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JOHN WESLEY AND THE SECOND BLESSING  

 

by

 


Timothy L. Smith 

 

Source: Wesleyan Theological Journal

Wesley Center Online

Wesley.nnu.edu

 

The dates assigned [in brackets] to sermons are drawn from my tentative efforts in “Chronological List of John Wesley’s Sermons and Doctrinal Essays,” The Wesleyan Theological Journal, 17 (Fall, 1982), 88–110.

Since the new, very expensive, and still incomplete Oxford and Bicentennial edition of John Wesley’s Works is used for many citations below, I have placed in parentheses after many of these citations alternative ones form John Wesley, Works (14 vols., London, 1872; reprinted, Kansas City, Missouri, 1978), hereinafter designated WW.

 

I will begin by stating two elementary principles of historical method: friends who have reason to disagree with a person on an important point or two usually provide the most objective evidence of what his or her opinions at a given time actually were; and considering facts in their chronological sequence is indispensable to establishing the nature and cause of any person’s changing views.

The second of these I have illustrated in an earlier paper before this society on the doctrine of holiness in the Wesleyan hymns. In that essay, I pointed out that in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection Wesley incorrectly dated the publication of the second volume of Hymns and Sacred Poems (whose preface he quoted prominently there) as 1741 rather than 1740. Since that preface provided so clear a description of a second work of sanctifying grace, we must conclude that the emergence of that doctrine took place sometime before the publication of the hymnbook in the spring of the latter year. The first observation I also illustrated in an earlier paper before this society, namely, the great significance of the Whitefield correspondence with Wesley in 1740 dealing with the experience of heart purity, a portion of which is available to all in Frank Baker’s Oxford edition of Wesley’s letters. Without regard to any of the other evidence of the origin of Wesley’s thought, this correspondence makes plain that something dramatic had happened in Wesley’s thinking shortly after Whitefield’s second departure for America , in September, 1739. Whitefield called Wesley’s new teaching, about which he heard in America , “sinless perfection,” an accurate term in his view of the issue raised by Wesley’s idea that a second work of grace brought cleansing from the remains of inbred corruption, or from inbred sin. Whitefield’s rejection of this idea hastened and was hastened by his growing identification with Calvinist evangelicals in America and Scotland . It led directly to the young evangelist’s public break with the Wesleys over both that issue and the doctrine of predestination on the eve of his return from America in January and February, 1741.[1]

These two pieces of evidence support my suggestion in that second paper that Wesley composed the substance of his first sermon on the limits and the nature of Christian perfection, not published until two years later, on November 7, 1739, when he recorded in his diary that he “writ Christian Perfection.”[2] The alternative argument—that he began then the condensation of William Law’s volume on that subject, since he records in the diary that later that day and on November 8 he “writ Law”—will not fit all the facts. For one, on November 12 and 17, Wesley told us in his Journal, he explained to small groups of his followers “the nature and extent of Christian perfection”—words that point to the famous sermon’s contents—and on August 10, 1740, he echoed those words in describing his discourse on its text, Philippians 3:12.[3] Moreover, he preached sermons in the following months from texts that he always thereafter used as vehicles to explain the doctrine of sanctification. These sermons prompted several persons in England and Scotland to alert Whitefield to the fact that Wesley was now proclaiming that the Bible taught that Christians may find purity of heart in this life.[4] Finally, the first chapters of Wesley’s condensation of William Law, published anonymously in 1740 under the title The Nature and Destiny of Christianity, dealt not with the second work of grace, which gave Whitefield and others of Wesley’s friends such problems, but with the doctrine of “the great salvation,” which they affirmed; and it allowed the idea that a process of growth, rather than an instantaneous second work of grace, was the method of achieving it. Wesley, of course, had always taught that Christians experienced gradual sanctification—so much so as to enable Gerald R. Cragg to say, and Albert C. Outler to imply, that he taught only or mainly progressive holiness.[5] But in the fall of 1739 he came to the clear conviction that a second and instantaneous experience was essential to that process. In that moment, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, their hearts were cleansed from the remains of inbred sin, and they were perfected in love.

The assistance that a correct understanding of these events gives in the task of interpreting various aspects of Wesley’s teaching and behavior now requires spelling out. I wish, first, to stress the light they shed on Wesley’s own spiritual experience.

Wesley himself acknowledged his disappointment at the small measure of joy he had received when he thought the Holy Spirit bore witness to his regeneration at the famous prayer meetings in Aldersgate Street , London , in May, 1738. He was tempted to doubt whether he had actually experienced what the Scripture promised.[6] This fact has prompted some modern scholars to denigrate the Aldersgate event. It seems to me, rather, to have reflected the fact that Wesley at that point understood the Bible to teach only one instantaneous experience of saving grace and that, therefore, all the promises of Scripture concerning the righteousness, peace, and joy which were to flow from the presence and work of the Holy Spirit should have been evident immediately after he was assured of being God’s child. On the contrary, he found himself a few days afterward nearly “sawn asunder” by doubt, temptation, and the absence of joy. He went to Germany a few days after he preached his sermon on “Salvation by Faith” before Oxford University , hoping to find in the Moravian experience some resolution of the intellectual as well as the spiritual problems that stemmed from his unwarranted expectations.

What Wesley soon learned was that the Moravians believed that the witness of the Spirit to regeneration was usually bestowed sometime after one was forgiven and enabled to have victory over sinning. In his letter of October 30, 1738 to his brother Samuel, he equated that witness with “‘the seal of the Spirit,’ ‘the love of God shed abroad in my heart,’ and . . . ‘joy in the Holy Ghost,’ joy which ‘no man taketh away,’ ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’” He told Samuel he could not doubt “that believers who wait and pray for it will find these Scriptures fulfilled in themselves,” and added: “My hope is that they will be fulfilled in me.” Such a degree of faith, he had written Samuel from Germany , “purifies the heart” and “renews the life after the image of our blessed Redeemer.”[7] Here was the germ of what became a year later his doctrine of entire sanctification. But at this point, Wesley was still thinking only of degrees of saving faith. He reported to the Moravians at Herrnhut in late October, 1738 that he believed ten ministers in the Church of England preached that “the blood of Christ cleanseth” them “from all sin,” and urged them not to cease praying that God would “remove that which is displeasing in His sight” and “give us the whole mind ‘that was in Christ.’” This evidence clarifies the use Wesley made in his sermon “Salvation by Faith” at Oxford of the scriptural promises that the Lord would save His people from “all their sins: from original and actual . . . sin,” seal them with “the Holy Spirit of promise,” deliver them from “any sinful desire,” and give them “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.” This described the experience he had expected but only part of which he had found.[8]

During the months which followed that trip, and particularly after Wesley joined Whitefield in leading the awakening in Bristol and London in the spring and summer of 1739, Wesley carefully studied the Scriptures concerning “babes in Christ” and the degrees of faith. They confirmed his belief that those who, under his and his brother’s ministry as well as that of Whitefield and the Welsh evangelist Howell Harris, had professed to have been instantaneously transformed by the Holy Spirit from “the faith of a servant,” as he put it, to the faith of a child of God were undoubtedly born again. By the late summer of 1739 he had dealt at length with a multitude of such converts. They had been “set at liberty” from the power of sin. Yet they were unsteady and unestablished. Caring for them taught Wesley that he had been discouraged about his own experience because he had expected too much. Though he had not during that first year after Aldersgate supposed that he could be delivered from inbred sin, he had believed that he would experience fullness of joy and peace. Now, in the fall of 1739, he became convinced Scripture taught this fullness would accompany a second and deeper moment of hallowing grace, which would bring also purity of heart and perfect love. He turned then from bemoaning the incompleteness of his peace and joy in regeneration to marveling at the measure of grace that he and his converts had received and at the fullness which was to come. Now, hungering and thirsting after righteousness became a joyful experience. He was confident that entire sanctification, or purity from the remains of inward corruption, would also guarantee his final perseverance and so make his satisfaction complete.[9]

