The Importance and General Significance of the Doctrine.
The importance of the idea of perfection to Wesley is indicated by his frequent mention of it: in his sermons and other writings, in his journals and letters, and in the hymn books he published with his brother Charles. He never abandoned the general position with regard to Christian perfection which derives from his introduction to practical mysticism in 1725 and was then first expressed; it is a continuous theme in his sermons and books. The year before his death he says of it: "This doctrine is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly He appeared to have raised us up."1
This, however, is not in itself enough to prove that the idea was a necessary, integral part of his view of salvation. It might still be a feature at variance with his basic outlook or but artificially and loosely juxtaposed. Yet such is not the case. If we consider his view of the process of salvation, discussed in the previous chapter, we see that the connection between the idea of Christian perfection and his whole conception of sanctification and salvation is an inner and essential one. As being synonymous with entire sanctification Christian perfection is incorporated as one of the stages in the process of salvation. It is a higher plane in the Christian life and the condition for final justification and glorification. This fixes its place in his outlook and its general meaning. If the Christian life is regarded as a process towards the goal of perfection, the idea of perfection will be seen as a typical expression of the teleological alignment of his view of salvation. It is here that the ultimate consequences of his idea of sanctification find expression.
This is also seen in the various terms he uses to describe perfection. Following the general Christian tradition, grounded on the biblical conception of perfection (τελειότης), he employs the expression 'Christian perfection'. This is the commonest term but others are also used. For instance, the words 'second blessing'2 or 'second change'3 can be used as a direct designation of Christian perfection as a second or higher stage in the Christian life as compared with new birth. Or the terms 'full salvation'4 or 'entire sanctification'5 are resorted to, bringing out with special force its character as the maturing and goal of the Christian life. In actual fact, of course, he distinguishes between sanctification and entire sanctification, but his terminology is inconsistent. In his Minutes for 1747 he himself points out the distinction. St. Paul used the term 'sanctified' of all who were justified, all true believers, and therefore, Wesley thinks, it ought not to be used of those who are saved from all sin without the addition of the qualifications 'wholly' or 'entirely'.6 It is true that in practice he did not always observe the distinction, but he did in principle. Thus, and particularly in later years, 'sanctification' alone often designates Christian perfection.7 With reference to its essence, it is called perfect love8 or pure love9.
It was, as we have said, in 1725, under the influence of practical mysticism, that Wesley first became preoccupied with Christian perfection. On this point as in his outlook as a whole he believed himself to be at one with Anglican doctrine. He pointed to the longing for perfection and the general expression of it in the liturgy of the Church of England.10 It is true that he was following the Arminian spirit of the liturgical tradition; but his view of perfection was not identical with that represented by the Thirty-nine Articles11, which reflect the Calvinistic conception12.
A preliminary general idea of Wesley's doctrine of perfection is perhaps best obtained from the angle of its relation to a practical mysticism of the type of Thomas à Kempis, and such Anglican High Churchmen as Jeremy Taylor, or William Law, who favoured the Arminian tendency in the Church. Wesley considered himself that his idea of perfection had not changed since its formulation in 1725.13 At the end of his life he recorded his appreciation of the idea of sanctification in such a representative of the Roman Catholic devotional spirit as François de Sales.14 Did the new Reformed outlook of 1738 have no effect, then, on his doctrine of perfection?
As in practical mysticism, Christian perfection became an essential theme in Wesley. This perfection, however, was not confined to any particular class of persons: it applied to all men. Here Wesley is in agreement with William Law, who shared this Reformed view.15 The pull towards monastic piety, however, is also seen in Law16, and to a still greater extent in Taylor17. As in practical mysticism this perfection was conceived as an inherent ethical change in man and the Christian life represented as a progressive development towards it.18 Such perfecting was the purpose of religion.19 With Wesley as with the mystics everything was directed towards a change which would qualify man for glorification. In this general position just as in the teleological alignment of his theology, Wesley, after as well as before 1738, agrees with practical mysticism.
But the resemblance is still more pronounced. We find his definitions of perfection before and after 1738 are in some respects identical. At first he describes it as a surrender to God and obedience to Him: an inward obedience of the heart and an outward obedience of word and act. It is characterized by the fact that man is actuated by a single motive. It is also described as perfect inward and outward conformity with Christ, as a circumcision of the heart, involving purification from sin, an entire renewal of the spirit. Above all it is seen in love to God and our neighbour, the love of a whole and undivided heart.20
The three points of view which determined Wesley's description of Christian perfection are reflections of the view which appears in à Kempis, Taylor and Law. As in à Kempis we find tendencies typical of the Catholic tradition in Taylor and Law, especially in the ideal of Imitatio Christi and the idea of intention.21 Perfection in Wesley was given the primary meanings of purity of intention22, the imitation of Christ23, and love to God and our neighbour24. Even after 1738 these are still characteristic features. Purity of intention or "a single eye," for instance, is still the mark of perfection.25 The eye of the perfect man is turned to God alone, whom he loves. God is the absolute master of his soul. All the motions of his heart are in full harmony with God's will.26 His one intention is to live all the time to please27 and honour28 God. And this love of God is accompanied by obedience to all His commandments.29
Perfection is also still defined as the imitation of Christ. This meant possessing the temper of Christ and living as He lived, an inward and outward conformity with the will of God.30 But the essence of Christian perfection he took to be love to God and our neighbour.31 Against the hermitic ideal of the mystics, however, he held that human fellowship was an attribute of holiness32; and against Quietist mysticism he maintained that love of our neighbour was inseparable from love to God33. Love must be expressed in actions.34 Thus, at variance with exclusively contemplative, but in agreement with practical, mysticism, Wesley contends that both inward and outward holiness are necessary.
Positively, then, perfection is firstly perfect love. Negatively it is perfect deliverance from sin. The heart is purified of all sin.35 This means deliverance from "inward as well as from outward sin."36 The perfect man is delivered from evil thoughts and evil tempers.37 Perfect love to God "implies, that no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions, are governed by pure love."38 This love is accompanied by a pure heart39 and liberation from all sin40.
In connection with this preliminary description of perfection reference might also be made to two epitomes by Wesley of his doctrine of perfection. The affinity to mysticism is particularly apparent in A Plain Account on Christian Perfection (1766). Purity of intention, the imitation of Christ, and whole-hearted love of God and our neighbour, are here specified as the factors determining perfection. "In one view," he writes, "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."41 In his sermon On Perfection (1788) it is defined in the following terms. It means: 1. To love God with all one's heart and one's neighbour as oneself; 2. The mind that is in Christ; 3. The fruits of the Spirit (in accordance with Gal. v.) unified; 4. The image of God, a recovery of man to the moral image of God, which consists of "'righteousness and true holiness"'; 5. Inward and outward righteousness, sanctity of life issuing from sanctity of heart; 6. God's sanctifying of man in spirit, soul, and body; 7. Man's own perfect consecration to God; 8. A continuous presentation through Jesus of man's thoughts and words and actions as a sacrifice to God of praise and thanksgiving; 9. Salvation from all sin.42
We see that the affinity between Wesley and practical mysticism is indeed close. To this extent his idea of perfection can be said to follow a consistent course. To this extent 1738 did not lead to deviation. Yet his doctrine of perfection was not identical with that of practical mysticism. The new outlook of 1738 did in fact occasion considerable differences.
For Law true perfection was an unattainable ideal, although a goal for human effort. The perfection possible on earth was nothing but gradual development in sanctification. Fundamental in this perfection was "the inward Piety of the Heart and Mind."43 It was synonymous with inherent personal holiness, and in this there were many degrees.44 Life on earth was but "a State of Repentance and Sorrow for Sin."45 During it man was "in a state of Probation46," and should live with the care required of a penitent sinner. His state of repentance involved a state of mortification.47 The Christian life was one of moral effort and self-denial.
