A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
AS BELIEVED AND TAUGHT
BY THE REV. MR. JOHN WESLEY
FROM THE YEAR 1725 TO THE YEAR 1777.
L. SOME WITNESSES.
24. In the latter end of this year, God called to himself that burning and shining light, Jane Cooper. As she was both a living and a dying witness of Christian perfection, it will not be at all foreign to the subject to add a short account of her death; with one of her own letters, containing a plain and artless relation of the manner wherein it pleased God to work that great change in her soul: —
"MAY 2, 1761.
I believe while memory remains in me, gratitude will continue. From the time you preached on Gal. 5:5, I saw clearly the true state of my soul. That sermon described my heart, and what it wanted to be; namely, truly happy. You read Mr. M—-'s letter, and it described the religion which I desired. From that time the prize appeared in view, and I was enabled to follow hard after it. I was kept watching unto prayer, sometimes in much distress, at other times in patient expectation of the blessing. For some days before you left London, my soul was stayed on a promise I had applied to me in prayer: 'The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.' I believed he would, and that he would sit there as a refiner's fire. The Tuesday after you went, I thought I could not sleep, unless he fulfilled his word that night. I never knew as I did then the force of these words: 'Be still, and know that I am God.' I became nothing before Him, and enjoyed perfect calmness in my soul. I knew not whether he had destroyed my sin; but I desired to know, that I might praise Him. Yet I soon found the return of unbelief, and groaned, being burdened. On Wednesday I went to London, and sought the Lord without ceasing. I promised, if he would save me from sin, I would praise him. I could part with all things, so I might win Christ. But I found all these pleas to be nothing worth; and that if He saved me, it must be freely, for his own name's sake. On Thursday I was so much tempted, that I thought of destroying myself, or never conversing more with the people of God: And yet I had no doubt of his pardoning love; but, —
'Twas worse than death my God to love,
And not my God alone.
On Friday my distress was deepened. I endeavoured to pray, and could not. I went to Mrs. D., who prayed for me, and told me it was the death of nature. I opened the Bible, on, 'The fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.' I could not bear it. I opened again, on Mark 16:6, 7: 'Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth. Go your way; tell his disciples he goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see him.' I was encouraged, and enabled to pray, believing I should see Jesus at home. I returned that night, and found Mrs. G. She prayed for me; and the Predestinarian had no plea, but, 'Lord, thou art no respecter of persons.' He proved he was not, by blessing me. I was in a moment enabled to lay hold on Jesus Christ, and found salvation by simple faith. He assured me, the Lord, the King, was in the midst of me, and that I should see evil no more. I now blessed Him who had visited and redeemed me, and was become my 'wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.' I saw Jesus altogether lovely; and knew he was mine in all his offices. And, glory be to Him, He now reigns in my heart without a rival. I find no will but his. I feel no pride; nor any affection but what is placed on Him. I know it is by faith I stand; and that watching unto prayer must be the guard of faith. I am happy in God this moment, and I believe for the next. I have often read the chapter you mention, (1 Cor. 13.,) and compared my heart and life with it. In so doing, I feel my shortcomings, and the need I have of the atoning blood. Yet I dare not say, I do not feel a measure of the love there described, though I am not all I shall be. I desire to be lost in that 'love which passeth knowledge.' I see 'the just shall live by faith;' and unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given. If I were an archangel, I should veil my face before him, and let silence speak his praise!
The following account is given by one who was an eye and ear witness of what she relates: —
(1.) In the beginning of November, she seemed to have a foresight of what was coming upon her, and used frequently to sing these words: —
'When pain o'er this weak flesh prevails,
With lamb-like patience arm my breast.'
And when she sent to me, to let me know she was ill, she wrote in her note, 'I suffer the will of Jesus. All he sends is sweetened by His love. I am as happy as if I heard a voice say, —
'For me my elder brethren stay,
And angels beckon me away,
And Jesus bids me come!'
(2.) Upon my telling her, 'I cannot choose life or death for you,' she said, 'I asked the Lord, that, if it was His will I might die first. And he told me, you should survive me, and that you should close my eyes.' When we perceived it was the small-pox, I said to her, 'My dear, you will not be frighted if we tell you what is your distemper.' She said, 'I cannot be frighted at His will.'
(3.) The distemper was so very heavy upon her; but so much the more was her faith strengthened. Tuesday, November 16, she said to me, 'I have been worshipping before the throne in a glorious manner; my soul was so let into God!' I said, 'Did the Lord give you any particular promise?' 'No,' replied she; 'it was all
That sacred awe that dares not move,
And all the silent heaven of love.'
