Sunday, November 21, 2010

Barren, notional faith

On January 16, 1751, John Wesley received a letter from a friend that addressed a subject of concern to them both:

~ VERY DEAR SIR, All our preaching at first was pointed at the heart, and almost all our private conversation. "Do you feel the love of God in your heart? Does his Spirit reign there? Do you walk in the Spirit? Is that mind in you which was in Christ?" were frequent questions among us.

But while these Preachers to the heart were going on gloriously in the work of Christ, the false Apostles stepped in, laughed at all heart work, and laughed many of us out of our spiritual senses: For, according to them, we were neither to see, hear, feel, nor taste the powers of the world to come; but to rest contented with what was done for us seventeen hundred years ago.

"The dear Lamb," said they, "has done all for us: We have nothing to do, but to believe." Here was a stroke at the whole work of God in the heart! And ever since this German spirit has . . . caused many to rest in a barren, notional faith, void of that inward power of God unto salvation. ~

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The loss of wresting scripture

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” Romans 8:16.

~ How many vain men, not understanding what they spake, neither whereof they affirmed, have wrested this Scripture to the great loss, if not the destruction, of their souls! How many have mistaken the voice of their own imagination for this witness of the Spirit of God, and thence idly presumed they were the children of God . . . with what difficulty are they convinced thereof, especially if they have drank deep into that spirit of error! All endeavors to bring them to the knowledge of themselves, they will then account fighting against God; and that vehemence and impetuosity of spirit, which they call "contending earnestly for the faith" sets them so far above all the usual methods of conviction, that we may well say, "With men it is impossible." ~ John Wesley

Saturday, October 2, 2010

From servant to saint

"We are all agreed we may be saved from all sin before death - that is, from all sinful tempers and desires. The substance, then is settled. But as to the circumstances, is the change gradual or instantaneous? It is both the one and the other. 'But should we in preaching insist both on one and the other?' Certainly we should insist on the gradual change, and that earnestly
and continually.

And are there not reasons why we should insist on the instantaneous change? If there be such a blessed change before death, should we not encourage all believers to expect it? And the rather, because constant experience shows the more earnestly they expect this, the more swiftly and steadily does the gradual work of God go on in their souls, the more careful are they to grow in grace, the more zealous of good works and the more punctual in their attendance on all the ordinances of God.

Whereas, just the contrary effects are observed whenever this expectation ceases. They are saved by hope, by this hope of a total change, with a gradually increasing salvation. Destroy this hope, and that salvation stands still, or rather decreases daily. Therefore, whoever would advance the gradual change in believers should strongly insist on the instantaneous." ~ John Wesley

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greater than John the Baptist

"It may be granted, (1.) That David, in the general course of his life, was one of the holiest men among the Jews. And, (2.) That the holiest men among the Jews did sometimes commit sin. But if you would hence infer that all Christians do, and must commit sin, as long as they live; this consequence we utterly deny. It will never follow from those premises. Those who argue thus seem never to have considered that declaration of our Lord, Matt. xi, 11, 'Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'

In these words then our Lord declares two things: (1.) That before his coming in the flesh, among all the children of men, there had not been one greater than John the Baptist: whence it evidently follows that neither Abraham, David, nor any Jew, was greater than John. (2.) That he who is least in the kingdom of God (in that kingdom which he came to set up on earth, and which the violent now began to take by force) is greater than he. Not a greater prophet (as some have interpreted the word) for this is palpably false in fact: but greater in the grace of God, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we cannot measure the privileges of real Christians by those formerly given to the Jews. 'Their ministration,' or dispensation, we allow 'was glorious;' but ours 'exceeds in glory.' So that whosoever would bring down the Christian dispensation to the Jewish standard, doth 'greatly err, neither knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.'" ~ John Wesley

Saturday, September 18, 2010

From faith to faith of assurance

"Are there not many pious and judicious ministers in the Churches of England and Scotland, as well as among the dissenters, who dare not countenance the present revival of the power of godliness, chiefly because they hear us sometimes unguardedly assert that none have any faith but such as have the faith of assurance; and that the wrath of God actually abides on all those who have not that faith? If we warily allowed the faith of the inferior dispensations, which such divines clearly see in the Scriptures, and feel in themselves; would not their prejudices be softened, and their minds prepared to receive what we advance in defence of the faith of assurance?