Up to 1738 Wesley was in full agreement with this attitude. Holiness was described as "a state of repentance and imperfection, but yet of sincerity of heart and diligent endeavour."48 The Christian was called to live in singleness of heart, perfect self-renunciation, and sufferings.49 Perfection was the goal of man's effort but could not be realized in this life. It was only in death that man was liberated from his sinful nature.50 With the new vision of 1738, however, perfection came to be regarded as something that could and should be realized in this life.51 It was now considered a gift of God and a work of the Holy Spirit.52 Wesley's new view of grace had its repercussions on his doctrine of perfection as well as on his doctrine of justification. Man was justified by faith and by faith he would be fully sanctified too.53 He explained the fact that perfect sanctification was not ordinarily accorded to the Christian until shortly before death54 by pointing out that it was not expected earlier and therefore not prayed for in faith55.
Since the work of perfection is seen as a work of God bestowed on man through sanctifying faith it is also thought to be instantaneous; the latter being a consequence of the former. Because this entire sanctification occurs through faith and amounts to a powerful act of intervention by God Himself, it is regarded as an instantaneous work.56 The instantaneous quality was motivated by the view of grace. Whereas in his view of sanctification as a gradual process Wesley is at one with practical mysticism, he diverges from it in his doctrine of perfection.
As we have already seen he made this entire sanctification one of the stages in the process of the Christian life. It became another and higher stage after new birth. A gradual and an instantaneous work were conjoined in the order of salvation. New birth, which took place instantaneously, was followed by a gradual sanctification preceding the instantaneous event of entire sanctification. A subsequent continued gradual development was thought to follow this. Whereas gradual sanctification was due to God's grace and man's obedience to it, instantaneous sanctification was considered exclusively God's own work. In this way he distinguished between gradual, and instantaneous sanctification, but to some extent the latter was nevertheless made dependent on the former. Man could not expect entire sanctification unless he had already undergone the previous gradual work of sanctification. Man, he considered, could not acquire the faith through which entire sanctification was bestowed unless he had sought it in obedience to the commandments and ordinances of God.57 Thus man's activity in the preceding sanctification was linked up with a certain passivity in receiving the grace of perfection. Yet even in the work of perfection man would not be altogether passive. For it meant a total consecration or surrender by man of his whole heart to God.58 This was made possible by the sanctifying grace accorded to him by God.59 The connection between gradual and instantaneous sanctification is also seen in the way the hope of perfection is the motive for the gradual development.60
This modification of the idea of perfection, obviously the result of the influence of his conception of grace, did not mean, however, that perfection ceased to be a requirement. But just as the law in general was regarded by Wesley as simultaneously a gospel too, so perfection was seen simultaneously both as a requirement and as a promise. Indeed he regarded all God's demands and commandments as at the same time promises. God gives what he commands. Wesley pointed out that a greater measure of the Holy Spirit is accorded under the Christian than under the Jewish dispensation. The Christian's possibilities of salvation are quite other than those under the Jewish dispensation. It was only after the glorification of Jesus Christ that the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit was accorded to true believers in full measure.61 Wesley found support for his doctrine of perfection in Christian experience as well as in the Scriptures.62
Thus his doctrine of perfection was not quite in conformity with the outlook of practical mysticism. The line of 1725 was crossed by another dating from 1738. But neither did his doctrine of perfection agree with the view of the Reformation. To Wesley perfection was an attainable and higher stage in the Christian life after forgiveness and new birth. To Luther on the other hand forgiveness, which at the same time meant the transformation of man, was in itself the highest expression of the Christian life. He saw the ethical change of man's will as an incomplete beginning.63 Morally, that is, the believer was never perfect in this life; though he could be entirely righteous in the sense that he had received forgiveness in faith and been delivered from the sentence and punishment of sin.64 To the Reformers perfection was perfection in faith65, but to Wesley it was an inherent ethical perfection in love and obedience. In his Apology of the Augsburg Confession Melanchthon sees sanctification as fulfilment of the law.66 In this sanctification, made possible by faith, man will progress, though he will remain imperfect in this life.67 Evangelical perfection involves growth in the fear of God, in reliance on the mercy promised in Christ, and in loyal obedience in the call.68 Both Calvin and Luther thought inherent ethical perfection came only with death69, Wesley that entire sanctification could be realized during life on earth.
Wesley also disagreed with Zinzendorf. Their conversation on 3 September 1741 in Gray's Inn Gardens70 throws some light on the difference between them:
- Zinzendorf: I acknowledge no inherent Perfection. Christ is our only Perfection.
- Wesley: I believe, the Spirit of Christ works Christian Perfection in true Christians.
- Zinzendorf: By no means. All our Perfection is in Christ. Faith in the Blood of Christ, is the only Christian Perfection. The whole Christian Perfection is imputed, not inherent. We are perfect in Christ. We are never perfect in ourselves.
- Wesley: Is not then every True Believer Holy?
- Zinzendorf: Certainly. But he is Holy in Christ, not in himself.
- Wesley: But are not his Heart and Life Holy?
- Zinzendorf: Undoubtedly.
- Wesley: Is he not, by Consequence, Holy in Himself?
- Zinzendorf: No, no. Only in Christ. He is not Holy in Himself. He has no Holiness at all in Himself.
- Wesley: Has he not the Love of God and of his Neighbour in his Heart, yea, and the whole image of God?
- Zinzendorf: He has. But this is not Gospel-Holiness. Faith is Gospel-Holiness.
- Wesley: You grant as much as I affirm. You own, the whole Heart, and the whole Life of a Believer are Holy, that he loves God with all his Heart, and serves him with all his Strength. I desire no more. This is all I mean by Perfection or Christian Holiness.
- Zinzendorf: But this is not Holiness. A Christian is not more Holy, when he has more, nor less Holy when he has less of, this Love.
- Wesley: How! Does not a believer, as he grows in Love, grow in Holiness?
- Zinzendorf: In no wise. The moment he is justified, he is sanctified wholly. And he is neither more nor less Holy, from that moment, to his Death.
- Wesley: Is not then a Father in Christ Holier then a New-born Babe?
- Zinzendorf: No. Entire Sanctification and Entire Justification are in one and the same Instant, and neither of them admits either of Increase or Decrease.
- Wesley: But does not a Believer increase (or grow) in the Love of God? Is he made Perfect in Love, as soon as he is justified?
- Zinzendorf: He is. He never increases in the Love of God. He loves God entirely at that Moment, as he is entirely sanctified.
This dialogue presents Wesley's view clearly enough, but does not reflect Zinzendorf's with exactitude. The latter's remarks, as Plitt says, are polemically sharpened.71 All the same, the conversation undoubtedly expresses an essential difference between the two. From Zinzendorf's point of view Wesley's attitude must obviously seem legalistic. Accordingly, he calls an inherent ethical perfection which consists of love to God and one's neighbour a legal holiness, whereas evangelical holiness is identified with faith.72
Before attempting a closer analysis of perfect sanctification, some further general features of Wesley's view of Christian perfection require our attention. Its chief mark, we have already noticed, is perfect love. It is the essence of perfection.73 And the fully sanctified man is also distinguished by the inseparable fruits of that love: "rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks." This state of mind is said to be particularly characteristic of the fully sanctified.74 It is regarded as the expression of his complete submission to the will of God. In later years, clearly actuated by his experiences in the Methodist revival, Wesley altered some of the extreme statements he had made on the state of the entirely sanctified in 1740 in the preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems. He finds, for instance, that he had gone too far in saying that the totally sanctified did not at all need to feel any doubt or uncertainty even in particular actions, and he modifies the statement thus: "Frequently this is the case but only for a time." Similarly he also corrects the statement that the Holy Spirit every instant instructs them what they should do and say. "For a time," he says, "it may be so; but not always." He also altered the statement that they had no need of "reasoning concerning it," saying that sometimes reasoning was necessary. Later, too, he came to believe that the fully sanctified could be tempted, even grievously.75 As early as 1743 in An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion he declares that perfect sanctification does not exclude temptations76, while in 1750 in a sermon entitled Christian Perfection he says that such perfection "belongeth not to this life77." For a long time he was inclined to believe that perfect sanctification could not be lost.78 Early in the seventeen-sixties, however, he became convinced by facts that even the entirely sanctified man could fall.79 The revival at Otley in 1760, for instance, must have impressed him; on this occasion several people claimed to have experienced perfect sanctification instantaneously and through faith.80 However, as we have seen, Wesley had held this doctrine for a long time.81
Christian Perfection in Greater Detail.
