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Holiness Texts: Matthew 22:37

This series of posts highlights the primary Scripture texts cited by John Wesley and his earliest followers in defense and explanation of the doctrine of Christian Perfection. These are posted (as always) for information and possible discussion. It is not assumed that because Wesley or his followers said a certain thing, everyone else is somehow obligated to agree. The Scriptures are quoted below from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. They are followed by comments from Wesley himself, as well as some of his early followers: John Fletcher, Adam Clarke and Joseph Benson.

An introduction to this series is here:
The Holiness Texts of John Wesley. Links to the other posts in this series may be found on the Wesleyan Theology Page or on the Bible Studies page, listed as “The Holiness Texts of John Wesley.”

— Matthew 22:37, NASB.

John Wesley remarks:

Q.3. What is implied in being a perfect Christian?

A. The loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our mind, and soul, and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5, 30:6; Ezekiel 36:25-29.)"

Minutes of Some Late Conversations Between The Rev. Mr. Wesleys and Others. Conversation # 1. Monday, June 25th, 1744.

"He is truly wise, whose 'righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.' He is poor in spirit; knowing himself even as also he is known. He sees and feels all his sin, and all his guilt, till it is washed away by the atoning blood. He is conscious of his lost estate, of the wrath of God abiding on him, and of his utter inability to help himself, till he is filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. He is meek and gentle, patient toward all men, never 'returning evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing,' till he overcomes evil with good. His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He has bowels of love for all mankind, and is ready to lay down his life for his enemies. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength. He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, who, in this spirit, doeth good unto all men; and who, being for this cause despised and rejected of men, being hated, reproached, and persecuted, rejoices and is ‘exceeding glad,’ knowing in whom he hath believed, and being assured these light, momentary afflictions will 'work out for him an eternal weight of glory.'"

Sermon #33 "Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount" Discourse 13.

"A Methodist is one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul, which is continually crying, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth whom I desire besides thee.’ My God and my all! ‘Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.’ He is therefore happy in God; yea, always happy, as having in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life, and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. Perfect love having now cast out fear, he rejoices evermore. Yea, his joy is full, and all his bones cry out, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten me again unto a living hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for me.’"

The Character of a Methodist.

"'What then is the mark? Who is a Methodist, according to your own account?' I answer: A Methodist is one who has 'the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;' one who 'loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.' God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee 'my God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!'"

The Character of a Methodist.

"All the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might. For his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore, loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength. He continually presents his soul and body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God; entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has, and all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has received, he constantly employs according to his Master’s will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body. Once he 'yielded' them 'unto sin' and the devil, 'as instruments of unrighteousness;' but now, 'being alive from the dead,' he yields? them all 'as instruments of righteousness unto God.'"

The Character of a Methodist.

"This man can now testify to all mankind, ‘I am crucified with Christ: Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ He is ‘holy, as God who called him is holy,’ both in heart and ‘in all manner of conversation.’ He ‘loveth the Lord his God with all his heart,’ and serveth him ‘with all his strength.’ He ‘loveth his neighbor,’ every man, ‘as himself;’ yea, ‘as Christ loved us;’ them, in particular, that ‘despitefully use him and persecute him, because they know not the Son, neither the Father.’ Indeed his soul is all love, filled with ‘bowels of mercies, kindness, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering.’ And his life agreeth thereto, full of ‘the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labor of love. And whatsoever he doeth either in word or deed, he doeth it all in the name,’ in the love and power, ‘of the Lord Jesus.’ In a word, he doeth ‘he will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.’"

— this appears in A Letter to the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of London; Occasioned by his Lordship’s Late Charge to his Clergy, in The Principles of a Methodist, and in A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

John Fletcher remarks:

"We are far from concluding that the body of sin is destroyed by this circumcision of the heart, this first revelation of Christ in the soul of a sinner. No: 'the old man is only crucified with Christ;' and although he cannot act as before, he lives still, and seeks occasion to disengage himself, and to exercise his tyranny with more rage than ever. David and St. Peter had painful experience of this: and hence we see that sanctification is not generally the work of a day nor of a year. For, although God can cut short his work in righteousness, as the penitent thief found it aforetime, and as many sinners called at the eleventh hour have found it ever since, it is nevertheless in general a progressive work, and of long duration. We, therefore, define sanctification to be that powerful work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of a pardoned sinner, by which he receives power to go on 'from faith to faith;' by which, illuminated more and more 'to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,' and 'renewed day by day' in the image of his Saviour, which he had lost in Adam, he feels himself internally 'changed from glory into glory,' until he be 'filled with all the fulness of God;' until he 'loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and his neighbour as himself,' even as Christ loved him. This is the highest point of the sanctification of a believer, and consequently his regeneration is complete."

