In order for a person to be wholly sanctified they must first be
convicted of both the sin in their life and of the righteousness
God requires of them. This knowledge brings no deliverance though
unless they beleive that Christ is willing and ready to cleanse
them from all unrighteousness and fill them with His holiness. The
following Sermon by John Wesley describes in detail this needed
repentance and necessary faith.
"But he giveth
more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth
grace unto the humble." James 4:6
very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your
whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth
you, who also will do it." 1Thessalonians 5:23-24]
1. It is generally supposed, that repentance and faith are only the
gate of religion; that they are necessary only at the beginning of
our Christian course, when we are setting out in the way to the kingdom.
And this may seem to be confirmed by the great Apostle, where, exhorting
the Hebrew Christians to "go on to perfection," he teaches
them to leave these "first principles of the doctrine of Christ;"
"not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works,
and of faith towards God" which must at least mean, that they
should comparatively leave these, that at first took up all their
thoughts, in order to "press forward toward the prize of the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
2. And this is undoubtedly true, that there is a repentance and a
faith, which are, more especially, necessary at the beginning: A repentance,
which is a conviction of our utter sinfulness, and guiltiness, and
helplessness; and which precedes our receiving that kingdom of God,
which, our Lord observes, is "within us;" and a faith, whereby
we receive that kingdom, even "righteousness, and peace, and
joy in the Holy Ghost."
3. But, notwithstanding this, there is also a repentance and a
faith, (taking the words in another sense, a sense not quite the
same, nor yet entirely different,) which are requisite after we
have "believed the gospel;" yea, and in every subsequent
stage of our Christian course, or we cannot "run the race which
is set before us." And this repentance and faith are
full as necessary, in order to our continuance and growth in
grace, as the former faith and repentance were, in order to
our entering into the kingdom of God. But in what sense are we to
repent and believe, after we are justified? This is an important question,
and worthy of being considered with the utmost attention.
I. THE REPENTANCE NECESSARY FOR A BELIEVER TO GO ON UNTO HOLINESS
1. Repentance frequently means an inward change, a change of mind
from sin to holiness. But we now speak of it in a quite different
sense, as it is one kind of self-knowledge, the knowing ourselves
sinners, yea, guilty, helpless sinners, even though we know we
are children of God.
2. Indeed when we first know this; when we first find redemption
in the blood of Jesus; when the love of God is first shed abroad in
our hearts, and his kingdom set up therein; it is natural to suppose
that we are no longer sinners, that all our sins are not only covered
but destroyed. As we do not then feel any evil in our hearts, we readily
imagine none is there. Nay, some well-meaning men have imagined this
not only at that time, but ever after; having persuaded themselves,
that when they were justified, they were entirely sanctified: Yea,
they have laid it down as a general rule, in spite of Scripture, reason,
and experience. These sincerely believe, and earnestly maintain, that
all sin is destroyed when we are justified; and that there is no sin
in the heart of a believer; but that it is altogether clean from that
moment. But though we readily acknowledge, "he that believeth
is born of God," and "he that is born of God doth not commit
sin;" yet we cannot allow that he does not feel it within: It
does not reign, but it does remain. And a conviction of the
sin which remains in our heart, is one great branch of the repentance
we are now speaking of.
A CONVICTION OF TEMPERS CONTRARY TO THE LOVE OF GOD
3. "For it is seldom long before he who imagined all sin was
gone feels there is still PRIDE in his heart. He is
convinced both that in many respects he has thought of himself
more highly than he ought to think, and that he has taken to
himself the praise of something he had received, and gloried in it
as though he had not received it; and yet he knows he is in the
favor of God. He cannot, and ought not, to "cast away his confidence."
"The Spirit" still "witnesses with" his "spirit,
that he is a child of God."
