SANCTIFICATION INSTANTANEOUS, BY FAITH, AND NOT BY GROWTH IN GRACE.
MR. WESLEY taught instantaneous sanctification by faith, twenty years before the great revival of holiness in 1761-63, and afterwards on to the close of his life in 1791.
"I dislike the saying, this was not known or taught among us till within two or three years. I grant you did not know it. You have over and over denied instantaneous sanctification to me; but I have known and taught it (and so has my brother, as our writings show) above these twenty years." — Letter to Bell and Owen, Journal, Oct. 1762.
This declaration, with others made by Mr. Wesley, show that Charles Wesley, as well as himself, had for years taught instantaneous sanctification, although afterwards, on account of the Maxwell and Bell fanaticism, for a time he turned somewhat against it. (See Wesley's letter of 1768, in this section.)
At the first Methodist Conference, in 1744, it was asked: "Is faith the instrument or the condition of sanctification"? It was answered: "It is both the condition and instrument of it. When we begin to believe, then sanctification begins, and as faith increases, holiness increases, till we are created anew." — Tyerman, vol. ii. p. 417.
In 1749, he taught: —
"1. Christian Perfection is that love of God and our neighbors 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.'" — Works, vol. vi. p. 500.
"Inquiring (in 1761) how it was that in all these parts we have so few witnesses of full salvation, I constantly receive one and the same answer: 'We see now we sought it by our works; we thought it was to come gradually; we never expected it to come in a moment, by simple faith, in the very same manner as we received justification.' What wonder is it, then, that you have been fighting all these years as one that beateth the air." — Works, vol. vii. p. 377.
"By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favor of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the image of God. All experience, as well as Scripture, shows this salvation to be both instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified, in the holy, humble, gentle, patient love of God and man. It gradually increases from that moment, as 'a grain of mustard seed, which, at first, is the least of all seeds,' but afterwards puts forth large branches, and becomes a great tree; till, in another instant the heart is cleansed from all sin, and filled with pure love of God and man." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 236.
"I have continually testified (for these five-and-twenty years) in private and public, that we are sanctified as well as justified by faith. And, indeed, the one of those great truths does exceedingly illustrate the other. EXACTLY AS WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, SO ARE WE SANCTIFIED BY FAITH." — Works, vol. i. p. 338.
"You may obtain a growing victory over sin from the moment you are justified. But this is not enough. The body of sin, the carnal mind, must be destroyed; the old man must be slain, or we can not put on the new man, which is created after God (or which is the image of God) in righteousness and true holiness; and this is done in a moment. To talk of this work as being gradual, would be nonsense, as much as if we talked of gradual justification." — Journal of H. A. Rogers, p. 174.
"'But does God work this great work in the soul gradually or instantaneously?' Perhaps it may be gradually wrought in some; I mean in this sense, they do not advert to the particular moment wherein sin ceases to be. But it is infinitely desirable, were it the will of God, that it should be done instantaneously; that the Lord should destroy sin 'by the breath of His mouth,' in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. And so he generally does; a plain fact, of which there is evidence enough to satisfy any unprejudiced person. Thou therefore look for it every moment! Look for it in the way above described; in all those good works whereunto thou art 'created anew in Christ Jesus.' There is then no danger: you can be no worse, if you are no better for that expectation. For were you to be disappointed of your hope, still you lose nothing. But you shall not be disappointed of your hope: it will come, and will not tarry. Look for it then every day, every hour, every moment! Why not this hour, this moment? Certainly you may look for it now, if you believe it is by faith. And by this token you may surely know whether you seek it by faith or by works. It by works, you want something to be done first, before you are sanctified. You think I must be or do thus or thus.
"Then you are seeking it by works unto this day. If you are seeking it by faith, you may expect it as you are now; 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, expect it now! To deny one of them is to deny them all. To allow one, is to allow them all. Do you believe we are sanctified by faith? Be true then to your principle; and look for the blessing just as you are, neither better nor worse; as a poor sinner that has still nothing to pay, nothing to plead, but Christ died. And if you look for it as you are, then expect it now. Stay for nothing : why should you? Christ is ready; and He is all you want. He is waiting for you: He is at the door! Let your inmost soul cry out: —
"Come in, come in, thou heavenly guest!
Nor hence again remove;
But sup with me, and let the feast
Be everlasting love."
— Sermons, vol. i. pp.390, 391
"Indeed this is so evident a truth, that well nigh 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. But if there he no such second change, if there be no instantaneous deliverance after justification, if there be none but a gradual work of God (that there is a gradual work none denies), then we must be content, as well as we can, to remain full of sin till death; and, if so, we must remain guilty till death, continually deserving punishment." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 122.
"Does He work it gradually, by slow degrees; or instantaneously in a moment? How many are the disputes upon this head, even among the children of God! And so there will be, after all that ever was, or ever can be said upon it. For many will still say, with the famous Jew, 'thou shalt not persuade me, though thou dost persuade me.' And they will be the more resolute herein, because the Scriptures are silent upon the subject: because the point is not determined, at least not in express terms, in any part of the oracles of God. Every man, therefore, may abound in his own sense, provided he will allow the same liberty to his neighbor; provided he will not be angry at those who differ from his opinion, nor entertain hard thoughts concerning them. Permit me likewise to add one thing more: be the change instantaneous or gradual, see that you never rest till it is wrought in your own soul, if you desire to dwell with God in glory." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 222.
