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A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 5)

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part V:
Advice to the Sanctified

Section 25 (continued)

Question 29: Can those who are perfect grow in grace?

Answer: Undoubtedly they can; and that not only while they are in the body, but to all eternity.

Question 30: Can they fall from it?

Answer: I am well assured they can: matter of fact puts this beyond dispute. Formerly we thought, that one saved from sin could not fall; now we know the contrary. We are surrounded with instances of those who lately experienced all that I mean by perfection. They had both the fruit of the Spirit, and the witness; but they have now lost both. Neither does anyone stand by virtue of anything that is implied in the nature of the state. There is no such height or strength of holiness as it is impossible to fall from. If there be any that cannot fall, this wholly depends on the promise of God.

Question 31: Can those who fall from this state recover it? [click to continue…]

Earth’s Most Powerful Preacher

Copyright © 20111

by
Percy Gutteridge

Psalm 19

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
  2. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge.
  3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
  4. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
  5. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.
  6. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hidden from the heat thereof.
  7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
  8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
  10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
  11. Moreover by them is your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
  12. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.
  13. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
  14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Who Is Earth’s Most Powerful Preacher?

Let’s consider the question, “Who is the most powerful preacher that God has ordained on earth?” And understand that I’m not talking about a human being. I am not going to pick out one of today’s famous evangelists or ministers and say, “This one is the most powerful preacher,” because none of them has the worldwide audience or impact of God’s sovereign choice. So then, let’s refine the question and ask, “What is the most powerful preacher that God has ordained on earth?” as we examine potential candidates.

The Sun?

How about the sun? Is the sun earth’s most powerful preacher? Our Scripture passage says that the sun is really a preacher; it comes out of its chamber as a bridegroom. It comes up in the morning and goes down at night, going right over the whole circuit of heaven, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. It preaches of light, it preaches of energy, it preaches of power, it preaches of judgment, it preaches even of love. It preaches also of life, because there would be no life without the sun. The sun preaches to us about so many things.

But men don’t take any notice. In fact, some foolish people [click to continue…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part I:
Historical Background
of the Teaching

Section 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 [click to continue…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 2)

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part II:
The Teaching Explained

Section 17

On Monday, June 25, 1744 our first conference began, six clergymen and all our preachers being present.  The next morning we seriously considered the doctrine of sanctification, or perfection.  The questions asked concerning it, and the substance of the answers given, were as follows:—

Question: What is it to be sanctified?

Answer: To be renewed in the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness [Ephesians 4:24].

Question: What is implied in being a perfect Christian?

Answer: The loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul (Deut. vi. 5). [click to continue…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 3)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part III:
Tares Among the Wheat Contrasted
with the Wonderful Testimony of Jane Cooper

Section 20

In the year 1762 there was a great increase of the work of God in London.  Many, who had hitherto cared for none of these things, were deeply convinced of their lost estate; many found redemption in the blood of Christ; not a few backsliders were healed; and a considerable number of persons believed that God had saved them from all sin.  Easily foreseeing that Satan would be endeavouring to sow tares among the wheat [Matthew 13:24-30], I took much pains to apprise them of the danger, particularly with regard to pride and enthusiasm.  And while I stayed in town, I had reason to hope they continued both humble and sober-minded.  But almost as soon as I was gone, enthusiasm broke in.  Two or three began to take their own imaginations for impressions from God, and thence to suppose that they should never die; and these, labouring to bring others into the same opinion, occasioned much noise and confusion.  Soon after, the same persons, with a few more, ran into other extravagances,—fancying they could not be tempted; that they should feel no more pain; and that they had the gift of prophecy, and of discerning of spirits. [click to continue…]

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Part 4)

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

by John Wesley

Part IV:
“Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection”

Section 25

The next year [1763], the number of those who believed they were saved from sin still increasing, I judged it needful to publish, chiefly for their use, Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection:

Question 1: How is “Christ the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth”? (Rom. x. 4)

Answer: In order to understand this, you must understand what law is here spoken of; and this, I apprehend, is:— [click to continue…]

This entry is part 4 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

Public Domain1

by
Evangelist Thomas Cook

C. H. Spurgeon once wrote as follows: “There is a point of grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the world.” Of such he says: “Their place is with the eagle in his eyrie, high aloft. They are rejoicing Christians, holy and devout men doing service for the Master all over the world, and everywhere conquerors through Him that loved them.” The experience to which Mr. Spurgeon refers has been described as the higher life, entire sanctification, Christian perfection, perfect love, the rest of faith, and by numerous other names or terms. Modes of expression have been selected by various Christians which have best coincided with their theological views. There may be shades of difference in their import, but, generally speaking, the terms mean one and the same thing. [click to continue…]

This entry is part 8 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

Public Domain1

by
Evangelist Thomas Cook

Divine forgiveness and the new birth are ever co-existent and inseparable. No man receives the new name of a child of God without at the same time receiving a new nature. He becomes there and then a partaker of the Divine holiness. Condemnation is removed, the culprit is forgiven, and as invariably as day follows night, a sublime change is wrought by the Holy Spirit, creating within the soul a new spiritual life, a life of loyalty and love.

