The Profession Of Perfect Love
117. Do the Scriptures authorize a confession of what God does for us?
They do. David says “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” Jesus said to one whom he had healed, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and had compassion on thee.” Paul says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness [holiness], and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” In his Letter to Timothy, a young minister of the gospel, he says, that he, Timothy, “professed a good profession before many witnesses.” The apostle exhorts the Hebrew brethren after this manner: “Let us hold fast our profession.” David says, “Thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power, to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.” Our Saviour repeatedly declared, “Whosoever shall I confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.” No fear of man, nor false modesty, should seal our lips against an honest confession of perfect love.
118. Does the Bible teach that Christians are God’s witnesses?
It does. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.” “Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” Nearly all the Scripture characters gave their testimony to what God did for them — to their experience. St. Paul professes full salvation in Rom. xv. 29. “And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” He says in the first chapter, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” Then, if “the fullness of the blessing”‘ means anything, it means full salvation. Notice his strong assertion “I am sure,” &c. Here is no doubt or uncertainty.
119. Does the church generally recognize a profession of religion as a duty of believers?
It does. A profession of religion is the acknowledged duty of all true Christians. It is recognized in all branches of the Protestant church. Believing with the heart and confessing with the mouth, stand closely connected and “what God hath joined together,” no man has a right to put asunder. The mouth must and will speak, when the heart believeth unto righteousness; for of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The belief and experience of the heart, and the confession of the mouth. must go together. The possession of perfect love, and a desire for its diffusion, are inseparable, and this desire prompts to a profession.
Albert Barnes says, “that a profession of religion is, by St. Paul, made as really indispensable to salvation as believing.” (Notes on Rom. x. 10. ) Matthew Henry, the commentator, says “What God has wrought in your souls, as well as for them, we must declare to others. … God’s people should communicate their experience to teach others.” The commentator Dr. Scott says: “Every servant of God is a witness for him and they all can give such, an account of what he has wrought in them, shown to them, and done for them, as to lead others to know, believe, and understand his power, truth, and love.”
120. To what is the Christian to give his testimony?
A witness is to testify to what he knows. A Christian is to testify regarding his experience, “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Any ambiguity or concealment by a witness, is a high offense against civil statutes, and an insult to any court of justice. Every court in the world would dismiss from the stand as an incompetent witness any one who could only affirm a belief, a desire, or a hope respecting the facts involved in his testimony.
He who witnesses for Christ must tell just what he has done. This is allowable by all in regard to justification and regeneration; why not in regard to sanctification? Why not declare all that God has done for us, just so far as there is clear evidence of its accomplishment, as well as to declare only a part? Must they withhold the clearest and best part of their testimony? Moses did not so understand our duty. He says, alluding to the law, the works, and the goodness of God,
“Thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Christians are to testify to their knowledge of pardon, adoption, regeneration, and sanctification; their evangelical experience being the base of their testimony.
121. Will not the spirit, conversation, and example exhibit what grace has done, so as to exclude the necessity for a profession?
These are important and indispensable, but are not the whole of our duty. If the sanctified soul can be excused on this ground from professing holiness, then the converted sinner can be excused on the same ground with equal propriety from any profession, and we should have no professors at all.
The outward life, however exemplary, is not a religious testimony it can declare nothing definite as it respects its own origin, whether its visible excellencies are inborn and natural, or whether they are the results of self-culture, discipline, or self-control, while the heart may be full of pride, hatred, and unbelief; or whether they are the result of the atoning blood, and the power of grace. The life, if well ordered, may testify to the purity of your morals. It may prove you honest, industrious, and neighborly; but all these may exist without either justification or sanctification. Multitudes but partially sanctified desire to know if any have experienced deliverance from inbred sin, and would be encouraged to seek the blessing, by clear testimony, given in the spirit of holiness. The idea so prevalent “that people are to live their religion, and say as little about it as possible,” is in direct conflict with the teaching and practice of Christ and the Apostles.
