack in attending the morning preaching. O take warning,
you who are concerned herein! You have listened to the voice of a stranger. Fly
back to Christ, and keep in the good old way, which was ‘once delivered to the
saints;’ the way that even a Heathen bore testimony of: ‘That the Christians
rose early every day to sing hymns to Christ as God.’
very desire of ‘growing in grace’ may sometimes be an inlet of enthusiasm.
As it continually leads us to seek new grace, it may lead us unawares to seek
something else new, beside new degrees of love to God and man. So it has led
some to seek and fancy they had received gifts of a new kind, after a new heart,
as, (1.) The loving God with all our mind; (2.) With all our soul; (3.) With all
our strength: (4.) Oneness with God: (5.) Oneness with Christ: (6.) Having our
life hid with Christ in God: (7.) Being dead with Christ: (8.) Rising with him:
(9.) The sitting with him in heavenly places: (10.) The being taken up into his
throne: (11.) The being in the New Jerusalem: (12.) The seeing the tabernacle of
God come down among men: (13.) The being dead to all works: (14.) The not being
liable to death, pain, or grief, or temptation.
ground of many of these mistakes is, the taking every fresh, strong application
of any of these scriptures to the heart, to be a gift of a new kind; not knowing
that several of these scriptures are not fulfilled yet; that most of the others
are fulfilled when we are justified; the rest, the moment we are sanctified. It
remains only to experience them in higher degrees. This is all we have to
ground of these, and a thousand mistakes, is, the not considering deeply, that
love is the highest gift of God; humble, gentle, patient love; that all visions,
revelations, manifestations whatever, are little things compared to love; and
that all the gifts above-mentioned are either the same with, or infinitely
inferior to, it.
were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this,— ‘the heaven of heavens
is love.’ There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing
else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark,
you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, ‘Have
you received this or that blessing?’ if you mean anything but more love, you
mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false
scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from
all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the
thirteenth of the Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, till you are
carried into Abraham’s bosom.
say yet again, beware of enthusiasm. Such is, the imagining you have the gift of
prophesying, or of discerning of spirits, which I do not believe one of you has;
no, nor ever had yet. Beware of judging people to be either right or wrong by
your own feelings. This is no scriptural way of judging. O keep close to ‘the
law and to the testimony!’
34. What is the Third?
Beware of Antinomianism; ‘making void the law,’ or any part of it,
‘through faith.’ Enthusiasm naturally leads to this; indeed they can scarce
be separated. This may steal upon you in a thousand forms, so that you cannot be
too watchful against it. Take heed of everything, whether in principle or
practice, which has any tendency thereto. Even that great truth, that ‘Christ
is the end of the law,’ may betray us into it, if we do not consider that he
has adopted every point of the moral law, and grafted it into the law of love.
Beware of thinking, ‘Because I am filled with love, I need not have so much
holiness. Because I pray always, therefore I need no set time for private
prayer. Because I watch always, therefore I need no particular
self-examination.’ Let us ‘magnify the law,’ the whole written word,
‘and make it honourable.’ Let this be our voice: ‘I prize thy commandments
above gold or precious stones. O what love have I unto thy law! all the day long
is my study in it.’ Beware of Antinomian books; particularly the works of Dr.