A more detailed analysis of perfect sanctification calls for further scrutiny of its relation to new birth. The two are regarded as distinct stages of the Christian life. We have already seen that both are conferred on man through faith. Also, man can receive assurance of both through a testimony of the Spirit and through outward fruits. The process of sanctification after new birth is comparable to the development of natural life. The Christian shall grow from a little child to a young man and from a young man to a father.82 This is due to a development in faith. Faith and sanctity are directly proportionate to one another. When man grows in faith, he grows equally in sanctity, love, humility, and meekness. He grows in every part of the image of God "till it pleases God, after he is thoroughly convinced of inbred sin, of the total corruption of his nature, to take it all away; to purify his heart and cleanse him from all unrighteousness; to fulfil that promise which he made first to his ancient people, and in them to the Israel of God in all ages: 'I will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.'"83 A weak faith can develop and grow strong. The fathers, the fully sanctified, are called "strong in faith."84 Thus Christian Perfection could also be identified with "the full assurance of faith."85
This development in sanctification is focussed on the means and conditions of perfection. The essence of perfection and the goal of faith are, however, love. Seen in this way, therefore, the Christian life is a development in love. Perfection comes to mean perfection in love.
What, then, from this point of view, is the difference between new birth and perfect sanctification? Love has already been instilled into the heart of man at new birth. From then on there is a gradual development. This is thought to continue even after the stage of perfect sanctification until the very moment of death — indeed after death too. There is therefore, Wesley thinks, no perfection of degrees, i.e. no perfection of concluded development.86 The distinction between new birth and entire sanctification seems therefore to be nothing more than a difference of degree in a continuous development. But if so, how can they also be described as distinct stages in the Christian life?
If we consider the definition of perfection as perfect love, it is clear that this love must be of the same kind as that granted to man at new birth. In this respect indeed Wesley could not indicate any difference. Entire sanctification is not a new kind of sanctity in relation to the earlier experience of the believer. "It does not imply any new kind of holiness: Let no man imagine this. From the moment we are justified, till we give up our spirits to God, love is the fulfilling of the law; of the whole evangelical law, which took place of the Adamic law, when the first promise of 'the seed of the woman' was made. Love is the sum of Christian sanctification; it is the one kind of holiness, which is found, only in various degrees, in believers who are distinguished by St. John into 'little children, young men, and fathers'." The difference between them "properly lies in the degree of love." Here there is "as great a difference in the spiritual, as in the natural sense, between fathers, young men, and babes."87 Consequently, when from this point of view Wesley compares the stage of justification and new birth with that of perfect sanctification, the difference is only one of degree. The kind of life is the same in entire sanctification as in new birth.
Entire sanctification is seen more clearly as a distinct stage, higher and different from that of new birth, when we turn to perfection as liberation from sin. Entire sanctification involves a love incompatible with sin.88 It is a love unmixed with sin, a pure love. Earlier sanctity was alloyed with sinful inclinations, which affected the soul. After the experience of perfect sanctification, however, there is "no mixture of any contrary affections: All is peace and harmony after."89
The difference of plane between new birth and perfect sanctification is also seen in the fact that the deliverance from sin takes place in an instant. Deliverance from sin in perfect sanctification is regarded as analogous with the entrance of death into the body. This deliverance from sin is the death of sin: "A man may be dying for some time; yet he does not, properly speaking, die, till the instant the soul is separated from the body; and in that instant he lives the life of eternity. In like manner, he may be dying to sin for some time; yet he is not dead to sin, till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant he lives the full life of love. And as the change undergone, when the body dies, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any we had known before, yea, such as till then it is impossible to conceive; so the change wrought, when the soul dies to sin, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any before, and than any can conceive till he experiences it. Yet he still grows in grace, in the knowledge of Christ, in the love and image of God; and will do so, not only till death, but to all eternity."90
In this respect the distinction is that entire sanctification brings full deliverance from sin whereas in new birth the deliverance is only partial. As we have already seen it is true that extreme statements about the regenerate state, which confuse the difference between new birth and entire sanctification, occur immediately after 1738. Later, however, when Wesley concentrates on the distinction, it emerges clearly enough. The regenerate man was nevertheless already delivered from sin in the sense that he was no longer dominated by it.91 It could be said of him that he did not sin. This meant that he did not commit outward sins.92 And he was not only delivered from the power of outward sin: the domination of inward sin was broken too.93 Yet inward sin still remained. The root of sin was still present; the fleshly temper was not entirely uprooted. Thus sin was still inherent in his heart as well as in his words and actions. He was also chargeable with numberless sins of omission and inward defects.94 The regenerate man was still to some extent carnal.95 His life was still lived in terms of two "contrary principles": nature and grace, the flesh and the Spirit.96 In contradistinction to this state, entire sanctification is seen as full deliverance from sin. He who is full[y] sanctified is "freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers."97 The perfect change implies "the circumcision of the heart from all filthiness, all inward as well as outward pollution."98 It involves the experience of "a total death to sin, and an entire renewal in the love and image of God."99
In Wesley's opinion the perfectly sanctified man was delivered not only from the power of sin — this happened at new birth — but also from the root of sin as the source of inward and outward sins. By this he meant that man was also delivered from original sin. He began to concern himself with this idea of deliverance from original sin immediately after the experience of 1738. In his first evangelical sermon of that year, Salvation by Faith, he says that the salvation which is bestowed on man through faith and which is a present salvation, involves salvation from all sins, from "original and actual, past and present sin, 'of the flesh and of the Spirit'."100 Hymns and Sacred Poems also expresses a yearning for salvation from "actual and from inbred sin," from "deep original stain."101 God is willing, he writes in 1757 in The Doctrine of Original Sin, to redeem man from "all sin, both original and actual."102 This further liberation from original sin as well is attributed to entire sanctification. Of the latter, which signifies a second change after justification, he says: "Indeed this is so evident a truth, that wellnigh all the children of God, scattered abroad, however they differ in other points, yet generally agree in this: that although we may, 'by the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body', resist and conquer both outward and inward sin: although we may weaken our enemies day by day; yet we cannot drive them out. By all the grace which is given at justification we cannot extirpate them. Though we watch and pray ever so much, we cannot wholly cleanse either our hearts or hands. Most sure we cannot, till it shall please our Lord to speak to our hearts again, to speak the second time, 'Be clean'; and then only the leprosy is cleansed. Then only, the evil root, the carnal mind, is destroyed; and inbred sin subsists no more."103
Yet the perfection he taught was attainable in this life was not absolute perfection. It was perfection subject to the limitations of human life. No one could be so perfect as to achieve deliverance from all defects. The defects inseparable from life on earth must remain. Thus no one could escape certain kinds of ignorance and the mistakes arising from it.104 Infirmities too must remain, by which Wesley meant "not only those which are properly termed bodily infirmities, but all those inward or outward imperfections which are not of a moral nature." Here he is thinking of defects in man's intellectual equipment and their influence on his conversation and behaviour.105 No deliverance from "actual mistakes" is to be expected "till this mortal puts on immortality." They are a natural outcome of the soul inhabiting the body: "For we cannot now think at all, but by the mediation of those bodily organs which have suffered equally with the rest of our frame. And hence we cannot avoid sometimes thinking wrong, till this corruptible shall have put on incorruption." Such mistakes "in judgement" or "in opinion" can also give rise to mistakes "in practice."106 Thus even the most sanctified persons cannot avoid making such mistakes, and nor can they avoid "omissions," "shortcomings," and "defects of various kinds."107 Such imperfection is seen as a result of Adam's fall. It was then that man's incorruptible body became corruptible, since when it has been "a clog to the soul," hindering its operations. So no man now can "apprehend clearly" or "judge truly," any more than he can "reason justly." Man must inevitably make mistakes. To do so is as natural as to breathe.108 Thus even the most sanctified man lives in circumstances which necessarily limit his perfection. His knowledge is limited, his understanding dim, and it follows also that his "affections" are "disordered." And he acts accordingly. His life will therefore be stamped with ignorance and error and a "thousand other infirmities." Errors of judgment will lead to "wrong words and actions" and in some cases to "wrong affections."109