Dr. D. A. Whedon says: “It is to be feared that special danger lies hid in the idea that we are not to openly profess this grace, but to show it forth in the life. It is jut the idea which the devil, the greatest foe of vital godliness, would have prevail, — it is the point at which some of his fiercest temptations are directed, and at which scores stumble and fall.” — Letter in N. C. Advocate.
The pastoral address of the General Conference of 1832 presents the following upon the subject of holiness:
“Why then have we so few LIVING WITNESSES that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin’? Among primitive Methodists, the experience of this high attainment in religion may justly be said to have been COMMON; now a PROFESSION of it is rarely to be met with among us.
“Is it not time for us, in this matter at least, to return to first principles? Is it not time that we throw off the reproach of inconsistency with which we are charged in regard to this matter? Only let all who have been born of the Spirit, and have tasted of the good word of God, seek with the same ardor to be made perfect in love as they sought for the pardon of their sins, and soon will our class meetings and love feasts be cheered by the RELATION of EXPERIENCES of this high character, as they now are with those which tell of justification and the new birth. And when this shall come to be the case, we may expect a corresponding increase in the amount of our Christian enjoyments, and in the force of the religious influence we shall exert over others.”
In this we have the true ring of primitive Methodism plain, straightforward, simple Methodism, just as it should be, and not as the prejudices and customs of the people would like to have it.
We do not design to take extreme ground in regard to the profession of perfect love, but to present truth and duty concerning it, as we understand them. We most firmly believe that an honest, humble, full confession of perfect love is scriptural Wesleyan, and honorable to God.
122. Should Christian labor and testimony go together?
They should. After Pentecost, Peter and John went down to Samaria to labor for Christ, and “testified and preached the word of the Lord.” Christ declared unto Paul, that He appeared unto him to make him “a minister and a witness.” Here a distinction is made between preaching and witnessing, and that both are essential parts of ministerial duty. Paul often fell back upon his religious experience, and related it as simply and directly as possible, and published his experience to the world with its remarkable details, visions, power, and visit to the third heaven included. He says, “Christ liveth in me;” ” I am crucified with Christ ” and, “Ye are my witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you.”
Christian experience belongs to the domain of experimental and spiritual demonstration. Christianity is submitted to all by the test of positive experience, and, for its reception and progress in the world, must depend upon the testimony of competent witnesses, who are to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
123. Does not so rich a grace deserve a humble, faithful, and grateful acknowledgment?
If any man is under obligation and confession and profession, it is the entirely sanctified soul. If any man has a right to relate his experience, it is the man who has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. And if the rehearsal of any religious experience be useful to the church, and pleasing to God, it must be that which is clear and strong, deep, and thoroughly evangelical. When the soul is baptized with the Holy Ghost, and sin is utterly destroyed, and love, pure, perfect love, fills the whole heart, there are the most solemn obligations of faithful testimony for God. Rev. William Bramwell wrote to a friend, “Live in purity of heart. Be saved from all sin, and DECLARE this at EVERY PROPER SEASON.” And yet the vast mass of Christian professors, Bishop Thomson said, “are like the rivers emptying into the Arctic Sea, are frozen over at the mouth.”
Dr. H. Bannister wrote in the Advocate of Holiness in 1875: “The Lord deliver his Church forever from the vice that would suppress his earnest, conscientious people from acknowledging the glorious work wrought by Divine grace in their hearts at any time and in any degree. What more unnatural and cruel than to suppress a great, human joy occasioned by the reception of grand earthly blessings.”
124. Can the witness of entire sanctification be retained without confession on suitable occasions?
It cannot. To retain perfect love requires continued obedience to all the will of God. Not to gratefully acknowledge his grace and work in us, is disobedience, and grieves his Holy Spirit. The united testimony of those clear in this experience has but one voice on this question.
1. Rev. William Bramwell says: “I think such a blessing can not be retained without professing it at every fit opportunity; for thus we glorify God, and with the mouth make confession unto salvation.” Memoir.