Crisp and Mr. Saltmarsh. They contain many excellent things; and this makes them
the more dangerous. O be warned in time! Do not play with fire. Do not put your
hand on the hole of a cockatrice’ den. I entreat you, beware of bigotry. Let
not your love or beneficence be confined to Methodists, so called, only; much
less to that very small part of them who seem to be renewed in love; or to those
who believe yours and their report. O make not this your Shibboleth! Beware of
stillness; ceasing in a wrong sense from your own works. To mention one instance
out of many: ‘You have received,’ says one, ‘a great blessing. But you
began to talk of it, and to do this and that; so you lost it. You should have
of self-indulgence; yea, and making a virtue of it, laughing at self-denial, and
taking up the cross daily, at fasting or abstinence. Beware of censoriousness;
thinking or calling them that anyways oppose you, whether in judgment or
practice, blind, dead, fallen, or ‘enemies to the work.’ Once more, beware
of Solifidianism; crying nothing but, ‘Believe, believe!’ and condemning
those as ignorant or legal who speak in a more scriptural way. At certain
seasons, indeed, it may be right to treat of nothing but repentance, or merely
of faith, or altogether of holiness; but, in general, our call is to declare the
whole ‘counsel of God, and to prophesy according to the analogy of faith. The
written word treats of the whole and every particular branch of righteousness,
descending to its minutest branches; as to be sober, courteous, diligent,
patient, to honour all men. So, likewise, the Holy Spirit works the same in our
hearts, not merely creating desires after holiness in general, but strongly
inclining us to every particular grace, leading us to every individual part of
‘whatsoever is lovely.’ And this with the greatest propriety: For as ‘by
works faith is made perfect; so the completing or destroying the work of faith,
and enjoying the favour, or suffering the displeasure, of God, greatly depends
on every single act of obedience or disobedience.
35. What is the Fourth?
Beware of sins of omission; lose no opportunity of doing good in any kind. Be
zealous of good works; willingly omit no work, either of piety or mercy. Do all
the good you possibly can to the bodies and souls of men. Particularly, ‘thou
shalt in anywise reprove thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.’ Be
active. Give no place to indolence or sloth; give no occasion to say, ‘Ye are
idle, ye are idle.’ Many will say so still; but let your whole spirit and
behaviour refute the slander. Be always employed; lose no shred of time; gather
up the fragments, that nothing be lost. And whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
do it with thy might. Be ‘slow to speak,’ and wary in speaking. ‘In a
multitude of words there wanteth not sin.’ Do not talk much; neither long at a
time. Few can converse profitably above an hour. Keep at the utmost distance
from pious chit-chat, from religious gossiping.
36. What is the Fifth?
Beware of desiring anything but God. Now you desire nothing else; every other
desire is driven out; see that none enter again. ‘Keep thyself pure;’ let
your ‘eye’ remain ‘single, and your whole body shall be full of light.’
Admit no desire of pleasing food, or any other pleasure of sense; no desire of
pleasing the eye or the imagination, by anything grand, or new, or beautiful; no
desire of money, of praise, or esteem; of happiness in any creature. You may
bring these desires back; but you need not; you need feel them no more. O stand
fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free.
patterns to all, of denying yourselves, and taking up your cross daily. Let them
see that you make no account of any pleasure which does not bring you nearer to
God, nor regard any pain which does; that you simply aim at pleasing him,
whether by doing or suffering; that the constant language of your heart, with
regard to pleasure or pain, honour or dishonour, riches or poverty, is,
‘All’s alike to me, so I
In my Lord may live and die!’
37. What is the Sixth?
Beware of schism, of making a rent in the
if you would avoid schism, observe every rule of the Society, and of the Bands,
for conscience’ sake. Never omit meeting your Class or Band; never absent
yourself from any public meeting. These are the very sinews of our Society; and
whatever weakens, or tends to weaken, our regard for these, or our exactness in
attending them, strikes at the very root of our community. As one saith, ‘That
part of our economy, the private weekly meetings for prayer, examination, and
particular exhortation, has been the greatest means of deepening and confirming
every blessing that was received by the word preached, and of diffusing it to
others, who could not attend the public ministry; whereas, without this
religious connexion and intercourse, the most ardent attempts, by mere
preaching, have proved of no lasting use.’
not one thought of separating from your brethren, whether their opinions agree
with yours or not. Do not dream that any man sins in not believing you, in not
taking your word; or that this or that opinion is essential to the work, and
both must stand or fall together. Beware of impatience of contradiction. Do not
condemn or think hardly of those who cannot see just as you see, or who judge it
their duty to contradict you, whether in a great thing or a small. I fear some
of us have thought hardly of others, merely because they contradicted what we
affirmed. All this tends to division; and, by everything of this kind, we are
teaching them an evil lesson against ourselves.