[click to continue…]

This entry is part 24 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

T

here is this difference between consecration and entire sanctification—the one is what we do ourselves by Divine aid, the other is what God does in us.  Consecration is our voluntary act in which we give our all to God, while entire sanctification is a work wrought in us by the Holy Ghost.  There may be entire consecration without entire sanctification, but there cannot be the latter without the former.  The act of consecration must be followed by definite prayer for a clean heart, and then the act of faith by which we receive what we ask for.  In answer to our prayer and response to our faith God will put forth His power, and we shall be changed in a moment from indwelling sin to indwelling holiness.  We are saved by grace [Ephesians 2:8].  Just as over the blessing of justification, God has written over entire sanctification “to him that worketh not” [Romans 4:5].  Works have no more to do with the sanctifying of the soul than they have to do with the justifying of the soul.  Faith is the condition in the one as well as in the other.  [click to continue…]

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series God's Ways and Man's Methods

W

e do not deny that sanctification at conversion is divinely possible.  But not all things which are divinely possible happen at conversion, and sanctification at conversion is one of those things which usually does not happen then.  If it ever does so occur, several things will be true concerning it; it will be the same in kind and fruitage as sanctification after conversion. [click to continue…]

This entry is part 16 of 16 in the series How They Grow

Tarrying for the Shine And patience, experience.

Romans 5:4

And hope does not make ashamed.

Romans 5:3

The path of the just is as a shining light.

Proverbs 4:18

And oil to make his face to shine.

Psalm 104:15

A man’s wisdom makes his face to shine.

Ecclesiastes 8:1

I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.

Genesis 30:27

Arise and shine, for your light has come.

Isaiah 60:1

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

Heart purity—sanctification—is one of the means to the great end.  It is not a finality in the soul’s advance; heart purity only ends carnality.  As entire forgiveness, which is the only kind the Holy Spirit can witness to, is the end of all actual transgressions, so entire sanctification is the end of all uncleanness.  But God is by no means done with us when He has sanctified us, as many mistaken souls think. [click to continue…]

Character, Decree, Destiny

This entry is part 8 of 22 in the series Soul-Help Papers

And God saw their work [the Ninevites’ repentance
in sackcloth and ashes, and fasting], that they turned
from their evil way; and God repented Him of the evil,
that He said he would do unto them; and he did it not.

Jonah 3:10

“A

n infinite mind must needs adapt His language to the comprehension of a finite mind, since the finite cannot fully comprehend the infinite.  God speaks to us in the language of men.  He puts things as we see them.  He cannot repent of a thing as we do, for the God of all the earth cannot do either a wrong thing 1 to repent of or an unwise thing to change.  All His attitudes towards wrongdoing and right doing are fixed and settled.  He changes not, 2 for He needs not.  When He speaks of changing and of doing what He said He would do, the language is from the human point of view; that is, looking at it as we see it. [click to continue…]

This entry is part 14 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

Public Domain1

by Evangelist Thomas Cook

At the Council of Jerusalem (Acts xv. 8,9) Peter, in giving an account of his visit to Cornelius, and the work of God upon the hearts of those assembled, said: “And God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did to us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”

Two facts are here stated:—

  • That the same fulness of the Spirit which the apostles received at Pentecost was imparted to Cornelius and his household.
  • That the work wrought was the purifying of their hearts by faith.

The conclusion is inevitable that the baptism of the Holy Ghost includes entire cleansing from sin, or, in other words, that the fulness of the Spirit is a synonym for entire sanctification. Since there are but two forces which can sway the soul, the flesh and the Spirit, to be completely filled with either is to exclude the other. All inward renewal is the result of the Holy Spirit’s operation; He is the indispensable agent in the production of spiritual life, both in its beginnings and in its fulness. Theologians speak of God, the Father, as the originating cause of salvation; of Christ as the procuring cause; of the Holy Spirit as the “executive of the Godhead.” This latter phrase, coined by Dr. Hodge,2 of America, very aptly describes the work in the Third Person of the Trinity in the renewal and sanctification of those who trust in Jesus. He comes to the heart in sanctifying power, excluding the evil and filling it with Divine love, when we believe the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin, just as He comes in regenerating power when we believe for forgiveness, and are adopted into the family of God.