. . . You are afraid that the doctrine of this Essay will make 'seekers rest in Laodicean lukewarmness;' but permit me to observe that the seekers you speak of are either forward hypocrites, or sincere penitents. If they are forward hypocrites, preaching to them the faith of assurance will never make them either humble or sincere. On the contrary, they will probably catch . . . at an assurance of their own making; and so they will profess to have the faith for which you contend, when in fact they have only the name and notion of it. The religious world swarms with instances of this kind.

If, on the other hand, the seekers for whom you seem concerned are sincere penitents; far from being hurt, they will be greatly benefited by our doctrine: for it will at once keep them from chilling, despairing fears, and from false, Crispian [Antinomian] comforts; the two opposite extremes into which upright, unwary mourners are most apt to run. Thus our doctrine, instead of being dangerous to sincere seekers, will prove a Scriptural clue, in following which they will happily avoid the gloomy haunts of Pharisaic despair, and the enchanted ground of Antinomian presumption." ~ John Fletcher of Madeley

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two extremes to avoid

"You still seem to take it for granted that there is no true faith, but an explicit faith in Christ; and no explicit faith in Christ, but the faith of full assurance . . . There are two extremes in the doctrine of faith which should be carefully avoided by every Christian: the one is . . . that an adulterous murderer may have true, saving faith in the height of his complicated crimes: and the other is that . . . there is no saving faith but that which actually cleanses us from all inbred sin, and opens a present heaven in our breasts.

"The middle path of truth lies exactly between those opposite mistakes, and that path I endeavour to point out. As, on the one hand, it never came into my mind that an impenitent murderer can have even the saving faith of a heathen: so, on the other hand, it never entered my thoughts, that a penitent can believe with the faith of full assurance when he will: for this faith depends not only upon our general belief of the truth revealed to us, but also upon a peculiar operation of God, or revelation of his powerful arm.

"It is always attended with a manifestation of 'the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God.' And such a manifestation God in general grants to none but them that groan deeply under 'the spirit of bondage unto fear,' as Paul did while he remained blind at Damascus;— or them that are peculiarly faithful to the grace of their inferior dispensation, and pray as earnestly for 'power from on high,' as the apostles did after our Lord's ascension." ~ John Fletcher of Madeley

A fool's paradise

"Few of us know what it is 'to cry out of the deep,' to pray and believe, till in the name of Jesus we force our way beyond flesh and blood, come within the reach of the eternal world, conflict in an agony with the powers of darkness, vanquish Apollyon in all his attacks, and continue wrestling till the day of eternity break upon us, and the God of Jacob 'bless us with all spiritual benedictions in heavenly places.'

"John Bunyan's pilgrim, the old Puritans, and the first Quakers, had such engagements, and gained such victories; but they soon got over the hedge of internal activity, into the smooth easy path of Laodicean formality. Most of us, called Methodists, have already followed them; and when we are in that snare, Satan scorns to conflict with us; puny flesh and blood are more than a match for us.

"We fall asleep under their bewitching power, and begin to dream strange dreams. 'Our salvation is finished, we have got above legality, we live without frames and feelings, we have attained Christian liberty, we are perfect in Christ, we have nothing to do, our covenant is sure,' True! But unhappily it is a covenant with the flesh. Satan, who is too wise to break it by rousing us in the spirit, leaves us to our delusions; and we think ourselves in the kingdom of God, when we are only in a fool's paradise." ~ John Fletcher of Madeley

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wesley's view of Quakerism

"I trust you will never sink into Quietism (or Quakerism, which is only one mode of it). For then you would soon sink into lukewarmness; and what would come next who can tell? I have not known ten Quakers in my life whose experience went so far as justification. I never knew one who clearly experienced what we term 'sanctification.' But, indeed, their language is so dark and equivocal that one scarce knows what they do experience and what they do not." ~ John Wesley in a letter dated July 31, 1780 (Wesley was 77 years old at the time)

Faith and Works

"In the Antinomian days of Dr. Crisp arose the honest people we call Quakers. Shocked at the general abuse of the doctrine of justification by faith, they rashly inferred it never could be from God; and seeing none 'shall be justified in glory but the doers of the law,' they hastily concluded there is but one justification, namely, the being made inherently just, or the being sanctified, and then declared holy. Admit our doctrine, and you have both parts of the truth, — that which the Antinomians hold against the Quakers, and that which the Quakers maintain against the Antinomians. Each alone is dangerous; both together mutually defend each other, and make up the Scriptural doctrine of justification, which is invincibly guarded on the one hand by FAITH against Pharisees, and on the other by WORKS against Antinomians. Reader, may both be thy portion!" ~ John Fletcher of Madeley

