1. WHAT I purpose in the following pages is, to give a plain and distinct account of the steps by which I was led, during a course of many years, to embrace the doctrine of Christian Perfection. This I owe to the serious part of mankind;those who desire to know all the truth as it is in Jesus. And these only are concerned in questions of this kind. To these I would nakedly declare the thing as it is, endeavouring all along to show, from one period to another, both what I thought, and why I thought so.
2. In the year 1725, being in the twenty-third year of my age, I met with Bishop Taylor’s Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying. In reading several parts of this book, I was exceedingly affected: that part .in particular which relates to purity of intention. Instantly, I resolved to dedicate all my life to God; all my thoughts, and words, and actions; being thoroughly convinced there was no medium, but that every part of my life (not som only) must either be a sacrifice to God; or myself; that is, in effect, to the devil.
Can any serious person doubt of this, or find a medium between serving God, and serving the devil?
3. In the year 1726 1 met with Kempis’sChristian’s Pattern. The nature and extent of inward religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever before. I saw, that giving even all my life to God (supposing it possible to do this, and go no farther) would profit me nothing, unless I gave my heart, yea all my heart, to Him. I saw that ‘simplicity of intention, and purity of affection,’ one design in all we speak or do, and one desire ruling all our tempers, are indeed ‘the wings of the soul,’ without which she can never ascend to the mount of God.
4. A year or two after, Mr. Law’s Christian Perfection and Serious Call were put into my hands. These convinced me more than ever of the absolute impossibility of being half a Christian. And I determined, through His grace (the absolute necessity of which I was deeply sensible of ), to be all devoted to God, – to give Him all my soul, my body, and my substance.
Will any considerate man say, that this is carrying matters too far? of that anything less is due to Him who s given Himself for us, than to give Him ourselves; all we have, and all we are?
5. In the year 1729 1 began not only to read but to study the Bible, as the one, the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion. Hence I saw, in a clearer and clearer light, the indispensable necessity of having the mind which was in Christ, and of walking as Christ also walked; even of having not some part only, but all the mind which was in Him; and of walking as He walked, not only in many or in most respects, but in all things. And this was the light wherein, at this time, I generally considered religion, as a uniform following of Christ, an entire inward and outward conformity to our Master. Nor was I afraid of anything more than of bending this rule to the experience of myself, or of other men; of allowing myself in any the least disconformity to our grand Exemplar.
6. On January 1, 1733, 1 preached before the University, in St.Mary’s Church (Oxford), on ‘the circumcision of the heart’; an account of which I gave in these words: ‘It is that habitual disposition of soul, which in the sacred writings is termed holiness, and which directly implies the being cleansed from sin; from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit; and, by consequence, the being endued with those virtues which were in Christ Jesus; the being so “renewed in the image of our mind,” as to be “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect” ‘ (Works, vol. v. p. 203)
In the same sermon I observed: ‘ “Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment.” It is not only the first and great command, but all the commandments in one: “Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,” they are all comprised in this one word, Love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness! The royal law of heaven and earth is this, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” The one perfect good shall be your one ultimate end. One thing shall ye desire for its own sake,-the fruition of Him who is all in all. One happiness shall ye propose to your souls, even a union with Him that made them; the having “fellowship with the Father and the Son”; the being “joined to the Lord in one spirit.” One design ye are to pursue to the end of time-the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this: love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought, and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever ye desire or fear, whatever ye seek or shun, whatever ye think, speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being’ (Ibid., pp. 207, 2o8).
I concluded in these words: ‘Here is the sum of the perfect law, the circumcision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of its affections. Other sacrifices from us He would not: but the living sacrifice of the heart hath He chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God, through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered to share with Him; for He is a jealous God. His throne will He not divide with another; He will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire, admitted there, but what has Him for its ultimate object. This is the way wherein those children of God once walked, who being dead, still speak to us. Desire not to live but to praise His name; let all your thoughts, words, and works tend to His glory. Let your soul be filled with so entire a love to Him’ that you may love nothing but for His sake. Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to His glory in all your actions. For then, and not till then, is that mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus, when in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we pursue nothing but in relation to Him, and in subordination to His pleasure; when we, too, neither think, nor speak, nor act, to fulfil our own will, but the will of Him that, sent us; when “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God” ‘ (Ibid., P. 211).