Eventually, Wesley’s followers who sought and found this blessing taught him that he still expected too much; and his study of the experience of Jesus and the apostles confirmed that he had. Hence, in 1765, when he republished the preface to the hymnbook of 1740 in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Wesley inserted several footnotes to show where he had overstated the subjective fruits of full salvation. And he explained how the fall from grace of several notable Methodists who he could not doubt had once enjoyed perfect love had convinced him in the late 1750’s that this experience assured only present, not final salvation.[10] But from 1740 onward, he never questioned the idea of an instant of heart cleansing in a second moment of sanctifying grace. I think he would be amazed to find some of his modern followers seeking, at this late date, to fasten upon him a belief in progressive sanctification so extensive that it minimizes almost to the point of extinction the doctrine of an instantaneous experience. A central argument of the Plain Account was, in fact, that he had been teaching that doctrine ever since the publication of the hymnbook of 1740.[11]

Wesley’s personal struggles were also intertwined with his emerging controversy with the Moravians, and hence his dawning belief in a second moment of grace was closely connected to that controversy. The journals of both Wesley and Whitefield indicate the increasing concern of the evangelists about the insistence of the London Moravians that none had any faith at all who did not have perfect faith—one that banished all doubt and fear and secured complete deliverance from inward sin. They attacked directly the testimonies of the followers of both men to the experience of regeneration and, therefore, the preaching of both evangelists on the doctrine of the new birth. They bade these falsely assured “converts” to desist from doing anything at all, whether self-denial or good works or observing what Anglicans thought were the “means of grace,” until they had such perfect faith. The result was to discourage very many of Wesley’s converts, to put a damper on the revival itself, and to prompt some of Wesley’s closest followers to renounce their professions, stop taking communion, and “wait in stillness for salvation.”[12]

Inattention to chronology has allowed scholars to minimize or ignore the connection between the Moravian controversy and Wesley’s new view of entire sanctification. He later described in his Journal for November 1–9, 1739, the spiritual crisis in the affairs of the Fetter Lane Society in London stemming from the Moravian insistence that justifying faith must be perfect, that is, sanctifying, and that those who had once professed justification must wait in “stillness” until they had such faith. The longest of his several conversations that week with their bishop, August S. Spangenberg, took place on November 7—the very day that his “Diary” tells us he “writ Christian Perfection.”[13] Moreover, that portion of Wesley’s Journal which recounts his conversion and his trip to Germany was not published until September, 1740. By that time all the world knew that he had broken with the Moravians and begun proclaiming a second work of grace.[14] The Journal, as distinct from the “Diary” on which it was based, was written for publication and always had a hortatory purpose. And in this case, Wesley’s purpose was to refute the London Moravians by describing the testimonies to degrees of faith and to a second moment of hallowing grace that he had heard in Germany two years before. He published them not simply to confirm his Aldersgate experience but to show that the experience of the “greatest professors” at Herrnhut had presaged his conviction that freedom from inbred sin as well as from all doubts and fears was the fruit of that second moment.

Hence his recounting in the Journal for July and August, 1738, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf’s carefully circumscribed definition of justification, which matched Wesley’s view at the time in 1740 when he wrote the Journal; and hence his report of the inquiries he made of “the most experienced of the brethren, concerning the work which God had wrought in their souls, purifying them by faith.”[15] Among these was Christian David, founder and pastor of the church at Herrnhut. Three of the four sermons Wesley heard David preach at Herrnhut dealt with the state of those who were “weak in faith,” who were “justified” but did not yet have “a new, clean heart.” David said they had “received forgiveness through the blood of Christ” but had “not received the constant indwelling of the Holy Ghost.” That the preacher had described their state, and progress from it, by close reference to the opening sentences of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount just as Wesley had taken to doing in the fall of 1739, had both dialectical and spiritual significance to the visitor from England . David showed how they must come to mourning and to hungering and thirsting after righteousness before they were made “pure in heart,” set free “from all self-will and sin,” and made merciful as “their Father which is in heaven is merciful.”[16]

David also explained the nature of that intermediate state, which “most experience between that bondage which is described in the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans and the full glorious liberty of the children of God described in the eighth, and in many other parts of Scripture.” And he explained in one sermon “the state the apostles were in, from our Lord’s death (and indeed for some time before) till the descent of the Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost.” They were then “clean,” Wesley recalled David as saying; they then had “faith, otherwise He could not have prayed for them, that their ‘faith’ might not ‘fail.’ Yet they had not, in the full sense, ‘new hearts’; neither had they received the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And he remembered the pastor urging such persons to “labor then to believe with your whole heart. So shall you have redemption through the blood of Christ. So shall you be cleansed from all sin.” This long summary pointed as fully to Wesley’s new understanding of sanctification as did Christian David’s testimony to his finding “the full assurance of faith” and those of Michael Limmer and Arvid Gradin to the same effect. Wesley cited Gradin’s words twenty-five years later, in his Plain Account.[17]

Wesley composed his famous “Letter to the Church of God at Herrnhut” at the same time that he was editing this Journal of 1738 for the press, namely, August, 1740. That letter begins with his complaint that some of the London Moravians were affirming that “present salvation . . . does not imply the proper taking away our sins, the cleansing our souls from all sin, from all unholiness, whether of flesh or spirit”—words which clearly refer to Wesley’s new understanding of Christian perfection—“but only the tearing the system of sin in pieces, so that sin still remains in the members, if not in the heart.” Wesley said he had also heard Moravians in London insist that saving faith did not secure “liberty from evil thoughts, neither from wanderings in prayer,” that it did not grant “an assurance of future salvation,” and that “the seal of the Spirit” related only “to the present moment.” (Wesley believed at this point, and for a number of years thereafter, that the experience of entire sanctification was indeed a sealing of the Spirit which made it impossible for one to fall from grace.)[18]

In short, the letter to the Moravians had to do mostly with the doctrine of entire sanctification, a fact hitherto overlooked. He went on in the letter to complain that London Moravians thought salvation implied “liberty from the commandments of God, so that one who is saved through faith is not obliged or bound to obey them”—a direct contradiction of Wesley’s preaching about Christian holiness from the Sermon on the Mount. Moreover, he wrote, “some in England,” particularly Philip Henry Molthier, then the Moravian leader in London, insisted that “there are no degrees in faith” and that “there is no justifying faith without the plerephory [fullness] of faith, the clear, abiding witness of the Spirit,” nor none “where there is not, in the full, proper sense, a new heart.”[19]

Modern Moravian scholars have been no more eager than modern Methodists to emphasize the doctrine of heart purity. But in fact that is what their forbears taught true faith would bring.[20] And they insisted that none has any faith at all until he or she could give testimony to the faith which hallows the heart. But they did so in such a manner as to “damp the zeal of babes in Christ,” Wesley concluded, “talking much of false zeal,” and forbidding them to testify to salvation or to share the sacrament of holy communion.[21]

Encountering this Moravian doctrine, Wesley did not consider abandoning his confidence that regenerating faith, even such as was displayed by “babes in Christ,” was indeed the true and saving Christian faith. Nor did Whitefield.[22] But Wesley was intent on declaring “that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” And he was not satisfied with less than the fullness of joy which Jesus had promised to His disciples.

