SANCTIFICATION AND THE ORDER OF SALVATION
General Survey of the Order of Salvation.
We take a further step, passing on to investigate the function of sanctification and its structure in Wesley's doctrine of salvation. The question to be answered may be expressed thus: How in Wesley's view is salvation realized in the individual? We must try to see how he describes the whole order through which salvation is realized and what place and structure he attributes to sanctification in this process.
It has often been maintained that revivalism and conversion are the typical features in Wesley and Methodism; and these basic elements are supplemented with Wesley's doctrine of Christian perfection. The New Birth and complete sanctification have been looked upon as two isolated phenomena unconnected organically with his doctrine of salvation as a whole. Because he maintains that both are conferred upon man in a single instant, only the instantaneous element in salvation has received attention. Thus the fact that Wesley also sees salvation as a gradual development has been overlooked. Actually the idea of a gradual development is a most prominent element in his conception of salvation, and indeed in his thought generally. What happens is that these two elements, the instantaneous and the gradual, are merged, and the order of salvation peculiar to Wesley is the outcome of this mergence. Salvation is seen as a process by which man passes through a series of successive stages, each stage representing a different and higher level.
This enlargement of the conception of salvation and the importance of sanctification in it will be seen even if we do nothing more than run over the terms used to denote the different meanings of salvation. The word 'salvation' itself is used in two principal senses: first, to signify Christian salvation proper, and, secondly, in a wider sense. In the former sense Wesley can use it to embrace the whole range of Christian salvation proper, both present and final salvation: salvation in its inception, continuation, and conclusion1; usually, however, he confines it to present salvation, which comprises justification and sanctification2, and the emphasis may be laid on sanctification3. In the latter sense the word covers all the work of grace in man. In this sense salvation is thought to begin with the effects of prevenient grace, that is before the bestowal of Christian saving grace proper, and to include the whole of the later process of salvation which terminates in glorification.4 Wesley can also use the term to denote God's entire plan of salvation prior to any subjective workings; here he is thinking of salvation as something springing from God's foreknowledge and from His conditional predestination.5
Following the orthodox view Wesley places the commencement of the Christian life in man at baptism. In this he shares the doctrine of the Church of England that through baptism man is justified and regenerated. The attribution of this significance to baptism is of course a logical consequence of the orthodox doctrine of original sin. The infant, which by birth is totally corrupt, must be freed from its guilt and re-born before it can enter into fellowship with God. This takes place at baptism. Thus Wesley can subscribe to the tenet that "there is a justification conveyed to us in our baptism, or, properly, this state is then begun."6 Baptism is said to be "the ordinary instrument of our justification."7 Through it man benefits from the merits of the life and death of Christ.8 Original guilt is washed away "by the application of the merits of Christ's death"9 and man is regenerated10. By baptism we enter into covenant with God and are admitted into the Church.11 Indeed, Wesley believed that the whole practice of infant baptism rested on the assumption that by it the child was regenerated.12
But side by side with this outlook, Wesley also shows a pietistic tendency. The grace accorded to man in baptism can be lost. And it is precisely this situation, when man has forfeited the state of grace, that Wesley concentrates on in his preaching. "Lean no more," he says, "on the staff of that broken reed, that ye were born again in baptism. Who denies that ye were then made children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven? But, notwithstanding this, ye are now children of the devil. Therefore, ye must be born again. And let not Satan put it into your heart to cavil at a word, when the thing is clear. Ye have heard what are the marks of the children of God: all ye who have them not on your souls, baptized or unbaptized, must needs receive them, or without doubt ye will perish everlastingly. And if ye have been baptized, your only hope is this, — that those who were made the children of God by baptism, but are now the children of the devil, may yet again receive 'power to become the sons of God'; that they may receive again what they have lost, even the 'Spirit of adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father'!"13 The stress is on the New Birth, instead of on baptism.
The prominence thus given to the former is a consequence of Wesley's general empirical leaning. This also appears in his belief about the means of grace. The outward means is not to be identified with grace. The notion that grace works ex opero operato is sharply repudiated. The means of grace, moreover, are subordinated to its end, which is the regeneration of man.14 The same approach is seen in his presentation of the sacraments. A sacrament, he says, consists of two parts: the outward, visible sign and the inward, invisible grace which it signifies. Thus the two are distinguished. As to baptism, Wesley distinguishes between the outward act of baptism and new birth. The former is a human act; the latter a change wrought by God in the soul. The former is not always accompanied by the latter. It is in infant, but not in adult, baptism.15 All who are baptised at a mature age are not simultaneously regenerated. This is proved by experience: "divers of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same after baptism."16 The administration of baptism is thus pushed into the background and the emphasis laid on real change, which is manifested in the Christian life.