2. Rev. John Fletcher lost this grace four or five times by not declaring it. Please note his testimony:
“My dear brethren and sisters: God is here I feel him in this place but I would hide my face in the dust, because I have been ashamed to declare what he hath done for me. For many years I have grieved his Spirit but I am deeply humbled, and he has again restored my soul. Last Wednesday evening he spoke to me by these words: ‘Reckon yourselves therefore to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ I obeyed the voice of God; I now obey it; and I tell you all, to the praise of his love, I am free from sin. Yes, I rejoice to declare it, and to bear witness to the glory of his grace, that I am dead unto sin and alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, who is my Lord and King. I received this blessing four or five times before, but I lost it by not observing the order of God, who has told us, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” But the enemy offered his bait under various colors to keep ne from a PUBLIC DECLARATION of what my Lord had wrought.
“When I first received this grace, Satan bid me wait a while, till I saw more of the fruits. I resolved to do so but I soon began to doubt of the witness which before I had felt in my heart, and was in a little time sensible I had lost both.
“A second time, after receiving this salvation (with shame I confess it), I was kept from being a witness for my Lord, by the suggestion, ‘Thou art a public character; the eyes of all are upon thee and if, as before, by any means thou lose the blessing, it will be a dishonor to heart holiness,’ &c. I held my peace, and again forfeited the gift of God.
“At another time I was prevailed upon to hide it by reasoning, HOW FEW EVEN OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD WILL RECEIVE THIS TESTIMONY! many of them supposing every transgression of the Adamic law is sin; and therefore if I profess myself to be free from sin, all these will give my profession the lie because I am not free in their sense; I am not free from ignorance, mistakes, and various infirmities. I will therefore enjoy what God hath wrought in me but I will not say I am perfect in love. Alas! I soon found again, ‘He that hideth his Lord’s talent, and improveth it not, from that unprofitable servant shall be taken away even what he hath.’
“Now, my brethren, you see my folly; I have confessed it in your presence and now I resolve before you all to confess my Master; I will confess him to all the world; and I will declare unto you, in the presence of the holy Trinity, I am now dead indeed unto sin.” — Journal of H. A. Rogers, pp. 134-137.
We have no cause to believe that Mr. Fletcher ever lost the blessing after this decided public profession.
It was at that time that the holy Fletcher said to Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers, “Will you, my sister, be one who shall spread the sacred flame? Come, my friend, I will covenant with you; we will join to magnify the Lord, and bear our TESTIMONY before men and angels. Will you? Mrs. Rogers replied with flowing tears, “In the strength of Jesus, I will.” And she did, in public and in private, until her soul took its departure for heaven.
3. “Experience shows (says Dr. D. A. Whedon) that the simple neglect of this duty is the point at which loss commences and if the neglect be continued, the results are most disastrous to the soul concerned.” — Letter in N. C. Advocate.
4. When Lady Maxwell was first sanctified she put off a public profession: as a result she lost her evidence of purity, and became perplexed with doubts for a season. She was led to see that her doubts were occasioned by her not humbly declaring what God had done for her soul, and she ever after stood as a faithful witness of full salvation. Her biographer says “She was constrained to bear her steady, decided, consistent testimony that the bitter root of sin was destroyed.”
5. Mrs. Phoebe Palmer says: “Now, though I well know that this blessing is the gift of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, yet I fully believe if I had not yielded to my convictions relative to confession, I could not have retained it.”
6. Rev. Asa Kent, late of the Providence Conference, says: “I have reason to believe, fifty-six years ago this month, the Lord took full possession of my heart, and filled me with pure love.” He further adds: “It seemed too much for such a worm to confess, and I WAITED to see if the blessing remained; in this severe I lost the witness.” Then he says: “For seven years I had severe temptations and conflicts with the powers of darkness. After this seven years of wilderness life, the Lord renewed the assurance of his love in my heart, far beyond all I had ever known before.” — Letter in “Guide.”