Attention to Wesley’s friends and to the chronology of events helps us, finally to realize how much Wesley was moved by his rethinking of the opening sentences of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He had first preached a series on them in Bristol in April, 1739, and again the following July. The manuscripts of those sermons, if he wrote them out, were likely edited and then destroyed (as almost all Wesley’s published manuscripts were) after he printed in 1746 and 1748 thirteen discourses on Christ’s sermon. But whether or not he prepared the discourses in manuscript form in 1739 or 1740, it is certain that the ideas they display in the later printed version permeated the consciousness of Wesleyans in the years 1739 and 1740.[23]

We may safely conclude, then, that the doctrine of perfect love emerged both from scriptural study and from the certainty Wesley felt about the genuineness of the faith of his converts.[24] Holiness of heart seemed to him, as it has ever since to his followers, what every person who is truly saved by faith will long for. He was convinced that this “great salvation from sin” would be sent down, as “at the day of Pentecost” unto “all generations, into the hearts of all true believers” and that the promise was “to all them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord shall call.”[25] Wesley also believed that real Christians would grow in holiness both before they received the blessing of sanctifying faith and afterwards, not by works of righteousness but by the grace of God. This the Holy Spirit brought to them both by the inspiration of His presence and by the “means of grace”—prayer, thanksgiving, obedience, self-denial, studying the Scriptures, and faithful attendance on preaching and upon the sacrament of holy communion.[26]

Putting events into chronological perspective and paying attention to his evangelical friends also helps us understand better Wesley’s public and private testimony on behalf of Christian holiness. For nearly six years from the time he felt satisfied that doctrine was scriptural he proclaimed it broadly, in public as well as in society meetings. He published a clear summary of it in the spring of 1740 in the preface mentioned above. Whitefield’s private and public correspondence indicated the attention evangelicals in America as well as Great Britain paid to his new teaching.[27] Though he delayed the printing of his sermon on Christian perfection until September, 1741 (recalling later that he had waited for the Bishop of London to encourage him to do so), he and his brother Charles issued a third volume of hymns in 1742 which, like that of 1740, spelled out fully the Biblical promises of a second and purifying blessing.[28] All this was confirmed in the tract Character of a Methodist (published, apparently, in 1742, not, as Wesley remembered in the Plain Account, three years earlier), in Charles Wesley’s great Oxford sermon of April 4, 1742, the most popular publication ever issued by the Wesleys[29], and in John’s summary defense of Methodist teaching in An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, first printed in 1744.

But the effect of Whitefield’s widening attack cut severely into Wesley’s community. The young evangelist followed up the famous Christmas letter of 1740 by preaching and publishing nine sermons opposed to Arminianism and perfectionism after he arrived in England in March, 1741. A few months earlier he had endorsed a weekly newspaper, The Christian’s Amusement, renamed The Weekly History in 1741, that combined world-wide revival news with letters and sermons from Whitefield and other persons that promoted Calvinistic and anti-perfectionist ideas. Meanwhile, his Journals continued to be published in short segments that appeared only a few months after the date of their closing entries.[30] Wesley realized that Whitefield was far more in control of public evangelical opinion than he, and that such controversy weakened the revival everywhere. He feared it would alienate him from Howell Harris, the leader of what became the Calvinistic Methodist movement in Wales . In the early part of 1740, however, Harris was preoccupied with the public controversy his own itinerant revivalism stirred up, and with a tender courtship.[31]

Those who had long opposed Wesley and Whitefield as “enthusiasts” for teaching the actual presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christian believers rushed to publicize the disagreements between the two evangelists and seized upon Wesley’s new doctrine of heart purity as proof of their charge.[32] The extent of the pressure is evident from the fact that some of Wesley’s closest follower’s drew back. James Hutton (once Wesley’s right-hand man), Charles Kinchin, and John Gambold chose the Moravian version of perfectionism, which avoided the public scandal of a second blessing. For the rest of John Wesley’s life, therefore, he periodically felt compelled to refute the claim that true saving faith brought with it entire sanctification, and that there was only one great moment of grace.[33]

Apparently in 1745 Wesley decided that preaching Christian perfection to persons not yet converted was neither scriptural nor practical. He began to rely instead upon bands and “select societies,” to which he assigned persons who were clearly in the experience of regeneration and clearly seekers or finders of full salvation. If the minutes of the first conference of 1745 actually reflect his practice, for the next dozen years he confined his own preaching of the details of the second experience to those who had found the first[34]

The printed versions of John Wesley’s sermons preached between 1740 and 1745 and published in 1746 and 1748 were, therefore, primarily concerned with the new birth. The exceptions are three that he published immediately after their delivery, in 1741, 1742, and 1744: Christian Perfection, Charles Wesley’s Oxford sermon, Awake Thou That Sleepest, and John’s last Oxford sermon, entitled Scriptural Christianity. The last one appeared in fifteen editions during Wesley’s lifetime; but it was not explicit enough on the meaning of its text (Acts 4:31, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost”) to satisfy later British and American advocates of that experience.[35] Even the poems on the work of the Holy Spirit, based on John 7:37–38 and chapters 14 through 17, published in 1745 in the two brothers’ Hymns . . . for the Promise of the Father, were sufficiently devoted to the entire scheme of salvation as to raise few hackles; theologians, then as now, did not take hymns very seriously. The Wesleys did.[36] But in those early sermons on regeneration, Wesley repeatedly signaled his followers that he was entirely committed to the doctrine of entire sanctification. And he plainly told those seeking salvation by faith that much more grace lay ahead for them.[37] This strategy, however, accounts for what seems to modern holiness people the nagging lack of specifics about the second blessing in John Wesley’s first two volumes of sermons, published in 1746 and 1748, as well as in such early tracts as A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion and his famous letter to Dr. Littleton, the last part of which he issued in 1751 and several times later under the title A Plain Account of Genuine Christianity.[38]

In pursuing this strategy, however, the Wesleys and their preachers developed great skill in inserting the doctrine of Christian holiness into every treatise, without defining it in great detail. When we understand and believe what the evidence tells us about the maturing of his convictions on the subject in 1739 and 1740, Wesley’s seemingly innocuous phrases that couple justification with heart purity in many different ways appear in their true light.[39] Wesley became increasingly confident that to declare that the God of love had given His children the two “great commandments” was to assure them that they might also receive by faith, through the Holy Spirit, that holiness of heart which was required to obey them. Moreover, he believed that if regenerate Christians everywhere were convinced that the Sermon on the Mount was the New Testament’s version of the law, they would hunger and thirst after that righteousness and purity of heart which enabled them to see God. He preached early and late that by faith we establish the law; and the members of his societies, who understood “the whole Wesley,” knew that faith to be the condition of both the hallowing experiences that Wesley taught.[40]

Wesley was equally concerned to uphold the theological tradition of the Anglican divines of the previous century as well as that of the early church fathers. He had staked the public understanding of his doctrine that the Holy Spirit accomplishes our regeneration upon the homilies Archbishop Cranmer had long before composed for The Book of Common Prayer, and on Bishop John Pearson’s seventeenth century volume on The Creed. These had expounded the Church of England’s idea that salvation came by faith and that faith was the work of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of cleansing from the remains of inbred sin, however, added decisively to the Anglican creed and brought to the forefront an obscure theological tradition.[41] Here Whitefield had an advantage; for a gradual sanctification, never quite fully achieved in this life, could be harmonized with both Anglican and Puritan doctrine.

In his published writings, therefore, Wesley for many years emphasized progressive sanctification more than the moment of the Holy Spirit’s cleansing, though he never failed to use language which enabled his followers to understand that he was contending for both the gradual and the instantaneous work of God’s Spirit. In more private documents, however, as for example in the unpublished conference minutes of 1744 and 1747, in his correspondence not intended for publication, and in essays and correspondence circulated privately, he carefully explained the second moment of grace.[42] Scholars have been inattentive to this distinction. Some have concluded, with the great majority of Methodist theologians writing in the twentieth century, that Wesley taught only progressive, not instantaneous, sanctification.[43] They have been able to do that, however, only by neglecting Wesley’s Oxford Sermons and many of those he published after 1760, and by ignoring the central teaching of his Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion and his later Thoughts on Christian Perfection, abstracted in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

Which brings us to another recently vexed question, that of whether Wesley believed that the first Christians were sanctified wholly at Pentecost, and whether he thought the use of the terms “baptized” or “filled” with the Holy Spirit, as distinct from “gift of the Holy Spirit,” were a proper scriptural description of that experience. I must warn you at the outset that in my judgment the historical facts do not shed much light on recent arguments about this subject. The latter deal with whether the Methodist founder thought the apostles were born of the Spirit before Pentecost, which a few of Wesley’s conflicting statements have allowed some of his modern followers to doubt.[44] And they raise questions about his views of both the secondness and the instantaneous aspect of perfection in love, matters on which Wesley appears not to have expressed any uncertainty after the fall of 1739.

