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THE PREFACE6868In this document there are several expressions which Wesley was afterwards convinced could not be justified as in harmony with the statements of Scripture, or the facts of Christian experience. The corrections and qualifications with which he wished them to be received are here inserted from his “Plain Account of Christian Perfection.” (Works, vol. 11, p.379, 380.)
By grace, saith St. Paul, ye are saved through faith. And it is indeed a great salvation which they have received who truly believe on the name of the Son of God. It is such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, until God hath revealed it by His Spirit, which alone showeth these deep things of God.
Of this salvation the prophets inquired diligently, searching what manner of time the Spirit which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow; even that glorious liberty from the bondage of corruption which should then be given to the children of God. Much more doth it behove us, diligently to inquire after this prize of our high calling, and earnestly to hope for the grace which is brought unto us by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Some faint description of this gracious gift of God is attempted in a few of the following verses. But the greater part of them relate to the way, rather than the end; either showing (so far as has fallen under our observation) the successive conquests of grace, and the gradual process of the work of God in the soul; or pointing out the chief hindrances in the way, at which many have stumbled and fallen.
This great gift of God, the salvation of our souls, which is begun on earth, but perfected in heaven, is no other than the Image of God fresh stamped upon our hearts. It is a renewal in the spirit of our minds after the likeness of Him that created us. It is a salvation from sin and doubt and fear: From Fear; for, being justified freely, they who believe have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. From Doubt; for the Spirit of God beareth witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God And from Sin; for being now made free from sin, they are become the servants of righteousness.
God hath now laid the axe to 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 soon see God as He is, they purify themselves even as He is pure; and are holy as He which hath called them is holy in all manner of conversation. Not that they have already attained all 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, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
And 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, and they are free indeed insomuch that St. John lays it down, as a first principle among true believers, We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And again, Whosoever abideth in Him (in CHRIST) sinneth not. And yet again, Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. For his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
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 who speak, but the Spirit of their Father which speaketh in them; and that whatsoever is done by their hands, the Father which is with them, He doeth the works. So that God is to them all in all, and they are as nothing in His sight. They are freed from self-will; as desiring nothing, no, not for one moment, (for perfect love casteth out all desire,) but the holy and perfect will of God: not supplies in want; not ease6969“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.’” in pain; not 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 one instant. 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 freed from wanderings in prayer. Whensoever they pour out their hearts in a more immediate manner before God, they have no thought of anything past7070“This is far too strong. See the sermon ‘On Wandering Thoughts.’” or absent, or to come, but of God alone; to whom their whole souls flow in one men stream, and in whom they are swallowed up. In times past, they had wandering thoughts darted in; which yet fled away like smoke. But now that smoke does not rise at all, but they continually see Him which is invisible. They are freed from all darkness, having no fear, no doubt, either as to their state in general; or as to any particular action:7171“Frequently this is the case; but only for a time.” for their eye being single, their whole body is full of light. Whatsoever is needful, they are taught of God. They have an unction from the Holy One, which abideth in them, and teacheth them every hour, what they shall do, and what they shall speak.7272“For a time it may be so; but not always.” Nor have they therefore any need to reason concerning it;7373“Sometimes they have no need; at other times they have.” for they see the way straight before them. The Lamb is their light, and they simply follow Him, whithersoever He goeth. Hence also they are, in one sense, freed from temptations; for though numberless temptations fly about them, yet they wound them not, they trouble them not,7474“Sometimes they do not; at other times they do, and that grievously.” they have no place in them. At all times their soul is even and calm; their heart is steadfast and immovable; 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 shall give them in that day;7575“Not all who are saved from sin; many of them have not attained it yet.” and being fully persuaded, through the Holy Ghost, that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, their Lord.
Not that every one is a child of the devil (as some have rashly asserted, who know not what they speak, nor whereof they affirm) till he is, in this full sense, born of God.7676“Sanctified.” MS. correction. On the contrary, whosoever he be, who hath a sure trust and confidence in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; he is a child of God, and, if he abide in Him, an heir of all the great and precious promises. Neither ought he in any wise to cast away his confidence, or to deny the faith he hath received, because it is weak, because hitherto it is only as a grain of mustard-seed; or because it is tried with fire, so that his soul is in heaviness through manifold temptations. For though the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, yet is he lord of all. God doth not despise the day of small things; the day of fears, and doubts, and clouds: but if there be first a willing mind, pressing toward the mark of the prize of our high calling, it is accepted (for the present) according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not.
Neither therefore dare we affirm (as some have done) that this full salvation is at once given to true believers. There is indeed an instantaneous (as well as a gradual) work of God in the souls of 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.
Indeed 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, who were rich 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 they deserve the damnation of hell. In their trouble they cry unto the Lord, and He shows He hath taken away their sins, and opens the kingdom of heaven in their hearts, even righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Fear and sorrow and pain are fled away, and sin hath 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.
In 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, and that they were children of God. Under these clouds, especially if they reason with the devil, or are received to doubtful disputations, they go mourning all the day long, even as a father mourneth for his only son whom he loveth. 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 spirit, that they are the children of God. And then they are indeed meek, and gentle, and teachable, even as little children. Their stony heart was broken in pieces before they received remission of sins yet it continued hard; but now it is melted down, it is soft, tender, and susceptible of any impression. And now first do they see the ground of their heart; which God would not before disclose unto them, lest the flesh 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 having the witness in themselves, “Thou art an heir of God, a joint heir with Christ; thou shalt inherit the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;” their spirit rejoiceth in God their Saviour, 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 all true holiness. Then God is mindful of the desire of them that fear Him: He remembers His holy covenant, and He giveth them a single eye and a clean 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 His blessed Spirit, and, fixing His abode in their souls, bringeth them into the rest which remaineth for the people of God.
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