The first point to be recognised, as clearly set forth in the Scriptures, is the fact that all Christians do possess the Holy Spirit. They have not only been brought under His influence, but they have received the Holy Spirit Himself. This is a truth which needs to be particularly emphasised. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” [Romans 8:9]. And the converse of this is necessarily true, that if any man belongs to Christ, he must have the Spirit of Christ. “It is remarkable,” observes Professor Godet,3 “that the Spirit of Christ is here used as an equivalent of the Holy Spirit in the preceding proposition.” Christ dwells in us by His representative the Holy Spirit, so that a Christ-possessed and a Spirit-possessed soul mean exactly the same thing.

When Ignatius4 was on his trial at Rome, he was asked by the Emperor, “What is the meaning of your name, Theophorus?” (God-bearer). He promptly replied, “He who has Christ in his breast.” And all Christians are God-bearers, whether they realise it or not. The unspeakably glorious mystery of an indwelling Holy Ghost is the possession of even the weakest and most failing child of God. The mistake has often been made of looking upon the incoming of the Holy Spirit as an experience subsequent to conversion, as an arbitrary bestowment rather than a necessary vitality. But the Scriptures plainly teach that the Holy Spirit is a universal gift to all believers, one without which they cannot be believers at all. At the same time, we must recognise the fact that to possess the Holy Spirit is one thing, but to be filled with the Spirit is quite another. Before Pentecost the Holy Ghost had been given to the disciples. Christ had breathed upon them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” [John 20:22]. But Pentecost made an unspeakable difference to them. The visible tongues of fire were only emblems of what had passed within. What new creatures they then became! How their gross conception of Christ’s kingdom was purged away, and how they were raised from earthliness to spirituality! Their intellects were flooded with Divine light, their souls throbbed with Divine sympathies, and their tongues spoke so wonderfully of the things of God, that all who had known them previously were amazed, saying, “What meaneth this?” [Acts 2:12] They were all raised to a new altitude; a new energy and force possessed them. Each one became strong as an iron pillar, “the weakest as David, and the strong as the angel of the Lord.”5 They met together as the sincere, but timid and partially enlightened followers of Christ, but they left the upper room full of light, and power, and love. They were now filled with the Holy Ghost as an all-illuminating, all-strengthening, all-sanctifying presence. The baptism of fire had consumed their inward depravity, subsidised all their faculties, and filled to the full each capacity with Divine energy and life.

“Baptised with” and “filled with the Holy Ghost” are often convertible terms in the Acts of the Apostles, but it is instructive to note that they are not always so. The apostles received but one baptism, but they were “filled” with the Spirit over and over again. The baptism of the Holy Ghost was, and still is, a sort of initiatory rite to the life of Pentecostal service, and fulness, and victory. Christian life begins at Calvary, but effective service begins at Pentecost. Before Pentecost there was not much service rendered by the apostles that was worth the name. But with the Spirit’s baptism they entered upon a new phase of life and service. The analogy of the sacrament of baptism connects the baptism of the Spirit with a new era in Christian life. Pentecost [Acts 2], and the visit to Cornelius [Acts 10], when the baptism of the Spirit is spoken of, were not only historical events, but great representative occasions, which may be held to typify and signify the beginning of the Spirit-filled life.

Almost all prominent Christian workers whose labours have been pre-eminently owned of God bear witness to the reception of a distinct definite blessing which they received subsequent to conversion, and which inaugurated a new era in their spiritual life. If questioned, they would give different accounts, probably, of how they received this experience, and describe it differently, but they suddenly became bold, mighty, aggressive, and conquering. They had received their Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit was in them the fire of love, the light of assurance, and the unction of power.

As far as God is concerned, there is no reason why weary wastes of disappointing years should stretch between Bethel and Peniel,6 between the Cross and Pentecost. It is not the will of God that forty years of wilderness wandering should lie between Egypt and the promised land. In apostolic days there was generally a brief interval between conversion and the baptism of the Spirit, but new converts were introduced at once to this fulness of blessing, and taught to expect it as a positive, conscious, and present experience. Under the preaching of Philip in Samaria [Acts 8:4-13], many were converted, and “when they believed, they were baptised both men and women” [verse 12]. The successive steps through which they passed are mentioned; attention to the word, faith, great joy, and baptism with water. But before they should be disheartened by difficulties and demoralised by defeat, Peter and John were sent unto them from Jerusalem for the special purpose of leading these newly-saved ones into the fulness of blessing. They prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost, and they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost [Acts 8:14-17].