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Luther and the book of James

"As for St. James, I need not quote him. You know that, when Luther was in his heat, he could have found it in his heart to tear this precious epistle from among the sacred books, and burn it as an epistle of straw. He thought the author of it was an enemy to free grace, an abettor of Popish tenets, an antichrist. It is true, the scales of prejudice fell at last from his eyes; but, alas! it was not till he had seen the Antinomian boar lay waste the Lord's flourishing vineyard all over Protestant Germany. Then was he glad to draw against him St. James's despised sword." ~ John Fletcher of Madeley

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nothing can be more false

"We have received it as a maxim, that 'a man is to do nothing in order to justification.' Nothing can be more false. Whoever desires to find favour with God, — should 'cease from evil, and learn to do well.' Whoever repents, should do 'works meet for repentance.' And if this is not in order to find favour what does he do them for?" ~ John Wesley

"Permit me to answer [Mr. Wesley's question] according to Scripture and common sense. If he do them in order to purchase the Divine favour, he is under a self-righteous delusion; but if he do them as Mr. Wesley says, 'in order to find:' what Christ has purchased for him, he acts the part of a wise Protestant. Should you say that 'such a penitent does works meet for repentance from a sense of gratitude for redeeming love:' I answer, this is impossible; for that 'love must be shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him,' in consequence of his justification, before he can act from the sense of that love and the gratitude which it excites. I hope it is no heresy to maintain that the cause must go before the effect." ~ John Fletcher

Monday, August 16, 2010

A prayer for living faith

If, drawn by thine alluring grace,
My want of living faith I feel,
Show me in Christ thy smiling face;
What flesh and blood can ne'er reveal,
Thy co-eternal Son, display,
And call my darkness into day.

The gift unspeakable impart;
Command the light of faith to shine,
To shine in my dark, drooping heart,
And fill me with the life divine:
Now bid the new creation be!
O God, let there be faith in me!

~ Charles Wesley

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seeking to find

"He, who cannot contradict Himself, hath said to all, 'Seek and ye shall find.' It is true, indeed, that he who would seek God, and is yet unwilling to forsake his sins, shall not find Him, because he seeks not aright; and therefore it is added, 'Ye shall die in your sins.' On the other hand, he who diligently seeks God in his heart, and that he may draw near unto Him sincerely forsakes sin, shall infallibly find Him." ~ Madame Guyon

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A thorough Christian conversion

Act 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

"Saul was not an apostle at this time; he was not even a Christian; and the Holy Ghost, which he received now, was given more to make him a thorough Christian convert than to make him an apostle." ~ Adam Clark in his Bible commentary for the preceding verse

True faith is the gift of God

John Wesley's journal, April 22nd, 1738: "I met Peter Bohler once more. I had now no objection to what he said of the nature of faith . . . But I could not comprehend what he spoke of an instantaneous work. I could not understand how this faith should be given in a moment: How a man could at once be thus turned from darkness to light, from sin and misery to righteousness and joy in the Holy Ghost. I searched the Scriptures again, touching this very thing, particularly the Acts of the Apostles: But, to my utter astonishment, found scarce any instances there of other than instantaneous conversions; scarce any so slow as that of St. Paul, who was three days in the pangs of the new birth." ~ John Wesley

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Satisfied beyond all doubt

“The strong and lively exercises of a spirit of childlike, evangelical, humble love to God, give clear evidence of the soul's relation to God as his child; which does very greatly and directly satisfy the soul . . . the saint stands in no need of multiplied signs, or any long reasoning upon them . . . the saint sees and feels plainly the union between his soul and God; it is so strong and lively, that he cannot doubt of it . . . the Spirit of God gives the evidence by infusing and shedding abroad the love of God, the spirit of a child, in the heart, and our spirit, or our conscience, receives and declares this evidence for our rejoicing.

