FULL SALVATION MAY BE LOST.
"IT is a common thing for those who are sanctified, to believe they cannot fall; to suppose themselves pillars in the temple of God, that shall go out no more. Nevertheless, we have seen some of the strongest of them, after a time, moved from their steadfastness. Sometimes suddenly, but oftener, by slow degrees, they have yielded to temptation; and pride, or anger, or foolish desires, have again sprung up in their hearts. Nay, sometimes they have utterly lost the life of God, and sin hath regained dominion over them.
"Several of these, after being thoroughly sensible of their fall, and deeply ashamed before God, have been again filled with love, and not only perfected therein, but stablished, strengthened, and settled. They have received the blessing they had before, with abundant increase." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 247.
"Afterwards I spent an hour with those who once believed they were saved from sin (at Barnard Castle). I found here, as at London, about a third part who held fast their confidence. The rest had suffered loss, more or less, and two or three were shorn of all their strength." — Journal, 1765.
"On a close examination (at Manchester), out of more than fifty persons, who, two or three years ago, were filled with the love of God, I did not find above a third part, who had not suffered loss. But almost all were deeply sensible of their loss, and earnestly groaning for what they once enjoyed."' — Journal, April, 1766.
"The same earnestness, I observed in the congregation at Maxfield. And yet, hardly a third part of those I formerly examined, now retain the glorious liberty which they then enjoyed." - Journal, April, 1766.
To Miss Jane Hilton, 1769: —
"I rejoice to hear that you stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free; and the more, because, although many taste of that heavenly gift, deliverance from inbred sin, yet so few, so exceeding few, retain it one year; hardly one in ten; nay, one in thirty. Many hundreds in London were made partakers of it, within sixteen or eighteen months; but I doubt whether twenty of them are now as holy and as happy as they were. And hence, others had doubted whether God intended that salvation to be enjoyed long. That many have it for a season, that, they allow; but are not satisfied that any retain it always. Shall not you, for one? You will, if you watch and pray, and continue hanging upon Him." — Works, vol. vii. p. 43.
To Mrs. Elizabeth Bennis, 1769: —
"Some years since, I was inclined to think that none who had once enjoyed and then lost the pure love of God, must ever look to enjoy it again till they were just stepping into eternity. But experience has taught us better things: we have at present numerous instances of those who had cast away that unspeakable blessing, and now enjoy it in a larger measure than ever." — Works, vol. vii. p. 51.
To Miss Jane Hilton, 1770: —
"Two things are certain: the one, that it is possible to lose even the pure love of God; the other, that it is not necessary, it is not unavoidable; it may be lost, but it may be kept. Accordingly, we have some, in every part of the kingdom, who have never been moved from their steadfastness. And from this moment you need never be moved: His grace is sufficient for you. But you must continue to grow, if you continue to stand; for no one can stand still." —Works, vol. vii. p. 43.
"It is possible, some who spoke in this manner were mistaken. And it is certain, some have lost what they then received. A few (very few, compared to the whole number) first gave way to enthusiasm, then to pride, next to prejudice and offense, and at last separated from their brethren. But, although this laid a huge stumbling-block in the way, still the word of God went on. Nor has it ceased to this day in any of its branches. God still convinces, justifies, sanctifies. We have lost only the dross, the enthusiasm, the prejudice, and offense. The pure gold remains, faith, working by love, and, we have ground to believe, increases daily." — Journal, Dec., 1763.
"I returned to Limerick, but could not preach abroad, because of the severe weather. Monday, 10, after the morning preaching, I met the select society. All of these once experienced salvation from sin. Some enjoy it still; but the greater part are, more or less, shorn of their strength; yet not without hope of recovering it." — Journal, May, 1773.
"I went to Sheffield, and on Tuesday met the select society. But it was reduced from sixty to twenty; and but half of these retained all that they once received! What a grievous error, to think those that are saved from sin cannot lose what they have gained! It is a miracle if they do not; seeing all earth and hell are so enraged against them." — Journal, July, 1774.
"I returned to Chester, and found many alive to God, but scarce one that retained His pure love." - Journal, April, 1780.
"Here (at Limerick) were always an affectionate people; but I never found them so much so as now. It was too cold in the evening to stand abroad; so we squeezed as many as possible into the preaching-house. I preached on, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.' Many here once experienced this; but few, if any, retain it now!" — Journal, May, 1787.
To Adam Clarke, 1790: —
"To retain the grace of God is much more than to gain it; hardly one in three does this. And this should be strongly and explicitly urged on all who have tasted of perfect love. If we can prove that any of our local preachers or leaders, either directly or indirectly, speak against it, let him be a local preacher or leader no longer. I doubt whether he should continue in the society; because he that could speak thus in our congregation cannot be an honest man. Last week I had an excellent letter from Mrs. Pawson (a glorious witness of full salvation), showing how impossible it is to retain pure love without growing therein." — Works, vol. vii. p. 206.
"This week I visited the classes in Bristol. I wonder we do not increase in number, although many are convinced, many justified, and a few perfected in love. I can impute the want of increase to nothing but a want of self-denial. Without this, indeed, whatever other helps they have, no believers can go forward." — Journal, March, 1790.
"About noon I preached at Potto, to a deeply serious congregation; and to another such in the evening at HuttonRudby. Twenty years this society was a pattern to all the country for seriousness and deep devotion. I think seventeen of them were perfected in love; but only three of them remain, and most of the rest are either removed, or grown cold and dead." — Journal, June, 1790.
From these statements, it is clear that in Mr. Wesley's time, as in ours, there was much vacillation, and many lost the blessing, and the work in the Church was periodical in some places and with some individuals.