"In the same proportion as he grows in faith he grows in holiness; he increases in love, lowliness, meekness, 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." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 222.
"This premised, in order to throw what light I can upon this interesting question, I will simply relate what I have seen myself in the course of many years. Four or five and forty years go, when I had no distinct views of what the apostle meant, by exhorting us to 'leave the principle of the doctrine of Christ, and go on to perfection;' two or three persons in London, whom I knew to be truly sincere, desired to give me an account of their experience. It appeared exceeding strange, being different from any that I had heard before: but exactly similar to the preceding account of entire sanctification. The next year, two or three more persons at Bristol, and two or three in Kingswood, coming to me severally, gave me exactly the same account of their experience. A few years after, I desired all those in London, who made the same profession, to come to me all together at the Foundery, that I might be thoroughly satisfied. I desired that man of God, Thomas Walsh, to give us the meeting there. When we met, first one of us, and then the other, asked the most searching questions we could devise. They answered every one without hesitation, and with the utmost simplicity, so that we were fully persuaded, they did not deceive themselves.
"In the years 1759, 1760, 1761, and 1762, their numbers multiplied exceedingly, not only in London and Bristol, but in various parts of Ireland as well as England. Not trusting to the testimony of others, I carefully examined most of these myself; and in London alone, I found six hundred and fifty-two members of our society, who were exceeding clear in their experience, and of whose testimony I could see no reason to doubt. I believe no year has passed since that time, wherein God has not wrought the same work in many others; but sometimes in one part of England or Ireland, sometimes in another; — as 'the wind bloweth where it listeth;' — and every one of these (after the most careful inquiry, I have not found one exception either in Great Britain or Ireland) has declared that his deliverance from sin was instantaneous: that the change was wrought in a moment. Had half of these, or one third, or one in twenty, declared it was gradually wrought in them, I should have believed this, with regard to them, and thought that some were gradually sanctified and some instantaneously. But as I have not found, in so long a space of time, a single person speaking thus; as all who believe they are sanctified, declare with one voice, that the change was wrought in a moment, I cannot but believe, that sanctification is commonly, if not always, an instantaneous work." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 223.
This sermon was written but a short time before Mr. Wesley's death. (See Tyerman, vol. i. p. 462.)
Letter to C. Wesley, 1767: —
"I still think, to disbelieve all the professors, amounts to a denial of the thing. For if there be no living witness of what we have preached for twenty years, I cannot, dare not, preach it any longer. The whole comes to one point: Is there, or is there not, any instantaneous sanctification between justification and death? I say, yes. You (often seem to) say, no. What arguments brought you to think so? Perhaps they may convince me too." — Vol. vi. p. 659
"I like your doctrine of perfection, or pure love; love excluding sin; your insisting that it is merely by faith; that consequently it is instantaneous (though preceded and followed by a gradual work), and that it may be now at this instant." — Letter to Bell and Owen, Journal, Oct., 1762.
"It is also a plain fact, that this power does commonly overshadow them in an instant; and that from that time they enjoy that inward and outward holiness, to which they were utter strangers before." — Journal, Aug., 1768.
To his brother Charles, 1768: —
"I rejoice to hear, from various persons, so good an account of the work of God in London. You did not come thither without the Lord; and you find your labor is not in vain. I doubt not but you will see more and more fruit, while you converse chiefly with them that are athirst for God. I find a wonderful difference in myself when I am among these, and when I am among fashionable Methodists. On this account the north of England suits me best, where so many are groaning after full redemption.
"But what shall we do? I think it is high time that you and I, at least, should come to a point. Shall we go on in asserting perfection against all the world? Or shall we quietly let it drop? We really must do one or the other; and I apprehend, the sooner the better. What shall we jointly and explicitly maintain (and recommend to all our preachers), concerning the nature, the time (now, or by and by), and the manner of it? instantaneous or not? I am weary of intestine war; of preachers quoting one of us against the other. At length, let us fix something for good and all; either the same as formerly, or different from it. Erroso. [Farewell]." — Works, vol. vi. p. 672.
Dr. Stevens, in his "History of Methodism," says:
'Wesley claimed it as, like justification, an attainment of faith, and practicable at any moment." — Vol. i. p. 406.
Tyerman says: "The doctrine of Christian perfection, attainable in an instant by a simple act of faith, was made prominent in Methodist congregations in 1762, and ever after it was one of the chief topics of Mr. Wesley's ministry and that of his itinerant preachers." (Tyerman, vol. ii. pp. 346, 416, 444.) According to this, during half of his ministerial life, Mr. Wesley made instantaneous sanctification a prominent topic of his ministry. He wrote his brother Charles, in 1766: "Insist everywhere on full redemption received now by faith alone, . . . Press the instantaneous blessing."