Perfect Love – By John Wood

Chapter 11

Witnesses Of Perfect Love

139. Will you give some testimonies from those who have enjoyed perfect love? We give a few brief extracts from many thousands who have confessed this grace; these are selected from the various Christian denominations of this country and Europe, and are scattered through two or three centuries.

1. Rev. John Fletcher: “I will confess him to all the world; and I declare unto you, in the presence of God, the holy Trinity, I am now ‘dead indeed unto sin.’ I do not say, ‘I am crucified with Christ,’ because some of our well-meaning brethren say, ‘By this can only be meant a gradual dying;’ but I profess unto you, I am dead unto sin, and alive unto God. He is my Prophet, priest, and King; my indwelling holiness; my all in all.” — Journal of H. A. Rogers, p. 136.

John Fletcher was an English Episcopal preacher and vicar of Madely, and one of the most saintly men that ever lived. Mr. Wesley said at his funeral: “A man so inwardly and outwardly devoted to God, so unblamable a character in every respect, I have not found in Europe or America; nor do I expect to find another such on this side of eternity.”

2. Bishop Hamline: “All at once, I felt as though a hand not feeble, but omnipotent, not of wrath, but of love, were laid on my brow. I felt it not only outwardly, but inwardly. It seemed to press upon my whole body, and to diffuse all through and through it a holy, sin-consuming energy. As it passed downward, my heart as well as my head was conscious of the presence of this soul-cleansing energy, under the influences of which I fell to the floor, and, in the joyful surprise of the moment, cried out in a loud voice. … For a few minutes, the deep of God’s love swallowed me up all its waves and billows rolled over me. Guide to Holiness, 1855.

Bishop Hamline, for many years an honored and useful bishop in the Methodist Episcopal church, gave great prominence to the doctrine and experience of Christian perfection. He professed it before many witnesses.

3. Dr. Thomas C. Upham: “I was distinctly conscious when I reached it — I was then redeemed by a mighty power, and filled with the blessing of perfect love.” … I was never able before that time to say, with sincerity and confidence, that I loved my heavenly Father with all my strength. But, aided by divine grace, I have been enabled to use this language, which involves, as I understand it, the true idea of Christian perfection or holiness, both then and ever since. There was no intellectual excitement, no marked joys, when I reached this great rock of practical salvation. But I was distinctly conscious when I reached it.” — Guide to Holiness.

Prof Upham was a Congregationalist, and for many years connected with Bowdoin College, as a professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy. He was a pure and beautiful writer, and has left the church several able works on this subject.

4. Mrs. Thomas C. Upham: “But I had come to the Bible to receive and believe it all, and my eyes fastened on the promise of our Saviour, ‘Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Blessed, sweet promise! my heart swells with emotion while I repeat it. While pleading this promise, kneeling before God with the words upon my lips, I felt a sweet assurance that my prayer was heard; a sensible peace entered into my soul.”

This Christian lady was the wife of Prof. Upham.

5. Rev. Joseph Benson: My soul was, as it were, led into God, and satiated with his goodness. He so strengthened my faith as to perfectly banish all my doubts and fears, and so filled me with humble, peaceful love, that I could and did devote my soul and body, and health and strength, to his glory and service. — Oh, what a change hath God wrought in me! Glory be to God! I am indeed put in possession of a new nature. Over and over again, with infinite sweetness, did I dedicate myself to God.” — Biography, p. 65.

Mr. Benson was an English Wesleyan preacher and commentator.

6. Rev. James B. Taylor: “I am ready to testify to the world, that the Lord has blessed my soul beyond my highest expectations. People may call this blessing by what name they please, — ‘faith of assurance,’ ‘ holiness,’ ‘ perfect love,’ ‘sanctification.’ It makes no difference with me whether they give it a name or no name; it contains a blessed reality, and, thanks to my heavenly Father, it is my privilege to enjoy it; it is yours also, and the privilege of all, to enjoy the same, and to go beyond any thing that I have ever yet experienced.” — “Some, I expect, are a little disaffected to think I profess the doctrine of perfect love. They do not understand, because they have not experienced it.” — Letter in the hands of Rev. A. McLean.