(4.) On Thursday, upon my asking, 'What have you to say to me?' she said, 'Nay, nothing but what you know already: God is love.' I asked, 'Have you any particular promise?' She replied, 'I do not seem to want any; I can live without. I shall die a lump of deformity, but shall meet you all-glorious: And, meantime, I shall still have fellowship with your spirit.'
(5.) Mr. M. asked, what she thought the most excellent way to walk in, and what were its chief hinderances. She answered: 'The greatest hinderance is generally from the natural constitution. It was mine to be reserved, to be very quiet, to suffer much, and to say little. Some may think one way more excellent, and some another: But the thing is to live in the will of God. For some months past, when I have been particularly devoted to this, I have felt such a guidance of his Spirit, and the unction which I have received from the Holy One has so taught me of all things, that I needed not any man should teach me, save as this anointing teacheth.'
(6.) On Friday morning she said, 'I believe I shall die.' She then sat up in her bed and said, 'Lord, I bless thee, that thou art ever with me, and all thou hast is mine. Thy love is greater than my weakness, greater than my helplessness, greater than my unworthiness. Lord, thou sayest to corruption, Thou art my sister! And glory be to thee, O Jesus, thou art my Brother. Let me comprehend, with all saints, the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of thy love! Bless these;' (some that were present;) 'let them be every moment exercised in all things as thou wouldest have them to be.'
(7.) Some hours after, it seemed as if the agonies of death were just coming upon her; but her face was full of smiles of triumph, and she clapped her hands for joy. Mrs C. said, 'My dear, you are more than conqueror through the blood of the Lamb.' She answered: 'Yes, O yes, sweet Jesus! O death, where is thy sting?' She then lay as in a doze for some time. Afterwards, she strove to speak, but could not: However, she testified her love, by shaking hands with all in the room.
(8.) Mr. W. then came. She said, 'Sir, I did not know that I should live to see you. But I am glad the Lord has given me this opportunity, and likewise power to speak to you. I love you. You 'have always preached the strictest doctrine; and I loved to follow it. Do so still, whoever is pleased or displeased.' He asked, 'Do you now believe you are saved from sin?' She said, 'Yes; I have had no doubt of it for many months. That I ever had, was, because I did not abide in the faith. I now feel I have kept the faith; and perfect love casteth out all fear. As to you, the Lord promised me, your latter works should exceed your former, though I do not live to see it. I have been a great enthusiast, as they term it, these six months; but never lived so near the heart of Christ in my life. You, Sir, desire to comfort the hearts of hundreds by following that simplicity your soul loves.'
(9.) To one who had received the love of God under her prayer, she said, 'I feel I have not followed a cunningly-devised fable; for I am as happy as I can live. Do you press on, and stop not short of the mark.' To Miss M—-s she said, 'Love Christ; he loves you. I believe I shall see you at the right hand of God: But as one star differs from another star in glory, so shall it be in the resurrection. I charge you, in the presence of God, meet me in that day all-glorious within. Avoid all conformity to the world. You are robbed of many' of your privileges. I know I shall be found blameless. Do you labour to be found of him in peace, without spot.'
(10.) Saturday morning, she prayed nearly as follows: 'I know, my Lord, my life is prolonged only to do thy will. And though I should never eat or drink more,' (she had not swallowed anything for near eight-and-twenty hours,) 'thy will be done. I am willing to be kept so a twelvemonth: Man liveth not by bread alone. I praise thee that there is not a shadow of complaining in our streets. In that sense we know not what sickness means. Indeed, Lord, neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, no, nor any creature, shall separate us from thy love one moment. Bless these, that there may be no lack in their souls. I believe there shall not. I pray in faith.'
On Sunday and Monday she was light-headed, but sensible at times. It then plainly appeared, her heart was still in heaven. One said to her, 'Jesus is our mark.' She replied: 'I have but one mark; I am all spiritual.' Miss M. said to her, 'You dwell in God.' She answered: 'Altogether.' A person asked her: 'Do you love me?' She said, 'O, I love Christ; I love my Christ.' To another she said, 'I shall not long be here; Jesus is precious, very precious indeed.' She said to Miss M., 'The Lord is very good; he keeps my soul above all.' For fifteen hours before she died, she was in strong convulsions: Her sufferings were extreme. One said, 'You are made perfect through sufferings.' She said, 'More and more so.' After lying quiet some time, she said, 'Lord, thou art strong!' Then pausing a considerable space, she uttered her last words, 'My Jesus is all in all to me: Glory be to him through time and eternity.' After this, she lay still for about half an hour, and then expired without a sigh or groan."