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then broke out, 'Lord, prepare the soul thou wilt call! And O stand by the poor disconsolate one that shall be left behind !'
“ A few days before his departure, he was filled with love in an uncommon manner. The same he testified as long as he had a voice, and continued to the end, by a most lamb-like patience, in which he smiled over death, and set his last seal to the glorious truths he had so long preached among you.
“ Three years, nine months, and two days, I have possessed my heavenly minded husband. But now the sun of my earthly joys is set for ever, and my soul filled with an anguish which only finds its consolation in a total resignation to the will of God. When I was asking the Lord, if he pleased, to spare him to me a little longer, the following promise was impressed on my mind : Where I am, there shall my servants be, that they may behold my glory.' Lord, hasten the time!"
18. There is little need of adding any farther character of this man of God to the foregoing account, given by one who wrote out of the fulness of her heart. I would only observe, that for many years I despaired of finding any inhabitant of Great Britain, that could stand in any degree of comparison with Gregory Lopez, or Monsieur de Renty. But let any impartial person judge if Mr. Fletcher was at all inferior to them. Did he not experience as deep communion with God, and as high a measure of inward holiness, as was experienced by either one or the other of those burning and shining lights? And it is certain, his outward light shone before men with full as bright a lustre as theirs. But if any would draw a parallel between them, there are two circumstances which should be well observed. One is, we are not assured that the writers of their lives did not extenuate, if not suppress, their faults. And some faults we are assured there were ; namely, some touches of superstition, and some of idolatry, as the worship of images, angels, and saints; the Virgin Mary in particular. But I have not suppressed, or even extenuated, any thing in Mr. Fletcher's life. Indeed, Í know nothing that needed to be extenuated, much less to be suppressed. A second circumstance is, that the writers of their lives could not have so full a knowledge of them as I, and much more Mrs. Fletcher, had; being eye and ear witnesses of his whole conduct. Consequently, we knew that his life was not sullied with any taint of idolatry or superstition. I was intimately acquainted with him for thirty years. I conversed with him morning, noon, and night, without the least reserve, during a journey of many hundred miles; and in all that time I never heard him speak an improper word, or saw him do an improper action. To conclude: Within fourscore years, I have known many excellent men, holy in heart and life: but one equal to him, I have not known; one so uniformly and deeply devoted to God. So unblamable a man, in every respect, I have not found either in Europe or America. Nor do I expect to find another such on this side eternity.
Yet it is possible we may be such as he was. Let us, then, endeavour to follow him as he followed Christ.
Dere lies the Body
THE REV. JOHN WILLIAM DE LA FLECHERE,
VICAR OP MADELEY;
September 12, 1729,
In this village,
Will never be forgotten.
In this parish,
The lamentation of the Prophet:
A disobedient and gainsaying people:
And my work with my God.”
PLAIN ACCOUNT OF CHRISTIAN PERFECTION,
AS BELIEVED AND TAUGHT
BY THE REV. MR. JOHN WESLEY,
FROM THE YEAR 1725, TO THE YEAR 1777.*
1. What I purpose in the following papers 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 “Rule 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 some only) must either be a sacrifice to God, or myself, that is, in effect, to the devil.
* It is not to be understood, that Mr. Wesley's sentiments concerning Christian Perfection were in any measure changed after the year 1777. This tract ur.derwent several revisions and enlargements during his life time; and in every successive edition the date of the most recent revision was specified. The last revision appears Lo have been made in the year 1777; and since that period, this date has been generally continued on the title page of the several editions of the pamphlet-Enit.
Can any serious person doubt of this, or find a medium between serving God and serving the devil ?
3. In the year 1726, I met with Kempis's “Christian's Pattern." The nature and extent of inward religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever it had done 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,
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.
1. 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? or that any thing less is due to Him who has given himself for us, than to give him ourselves, all we have, and all we are.
5. In the year 1729, I 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 any thing 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, I preached before the university, in St. Mary's Church, 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."" (Vol. i, p. 148.)
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.” (Ib. pp. 150, 151.)
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.'” (Ib. p. 153.)
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?
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,
O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone!
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
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 wrote, 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 gratiâ divinâ ; tranquillitas mentis summa, atque serenitas et par; cum absentià omnis desiderii carnalis, et cessatione peccatorum etiam interno
“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
Thy glory be the end.
Sense shall point out the road;
And all we taste be God.
Lord, arm me with thy Spirit's might,
Since I am call’d by thy great name:
Of all my works be thou the aim:
And my sole business be thy praise. (p. 122.)
Eager for thee I ask and pant,
So strong the principle divine,
Till all my hallow'd soul be thine;
And lost in thine immensity! (p. 125.)
Heavenly Adam, life divine,
Actuate and fill the whole. (p. 153.)
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 :