James B. Taylor Was one of the brightest and most beautiful examples of holiness which has ever adorned the Presbyterian Church. He lived and died in holy triumph.

7. William Carvosso: “Just at that moment a heavenly influence filled the room; and no sooner had I uttered or spoken the words from my heart, ‘I shall have the blessing now,’ than refining fire went ‘through my heart, illuminating my soul, scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole.’ I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus had cleansed ne from all sin. I cried out, ‘This is what I wanted. I have now got a new heart.’ I was emptied of self and sin, and filled with God.” — Memoir, p. 36.

William Carvosso was a class-leader for over fifty years in the Wesleyan church in England, and led many hundreds into the enjoyment of perfect love.

8. Dr. Wilber Fisk. Rev. Dr. Holdich says: “On the 10th day of August. 1810 a camp-meeting at Wellfleet on Cape Cod, Dr. Fisk became deeply sensible of his want of full conformity to the Christian standard. He sought earnestly unto God, through the atoning sacrifice, and in the course of the meeting he obtained the ‘perfect love that casteth out fear.’ He lay with two other ministers three hours in a tent, prostrated under the power of God. Soon after he writes to Rev. Phineas Peck: ‘O my brother, I could write pages on this subject (Perfect Love), but I must forbear. I thank God that I ever saw this day. I love our Church better than ever — I want to see you more than ever, and all my friends in Vermont. Oh, encourage them to go on. Let holiness of heart be your motto. My dear brother, will you preach it, in the desk, in the class, and from house to house?” — See “Eminent Dead,” by Stevens, p. 328.

Dr. Fisk was one of the early presidents of Wesleyan University. He possessed a mind of rare symmetry, and was one of the most beautiful characters in the Christian church. He lived and died, loved and honored, as a ripe scholar, a useful minister, and a pure man.

9. Dr. Sheridan Baker: “Now the way of faith opened to my spiritual vision with such clearness that I definitely made the reckoning and unequivocally declared the fact. This was followed immediately by a flooding of love and heavenly sweetness, which I have no language to describe. I was now fully persuaded of my entire sanctification. The attitude of my soul is now that of complete, unreserved, and eternal surrender to God. Self property, and everything pertaining to me, have gone out of my heart into my hands, and are held in trust and used for the glory of God. I find my highest delight in talking, preaching, writing, and contributing of the means in my hands, to spread this wonderful doctrine and experience. Just now I feel, with almost unendurable sweetness, the bliss of the purified. Hallelujah — Divine Life, March, 1879.

Dr. Baker is a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, is an able writer, devoted to God, and beloved by all who know him.

10. Mrs. Phoebe Palmer: “I could no longer hesitate; reason as well as grace forbade and I rejoiced in the assurance that I was wholly sanctified throughout body, soul, and spirit. Oh, with what triumph did my soul expatiate on the infinitude of the atonement. I saw its unbounded efficacy as sufficient to cleanse a world of sinners, and present them faultless before the throne. I felt that I was enabled to plunge and lose myself in this ocean of purity: yes,

‘Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea, And lost in love’s immensity.’ ”

Mrs. Palmer was the Hester Ann Rogers of American Methodism, and did more to spread this experience than any other woman in this country. She believed it, and published it; she professed it, and her spirit and life were fragrant with its sweetness and power.

11. Bishop R. S. Foster: “Here again the Spirit seemed to lead me into the inmost sanctuary of my soul, — into those chambers where I had before discovered such defilement, and showed me that all was cleansed, that the Corruptions which had given me such distress were dead — taken away, that not one of them remained. I felt the truth of the witness; it was so; I was conscious of it, as conscious as I ever had been of my conversion. … What a wonderful deliverance the Lord has wrought. Ought not I to praise him? Ought not I to publish this great salvation? What a rest he hath found for my soul! A rest of naked, simple faith. To him be glory for ever. Amen.” — Guide, 1850.