“Many have been the mischiefs that have arisen from that false and delusive notion of the witness of the Spirit, that it is a kind of inward voice, suggestion, or declaration from God to man, that he is beloved of him, and pardoned, elected, or the like, sometimes with, and sometimes without a text of Scripture; and many have been the false and vain (though very high) affections that have arisen from hence. And it is to be feared that multitudes of souls have been eternally undone by it.” ~ Jonathan Edwards in A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Perceptible Inspiration and Invincible Ignorance

"Therefore the distinguishing doctrines on which I do insist in all my writings and in all my preaching will lie in a very narrow compass. You sum them all up in Perceptible Inspiration. For this I earnestly contend; and so do all who are called Methodist preachers. But be pleased to observe what we mean thereby. We mean that inspiration of God's Holy Spirit whereby He fills us with righteousness, peace, and joy, with love to Him and to all mankind. And we believe it cannot be, in the nature of things, that a man should be filled with this peace and joy and love by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit without perceiving it as clearly as he does the light of the sun.

This is (so far as I understand them) the main doctrine of the Methodists. This is the substance of what we all preach. And I will still believe none is a true Christian till he experiences it; and, consequently, ‘that people at all hazards must be convinced of this -- yea, though that conviction at first unhinge them ever so much, though it should in a manner distract them for a season. For it is better that they should be perplexed and terrified now than that they should sleep on and awake in hell.’

I do not, therefore, I will not, shift the question; though I know many who desire I should. I know the proposition I have to prove, and I will not move an hair’s breadth from it. It is this: ‘No man can be a true Christian without such an inspiration of the Holy Ghost as fills his heart with peace and joy and love, which he who perceives not has it not.’ This is the point for which alone I contend; and this I take to be the very foundation of Christianity. . . .

It would doubtless be wrong to insist thus on these things if they were ‘not necessary to final salvation’; but we believe they are, unless in the case of invincible ignorance. In this case, undoubtedly many thousands are saved who never heard of these doctrines; and I am inclined to think this was our own case, both at Oxford and for some time after. Yet I doubt not but, had we been called hence, God would first, by this inspiration of His Spirit, have wrought in our hearts that holy love without which none can enter into glory."

~ John Wesley, December 30, 1745 letter to John Smith (the pen name of an anonymous writer thought to be Dr. Thomas Secker who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The common privilege of all believers

"From this plain reason then appears the necessity why we, as well as the first apostles, in this sense, must receive the Spirit of God. For the great work of sanctification, or making us holy, is particularly reserved to the Holy Ghost; therefore, our Lord says, 'Unless a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'

Jesus Christ came down to save us, not only from the guilt, but also from the power of sin: and however often we have repeated our creed, and told God we believe in the Holy Ghost, yet, if we have not believed in him, so as to be really united to Jesus Christ by him, we have no more concord with Jesus Christ than Belial himself.

And now, my brethren, what shall I say more? Tell me, are not many of you offended at what has been said already? Do not some of you think, though I mean well, yet I have carried the point a little too far? Are not others ready to cry out, if this be true, who then can be saved? Is not this driving people into despair?

Yes, I ingenuously confess it is; but into what despair? A despair of mercy through Christ? No, God forbid; but a despair of living with God without receiving the Holy Ghost. And I would to God, that not only all you that hear me this day, but that the whole world was filled with this despair. Believe me, I have been doing no more than you allow your bodily physicians to do every day: if you have a wound, and are in earnest about a cure, you bid the surgeon probe it to the very bottom; and shall not the physician of your souls be allowed the same freedom? What have I been doing but searching your natural wounds, that I might convince you of your danger, and put you upon applying to Jesus Christ for a remedy? Indeed I have dealt with you as gently as I could; and now I have wounded, I will attempt to heal you.

For I was in the last place, to exhort you all to come to Jesus Christ by faith, whereby you, even you also, shall receive the Holy Ghost. 'For this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.'

This, this is what I long to come to. Hitherto I have been preaching only the law; but behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy. If I have wounded you, be not afraid; behold, I now bring a remedy for all your wounds. Notwithstanding you are sunk into the nature of the beast and devil, yet, if you truly believe on Jesus Christ, you shall receive the quickening Spirit promised in the text, and be restored to the glorious liberties of the sons of God; I say, if you believe on Jesus Christ. 'For by faith we are saved; it is not of works, lest any one should boast.'" ~ George Whitefield in a sermon entitled "The Indwelling of the Spirit, the Common Privilege of all Believers"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spiritual testimony

"Now this is properly the testimony of our own spirit; even the testimony of our conscience, that God hath given us to be holy of heart, and holy in outward conversation . . . A consciousness that we are inwardly conformed, by the Spirit of God, to the image of his Son, and that we walk before him in justice, mercy, and truth, doing the things which are pleasing in his sight.