With regard to baptism Wesley to some extent departs from the view represented by the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England.17 Yet a certain orthodox element is retained: he never relinquished the tenet that through baptism the child is regenerated.18 The difference lies in his distinction in principle between baptism by the Spirit and baptism by water, with the emphasis on the former. For this reason he did not regard baptism as a starting point of the new life in the same way as justification and the New Birth.19
Wesley's idea of the order of salvation during the first period after 1738 is most clearly and fully expressed in a sermon entitled The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption (1746). Here man is described in three states: the natural state, the legal state, and the evangelical state or the state of love. The different situations of man in these three states are as follows:
Man sleeps in death
Neither fears nor loves God
Has no light in the things of God, walks in utter darkness
Has false peace
Has fancied liberty
Is a child of God
Sees the joyous light of heaven
Enjoys true peace
Enjoys true liberty
Does not sin
Sees the painful light of hell
Has no peace
Is in bondage
These states are often "mingled together, and in some measure meet in one and the same person."21 The legal is often mingled with the natural state, and the evangelical with the legal.22 In agreement with the distinction made between the legal and the evangelical state, however, the Apostle's account of man's struggle in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is understood to apply to man under the law, not to the true believer.23
This, then, is the order in which God leads a sinner to salvation. First, before he partakes of saving faith, conviction of sin and guilt is awakened in him.24 In the period immediately after Wesley's evangelical conversion we find him attending particularly to repentance before justification and faith in his portrayal of the way of salvation.25 As a result the way is briefly described as compared with later delineations. The gradual development does not emerge so clearly as it does later on. Even as early as this, however, Wesley takes his stand against Moravianism, declaring that there are degrees of faith.26
Later on it is preeminently the gradual aspect that is manifested in his exposition of the Christian life, and with far greater force. In the table above, the Christian life is represented in the evangelical state as a single stage, a single undifferentiated unit. The difference between the New Birth and entire sanctification does not find expression. In the period immediately after 1738 Wesley sometimes describes the Christian life without distinguishing in any way between them. The regenerate man is sometimes presented as completely sanctified; or at any rate no reservations are explicitly stated. Accordingly, some of the traits cited above as pertaining to the evangelical state, apply only to the fully sanctified.27 Later the distinction between new birth and entire sanctification, which nevertheless was never entirely absent even during the earliest evangelical period28, is clearly stated and constitutes a typical feature of his doctrine of sanctification. The picture of the Christian life is now fuller; sanctification is described as an organic development, the believer growing from a child to a young man, and then to a father in Christ.29
Yet even in the later period Wesley can hardly be said to have defined the order of salvation in such detail that every step on the path is explicit and definite. Sometimes he deals only with the way up to the new life, perhaps touching upon sanctification, but not dwelling on it. In a survey of the order of salvation in Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament (1755), it is presented as follows: 1) Bondage to sin. 2) The knowledge of sin by the law; a sense of God's wrath; inward death. 3) The revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ through the gospel. 4) The centre of all, faith, embracing that righteousness. 5) Justification, whereby God forgives all past sin, and freely accepts the sinner. 6) The gift of the Holy Ghost; a sense of God's love; new inward life. 7) The free service of righteousness.30 Sometimes, on the other hand, "the whole process of the work of God, from the end to the beginning," is summed up thus: 1) God's foreknowledge of the believers. 2) Predestination. 3) Justification. 4) Sanctification. 5) Glorification.31 We find a fairly detailed account of the way of salvation, however, in the sermon called The Scripture Way of Salvation (1765). In this sermon, which deals chiefly with justification and sanctification, the following factors predominate: 1) The operation of prevenient grace. 2) Repentance previous to justification. 3) Justification or forgiveness. 4) The New Birth. 5) Repentance after justification and the gradually proceeding work of sanctification. 6) Entire sanctification.32
In the broadest sense, as we have seen, sanctification can be said to begin with the operation in man of prevenient grace. This grace comprises "all the drawings of the Father — the desires after God, which, if we yield to them, increase more and more33;" and further "the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him." All these workings of grace "imply some tendency toward life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God."34
The next factor in the process of salvation is the operation of "convincing grace," which is properly the first real step on the way to salvation. This is the first repentance, repentance before justification.35 It involves conviction of sin. Man attains knowledge of himself and accepts the overwhelming evidence of his sin and guilt. He becomes fully convinced that he deserves nothing but the wrath and eternal condemnation of God.36 This state can also be described as incipient poverty of spirit.37 Self-knowledge is accompanied by an inchoate humility, although this is not the true Christian humility, which springs from the sense of being loved by and reconciled with God.38 In this state there is therefore a gradual development. Man can deepen his sense of repentance.39 He sees more and more of "the evil tempers" which spring from original sin.40
This repentance is seen in its fruits. Repentance involves such "conviction of sin" that it produces "real desires and sincere resolutions of amendment."41 Other fruits are that man forgives his brother, ceases to do what is evil and instead does what is good, employs the means of grace ordained by God, and generally obeys after the measure of grace he has received.42 These fruits can also be described as an outward change of the whole form of life. Whereas in the natural state man might outwardly seem pious, now, in the light of his knowledge of sin, his earlier surface religion must appear execrable hypocracy.43 On the other hand, the outward change which is a result of this repentance, springs from a penitent state of mind.44
From saving faith, justification and new birth ensue. And it is now that salvation in the strict sense begins. Justification and the New Birth are bestowed on man in a single instant. As we have seen above, justification constitutes "a relative change," the New Birth "a real change." The former involves liberation from the guilt of sin, the latter liberation from the inherent power of sin.