Bishop Foster is one of the loved and honored chief pastors of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and has one of the finest and most cultivated minds in the church. Soon after his rich experience of this grace in 1849. he wrote “Christian Purity.” His experience, given in detail, may be found in the “Advocate of Holiness” for March, 1872.

12. Madam Guyon:–

“A little bird am I, Shut from the fields of air, And in my cage I sit and sing To him who placed me there, Well pleased a prisoner to be, Because, my God, it pleaseth thee.

Naught have I else to do I sing the whole day long: And he whom most I love to please Doth listen to my song He caught and bound my wandering wing, And still he bends to hear me sing.

My cage confines me round; Abroad I cannot fly; But though my wing is closely bound, My heart is at liberty. My prison walls can not control The flight, the freedom of the soul.

Oh! it is good to soar, These bolts and bars above, To him whose purpose I adore, Whose providence I love, And in thy mighty will I find

The joy, the freedom of the mind.”

Madam Guyon was clear in this experience, receiving it by faith; and for professing and teaching justification and sanctification, was imprisoned in the French Bastile for four years. While in prison she penned the beautiful lines we have given. So deep and blissful was her religious experience, she declared: “The very stones of my prison appear like rubies in my eyes.”

13. Dr. Adam Clarke: “I regarded nothing, not even life itself, in comparison of having my heart cleansed from all sin; and began to seek it with full purpose of heart.” … “Soon after this, while earnestly wrestling with the Lord in prayer, and endeavoring self-desperately to believe, I found a change wrought in my soul, which I endeavored, through grace, to maintain amid the grievous temptations and accusations of the subtle foe.”

Dr. Clarke was the great Wesleyan commentator, and one of the most learned men of his day. He sought and obtained a pure heart in the twenty-second year of his life. His testimony is taken from a letter written to Mr. Wesley. He was led to seek this grace by a local preacher who enjoyed it.

14. Rev. Alfred Cookman: “The evidence in my case was as clear and indubitable as the witness of sonship received at the time of my adoption into the family of heaven. Oh, it was glorious, divinely glorious! I could not doubt it. Need I say that the experience of sanctification inaugurated a new epoch in my religious life? Oh, what blessed rest in Jesus! What an abiding experience of purity through the blood of the Lamb! Pioneer Experiences, p. 80.

Alfred Cookman was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a son of the lamented George B. Cookman, and was one of the purest and most lovely Christians of this century. He was led into this experience by Bishop Hamline, and perfect love became the joy and theme of his life. For years he preached and professed it, and died in holy triumph, exclaiming: “I am sweeping through the gates washed in the blood of the Lamb.” Bishop Foster said at his funeral: “The most sacred man I have ever known, is he who is enshrined in that casket.”

15. Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers: “I was deeply penetrated with his presence, and stood as if unable to move, and was insensible to all around me. While thus lost in communion with my Saviour, he spake those words to my heart: ‘All that I have is thine. I am Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. I am thine. My Spirit is thine. My Father is thine. They love thee as I love thee. The whole Deity is thine. He even now overshadows thee. He now covers thee with a cloud of his presence.’ All this was so realized to my soul in a manner I can not explain, that I sunk down motionless, being unable to sustain the weight of his glorious presence and fullness of love.” — Journal.

Mrs. Rogers was the wife of an English Wesleyan preacher, and was regarded as one of the most devoted and lovely Christians of her day. Her experience and letters have passed through many editions, and reached nearly a hundred thousand copies.

16. Dr. Edward Payson: “Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter from the land of Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy resident. The Sun of righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approached, and now he fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun, exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze upon this excessive brightness, and wondering with unutterable wonder why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm.” — Encyclopedia of R. Knowledge.

Dr. Payson was a Congregational minister in the city of Portland, Me., and possessed of rare intellectual powers, and profound and flaming devotion to God.

