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"A PLAIN ACCOUNT OF CHRISTIAN PERFECTION"

by John Wesley

(pages 46-47)

 

Question: But what does the perfect one do more than others? More than the common believers?

Answer: Perhaps nothing; so may the providence of God have hedged him in by outward circumstances. Perhaps not so much, though he desires and longs to spend and be spent for God. At least, not externally; he neither speaks so many words, nor does so many works. As neither did our Lord Himself so many words, or do so many, no, nor so great works, as some of His apostles. (John 14:12) But what then? This is no proof that he has not more grace; and by this God measures the outward work. Hear ye Him: "Verily I say unto you, This poor widow hath cast in more than they all". Verily, this poor man, with his few broken words, hath spoken more than they all. Verily, this poor woman, that hath given a cup of cold water, hath done more than they all. O cease to "judge according too appearances", and learn to "judge righteous judgment"!

Question: But is this not proof against him - I feel no power either in his words or prayer?

Answer: It is not. For, perhaps it is your own fault. You are not likely to feel any power therein, if any of these hindrances lie in the way:-

1. Your own deadness of soul. The "dead" pharisees felt no power even in His words who "spake as never man spake".

2. The guilt of some unrepentant sin lying upon the conscience.

3. Prejudice toward him of any kind.

4. Your not believing that state to be attainable wherein he professes to be.

5. Unreadiness to think or own he has attained it.

6. Overvaluing or idolising him.

7. Overvaluing yourself or your own judgment.

If any of these is the case, what wonder is it that you feel no power in anything he says? But do not others feel it? If they do, your argument falls to the ground. And if they do not, do none of these hindrances lie in their way too? You must be certain of this before you can build any argument thereon; and even then your argument will prove no more than that grace and gifts do not always go together.

"But he does not come up to my idea of a perfect Christian".

And perhaps no one ever did, or ever will. Your idea may go beyond, or at least beside, the Scriptural account. It may include more than the Bible includes therein; or, however, something which that does not include. Scripture perfection is, pure love filling the heart and governing all the words and actions. If your idea includes anything more or anything else, it is not Scriptural. And then, no wonder that a Scripturally perfect Christian does not come up to it.

I fear many stumble at this stumbling block. They include as many ingredients as they please, not according to Scripture, but their own imagination in their idea of one that is perfect; and then readily deny anyone to be such who does not answer to their imaginary idea.

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BRIEF THOUGHTS OF CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

by John Wesley

(From pages 104-105 27 Jan 1767)

Some thoughts occurred to my mind this morning concerning Christian perfection and the manner and time of receiving it, which I believe may be useful to set down.

1. By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God and our neighbour, ruling our tempers, words and actions. I do not include an impossibility of falling from it, either in part or in whole. Therefore, I retract several expressions in our hymns which partly express, partly imply, such an impossibility. And I do not contend for the term "sinless" though I do not object against it.

2. As to the manner. I believe that this perfection is always wrought in the soul by a simple act of faith, consequently in an instant. But I believe a gradual work both preceding and following that instant.

As to the time. I believe that this instant generally is the instant of death, the moment before the soul leaves the body. But I believe it may be ten, twenty, or fourty years before. I believe that it is usually many years after justification; but that it may be within five years or five months after it, I know no conclusive argument to the contrary. If it must be many years after justification, I would be glad to know how many.

"Pretium quotus arroget annus?" *

And how many days or months, or even years, can anyone allow to be between perfection and death? How far from justification must it be; and how near to death?

* This quotation from Horace is thus translated by Boscawen:-

"How many years give sanction to our lines?" **

 

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** Our understanding of this quotation is"-

"How many years are required to prove our characters?"

 

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