The idea of perfection was thus adjusted to the present circumstances of man. The idea of the law was similarly adjusted. This adaptation of the idea of the law is one of the basic conditions for his doctrine of perfection. The law to which man is subject since the Fall is said to be unlike that which obtained before the Fall. The Adamic law, given to Adam in his innocence, was a law of works. It required of man an undivided obedience in every respect to the law of God, and particularly love to God and one's neighbor. He was to fulfil all righteousness, inward and outward, negative and positive. The law further required that this obedience should be perfect in degree. Every commandment was to be fulfilled with all strength, in the highest measure, and in the most perfect manner. Further, this obedience had to be entirely uninterrupted.110
These requirements were proportionate to the powers originally possessed by Adam. Since he was created free from all defect both in understanding and affections, and since his body did not prevent him from understanding clearly and judging truly, it was required of him that he should "always think, always speak, and always act precisely right, in every point whatever."111 Clearly, no man is now in a position to fulfil this law, essentially the same as the angelic law.112 But neither does God ask this. The law to which man is now subject is that of faith. Christ has abolished both the Adamic and the Mosaic law as a condition for either present or future salvation. Instead He has established "the law of faith." This means that it is only through faith that man can be sanctified and glorified as well as justified. As this law of faith is fulfilled through love Wesley can also call it the law of love. Faith is considered the foundation of "the Christian institution," love its end.113
Thus the perfection which is now attainable is neither angelic perfection nor the kind that Adam possessed before the Fall. It is instead a perfection achieved through faith, a perfection which means perfect love. Is it possible now to fulfil this law of love perfectly? Wesley believed that he who was fully sanctified fulfilled the law in so far as his whole disposition, his thoughts, words, and actions all have their source in love. To this extent he does not break the law. In this measure he is perfect. But in another sense he does not fulfil the law. For he is not infallible. Because of the inevitable defects which are part of him he must necessarily make many mistakes. These mistakes "will frequently occasion something wrong, both in our temper, and words, and actions."114 The fully sanctified are more than ever conscious not only of "their own ignorance" but also of their "littleness of grace, coming short of the full mind that was in Christ, and walking less accurately than they might have done after their divine Pattern."115 Yet in spite of these defects the perfected man can nevertheless be said to fulfil the law, for his breaches of it are due not to want of love but to want of knowledge.116
This accommodation to the present circumstances of man is also shown in the idea of sin. As we have seen the fully sanctified man can also be considered freed from all sin. It is clear that the concept of sin has also undergone adaptation. At the Bristol conference of 1758 a distinction was made between sin as a voluntary transgression of a known law and sin as an involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or unknown. The former was sin "properly so called," and the latter sin "improperly so called."117 It is the former concept of sin that applies in the doctrine of perfection.118 Only such transgression of the law as springs from man's own will and intention is considered sin. Here it is the individualistic line in Wesley's conception of sin that operates. Here he is clearly Arminian and not Orthodox.119 The definition of perfection as deliverance from sin is taken by Wesley to mean that the fully sanctified do not deliberately transgress the law of love. Perfection comes to mean perfect purity in intention and will, and in actions in so far as these are determined by the individual will.120
As we have seen, Wesley thinks the Christian is delivered through entire sanctification from original sin as well as from actual sin. The former is described as an evil root, an evil inclination. It is the source of all special sins, an evil corruption which finds expression in such sins as pride, self-will, covetousness, and anger, which are the antithesis of love to God and our neighbour.121 The corruption of sin, that is, is manifest in the evil will of the individual.122
Accordingly, entire sanctification in Wesley comes to mean total resignation of the will of man to the will of God. The self-will which remained in the believer, although he was not governed by sin, is now utterly annihilated.
We have now examined the sense in which he attributes perfection to the fully sanctified. The concept of perfection, like those of law and sin, has been modified by adjustment to the potentialities of man since the Fall. He finds this idea of perfection to be in accordance with the Scriptures; we may not, he says, set perfection higher than Scripture itself does.123
We have also noticed, however, that from another point of view the fully sanctified are not considered perfect. Parallel with the conception of perfection adumbrated above, another also emerges. Here perfection takes on an absolute character in that it is not restricted to the present powers of man. This explains why Wesley on the one hand describes perfect sanctification as deliverance from all sin and on the other nevertheless declines to call it sinless.124 This apparent contradiction is due to his use of two different concepts of perfection and a corresponding duality in the terms law and sin. He employs a concept of relative perfection and a concept of absolute perfection. The former is subjective and concerns the intention and will, the latter objective and independent of man's potentialities. This duality means that on the one hand he does not regard the defects of the fully sanctified as sins in the proper sense of the word. There can be no sin, he says, when love is the only principle of action.125 On the other hand these mistakes and defects can also be regarded as sins in the sense that they constitute deviations from the perfect law.126 Not even such defects as necessarily pertain to man during his life on earth can "bear the rigour of God's justice."127
This point of view is again seen when we turn to the relation between entire sanctification and atonement. In what sense do the fully sanctified need atonement? Surely the idea of forgiveness will be overshadowed by that of sanctification, which here in the conception of Christian perfection is present in its most pronounced form. This is certainly the case when Wesley is thinking in terms of his relative and subjective conception of sin. Then the fully sanctified cannot be said to be burdened with guilt and in need of forgiveness.128 Nevertheless he insists that even these stand in need of the blood of atonement because of their transgressions. At this point the absolute and objective law and a corresponding conception of sin have again risen to the surface of his mind. In an absolute sense even the fully sanctified transgress the law because of their inescapable defects. "Therefore," he says of these defects, "(4.) Every such mistake, were it not for the blood of atonement, would expose to eternal damnation. (5.) It follows, that the most perfect have continual need of the merits of Christ, even for their actual transgressions, and may say for themselves, as well as for their brethren, 'Forgive us our trespasses'."129 Even the best of men "need Christ as their Priest, their Atonement, their Advocate with the Father; not only as the continuance of their every blessing depends on his death and intercession, but on account of their coming short of the law of love."130 The entirely sanctified fulfil the law of love in so far as love is the sole motive for their actions, yet they transgress it because of the defects of understanding inseparable from life on earth.131 This dual view of perfection is clearly seen in one of Wesley's letters. Here he maintains both the possibility of perfection on the one hand and on the other its relative character and the continuous need of forgiveness on the part of the fully sanctified. "The nicest point of all which relates to Christian perfection," he writes, "is that which you inquire of. Thus much is certain: they that love God with all their heart and all men as themselves are scripturally perfect. And surely such there are; otherwise the promise of God would be a mere mockery of human weakness. Hold fast this. But then remember, on the other hand, you have this treasure in an earthen vessel; you dwell in a poor, shattered house of clay, which presses down the immortal spirit. Hence all your thoughts, words, and actions are so imperfect, so far from coming up to the standard (that law of love which, but for the corruptible body, your soul would answer in all instances), that you may well say till you go to Him you love:
Every moment, Lord, I need
The merit of Thy death."132
For Wesley, Christians, even the most sanctified, must live on the basis of forgiveness. That this is so in spite of everything is due to the fact that alongside a relative and subjective perfection — the concept of perfection which makes possible his doctrine of perfection — he retains the conception of an objective and absolute perfection and a corresponding idea of sin.