4. Nor is it long before he feels SELF-WILL in his
heart; even a will contrary to the will of God. A will every
man must inevitably have, as long as he has an understanding. This
is an essential part of human nature, indeed of the nature of every
intelligent being. Our blessed Lord himself had a will as a man; otherwise
he had not been a man. But his human will was invariably subject to
the will of his Father. At all times, and on all occasions, even in
the deepest affliction, he could say, "Not as I will, but as
thou wilt." But this is not the case at all times, even with
a true believer in Christ. He frequently finds his will more or less
exalting itself against the will of God. He wills something, because
it is pleasing to nature, which is not pleasing to God; and he
wills (is averse from) something, because it is painful to nature,
which is the will of God concerning him. Indeed, suppose he continues
in the faith, he fights against it with all his might: But this very
thing implies that it really exists, and that he is conscious of it.
5. Now self-will, as well as pride, is a species of idolatry, and
both are directly contrary to the love of God. The same observation
may be made concerning THE LOVE OF THE WORLD. But this
likewise even true believers are liable to feel in themselves; and
every one of them does feel it, more or less, sooner or later, in
one branch or another. It is true, when he first "passes from
death unto life," he desires nothing more but God. He can truly
say, "All my desire is unto thee, and unto the remembrance of
thy name:" "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is
none upon earth that I desire beside thee!" But it is not so
always. In process of time he will feel again, though perhaps only
for a few moments, either "the desire of the flesh,"
or "the desire of the eye," or "the pride
of life." Nay, if he does not continually watch and pray,
he may find lust reviving; yea, and thrusting sore at him that
he may fall, till he has scarce any strength left in him. He may feel
the assaults of inordinate affection; yea, a strong propensity
to "love the creature more than the Creator;" whether
it be a child, a parent, a husband or wife, or "the friend that
is as his own soul." He may feel, in a thousand various ways
a desire of earthly things or pleasures. In the same proportion
he will forget God, not seeking his happiness in him, and consequently
being a "lover of pleasure more than a lover of God."
6. If he does not keep himself every moment, he will again feel THE
DESIRE OF THE EYE; the desire of gratifying his imagination
with something great, or beautiful, or uncommon. In how many ways
does this desire assault the soul? Perhaps with regard to the poorest
trifles, such as dress, or furniture; things never designed to
satisfy the appetite of an immortal spirit. Yet, how natural is
it for us, even after we have "tasted of the powers of the world
to come," to sink again into these foolish, low desires of things
that perish in the using! How hard is it, even for those who know
in whom they have believed, to conquer but one branch of the desire
of the eye, curiosity; constantly to trample it under their
feet; to desire nothing merely because it is new!
7. And how hard is it even for the children of God wholly to conquer
THE PRIDE OF LIFE! St. John seems to mean by this nearly
the same with what the world terms the sense of honor. This is no
other than a desire of, and delight in, "the honor that cometh
of men;" a desire and love of praise; and, which is always
joined with it, a proportionable fear of dispraise. Nearly
allied to this is evil shame; the being ashamed of that wherein
we ought to glory. And this is seldom divided from the fear
of man, which brings a thousand snares upon the soul. Now where
is he, even among those that seem strong in faith, who does not find
in himself a degree of all these evil tempers? So that even these
are but in part "crucified to the world;" for the evil root
still remains in their heart.
A CONVICTION OF TEMPERS CONTRARY TO THE LOVE OF OUR NEIGHBOR
8. And do we not feel other tempers, which are as contrary to our
neighbor as these are to the love of God? The love of our neighbor
"thinketh no evil." Do not we find anything of the kind?
Do we never find any jealousies, any evil surmisings,
any groundless or unreasonable suspicions? He that is clear
in these respects, let him cast the first stone at his neighbor. Who
does not sometimes feel other tempers or inward motions, which he
knows are contrary to brotherly love? If nothing of malice, hatred,
or bitterness, is there no touch of envy; particularly toward
those who enjoy some real or supposed good, which we desire but cannot
attain? Do we never find any degree of RESENTMENT, when
we are injured or affronted; especially by those whom we peculiarly
loved, and whom we had most labored to help or oblige? Does injustice
or ingratitude never excite in us any desire of revenge? any
desire of returning evil for evil, instead of "overcoming evil
with good?" This also shows, how much is still in our heart,
which is contrary to the love of our neighbor.