17. Dr. Stephen Olin: “I have never felt my evidence more clear. I am at least a full believer in our higher doctrines in regard to Christian attainments; and I sometimes say to my intimate friends that I have great comfort in believing that I have been made a partaker of this grace. Doubtless God’s will is even our sanctification; and we offend no less against our highest interests than against his most gracious designs when we rest below the best attainable position in religion.” — Letter to his brother, published by Dr. Stevens.

Dr. Olin was President of Wesleyan University, and possessed one of the profoundest minds of his age. A correspondent to the “Christian Advocate and Journal” from New England said, in speaking of Dr. Olin, that he arose in a general class-meeting, in the presence of many visitors and friends of the college alumni and students, and said “he desired to make known the fact that he experienced, and was conscious of enjoying daily and hourly, the blessing of perfect love.”

18. Rev. William Bramwell: “My soul was all wonder, love, and praise. It is now about twenty-six years ago; I have walked in this liberty ever since. Glory be to God! I have been kept by his power. By faith I stand…. I then declared to the people what God had done for my soul; and I have done so on every proper occasion since that time, believing it to be a duty.” Life of Bramwell.

William Bramwell was one of Mr. Wesley’s preachers, and was instrumental in the conversion and sanctification of thousands of souls.

19. Bishop Asbury: “I live in patience, in purity, and in the perfect love of God.” — “God is my portion; he fills me with pure spiritual life. My heart is melted into holy love, and altogether devoted to my Lord.” — “I think we ought modestly to tell what we feel to the fullest.” — Journal.

Francis Asbury was one of the first bishops of the Methodist Church, and was truly an apostolic, self-sacrificing, holy man.

Rev. I. Simmons: “In an instant my soul touched the blood of Jesus. I said, ‘He does save;’ and as I said it, a holy stillness pervaded my being. A warm glory spread over my heart, at first like the rising of the morning, then increasing in brightness and beauty till my whole frame shook under it. I could not move, but my lips broke forth the praises of my soul, and it seemed as if every seraph was helping me cry, ‘O the precious blood of Jesus!’ From that time, the earlier years of my Christian life have appeared like the outer court of the temple. I am living in the central glory. My theme now is, a perfect rest of faith in a present Saviour. Glory be to God!” — Guide, 1870.

I. Simmons is a useful and able minister of the Methodist Church, and member of the N. Y. East. Con.

20. Dr. Daniel Steele: “Suddenly I became conscious of a mysterious power exerting itself upon my sensibilities. My physical sensations, though not of a nervous temperament, in good health, alone, and calm, were like those of electric sparks passing through my bosom with slight but painless shocks, melting my hard heart into a fiery stream of love. Christ became so unspeakably precious, that I instantly dropped all earthly good, — reputation, property, friends, family, everything, in the twinkling of an eye; and my soul cried out:

“None but Christ to me be given, None but Christ in earth or heaven.” Advocate of Holiness, 1870.

Dr. Steele is well known as the author of “Love Enthroned,” “Mile-Stone Papers,” and a commentary on several parts of the Bible. He is regarded as one of the ripest biblical scholars of the day. He has written perhaps as much on this subject, during the past ten years, as any man in the church.

21. Bishop Whatcoat: “After many sharp and painful conflicts, and many gracious visitations also, on the 28th of March, 1761, my soul was drawn out and engaged in a manner it never was before. Suddenly I was stripped of all but love. And in this happy state, rejoicing evermore, and in everything giving thanks, I continued some years with little intermission or abatement, wanting nothing for soul or body more than I received from day to day.” — Lost Chapters of Methodism.

Bishop Whatcoat was one of the early bishops of the Methodist Church. Bishop Simpson says of his consecration to the Episcopacy, that “holy hands were never laid on a holier head.”

22. Rev. B. W. Gorham: “All vain ambition, all distracting solicitude, all pride and self-will, and all fear, whether of future disgrace, or of poverty, or death, were gone and from that time my Spirit has constantly and consciously rested in the bosom of infinite love. It has been a heaven of purity and peace.” — Guide to Holiness.