It may be observed, this sermon was composed the first of all my writings which have been published. This was the view of religion I then had, which even then I scrupled not to term Perfection. This is the view I have of it now, without any material addition or diminution. And what is there here which any man of understanding, who believes the Bible,can object to?
What can he deny, without flatly contradicting the Scripture? what retrench, without taking from the word of God?
7. In the same sentiment did my brother and I remain (with all those young gentlemen in derision termed Methodists) till we embarked for America, in the latter end Of 1735- It was the next year, while I was at Savannah, that I wrote the following lines
‘Is there a thing beneath the sun
That strives with Thee my heart to share?
Ah, tear it thence, and reign alone,
The Lord of every motion there!’
In the beginning of the year 1738, as I was returning from thence, the cry of my heart was
‘0 grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone!
0 may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown;
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love!’
I never heard that any one objected to this. And indeed who can object? Is not this the language not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened? But what have I written to this day, which is either stronger or plainer?
8. In August following, I had a long conversation with Arvid Gradin, in Germany. After he had given me an account of his experience, I desired him to give me, in writing, a definition of ‘the full assurance of faith,’ which he did in the following words:
‘Requies in sanguine Christi; firma fiducia in Deum, et persuasio de gratia divina; tranquillitas mentis summa, atque serenitas et pax; cum absentia omnis desiderii carnalis, et cessatione peccatorum etiam internorum.’
‘Repose in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of His favour; the highest tranquillity, serenity, and peace of mind; with a deliverance from every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.’
This was the first account I ever heard from any living man of what I had before learned myself from the oracles of God, and had been praying for (with the little company of my friends), and expecting for several years.
9. In 1739 my brother and I published a volume of Hymns and Sacred Poems. In many of these we declared our sentiments strongly and explicitly. So, page 24
‘Turn the full stream of nature’s tide!
Let all our actions tend
To Thee, their source: Thy love the guide,
Thy glory be the end.
Earth then a scale to heaven shall be;
Sense shall point out the road;
The creatures all shall lead to Thee,
And all we taste be God.’
‘Lord, arm me with Thy Spirit’s might,
Since I am call’d by Thy great name;
In Thee my wandering thoughts unite,
Of all my works be Thou the aim:
Thy love attend me all my days,
And my sole business be Thy praise.’ (P. 12 2.)
‘Eager for Thee I ask and pant;
So strong the principle Divine,
Carries me out with sweet constraint,
Till all my hallow’d soul be Thine;
Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea,
And lost in Thine immensity!’ (P. 125.)
‘Heavenly Adam, life Divine,
Change my nature into Thine;
Move and spread throughout my soul,
Actuate and fill the whole.’ (P. 153.)
It would be easy to cite many more passages to the same effect. But these are sufficient to show, beyond contradiction, what our sentiments then were.
10. The first tract I ever wrote expressly on this subject, was published in the latter end of this year. That none might be prejudiced before they read it, I gave it the indifferent title of The Character of a Methodist. In this I described a perfect Christian; placing in the front, ‘Not as though I had already attained.’ Part of it I subjoin without any alteration:
‘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 spring-ing up into 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 al 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.”
‘And he who hath this hope, thus full of immortality, “in everything giveth thanks”; as knowing this (what soever it is) is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning him. From Him, therefore, he cheerfully receives all, saying, “Good is the will of the Lord”; and whether He giveth or taketh away, equally blessing the Name of the Lord. Whether in ease or pain, whether in sickness or health, whether in life or death, he giveth thanks from the ground of the heart to Him who orders it for good; into whose hands he hath wholly committed his body and soul, “as into the hands of a faithful Creator.” He is therefore anxiously “careful for nothing,” as having “cast all his care on Him that careth for him”; and “in all things” resting on Him, after “making his request known to Him with thanksgiving.”
‘For indeed he “prays without ceasing”: at all times the language of his heart is this: “Unto Thee is my mouth, though without a voice; and my silence speaketh unto Thee.” His heart is lifted up to God at all times, and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing. In retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever with the Lord. Whether he lie down or rise up, God is in all his thoughts: he walks with God continually; having the loving eye of his soul fixed on Him, and everywhere “seeing Him that is invisible.”