Wesley’s concerns, rather, stemmed from: (1) the necessity of his rethinking the relation of Pentecost to heart purity in the light of his realization that the blessings flowing from salvation by faith involved two moments of hallowing grace; (2) his determination after 1739 not to diminish in any way the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit begun in regeneration, which in the early months of the great revival of that year he had sometimes described as the baptism or filling with the Spirit; (3) his desire (especially strong after George Whitefield’s return from America in February, 1741 to challenge Wesley’s opposition to predestination and his teaching that believers may be cleansed from all sin) not to widen the public perception of a rift between him and other evangelical leaders; (4) his pastoral concern to make sure that his converts distinguished sharply the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit from the sanctifying fullness imparted to the 120 converts at Pentecost and promised to all believers there; and (5) his concern to keep righteousness pre-eminent, and so lift up to all believers the ethical meaning of full salvation.

Obviously, Wesley’s perception in the fall of 1739 that Scripture taught a second moment of sanctifying grace required him to rethink the promises of Pentecost. The result was clear in his and his brother’s Hymns . . . for the Promise of the Father and in his Oxford sermon of 1744, Scriptural Christianity. The latter made being filled with the Holy Spirit both a promise to all believers and a second experience. To underline these two points, he chose the text from Acts 4:31 , rather than Acts 2:4 .[45] This rethinking took place very early, however, as is evident from his brief explanation of the text about Pentecost in John 7:37–38 in his sermon Christian Perfection, in his use at the end of that sermon of the long poem (on “Ezekiel 36:25, etc.”) entitled “The Promise of Sanctification,” and in the questions he asked in his famous interview with Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. He published the sermon the same month that the interview occurred, in September, 1741.[46] The latter, near its close, ran as follows:

 

W[esley]: The apostles were justified before Christ’s death, weren’t they?

Z[inzendorf]: They were.

W. They were also more holy after the day of Pentecost than before Christ’s death, weren’t they?

Z. Not at all.

W. But, on that day, they were “filled with the Holy Spirit,” weren’t they?

Z. They were. But that particular gift of the Spirit had nothing to do with their holiness. It was merely the gift of miracles.

W. Perhaps I don’t grasp your thought. Through self-denial, we die to the world more and more and so live to God more and more, don’t we?

Z. We reject all “denials”; we despise them. As believers we do as we please and nothing else. We heap scorn on all “mortifications.” No “purification” is prerequisite to love’s perfection.[47]

 

It is also evident in his use after 1739 of two pre-pentecostal testimonies to what Wesley said was the witness of the Spirit to saving faith—those of the Virgin Mary and of the Apostle Thomas.[48]

Wesley’s use of Pentecostal language came to a climax in his Farther Appeal, published in 1745. There he set forth at length the teaching of the Scriptures, the Church of England, and the post-apostolic fathers on the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing to believers both the assurance of salvation and the experience of sanctification.[49] In response to published criticism of his earlier statements about the baptism or fullness of the Spirit, he emphasized that

 

Christians now “receive,” yea, are “filled with the Holy Ghost,” in order to be filled with the fruits of that blessed Spirit. And he inspires into all true believers now, a degree of the same peace and joy and love which the apostles felt in themselves on that day when they were first “filled with the Holy Ghost.”

 

Moreover, Wesley said, that experience was the fulfillment of the promise of John the Baptist, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”[50]

In the second part of the Farther Appeal, published a few months later, Wesley declared that all Quakers should “not repent alone (for then you know only the baptism of John) but believe, and be ‘baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’” He urged them to cry out for that baptism “till the love of God inflame your heart, and consume all your vile affections! Be not content with anything less than this.” He also urged Roman Catholics to heed Thomas a Kempis’s rules for holy living and their own Marquis de Renty’s admonitions that they be “zealous of every good word and work,” be “filled with the Holy Ghost and delivered from all unholy tempers,” and so be “unblameable and unrebukable, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”[51]

Wesley stressed during the same period, however, the work and gift of the hallowing Spirit, as distinct from His fullness, in the experience of regeneration. His most persuasive passages on this subject appeared in the same Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion. But of equal doctrinal significance are the sermons on regeneration that he preached between 1739 and 1745 and edited for publication in the early summer of the latter year. These sermons as well as his letters and the volumes of his Journal composed in those years constantly allude to the love of God being “shed abroad” in the hearts of persons born again, and to the process of sanctification that accompanied their quest for the experience of perfect love.[52]

By this means, of course, Wesley participated fully in the sometimes fierce debate that all evangelicals carried on with those who accused them of “enthusiasm” because they taught that the Holy Spirit was still visiting humanity in modern times, bringing sinners to repentance and salvation through faith in Christ’s atonement. Their opponents challenged the integrity of the entire awakening, whether Calvinist, Pietist, Wesleyan, or Quaker, and whether in Scotland or England , America or Britain. Wesley’s leadership in this debate convinced most evangelicals that he was still ready to defend powerfully the truth they held in common.

His activity was a part of a larger effort to keep out of public view as much as he could the grievous rift between him and other evangelicals, especially that between him and Whitefield. The latter had not only become wedded to Calvinism but continued to use Pentecostal imagery to describe the new birth. In a reprinting of 1745, Whitefield changed the title of his oft published sermon, The Marks of the New Birth, to “Marks of Having Received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.”[53] Wesley labored to keep their disagreement as private as possible, and to keep its grounds as narrow as he could. He managed, in fact, to retain the friendship and admiration of Howell Harris throughout the critical years 1740–1743, even though Harris had always been a Calvinist and believed no more than Whitefield that God had promised to cleanse believers’ hearts from all sin. But, like Wesley, Harris took seriously the biblical promises of growth in holiness; and he stressed as Wesley did, entire freedom from the dominion of inward sin, while Whitefield wavered on the point.[54] To speak of entire sanctification in Pentecostal terms, as Wesley had done in the early years but managed largely to avoid during the decade before he began using them again in his Notes Upon the New Testament, was to raise evangelical opposition that he wished to avoid.

Linked to all three of these concerns was a fourth: Wesley’s desire to help his converts distinguish clearly between the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit associated with Pentecost—languages, miracles, healing, discernment—and His “ordinary” fruit, that is, the universally promised one of His sanctifying graces.[55] This was no small task, for a popular tradition in both Catholic and Protestant theology had confused the ordinary with the extraordinary gifts and insisted that those extraordinary gifts (and hence all His gifts) had passed away with the apostolic generation. In the Age of Reason the opponents of “enthusiasm,” as they called it, felt compelled to cling to this tradition.[56] By the 1730’s only real enthusiasts testified to Pentecostal experiences. They included the French prophets scattered among England ’s Huguenot exiles, who caused Whitefield and Wesley great difficulties between 1739 and 1742, partly because Wesley refused offhand to judge their claims invalid.[57] He did not rule out God’s occasional gifts of healing, miracles, and previously unknown human languages (the evidence is very skimpy on glossalalia, or “heavenly” languages). But he believed that preoccupation with these “extraordinary” gifts drew believers’ attention away from the quest of holiness.[58]

So Wesley almost eliminated his use of the dramatic phrase “baptism with the Holy Ghost,” preferring instead the one the Apostles are recorded as having used after Pentecost, that is, “filled” with the Spirit.[59] And even for this one he preferred such synonymous phrases as “filled with love,” or “filled with all the fullness of God.”[60] These focused the hearer’s attention upon what Wesley thought most important, and most endangered: the ethical meaning of the righteousness which must exceed that of scribes and Pharisees, of the perfection in love that flows from the faith that God’s love, or faithfulness, inspires.

