Significant books in the Wesleyan holiness tradition.
A Scholarly study of Wesleyan Theology.
This is written in a scholarly and less "popular" style than the books below. While much more rigorous, and more demanding to read, it will provides a very accurate and detailed understanding of Wesley's doctrines of salvation and the spiritual life.
- Wesley and Sanctification by Harald Lindström. (1947). Timothy Smith says of this book: "Harald Lindström's classic study of John Wesley's doctrine of sanctification, long out of print, remains the most accurate and comprehensive description we have of the theology of the founder of Methodism."
A Compilation of John Wesley’s Teachings on Christian Perfection.
Here is a basic resource for understanding John Wesley’s teachings about the Christian life — and especially his teachings on Christian Perfection (also called Entire Sanctification). This collection was compiled by J. A. Wood, an important figure in the 19th Century Holiness movement.
- Wesley on Perfection (from a 1921 reprint). The first part of this book is a topically arranged compilation of quotes from John Wesley. The final section (Section 30) is the complete text of A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, arranged with subject headings. This book is a basic resource for understanding Wesley's teaching on this subject.
- A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. This is a direct link to Section 30 of the book above.
Books by Phoebe W. Palmer.
Phoebe Palmer (18207-1874) is sometimes called the mother of the Holiness movement in America. She did more than anyone to spread the message of entire sanctification in her era, and her teachings had a great influence on those who would follow. She conducted the Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness for many years. She also led the Methodist Ladies’ Home Missionary Society in founding the Five Points Mission in a slum area in New York City in 1850. Palmer is a controversial figure in the holiness moment.
- The Way of Holiness. (1849) This is a personal account of Phoebe Palmer's spiritual quest. She calls it "A Narrative of Religious Experience Resulting From A Determination To Be A Bible Christian." In it she outlines her prescription for a "Shorter Way" to the holy life. Her emphasis was on: (1) entire consecration, (2) naked faith, and (3) public witness.
- Entire Devotion to God. (1857) Written as a gift to a friend, Palmer outlines what she means by holiness and entire sanctification. Chapter 15 contains a sample Altar Covenant prayer.
- Faith and It’s Effects (1850). This book is a collection of Phoebe Palmer’s letters — including letters of spiritual advice and of personal experience — written to various people identified only by their initials. There are 55 letters in all.
- The Promise of the Father (1859). This is a spirited defense of women in ministry. While Palmer does not deal specifically with the issue of ordination, as such, she strongly defends the woman’s right (and responsibility) to preach. Students of Methodist history will discover many fascinating accounts of women who were leaders in the early Methodist movement. Chapter 12 is very long — and includes an account of the Tuesday afternoon meetings for the promotion of Christian holiness. The book is filled with stories and letters.
Books by Thomas C. Upham.
Thomas C. Upham (1799–1872) was an American psychologist, author, teacher, poet, social activist, pacifist, and spiritual writer. Though trained as a Congregationalist pastor, he spent his life as an academic, serving as Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at Bowdoin College from 1825-1868. At the urgings of his wife, Upham attended some of the meetings led by Phoebe Palmer for the promotion of Christian holiness. Here he encountered the message and experience of entire sanctification. After this, he wrote several books explaining, and defending this experience. He also wrote spiritual biographies of Madame Guyon and Catherine of Genoa.
- Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life (2nd edition 1844, 1st edition 1843). Darius Salter says: “Upham’s writings are the first attempt to weigh the tenants of holiness theology within the rubrics of psychological investigation. His findings are integral to the history of the psychology of religion. Upham’s Principles of the Interior [or Hidden] Life (1843) may be the best attempt to stress experiential holiness theology within a psychological context.” I consider the 1844 second edition a significant improvement on the 1843 first edition, and have based my online edition on it.
- A Treatise on Divine Union (1851). David Bundy summarizes the themes of this book: “In this volume he analyzes carefully the origins, grounds and goals of the relationship between God and humans as well as the practices which may result in the improvement of that relationship. The journey, or goal of all human spirituality, he affirms, is the reestablishment of the perfect union with God that was broken when humans, through their free will, decided not to conform to the will of God. Every aspect of life, has a bearing on spirituality. It is through prayer and total ‘abandonment’ of ourselves for God that we move toward the goal.”