The connection between perfect sanctification and atonement, like the Christocentric alignment in general in his doctrine of sanctification, is given even heavier emphasis in another respect. The Christian life can persist only through unceasing contact with Christ. This applies to the fully sanctified too. These, he says, are particularly keenly aware of their total dependence on Christ, especially on his work of atonement. "None feel their need of Christ like these; none so entirely depend upon Him. For Christ does not give life to the soul separate from, but in and with, himself. Hence his words are equally true of all men, in whatsoever state of grace they are: 'As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. Without' (or separate from) 'me ye can do nothing" "In every state," he continues, "we need Christ in the following respects: — (1.) Whatever grace we receive, it is a free gift from him. (2.) We receive it as his purchase, merely in consideration of the price he paid. (3.) We have this grace, not only from Christ, but in him. For our perfection is not like that of a tree, which flourishes by the sap derived from its own root, but, as was said before, like that of a branch which, united to the vine, bears fruit; but severed from it, is dried up and withered. (4.) All our blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, depend on his intercession for us, which is one branch of his priestly office, whereof therefore we have always equal need."133 This dependence on Christ is a dependence from moment to moment.134 Man's holiness is due solely to the fact that through faith he is enabled to participate every moment in the power of Christ. Failing this, "notwithstanding all our present holiness, we should be devils the next moment."135 The sanctity thus bestowed on man undoubtedly acquires the character of a quality in man, just as sanctifying grace is also conceived primarily as an indwelling power. But it does not become an independent quality of man's own as a result of this Christocentric view. Never for a moment can it be separated from Christ and His work. And it is accorded to man solely because of Christ's merit and cannot therefore be considered a merit of man.
The main points in Wesley's view of perfection can now be presented in tabular form. Let us first distinguish between the two kinds of perfection we find in him: Adamic perfection, which applied to Adam before the Fall, and Christian perfection, which man can now attain.
Based on the covenant of works: man must fulfil the law of works.
Signifies perfect obedience to every point in this law. This holiness must be perfect in degree and continue without intermission throughout the whole of life.
This is a perfect fulfilment of the law and perfect deliverance from sin in the absolute and objective sense.
Based on the covenant of grace: man must fulfil the law of faith.
Signifies perfect obedience in so far as this is attainable in the present circumstances of man. It means perfect love. This holiness is a perfection of motive, not of degree. It concerns man's will and intention.
This is a perfect fulfilment of the law and perfect deliverance from sin in the relative and subjective sense.
The relation between Christian perfection and atonement can be expressed as follows, varying in aspect according to the point of view from which perfection is regarded.
He who is fully sanctified is imperfect.
This means that because of innumerable defects he must transgress the absolute law. In this sense he is not free from sin.
For this reason he is not free from guilt.
Therefore in order that he may not suffer damnation for his sin and guilt, he is every moment dependent on the merit and intercession of Christ.
He who is fully sanctified is perfect.
This means that he perfectly loves God and his neighbour and is perfectly free from sin properly so called.
For this reason he is also free from guilt.
Yet in order to remain perfect he is every moment dependent on the merit and intercession of Christ.
Assurance is another characteristic feature of Christian perfection. Here, as has already been pointed out elsewhere136, the analogy between the stage of justification and that of perfect sanctification is again apparent. In both cases a direct and an indirect witness are present. As with assurance of justification, assurance of perfect sanctification derives both from the witness of the Spirit and from the fruit of the Spirit. "We know it," we are told, "by the witness and by the fruit of the Spirit. And, first, by the witness. As when we were justified, the Spirit bore witness with our spirit, that our sins were forgiven; so, when we were sanctified, he bore witness, that they were taken away. Indeed, the witness of sanctification is not always clear at first as neither is that of justification; neither is it afterwards always the same, but, like that of justification, sometimes stronger and sometimes fainter. Yea, and sometimes it is withdrawn. Yet, in general, the latter testimony of the Spirit is both as clear and as steady as the former."137 The fully sanctified might also learn that this perfect sanctification had been accorded to them through the fruits of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, always abiding; by invariable long-suffering, patience, resignation; by gentleness, triumphing over all provocation; by goodness, mildness, sweetness, tenderness of spirit; by fidelity, simplicity, godly sincerity; by meekness, calmness, evenness of spirit; by temperance, not only in food and sleep, but in all things natural and spiritual."138 The change at justification was mixed with selfishness and love of the world, but the fully sanctified undergo a total change.139 He who judges according to all the marks pertaining to perfect sanctification need not in Wesley's opinion run any risk of self-deception.140
It was also his opinion that as in sanctification otherwise, the change in Christian perfection must be outward and visible. The Christian cannot, he thought, remain ignorant of his good works, which are yet not his own but done by God through him.141 From outward works, however, one cannot distinguish between the fully sanctified and those who are only regenerate. Outward works must be measured according to the grace accorded to man and from which they spring. Right judgement can only be passed if regard be had to the inward state of his heart: his perfect love to God and total resignation to His will.142 It is true that certain circumstances make it probable that a man is fully sanctified. Yet this cannot be known with certainty, any more than we can know whether a particular individual is justified, "unless it should please God to endow us with the miraculous discernment of spirits."143
Wesley links up the idea of humility with his conception of perfection. Humility is given the primary significance of man's self-knowledge before God. The meaning of the term varies according to the particular stage in the order of salvation at which the individual finds himself. Before justification it means conviction of sin and guilt and complete helplessness.144 Here it is identified with the repentance that precedes justifying faith. It is not until in justification man has been accorded the gift of atonement that his nature can be imbued with "true genuine Christian humility." This is achieved by a sense of the love of God, who is reconciled in Christ. It is seen in man's continual sense of total dependence on God and of his utter inability to do good without the ceaseless communication of God's grace. Such a man will detest "the praise of men, knowing that all praise is due unto God only." At the same time he will feel "a loving shame, a tender humiliation before God, even for the sins which we know He hath forgiven us, and for the sin which still remaineth in our hearts, although we know it is not imputed to our condemnation." The conviction of inbred sin will be intensified in proportion as man grows in grace and the knowledge of God and thus also becomes aware of his alienation from God and of his carnal mind.145 Here, then, humility chiefly means the same thing as repentance after justification.
With perfect sanctification humility comes to an even greater degree than before to mean man's sense of total dependence on God. The fully sanctified are aware that their perfection is solely due to the unceasing operation in them, instant for instant, of God omnipotent.146 Thus in Wesley humility does not conflict with perfection. On the contrary humility is regarded as a fruit of love.147 Progress in sanctification, the essence of which to Wesley was love, must be accompanied by progress in humility. And so from this angle, too, we see the difference between perfect sanctification and the earlier stages of the Christian life. Whereas earlier humility was mixed with pride, the fully sanctified are also perfect in humility.148
As to the general characteristics of sanctification, Wesley defines holiness as both inward and outward righteousness. In this he shows an intention which is everywhere apparent in his thought. He is contending against religious formalism on the one hand and Antinomianism and Quietism on the other.149 He is strongly opposed to the kind of religion which consists of nothing but outward forms and insists that it should be a matter of the heart. Here he is in agreement both with practical mysticism and the Moravians. On the other hand he is just as opposed to Quietist mysticism150 and the Antinomianism he detected among Zinzendorf and his followers151. He is opposed indeed to every kind of mysticism to which the inward temper was everything and which neglected the importance of its outward expression in works. Against such mysticism he also insisted on the importance of the means of grace.152 He urges, that is, an inward against a purely outward religion, and an outward against such a purely inward type as Quietist mysticism.153 It is in the combination of these that he sees sanctity.154
Entire sanctification becomes a perfecting of the personality. It is clear from what has been said that to Wesley perfection is not only perfection in actual acts; it embraces as well the whole disposition which lies behind them, the soul with all its tempers. He sees perfection as perfection in obedience too, but this is an expression of the inward perfection of the individual personality or character. The day of judgment, he says, will reveal "every inward working of every human soul; every appetite, passion, inclination, affection, with the various combinations of them, with every temper and disposition that constitute the whole complex character of each individual." Then it shall be "clearly and infallibly seen, who was righteous, and who unrighteous; and in what degree every action, or person, or character was either good or evil."155 Entire sanctification, which is reflected even in the smallest things in life, is seen in the harmony of the soul.156 He calls the fully sanctified "patterns of strict holiness."157 The perfection which makes them like Christ and qualifies them for glorification, is an inherent holiness.158
Thus to Wesley perfection means the perfected and harmonious personality. It is presented as a perfection of character. This is clearly seen in the delineation of perfection which, following Clemens Alexandrinus159, he gives in The Character of a Methodist, or in his account of John Fletcher's character in his biography of him160. Christianity in general can be considered not only as "a principle in the soul" but also as "a scheme or system of doctrine, which describes the character."161 In this he links up with those early Fathers who influenced him.162 Here his view shows affinities with the ideal of perfection that has its root in Greek thought.163 And here he is also continuing the line of the practical mystics, Thomas à Kempis, Jeremy Taylor, and William Law, on whose ideal of Imitatio Christi he modelled so much of his thought.
