Wesley and Sanctification






[Text scanning, editing and formatting by Craig L. Adams.]

The author's dedication:

To my Father
and the memory
of my Mother

EDITOR'S NOTES: It appears that this study of Wesley's doctrine of salvation was never copyrighted.

The edition I own contains a (copyrighted) Introduction by Timothy Smith. He says: "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."

Lindström relies on Wesley's sermons as the primary source for understanding his theology. To Wesley "salvation" was more than a future thing — life with God in Heaven. "Salvation" was a present reality, a life in vital connection with God, an experience that caused believers to live "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."

Aside from re-numbering the footnotes, I have made no changes to this book.

The chapters of this book may be viewed online, either by using the hyperlink Table of Contents below or by using the navigation bar on the right.

— Craig L. Adams



Problems and Previous Interpretations

Experience in Wesley's theology: Increasing attention now paid to the theoretical element in Wesley. His theology has been called a theology of experience. In this he both supersedes and conforms to the spirit of the Enlightenment. Bett and Workman represent the subjectivist interpretation of Wesley. Revision of this in Cell, Lee, Frost, and Schmidt.

Wesley's theological outlook: Early general expositions by Schneckenburger, Loofs, and McGiffert. Two interpretations: one Reformed, the other Arminian Anglican. The latter found in Leger, Piette, Rattenbury, Petri, Lee, Knox, and Impeta. The former in Cell (though Cell also gives prominence to the Arminian element), von Eicken, Scott, Schmidt, Lerch, and Lang. A third interpretation: Methodism the source of the so-called sanctification movements in Protestantism.

Wesley and sanctification: Defects in previous interpretations; difficult to place sanctification in correct perspective. The conception is usually undervalued. The internal context inadequately elucidated.

The present work: A systematic-theological study of sanctification. Primary sources.


I. The State of Natural Man Determined by Original Sin

The collective view of sin: Wesley's conception of man helps us to understand his attitude to salvation. His conception of sin up to 1738. Wesley's clearer conception of sin accompanied by new insight into justification by faith. This conception grounded on the doctrine of original sin, which also becomes the basis of his doctrine of justification. The condition of natural man: totally corrupt through sin and consequent guilt. The primaeval state and the fall of man. Original sin and Adam's sin. The meaning of original sin: loss of primitive perfection and total corruption of human nature; a subjective-psychological and an objective-judicial view; original sin as inherent corruption and as guilt. The doctrine of original sin emphasizes the idea of grace.

The individualistic view of sin: Stress laid on personal awareness of original sin. Original sin brings guilt, but this is imputed and not personal; the punishment is different. The individualistic view reconciled with the collective. Wesley's individualism the result of his Arminian view of election. The possibility of real choice.

II. Original Sin and Specific Sins. Personal Sin

The relation between original and specific sins. The personal sins: inward and outward; the process of sin. Wesley's empiricism led him to attend particularly to personal sin.

III. The Conceptions of Sin and Salvation

The objective-judicial aspect: Sin is guilt just as salvation is forgiveness. (Justification in Wesley's conception of salvation).

The subjective-medical aspect: Sin is disease just as salvation is restoration of the soul to health. (Sanctification in Wesley's conception of salvation).

IV. Prevenient Grace and Salvation

Something in man has survived the Fall but this does not make salvation easier. The doctrine of prevenient grace acquires increasing importance under the influence of Arminianism. Some knowledge of God in everyone through prevenient grace, which is primarily a manifestation of conscience. It is supernatural. Wesley reconciles the doctrines of original sin and prevenient grace; the results of doing so.

V. The Conception of Man in the Twenty-five Articles of 1784

The doctrine of original sin in the Twenty-nine Articles and in Wesley's abridgement. Wesley's views on this matter. The Article on free will.


I. Atonement

The breach with Law in 1738: The importance of atonement in Wesley. Law's view of salvation and atonement. Wesley's view of atonement and the effect of that view on the relation between justification and sanctification. The implications of Wesley's breach with Law and the mystics.

Atonement in the Thirty-nine Articles and The Homily of Salvation: The idea of satisfaction can already be detected in the Articles. The same idea in The Homily of Salvation. Its presumption in the conception of God.

Wesley's view of atonement: Determined by the orthodox doctrine of satisfaction in the earliest Evangelical sermons; and subsequently. This is also seen in another controversy with Law. The difference in the conception of atonement due to a difference in the conception of God. Wesley diverges from Zinzendorf as well. Side by side with the conception of justice in his doctrine of satisfaction we find the conception of grace in his doctrine of atonement. The notion of the Atonement as a work of liberation and conquest is present but ancillary. Instead Wesley associates the idea of conquest with the work of Christ in man: the New Birth and sanctification. Wesley, however, also diverges from the orthodox view: satisfaction does not imply the active obedience of Christ in the orthodox sense. Thus the imputation of Christ's righteousness is not a factor in justification; and thus the fulfillment of the law is linked up with sanctification and not with atonement and justification.

II. The Law

The law is not regarded as an evil power overcome by Christ in the Atonement. This law, the moral law, is an emanation of the Divine Essence. The characteristics of the law: holiness, justice, and goodness. The meaning of the Christian's freedom from the law. The three uses of the law. The third use of the law: its place in the Christian life.

III. Justification and Sanctification

The relation between atonement, justification, and sanctification: The relation of the two latter to the former. Definition of justification and sanctification: a relative change and a real change. The relation between justification and sanctification in the doctrine of justification by faith: the Reformed attitude. There is nevertheless a difference as compared with Luther and a doctrine of justification determined by the idea of predestination. The latter particularly evident in the idea of repentance before faith. A synergistic tendency due to Wesley's Arminianism.