B. W. Gorham has been a useful minister at the altars of Methodism for over forty years, and has led thousands into the sweetness of perfect love. He has written much on this subject, and all his writings are clear, searching, and helpful.

23. Lady Maxwell: “I rest in him; I dwell in him. Sinking into him, I lose myself, and prove a life of fellowship with Deity so divinely sweet I would not relinquish it for a thousand worlds. It is indeed a narrow path; but love levels every mountain, makes all easy.

‘0 love divine, how sweet thou art!’

“When I look back, I rejoice to see what I am saved from; when I look forward, it is all pure expanse of unbounded love. Surely the heaven of heavens is love.” — life of Lady Maxwell.

Lady Maxwell enjoyed and professed perfect love for nearly thirty years. She was led to Christ by Mr. Wesley, and enjoyed his acquaintance during twenty-seven years.

24. Dr. E. M. Levy: “I seemed filled with all the fullness of God. I wept for joy. All night long I wept. All the next day, at the family altar, in the street, and in the sanctuary, tears continued to flow. The fountain of my being seemed broken up, and my heart was dissolved in gratitude and praise. My soul seemed filled with pulses, every one thrilling and throbbing with such waves of love and rapture that I thought I must die from excess of life.” Advocate of Holiness, 1872.

Dr. Levy is pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and for years has been a witness of perfect love.

25. Dr. Francis Hodgson: January 1, 1874. The last year has been an eventful one to me. It has been a year of sanctified trials and of advanced and blessed attainments. It stands out prominent among the years of my Christian life. I bless God for it. It includes a day memorable among all other days of my ministry, Thursday, July 31st, when God most graciously and sweetly cleansed me from all unrighteousness, and baptized me with the holy Ghost as never before. To God be all the glory for ever.” — Letter to “Advocate of Holiness,” February, 1874.

Dr. Hodgson was well known among American theologians as an able divine. He sought and obtained perfect love at the Landisville National Camp-meeting, at the time above stated, and walked in its clear light until his death.

26. Dr. George Peck: “An indescribable change passed through all the avenues of my spirit. God seemed to be there in the glory of his grace. I melted like wax in the presence of the Lord. I sank into nothing. Christ was all, elevated upon the throne of his holiness. In the fullness of my joy I wept aloud, and gave glory to God in the highest. I went on my way exulting in God, the holy and adorable God, whose glory I now saw as never before.” — Life and Times.

Dr. Peck was formerly editor of the “Advocate and Journal” and of the “Quarterly Review,” and the author of several works, including “Christian Perfection,” which for clearness of doctrinal statement and strength of argument has few, if any, superiors.

27. Mrs. President Edwards: “I can not find language to express how certain the everlasting love of God appeared; the everlasting mountains and hills were but shadows to it. My safety, and happiness, and eternal enjoyment of God’s immutable love seemed as durable and unchangeable as God himself. Melted and overcome by the sweetness of this assurance, I fell into a great flow of tears, and could not forbear weeping aloud. The presence of God was so near and so real that I seemed scarcely conscious of anything else.

“In the house of God, so conscious was I of the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit, that I could scarcely refrain from leaping with transports of joy. My soul was fill and overwhelmed with light, and love, and joy in the holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body — This exaltation of soul was subsided into a heavenly calm and a rest of soul in God, which was even sweeter than what preceded it.”

Mrs. Edwards was the wife of Jonathan Edwards and was a Presbyterian. In 1742 she sought and obtained what she called “the full assurance of faith,” and what Methodists call “perfect love,” or “entire sanctification.” She gives her experience quite extendedly, and a stronger, clearer, and more glowing profession of’ “perfect love ” cannot be found on record.