4 The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1765, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 456; letters: 17 Nov. 1781, The Letters of John Wesley, VII, p. 90; 19 Jan. 1782, ib., p. 102 (entire salvation); 3 Febr. 1786, p. 314 (full and present salvation); 4 March 1786, p. 322.
5 Minutes 1747, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 293 f.; The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1765, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 456 (full sanctification); letter 27 Nov. 1770, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 210 (full sanctification).
7 Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, 1763, in A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 420. Cf. letters: 19 August 1759, The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 71; 15 Sept. 1762, ib., p. 188; 31 May 1771, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 255; 1 July 1772, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 325.
10 "The perfection I hold is so far from being contrary to the doctrine of our Church, that it is exactly the same which every Clergyman prays for every Sunday: 'Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name'." An Answer to Mr. Rowland Hill's Tract Entitled, 'Imposture Detected', 1777, The Works of John Wesley, X, p. 450. NUELSEN (John Wesley und das deutsche Kirchenlied, p. 55 ff.) points out the influence of the German hymnists: Terstegen and Paul Gerhardt.
11 In his abridgement of the Thirty-nine Articles Wesley omitted the second half of Art. XV (Of Christ alone without sin), which contains the words: "But all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things, and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This did not tally with his intention in his doctrine of perfection. Cf. WHEELER, History and Exposition of the Twenty-five Articles of Religion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, p. 27 f.
14 Sermon on God's Vineyard, 1788, The Works of John Wesley, VII, p. 204, where Wesley also mentions the Spanish Benedictine monk Juan de Castaniza. On whom see Grosses Universal Lexicon, V, col. 1305.18 Ib., p. 279.9 Cf. FRANÇOIS DE SALES Introduction à la vie dévote, p. 14.
20 See The Circumcision of the Heart, 1733, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, I, p. 266; A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 366 ff.; Journal and letters of the pre-1738 period. Cf. the letter to John Newton of 14 May 1765, The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 298 f.
25 The Character of a Methodist, 1742, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 344; Sermon on the Mount: VI, 1748, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, I, p. 425 ff.; Sermon on the Mount: VIII, 1748, p. 473 ff.; Sermon on The Imperfection of Human Knowledge, 1788, The Works of John Wesley, VI, p. 350.
30 Ib., p. 346; Cf. Christian Perfection, 1750, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 170 f. On the yearning for perfect imitation of God in Charles Wesley's hymns, see RATTENBURY, who also points out the difference between Charles and John Wesley's views of perfection. The Evangelical Doctrines of Charles Wesley's Hymns, pp. 278 ff., 298 f.
32 Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739, The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, I, p. xx: "They advise, 'To the desert, to the desert, and God will build you up'. Numberless are the commendations that occur in all their writings, not of retirement intermixed with conversation, but of an entire seclusion from men, (perhaps for months or years,) in order to purify the soul. Whereas, according to the judgment of our Lord, and the writings of His Apostles, it is only when we are knit together, that we have nourishment from Him, and increase with the increase of GOD."
33 Ib., P. xxii: "The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness, but social holiness. Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection."
39 The Character of a Methodist, 1742, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 343: "The love of God has purified his heart from all revengeful passions, from envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind temper or malign affection. It hath cleansed him from pride and haughtiness of spirit, whereof alone cometh contention."
40 Minutes 1758, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 401; Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, 1763, in A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 418. Cf. letters 30 July, 15 Sept., and 2 Nov. 1762, The Letters of John Wesley, IV, pp. 186, 189, 192.
52 The Character of a Methodist, 1742, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 341 ff.; The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1765, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, pp. 457 f., 460; Cf. letter 1 April 1766, The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 7.
54 Minutes 1745, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 285; Minutes 1747, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 294. Cf. letter (Sept. 1762]: "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 death. . . . 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." The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 187.
56 The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1765, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 457 ff.: "'But what is that faith whereby we are sanctified, — saved from all sin, and perfected in love?' It is a divine evidence and conviction, first, that God hath promised it in the holy Scripture. . . . It is a divine evidence and conviction, secondly, that what God hath promised He is able to perform. . . . It is, thirdly, a divine evidence and conviction that He is able and willing to do it now. And why not? Is not a moment to Him the same as a thousand years? He cannot want more time to accomplish whatever is His will. And He cannot want or stay for any more worthiness or fitness in the persons He is pleased to honour. . . . To this confidence, that God is both able and willing to sanctify us now, there needs to be added one thing more, — a divine evidence and conviction that He doeth it. . . . If you seek it by faith, you may expect it as you are; and if as you are, then expect it now. It is of importance to observe, that there is an inseparable connection between these three points, expect it by faith; expect it as you are; and expect it now. To deny one of them, is to deny them all; to allow one, is to allow them all." Cf. A Plain Account, p. 393, in which Wesley sums up his doctrine of perfection in three points: "(1.) That Christian perfection is that love of God and our neighbour, which implies deliverance from all sin. (2.) That this is received merely by faith. (3.) That it is given instantaneously, in one moment. (4.) That we are to expect it, not at death, but every moment; that now is the accepted time, now is the day of this salvation." See further letter [Sept. 1762], The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 187.
57 Minutes, 1758, in A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 402 f.: "Q. How are we to wait for this change? A. Not in careless indifference, or indolent inactivity; but in vigorous, universal obedience, in a zealous keeping of all the commandments, in watchfulness and painfulness, in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily; as well as in earnest prayer and fasting, and a close attendance on all the ordinances of God. And if any man dream of attaining it any other way (yea, or of keeping it when it is attained, when he has received it even in the largest measure), he deceiveth his own soul. It is true, we receive it by simple faith; but God does not, will not, give that faith, unless we seek it with all diligence, in the way which he hath ordained."
60 The Large Minutes, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 329: "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."
The chief reason why FLEISCH finds entire sanctification to be an inexplicable, magical intervention by God (Zur Geschichte der Heiligungsbewegung, I, p. 42 f.) is the inadequacy of the attention he pays to the connection between gradual and instantaneous sanctification, thus failing to arrive at the correct relation between faith and works in the doctrine of sanctification.
It is strange that he always refers to the experience of others and never to his own. As far as we know, Wesley never expressly said that he had attained entire sanctification. 0. A. Curtin, however, thinks he did say so, in the following passage from his Journal; "I saw every thought, as well as action or word, just as it was rising in my heart; and whether it was right before God, or tainted with pride or selfishness. I never knew before (I mean not as this time) what it was 'to be still before God' " (24 Dec. 1744). The next day he writes: "I walked, by the grace of God, in the same spirit; and about eight, being with two or three that believed in Jesus, I felt much awe and tender sense of the presence of God as greatly confirmed me therein: so that God was before me all the day long. I sought and found Him in every place; and could truly say, when I lay down at night, 'Now I have lived a day"' (The Journal of John Wesley, III, p. 157).