Of course, for trinitarian Christians to suggest that the Holy Spirit is not the One who first communicates divine love to believers and who thereafter presides over its progress and perfection in hallowing their hearts was and is, to say the least, a theological oddity.[61] Hence Wesley always taught both regeneration and entire sanctification in a Pentecostal frame of reference. But in doing so he had to cope with popular misconceptions of it and with the spread of antinomianism among his evangelical associates. The latter raised to white heat the ethical issue by arguing, variously, that God had not promised actually to make us pure in heart, fully to restore corrupt nature in the divine image, completely to destroy the works of the devil, or to grant us a perfect faith that works in perfected love.

Using these and other similar terms, moreover, contributed directly to his overall objective—to preach righteousness, to help believers, and himself and his brother Charles, keep foremost that “holiness without which no man shall see God.” He understood such holiness to reflect the character he ascribed to the Lord of both the Old and the New Testaments—a God of ethical love, expressed in faithfulness to lost humanity and especially to the poor and oppressed. When that love triumphed over all its enemies in our fallen natures, the result he usually called purity of heart, salvation from sin, Christian perfection, or full restoration to the image of God. His teaching of such a second blessing, his preaching of what was in fact Pentecostal holiness, was indeed the apogee of John Wesley’s theology of love.[62]

In the year 1757, several circumstances swept away most of Wesley’s reticence about public preaching and testimony. Professor Albert Outler once suggested that opposition to sanctification in the conference of 1758, and more widely in the societies, was one of these circumstances. But the manuscript minutes of the conference of 1758, which are preserved in the Methodist Archives and Research Center at the University of Manchester, give no evidence at all of any strain over the subject. The doctrinal questions and answers on sanctification were routine summaries of what had been the emphasis of Wesley’s teaching to the societies during the previous eighteen years. The passages upon how much the “perfect” need the merits of Christ and upon their proneness to mistakes and errors (which were not morally acts of sin but were nevertheless transgressions of the perfect law of Christ) were precisely what Wesley had customarily said.[63]

Rather, Wesley was swept along by the much larger number of his followers who now professed full salvation, thanks in part to his own energetic preaching during the preceding year. Among them was the self trained scholar and powerful Irish preacher, Thomas Walsh. Walsh died in 1757; much of his diary, chronicling his successful pursuit of the second blessing, was published in 1763.[64] Another factor was the spiritual lapse of other trusted followers, which persuaded Wesley that though living in the experience of perfect love was the way to final perseverance it was no guarantee of it. The sanctified believer’s willingness to be faithful to God must be continually renewed. Wesley’s sermons and counsels to band meetings produced hundreds of new testimonies to entire sanctification whose authenticity he could not doubt. Moreover, they came from both old and young believers. Those who professed holiness of heart became so numerous that near the end of the year 1762 he wrote in his Journal,

 

Many years ago my brother frequently said, “Your day of Pentecost is not fully come; but I doubt not it will: and you will then hear of persons sanctified, as frequently as you do now of persons justified.” Any unprejudiced reader may observe that it was now fully come.[65]

 

Reticence abandoned, Wesley included in his fourth volume of Sermons on Several Subjects, published in 1760, several which refined his earlier views on the stages of salvation, such as “The Wilderness Experience” and “Wandering Thoughts.” And he included also his wonderful “Thoughts on Christian Perfection,” digested later near the end of his Plain Account, containing a summary of questions raised and answers given at the two or three preceding Methodist conferences. In the “Thoughts” were many warm and scriptural statements about God’s promise to perfect believers’ hearts by filling them with pure love or, as Wesley occasionally said, by filling them with the Holy Ghost.[66]

In the following decade, Wesley published individually several fine holiness sermons on texts which he had often expounded during the years 1758–1761. Among them were Scripture Way of Salvation (a second blessing update of the famous Aldersgate sermon which he had preached from the same text twenty-seven years before), Sin in Believers, and The Repentance of Believers. And he extended an olive branch to George Whitefield in a sermon published in 1765 on The Lord Our Righteousness, using both the subject and the text that Whitefield had long before employed to affirm his devotion to both imputed and imparted holiness.

Finally, Wesley issued his Plain Account of Christian Perfection in 1765, gathering together materials both recent and well-nigh forgotten that he had published during the preceding twenty-five years. He wrote it to counter the charge that the emphasis upon an instantaneous experience of perfect love was a new departure for him. He declared instead what I have concluded was factually correct: that he and his brother had taught this doctrine consistently since the publication of the preface to the hymnbook of 1740. For modern scholars to lift out a passage or two from that Plain Account which speak of progressive sanctification, and to combine them with Wesley’s example comparing the gradual sanctification which precedes the experience of full salvation to a patient who is dying for a long time before he or she experiences the moment of actual death, is a strange use of the document.[67] And it is to hand over to George Whitefield and his Calvinistic allies the very argument by which Wesley established his difference from them. This is indeed a libel on the dead. And the historian’s task, I think, whether he or she is dealing with religious ideas or political events, is to protect the dead from libel.

But the task of all true Wesleyans, I think, is more important—to promote that purity of heart and perfect love which flows from “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” In the face of the present questions I think Wesley would ask ones like this: If we truly love God, ought we not to love Him with all our hearts, and other persons as ourselves? Is not such love what Moses, Jesus, and Paul said were the two commandments that underlay all the rest? And are not God’s commands implied promises that we will be enabled to keep them? God’s promise to cleanse you “from all your filthiness and all your idols,” to put His Spirit within you and cause you to keep His commandments, is, Wesley would say, one of a chain of Biblical promises that call us to perfect love.



[1] Timothy L. Smith, “The Holy Spirit in the Hymns of the Wesleys,” Wesleyan Theological Journal (hereinafter, WTJ), 16, No. 2 (Fall, 1981 ): 28 and, generally, 29–31; Timothy L. Smith, “George Whitefield and Wesleyan Perfectionism,” WTJ, 19, No. 1 (Spring, 1984 ): 70–2. Cf. John Wesley, Letters, II, 1740–1755, ed. Frank Baker, in John Wesley, Works (26 vols.; Oxford and Nashville , 1975- ), XXVI. 31–3, 43.

[2] See Smith, “Whitefield and Wesleyan Perfectionism,” 68, for an argument I have extended a bit in my volume George Whitefield and John Wesley on the New Birth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company,1986).

[3] John Wesley, “Diary,” printed parallel to his Journal, ed. Nehemiah Curnock (8 vols.; London,1909–1916), November 7 and 8,1739 , Wesley, Journal, November 17, 1739, echoed on August 10, 1740; and John Wesley, [sermon], Christian Perfection (London,1741), in Albert C. Outler, John Wesley (A Library of Protestant Thought; New York,1964), 254-71 (WW, VI, 1–22).

[4] Wesley, Journal, January 9 and 15 , March 5 and 28 , April 14, May 5, June 1 and 24 , and August 1, 1740; George Whitefield, Savannah, Georgia, March 26, 1740, to John Wesley, in George Whitefield, Letters . . . Written to His Most Intimate Friends, and Persons of Distinction . . . from the Year 1734 to 1770 . . . (3 vols.; London, 1772, a reprinting, from the same plates, of his Works, ed. John Gillies (6 vols., London, 1771), I, 155–7, (also in Wesley, Letters, II, 11).

