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The Holiness Texts of John Wesley


John Wesley taught that people cannot have the kind of the faith that brings them into a new or deeper experience of God's grace unless they first had "a Divine evidence and conviction... that God hath promised it in the Holy Scripture."

So, if a particular experience is not clearly promised in the Scriptures, we have no basis for expecting it.

And he said: "Till we are thoroughly satisfied of this, there is no moving one step farther."

So, for many years, I've been wondering if I could come up with a definitive list of supporting Scriptures for Wesley's doctrine of Christian Perfection. And, it would be interesting to see what Wesley and the other early "Methodists" (I'm thinking here of John Fletcher, Joseph Benson, Adam Clarke, and maybe Richard Watson) actually said about these Scriptures.

So, from time to time I have tried to pursue a project like this. I keep getting derailed, though. I’ve started twice and abandoned it both times.

Here’s how I got started.

I found an interesting defense of the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian Perfection in an old (now out-of-print) study Bible. Several years ago (I don't know how many) I picked up a study Bible called The Wesley Bible. (This is not to be confused with Abingdon’s excellent Wesley Study Bible, based on the NRSV. It is an older book, and not nearly as good.) Dr. Albert F. Harper is listed as being the general editor of The Wesley Bible. It is based on the New King James Version (actually, not one of my favorite translations). I have used it a little bit — from time to time. One of the intentions of Dr. Harper is to use the notes and helps in this study Bible to defend the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian Perfection or Entire Sanctification.

In the notes in the back of this Bible it says that Wesley based his teaching on Christian Perfection primarily on thirty texts of Scripture. There is no footnote to substantiate this claim. I wasn't sure how the editor arrived at this conclusion. But, apparently, it was W. E. Sangster who originated the idea that there were thirty texts, in his book
The Path to Perfection.

But, then I discovered that Dr. Harper had only listed 26 texts.

Nevertheless, several times in the past I have tried to find what the early Methodists said about these scriptures.

The last time I tried — at my old web site — I discovered that some of the Scriptures Dr. Harper cited were (as far as I could tell) actually
not used by Wesley and the others in defense of the doctrine. So, some of his 26 really don’t belong in the list of 30.

Nevertheless, using this as a starting point, I want to go back to the Scriptures I've already documented, and then see (once again) if I can carry this project forward.

Since John Wesley said no one should be pressed to seek any experience of God that wasn't promised in the Scriptures, then it follows that his teaching stands or falls with these scriptures.

So, I will be posting a series of articles which will cite each of these primary Scripture texts, along with the meanings the early Methodist found in them. I will quote each text. Then they will be followed by comments from John Wesley himself, as well as some of his early followers: John Fletcher, Adam Clarke and Joseph Benson (and others maybe if I can find something interesting). They will also be listed on the
Wesleyan Theology page and the Bible Studies page, as I go along. You can expect these to start showing up this week.

It is for the reader to decide if they have interpreted these correctly or not.

These will be posted (as always) for information and possible discussion. It is not assumed that because Wesley or his followers said a certain thing, everyone else is somehow obligated to agree.

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