7. Rev. B. W. Gorham says: “I have found that if I would remain clear in my witness of perfect love, I must be specific in my testimony in the sober use of Scripture terms I must testify explicitly of what the Lord has done for me.”
When, from any cause, our testimony is withheld, we having opportunity to acknowledge the grace and power of God, the Spirit is grieved, and we suffer loss; the witness becomes faint and blurred, and our experience becomes indefinite and doubtful. Those who withhold their testimony soon reach a condition where a truthful confession of perfect love is impossible.
125. What good will be secured by confessing perfect love’?
1. A Christian testimony will obey and please God. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.”
2. It will benefit the confessor. This is not questioned in regard to regeneration; why should it be in regard to entire sanctification? Bishop Hamline says, the confession of holiness “promotes humility,” “aids self-consecration,” and “strengthens faith itself” James Caughey says: “The more frequently I spoke of this great blessing, confessing it, and urging others to press after it, the clearer my evidence became.” Lady Maxwell says: “I am enabled to bear a more public and decided testimony for Christian perfection by my lips and pen, and I find that the Lord owns me in it, at least, so far as respects my own soul.” By a law of our nature, an experience, or a feeling expressed, is increased. Anger unexpressed, subsides; expressed, becomes fury. Love uttered is increased. Gratitude expressed glows with a warmer flame. Praise confined within the secret recesses of the heart, dies away; but when it finds utterance from the lips, it becomes a triumphant song. So it is with every feeling of our hearts. In accordance with this law, the relation of our experience improves it. To express our faith in Christ, increases our faith. God has so ordered things, that in communicating good to others we receive good ourselves.
3. It will benefit others. “Many shall hear it, and fear and trust in the Lord.” This is never doubted in regard to justification, why should it be in regard to our complete cleansing? Bishop Jesse T. Peck says:
“This testimony, humbly and truthfully given, will move the hearts of others as nothing else can. We have seen even multitudes swayed and dissolved, and sinners awakened under its influences, as if the breath of God were in it.”
Dr. Adam Clarke says: “It has been no small mercy to me, that in the course of my religious life I have met with many persons who have professed that the blood of Christ had saved them from all sin, and whose profession was maintained by an immaculate life.” — Theology, p. 188.
“If an intelligent believer,” says Dr. Raymond, whose spirit, manner of life, and conversation whose character and conduct are in harmony with a profession of perfect love should testify that he has the witness of the spirit, that he is cleansed from all unrighteousness, sanctified wholly, filled with all the fullness of God, there is no good reason why any one should doubt his testimony.” — Systematic Theology.
Millions of sinners have been led to seek Christ through the testimony of saints regarding their justification, and many, many thousands of partially sanctified believers have been encouraged to seek a fullness in Jesus, by the clear testimony of those who have experienced this fullness themselves. Let us not forget,
“That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” “The humble shall it hear thereof and be glad.”
126. Should holiness be professed before a promiscuous audience?
There should be prudence and judgment exercised in this, as in all other Christian duties. In the confession of “perfect love,” the same prudence and judgment should be exercised as in the confession of justification, as to time, place, &c. Christ bade his disciples “cast not their pearls before swine,” intimating a proper discrimination with respect to circumstances and hearers. There may be seasons and occasions when it will be wise and useful to give testimony before all classes. But this profession, the same as that of justification, should usually be made among the pious, and in social meetings.
127. What terms are best and safest in professing holiness?
We are always safe in keeping close to the Bible. We may reasonably infer that the Holy Ghost has chosen the best terms expressive of his own work. Bible terms are less likely to mislead people than those of our own selection. While we do not think there is any authority for shutting a man up to any particular form of expression yet we have no right to ignore the inspired terms significant of this blessing. “Higher life,” “life of faith,” “more religion,” “a deeper work of grace,” and like phrases, are well enough in their place, but should not take the place of the deeply significant words of inspiration. God has named his own religion. “And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be CALLED, The way of HOLINESS the unclean shall not pass over it.” “Why, then,” asks Dr. Adam Clarke, “are there so many, even among sincere and godly ministers and people, who are so much opposed to the terms, and so much alarmed at the professor?