beware of touchiness, of testiness, not bearing to be spoken to; starting at the
least word; and flying from those who do not implicitly receive mine or
contradiction and opposition, together with crosses of various kinds. Consider
the words of
of tempting others to separate from you. Give no offence which can possibly be
avoided; see that your practice be in all things suitable to your profession,
adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour. Be particularly careful in speaking of
yourself: You may not, indeed, deny the work of God; but speak of it, when you
are called thereto, in the most inoffensive manner possible. Avoid all
magnificent, pompous words; indeed, you need give it no general name; neither
perfection, sanctification, the second blessing, nor the having attained. Rather
speak of the particulars which God has wrought for you. You may say, ‘At such
a time I felt a change which I am not able to express; and since that time, I
have not felt pride, or self-will, or anger, or unbelief; nor anything but a
fulness of love to God and to all mankind.’ And answer any other plain
question that is asked with modesty and simplicity.
if any of you should at any time fall from what you now are, if you should again
feel pride or unbelief, or any temper from which you are now delivered; do not
deny, do not hide, do not disguise it at all, at the peril of your soul. At all
events go to one in whom you can confide, and speak just what you feel. God will
enable him to speak a word in season, which shall be health to your soul. And
surely He will again lift up your head, and cause the bones that have been
broken to rejoice.
38. What is the last advice that you would give them?
Be exemplary in all things; particularly in outward things, (as in dress,) in
little things, in the laying out of your money, (avoiding every needless
expense,) in deep, steady seriousness, and in the solidity and usefulness of all
your conversation. So shall you be ‘a light shining in a dark place.’ So
shall you daily ‘grow in grace,’ till ‘an entrance be ministered unto you
abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
of the preceding advices are strongly enforced in the following reflections;
which I recommend to your deep and frequent consideration, next to the holy
The sea is an excellent figure of the fulness of God, and that of the blessed
Spirit. For as the rivers all return into the sea; so the bodies, the souls, and
the good works of the righteous, return into God, to live there in his eternal
all the graces of God depend on his mere bounty, yet is He pleased generally to
attach them to the prayers, the instructions, and the holiness of those with
whom we are. By strong though invisible attractions He draws some souls through
their intercourse with others.
sympathies formed by grace far surpass those formed by nature.
truly devout show that passions as naturally flow from true as from false love;
so deeply sensible are they of the goods and evils of those whom they love for
God’s sake. But this can only be comprehended by those who understand the
language of love.
bottom of the soul may be in repose, even while we are in many outward troubles;
just as the bottom of the sea is calm, while the surface is strongly agitated.
best helps to growth in grace are the ill usage, the affronts, and the losses
which befal us. We should receive them with all thankfulness, as preferable to
all others, were it only on this account,—that our will has no part therein.
readiest way to escape from our sufferings is, to be willing they should endure
as long as God pleases.
we suffer persecution and affliction in a right manner, we attain a larger
measure of conformity to Christ, by a due improvement of one of these occasions,
than we could have done merely by imitating his mercy, in abundance of good
of the greatest evidences of God’s love to those that love him is, to send
them afflictions, with grace to bear them.
in the greatest afflictions, we ought to testify to God, that, in receiving them
from his hand, we feel pleasure in the midst of the pain, from being afflicted
by Him who loves us, and whom we love.
readiest way which God takes to draw a man to himself is, to afflict him in that
he loves most, and with good reason; and to cause this affliction to arise from
some good action done with a single eye; because nothing can more clearly show
him the emptiness of what is most lovely and desirable in the world.
True resignation consists in a thorough conformity to the whole will of God; who
wills and does all (excepting sin) which comes to pass in the world. In order to
this we have only to embrace all events, good and bad, as His will.
the greatest afflictions which can befal the just, either from heaven or earth,
they remain immovable in peace, and perfectly submissive to God, by an inward,
loving regard to Him, uniting in one all the powers of their souls.
ought quietly to suffer whatever befals us, to bear the defects of others and
our own, to confess them to God in secret prayer, or with groans which cannot be
uttered; but never to speak a sharp or peevish word, nor to murmur or repine;
but thoroughly willing that God should treat you in the manner that pleases him.