- The Life of Faith (1852). This is a follow-up to The Interior or Hidden Life. Some of the content from the earlier book appears here again, but the emphasis is it a little different. It focuses on faith — and what faith means to the whole of the Christian life. Upham writes: "The present Work... is, to some extent, kindred in its nature with The Interior Life....The leading object of both Works is the promotion of practical holiness….”
- Testimony (1872). This personal account of Upham’s faith journey is drawn from Pioneer Experiences, or The Gift of Power Received by Faith Illustrated and Confirmed by the Testimony of Eighty Living Ministers of Various Denominations edited by Phoebe W. Palmer.
- Absolute Religion (1873) This is an uncompleted book that Upham was working on at the time of his death. This seems to be a final (and a bit misguided) apologetic for Christianity based upon his life work in psychology and philosophy. Upham seeks to show that an Absolute Religion — based upon first principles and not upon an appeal to authority — accords perfectly with the Christian faith.
Books by Daniel Steele.
Daniel Steele (1824-1914) was a great Bible scholar and theologian in the Holiness movement. He had a varied career as a pastor, college professor, and college administrator. His writing style may take some getting used to, but his writings are well worth reading, in large part because of their emphasis on Biblical interpretation. Steele was an able defender of the teachings of Wesley and Fletcher.
- Love Enthroned (1875, revised 1908). This exposition of the doctrine of entire sanctification includes the author's personal testimony to the experience. This was the first of Steele's "holiness books." Material was added in 1908.
- Milestone Papers (1878). A collection of essays on entire sanctification. If you only read one of Steele's works, this is the one to read. Chapter 8 on "Tense Readings" in the Greek New Testament is especially interesting.
- A Substitute for Holiness, or Antinomianism Revived (1887) This book is Steele’s refutation of Dispensationalism. This is his only book on end-times teachings. His primary concern is the way that Dispensational teaching undermines the call to Christian holiness. Steele was a post-millenialist, and he believed that end-time schema best fit with the optimistic theology of Wesleyanism. This is an especially provocative book to read.
- Old Testament Commentaries (1891). These are drawn from volumes 2 & 3 of Whedon’s Bible Commentary on the Old Testament. Whedon’s Commentary was intended to be a popular-level commentary for the general reader, written from a Wesleyan point of view. Dr. Steele wrote the commentaries for Leviticus, Numbers, and Joshua.
- Half-Hours with St. Paul (c. 1894). Several Bible-study articles, mostly addressing the interpretation of the writings of the apostle Paul. Most of them (but not all) are quite brief.
- A Defense of Christian Perfection (1896). This "defense" was written to refute Dr. James Mudge's book Growth in Holiness Toward Perfection. But, the book is brief, many of the chapters are very brief and the argument is not difficult to follow.
- The Gospel of the Comforter (1898). This book on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life is regarded by some as Steele's greatest book.
- Jesus Exultant (1899). A collection of sermons. This is the only book solely devoted to Steele's sermons. The sermons are long, but the topics are interesting. Steele's theology was hopeful, gracious and optimistic.
- Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles (1901). This volume is poorly titled. This is actually a verse by verse commentary on 1, 2 & 3 John. It contains an Introduction to the letters of John, a full commentary, and some supplementary essays on certain themes in the letters.
- Steele's Answers (1912) blog. An old Holiness magazine called The Christian Witness had a Question and Answer column — essentially an “Ask Dr. Steele" column. The book Steele’s Answers is a compilation of Steele's responses to the specific questions that were posed to him. The questions appear in no particular thematic order. I have posted these, along with other snippets from Dr. Steele’s writings on a blog. This makes it easy to search for his comments on particular topics.
- The Central Idea of Christianity by Bishop Jesse T. Peck (1857, revised 1876). This is one of the most important 19th century statements and defenses of Wesleyan holiness theology. Bishop Peck was a prominent leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and here he throws his full support behind the holiness movement. As John Wesley had before him, Bishop Peck takes as his motto: "Without holiness no one will see the Lord." Holiness, he argues is central to the Christian faith and central to the intentions of God in salvation. Bishop Peck writes in a tone which is both logical and passionate.
