John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 58

*Speaking with the Lord

“All things are possible with God.”

Mark 10:27 NIV

It is such general experience of the children of God wherever they live that, however they differ in other points, they generally agree in this: Although we may “by the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body,” and weaken our enemies day by day, yet we cannot drive them out. By all the grace given at justification we cannot extirpate them. Though we watch and pray ever so much, we cannot wholly cleanse either our hearts or our hands.

Most sure, we cannot, till it please our Lord to speak to our hearts again, to speak the second time, “Be clean!” Then only is the leprosy cleansed. Then only the evil root, the carnal mind, is destroyed, and inbred sin subsists no more.

When, in this sense, we have repented, then we are called to “believe the gospel.” This also is to be understood in a peculiar sense, different from that wherein we believed in order to be justified. We are to believe the glad tidings of the great, the full, salvation which God has prepared. Believe that the One who is the brightness of His Father’s glory, is “able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through Him.” He is able to save you from all the sin that still remains in your heart and to supply whatever is lacking in you. This is impossible with man, but with God-Man, all things are possible.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this fifty-eighth lesson on prayer, Wesley directs our thoughts toward the one doctrine that sets Wesleyans apart from most evangelical denominations, that being Christian perfection, entire sanctification, perfect love.

Wesley spent much labor in his Sermon 40, “Christian Perfection,” written in 1741, qualifying what he meant and what he did not mean by Christian perfection. He first laid out what man is not freed from in this life. Wesley said,

“Christian perfection, therefore, does not imply (as some men seem to have imagined) an exemption either from ignorance or mistake, or infirmities or temptations. Indeed, it is only another term for holiness. They are two names for the same thing. Thus every one that is perfect is holy, and every one that is holy is, in the Scripture sense, perfect. Yet we may, lastly, observe, that neither in this respect is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no perfection of degrees, as it is termed; none which does not admit of a continual increase. So that how much soever any man hath attained, or in how high a degree soever he is perfect, he hath still need to “grow in grace,” [2 Pet. 3:18] and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God his Saviour” [see Phil. 1:9].

Noted Wesleyan scholar, Albert C. Outler (1908-1989), said in “An Introductory Comment” to Wesley’s Sermon 40,

“If, for Wesley, salvation was the total restoration of the deformed image of God in us, and if its fullness was the recovery of our negative power not to sin and our positive power to love God supremely, this denotes that furthest reach of grace and triumph in this life that Wesley chose to call ‘Christian Perfection.’

“Just as justification and regeneration are thresholds for the Christian life in earnest (‘what God does for us’), so also sanctification is ‘what God does in us’, to mature and fulfill the human potential according to his primal design.  Thus, Wesley’s encouragement to his people to ‘go on to perfection’ and to ‘expect to be made perfect in love in this life’ aroused lively fears that this would foster more of the self-righteous perfectionism already made objectionable by earlier pietists.”


Wesley ends with,

“When, in this sense, we have repented, then we are called to “believe the gospel.” This also is to be understood in a peculiar sense, different from that wherein we believed in order to be justified. We are to believe the glad tidings of the great, the full, salvation which God has prepared. Believe that the One who is the brightness of His Father’s glory, is “able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through Him.” He is able to save you from all the sin that still remains in your heart and to supply whatever is lacking in you. This is impossible with man, but with God-Man, all things are possible.”

Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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