But what is that testimony of God's Spirit, which is superadded to, and conjoined with, this? . . . The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.

That this testimony of the Spirit of God must needs, in the very nature of things, be antecedent to the testimony of our own spirit, may appear from this single consideration: We must be holy of heart, and holy in life before we can be conscious that we are so; before we can have the testimony of our spirit, that we are inwardly and outwardly holy. But we must love God, before we can be holy at all; this being the root of all holiness. Now we cannot love God, till we know he loves us . . . And we cannot know his pardoning love to us, till his Spirit witnesses it to our spirit. Since, therefore, this testimony of his Spirit must precede the love of God and all holiness, of consequence it must precede our inward consciousness thereof, or the testimony of our spirit concerning them." - John Wesley in The Witness of the Spirit: Discourse One

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The theology of communion

John Wesley's journal entry on 1740, June, Fri. 27. — I preached on, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the ancient Church, every one who was baptized communicated daily. So in the Acts we read, they ‘all continued daily in the breaking of bread, and in prayer.’

But in latter times, many have affirmed, that the Lord’s Supper is not a converting, but a confirming ordinance.

And among us it has been diligently taught, that none but those who are converted, who have received the Holy Ghost, who are believers in the full sense, ought to communicate.

But experience shows the gross falsehood of that assertion, that the Lord’s Supper is not a converting ordinance. Ye are the witnesses. For many now present know, the very beginning of your conversion to God (perhaps, in some, the first deep conviction) was wrought at the Lord’s Supper. Now, one single instance of this kind overthrows the whole assertion.

The falsehood of the other assertion appears both from Scripture precept and example. Our Lord commanded those very men who were then unconverted, who had not yet received the Holy Ghost, who (in the full sense of the word) were not believers, to do this ‘in remembrance of’ him. Here the precept is clear. And to these he delivered the elements with his own hands. Here is example equally indisputable.

Sat. 28. — I showed at large,

1. That the Lord’s Supper was ordained by God, to be a means of conveying to men either preventing, or justifying, or sanctifying grace, according to their several necessities.
2. That the persons for whom it was ordained, are all those who know and feel that they want the grace of God, either to restrain them from sin, or to show their sins forgiven, or to renew their souls in the image of God.
3. That inasmuch as we come to his table, not to give him any thing, but to receive whatsoever he sees best for us, there is no previous preparation indispensably necessary, but a desire to receive whatsoever he pleases to give. And,
4. That no fitness is required at the time of communicating, but a sense of our state, of our utter sinfulness and helplessness; every one who knows he is fit for hell, being just fit to come to Christ, in this as well as all other ways of his appointment.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

True faith and trust in Christ

"But this doctrine, as it is understood by many, is, that Christians ought firmly to believe and trust in Christ, without spiritual sight or light, and although they are in a dark dead frame, and, for the present, have no spiritual experiences or discoveries. And it is truly the duty of those who are thus in darkness, to come out of darkness into light and believe. But that they should confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without spiritual light or sight, is an anti-scriptural and absurd doctrine.

The Scripture is ignorant of any such faith in Christ of the operation of God, that is not founded in a spiritual sight of Christ. That believing on Christ, which accompanies a title to everlasting life, is a seeing the Son, and believing on him, John 6:40. True faith in Christ is never exercised, any further than persons behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and have the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:6. They into whose minds the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine, believe not, 2 Corinthians 4:5.

That faith, which is without spiritual light, is not the faith of the children of the light, and of the day; but the presumption of the children of darkness. And therefore to press and urge them to believe, without any spiritual light or sight, tends greatly to help forward the delusions of the prince of darkness. Men not only cannot exercise faith without some spiritual light, but they can exercise faith only just in such proportion as they have spiritual light. Men will trust in God no further than they know him; and they cannot be in the exercise of faith in him one ace further than they have a sight of his fullness and faithfulness in exercise.