Thus justification, which together with the forgiveness of sins implies the acceptance by God conjoined with it, belongs to the objective side of salvation. It expresses the new relationship between man and God, in that man now enjoys God's favour instead of being subject to his wrath. On the other hand the New Birth involves the subjective operation of the Spirit in man, in that he is freed from the power of sin while God's love flows into his heart. Thus it is accompanied by an inward change as well. Man begins to experience "inward religion."45 The forgiveness of sins takes place simultaneously with the New Birth, but as we have seen they are logically distinguishable.46
The Christian life which now supervenes is often described by Wesley by analogy with natural and human life in general. He sees it as a gradual growth. Nevertheless, the actual supervention of the new life, and its maturity, is regarded as an instantaneous event. The frontier between death and life or — to use one of Wesley's metaphors which covers the preparatory phase as well — between embryonic existence and entry into the world, is crossed in a single moment.
Justification and new birth are also accompanied by assurance. This rests first and foremost on direct testimony by the Holy Spirit, through which man becomes aware of God's love for him and that He is now reconciled.47 It rests also on indirect testimony, called the witness of man's own spirit. The latter is consciousness of possessing the fruits of the Spirit and the deduction that one is a child of God.48 This latter testimony must be preceded by the former. That is to say: the consciousness imparted through the testimony of the Holy Spirit that God loves man is a necessary condition of man loving God. This latter love, moreover, is the source of all sanctity in heart and life, and such sanctity must exist before it is felt.49
Thus a gradual development, a progression in sanctification, is envisaged after the instantaneous supervention of justification and the New Birth. This development is regarded as analogous to that before justification and new birth. Just as repentance and faith were necessary to instill the Christian life, so another repentance and another faith are necessary to its retention and growth.50 Repentance before justification is thus supplemented by repentance after justification. The latter is conditioned by the continued presence of sin in the Christian after new birth, although it is no longer supreme. Nature and grace, i. e., the flesh and the spirit, are still at war in him. His will is not fully subordinated to the will of God.51 Like the earlier repentance, this one does not involve a change from sin to holiness, but it does involve man's knowledge of himself and his sinfulness. By this is meant awareness of remaining sin and of one's utter inability to do good on the basis of one's own resources or to deliver oneself by one's own strength from sin and guilt.52 Unlike the earlier repentance, however, this consciousness of sin is accompanied by consciousness of acceptance by God. Although even the believer deserves only damnation, he is nevertheless redeemed from it because of the Atonement.53 Therefore he has "no guilt, no sense of condemnation, no consciousness of the wrath of God."54
This repentance too is seen in its fruits. These are divided into two kinds: works of piety and works of mercy. Among the former are to be counted: public prayer, private prayer, and "praying in our closet," receiving the supper of our Lord, searching the Scriptures by hearing, reading, or meditating on the Word, and also "using such a measure of fasting or abstinence as our bodily health allows." The works of mercy manifest themselves in acts of love towards our neighbour, with regard both to his body and his soul.55
The knowledge of sin remaining after justification is necessary if man is to walk the path of sanctification. Without this knowledge there can be no repentance, and without it man cannot be fully sanctified.56 Nor may man voluntarily neglect good works. If he does, he cannot expect ever to be fully sanctified. He cannot grow in grace, he cannot even retain the grace already accorded to him.57 Thus obedience is necessary to the development of the Christian life. If the new life is to persist and grow, activity on God's part must always be accompanied by activity on man's part. In its relation to entire sanctification this obedience in good works is seen principally as a kind of active waiting. "This is the way," we are told, "wherein God hath appointed His children to wait for complete salvation."58
