THE OPPOSITION MR. WESLEY ENCOUNTERED ON THE SUBJECT OF HOLINESS.
"Now permit me to ask, why are you so angry with those who profess to have attained this? And so mad (I cannot give it any softer title) against Christian perfection? — Against the most glorious gift which God ever gave to the children of men upon earth? View it in every one of the preceding points of light, and see what it contains that is either odious or terrible: that is calculated to excite either hatred or fear in any reasonable creature.
"What rational objection can you have, to the loving the Lord your God with all your heart? Why should you be afraid of it? Would it do you any hurt? Would it lessen your happiness, either in this world, or the world to come? And why should you be unwilling that others should give Him their whole heart? Or that they should love their neighbors as themselves? — Yea, 'As Christ hath loved us?' Is this detestable? Is it the proper object of hatred? Or is it the most amiable thing under the sun? Is it proper to move terror? Is it not rather desirable in the highest degree?
"Why are you so averse to having in you the whole 'mind which was in Christ Jesus?' All the affections, all the tempers and dispositions, which were in Him, while He dwelt among men? Why should you be afraid of this? Would it be any worse for you, were God to work in you this very hour, all the mind that was in Him? " — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 174.
"Why have the preachers of it been hooted at like mad dogs, even by men that fear God, nay, and by some of their own children, some whom they, under God, have begotten through the Gospel?" — Plain Account, p. 170.
To Sarah Crosby, 1766: —
"A general faintness, in this respect (on the subject of Christian perfection), is fallen upon the whole kingdom. Sometimes, I seem almost weary of striving against the stream both of preachers and people."
"Those who love God with all their heart must expect much opposition from professors who have gone on for twenty years in an old BEATEN TRACK, and fancy they are wiser than all the world. THESE ALWAYS OPPOSE THE WORK OF SANCTIFICATION MOST."' — H. A. Rogers' Journal, p. 177.
"' No,' says a great man, 'this is the error of errors; I hate it from my heart. I pursue it through all the world with fire and sword.' Nay, why so vehement? Do you seriously think there is no error under heaven equal to this? Here is something which I cannot understand. Why are those that oppose salvation from sin (few excepted) so eager? I had almost said, furious? Are you fighting pro aris et focis? For God and your country? For all you have in the world? For all that is near and dear unto you? For your liberty? For your life? In God's name, why are you so fond of sin? What good has it ever done you? What good is it ever likely to do you, either in this world, or in the world to come? And why are you so violent against those that hope for a deliverance from it? Have patience with us, if we are in an error; yea, suffer us to enjoy our error. If we should not attain it, the very expectation of this deliverance gives us present comfort; yea, and ministers strength, to resist those enemies which we expect to conquer. If you could persuade us to despair of that victory, we should give over the contest. Now 'we are saved by hope;' from this very hope a degree of salvation springs. Be not angry at those who are felices errore suo; happy in their mistake. Else, be their opinion right or wrong, your temper is undeniably sinful: bear then with us, as we do with you; and see whether the Lord will not deliver us! Whether He is not able, yea, and willing, 'to save them to the uttermost that come unto God through Him."' — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 176.
"But is there no way to prevent these crosses which usually fall on those who speak of being thus saved? " — "It seems they cannot be prevented altogether while so much of nature remains even in believers. But something might be done if the preacher in every place would: (1) Talk freely with all who speak thus; and, (2) Labor to prevent the unjust or unkind treatment of those in favor of whom there is reasonable proof" — Plain Account, p. 71.
"Suffer me to ask one question more. Why should any man of reason and religion be either afraid of, or averse to, salvation from all sin? Is not sin the greatest evil on this side hell? And if so, does it not naturally follow, that an entire deliverance from it is one of the greatest blessings on this side heaven? How earnestly then should it be prayed for by all the children of God! By sin I mean, a voluntary transgression of a known law. Are you averse to being delivered from this? Are you afraid of such a deliverance? Do you then love sin, that you are so unwilling to part with it? Surely no. You do not love either the devil or his works. You rather wish to be totally delivered from them: to have sin rooted out both of your life and your heart.
"I have frequently observed, and not without surprise, that the opposers of perfection are more vehement against it when it is placed in this view, than in any other whatsoever: they will allow all you say of the love of God and man; of the mind which was in Christ; of the fruit of the Spirit; of the image of God; of universal holiness, of entire self-dedication; of sanctification in spirit, soul, and body ; yea, and of the offering up of all our thoughts, words, and actions, as a sacrifice to God; — all this they will allow, so we will allow sin, a little sin, to remain in us till death." — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 176.
"Monday, 14. — I was explaining the 'liberty' we have 'to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,' when one cried out, as in an agony, 'Thou art a hypocrite, a devil, an enemy to the Church."" — Journal, 1740.