9. COVETOUSNESS, in every kind and degree, is certainly
as contrary to this as to the love of God; whether φιλαογυρια
, the love of money, which is too frequently "the root
of all evil;" or πλεονεξια,
literally, a desire of having more, or increasing in substance.
And how few, even of the real children of God, are entirely free from
both! Indeed one great man, Martin Luther, used to say, he "never
had any covetousness in him" (not only in his converted state,
but "ever since he was born." But, if so, I would not scruple
to say, he was the only man born of a woman, (except him that was
God as well as man,) who had not, who was born without it. Nay, I
believe, never was any one born of God, that lived any considerable
time after, who did not feel more or less of it many times, especially
in the latter sense. We may therefore set it down as an undoubted
truth, that covetousness, together with pride, and self-will, and
anger, remain in the hearts even of them that are justified.
10. It is their experiencing this, which has inclined so many serious
persons to understand the latter part of the seventh chapter to the
Romans, not of them that are "under the law," that are convinced
of sin, which is undoubtedly the meaning of the Apostle, but of them
that are "under grace;" that are "justified freely
through the redemption that is in Christ." And it is most certain,
they are thus far right: There does still remain, even in
them that are justified, a mind which is in some measure carnal;
(so the Apostle tells even the believers at Corinth, "Ye are
carnal;") an HEART BENT TO BACKSLIDING, still ever
ready to "depart from the living God;" a propensity
to pride, self-will, anger, revenge, love of the world, yea, and
all evil; a root of bitterness, which, if the restraint were
taken off for a moment, would instantly spring up; yea, such a depth
of corruption, as, without clear light from God, we cannot possibly
conceive. And a conviction of all this sin remaining in their hearts
is the repentance which belongs to them that are justified.
A CONVICTION OF SIN THAT CLEAVES TO ALL OUR WORDS AND ACTIONS
11. But we should likewise be convinced, that as sin remains
in our hearts, so it cleaves to all our words and actions.
Indeed it is to be feared, that many of our words are more than mixed
with sin; that they are sinful altogether; for such undoubtedly is
all UNCHARITABLE CONVERSATION; all which does not
spring from brotherly love; all which does not agree with that
golden rule, "What ye would that others should do to you,
even so do unto them." Of this kind is all backbiting,
all tale-bearing, all whispering, all evil-speaking,
that is, repeating the faults of absent persons; for none would
have others repeat his faults when he is absent. Now how few are there,
even among believers, who are in no degree guilty of this; who steadily
observe the good old rule, "Of the dead and the absent,
nothing but good!" And suppose they do, do they likewise
abstain from UNPROFITABLE CONVERSATION? Yet all this
is unquestionably sinful, and "grieves the Holy Spirit of God:"
Yea, and "for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall
give an account in the day of judgment."
12. But let it be supposed, that they continually "watch and
pray," and so do "not enter into this temptation;"
that they constantly set a watch before their mouth, and keep the
door of their lips; suppose they exercise themselves herein, that
all their "conversation may be in grace, seasoned with salt,
and meet to minister grace to the hearers;" yet do they not daily
slide into useless discourse, notwithstanding all their caution?
And even when they endeavor to speak for God, are their words pure,
free from UNHOLY MIXTURES? Do they find nothing, WRONG
IN THEIR VERY INTENTION? Do they speak merely to please.
God, and not partly to please themselves? Is it wholly to do the
will of God, and not their own will also? Or, if they begin with a
single eye, do they go on "looking unto Jesus," and talking
with Him all the time they are talking with their neighbor? When
they are reproving sin, do they feel no ANGER OR UNKIND TEMPER
to the sinner? When they are instructing the ignorant, do they
not find any pride, any self preference? When they are comforting
the afflicted, or provoking one another to love and to good works,
do they never perceive any INWARD SELF COMMENDATION:
"Now you have spoke well?" Or any vanity, a desire
that others should think so, and esteem them on the account?