Although this repentance and its fruits are considered necessary to entire sanctification, they are nevertheless not thought necessary to the same extent or in the same sense as faith. They are only "conditionally" and "remotely" necessary, whereas faith is "immediately" and "directly" necessary.59 They have the same function in relation to faith as they had in the case of earlier repentance.60 Whereas the faith by which man is justified, implies conviction of the work of atonement applied to himself61, the faith by which he partakes of complete sanctification implies conviction of God's promise and power to redeem him from all sin and perfect him in love, and of His power and willingness to do this without delay, to do it now62. To this is added the conviction that God actually does do it.63
After a gradual development in sanctification the Christian life will attain fruition in complete sanctification or Christian perfection. This is thought to supervene in a moment, bestowed on man by sanctifying faith. As compared with justification and new birth, complete sanctification constitutes a higher stage in the new life. When a Christian has been freed by the New Birth from the power of sin, he is freed from the root of sin as well by complete sanctification. Thus all sin is washed away.64 There still remains, however, some imperfection, which is inseparable from human life.65 This constitutes the negative definition of Christian perfection. In a positive sense — and this is urged by Wesley as something more essential and characteristic than the negative attribute — it means perfect love. This will manifest itself in works. Thus complete sanctification imbues both heart and life. It will be seen both in inward and in outward righteousness.
Just as man could be convinced of his justification, he can also be convinced of his entire sanctification. As in the former case there are again both a direct and an indirect testimony. He is convinced of his entire sanctification through the witness and through the fruits of the Spirit.66 After the attainment of such perfection, which Wesley thinks may happen even in this life, he envisages further development. There is, he says, "no perfection of degrees."67 There is no perfection "which does not admit of a continual increase." However far a Christian may advance in sanctification "he hath still need to 'grow in grace', and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God His Saviour." The gradual development, then, still continues. It is conceived primarily as further growth in love on the plane of entire sanctification.68 The Christian life must either wax or wane. It is impossible for the Christian, even if fully sanctified, to stand still. "Yea, and when ye have attained a measure of perfect love, when God has circumcised your hearts, and enabled you to love him with all your heart and with all your soul, think not of resting there. That is impossible. You cannot stand still; you must either rise or fall; rise higher or fall lower. Therefore the voice of God to the children of Israel, to the children of God, is, 'Go forward'! 'Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward unto those that are before, press on to the mark, for the prize of your high calling of God in Christ Jesus'!"69 The Christian, even the fully sanctified Christian, must still face the possibility of being lost. Thus even such a one must still be admonished to give up his attachment to the world.70
The goal of the whole process of salvation is the entire sanctification of man. This is the condition of final justification or final salvation and glorification beyond the grave.71 As compared with this "final justification," the earlier justification implies "present justification." The two are separated and occupy different positions in the order of salvation.
This scheme of the process of salvation underwent certain modifications. Wesley did not go on stressing assurance of pardon as a necessary mark of every Christian, as he had done at first72, though he still considered it "a common privilege of the children of God73." One reason for this is the clear distinction he drew between forgiveness and the assurance of it, maintaining that the former did not necessarily involve the latter74 ; another reason is that later he modified the sharp distinction between the state of man under the law, or in first repentance, and in a state of grace, to such an extent as to consider the individual in the former state a Christian. In later years we find him distinguishing between the children and the servants of God. Even he who is only a servant is regarded as accepted by God. In this case saving faith can only imply "such a divine conviction of God, and the things of God, as, even in its infant state, enables every one that possesses it to 'fear God and work righteousness'." Every such believer, although only a "servant," is yet "at that very moment, in a state of acceptance."75 Yet he shall not stop here, but continue till he has the faith of a son.76
The Process of Salvation and Sanctification.