Nor can they have the exercise of trust in God, any further than they are in a gracious frame . . . They that are in a dead carnal frame, doubtless ought to trust in God; because that would be the same thing as coming out of their bad frame, and turning to God; but to exhort men confidently to trust in God, and so hold up their hope and peace, though they are not in a gracious frame, and continue still to be so, is the same thing in effect, as to exhort them confidentially to trust in God, but not with a gracious trust: and what is that but a wicked presumption?" ~ Jonathan Edwards

Monday, February 22, 2010

Degrees of justifying faith

John Wesley's Journal entry from December 31, 1739 —

"I had a long and particular conversation with Mr. Molther himself. I weighed all his words with the utmost care; desired him to explain what I did not understand; asked him again and again, 'Do I not mistake what you say? Is this your meaning, or is it not?' So that I think, if God has given me any measure of understanding, I could not mistake him much. As soon as I came home, I besought God to assist me, and not suffer 'the blind to go out of the way.'

I then wrote down what I conceived to be the difference between us, in the following words: — As to faith, you believe,

1. There are no degrees of faith, and that no man has any degree of it, before all things in him are become new, before he has the full assurance of faith, the abiding witness of the Spirit, or the clear perception that Christ dwelleth in him.

2. Accordingly you believe, there is no justifying faith, or state of justification, short of this.

Whereas I believe,

1. There are degrees in faith; and that a man may have some degree of it, before all things in him are become new; before he has the full assurance of faith, the abiding witness of the Spirit, or the clear perception that Christ dwelleth in him.

2. Accordingly, I believe there is a degree of justifying faith (and consequently, a state of justification) short of, and commonly antecedent to, this.
" ~ John Wesley

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A common progression

The partial testimony of a Moravian named Albinus Feder, as recorded by John Wesley in his journal entry of August 12th, 1738.

“I, for three years fought against sin with all my might, by fasting and prayer, and all the other means of grace. But notwithstanding all my endeavors, I gained no ground; sin still prevailed over me; till at last, not knowing what to do farther, I was on the very brink of despair. Then it was, that, having no other refuge left, I fled to my Savior as one lost and undone, and that had no hope but in His power and free mercy.

"In that moment I found my heart at rest, in good hope that my sins were forgiven; of which I had a stronger assurance six weeks after, when I received the Lord’s Supper here. But I dare not affirm, I am a child of God; neither have I the seal of the Spirit. Yet I go on quietly doing my Savior’s will, taking shelter in his wounds, from all trouble and sin, and knowing He will perfect his work in his own time.

“Martin Döber, when I described my state to him, said he had known very many believers who, if he asked the question, would not have dared to affirm, that they were the children of God. And he added, ‘It is very common for persons to receive remission of sins, or justification through faith in the blood of Christ, before they receive the full assurance of faith; which God many times withholds, till he has tried whether they will work together with him in the use of the first gift.

"Nor is there any need (continued he, Döber) to incite any one to seek that assurance by telling him, the faith he has is nothing. This will be more likely to drive him to despair, than to encourage him to press forward. His single business, who has received the first gift, is, to believe on, and to hold fast that whereunto he hath attained: To go on, doing his Lord’s will, according to the ability God hath already given; cheerfully and faithfully to use what he has received, without solicitude for the rest.’” ~ Albinus Feder

Justification and full assurance

The partial testimony of a Moravian named Michael Linner, as recorded by John Wesley in his journal entry of August 12th, 1738.

“About fourteen years ago, I was more than ever convinced that I was wholly different from what God required me to be. I consulted his word again and again; but it spoke nothing but condemnation; till at last I could not read, nor indeed do any thing else, having no hope and no spirit left in me.

"I had been in this state for several days, when, being musing by myself, these words came strongly into my mind, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in him should not perish, but have ever lasting life.’ I thought, ‘All? Then I am one. Then He is given for me. But I am a sinner. And he came to save sinners.’

"Immediately my burden dropped off, and my heart was at rest. “But the full assurance of faith I had not yet; nor for the two years I continued in Moravia . . . after some time it pleased our Lord to manifest himself more clearly to my soul, and give me that full sense of acceptance in him which excludes all doubt and fear.

Indeed the leading of the Spirit is different in different souls. His more usual method, I believe, is, to give, in one and the same moment, the forgiveness of sins, and a full assurance of that forgiveness. Yet in many He works as He did in me: Giving first the remission of sins, and, after some weeks or months or years, the full assurance of it.” ~ Michael Linner

The recognition of an extreme view

The partial testimony of a Moravian named Christian David, as recorded by John Wesley in his journal entry of August 12th, 1738.