We are his lambs, and therefore ought to be ready to suffer, even to the death,
are to bear with those we cannot amend, and to be content with offering them to
God. This is true resignation. And since He has borne our infirmities, we may
well bear those of each other for His sake.
abandon all, to strip one’s self of all, in order to seek and to follow Jesus
Christ naked to Bethlehem, where he was born; naked to the hall where he was
scourged; and naked to Calvary, where he died on the cross, is so great a mercy,
that neither the thing, nor the knowledge of it is given to any, but through
faith in the Son of God.
There is no love of God without patience, and no patience without lowliness and
sweetness of spirit.
and patience are the surest proofs of the increase of love.
alone unites patience with love; without which it is impossible to draw profit
from suffering; or indeed, to avoid complaint, especially when we think we have
given no occasion for what men make us suffer.
humility is a kind of self-annihilation; and this is the centre of all virtues.
soul returned to God ought to be attentive to everything which is said to him,
on the head of salvation, with a desire to profit thereby.
the sins which God has pardoned, let nothing remain but a deeper humility in the
heart, and a stricter regulation in our words, in our actions, and in our
The bearing men, and suffering evils in meekness and silence, is the sum of a
is the first object of our love: Its next office is, to bear the defects of
others. And we should begin the practice of this amidst our own household.
should chiefly exercise our love towards them who most shock either our way of
thinking, or our temper, or our knowledge, or the desire we have, that others
should be as virtuous as we wish to be ourselves.
God hardly gives his Spirit even to those whom he has established in grace, if
they do not pray for it on all occasions, not only once, but many times.
does nothing but in answer to prayer; and even they who have been converted to
God without praying for it themselves, (which is exceeding rare,) were not
without the prayers of others. Every new victory which a soul gains is the
effect of a new prayer.
every occasion of uneasiness, we should retire to prayer, that we may give place
to the grace and light of God and then form our resolutions, without being in
any pain about what success they may have.
the greatest temptations, a single look to Christ, and the barely pronouncing
his name, suffices to overcome the wicked one, so it be done with confidence and
calmness of spirit.
command to “pray without ceasing’ is founded on the necessity we have of his
grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one
moment without it, than the body can without air.
we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer,
when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.
that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done
in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or
diminishing from it by his own choice.
continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on
souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.
the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so
our vehement love may be termed crying after God.
only requires of his adult children, that their hearts be truly purified, and
that they offer him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from
perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most
perfect prayers that can spring from it.
It is scarce conceivable how strait the way is wherein God leads them that
follow him; and how dependent on him we must be, unless we are wanting in our
faithfulness to him.
is hardly credible of how great consequence before God the smallest things are;
and what great inconveniences some times follow those which appear to be light
a very little dust will disorder a clock, and the least sand will obscure our
sight, so the least grain of sin which is upon the heart will hinder its right
motion towards God.
ought to he in the church as the saints are in heaven, and in the house as the
holiest men are in the church; doing our work in the house as we pray in the
church; worshipping God from the ground of the heart.
should be continually labouring to cut off all the useless things that surround
us; and God usually retrenches the superfluities of our souls in the same
proportion as we do those of our bodies.
best means of resisting the devil is, to destroy whatever of the world remains
in us, in order to raise for God, upon its ruins, a building all of love. Then
shall we begin, in this fleeting life, to love God as we shall love him in
scarce conceive how easy it is to rob God of his due, in our friendship with the
most virtuous persons, until they are torn from us by death. But if this loss
produce lasting sorrow, that is a clear proof that we had before two treasures,
between which we divided our heart.