The idea of a gradual advance in sanctification is thus a typical feature of Wesley's view of salvation. In fact the successive element is characteristic of all his thinking. There is nothing that cannot be expressed in terms of degrees and measures. This is particularly true of inherent sin and the inherent, real change. There are degrees both of good and of evil.77 There are degrees of enmity to God78, just as there are degrees of self-denial79, sincerity80, peace81, joy82, and love83. Both inward and outward holiness of mind can be expressed in degrees.84 There are also degrees of faith85 and of assurance of justifying faith86 as well as an infinite number of degrees in the contemplation of God87. And even God's vengeance and displeasure can be counted in degrees.88 There are also degrees in the favour of God.89 The idea of a gradual progression in sanctification extends beyond the boundaries of the life on earth. Wesley imagines a development towards ever greater perfection even after death.90
In the process of salvation this idea of gradual development is combined with an instantaneous element. It is seen in the notion — clearly influenced by Moravianism — of the sudden supervention of justification and new birth, and in the higher though analogous experience of full sanctification. The gradual process is interrupted, that is, by the direct intervention of God, which in a single instant raises man to a higher plane. It is this combination of the gradual and the instantaneous that particularly distinguishes Wesley's conception of the process of salvation. Visually, it takes the form of an ascent by steps. If we include the preparations for the Christian life and its perfection after death, the process comprises the following stages, each on a separate plane: first repentance or conviction, justification (including the New Birth), sanctification (here in the sense of entire sanctification or Christian perfection), and glorification.
The same conception of salvation as an ascent by steps was applied to the organization of the Methodist societies. They were organized in classes and bands91; there were also select bands or societies92. The members belonged to one or the other of these according to their spiritual state and experience. The first category contained those who "earnestly desired to avoid the wrath to come," the two latter the regenerate or fully sanctified. The categories corresponded to the stages in the process of salvation: first repentance (repentance before justification), justification, and entire sanctification.
We see that Wesley gives the order of salvation the form of a process aiming at the perfection of man. With this teleological aim his conception of salvation must obviously be determined principally by the idea of sanctification.
If we turn now to his view of the means of grace, we shall again see that the emphasis is laid on sanctification. The means of grace are regarded as the usual channels by which God accords to man His prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.93 Wesley is insistent that the means of grace should be used94, but at the same time he is careful to warn against their misuse. They are means and must not be turned into ends. As means they must be vigorously subordinated to their ends, the chief of which is the ethical change of man. The function of the means of grace is to "advance inward holiness95," to "conduce to the knowledge and love of God96." They are ordained "not for their own sake, but in order to the renewal of your soul in righteousness and true holiness."97 The stress is put on sanctification, not on favor Dei and forgiveness. Grace is here seen primarily as a gratia infusa, which effects a real, inherent change in the human soul. It is not the idea of solace, but the idea of power that moulds Wesley's conception of grace.
In the order of salvation sanctification has its place between justification and final salvation, It turns the Christian life into a process of change. As opposed to the relative change of justification, sanctification, as we have seen98, implies a real change. It comprises not merely the beginning of this change in the New Birth but also the subsequent development and complete sanctification. It comprises the whole process of recovery, the object of which is to restore man to the image of God.99 This is the widest but also the most proper use of the word sanctification. It is also the one that corresponds best to Wesley's idea of the factual significance of sanctification. Yet although the New Birth is regarded as a part of sanctification, the latter word is frequently used to denote specifically the later gradual development.100 Wesley also uses the word in an even narrower sense to denote full sanctification alone. The difference between justification and sanctification is thus not that between a relative and a real change, but between two stages or levels in the Christian life. Here justification includes the New Birth as well as forgiveness. It denotes the instantaneous ascent to a higher plane101, and the condition which then ensues102.
Sanctification in Wesley has often been restricted to this latter notion of entire sanctification, with the result that an incomplete and distorted view of its importance in his theology has obtained. Sanctification has been limited to the instantaneous experience of "the second blessing." The fact that it also comprises a gradual development of the Christian life has not been realized.103 The mistake has also meant that the importance of obedience and works in sanctification has been overlooked104; as we have seen these have their place in the gradual process. The gradual and the instantaneous effects of sanctification are closely associated in Wesley. The hope of entire sanctification, far from impeding the gradual development of the Christian life, he sees as particularly important in promoting it.105
We have now established the relation of sanctification to the whole order of salvation. In doing so we have found that light has been thrown not only on the structure of sanctification but also on the connection between justification and sanctification, which we have now found to be in fact dual. Sanctification has its place between present justification or present salvation on the one hand and final justification or final salvation on the other. In the former relation justification is not a condition of sanctification. Present justification is accorded to man by a faith which does not involve any form of human holiness. In the latter relation, however, sanctification is a condition of justification, of final justification at the last judgement. It is only through sanctification that man becomes qualified for final salvation and glorification.106
The consequence of such a placing of sanctification in the order of salvation is obvious. Since sanctification is not a condition of present justification it is regarded as a result of faith. In that case the stress is laid upon faith as the ground of salvation. Sanctification is nevertheless necessary, for faith must always be active through love. Further, it is also a condition of salvation in so far as the love and obedience which derive from faith are necessary to the preservation and growth of faith. But as sanctification is considered necessary to final justification it acquires another basic meaning. Incorporated in a process of salvation aiming at the sanctity which is a necessary qualification for eternal life, it is clear that sanctification must become the dominant component in salvation.