128. Should the profession be definite, and in terms which will not mislead?
It should. We should not be so indefinite, or make choice of such terms as amount to an actual or virtual denial of the work, or a refusal to bear the responsibility of this “high and holy calling.” It is the truth that we are to profess, the exact truth, in our experience.
Dr. Adam Clarke says “This fitness, then, to appear before God, and thorough preparation for eternal glory, is what I plead for, pray for, and heartily recommend to all true believers, under the name of Christian perfection. Had I a better name, one more energetic, one with a greater plenitude of meaning, one more worthy of the efficacy of the blood that bought our peace, and cleanseth from all unrighteousness, I would gladly adopt and use it.” — Christian Perfection, p. 184.
129. Do not some profess this experience in terms seriously objectionable?
Very likely; as there is no Christian duty that has not been abused by inconsiderate, rash, and weak minds. The same is true in the profession of justification. It can not be expected that the profession of holiness will be wholly free from exhibitions of human frailty. The world is full of uncultivated, careless, rash, inconsiderate, and impetuous men, and the profession of holiness, like all other Christian duties, is liable to abuse from them. Unwise professions of holiness, however, argue no more against its profession, than the abuse of prayer argues against the duty of prayer.
There are some who profess holiness carelessly, and use objectionable and unguarded terms. These, in most cases, are those whose life and spirit present but a sorry idea of Christian holiness. Such persons sometimes say, “I am perfect,” “I am pure,” “I have not committed a sin for so long.” These things ought to be true, and may be true; but their careless utterance by some of the professed friends of holiness has done much to injure this precious doctrine, and bring its profession into disrepute. It was so in Mr. Wesley’s day, and it is so in our day.
130. Is not the profession of holiness, assumed by some, as of itself evidence of spiritual pride?
Rev. Charles G. Finney says: “It seems next to impossible, with the present views of the church, that an individual should really attain to this state, and profess to live without known sin, in a manner so humble as not of course to be suspected of enormous spiritual pride. This consideration has been a snare to some who have hesitated, and even neglected to declare what God had done for their souls, lest they should be accused of spiritual pride. And this has been a serious injury to their piety.” — Letter to Preachers.
131. Does not the profession of perfect love as a distinct blessing tend to produce jealousy and discord among brethren?
It does not among Christians. A confession of entire sanctification in suitable words, in a proper manner and place, and in the right spirit, will produce no jealousy or discord among real Christians. It may among a class of backsliders, and dead or doubtful professors. These, of course, would writhe under both the possession and confession of this grace.
Mr. Wesley says: “Nor does any thing under heaven more quicken the desires of those who are justified, than to converse with those whom they believe to have experienced a still higher salvation.” — Vol. vi. p. 502.
132. Did Mr. Wesley encourage the profession of Perfect Love?
He did. We will give you a number of quotations from his journal and letters hearing upon this question.
1. “One reason why those who are saved from sin should freely declare it to believers is because nothing is a stronger incitement to them to seek after the same blessing. And we ought, by every possible means, to press every serious believer to forget the things which are behind, and with all earnestness go on to perfection.” — Vol. vii. p. 50.
2. “You can never speak too strongly or explicitly upon the need of Christian perfection. If you speak only faintly and indirectly, none will be offended and none profited. But if you speak out, although some will probably be angry, yet others will soon find the power of God unto salvation.” — Vol. vii. p. 254.
3. “It requires a great degree of watchfulness to retain the perfect love of God and one great means of retaining it, is frankly to declare what God has given you, and earnestly to exhort all the believers you meet with to follow after full salvation.” — Vol ii. p. 13.
4. “At the love feast Mr. C. related the manner how God perfected him in love — a testimony which is always attended with a peculiar blessing.” — Vol. iv. p. 458,
5. “By silence he might avoid many crosses which will naturally and necessarily ensue if he simply declare, even among believers, what God has wrought in his soul. If, therefore, such a one were to confer with flesh and blood, he would be entirely silent. But this could not be done with a clear conscience, for undoubtedly he ought to speak.” — Vol. vi. p. 502.