If, after having renounced all, we do not watch incessantly, and beseech God to
accompany our vigilance with his, we shall be again entangled and overcome.
the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters
more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing,
yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations.
is good to renew ourselves, from time to time, by closely examining the state of
our souls, as if we had never done it before; for nothing tends more to the full
assurance of faith, than to keep ourselves by this means in humility, and the
exercise of all good works.
continual watchfulness and prayer ought to be added continual employment. For
grace fills a vacuum as well as nature; and the devil fills whatever God does
is no faithfulness like that which ought to be between a guide of souls and the
person directed by him. They ought continually to regard each other in God, and
closely to examine themselves, whether all their thoughts are pure, and all
their words directed with Christian discretion. Other affairs are only the
things of men; but these are peculiarly the things of God.
The words of St. Paul, ‘No man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,’
show us the necessity of eyeing God in our good works, and even in our minutest
thoughts; knowing that none are pleasing to him, but those which he forms in us
and with us. From hence we learn that we cannot serve him, unless he use our
tongue, hands, and heart, to do by himself and his Spirit whatever he would have
us to do.
we were not utterly impotent, our good works would be our own property; whereas
now they belong wholly to God, because they proceed from him and his grace:
While raising our works, and making them all divine, he honours himself in us
of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And,
since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbour; which
he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us.
does not love men that are inconstant, nor good works that are intermitted.
Nothing is pleasing to him, but what has a resemblance of his own immutability.
constant attention to the work which God entrusts us with is a mark of solid
fasts when it can, and as much as it can. It leads to all the ordinances of God,
and employs itself in all the outward works whereof it is capable. It flies, as
it were, like Elijah over the plain, to find God upon his holy mountain.
is so great, that he communicates greatness to the least thing that is done for
are they who are sick, yea, or lose their life, for having done a good work.
frequently conceals the part which his children have in the conversion of other
souls. Yet one may boldly say, that person who long groans before him for the
conversion of another, whenever that soul is converted to God, is one of the
chief causes of it.
cannot be practised right, unless, First, we exercise it the moment God gives
the occasion; and, Secondly, retire the instant after to offer it to God by
humble thanksgiving. And this for three reasons: First, to render him what we
have received from him. The Second, to avoid the dangerous temptation which
springs from the very goodness of these works. And the Third, to unite ourselves
to God, in whom the soul expands itself in prayer, with all the graces we have
received, and the good works we have done, to draw from him new strength against
the bad effects which these very works may produce in us, if we do not make use
of the antidotes which God has ordained against these poisons. The true means to
be filled anew with the riches of grace is thus to strip ourselves of it; and
without this it is extremely difficult not to grow faint in the practice of good
works do not receive their last perfection, till they, as it were, lose
themselves in God. This is a kind of death to them, resembling that of our
bodies, which will not attain their highest life, their immortality, till they
lose themselves in the glory of our souls, or rather of God, wherewith they
shall be filled. And it is only what they had of earthly and mortal, which good
works lose by this spiritual death.
is the symbol of love; and the love of God is the principle and the end of all
our good works. But truth surpasses figure; and the fire of divine love has this
advantage over material fire, that it can re-ascend to its source, and raise
thither with it all the good works which it produces. And by this means it
prevents their being corrupted by pride, vanity, or any evil mixture. But this
cannot be done otherwise than by making these good works in a spiritual manner
die in God, by a deep gratitude, which plunges the soul in him as in an abyss,
with all that it is, and all the grace and works for which it is indebted to
him; a gratitude, whereby the soul seems to empty itself of them, that they may
return to their source, as rivers seem willing to empty themselves, when they
pour themselves with all their waters into the sea.
we have received any favour from God, we ought to retire, if not into our
closets, into our hearts, and say, ‘I come, Lord, to restore to thee what thou
hast given; and I freely relinquish it, to enter again into my own nothingness.
For what is the most perfect creature in heaven or earth in thy presence, but a
void capable of being filled with thee and by thee; as the air, which is void
and dark, is capable of being filled with the light of the sun, who withdraws it
every day to restore it the next, there being nothing in the air that either
appropriates this light or resists it? O give me the same facility of receiving
and restoring thy grace and good works! I say, thine; for I acknowledge
the root from which they spring is in thee, and not in me.’”