3 A Farther Appeal, 1745, W., VIII, p. 47: "By salvation I mean, not barely, according to the vulgar notion, deliverance from hell, or going to heaven; but a present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity; a recovery of the divine nature; the renewal of our souls after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy, and truth. This implies all holy and heavenly tempers, and, by consequence, all holiness of conversation."
6 The Principles of a Methodist Farther Explained, 1746, W., VIII, p. 430. See also A Farther Appeal, 1745, W., VIII, p. 48 f.; The Marks of the New Birth, 1748, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, 1, p. 283.
9 Ib., p. 190. Apparently an unreconciled opposition is here seen in Wesley's thinking, on the one hand man is already at birth freed from the punishment of inbred sin by the Atonement (see above p. 30), on the other hand he is not so freed Until baptism.
13 The Marks of the New Birth, 1748, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, 1, p. 296 f. Cf. A Farther Appeal, 1745, W, VIII, p. 48 f. It is true that also Orthodox theologians say that man can lose the grace of new birth in baptism, but they maintain that a certain baptismal effect remains. See RYDHOLM (Läran om nådens ordning i lutherska kyrkan, pp. 66 f., 89 f.), who points out the differences between Lutheran Orthodoxy and Pietism. On the development of "the order of grace" in Lutheran Orthodoxy and Pietism, see further HÖK, I vad mån tillvaratar "Nåden ordning" det specifikt lutherska i vAr tro? SvTKv, 1944, p. 177 ff.
15 The New Birth, 1760, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, 11, p. 238: "A man may possibly be 'born of water', and yet not be 'born of the Spirit'. There may sometimes be the outward sign, where there is not the inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants: it is certain our Church supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again; and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptism of Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend how this work can be wrought in infants. For neither can we comprehend how it is wrought in a person of riper years. But whatever be the case with infants, it is sure all of riper years who are baptized are not at the same time born again. 'The tree is known by its fruits.'"
17 Wesley made certain changes in his 1784 abridgement of the Thirty-nine Articles. The instrumental formulation in the Article on baptism is removed, and in the Article on the sacraments the expression "certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace" is shortened to "certain signs of grace." See Corp. Conf., Die Kirche von England, pp. 390, 392. Cf. Corp. Conf., Die Bischöfliche Methodistenkirche, p. 14.
In other respects Wesley shares the view of the sacraments expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles. The Article on the Eucharist is accepted verbatim. He puts great stress on the Eucharist, considering it a real means of grace. See The Means of Grace, 1746, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, I, p. 252 f. Sometimes he is markedly sacramental; particularly in the extract from Dr. BREVINT's The Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice prefaced to Hymns on the Lord's Supper, 1745 (The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, III, p. 194 ff.). Cf. Hymn XXVIII, ib., p. 236.
18 See the order for infant baptism in The Sunday Service of the Methodists, 1784. COOKE'S text, in his History of the Ritual of the Methodist Episcopal Church, pp. 192 f., 196. This revision of the Anglican ritual, like the changes mentioned above in the articles of religion, shows clearly that Wesley repudiated the contention that the act of baptism in itself constituted new birth. Nevertheless, these alterations do not mean, as SUGDEN (The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, 1, p. 282) and v. EICKEN (Rechtfertigung und Heiligung bei Wesley, p. 43) seem to think, that he had rejected the tenet that in baptism the child is re-born. He undoubtedly retained this belief. And this attitude is an outcome of the orthodox line in his conception of sin.
19 He altered the title of Article XVI in the Thirty-nine Articles, "Of Sin after Baptism" to "Of Sin after Justification." WHEELER thinks that this and the change in the Article on the sacraments prove that Wesley denied the doctrine of 'baptismal regeneration' (History and Exposition of the Twenty-five Articles of Religion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, pp. 28 f., 301 ff.) Wheeler is correct only in so far as Wesley does not identify baptism and regeneration.
26 Against Molther Wesley maintains: "There are degrees in faith, and that a man may have some degree of it before all things in him become new — before he has the full assurance of faith, the abiding witness of the Spirit, or the clear perception that Christ dwelleth in him." Accordingly he also believes that "there is a degree of justifying faith (and consequently a state of justification) short of, and commonly antecedant to, this." Journal, 31 Dec. 1739, The Journal of John Wesley II, p. 329.