St. Paul’s first question to “certain disciples,” which he found at Ephesus, was “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” [Acts 19:1-2] “Jesus hath sent me,” said Ananias to the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus, “that thou mayest be filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 9:17]. How many backslidings would be prevented if we returned to primitive methods, and urged our converts to seek this experience at the beginning of their Christian life! None can deny that the ordinary Christian in our churches, weakened as he is by doubt and palsied by fear, with his worldliness and backslidings, far more resembles the condition of the disciples before Pentecost than after it. Who can read the Acts of the Apostles without coming to the conclusion that the Apostolic Church enjoyed a much larger measure of the Spirit’s fulness than is generally experienced by Christians today? We claim to be sharers in Pentecostal privileges, and yet how few enjoy the fulness of blessing which Christ is exalted to bestow! If we are not filled with the Spirit, at whose door does the blame lie? The question is not, “Has God given?” but, “Have we received?” The might of God was not exhausted on the day of Pentecost. That baptism was simply a pledge and earnest of what God intends to do for His people. We are still in the dispensation of the Spirit, and the promise still stands: “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts ii. 39). The promise is as far-reaching and extensive as the need, and means that by virtue of our new birth it is our individual privilege or birthright to be filled with the Holy Ghost. Each believer has the right to aspire to this, the right to pray for it, and the right to expect it today.

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It is interesting to note the gradation in the teaching of St. John’s Gospel. In chapter iii we have the “life” in its beginning—the new birth (John iii.7). In chapter iv we have “life abundantly”—“a well of water springing up” [John 4:14]. We fill our cup and drink, and keep on drinking from this inexhaustible supply. Those who have learned to do this shall never thirst. The well is for the supply of personal need. But Christianity extends beyond the individual; provision is made for the needs of those about us. Hence we are taught in the seventh chapter that rivers of blessing shall “flow out” from all believers who are filled with the Spirit. “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” [John 7:38]. Blessing is promised here on a magnificent scale. Notice its hugeness, its Godlike vastness! “Rivers,” not a babbling brook or a streamlet; not even a river, but “rivers.” What Divine prodigality! In this experience, “Grace, not in rills, but in cataracts rolls.”7 If it means anything, it means that there is no limit to the blessing God can send, through the feeblest of His servants, if they are prepared to receive what He is ready to bestow. There shall not only be fulness, but overflow. Spirit-filled believers carry life, and satisfaction, and gladness, wherever they go. Their presence is life-giving, fructifying,8 refreshing, even as a river which blesses as it flows. “Everything shall live whithersoever the river cometh” [Ezekiel 47:9]. The weakest, feeblest member of the body of Christ may be so instinct9 with the most vigorous life, that there shall come forth from him a holy river-like abundance to the blessing of the souls of others.

Let us not confuse this fulness of the Spirit with any particular modes of blessing. Sometimes His coming distils as the dew, or it may be like the gentle summer shower, or as the mighty rushing wind. Some have an overwhelming sense of His presence; to others He comes, as it were, without observation, in quiet gladness and confidence. Souls are brought into this blessing with as much diversity as sinners are brought into pardon and peace. He Who blesses knows best what we need, and will adapt His gifts to us with infinite wisdom. But though His modes of coming vary, when He does come in fulness to the soul, all its chambers are filled with light, and not a taint of impurity remains.

We often speak and act as if it were the most difficult thing in the world to obtain the fulness of the Spirit, and yet it is certain that there is no blessing which the Father is so ready to bestow upon those who ask Him as this very gift. More willing is He to give the Holy Spirit to each believer than a mother to give the healing medicine to her dying child, or a father to give food and raiment to his soldier son who has just returned from the war. “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” [Luke 11:13]

 


Footnotes:

This entry is part 9 of 28 in the series New Testament Holiness

Public Domain1

by
Evangelist Thomas Cook

There are various degrees of impurity, but, strictly speaking, there are no degrees of purity. According to Webster, the word “pure” means: “entire separation from all heterogeneous and extraneous matter, clear, free from mixture; as pure water, pure air, pure silver or gold.” The word in the New Testament which is most frequently translated “pure” occurs in some of its forms nearly seventy times. We may get at the idea the word was meant to convey by noting how the original is used. It is used

  • of the body, not smeared with paint or ointment,
  • of an army rid of its sick and ineffective,
  • of wheat, when all the chaff has been winnowed away,
  • of vines without excrescences,2
  • of gold without alloy.

[click to continue…]