"Our constant inquiries were, —’Is Christ formed in you? Have you a new heart? Is your soul renewed in the image of God? Is the whole body of sin destroyed in you? Are you fully assured, beyond all doubt or fear, that you are a child of God? In what manner, and at what moment, did you receive that full assurance?’ If a man could not answer all these questions, we judged he had no true faith. Nor would we permit any to receive the Lord’s Supper among us till he could.

“In this persuasion we were, when I went to Greenland, five years ago. There I had a correspondence by letter with a Danish Minister on the head of justification. And it pleased God to show me by him, (though he was by no means a holy man, but openly guilty of gross sins,) that we had now leaned too much to this hand, and were run into another extreme . . . I now clearly saw, we ought not to insist on any thing we feel any more than any thing we do, as if it were necessary previous to justification, or the remission of sins.

"I saw that least of all ought we so to insist on the full assurance of faith, or the destruction of the body of sin, and the extinction of all its motions, as to exclude those who had not attained this from the Lord’s table, or to deny that they had any faith at all. I plainly perceived, this full assurance was a distinct gift from justifying faith, and often not given till long after it; and that justification does not imply that sin should not stir in us, but only that it should not conquer.

“And now first it was that I had that full assurance of my own reconciliation to God, through Christ. For many years I had had the forgiveness of my sins, and a measure of the peace of God; but I had not till now that witness of his Spirit, which shuts out all doubt and fear . . .

"Now three years since, we have all chiefly insisted on Christ given for us . . . which if we rightly believe, Christ will surely be formed in us. And this preaching we have always found to be accompanied with power, and to have the blessing of God following it. By this, believers receive a steady purpose of heart, and a more unshaken resolution, to endure with a free and cheerful spirit whatsoever our Lord is pleased to lay upon them.” ~ Christian David

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The depth of initial sanctification

"The right and true Christian faith is ' . . . a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that, by the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; whereof doth follow a loving heart, to obey his commandments.'

Now, whosoever has this faith, which 'purifies the heart' (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein) from 'pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness' from 'all filthiness of flesh and spirit;' which fills it with love stronger than death, both to God and to all mankind; love that doeth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict, --whosoever has this faith thus working by love is not almost only, but altogether, a Christian." ~ John Wesley

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A supernatural change of heart

"The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, I Tim. 1:17. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen. As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before . . .

After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing . . . And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me . . . The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy . . . They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature . . .

I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders." ~ Jonathan Edwards

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mistaking religious emotion for grace

"I used to pray five times a day in secret, and to spend much time in religious talk with other boys; and used to meet with them to pray together. I experienced I know not what kind of delight in religion. My mind was much engaged in it, and had much self-righteous pleasure; and it was my delight to abound in religious duties. I with some of my schoolmates joined together, and built a booth in a swamp, in a very retired spot, for a place of prayer. And besides, I had particular secret places of my own in the woods, where I used to retire by myself; and was from time to time much affected. My affections seemed to be lively and easily moved, and I seemed to be in my element when engaged in religious duties. And I am ready to think, many are deceived with such affections, and such a kind of delight as I then had in religion, and mistake it for grace." - Jonathan Edwards

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The pangs of a spiritual birth

This is an excerpt from a letter written by John Wesley, just a few days before he experienced the new birth at Aldersgate.

John Wesley's journal, May 19, 1738: "I know every thought, every temper of my soul, ought to bear God’s image and superscription. But how am I fallen from the glory of God! I feel that ‘I am sold under sin.’ I know, that I too deserve nothing but wrath, being full of all abominations: And having no good thing in me, to atone for them, or to remove the wrath of God. All my works, my righteousness, my prayers, need an atonement for themselves. So that my mouth is stopped. I have nothing to plead. God is holy, I am unholy. God is a consuming fire: I am altogether a sinner, meet to be consumed.

Yet I hear a voice (and is it not the voice of God?) saying, ‘Believe, and thou shalt be saved. He that believeth is passed from death unto life. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’

O let no one deceive us by vain words, as if we had already attained this faith! By its fruits we shall know. Do we already feel ‘peace with God,’ and ‘joy in the Holy Ghost?’ Does ‘his Spirit bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God?’ Alas, with mine He does not. Nor, I fear, with yours. O thou Savior of men, save us from trusting in anything but Thee! Draw us after Thee! Let us be emptied of ourselves, and then fill us with all peace and joy in believing; and let nothing separate us from thy love, in time or in eternity.”