— The New Birth.

Adam Clarke comments:

"But what is implied in loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., and when may a man be said to do this?

  1. He loves God with all his heart, who loves nothing in comparison of him, and nothing but in reference to him: — who is ready to give up, do, or suffer any thing in order to please and glorify him: — who has in his heart neither love nor hatred, hope nor fear, inclination, nor aversion, desire, nor delight, but as they relate to God, and are regulated by him.
  2. He loves God with all his soul, or rather, ν λ τ ψυχ, with all his life, who is ready to give up life for his sake — to endure all sorts of torments, and to be deprived of all kinds of comforts, rather than dishonor God: —who employs life with all its comforts, and conveniences, to glorify God in, by, and through all: — to whom life and death are nothing, but as they come from and lead to God, From this Divine principle sprang the blood of the martyrs, which became the seed of the Church. They overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and loved not their lives unto the death. See Revelation 12:11.
  3. He loves God with all his strength (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) who exerts all the powers of his body and soul in the service of God: — who, for the glory of his Maker, spares neither labor nor cost — who sacrifices his time, body, health, ease, for the honor of God his Divine Master: — who employs in his service all his goods, his talents, his power, credit, authority, and influence.
  4. He loves God with all his mind (intellect — διάνοιαˆ) who applies himself only to know God, and his holy will: — who receives with submission, gratitude, and pleasure, the sacred truths which God has revealed to man: — who studies no art nor science but as far as it is necessary for the service of God, and uses it at all times to promote his glory — who forms no projects nor designs but in reference to God and the interests of mankind: — who banishes from his understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought, together with every idea which has any tendency to defile his soul, or turn it for a moment from the center of eternal repose. In a word, he who sees God in all things — thinks of him at all times — having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging him in all his ways — who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of his name: — this is the person who loves God with all his heart, life, strength, and intellect. He is crucified to the world, and the world to him: he lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image from glory to glory. Simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, he receives continual supplies of enlightening and sanctifying grace, and is thus fitted for every good word and work. O glorious state! far, far, beyond this description! which comprises an ineffable communion between the ever-blessed Trinity and the soul of man!"

— Clarke's Commentary.

"The word 'perfection,' in reference to any person or thing signifies that such person or thing is complete or finished; that it has nothing redundant, and is in nothing defective. And hence that observation of a learned civilian is at once both correct and illustrative, namely, 'We count those things perfect which want nothing requisite for the end whereto they were instituted.' And to be perfect often signifies 'to be blameless, clear, irreproachable;' and according to the above definition of Hooker, a man may be said to be perfect who answers the end for which God made him; and as God requires every man to love him with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as himself; then he is a perfect man that does so; he answers the end for which God made him; and this is more evident from the nature of that love which fills his heart: for as love is the principle of obedience, so he that loves his God with all his powers, will obey him with all his powers; and he who loves his neighbor as himself will not only do no injury to him, but, on the contrary, labor to promote his best interests. Why the doctrine which enjoins such a state of perfection as this, should be dreaded, ridiculed, or despised, is a most strange thing; and the opposition to it can only be from that carnal mind that is enmity to God; 'That is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' And had I no other proof that man is fallen from God, his opposition to Christian holiness would be to me sufficient."

Entire Sanctification.

Joseph Benson comments:

"For the love of God will make us humble and contented with our lot; it will preserve us from all intemperance, impatience, and unholy desires; it will make us watchful over ourselves, that we may keep a good conscience, and solicitous for our eternal welfare. And the love of our neighbour will free us from all angry passions, envy, malice, revenge, and other unkind tempers: so that both taken together will introduce into us the whole mind that was in Christ, and cause us to walk as he walked.

— Benson's Commentary.

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