The importance of sanctification in Wesley's view of salvation: The relative change in justification is given logical priority, but the stress is laid on the real change in the New Birth and sanctification. A teleological tendency in the view of salvation. The emphasizing of the real change a result of Wesley's hostility to Antinomianism. Faith regarded as the means and fulfillment of the law as the end. The importance of sanctification also appears in his definition of the nature of religion and Methodism.


I. General Survey of the Order of Salvation

The order of salvation takes the form of a process in which the gradual and instantaneous elements coalesce. The various meanings of salvation. The place of baptism in the order of salvation. The order of salvation in Wesley's first Evangelical period. The order of salvation subsequently.

II. The Stages

The effects of prevenient grace. Repentance before justification and the fruits of this repentance. Justification and the New Birth. Repentance after justification and the fruits of this repentance. Christian perfection. Final justification or final salvation and glorification. Modifications and alterations.

III. The Process of Salvation and Sanctification

A gradual development characteristic of Wesley's mode of thought. This is combined with the instantaneous approach, by which salvation is seen as an ascent by steps. This ascent by steps was the principle on which Wesley organized the Methodist societies. The means of grace and sanctification. The various meanings of sanctification and its place in the order of salvation. Sanctification is both gradual and instantaneous. The relation of sanctification to justification is dual: it must be determined with respect to both present and final justification. The consequences of this.


I. The Importance and General Significance of the Idea of Perfection

This idea a typical expression of Wesley's teleological view of salvation. Various terms designating perfection. The influence of practical mysticism and the liturgical tradition of the Church of England. Agreement with practical mysticism as represented by Thomas à Kempis, Jeremy Taylor, and William Law. And differences. Compared to the Reformation and Zinzendorf. Some further general features of Christian perfection and modifications.

II. Christian Perfection in Greater Detail

The difference between entire sanctification and new birth. Deliverance from original sin. Perfection not absolute: it is adapted to the present circumstances of man. The law subjected to adaptation. Sin similarly treated. But as well as the relative concept of perfection which determines the doctrine there is also a concept of absolute perfection and a corresponding concept of law and sin. The relation between entire sanctification and atonement. Tabulation.

III. Further Characteristics

Assurance of entire sanctification. Perfection and humility. Inward and outward holiness. Perfection becomes a perfecting of the personality.


I. The Idea of Love in William Law

Present aims. Law's view of religion determined by the idea that through holiness man shall be qualified for eternal life. The nature of this holiness. This view reflected in his attitude to love. Neighbourly love is determined by the idea of imitation. This love is universal. It is a love of benevolence. Self-love as a legitimate form of Christian love. Legality and rationality in the idea of love and the whole conception of religion. Love to God the most proper form of man's love. Summary.

II. The Idea of Love in Wesley: General Characteristics

Wesley shares Law's teleological leaning; the consequences for his conception of salvation and his idea of love. The difference between them lies in Wesley's stressing of the causal view. The causal view linked up primarily with saving faith in atonement. But since salvation is seen as a process the causal approach is subordinate to the teleological. Love closely bound up with the idea of law. Rationality in the idea of law. Order and harmony in religion, and love becomes ordered love.

III. Love in Relation to its Objects

Love to God: A causal and Reformed view. Another alignment in keeping with Law and mysticism seen in the opposition between frui and uti and in the teleological approach. The teleological view persists but after 1738 is modified by a new point of departure; still, however, two main forms of love are compared: love to the Creator and love to the creature. The nature of these two kinds of love. Purity of intention as an expression of man's proper attitude to God. His fundamental teleology makes love to God dominate in the idea of love.

Neighbourly love: This love is given greater emphasis in 1738 but love to God is still the main principle. The motives of neighbourly love: love to God, imitation of God, the idea of the Creation. The nature and scope of this love: as in Law it is a universal benevolence. Graduation and regulation: three concentric circles. His ecumenical outlook.

Self-love: This idea employed to underline the importance of brotherly love. Considered a legitimate form of Christian love; the relation between neighbourly love and self-love. Ultimately self-love and neighbourly love are expressions of love to God.


I. Final Salvation as a Work of God

The dual relation between justification and sanctification the result of a twofold view of salvation: present and final salvation; this expressed in the two main themes in Wesley's teaching, 'Salvation by faith alone, and 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord'. These merge in saving faith: continuing in faith the condition of final salvation. The faith active in love is meant. Entire sanctification, the condition of final salvation, a promise which God will fulfil. This view expressed in the sermon entitled Satan's Devices (1750). Final salvation, organically connected with present salvation, evangelically presented.

II. Final Salvation and the Works of Man

Continuance in faith also dependent on the Christian himself; the importance of works in upholding and developing the Christian life. Works issuing from faith necessary to final salvation. The holiness necessary to final salvation is a condition but not a merit. Fletcher's interpretation of Wesley's position. The organic connection between present and final justification in Fletcher. Reasons for emphasizing works: Wesley's antagonism to Antinomianism. This antagonism an outcome of his Arminian view of election and of his doctrine of prevenient grace. A synergistic feature.

III. Sanctification and Twofold Salvation
Wesley's causal and teleological outlooks manifested in his twofold view of salvation. Tensions involved in the idea of a twofold justification. The idea of sanctification dominates his view of salvation since salvation is seen as a process directed to the ultimate goal of the Christian life, final salvation.