In the year 1764, upon a review of the whole subject, I wrote down the sum of
what I had observed in the following short propositions:—
There is such a thing as perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in
It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to ‘go on unto
perfection.’ (Hebrews 6:1.)
It is not so late as death; for
It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but
to God alone.
It does not make a man infallible: None is infallible, while he remains in the
Is it sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is ‘salvation
It is ‘perfect love.’ (1
It is improvable. It is so far from lying in an indivisible point, from being
incapable of increase, that one perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter
than he did before.
It is amissible, capable of being lost; of which we have numerous instances. But
we were not thoroughly convinced of this, till five or six years ago.
It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.
But is it in itself instantaneous or not? In examining this, let us go on step
instantaneous change has been wrought in some believers: None can deny this.
that change, they enjoy perfect love; they feel this, and this alone; they
‘rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.’
Now, this is all that I mean by perfection; therefore, these are witnesses of
the perfection which I preach.
in some this change was not instantaneous.’ They did not perceive the instant
when it was wrought. It is often difficult to perceive the instant when a man
dies; yet there is an instant in which life ceases. And if ever sin ceases,
there must be a last moment of its existence, and a first moment of our
deliverance from it.
if they have this love now, they will lose it.’ They may; but they need not.
And whether they do or no, they have it now; they now experience what we teach.
They now are all love; they now rejoice, pray, and praise without ceasing.
sin is only suspended in them; it is not destroyed.’ Call it which you please.
They are all love to-day; and they take no thought for the morrow.
this doctrine has been much abused.’ So has that of justification by faith.
But that is no reason for giving up either this or any other scriptural
doctrine. ‘When you wash your child,’ as one speaks, ‘throw away the
water; but do not throw away the child.’
those who think they are saved from sin say they have no need of the merits of
Christ.’ They say just the contrary. Their language is,—
The merit of thy death!’
never before had so deep, so unspeakable, a conviction of the need of Christ in
all his offices as they have now.
all our Preachers should make a point of preaching perfection to believers
constantly, strongly, and explicitly; and all believers should mind this one
thing, and continually agonize for it.”
I have now done what I proposed. I have given a plain and simple account of the
manner wherein I first received the doctrine of perfection, and the sense
wherein I received, and wherein I do receive, and teach it to this day. I have
declared the whole and every part of what I mean by that scriptural expression.
I have drawn the picture of it at full length, without either disguise or
covering. And I would now ask any impartial person, What is there so frightful
herein? Whence is all this outcry, which, for these twenty years and upwards,
has been made throughout the kingdom; as if all Christianity were destroyed, and
all religion torn up by the roots? Why is it, that the very name of perfection
has been cast out of the mouths of Christians; yea, exploded and abhorred, as if
it contained the most pernicious heresy? Why have the Preachers of it been
hooted at, like mad dogs, even by men that fear God; nay, and by some of their
own children, some whom they, under God, had begotten through the gospel? What
reason is there for this, or what pretence? Reason; sound reason, there is none.
It is impossible there should. But pretences there are, and those in great
abundance. Indeed, there is ground to fear that, with some who treat us thus, it
is mere pretence; that it is no more than a copy of their countenance, from the
beginning to the end. They wanted, they sought, occasion against me; and here
they found what they sought. “This is Mr. Wesley’s doctrine! He preaches
perfection!” He does; yet this is not his doctrine any more than it is yours,
or any one’s else, that is a Minister of Christ. For it is His doctrine,
peculiarly, emphatically His; it is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Those are his
words, not mine: Εσεσθ δν
ωσπερ ο Πατηρ
υμων ο εν τοις
τελειος εςι,—“Ye shall
therefore be perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” And who
says, ye shall not; or, at least, not till your soul is separated from the body?