In some or all of these respects, how much sin cleaves to the best
conversation even of believers! The conviction of which is another
branch of the repentance which belongs to them that are justified.
13. And how much sin, if their conscience is thoroughly awake,
may they find cleaving to their actions also! Nay, are there
not many of these, which, though they are such as the world would
not condemn, yet cannot be commended, no, nor excused, if we judge
by the word of God? Are there not many of their ACTIONS,
which, they themselves know, are NOT TO THE GLORY OF GOD?
many, wherein they did not even aim at this; which were not undertaken
with an eye to God? And of those that were, are there not many,
wherein their eye is not singly fixed on God? wherein they
are doing their own will, at least as much as His; and seeking
to please themselves as much, if not more than to please God?
And while they are endeavoring to do good to their neighbor,
do they not feel wrong tempers of various kinds? Hence their good
actions, so called, are far from being strictly such; being polluted
with such a mixture of evil: Such are their works of mercy. And
is there not the same mixture in their works of piety? While
they are hearing the word which is able to save their souls, do they
not frequently find such thoughts as make them afraid lest it should
turn to their condemnation, rather than their salvation? Is it not
often the same case, while they are endeavoring to offer up their
prayers to God, whether in public or private? Nay, while they are
engaged in the most solemn service, even while they are at the table
of the Lord, what manner of thoughts arise in them. Are not their
hearts sometimes wandering to the ends of the earth; sometimes filled
with such imaginations, as make them fear lest all their sacrifice
should be an abomination to the Lord? So that they are now more ashamed
of their best duties, than they were once of their worst sins.
14. Again: How many SINS OF OMISSION are they chargeable
with! We know the words of the Apostle: "To him that knoweth
to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." But
do they not know a thousand instances, wherein they might have
done good, to enemies, to strangers, to their brethren, either
with regard to their bodies or their souls, and they did it not? How
many omissions have they been guilty of, in their duty
toward God! How many opportunities of communicating,
of hearing his word, of public or private prayer, have
they neglected! So great reason had even that holy man, Archbishop
Usher, after all his labors for God, to cry out, almost with his dying
breath, "Lord, forgive me my sins of omission!"
15. But, besides these outward omissions, may they not find in themselves
INWARD DEFECTSwithout number? Defects of every kind:
They have not the love, the fear, the confidence they
ought to have, toward God. They have not the love
which is due to their neighbor, to every child of man;
no, nor even that which is due to their brethren, to every child
of God, whether those that are at a distance from them, or those
with whom they are immediately connected. They have no holy
temper in the degree they ought; they are defective in every
thing; in a deep consciousness of which they are ready to cry
out, with M. De Renty, "I am a ground all overrun with thorns;"
or, with Job, "I am vile: I abhor myself, and repent as in dust
A CONVICTION OF OUR GUILTINESS
16. A conviction of their guiltiness is another branch of that
repentance which belongs to the children of God. But this is cautiously
to be understood, and in a peculiar sense. For it is certain,
"there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,"
that believe in him, and, in the power of that faith, "walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Yet can they no more
bear the strict justice of God now, than before they believed. This
pronounces them to be still worthy of death, on all the preceding
accounts. And it would absolutely condemn them thereto, were it not
for the atoning blood. Therefore they are thoroughly convinced,
that they still deserve punishment, although it is hereby turned aside
from them. But here there are extremes on one hand and on
the others and few steer clear of them. Most men strike on one
or the other, either thinking themselves condemned when they are not,
or thinking they deserve to be acquitted. Nay, the truth lies
between: They still deserve, strictly speaking, only the damnation
of hell. But what they deserve does not come upon them, because they
"have an advocate with the Father." His life, and death,
and intercession still interpose between them and condemnation.