With MCCONNELL (John Wesley, p. 206) and FLEW (Op. cit., p. 329 f.), however, I am not convinced by this passage. The experience described is not fully identical with Christian perfection as defined by Wesley. In the letter of 5 March 1767 to which KRISTOFFERSEN (Metodismens vesen, art. in Metodismen, p. 30 f.) refers, Wesley expressly denies having attained the perfection he described in his tract The Character of a Methodist. But, he says, he and the Methodists desired and laboured after it. The Letters of John Wesley, V, p. 43 f. PLATT (art. Perfection, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 9, p. 731), SUGDEN (The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 150) and BETT (The Spirit of Methodism, p. 161) also repudiate Curtin's contention. Bett, it is true, citing a different passage, believes that Wesley nevertheless experienced entire sanctification. Cf. RATTENBURY, op. cit., p. 304.
He refers to the promises of salvation from all sin in Ps. cxxx. 8; Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 29; Dent. xxx. 6; Eph. v. 25, 27; Rom. viii. 3 f.; I John iii. 8; further to the Lord's prayer (the last petition) and the prayers of entire sanctification in John xvii. 20 f., 23; Eph. iii. 14 ff.; I. Thess. v. 23; to the commands in Matth. v. 48, xxii. 37. To prove that it will take place before death he refers to: Titus ii. 11-14; Luke i. 69-75; 1 John iv. 17. See Minutes 1747, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 294 ff.; A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 389 ff.
69 v. ENGESTRÖM, op. cit., p. 105 f.; LJUNGGREN, Synd och skuld i Luthers toologi, p. 341. ALTHAUS, Op. cit., pp. 68, 70 f. JOSEFSON, Ödmjukhet och tro, pp. 158 f., 162 f. On the difference, however, between Lutheran and Calvinistic view on sanctification and perfection, see SCHNECKENBURGER, Vergleichende Darstellung des lutherischen und reformierten Lehrbegriffs, 1, p. 166 ff.
70 A Short View of the Difference between the Moravian Brethren ... and the Reverend Mr. John and Charles Wesley, sec. ed., 1748, p. 7 f. The whole conversation in the original Latin in The Journal of John Wesley, II, p. 488 ff., also published in Bütdingische Sammlung, III, p. 1026 ff. Cf. Spangenberg's view, Journal, 2 May 1741, The Journal of John Wesley, II, p. 451 f. Yet Wesley uses the Swedish Moravian Arvid Gradin's definition of the full assurance of faith as an expression of perfection. A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 369.
72 In the Latin and complete version of the above-mentioned conversation Wesley asked: "Nonne habet in corde suo amorem Dei et proximi, quin et totam imaginem Dei?" Zinzendorf answered: "Habet. Sed haec sunt sanctitas legalis, non Evangelica. Sanctitas Evangelica eat fides." The Journal of John Wesley, II, p. 489.
74 Minutes, 1758, A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 401; ib., p. 442, according to I. Thess. v. 16 ff. Cf. The Character of a Methodist, 1742, The Works of John Wesley, VIII, p. 342 f.; Satan's Devices, 1750, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 192.
79 Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, 1763, in A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 426; See also the short propositions of 1764 on Christian perfection in A Plain Account, ib., p. 442; Some Remarks on Mr Hill's "Farrago Double-distilled." 1773, AT., X, p. 426. Cf. letters: 26 Dec. 1761, The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 167; 2 Nov. 1762 (to Thomas Maxfield): "But I dislike your supposing man may be as perfect as an angel; that he can be absolutely perfect; that he can be infallible, or above being tempted; or that the moment he is pure in heart he cannot fall from it." The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 192.
80 Journal, 16 Febr. 1760, The Journal of John Wesley, IV, p. 365 f.; A Short History of the People Called Methodists, written 1781, The Works of John Wesley, XIII, p. 349 f. Cf. TYREMAN, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, II, p. 417; LEZIUS, Wesleys Perfectionismus und die Otley-Bewegung, Reinhold-Seeberg-Festschrift, II, p. 227 ff.
81 See above p. 133. Cf. IMPETA (De Leer der Heiliging en Volmaking bij Wesley en Fletcher, p. 254 ff.) who thinks that in fact Wesley believed as early as 1740 that entire sanctification is attained instantaneously and through faith. He thus rejects, rightly, the view held by Whitehead and tentatively by TYERMAN (Op. cit., II, pp. 417, 593 f.), that Wesley did not begin to preach this until 1760.
82 Cf. further Notes, 1755, I Cor. ii. 6; Eph. iv. 13; Col. iv. 12; I John ii. 12-14. In a letter to John Fletcher 22 March 1775 (The Letters of John Wesley, VI, p. 146) Wesley writes: "It is certain every babe in Christ has received the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God. But he has not obtained Christian Perfection. Perhaps you have not considered St. John's threefold distinction of Christian believers: little children, young men, and fathers. All of these had received the Holy Ghost; but only the fathers were perfected in love."
86 Christian Perfection, 1750, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 156: "There is no perfection of degrees, as it is termed; none which does not admit of a continual increase. So that how much soever any man has attained, or in how high a degree soever lie is perfect, he hath still need to 'grow in grace', and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God his Saviour."
92 Christian Perfection, 1750, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 158. Cf. letter 12 March 1756, The Letters of John Wesley, III, p. 169: "I believe even babes in Christ (while they keep themselves) do not commit sin. By sin I mean outward sin; and the word 'commit' I take in its plain, literal meaning."
95 In his commentary to I John v. 18 Wesley writes: "He that is born of God — That sees and loves God, sinneth not — So long as that loving Faith abides in him. He neither speaks nor does anything which God hath forbidden." But commenting I Cor. iii. 1 he says that "babes in Christ" are "still in great Measure carnal." Notes, 1755. Cf. On Sin in Believers, 1763, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 377: "ln a degree, according to the measure of their faith, they are spiritual; yet in a degree they are carnal." See further especially The Repentance of Believers, dat. 1767, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 379 ff.
96 On Sin in Believers, 1763, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 367: "Indeed this grand point, that there are two contrary principles in believers — nature and grace, the flesh and the Spirit — runs through all the Epistles of St. Paul, yea, through all the holy Scriptures; almost all the directions and exhortations therein are founded on this supposition; pointing at wrong tempers or practices in those who are, notwithstanding, acknowledged by the inspired writers to be believers. And they are continually exhorted to fight with and conquer these by the power of the faith which was in them."
From all remaining filth within
Let me in Thee salvation have;
From actual and from inbred sin
My ransom'd soul persist to save.
Wash out my deep original stain —
Tell me no more it cannot be,
Demons or men! The Lamb was slain,
His blood was all pour'd out for me.
Sprinkle it, Jesu, on my heart!
One drop of Thine all-cleansing blood
Shall make my sinfulness depart,
And fill me with the life of God.
105 Ib., P. 155: "Such are the weakness or slowness of understanding, dullness or confusedness of apprehension, incoherency of thought, irregular quickness or heaviness of imagination. Such (to mention no more of this kind) is the want of a ready or retentive memory. Such, in another kind, are those which are commonly, in some measure, consequent upon these; namely, slowness of speech, impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation; to which one might add a thousand nameless defects, either in conversation or behaviour. These are the infirmities which are found in the best of men, in a larger or smaller proportion. And from these none can hope to be perfectly freed, till the spirit returns to God that gave it."
116 Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, 1763, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 419. "Those who love God with all their heart and their neighbours as themselves are nevertheless burdened with defects because their souls 1. dwell in a shattered body, and are pressed down thereby, that they cannot always exert themselves as they would, by thinking, speaking, and acting precisely right. For want of better bodily organs, they must at times think, speak, or act wrong; not indeed through a defect of love, but through a defect of knowledge. And while this is the case, notwithstanding that defect, and its consequences, they fulfil the law of love."
119 Cf. POPE (A Compendium of Christian Theology, III, p. 84) and PLATT (art. Arminianism, Perfection, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 1, p. 810 f.; 9, p. 732), who consider Wesley's doctrine of perfection Arminian in type, although it was further developed and clarified.