It is the doctrine of
Now let this perfection appear in its native form, and who can speak one word
against it? Will any dare to speak against loving the Lord our God with all our
heart, and our neighbour as ourselves? against a renewal of heart, not only in
part, but in the whole image of God? Who is he that will open his mouth against
being cleansed from all pollution both of flesh and spirit; or against having
all the mind that was in Christ, and walking in all things as Christ walked?
What man, who calls himself a Christian, has the hardiness to object to the
devoting, not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God? What serious
man would oppose the giving God all our heart, and the having one design ruling
all our tempers? I say, again, let this perfection appear in its own shape, and
who will fight against it? It must be disguised before it can be opposed. It
must be covered with a bear-skin first, or even the wild beasts of the people
will scarce be induced to worry it. But whatever these do, let not the children
of God any longer fight against the image of God. Let not the members of Christ
say anything against having the whole mind that was in Christ. Let not those who
are alive to God oppose the dedicating all our life to Him. Why should you who
have his love shed abroad in your heart withstand the giving him all your heart?
Does not all that is within you cry out, “O who that loves can love enough?”
What pity that those who desire and design to please him should have any other
design or desire! much more, that they should dread, as a fatal delusion, yea,
abhor as an abomination to God, the having this one desire and design ruling
every temper! Why should devout men be afraid of devoting all their soul, body,
and substance to God? Why should those who love Christ count it a damnable
error, to think we may have all the mind that was in him? We allow, we contend,
that we are justified freely through the righteousness and the blood of Christ.
And why are you so hot against us, because we expect likewise to be sanctified
wholly through his Spirit? We look for no favour either from the open servants
of sin, or from those who have only the form of religion. But how long will you
who worship God in spirit, who are “circumcised with the circumcision not made
with hands,” set our battle in array against those who seek a entire
circumcision of heart, who thirst to be cleansed “from all filthiness of flesh
and spirit,” and to “perfect holiness in the fear of God?” Are we your
enemies, because we look for a full deliverance from that “carnal mind which
is enmity against God?” Nay, we are your brethren, your fellow-labourers in
the vineyard of our Lord, your companions in the kingdom and patience of Jesus.
Although this we confess, (if we are fools therein, yet as fools bear with us,)
we do expect to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves.
Yea, we do believe, that he will in this world so cleanse the thoughts of our
hearts, by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, that we shall perfectly love him,
and worthily magnify his holy name.”
It is not to be understood, that Mr.
Wesley’s sentiments concerning Christian Perfection were in any measure
changed after the year 1777. This tract underwent several revisions and
enlargements during his life-time; and in every successive edition the date
of the most recent revision was specified. The last revision appears to have
been made in the year 1777; and since that period, this date has been
generally continued on the title-page of the several editions of the
 This is too strong. Our Lord Himself desired ease in pain. He asked for it, only with resignation: “Not as I will,” I desire, “but as thou wilt.”
 This is far too strong. See the sermon “On Wandering Thoughts.”
 Frequently this is the case; but only for a time.
 For a time it may be so; but not always.
 Sometimes they have no need; at other times they have.
 Sometimes they do not; at other times they do, and that grievously.
 Not all who are saved from sin; many of them have not attained it yet.
 Is it not astonishing, that while this book is extant, which was published four-and-twenty years ago, any one should face me down, that this is a new doctrine, and what I never taught before?— [This note was first published in the year 1765. EDITOR]
 That is, unto those alone, exclusive of others; but they speak to them, jointly with others, almost continually.
 More rarely, I allow; but yet in some places very frequently, strongly, and explicitly.
 I mean, it is not the condition either of present or future salvation.
 The advices which follow were published in a separate tract in the year 1762, under the title of “Cautions and Directions given to the Greatest Professors in the Methodist Societies,” with the following motto—
“Set the false witnesses aside,
Yet hold the truth for ever fast.”
It was evidently intended to guard the people against the mischievous extravagances of George Bell and his friends, a particular account of whom is given in Mr. Wesley’s Journal about that period. EDITOR.