A CONVICTION OF OUR UTTER HELPLESSNESS
17. A conviction of their utter helplessness is yet another branch
of this repentance. I mean hereby two things: First, that they
are no more able now of themselves to think one good thought, to form
one good desire, to speak one good word, or do one good work, than
before they were justified; that they have still no kind
or degree of strength of their own; no power either to do
good! or resist evil; no ability to conquer, or even withstand the
world, the devil, or their own evil nature. They can, it is certain,
do all these things; but it is not by their own strength. They
have power to overcome all these enemies; for "sin hath no more
dominion over them:" But it is not from nature, either in whole
or in part; it is the mere gift of God: Nor is it given all at once,
as if they had a stock laid up for many years; but from moment to
18. By this helplessness I mean, Secondly, an absolute inability
to deliver ourselves from that guiltiness or desert of punishment
whereof we are still conscious; yea, and an inability to remove,
by all the grace we have, (to say nothing of our natural powers,)
either the pride, self-will, love of the world, anger, and general
proneness to depart from God, which we experimentally know to
remain in the heart, even of them that are regenerate; or the
evil which, in spite of all our endeavors, cleaves to all our
words and actions. Add to this, an utter inability wholly
to avoid uncharitable, and, much more, unprofitable conversation;
and an inability to avoid sins of omission, or to supply
the numberless defects we are convinced of; especially the want
of love, and other right tempers, both to God and man.
19. If any man is not satisfied of this, if any believes that
whoever is justified is able to remove these sins out of his heart
and life, let him make the experiment. Let him try whether,
by the grace he has already received, he can expel pride, self-will,
or inbred sin in general. Let him try whether he can cleanse his words
and actions from all mixture of evil; whether he can avoid all uncharitable
and unprofitable conversation, with all the sins of omission; and,
lastly, whether he can supply the numberless defects which he still
finds in himself. Let him not be discouraged by one or two experiments,
but repeat the trial again and again; and the longer he tries,
the more deeply will he be convinced of his utter helplessness in
all these respects.
20. Indeed this is so evident a truth, that well nigh all the children
of God, scattered abroad, however they differ in other points, yet
generally agree in this; that although we may, "by the
Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body;" resist and conquer both
outward and inward sin; although we may weaken our enemies day by
day; yet we cannot drive them out. By all the grace which
is given at justification we cannot extirpate them. Though we
watch and pray ever so much, we cannot wholly cleanse either our hearts
or hands. Most sure we cannot, till it shall please our Lord
to speak to our hearts again, to speak the second time, "Be clean:"
And then only the leprosy is cleansed. Then only the evil root, the
carnal mind, is destroyed; and inbred sin subsists no more.
But if there be no such second change, if there be no instantaneous
deliverance after justification, if there be none but a gradual work
of God, (that there is a gradual work none denies,) then we must be
content, as well as we can, to remain full of sin till death; and,
if so, we must remain guilty till death, continually deserving punishment.
For it is impossible the guilt, or desert of punishment, should be
removed from us, as long as all this sin remains in our heart, and
cleaves to our words and actions. Nay, in rigorous justice, all we
think, and speak, and act, continually increases it.
II. THE FAITH WE NEED FOR ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION
1. In this sense we are to repent, after we are justified. And till
we do so, we can go no farther. For, till we are sensible of our
disease, it admits of no cure. But, supposing we do thus
repent, then are we called to "believe the gospel."
A CONFIDENCE THAT GOD IS ABLE TO SAVE US TO THE UTTERMOST
2. And this also is to be understood in a peculiar sense, different
from that wherein we believed in order to justification. Believe
the glad tidings of great salvation, which God hath prepared for
all people. Believe that he who is; "the brightness
of his Fathers glory, the express image of his person,"
is "able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto
God through him." He is able to save you from all
the sin that still remains in your heart. He is able to save you
from all the sin that cleaves to all your words and actions.
He is able to save you from sins of omission, and to supply
whatever is wanting in you. It is true, this is impossible with
man; but with God-Man all things are possible. For what can be
too hard for Him who hath "all power in heaven and in earth?"