28. Dr. F. G. Hibbard: “I was alone in the field one beautiful day in early spring. The sky clear, the sun glorious, the happy birds and all nature, quick and springing into life, were but the symbols of my soul’s experience. It was a glorious day within and without. I can never forget that day. I shall never enjoy a happier until I walk the fields of paradise. ‘What is it that you want?’ seemed to be asked me. ‘I want victory over all known sin’ ‘Have you not got it? ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘What else?’ ‘I want power to perform all the known will of God.’ ‘Have you not got it?’ ‘Yes, praise God!’ ‘What else do you want?’ ‘I want to love God with all my soul.’ ‘Do you not?’ ‘Yes; glory to God!” Well, have you not, then, received the blessing you have asked for?’ And my bursting heart answered, ‘Yes, I have. Blessed be God, my prayers are answered I will not doubt!’ And never from that hour have I doubted for one moment the reality of the work there attested. That was the ‘beginning of years’ to my soul.” — Guide to Holiness, April, 1867.

Dr. Hibbard is well known; he was formerly editor of the “N. C. Advocate,” is the author of “Hibbard on the Psalms,” and several other works. He is loved and honored, and regarded as one of the most accurate theologians in the Methodist Church.

29. Rev. J. Inskip: “I call heaven and earth to witness that I now declare I will be henceforth wholly and forever the Lord’s. Seeing that I had thus given myself in an ‘everlasting covenant ‘ to the Lord, and had, so far as I could, come out and separated myself unto God, my faith gathered strength, and ‘looking unto Jesus,’ I exclaimed with rapture perfectly unutterable, ‘I am, O Lord, wholly and forever thine.’ The bliss — the peace — the triumph of that hour will never be forgotten. Then, indeed, I felt the joy of the Lord was my strength. A new phase of spiritual life seemed revealed to me, and I went forward in the path of duty with alacrity and vigor such as I had never known before.” — Pioneer experience, p. 56.

Rev. J. S. Inskip is well known as a useful minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and has been the honored president of the “National Association for the Promotion of Holiness,” from its organization.

30. President Charles G. Finney: “Here I lost that great struggle in which I had been engaged for so long a time, and began to preach to the congregation in accordance with this new and enlarged experience.” … “Of course my mind was too full of the subject to preach anything except a full and present salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. At this time it seemed as if my soul was wedded to Christ in a sense in which I had never had any thought or conception of before.” — Autobiography.

President Finney was long at the head of Oberlin College, and one of the most devoted and useful of men. He gave repeated and lengthy accounts of his experience, and wrote much on this subject.

31. Rev. David Stoner: “My heart was softened, and warmed, and filled; my prayer was turned into praises, and I could do nothing but shout, ‘Glory be to God!’ I feel nothing contrary to love. I want to be every moment filled with God. Whether I hold or not, I am sure that God took full possession of my heart on the 14th of July.” — Life of Stoner.

Glory to God! he held on, and his able biographers, Messrs. Hannah and Dawson, of the British Conference, state, “From this time the public labors of Mr. Stoner were crowned with more visible and extensive success.”

32. Rev. William Hunter: “My soul was filled with such faith as I never felt before. My love to Christ was like fire, and I had such views of him as my life, my portion, my all, as swallowed me up. And oh, how I longed to be with him! A change passed upon all the powers of my soul. I may say with humility, it was as though I was emptied of all evil and filled with heaven and God.”

William Hunter was one of Mr. Wesley’s most useful preachers who led hundreds of souls into the cleansing fountain.

“A cloud of witnesses,” of living, intelligent, competent “witnesses,” have testified to their own happy experience of perfect love; and what is all the negative experience in the universe compared to this? They have borne witness to this delightful state of grace through a long succession of years; they have done it in prosperity and in adversity, in sickness and in health, living and dying, and there is no law, authority, or power, in heaven, earth, or hell, that can impeach their testimony.

These witnesses of Perfect Love might be greatly augmented if the limits of this volume would allow. Those we have given have been connected with the various branches of the Protestant church of God, and yet they all essentially accord with the Wesleyan views of perfect love. Some of them are among the clearest cases of entire sanctification on record.

Let these testimonies stimulate us to seek after the same grace, and to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.