6. “Undoubtedly it would be a cross to declare what God has done for your soul; nay, and afterward Satan would accuse you on the account, telling you, ‘You did it out of pride.’ Yea, and some of your sisters would blame you, and perhaps put the same construction upon it. Nevertheless, if you do it with a single eye it will be well pleasing to God.” — Vol. vii. p. 103.
7. “In the evening I spoke to those at Manchester who believed the God had cleansed their hearts. They were sixty-three in number, to about sixty of whom I could not find there was any reasonable objection.” — Vol. vii. p. 381.
8. A few witnesses of pure love remain there still, but several are gone to Abraham’s bosom. Encourage those in Macclesfield who enjoy it to speak explicitly what they do experience; and to go on till they know all that ‘love of God that passeth knowledge.’ ” — Letter to H. Ann Rogers.
9. Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers says: “Mr. Wesley came to Macclesfield, and I saw and conversed with him for the first time. He behaved to me with parental tenderness, and greatly rejoiced in the Lord’s goodness to my soul; encouraged me to hold fast and to declare what the Lord had wrought.” — Journal.
10. For about three years he (Joseph Norbury) has humbly and boldly testified that God had saved him from all sin.” — Vol. ii. p. 297.
11. He writes to his brother Charles, who was about to visit Macclesfield, where there were a large number of witnesses of holiness: “I believe you will rather encourage them to speak humbly and modestly, the words of truth and soberness. Let your knowledge direct, not quench, the fire. That has been done too much already.” See Vol. ii. p. 130-133.
Not a word of opposition to the profession of full salvation can be found in any of Mr. Wesley’s writings. His rules of prudence in regard to the profession of holiness, given in his “Plain Account,” are all good, and we believe are usually observed by the professors and friends of holiness.
133. Did Mr. Wesley profess Christian perfection?
He did. Any minister who speaks of entire sanctification as Mr. Wesley did, is regarded as a professor of holiness. He says:
“You have over and over denied instantaneous sanctification to me but I have known and taught it above these twenty years.” — Vol iv. p. 140.
“Many years since, I saw that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. I began by following after it and inciting all with whom I had any intercourse to do the same. Ten years after, God gave me a clearer view than I had before of the way how to attain it, namely, by faith in the Son of God. And immediately I declared to all, ‘We are saved from sin, we are made holy by faith.” This I testified in private, in public, in print, and God confirmed it by a thousand witnesses.” — Vol. vii. p. 38.
This was written in 1771. In 1744, nearly thirty years before, he writes:
“In the evening, while I was reading prayers at Snowsfield, I found such light and strength as I never remember to have had before. I saw every thought as well as action or word, just as it was rising in my heart, and whether it was right before God, or tainted with pride or selfishness.”
“I waked the next morning, by the grace of God, in the same spirit; and about eight, being with two or three that believed in Jesus, I felt such an awe, and tender sense of the presence of God, as greatly confirmed me therein; so that God was before me all the day long. I sought and found Him in every place and could truly say, when I lay down at night, ‘now I have lived a day.’ ” — Vol. iii. p. 324.
Those who say Mr. Wesley did not profess perfect love, do so because he does not, as they claim, state it in his Journals. We admit Mr. Wesley seldom recorded his personal religious experience in his Journals, and yet we have as much regarding his experience of sanctification as of justification. The most he says about his justification was that at Aldersgate, when he felt “his heart strangely warmed.” This is often quoted respecting his justification, while the foregoing is both as clear, and as definite respecting his sanctification. There is just as much propriety, in the light of his Journals, in asserting that he did not profess justification, as that he did not profess entire sanctification.