122 Cf. ib., p. 381, where Wesley writes of the sin that remains in the justified but not entirely sanctified man: "Nor is it long before he feels self-will in his heart; even a will contrary to the will of God. A will every man must inevitably have, as long as he has an understanding. This is an essential part of human nature, indeed of the nature of every intelligent being. Our blessed Lord Himself had a will as a man; otherwise He had not been a man. But His human will was invariably subject to the will of His Father. At all times, and on all occasions, even in the deepest affliction, He could say, 'Not as I will, but as Thou wilt'. But this is not the case at all times, even with a true believer in Christ. He frequently finds his will more or less exalting itself against the will of God." In Original Sin, 1760 (The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 218 f.) the natural man is described thus: "Satan has stamped his own image on our heart in self-will also. 'I will', said he, before he was cast out of heaven, 'I will sit upon the sides of the north': I will do my own will and pleasure, independently on that of my Creator. The same does every man born into the world say, and that in a thousand instances; nay, and avow it too, without ever blushing upon the account, without either fear or shame. Ask the man, 'Why did you do this?' He answers, 'Because I had a mind to it'. What is this but, 'Because it was my will'; that is, in effect, because the devil and I are agreed, because Satan and I govern our actions by one and the same principle. The will of God, meantime, is not in his thoughts, is not considered in the least degree; although it be the supreme rule of every intelligent creature, whether in heaven or earth, resulting from the essential, unalterable relation which all creatures bear to their Creator."
123 Minutes 1758, A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 397: "Q. How shall we avoid setting perfection too high or too low? A. By keeping to the Bible, and setting it just as high as the Scripture does. It is nothing higher and nothing lower than this, — the pure love of God and man; the loving God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. It is love governing the heart and life, running through all our tempers, words, and actions."; letter 15 Sept. 1762, The Letters of John Wesley, IV, p. 190.
128 Cf. The Repentance of Believers, 1767, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, II, p. 393: "Continue to believe in Him that loved thee, and gave Himself for thee; that bore all thy sins in His own body on the tree; and He saveth thee from all condemnation, by His blood continually applied. Thus it is that we continue in a justified state. And when we go on 'from faith to faith', when we have faith to be cleansed from indwelling sin, to be saved from all our uncleanesses, we are likewise saved from all that guilt, that desert of punishment, which we felt before. So that then we may say, not only,
Every moment, Lord, I
The merit of Thy death;
but, likewise, in the full assurance of faith,
Every moment, Lord, I
The merit of Thy death!
For, by that faith in His life, death, and intercession for us, renewed from moment to moment, we are every whit clean, and there is not only now no condemnation for us, but no such desert of punishment as was before, the Lord cleansing both our hearts and lives."
131 Ib., P. 417: "Q. 8. But do we not 'in many things offend all', yea the best of us, even against this law? A. In one sense we do not, while all our tempers, and thoughts, and words, and works, spring from love. But in another we do, and shall do, more or less, as long as we remain in the body. For neither love nor the 'unction of the Holy One' makes us infallible: Therefore, through unavoidable defect of understanding, we cannot but mistake in many things. And these mistakes will frequently occasion something wrong, both in our temper, and words, and actions. From mistaking his character, we may love a person less than he really deserves. And by the same mistake we are unavoidably led to speak or act, with regard to that person, in such a manner as is contrary to this law, in some or other of the preceding instances."
134 A Plain Account, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 443; Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection, ib., p. 417: "The holiest of men still need Christ as their Prophet, as 'the light of the world'. For he does not give them light, but from moment to moment: The instant he withdraws, all is darkness. They still need Christ as their King; for God does not give them a stock of holiness. But unless they receive a supply every moment, nothing but unholiness would remain. They still need Christ as their Priest, to make atonement for their holy things. Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ."
140 Minutes 1758, The Works of John Wesley, XI, p. 402: "Q. But whence is it that some imagine they am thus sanctified, when in reality they are not? A. It is hence: They do not Judge by all the preceding marks, but either by part of them, or by others that are ambiguous. But I know no instance of a person attending to them all, and yet decieved in this matter. I believe there can be none in the world. If a man be deeply and fully convinced, after justification, of inbred sin; if he then experience a gradual mortification of sin, and afterwards an entire renewal in the image of God; if to this change, immensely greater than that wrought when he was justified, be added a clear, direct witness of the renewal; I judge it as impossible this man should be deceived herein, as that God should lie. And if one whom I know to be a man of veracity testify these things to me, I ought not, without some sufficient reason, to reject his testimony."
141 Matthew xxv. 37 he expounds thus: "But in what sense are we to understand the words that follow? 'Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and gave thee meet or thirsty, and gave thee drink?' They cannot be literal understood; they cannot answer in these very words; because it is not possible they should be ignorant that God had really wrought by them. Is it not then manifest, that these words are to be taken in a figurative sense? And can they imply any more, than that all which they have done will appear as nothing to them; will, as it were, vanish away, in view of what God their Saviour had done and suffered for them?" Sermon on The Reward of the Righteous, 1788, The Works of John Wesley, VII, p. 129. Cf. Notes, 1755.
143 "But," Wesley continues, "we apprehend those would be sufficient proofs to any reasonable man, and such as would leave little room to doubt either the truth or depth of the work: (1.) If we had clear evidence of his exemplary behaviour for some time before this supposed change. This would give us reason to believe, he would not 'lie for God', but speak neither more nor less than he felt; (2.) If he gave a distinct account of the time and manner wherein the change was wrought, with sound speech which could not be reproved; and, (3.) If it appeared that all his subsequent words and actions were holy and unblamable." Ib., p. 398.
146 Cf. above, p. 152 f. See also sermon Of the Church, 1788, The Works of John Wesley, VI, p. 398: "Yea, suppose God has now thoroughly cleansed our heart, and scattered the last remains of sin; yet how can we be sensible enough of our own helplessness, our utter inability to all good, unless we are every hour, yea, every moment, endued with power from on high? Who is able to think one good thought, or to form one good desire, unless by that almighty power which worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure? We have need, even in this state of grace, to be thoroughly and continually penetrated with a sense of this. Otherwise we shall be in perpetual danger of robbing God of his honour, by glorying in something we have received, as though we had not received it."
147 Sermon On Charity, 1788, The Works of John Wesley, VII, p. 48: "Nothing humbles the soul so deeply as love: It casts out all 'high conceits, engendering pride'; all arrogance and overweening; makes us little, and poor, and base, and vile in our own eyes. It abases us both before God and man; makes us willing to be the least of all, and the servants of all, and teaches us to say, 'A mote in the sun-beam is little, but I am infinitely less in the presence of God'." Cf. Sermon On Zeal, 1788, The Works of John Wesley, VII, p. 59.
149 In the Preface to The Standard Sermons of John Wesley Wesley declares that it is especially his desire "first, to guard those who are just setting their faces toward heaven (and who, having little acquaintance with the things of God, are the more liable to be turned out of the way), from formality, from mere outside religion, which has almost driven heart-religion out of the world; and, secondly, to warn those who know the religion of the heart, the faith which worketh by love, lest at any time they make void the law through faith, and so fall back into the snare of the devil." The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, I, p. 32 f.
152 Cf, letter of 23 Nov. 1736, The Letters of John Wesley, I, p. 207: "I think the rock on which I had the nearest made shipwreck of the faith was the writings of the Mystics; under which term I comprehend all, and only those, who slight any of the means of grace." See The Means of Grace, 1746, The Standard Sermons of John Wesley, I, p. 239 ff.
159 Earlier he had expressed his keen appreciation of Clemens' description of the Christian, but under Reformed influence he criticizes it. Here he feels the account should be more biblical. Journal, 5 March 1767, The Journal of John Wesley, V, p. 197. He disapproves in particular of Stoic apathy: "Many years ago I might have said, but I do not now,
Give me a woman made of
A widow of Pygmalion.
And just such a Christian one of the Fathers, Clemens AIexandrinus, describes; but I do not admire that description now as I did formerly. I now see a Stoic and a Christian are different characters." Letter to Miss March 30 Nov. 1774, The Letters of John Wesley, VI, p. 129. Though he thus departs from Clemens, affinity remains in his way of describing the perfect character, the perfect Christian human type.