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26. 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: —

“(1.) There is such a thing as perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in Scripture.

“(2.) It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to ‘go on unto perfection.’ (Heb. 6:1.)

“(3.) It is not so late as death; for St. Paul speaks of living men that were perfect. (Phil. 3:15.)

“(4.) It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone.

“(5.) It does not make a man infallible: None is infallible, while he remains in the body.

“(6.) Is it sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is ‘salvation from sin.’

“(7.) It is ‘perfect love.’ (1 John 4:18.) This is the essence of it; its properties, or inseparable fruits, are, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks. (1 Thess. 5:16,&c.)

“(8.) 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.

“(9.) 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.

“(10.) It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.

“(11.) But is it in itself instantaneous or not? In examining this, let us go on step by step.

“An instantaneous change has been wrought in some believers: None can deny this.

“Since 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.

“‘But 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.

“‘But 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.

“‘However, 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.

“‘But 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.’

“‘But 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,—

‘Every moment, Lord, I want The merit of thy death!’ They never before had so deep, so unspeakable, a conviction of the need of Christ in all his offices as they have now.

“Therefore, 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.”

27. 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 pretense? Reason; sound reason, there is none. It is impossible there should. But pretenses there are, and those in great abundance. Indeed, there is ground to fear that, with some who treat us thus, it is mere pretense; 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: Esesthe oun teleioi, hosper ho pater hymon ho en tois ouranois teleios esti,—“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 St. Paul, the doctrine of St. James, of St. Peter, and St. John; and no otherwise Mr. Wesley’s, than as it is the doctrine of every one who preaches the pure and the whole gospel. I tell you, as plain as I can speak, where and when I found this. I found it in the oracles of God, in the Old and Now Testament; when I read them with no other view or desire but to save my own soul. But whosesoever this doctrine is, I pray you, what harm is there in it? Look at it again; survey it on every side, and that with the closest attention. In one view, it is purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God. It is the giving God all our heart; it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. It is the devoting, not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God. In another view, it is all the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked. It is the circumcision of the heart from all filthiness, all inward as well as outward pollution. It is a renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, the full likeness of Him that created it. In yet another, it is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. Now, take it in which of these views you please, (for there is no material difference,) and this is the whole and sole perfection, as a train of writings prove to a demonstration, which I have believed and taught for these forty years, from the year 1725 to the year 1765.

28. 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.”


SOME thoughts occurred to my mind this morning concerning Christian perfection, and the manner and time of receiving it, which I believe may be useful to set down.

1. By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God, and our neighbour, ruling our tempers, words, and actions.

I do not include an impossibility of falling from it, either in part or in whole. Therefore, I retract several expressions in our Hymns, which partly express, partly imply, such an impossibility.

And I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object against it.

2. As to the manner. I believe this perfection is always wrought in the soul by a simple act of faith; consequently, in an instant.

But I believe a gradual work, both preceding and following that instant.

3. As to the time. I believe this instant generally is the instant of death, the moment before the soul leaves the body. But I believe it may be ten, twenty, or forty years before.

I believe it is usually many years after justification; but that it may be within five years or five months after it, I know no conclusive argument to the contrary.

If it must be many years after justification, I would be glad to know how many. _Pretium quotus arroget annus?_ [This quotation from Horace is thus translated by Boscawen:—“How many years give sanction to our lines?”—Edit.]

And how many days or months, or even years, can any one allow to be between perfection and death? How far from justification must it be; and how near to death?

LONDON, Jan. 27, 1767.

[Edited by George Lyons for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology at Northwest Nazarene College (Nampa, ID).]

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