134. Did Mr. Wesley find opposition in the church to the profession of holiness?
He did, and asks the following question:
“But is there no way to prevent these crosses which usually fall on those who speak of being thus saved?” He replies, “It seems they cannot be prevented altogether while so much of nature remains even in believers. But something might be done if the preacher in every place would: (b Talk freely with all who speak thus and, (2) Labor to prevent the unjust or unkind treatment of those it favor of whom there is reasonable proof.” Plain Account, p. 71.
Happy, happy would it have been for the church of God, if every Methodist minister had followed this advice of the great founder of Methodism. But, alas how many, instead of laboring to help and protect those who have professed Christian holiness, have sided with their opposers, and labored to put down the profession of holiness in the church!
St. John, the lovely and sweet-spirited apostle, was banished to the isle of Patmos “for the word of the Lord, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” When Stephen, filled with the blessed Holy Spirit, gave his testimony and stated what he saw and heard, the Jews could not endure it, but “cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city and stoned him.” If the apostles and martyrs had only held their peace, kept quiet, and lived their religion only, they might have saved their heads.
Satan has always stirred up the fiercest opposition to positive Christian testimony, and the most cruel and bitter persecutions Christians have ever suffered have been for witnessing to a knowledge of Christ and His most gracious work. Madam Guyon was shut up in the French Bastile four years, because she taught the doctrine and experience of justification and sanctification by faith.
It is not strange that Satan should oppose Christian testimony, for St. John says this great accuser of the brethren is overcome “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.”
William Bramwell writes as follows to a young preacher; “Live in it, talk about it, preach it, and enforce it with all patience, with all kindness and if you do this, hell, the world. and numbers among the Methodists, — yea, some leaders, if not preachers, — will, in some artful way, seek to hinder your success. — Memoir.
135. Is there not a want of harmony in Mr. Wesley’s teaching on this subject at successive periods?
There is, between his early and abandoned views, and his mature and established views.
Mr. Wesley’s mind underwent some changes concerning Christian perfection during his early ministry. He had occasion to modify some expressions, and change his opinions somewhat several times before he became fully established in the doctrine. There was a great revival of holiness about 1760, and we have no reason to believe that his views changed at all after that time. He died in 1791.
Mr. Wesley was a humble man, and never afraid to retract when he saw that he had made a mistake but he did not suppose that a hundred years afterward men would quote his earliest views, instead of his mature — his “latest and coolest thoughts.” This some have done who have written ably in defense of Christian perfection, and make him support positions which he, during many years openly abandoned as untenable.
If Mr. Wesley had some misgivings in reference to preaching and professing holiness during his early ministry, there was a change in his mind, and in his more mature opinion urged the importance of both, without any misgivings, during many years. It is a common thing for those unfriendly to the cause of holiness to quote Mr. Wesley’s early and abandoned views, which conflict somewhat with his mature and most reliable ones.
136. Were the experience and profession of holiness common in the early days of Methodism?
They were. We have records of professions of perfect love in all the journals of the old Methodists. They all speak of witnesses of regeneration, and also of sanctification. Indeed the golden pot of Methodist biography is brimful of the manna of sanctified experience.
The pastoral address of the General Conference in 1832 says “Among primitive Methodists the experience of this high attainment in religion may justly be said to have been COMMON now a PROFESSION of it is rarely to be met with among us.”
I will give you a few brief extracts from the journals of several of the early preachers and members:–
1. Mr. Wesley: “In London alone I found six hundred and fifty-two members of our society who were exceedingly clear in their experience, and whose testimony I could see no reason to doubt.” — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 223.
Many quotations might be given from Mr. Wesley’s journal, showing that a multitude of persons professed sanctification under his labors, in all parts of England and Ireland.
2. Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers “After Mr. Fletcher [the saintly John Fletcher] ceased to speak, about thirty WITNESSED for Jesus that they, through grace, were dead indeed unto sin.” — “In the band thirty witnessed that they were ‘dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ.’ ” — Journal, pp. 138, 148.
3. William Bramwell: “The work continued almost in every meeting, and sixty persons in and about Dewsberry received sanctification, and walked in that liberty.”
