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1. It only remains, in the Third place, to expostulate a little with the opposers of this perfection.
Now permit me to ask, Why are you so angry with those who profess to have attained this? And so mad (I cannot give it any softer title) against Christian perfection? -- against the most glorious gift which God ever gave to the children of men upon earth? View it in every one of the preceding points of light, and see what it contains that is either odious or terrible; that is calculated to excite either hatred or fear in any reasonable creature.
What rational objection can you have to the loving the Lord your God with all your heart? Why should you have any aversion to it? Why should you be afraid of it? Would it do you any hurt? Would it lessen your happiness, either in this world or the world to come? And why should you be unwilling that others should give him their whole heart? Or that they should love their neighbours as themselves? Yea, "as Christ hath loved us?" Is this detestable? Is it the proper object of hatred? Or is it the most amiable thing under the sun? Is it proper to move terror? Is it not rather desirable in the highest degree?
2. Why are you so averse to having in you the whole "mind which was in Christ Jesus?" -- all the affections, all the tempers and dispositions, which were in him while he dwelt among men? Why should you be afraid of this? Would it be any worse for you, were God to work in you this very hour all the mind that was in him? If not, why should you hinder others from seeking this blessing? or be displeased at those who think they have attained it? Is anything more lovely? Anything more to be desired by every child of man?
3. Why are you averse to having the whole "fruit of the Spirit?" -- "love, joy, peace; longsuffering, meekness, gentleness, fidelity, goodness, temperance?" Why should you be afraid of having all these planted in your inmost soul? As "against these there is no law," so there cannot be any reasonable objection. Surely nothing is more desirable, than that all these tempers should take deep root in your heart; nay, in the hearts of all that name the name of Christ; yea, of all the inhabitants of the earth.
4. What reason have you to be afraid of, or to entertain any aversion to the being "renewed in the" whole "image of him that created you?" Is not this more desirable than anything under heaven? Is it not consummately amiable? What can you wish for in comparison of this, either for your own soul, or for those for whom you entertain the strongest and tenderest affection? And when you enjoy this, what remains but to be "changed from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord?"
5. Why should you be averse to universal holiness, -- the same thing under another name? Why should you entertain any prejudice against this, or look upon it with apprehension? Whether you understand by that term the being inwardly conformed to the whole image and will of God, or an outward behaviour in every point suitable to that conformity. Can you conceive anything more amiable than this? Anything more desirable? Set prejudice aside, and surely you will desire to see it diffused over all the earth.
6. Is perfection (to vary the expression) the being "sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and body?" What lover of God and man can be averse to this, or entertain frightful apprehension of it? Is it not, in your best moments, your desire to be all of a piece? -- all consistent with yourself? -- all faith, all meekness, and all love? And suppose you were once possessed of this glorious liberty, would not you wish to continue therein? -- to be preserved "blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?"
7. For what cause should you that are children of God be averse to, or afraid of, presenting yourselves, your souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God? -- to God your Creator, your Redeemer, your Sanctifier? Can anything be more desirable than this entire self-dedication to him? And is it not your wish that all mankind should unite in this "reasonable service?" Surely no one can be averse to this, without being an enemy to all mankind.
8. And why should you be afraid of, or averse to, what is naturally implied in this; namely, the offering up all our thoughts, and words, and actions, as a spiritual sacrifice to God, acceptable to him through the blood and intercession of his well-beloved Son. Surely you cannot deny that this is good and profitable to men, as well as pleasing to God. Should you not then devoutly pray that both you and all mankind may thus worship him in spirit and in truth?
9. Suffer me to ask one question more. Why should any man of reason and religion be either afraid of, or averse to, salvation from all sin? Is not sin the greatest evil on this side hell? And if so, does it not naturally follow that an entire deliverance from it is one of the greatest blessings on this side heaven? How earnestly then should it be prayed for by all the children of God! By sin I mean a voluntary transgression of a known law. Are you averse to being delivered from this? Are you afraid of such a deliverance? Do you then love sin, that you are so unwilling to part with it? Surely no. You do not love either the devil or his works. You rather wish to be totally delivered from them, to have sin rooted out both of your life and your heart.
10. I have frequently observed, and not without surprise, that the opposers of perfection are more vehement against it when it is placed in this view, than in any other whatsoever. They will allow all you say of the love of God and man; of the mind which was in Christ; of the fruit of the spirit; of the image of God; of universal holiness; of entire self-dedication; of sanctification in spirit, soul, and body; yea, and of the offering up all our thoughts, words, and actions, as a sacrifice to God; -- all this they will allow so we will allow sin, a little sin, to remain in us till death.
11. Pray compare this with that remarkable passage in John Bunyan's "Holy War." "When Immanuel," says he, "had driven Diabolus and all his forces out of the city of Mansoul, Diabolus proferred a petition to Immanuel, that he might have only a small part of the city. When this was rejected, he begged to have only a little room within the walls. But Immanuel answered, "He should have no place at all; no, not to rest the sole of his foot.
Had not the good old man forgot himself? Did not the force of truth so prevail over him here as utterly to overturn his own system? -- to assert perfection in the clearest manner? For if this is not salvation from sin, I cannot tell what is.
12. "No," says a great man, "this is the error of errors: I hate it from my heart. I pursue it through all the world with fire and sword." Nay, why so vehement? Do you seriously think there is no error under heaven equal to this? Here is something which I cannot understand. Why are those that oppose salvation from sin (few excepted) so eager, -- I had almost said, furious? Are you fighting pro aris et focis? "for God and your country?" For all you have in the world? For all that is near and dear unto you? For your liberty, your life? In God's name, why are you so fond of sin? What good has it ever done you? What good is it ever likely to do you, either in this world or in the world to come? And why are you so violent against those that hope for deliverance from it? Have patience with us, if we are in an error; yea, suffer us to enjoy our error. If we should not attain it, the very expectation of this deliverance gives us present comfort; yea, and ministers strength to resist those enemies which we expect to conquer. If you could persuade us to despair of that victory, we should give over the contest. Now "we are saved by hope:" From this very hope a degree of salvation springs. Be not angry at those who are felices errore suo, "happy in their mistake." Else, be their opinion right or wrong, your temper is undeniably sinful. Bear then with us, as we do with you; and see whether the Lord will not deliver us! Whether he is not able, yea, and willing "to save them to the uttermost that come unto God through him."
[Tunbridge Wells, Dec. 6, 1784]
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[Edited by Dave Giles, student at Northwest Nazarene College (Nampa, ID), with corrections by George Lyons for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology.] The text for John Wesley's sermons originally came from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.