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themselves in the glory of our souls, or rather of God, wherewith they shall be filled. And it is only what they had of earthly and mortal, which good works lose by this spiritual death.
Fire is the symbol of love; and the love of God is the principle and the end of all our good works. But as truth surpasses figure, the fire of divine love has this advantage over material fire, that it can re-ascend to its source, and raise thither with it all the good works which it produces. And by this means it prevents their being corrupted by pride, vanity, or any evil mixture. But this cannot be done, otherwise than by making these good works in a spiritual manner, die in God, by deep gratitude, which plunges the soul in him as in an abyss, with all that it is, and all the grace and works for which it is indebted to him: a gratitude whereby the soul seems to empty itself of them, that they may return to their source, as rivers seem willing to empty themselves, when they pour themselves with all their waters into the sea.
When we have received any favour from God, we ought to retire, if not into our closets, into our hearts, and say, “ I come, Lord, to restore to thee what thou hast given, and I freely relinquish it, to enter again into my own nothingness. For what is the most perfect creature in heaven or earth in thy presence, but a void capable of being filled with thee and by thee, as the air which is void and dark, is capable of being filled with the light of the sun, who withdraws it every day to restore it the next, there being nothing in the air that either appropriates this light, or resists it. O give me the same felicity of receiving and restoring thy grace and good works! ] say thine: for I acknowledge the root from which they spring is in thee, and not in me.”
26. In the year 1764, upon a review of the whole subject, I wrote down the sum of what I had observed, in the following short propositions:
“ 1. There is such a thing as Perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in Scripture.
2. It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to go on to perfection, Heb. vi. 1.
3. It is not so late as death; for St. Paul speaks of living men that were perfect, Phil. iii. 15.
4. It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man; nor to angels; but to God alone.
5. It does not make a man infallible ; none is infallible, 'while he remains in the body.
6. Is it sinless 2 · It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is salvation from sin.
7. It is perfect love, 1 John iv. 18. This is the essence of it: its properties, or inseparable fruits, are, “ rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks,” 1 Thes. v. 16, &c.
8. It is improvable. It is so far from lying in an indivisible point, from being incapable of increase, that one perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter than he did before.
9. It is capable of being lost; of which we have numerous instances. But we were not thoroughly convinced of this, till five or six years ago.
10. It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.
11. But is it in itself instantaneous, or not? In examining this, let us go on step by step.
An instantaneous change has been wrought in some believers : none can deny this.
Since that change, they enjoy perfect love. They rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks. Now this is all that I mean by perfection. Therefore, these are witnesses of the perfection which I preach.
« But in some this change was not instantaneous.”' They did not perceive the instant when it was wrought. It is often difficult to perceive the instant when a man dies. Yet there is an instant in which life ceases. And if even sin ceases, there must be a last moment of its existence, and a first moment of our deliverance from it.
“ But if they have this love now, they will lose it,”
They may; but they need not.
And whether they do or not, they have it now; they now experience what we teach. They now are all love. They now rejoice, pray, and praise without ceasing.
“ However, sin is only suspended in them; it is not destroyed.” Call it which you please. They are all love today; and they take no thought for the morrow.
< But this doctrine has been much abused." So has that of justification by faith. But that is no reason for giving up, either this or any other Scriptural Doctrine. " When you wash your child, (as one speaks) throw away the water, but do not throw away the child."
" But those who think they are saved from sin, say, they have no need of the merits of Christ.” They say just the contrary. Their language is,
Every moment, Lord, I want,
The merit of thy death! They never before had so deep, so unspeakable a conviction of the need of Christ in all his offices, as they have now.
Therefore all our Preachers should make a point of preaching perfection to believers, constantly, strongly, and explicitly.
And all believers should mind this one thing, and continually agonize for it.
27. I have now done what I proposed. I have given a. plain and simple account of the manner wherein I first received the Doctrine of Perfection, and the sense wherein I received, and wherein I do receive and teach it to this day. I have declared the whole, and every part of what I mean by that Scriptural Expression. I have drawn the picture of it at full length, without either disguise or covering. And I would now ask any impartial person, What is there so frightful therein? Whence is all this outcry, which, for these twenty years and upwards, has been made throughout the kingdom, as if all Christianity were destroyed, and all religion torn up by the root ? Why is it, that the very name of perfection has been cast out of
the mouths of Christians; yea, exploded and abhorred, as if it contained the most pernicious heresy? Why have the Preachers of it been hooted at like mad dogs, even by men that fear God: nay, and by some of their own children; some whom they, under God, had begotten through the gospel? What reason is there for this? Or what pretence? Reason, sound reason there is none. It is impossible there should: but pretences there are, and those in great abundance. Indeed there is ground to fear, that with some who treat us thus, it is a mere pretence; that it is no more than a copy of their countenance, from the beginning to the end. They wanted, they sought occasion against me: and here they found what they sought.
66 This is Mr. Wesley's doctrine! he preaches perfection.” He does: yet this is not his doctrine, any more than it is yours; or any one's else that is a Minister of Christ. For it is his doctrine, particularly emphatically His; it is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Those are his words, not mine, EGESTE τελειοι, ωσπερ ο Πατηρ υμων ω εν τοις ερανοις τελεις εσι. «Ye shall, therefore, be perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” And who says, ye shall not? Or at least, not till your soul is separated from the body? It is the doctrine of St. Paul, the doctrine of St. James, of St. Peter, St. John: and no otherwise Mr. Wesley's, than as it is the doctrine of every one who preaches the pure and the whole gospel. I tell you, as plain as I can speak, where and when I found this. I found it in the Oracles of God, in the Old and New Testament, when I read them with no other view or desire but to save my own soul. But whosesoever this doctrine is, I pray you, what harm is there in it? Look at it again: survey it on every side, and that with the closest attention. In one view, it is purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God. It is the giving God all our heart; it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. It is the devoting not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God. In another view, it is all the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked. It is the circumcision of the heart from all
filthiness; all inward as well as outward pollution. It is a renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, the full likeness of him that created it. Yet in another, it is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. Now take in which of these views you please, (for there is no material difference,) and this is the whole and sole perfection, as a train of writings prove to a demonstration, which I have believed and taught for these forty years, from the year 1725 to the year 1765.
28. Now let this perfection appear in its native form, and who can speak one word against it? Will any dare to speak against loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves? Against a renewal of heart, not only in part, but in the whole image of God ? Who is he that will open his mouth against being cleansed from all pollution both of flesh and spirit ? Or against having all the mind that was in Christ, and walking in all things as Christ walked? What man who calls himself a Christian, has the hardiness to object to the devoting, not a part, but all our soul, body, and substance to God: What serious man would oppose the giving God all our heart, and the having one design ruling all our tempers ? I say again, let this perfection appear in its own shape, and who will fight against it? It must be disguised before it can be opposed. It must be covered with a bear-skin first, or even the wild beasts of the people will scarce be induced to
But whatever these do, let not the children of God any longer fight against the image of God. Let not the members of Christ say any thing against having the whole mind that was in Christ. Let not those who are alive to God oppose the dedicating all our life to him. Why should you, who have his love shed abroad in your heart, withstand the giving him all your heart? Does not all that is within
you cry out, “O who that loves, can love enough?” What pity that those who desire or design to please him, should have any other design or desire much more that they should dread, as a fatal delusion, yea, abhor, as an abomination