Even those who have not yet "received the Holy Ghost," and are not "believers in the full sense," he further maintained against the Moravians, ought to communicate. He considered the Lord's Supper a "means of conveying to man, either preventing, or justifying, or sanctifying grace." It was ordained for "all those who know and feel that they want his grace, either to restrain them from sin, or to show their sins forgiven, or to renew their souls in the image of God." A Short View of the Difference between the Moravian Brethren ... and the Reverend Mr. John and Charles Wesley, see. ed. 1748, p. 12 f.
27 For instance, when we are told that in the evangelical state man loves God. Later, in expounding the stages of the Christian life and distinguishing between "babe in Christ" and "father in Christ," he says that the former has "Love and Fear" and the latter "Love without Fear." Notes, 1755, I. John iv. 18. The further statement that the believer does not sin must be limited to apply to the regenerate only. Residual sin is still present even in the believer. See in particular the sermon On Sin in Believers, 1763, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 361 ff.
28 This is easily forgotten. The early sermons, The Almost Christian, Circumcision of the Heart, and The Witness of our own Spirit, are quoted to show that the justified man is thought to be entirely freed from sin, and it is maintained that Wesley corrected this view in his later sermons On Sin in Believers and The Repentance of Believers. See SUGDEN, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 148; LEE, John Wesley and Modern Religion, p. 182 ff.
The idea of the gradual development of the Christian life and the distinction between the condition of the regenerate and that of the entirely sanctified is not altogether absent even in the first period after 1738. In the sermon on Salvation by Faith (1738) we are told that the regenerate shall grow into " 'a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' " (The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, 1, p. 45). See also the preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems (1740): "But we do not know a single instance, in any place, of a persons's receiving, in one and the same moment, remission of sins, the abiding witness of the spirit, and a new, a clean heart." (The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, I, p. 202.) Here a distinction is certainly made between new birth and entire sanctification. See also the Journal for 24 June 1740 (The Journal of John Wesley, II, p. 359); here it is quite clear that Wesley does not regard the justified man to be entirely sanctified. The notion that every believer is without sin he finds is a quite new idea deriving from Zinzendorf (On Sin in Believers, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 369). Such a statement would be inexplicable if Wesley himself in an earlier period had made no distinction between the regenerate and the fully sanctified.
29 Christian Perfection, 1750, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 156 f. He refers to I. John ii. 12 ff.; Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, 1763, quoted from A Plain Account, W., XI, p. 421; letter 16 March 1771, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 229.
31 The sermon On Predestination, 1788, W., VI, p. 229. In this summary vocation is omitted, although it is included in accordance with the text (Rom. viii. 29, 30) in the exegesis. See p. 288. In this text, Wesley says, the apostle is not describing "a chain of causes and effects," but "the method in which God works; the order in which the several branches of salvation constantly follow each other," p. 226. Cf. the commentary on the text of this sermon in Notes, 1755, Rom. viii. 29 f. The apostle's statement here that God foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, glorified, does not mean, Wesley maintains, that a believer cannot fall out of grace. "He does not deny, That a Believer may fall away and be cut off, between his special Calling and his Glorification, ch. xi. 22. Neither does he deny, That many are called, who never are justified. He only affirms, That this is the Method whereby God leads us Step by Step toward Heaven."
44 Ib., p. 203. Of those who have experienced this outward change of the first repentance Wesley writes: "The drunkard commenced sober and temperate; the whoremonger abstained from adultery and fornication; the unjust from oppression and wrong. He that had been accustomed to curse and swear for many years, now swore no more. The sluggard began to work with his hands, that he might eat his own bread. The miser learned to deal his bread to the hungry, and to cover the naked with a garment. Indeed, the whole form of their life was changed: They had 'left off doing evil, and learned to do well'." A Farther Appeal, 1745, W., VIII, p. 203.
47 Wesley maintains strongly that there is such a direct testimony distinguished from the fruit. To ground the assurance only on the fruit is to go back to justification by works. Letter, 3 April 1766, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 8.
52 The Repentance of Believers, written in 1767, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, pp. 380 f., 388 f.; Cf. The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1765, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 453 ff.
56 Ib., p. 456: "There is no place for repentance in him who believes there is no sin either in his life or heart: consequently, there is no place for his being perfected in love, to which that repentance is indispensably necessary."
57 Ib., p. 453 f.: "It is incumbent on all that are justified to be zealous of good works. And these are so necessary, that if a man willingly neglect them, he cannot reasonably expect that he shall ever be sanctified; he cannot grow in grace, in the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus; nay, he cannot retain the grace he has received; he cannot continue in faith, or in the favour of God."