[5] John Wesley, extract of William Law, The Nature and Design of Christianity, Extracted from a Late Author (London, 1740, and many editions thereafter, including three in a German translation published between 1754 and 1757 by Christopher Sauer in Philadelphia). I have examined the original edition of this work, which is item No.17 in Frank Baker, A Union Catalogue of the Publications of John and Charles Wesley (Durham, North Carolina,1966) See, on progressive sanctification, John Wesley, The Appeals To Men of Reason and Religion and Certain Related Open Letters, ed. Gerald R. Cragg, in Wesley, Works, XI “Introduction,” 21 and, generally,19–23; and Outlet’s statement in Wesley, Sermons I, ed. Albert C. Outler, in Wesley, Works, I, 316, which interprets his sermon on Sin in Believers (London, 1763) as denying cleansing from all inward sin. This is surprising, for Wesley wrote the sermon in order to deny that such a cleansing took place before a believer experienced entire sanctification. Cf. John Bennett, “Minutes of the Conference of [June 25–29],1744, in Outler, Wesley, 140–1; and [John Bennett] Minutes of the Conference of [June 15–18], 1747,” the same, 168-9.

[6] Wesley, Journal, June 7, 1738. Cf. the same, May 26 and 29, June 3 and 6–7, July 6 and 9 , and October 14, 1738; and Outler, Wesley, 14–7.

[7] John Wesley, Marienborn, July 7, O. S., 1738, and London, October 30, 1738, to Samuel Wesley, Letters II, Cf. John Wesley, [London], May 24,1738, to John Gambold, [also in Wesley, Journal, May 24, 1738], the most trustworthy evidence of Wesley’s state of mind on the day of the Aldersgate experience; John Wesley, Cologne, June 28, O.S., 1738, to Charles Wesley; John Wesley, Herrnhut, August 4, O.S., 1738, to James Hutton, all in Wesley, Letters II.

[8] John Wesley, London , October 14-20, 1738, to The Church at Herrnhut, Letters II; John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith” [June 11,1738], Sermons I, 122–5 (WW, V, 10–1).

[9] John Wesley, “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption,” in Wesley, Sermons I, 259-63 (WW, V,104–8); John Wesley, Bristol, April 30,1739, to James Hutton and the Fetter Lane Society, John Wesley, Letters I, 1721–1739, ed. Frank Baker, in Wesley, Works, I, 639, mentions the first use [on Wednesday, April 25] I have found of this text from Romans 8:15 . What amounts to a testimony to his satisfaction with his own regeneration is in John Wesley [ London , July 25, 1739], to Dr. Henry Stebbing, Wesley, Letters I. See also defenses of his converts in two letters: John Wesley, Bristol , May 10 and October 27, 1739, to Samuel Wesley, in Wesley, Letters I.

[10] John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection ( London , 1767), revised as of 1777 in WW, X, 379–80; and, on the possibility of falling [extracted from his Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection ( London ,1762)], the same 422–4, 426, and 442.

[11] Wesley, Plain Account, 370,373, 381–3, 391, 393. Cf. Wesley, An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion in The Appeals, 66–68 (sec. 55–6).

[12] John Wesley, Oxford , November 17, 1738, to Benjamin Ingham and James Hutton, Letters I; George Whitefield, Journals, ed. Arnold Dallimore ( London , 1960), April 21, 22, and 25, 1739; and Wesley, Journal, November 1, 4, and 7–10, and December 13, 19, and 31, 1739.

[13] Wesley, Journal, November 1–9, 1739.

[14] Baker, Union Catalogue, entry No. 18, discusses John Wesley, An Extract of the Rev. Mr. John Wesley’s Journal, from February 1, 1737–38 to His Return from Germany (London, 1740), the preface of which Wesley dated September 29, 1740. I have examined a copy of the second printing (Bristol. 1740) at the Methodist “new rooms” in Bristol .

[15] Wesley Journal, July 9 and August 4–5, 1738.

[16] The same, summary following his entries for August 9–10, 1738.

[17] The same, August 12, 1738; Wesley, Plain Account, 369.

[18] John Wesley, [ London ], August [5–8], 1740, “to the Church of God at Herrnhut,” Wesley, Letters II, 25.

[19] The same, 27. Wesley, Journal, entries for December 31,1739, and April 25 and 30, 1740, record decisive conversations with Molthier and Wesley’s reaction to them.

[20] Wesley, Journal, September 3, 1741, records in Latin his long conversation about holiness with Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf, translated in Outler, Wesley, 367–372, where, p. 370, Wesley comments that theirs was “a squabble about words.”

[21] Wesley, “to the Church of God at Herrnhut,” 30.

[22] For example, in John Wesley, “The First-fruits of the Spirit” [June 25, 1745], in Sermons I, 239–40, 244–46 (WW, V, 91–2, 95–7). John Wesley, An Extract of the Life and Death of Mr. Thomas Halyburton ( London , 1741), “Preface,” in WW, XIV, 211–4, is dated London , February 9, 1739, and so may be slightly revised from the 1739 edition; it strongly affirmed Halyburton’s experience and teaching of regeneration. But in the preface of the 1741 edition, Wesley declared, p. 212, that the Bible promises “entire freedom from sin, in its proper sense” as well as freedom “from committing sin.” Cf. Smith, “Whitefield and Wesleyan Perfectionism,” 63–7, 69.

[23] Wesley, Sermons I, 466–591 (WW, V, 247–432), contains the first six of the thirteen discourses, the last one of which concludes, pp. 589–91, with a long poem from John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems (London, 1742). In Wesley, Sermons I, 467, Outler said that he “preached more than one hundred sermons from separate texts” in Jesus’ sermon between 1739 and 1746 but no series on the whole of it. Wesley, however, told James Hutton and the Fetter Lane Society about the series he preached at Bristol in April, 1739 (Wesley, Letters II, 619–41, passim); he delivered a second series there the following July 21–27 (described in Wesley, Journal, July 21, 23, and October 9, 1739), and yet a third at London the next year (Wesley, Journal, September 22 and 28, 1740). Other references to his preaching holiness from the Beatitudes are in Wesley, Journal, September 17 and October 19, 1739.

[24] Wesley, Journal, September 13 and October 1, 3, 9, 10, 15, and 19,1739, indicates that throughout the early fall of that year he was explaining sanctification in sermons before the public or in society meetings, often expounding one of his life-long favorite texts, 1 Corinthians 1:30, which declares that Christ is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

[25] Wesley, Christian Perfection, 262–3 (II, 12). See also, the same, 260-71 (II, 21–30); and John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament ( London , 1755, and many later editions), comment upon Acts 1:8 .

[26] Wesley, Plain Account, 380, 387, 402, 423, 430; John Wesley, sermon, “The Means of Grace” [May–August, 1746], Sermons I, 378, 381–2.

[27] See above, note 5; Whitefield, Letters, 67; Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (Boston,1743), in Edwards, Works, IX, The Great Awakening . . ., ed. C. C. Goen (New Haven, Connecticut, 1972), 118; and Howell Harris, Trevecka, July 16, 1740, to John Wesley, in Wesley, Letters II.

[28] John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems (London, 1742), described at length in Smith, “The Holy Spirit in the Hymns of the Wesleys,” 32–7; and Wesley, Plain Account, 374, on Bishop Edmond Gibson’s approval of Christian Perfection, not yet verified by any other source.

[29] Baker, Union Catalogue, entries No. 33 and 34; below, pp. 246–7; and Wesley, Earnest Appeal, 66–68 (55–56, 98).

[30] George Whitefield, Nine Sermons . . . [the remainder of the long title names each sermon] ( Edinburgh , 1742), passim. Whitefield’s preface indicates they had been preached in America and written down aboard ship on the journey home, January and February, 1741. The Christian’s Amusement I have not seen, but I have examined The Weekly History. Frank Baker Union Catalogue, item No. 14a, gives a publication history of the earlier segments of Whitefield’s Journals.