- Perfect Love by J. A. Wood (1880). This is one of the most influential holiness books written in the nineteenth century. Written in a question-and-answer format, this book provides a sort of Holiness catechism. Wood quotes extensively from previous authors — very well documenting his teachings in the Wesleyan tradition. The exposition is clear enough to expose both the strengths and the difficulties of the common Holiness views. This book was extremely influential in the Holiness movement and the later Pentecostal-Holiness movement. Wood was one of the leaders in the establishment of the holiness camp meetings.
- The Fullness of the Blessing of the Gospel of Christ by Bishop W. F. Mallalieu (1903). A brief, and very basic, overview of Methodist teachings on the Christian life. W. F. Mallalieu (1828-1911) was elected Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1884 and presided in many Annual Conferences in the U.S.A. He writes: "Methodism builds on the Word of God. It has no new doctrines, no new and strange theories, no recently invented experiences. Its doctrines, theories, and experiences are those of the Pentecostal Church, and of the earliest centuries of Christianity." And, he says: "Back to the Wesleys and the Bible. The Bible in its simplicity and power, the Bible as unfolded and illustrated in the poetry and prose of the Wesleys, is really the foundation of [Methodism]."
- New Testament Holiness by Thomas Cook (1902). This is a simple and straightforward statement of the Holiness perspective on the Christian life. Cook was an evangelist who wanted to see the Wesleyan emphasis on Entire Sanctification restored in the church. This is undoubtedly one of the clearest and most understandable statements of the Holiness perspective ever written.
- What is Arminianism? by Daniel D. Whedon (1879). In an essay that originally appeared in the Methodist Quarterly Review Dr. Whedon compares Calvinism and Arminianism on 15 specific points. He, then, gives a brief history of the early Arminian movement, and a brief sketch of the life of Arminius.
Books by H. A. Baldwin.
Free Methodist pastor, district superintendent, evangelist, and author Harmon Allen Baldwin (1869-1936) wrote several books explaining and defending the doctrine of entire sanctification. He had a very fine grasp of the teachings of John Wesley, John Fletcher, and the other holiness writers. In the Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement (edited by William Kostlevy) we read: "Deeply suspicious of the growing materialism of the early 20th Century Holiness movement, Baldwin emphasized an interior mystical piety that rejected fundamentalist biblical literalism and premillenial eschatology."
- Lessons for Seekers of Holiness (c. 1907). This book contains lots of quotations from Wesley, Fletcher, Clarke, Peck and Steele. This is a good statement of the Wesleyan teaching on the spiritual life.
- Objections to Entire Sanctification Considered (c. 1911). This very brief volume replies to sixteen common objections to Holiness teachings. In replying to these, Baldwin also considers some alternative views of the Christian life. A very helpful and brief attempt to clarify what Holiness teachers do & do not teach.
- The Indwelling Christ (1912). The author says: "In the following pages the writer desires to defend the old-fashioned doctrine of experimental religion, and teach the possibility of having Christ, the hope of glory, formed within. There is very little attempt to refute errors or meet objections; the matter, for the most part, has been viewed from the positive side."
- Holiness and the Human Element (c. 1919). Brief chapters on various aspects of human nature and their relation to life in sanctification.
Overviews of Methodist Theology.
These books, give an overview of the teachings of the Methodists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These are all off-site links.
- Adam Clarke's Christian Theology (1835) (off-site link) edited by Samuel Dunn. Adam Clarke's teachings were edited and systematically arranged after his death by Samuel Dunn. The book also contains an overview of Clarke's life and writings.
- Binney's Theological Compend Improved (1874) (off-site link) by Amos Binney & Daniel Steele. A sketchy overview of Christian theology written originally for Methodist youth. It became unexpectedly popular in its day. Originally written by Amos Binney, it was expanded and "improved" in 1874 by Binney's son-in-law, Daniel Steele.
- A Compendium of Christian Theology (1876) (off-site link) by William Burt Pope. This is a complete systematic theology, written from a Wesleyan-Arminian point of view. This 3 volume systematic theology was the most important Methodist theological work of its time — well worth reading and studying today.
- The Doctrines of Methodism (1862) by Daniel D. Whedon. First published in the journal Bibliotheca Sacra, this article is an attempt to show the philosophical differences between Methodist teaching and Calvinism. Dr. Whedon writes: "It is our purpose in the present article to furnish a brief statement of the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church, especially those points in which there exists an issue with Calvinism." This is a philosophical presentation, and not a primer on Wesleyan teaching.