In 1763, at the time of the fanaticism of Maxfield and Bell, Charles Wesley became quite prejudiced against instantaneous sanctification, and for a time seemed to oppose his brother. In 1768, Mr. Wesley wrote as follows: "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, — instantaneously or not? I am weary of intestine war, or 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." — Works, English edition, vol. xii. p. 126.
"We begin now to meet with opposition from every quarter. Some say this is rank enthusiasm; others; that it is either a cheat, or mere pride; others, that it is a new thing, and that they can find no such thing in the Bible."'
June 3. - "The Lord increases His work, in proportion to the opposition it meets with." — Journal, May, 1762.
"The greatest part of this spring (of 1763), I was fully employed in visiting the society, and settling the minds of those who bad been confused and distressed by a thousand misrepresentations. Indeed, a flood of calumny and evil speaking (as was easily foreseen) had been poured out on every side. My point was still, to go straight forward in the work whereto I am called." — Works, vol. vii. p. 393.
To Rev. Mr. Venn, 1765: -
"To this poor end the doctrine of perfection has been brought in, head and shoulders. And when such concessions were made as would abundantly satisfy any fair and candid man, they were no nearer, — rather farther off; for they had no desire to be satisfied. To make this dear breach wider and wider, stories were carefully gleaned up, improved, yea, invented and retailed, both concerning me and 'the perfect ones.' And when anything very bad has come to hand, some have rejoiced as though they had found great spoils." — Works, vol. vii. p. 303.
To his brother, 1768: —
"I am at my wit's end with regard to two things, — the church, and Christian perfection. Unless both you and I stand in the gap in good earnest, the Methodists will drop them both. Talking will not avail. We must do or be borne away. Will you set shoulder to shoulder? If so, think deeply upon the matter, and tell me what can be done. Age, vir esto! nervos intendas tuos. [Come on, act the man do your utmost.] Peace be with you and yours! Adieu." — Works, vol. vi. p. 670.
"And hence you was, of course, disgusted at those who did not yield to this temper, and blamed that conformity. Perhaps some of these professed or expected to be perfected in love; they at least believed perfection. Now this you seemed to hate with a perfect hatred; and on that account disliked them the more." — Journal, June, 1769.
"Thursday, 14. About two at Potto; and in the evening at Hutton. Here, as well as elsewhere, those who believe they are saved from sin undergo many trials from their brethren. But so much the more will 'the God of all grace, after 'they 'have suffered a while, stablish, strengthen, and settle' them.'" — Journal, June, 1770.
To Mrs. Elizabeth Bennis, 1771: —
"I did believe brother C—— would be of use to you, and you may be of use to him. Speak to each other without reserve, and then you will seldom meet in vain. Thrust him out to visit the whole society (not only those that can give him meat and drink), from house to house, according to the plan laid down in the Minutes of Conference; then he will soon see the fruit of his labor. I hope he is not ashamed to preach full salvation, receivable now by faith. This is the word which God will always bless, and which the devil peculiarly hates; therefore he is constantly stirring up both his own children and the weak children of God against it." — Works, vol. vii. p. 55.
To Mrs. Mary Marston, 1771: —
"Does Mr. Clough, or any other of the preachers, speak against perfection, or give occasion to them that trouble you? You would do well to speak to anyone that does, that you may come to a better understanding. So far as in you lies, let not the good that is in you be evil spoken of. But beware, lest the unkind usage of your brethren betray you into any kind of guile or false prudence, Still let all your conversation be in simplicity and godly sincerity. Be plain, open, downright, without disguise." — Works, vol. vii. p. 127.
To Dr. Adam Clark, 1790: —
"The account you send me of the continuance of the great work of God in Jersey, gives me great satisfaction. 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 congregations cannot be an honest man." — Works, vol. vii. p. 205.
Tyerman says: "As we have often shown, Wesley regarded the preaching of the doctrine of Christian perfection as of the utmost importance." After quoting this letter to Dr. Adam Clark, he says: "Such letters might be greatly multiplied. — Tyerman, vol. iii. p. 633.
To Mr. Edward Lewley, in 1791, a month before he died: —
"I do not believe any single person in your select society scruples saying: —
'Every moment, Lord, I need
The merit of Thy death.'
This is clearly determined in the 'Thoughts upon Christian Perfection.' But who expects common people to speak accurately? And how easy is it to entangle them in their talk! I am afraid some have done this already. A man that is not a thorough friend to Christian perfection will easily puzzle others, and thereby weaken, if not destroy, any select society. I doubt this has been the case with you. That society was in a lively state, and well united together, when I was last at Birmingham." — Works, vol. vii. p. 253.