[31] Wesley, Journal, April 7–12, 1740, and October 15–17, 1741, describes two visits with Harris in Wales ; John Wesley, London , August 6, 1742, to Howell Harris, in Wesley, Letters II, deals with Christian perfection and appeals to the text of Wesley’s sermon, “A Catholic Spirit.” Howell Harris, letters of January and February, 1740, “To a Friend,” No. 188, 214, 212, 226, and 228 in the ms. Trevecka Letters at the National Library of Wales, record that controversy and courtship.

[32] William Fleetwood, The Perfectionists Examin’d, or Inherent Perfection in This Life No Scripture Doctrine, To Which Is Affix’d The Rev. Mr. Whitefield’s Thoughts on This Subject, in a Letter to Mr. Wesley (London, 1741); Wesley, Farther Appeal, 172-173.

[33] Wesley, Letters II, 11, 13, by Frank Baker, attached to John Gambold, [Oxford, April 15, 1740] to John Wesley; John Wesley [Bristol], November 14, 1741, to James Hutton, the same. Wesley’s refutation appeared, among many other places, in his sermon On Sin in Believers ( London , 1763), in his Sermons I, 324–332 (III, 9–10, IV, 1–13), with specific reference to Count Zinzendorf’s view. Cf. John Bennett, “Minutes of the Conference of [June 25-29,] 1744,” in Outler, Wesley, 140.

[34] John Bennett, “Minutes of the Conference of [August 1–3,] 1745,” in Outler, Wesley, 150–1.

[35] John Wesley, Scriptural Christianity ( London , 1744), in Wesley, Sermons I, 159–60, 165, 172–5 (WW, V,41–2,47–9). Its teaching of a second experience is echoed in the poem “Primitive Christianity,” first printed that year and always thereafter at the end of Wesley’s Earnest Appeal.

[36] See my edition of them in The Pentecost Hymns of John and Charles Wesley (Kansas City, Missouri, 1981), 18–9, 26–68, 77–8. Cf. Albert Outler’s comments on the modern misunderstandings that flow from Wesley’s veiling sophisticated theological knowledge behind plain prose, in the introduction to Wesley, Sermons I. 67–8.

[37] See, in Wesley, Sermons I: “Marks of the New Birth” [April 3, 1741], 430 (WW, V, 222); The Almost Christian (London, 1742), 139 (WW, V, 23); “The Way to the Kingdom” [June 6, 1742], 231–2 (WW, V, 86); “Justification by Faith” [October 6,1739], 184, 187 (WW, V, 54, 58); “The First-fruits of the Spirit” [June 25, 1745], 236–7, 247 (WW, V, 88–9, 97); “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption” [November 14, 1739], 262–3, 266 (WW, V, 108, 111); and “The Witness of the Spirit, I” [May–August, 1746], 283–4 (WW, V, 122–3).

[38] John Wesley, A Plain Account of Genuine Christianity ( Dublin , 1753, and many later editions) in Outler, Wesley, 183–96 (WW, X, 38–54), containing publication details in the introduction, pp. 182–3.

[39] The same, 188–9, 193; Wesley, “The Marks of the New Birth [April 3, 1741], Sermons I, 427–8 (WW, V,220–1); John Wesley, “The Law Established by Faith,” Discourse I” [June 27, 1741], (WW, V, 453–4); Wesley, “Sings of the Times,” (WW, VI, 312).

[40] Wesley, Journal, June 27, 1741, records what I believe is his first preaching of “The Law Established Through Faith,” published in 1750 as the first of two discourses on that subject. His “preface” to Hymns and Sacred Poems (1740), WW, XIV, 323–7, is his first statement on faith as the condition of entire Sanctification. Cf. Wesley, Genuine Christianity, 189; John Wesley, Scripture Way of Salvation ( London , 1765), in Outler, Wesley, 275–8, 281–2 (WW, VI, 46–7, 52–4).

[41] Wesley’s extracts of two crucial homilies are accessible in Outler, Wesley, 123–33, and the editor’s introductory comments about them remain invaluable. See also Wesley’s long quotation from John Pearson in John Wesley, A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion ( London 1745), in The Appeals. 163–66 (WW, VIII, 99–101). Albert Outler’s brief description, in the introduction to Wesley, Sermons I, 84–5, of the obscure background and the essential novelty of Wesley’s idea of “‘being perfected in love’ in this life” is a major contribution to Wesleyan studies.

[42] In addition to the Conference Minutes of 1744, 1745, and 1747, which were of course widely but privately circulated, he seems also to have circulated small segments of his Journal, probably extensively revised later; see Frank Baker’s comment in Wesley, Letters II, 11n and 482.  Examples of his later correspondence dealing with entire sanctification as an instantaneous experience are scattered through John Wesley, Letters . . ., John Telford, ed. (7 vols.; London,1931), V–VI [for the 1760’s and 1770’s], especially London, December 14, 1770, to Mrs. Deptford; Chester, March 17, 1771, to Mary Stokes; London, January 26, 1773, to [Mrs. Pywell?]; [London], November 20, 1775, to John Falton. See also the long series on the subject to Miss Furley [June 14, 1757–December 15, 1763], in Wesley, WW, XII, 194–208, and to Hester Ann Rogers [May 3, 1776–February 3, 1789], the same, XIII, 75–86.

[43] In addition to Cragg and Outler, mentioned above in note 4, see the following: George Croft Cell, The Rediscovery of John Wesley (New York, 1935); and Richard Heitzenrater, The Elusive Mr. Wesley: John Wesley His Own Biographer ( Nashville , 1984), 151–2. J. Kenneth Grider, Entire Sanctification. The Distinctive Doctrine of Wesleyanism (Kansas City, Missouri, 1980), 91, 97–98, deprecates Wesley for his emphasis on gradual sanctification and praises the nineteenth-century holiness movement for correcting him! The exceptions include Harald G. A. Lindstrom, Wesley and Sanctification: A Study in the Doctrine of Salvation (London, 1946; rpt. Wilmore, Kentucky, 1980), 117–8, 121, 133–4; Colin Williams, John Wesley’s Theology Today (London, 1962, rpt., 1969), 183-7; Thomas A. Langford, Practical Divinity: Theology in the Wesleyan Tradition (Nashville, 1983), 42; Laurence W. Wood, Pentecostal Grace (Wilmore, Kentucky, 1980),19–35, and passim; and Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, The Theology of Love: The Dynamic of Wesleyanism (Kansas City,1972), 356–62. All balance the moment with the process of sanctification.

[44] Grider, Entire Sanctification, 59–60, 62, 81; Herbert A. McGonigle, “Pneumatological Nomenclature in Early Methodism,” WTJ,8 (Spring,1973) 61–2; Alex R. G. Deasley, “Entire Sanctification and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit: Perspectives on the Biblical View of the Relationship,” the same 14, No.1 (Spring,1979): 27–8; Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, “Theological Roots of Wesleyanism’s Understanding of the Holy Spirit,” the same, 86, 94–5; and Donald W. Dayton, “The Doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: Its Emergence and Significance,” the same, 13 (Spring, 1978): 116.

[45] Above, 13; Wesley, Scriptural Christianity, 159–160, 165 (WW, V, 39–41). See also John Wesley, preface to The Epistles of the Apostolical Fathers . (London,1 74, in WW, XIV, 222; Wesley, “The First-fruits of the Spirit,” 237 (WW, V, 79); Wesley, “The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God” [September 23, 1739], in Sermons I, 440 (WW, V, 231); and the poem ‘‘Primitive Christianity” printed at the end of all editions of Wesley, Earnest Appeal, stanzas 1, 13–14, 15–16, 20–21.