73 Letter, 31 July 1747, The Letters of John Wesley, II, p. 108 f.: "Because, if justifying faith necessarily implies such an explicit sense of pardon, then every one who has it not, and every one so long as he has it, is under the wrath and under the curse of God. But this is a supposition contrary to Scripture as well as to experience ...
"Again, the assertion that justifying faith is a sense of pardon in contrary to reason; it is flatly absurd. For how can a sense of our having received pardon be the condition of our receiving it?" In a letter c. 1790 he wrote: "When fifty years ago my brother Charles and I, in the simplicity of our hearts, told the good people of England that unless they knew their sins were forgiven, they were under the wrath and curse of God, I marvel, Melville, they did not stone us! The Methodists, I hope, know better now; we preach assurance as we always did, as a common privilege of the children of God; but we do not enforce it, under the pain of damnation, denounced on all who enjoy it not." Quoted from SIUGDEN, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, I, p. 82. Cf. KNOX, Remarks, p. 502 (in SOUTHEY, Life of Wesley, II). See Sugden's commentary, ib., p. 81 f.
75 The sermon On Faith, 1788, W., VII, p. 199. Cf. sermon The Discoveries of Faith, dated 1788, W., VII, p. 236: "Whoever has attained this, the faith of a servant, 'feareth God, and worketh righteousness'. In consequence of which he is, in a degree, as the Apostle observes, 'accepted with Him'."
76 Sermon The Discoveries of Faith, 1788, W., VII, p. 236: "Exhort him to press on, by all possible means, till he passes 'from faith to faith'; from the faith of a servant to the faith of a son; from the spirit of bondage unto fear, to the spirit of childlike love: He will then have 'Christ revealed in his heart', enabling him to testify, 'The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me', — the proper voice of a child of God."77 An Answer to The Rev. Mr. Church, 1745, W., VIII, p. 387.
87 "But we allow there may he infinite degrees in seeing God: Even as many as there are between him who sees the sun when it shines on his eye-lids closed, and him who stands with his eyes wide open in the full blaze of his beams." Minutes 1745, W., VIII, p. 282.
90 This development is imagined as everlasting. We read, for instance, in Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, 1763, quoted from A Plain Account, W., XI, p. 426: " 'Q. 29. Can those who are perfect grow in grace?' 'A. Undoubtedly they can; and that not only while they are in the body, but to all eternity.' " Later, however, the development is confined to the intermediate state when the believer is in paradise. See the sermon Of Hell, 1788, W., VI, p. 384: "But as happy as the souls in paradise are, they are preparing for far greater happiness. For paradise is only the porch of heaven; and it is there the spirits of just men are made perfect. It is in heaven only that there is the fulness of joy; the pleasures that are at God's right hand for evermore."
91 See Rules of the Band-societies, drawn up 1738; Directions Given to the Band-societies, 1744, W., VIII, p. 272 ff.; A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists, 1749, W., VIII, p. 257 ff.; Thoughts upon Methodism, dat. 1786, W., XIII, p. 259 f.
92 See Thoughts upon Methodism, dated 1786, W., XIII, p. 260. Cf. letters, 26 August 1770, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 198; 1 June 1782, The Letters of John Wesley, VII, p. 158; 4 July 1787, The Letters of John Wesley, VII, p. 392; 12 Jan. 1791, The Letters of John Wesley, VIII, p. 254 f.
101 Letter, 21 June 1784, The Letters of John Wesley, VII, p. 222: "A gradual work of grace constantly precedes the instantaneous work both of justification and sanctification. But the work itself (of sanctification as well as justification) is undoubtedly instantaneous. As after a gradual conviction of the guilt and power of sin you was justified in a moment, so after a gradually increasing conviction of inbred sin you will be sanctified in a moment."
105 Ib., p. 329: "And are there not reasons why we should insist on the instantaneous also? If there be such a blessed change before death, should we not encourage all believers to expect it? and the rather, because constant experience shows, the more earnestly they expect this, the more swiftly and steadily does the gradual work of God go on in their soul; the more watchful they are against all sin, the more careful to grow in grace, the more zealous of good works, and the more punctual in their attendance on all the ordinances of God. Whereas, just the contrary effects are observed whenever this expectation ceases. They are 'saved by hope', by this hope of a total change, with a gradually increasing salvation. Destroy this hope, and that salvation stands still, or, rather, decreases daily. Therefore whoever would advance the gradual change in believers should strongly insist on the instantaneous."