J. A. Wood.
IN this book Mr. Wesley is made to speak for himself on the subject of Christian Perfection; as, in its preparation, all that he left on the subject, in his various works and elsewhere, has been carefully examined, and everything of any special interest, or at all pertinent to the doctrine and experience, has been collected and classified in thirty sections; and each quotation verified for examination, if desired. In this classified, convenient form, may be found substantially all of his teachings, respecting this the central doctrine of Christianity.
During more than a century, John Wesley has been growing in the esteem of mankind, until now, among all Christians — Episcopalians, Dissenters, and Protestants of all names, — he is regarded as one of the most remarkable religious reformers in modern times. Those who desire to know his views on any aspect of the subject of Christian Perfection can turn to this volume, and at once find all that is now available from him regarding it. Within these pages are garnered many precious truths for the edification of those interested in Scriptural holiness as taught by John Wesley.
John A. Wood.
Shall We Drop It or Make a Point of It?
ON every hand we continually hear the plaint that Methodism is not true to Christian Perfection and is gradually forgetting the doctrine of its founder. Why is this? Wesley once wrote: "I find almost all our preachers in every circuit are done with Christian Perfection. They say they believe it, but never preach it; or not once in a quarter. What is to be done? Shall we drop it or make a point of it?" Again he wrote: "I examined the society. In five years I have found five members that have been gained. What have our preachers been doing all this time? They have preached four evenings in the week, and on Sunday morning. They have taken great care not to speak too plain, less they should give offense. When Mr. B—- preached the old Methodist doctrine, one said, 'You must not preach such doctrine here. It is not calculated for the Meridian of Edinburgh.'"
Did you ever hear such talk in America? You must not preach perfection in Illinois, Indiana or Iowa. It is not calculated for the civilization of the United States.
Is it any wonder that the work of God does not prosper more? God's work will prosper when we press all believers to go on to perfection, believing that the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin; that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Bishop W. F. Mallalieu.
The Gospel as preached by Wesley and those who imitate him, appeals with peculiar force to the intelligent common-sense of all unconverted men. All such men feel that under the circumstances and conditions of human life, it was incumbent upon God to make salvation possible to every soul. It has been the mission of Methodism to destroy the unreasonable and illogical and unscriptural dogmas of Calvinistic fatalism, and show how God could be just and yet the justifier of every believing soul that in real penitence accepts the Lord Jesus Christ; and, also, how God can save all infants and irresponsible persons, and how in every nation all who fear God and work righteousness, though they have never heard the Gospel, are accepted by Him. These fundamental truths as set forth by John Wesley, have never failed to commend themselves to the favorable consideration of all unprejudiced minds, for they at once glorify the Divine justice and compassion, and throw wide open the door of hope to every soul. But Wesley was thorough and exhaustive in his treatment of whatever was the subject of his investigations. For many long and weary years he groped in the thick darkness of the times in which he lived, seeking for the simplest experience of salvation. He abounded in all manner of self-denials and self-sacrifices; his morality was [of] the most exalted character; he was diligent in prayer and in the study of God's word; he was most strict in all the outward forms and services of religion; but until he reached his thirty-fifth year he had not attained the consciousness of pardon in his own soul; he could not testify that God for Christ's sake had forgiven him his sins. From that auspicious and ever-memorable, as well as glorious hour, when, listening to the reading of Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt his heart strangely warmed with the love of God, and knew himself to be a pardoned sinner, he went straight forward as the Spirit of God directed his steps, till he came to the experience of perfect love in his own soul.
It is to be especially noted that Wesley never quarreled about names. Sanctification, holiness, perfection, were often used by him to express the experience in the Divine life, attainable by all Christians previous to the hour of death; but he was more inclined to speak of the experience as the perfection of love, including love to God and love to man, and involving, at the same time, deliverance from the power, the guilt, and the pollution of sin.
Of two things we may rest assured. The first is that Wesley taught the possibility of this experience, and that it was to be reached by meditation, study, conviction of need, desire, consecration and faith. The second is that he leaves no room for doubt that he professed to have the experience, and that he preached the doctrine of Christian perfection and exhorted and encouraged his followers to seek it.
No one will study Wesley without discovering that he makes a distinction between regeneration and sanctification, or Christian perfection. He teaches that the work is wrought instantaneously, though it may be approached by slow and gradual steps; he denies the possibility of remaining in a justified and regenerate state while guilty of known sin; he teaches that this experience of perfect love pre-eminently favors the growth of all Christian graces; he avoids most carefully, and condemns most emphatically, all fanaticism and spiritual pride and foolishness, and shows how easily the experience may be lost; he studies his own heart, and watches with the most critical attention the professions and lives of those who assumed to have found the experience of entire sanctification, and compares all with the teachings of the Word of God: so that we have in "Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection," and in his frequent allusions to the subject in his journals and sermons, the summation of all that is essential to the fullest and clearest understanding of this whole subject.
It is with the greatest satisfaction that I give my approval to the present compilation of all that Wesley has taught concerning the all-important subject of Christian perfection. Surely there never, as now, was a time when the followers of Christ, of every name, and when, especially, all Methodists, should give their attention to the study of the scope and glorious nature of their privileges in this present dispensation of the Holy Ghost. We seem to stand on advanced ground, and such doors of opportunity are opened to the people of God, as never before in all the centuries of the past. All appliances, all facilities, are ours, and may be sanctified and utilized for the salvation of the world. But the great imperative, now is, that the professing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ should rise up out of the ordinary and usual experience of vacillation, of backsliding, yes, of justification and regeneration, and leaving all that is past, as Paul exhorts should be done, commence "to go on unto perfection," commence "to expect to be made perfect in love in this life," commence "to earnestly strive after it," and if need be, strive with groanings, and tears, and self-abasement, and agonizing supplications, until the experience of perfect love is realized, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost fills every heart with zeal, and crowns every head with lambent flames and makes every tongue eloquent in testifying to the grace of God that saves to the uttermost. Surely it will help to the realization of these most desirable results, if once more we turn to the study of Wesley and the Word of God.
W. F. MALLALIEU.