[46] Wesley, Christian Perfection, 262, was echoed four years later in Farther Appeal, 142 (WW, VIII, 80–1). The poem appeared in all the standard publications of the sermon before the twentieth century; see WW, VI, 20–2. Cf. Baker, Union Catalogue, entry No. 29.

[47] Wesley, Journal, September 3, 1741, is translated in Outler, Wesley, 371–72. Certain passages, but not the one quoted here, appeared also in John Wesley, Dialogue Between an Antinomian and His Friend (London, 1745), in WW, X, 266–76.

[48] Examples, which could be multiplied by a score, are in Wesley, Scriptural Christianity, 162 (WW, V, 38), and Wesley, Farther Appeal, 171 (WW, VIII, 106), [Mary’s words]; Wesley, “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption,” 261 (WW, V, 106) and Wesley, Earnest Appeal, 69 (WW, VIII, 24), [Thomas’s]. Cf., in Earnest Appeal, 69,73 (WW, VIII, 24,27), his use of the testimony of Job and of the assurance Jesus gave to the woman taken in adultery. Note also Wesley’s confidence that the Patriarchs were born of God’s Spirit: “The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God,” 436–7 (WW, V, 228).

[49] Wesley, Farther Appeal, 107–8, 142–6, 155–6, 164–5, and 166–70 (WW, VIII, 49, 76–83, 92–3, 98–105).

[50] The same, 142, 172, (V, 4, 28).

[51] The same, 253, 261, (Part II, III, 4, 12).

[52] Wesley, Farther Appeal, 146–52, 156–60, 170–1 (WW, VIII, 83–9, 93–7, 1057); Wesley, “Spirit of Bondage and Adoption,” 260–263 (WW, V, 106–8); John Wesley, “The Witness of the Spirit, I” [May–August,1745] in Sermons l, 264–6, 270–2, 279 (I, 1–3, 7–12; II, 6); John Wesley, “The Marks of the New Birth” [April 3,1741], in Sermons I, 425–6 (III, 1–3); and Wesley, “The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God,” 432, 434–5, 442 (I, 1, 8; III, 2). Cf. Wesley, Earnest Appeal, 51–3 (Par. 20–23).

[53] George Whitefield, Twenty-three Sermons on Various Subjects (new ed.: revised and corrected by the author: London , 1745), 203–19. See also Whitefield’s sermon on “Saul’s Conversion,” in his Nine Sermons, 96–8. It was reprinted in Twenty-three Sermons and in may other places. And see George Whitefield, London , December 21, 1742, to John Wesley, in Wesley, Letters II, 97–8, for evidence of Wesley’s (and Whitefield’s) efforts.

[54] Howell Harris, Trevecka, July 16, 1740, to John Wesley in Wesley, Letters II; [Howell, Harris], Brief Account of the Life of Howell Harris, Esq., Extracted from Papers Written By Himself To Which Is Added a Concise Collection of his Letters . . . (Trevecka, 1791), 40–46, including such letters as Howell Harris, January 30, 1741, to a “dear Friend,” 126–27, saying “I am worse than any worm, for they don’t sin, but I do”]; and Howell Harris, Rhas Tywarch, December [?] 1740, to Mr. M Llwyngwarven, 123–4 and Howell Harris, Little Summerford, to “Mr. A ,” 139. See also, the same, 114–7; and, generally, Geoffrey Nuttall, Howell Harris, 1714–1773: The Last Enthusiast ( Cardiff , 1965). John Jacobs, [n.p., n.d.], 1740, to [Howell Harris] in ms. Trevecka Letters, No. 2791, The National Library of Wales, describes the writer’s disillusionment with Wesley’s perfectionism thus: “I hereby was led to build up a perfection in my own strength and to not looking . . . to [the] Outward Imparted Righteousness of our dear and loving Saviour.” He decided to return to Harris’ fold after Whitefield’s sermon on “Christ our Righteousness, Wisdom, Sanctification, and Redemption” [Whitefield, Nine Sermons, 117–381 convinced him of the eternal election of true believers.

[55] Wesley, Scriptural Christianity, 160–61 (Intro.5), gave a glimpse of the much longer argument Wesley prepared the next year in Farther Appeal, 141–166 (WW, VIII, 78–101), in response to Richard Smalbrooke, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry.

[56] Wesley, Farther Appeal, 139–142 (WW, VIII, 78–81); John Wesley, A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Conyers Middleton Occasioned by his Late “Free Inquiry” (London, 1749), in WW, X, 5, 12, 13–4, 16–29, and here and there on pp. 38–54.

[57] Wesley, Journal, January 28 and June 22, 1739. Cf., generally, Hillel Schwartz, The French Prophets: The History of a Millenarian Group in Eighteenth-Century England (Berkeley, California, 1980).

[58] Wesley, Letter to . . . Conyers Middleton, 54–6; John Wesley, “The More Excellent Way” [sermon from 1 Cor. 12:31, composed in 1787], WW, VII, 26–8; Wesley, A Farther Appeal, 163–70 (WW, VIII, 99–109). On his eventual flat rejection of glossolalia, see John Wesley, A Letter to the Right Reverend [William Warburton] the Lord Bishop of Gloucester (London, 1763) in Wesley, The Appeals, 503 (WW, IX, 149).

[59] Exceptions are many. One, noted earlier, is Wesley, Farther Appeal, 142, 165 (WW, VIII, 78–80, 99–101, the second quoting Bishop John Pearson). Another was Charles Wesley’s tender usage of the phrase in a letter to his bride-to-be, Holyhead, August 12, 1748, quoted in Frank Baker, Charles Wesley, As Revealed By His Letters (London, 1948), 57, in which he wrote “Both you and I have still a baptism to be baptized with; and how should we be straitened till it is accomplished! This, this is the one thing needful—not a Friend—not health-not life itself, but the pure perfect love of Christ Jesus. Oh give me love, or else I die!”

[60] John Wesley, “Thoughts on Christian Perfection,” in his fourth volume of Sermons on Various Occasions ( London , 1760), 246, 260, 264 (Questions 6, 27, 31) [also, in Wesley’s final and edited version of 1787, in Outler, Wesley, 283–98]. This work, severely abridged, became a long section of The Plain Account. Its use of these favored terms builds upon a lifelong succession; see above, 139, and Wesley, Farther Appeal, 128 (WW, VIII, 66).

[61] Timothy L. Smith, “Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture,” The Asbury Seminarian, 37 (Summer, 1984), 30–45, summarized the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the light of modern Biblical scholarship and Wesleyan evangelical thought.

[62] Wesley, Plain Account of Genuine Christianity, 184–5, 187. Cf. Albert Outler’s comments on the centrality of pneumatology in Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection in his introduction to Wesley, Sermons I, 74–6, 80–5, especially his stress upon Wesley’s understanding of the distinction between indwelling and possession.

[63] John Wesley, ms. minutes of the conference of Methodist ministers, August 12–16, 1758, Methodist Archives and Research Center , John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester.

[64] Thomas Walsh, The Life and Death of Mr. Thomas Walsh. Composed in Great Part from the Accounts Left By Himself . . . James Morgan, comp. (n. p., n. d., but the compiler’s preface is dated July, 1762 and John Wesley’s prefatory note, January 20, 1763; rpt. London,1866), 242–3; and remarks on Walsh’s mastery of the Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture in John Wesley, “On Charity,” dated 1784, in WW, VIII, 54. Walsh’s Life was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1792.

[65] Wesley, Journal, October 28, 1762.

[66] See above, note 60; cf. John Wesley, London, December 28, 1770, to Joseph Benson, and John Wesley, Chester, March 16, 1771, to Joseph Benson, in Wesley, Letters, V, 214–5, 228–9.

[67] Wesley, “Thoughts on Christian Perfection,” 260–1 (Questions 26–28), contains the original statement on which the passage in Plain Account is based; its whole import is to state and explain how entire sanctification is an instantaneous experience.