‘And loving God, he “loves his neighbour as himself”; he loves every man as his own soul. He loves his enemies; yea, and the enemies of God. And if it be not in his power to “do good to them that hate him,” yet he ceases not to “pray for them,” though they spurn his love, and still “despitefully use him, and persecute him.”
‘For he “is pure in heart.” Love has purified his heart from envy, malice, wrath, and every unkind temper. It has cleansed him from pride, whereof only “cometh contention”: and he hath now “put on bowels mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” And, indeed, all possible ground for contention on his part is cut off. For none can take from him what he desires, seeing he “loves not the world, nor any of the things of the world”; but “all his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of His Name.”
‘Agreeable to this, his one desire is the one design of his life, namely, “to do not his own will, but the will of Him that sent him.” His one intention at all times and in all all places is, not to please Himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He hath a single eye; and because his “eye is single, his whole body is full of light.” The whole is light, as when “the bright shining of a candle doth enlighten the house.” God reigns alone: all that is in the soul is holiness to the Lord. There is not a motion in his heart but is according to His will. Every thought that arises points to Him, and is in obedience to the law of Christ.
‘And the tree is known by its fruits. For as he loves God, “so he keeps His commandments” : not only some, or most of them, but ALL, from the least to the greatest. He is not content to “keep the whole law, and offend in one point,” but has, in all points, “a conscience void of offence, towards God, and towards man.” Whatever God has forbidden, he avoids; whatever God has enjoined, he does. “He runs the way of God’s commandments”: now He hath set his heart at liberty. It is his glory and joy so to do: it is his daily crown of rejoicing, to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven.
‘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 himself, all he has, all he is, to His glory. All the talents he has, he constantly employs according to Master’s will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body.
By consequence, “whatsoever he doeth , it is all to the glory of God.” In all his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this (which is implied in having a single eye ), but actually attains it. His business and refreshments, as well as his prayers, all serve to this great end. Whether he “sit in the house, or walk by the way,” whether he lie down, or rise up, he is promoting, in all he speaks, or does, the one business of his life. Whether he put on his apparel, or labour, or eat and drink, or divert himself from too wasting labour, it is to advance the glory of God, by peace and goodwill among men. His one invariable rule is this: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, even the Father, through Him.”
Nor do the customs of the world at all hinder his “running the race which is set before him.” He cannot, therefore, “lay up treasures upon earth,” no more than he can take fire into his bosom. He cannot speak eveil of his neighbour, any more than he can lie either to God or man. He cannot utter an unkind word of anyone; for love keeps the door of his lips. He cannot speak idle words; no corrupt conversation ever comes out of his mouth; as is all that is not good to the edifying, not fit to minister grace to the hearers. But “whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things” justly “of good report,” he thinks, speaks, and acts, “adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” ‘
These are the very words wherein I largely declared, for the first time, my sentiments of Christian Perfection. And is it not easy to see-(1) That this is the very point at which I aimed all along from the year 1725; and more determinately from the year 1730, when I began to be homo unius libri, ‘a man of one book,’ regarding none, comparatively, but the Bible? Is is not easy to see-(2) That this is the very same doctrine which I believe and teach at this day; not adding one point, either to that inward or outward holiness which I maintained eight-and-thirty years ago? And it is the same which, by the grace of God, I have continued to teach from that time till now; as will appear to every impartial person from the extracts subjoined below.
11. I do not know that any writer has made any objection against that tract to this day. And for some time I did not find much opposition upon that head; at least, not from serious persons. But after a time a cry arose, and (what a little surprised me) among religious men, who affirmed, not that I stated perfection wrong, but that ‘there is no perfection on earth’; nay, and fell vehemently on my brother and me for affirming the contracry. We scarce expected so rough an attack from these; especially as we were clear on justification by faith, and careful to ascribe the whole of salvation to the mere grace of God. But what most surprised us was, that we were said to ‘dishonour Christ,’ by asserting that He ‘saveth to the uttermost’; by maintaining He will reign in our hearts alone, and subdue all things to Himself.