4. William Carvosso: “The testimonies borne to the reality and blessedness of the doctrine and experience of purity of heart exceeded every thing of the kind I had before witnessed.” –“In all my pilgrimage I have never known so many clear testimonies of the power of God to save from all sin, as I have of late.” — Memoir.
5. Bishop Asbury says: “I think we ought modestly to tell what we feel to the fullest. For two years past, amidst innumerable trials, I have enjoyed almost inexpressible sensations. Our Pentecost is come in some places for sanctification. I have good reason to believe that upon the eastern shore four thousand have been converted since the 1st of May last, and ONE THOUSAND SANCTIFIED.” — Journal.
6. Benjamin Abbott: “In the love feast the people spoke the clearest of justification and sanctification. in point of distinction between them, of any I have heard in these parts. About thirty had professed sanctification from the time I went on the circuit till then.” — Life of Abbott.
Rev. Henry Boehm gives an account of the work of God in the days of Asbury, — in the following statements. taken from his diary: “There were one hundred and forty-six converted and seventy-six sanctified during the day.” … “During the meeting there were reported thirteen hundred and twenty-one conversions and nine hundred and sixteen sanctifications.” …”At sunset they reported three hundred and thirty-nine conversions and one hundred and twenty-two sanctifications. There were eleven hundred conversions and nine hundred and sixteen sanctifications.”
Here we have the work of God plainly stated in the old Methodist way, by the venerable Father Boehm, the sainted centenarian of American Methodism, who was an eyewitness and participator in the meetings he reports. It is no wonder that Bishop Asbury wrote in his journal, “Our day of Pentecost has fully come.”
From the diaries, journals, magazines, biographies, and histories of Methodism during a hundred years past, several thousand such quotations might be given.
137. Is there not danger of professing this blessing when it is not possessed?
There may be some danger of it, but not any more, if as much, as there is in regard to justification. We think there is more danger of not acknowledging all that God does for us, than of professing more than he has really wrought in us. While some may have professed this blessing when destitute of it, many have doubtless lost it through a neglect of its acknowledgment. Better a few mistakes than universal silence. Better that a few should sincerely profess what they are mistaken in believing that they enjoy, than that no one should profess it lest he should possibly be mistaken.
13. At what points is caution necessary in the profession perfect love?
1. It may be professed too soon, before it is really attained. In this case a profession is disastrous both to tho confessor and to the cause. But in avoiding this extreme, do not run to the other, as, in view of the opposition in the church to the profession of holiness, there is much more danger that you will not profess it soon enough, than that you will profess it too soon.
2. It may be confessed with too little humility of manner. All carelessness should be avoided in the profession of holiness. It is your duty, and for your spiritual interest, to acknowledge all the grace received; but it should be done with deep humility of mind. To do it otherwise is as intrinsically perilous as not to confess it at all. The profession should be in a humble, meek, loving, Christ-exalting, and self abasing spirit. Every thing that savors of self-congratulation, or of personal consequence, or of vainglorious boasting, is seriously objectionable. The spirit of perfect love is just the spirit that should characterize its profession.
3. It may be done with too much self-confidence, or with self-seeking. And self-seeking is one of the most subtle snares of the human soul. We need to guard this point with great care, and seek constant help from Christ against it. There is danger of self seeking even in professing sanctification. We are to seek Christ in all things.
4. It may be done with too much reliance upon the mere profession as a means of retaining holiness. While it is one of the means (and we think an indispensable one) for the retainment of entire sanctification, it should not be put in the place of Christ, who alone can keep the soul in the perfect love of God. We are to ABIDE IN CHRIST. Professing is beneficial to the sanctified soul only as it tends to obey and please Christ, and leads the soul to trust the more implicitly in him. The soul should never rest for salvation on any thing itself has done or may do, instead of resting on Christ.
Let your profession be seasonable, truthful, humble, and to the glory of God, and never rely upon it, and it will be pleasing to God, useful to the church, and a blessing to yourself.