Indeed his bare power to do this is not a sufficient foundation for
our faith that he will do it, that he will thus exert his power, unless
he hath promised it. But this he has done: He has promised it
over and over, in the strongest terms. He has given us these
"exceeding great and precious promises," both in
the Old and the New Testament. So we read in the law, in the most
ancient part of the oracles of God, "The Lord thy God will
circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord
thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul."
(Deuteronomy 30:6.) So in the Psalms, "He shall redeem Israel,"
the Israel of God, "from all his sins." So in the Prophet,
"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be
clean: From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I
cleanse you. And I will put my Spirit within you, and ye shall keep
my judgments and do them. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses."
(Ezekiel 36:25, etc.) So likewise in the New Testament, "Blessed
be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us, to perform
the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, That he would
grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies,
should serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before
him all the days of our life." (Luke 1:68, etc.)
A CONFIDENCE THAT GOD IS WILLING TO ENTIRELY SANCTIFY US
3. You have therefore good reason to believe, he is not only
able, but willing to do this; to cleanse you from all your
filthiness of flesh and spirit; to "save you from all
your uncleannesses." This is the thing which you now long
for; this is the faith which you now particularly need, namely, that
the Great Physician, the lover of my soul, is willing to make
me clean. But is he willing to do this tomorrow or today?
Let him answer for himself: "Today, if ye will hear" my
"voice, harden not your hearts." If you put it off till
tomorrow, you harden your hearts; you refuse to hear his voice. Believe,
therefore, that he is willing to save you today. He is willing to
save you now. "Behold, now is the accepted time."
He now saith, "Be thou clean!" Only believe, and you also
will immediately find, "all things are possible to him that believeth."
4. Continue to believe in him that loved thee, and gave himself for
thee; that bore all thy sins in his own body on the tree; and he saveth
thee from all condemnation, by his blood continually applied. Thus
it is that we continue in a justified state. And when we go on
"from faith to faith," when we have faith to be cleansed
from indwelling sin, to be saved from all our uncleannesses, we
are likewise saved from all that guilt, that desert of punishment,
which we felt before. So that then we may say, not only,
Every moment, Lord, I want
The merit of thy death!
but, likewise, in the full assurance of faith,
Every moment, Lord, I have
The merit of thy death!
For, by that faith in his life, death, and intercession for
us, renewed from moment to moment, we are every whit clean,
and there is not only now no condemnation for us, but no such desert
of punishment as was before, the Lord cleansing both our hearts
5. By the same faith we feel the power of Christ every moment
resting upon us, whereby alone we are what we are; whereby
we are enabled to continue in spiritual life, and without which, notwithstanding
all our present holiness, we should be devils the next moment. But
as long as we retain our faith in him, we "draw water out
of the wells of salvation." Leaning on our Beloved,
even Christ in us the hope of glory, who dwelleth in our hearts
by faith, who likewise is ever interceding for us at the right hand
of God, we receive help from him to think, and speak, and act,
what is acceptable in his sight. Thus does he "prevent"
them that believe, in all their "doings, and further them with
his continual help;" so that all their designs, conversations,
and actions are "begun, continued, and ended in him."
Thus doth he "cleanse the thoughts of their hearts, by
the inspiration of his Holy spirit, that they may perfectly love him,
and worthily magnify his holy name.
6. Thus it is, that in the children of God, repentance and
faith exactly answer each other. By repentance we feel
the sin remaining in our hearts, and cleaving to our words and actions:
By faith, we receive the power of God in Christ, purifying our
hearts, and cleansing our hands. By repentance, we are still
sensible that we deserve punishment for all our tempers, and words,
and actions: By faith, we are conscious that our Advocate with
the Father is continually pleading for us, and thereby continually
turning aside all condemnation and punishment from us. By repentance
we have an abiding conviction that there is no help in us: By
faith, we receive not only mercy, "but grace to help in"
every "time of need." Repentance disclaims the
very possibility of any other help: Faith accepts all the help we
stand in need of, from Him that hath all power in heaven and
earth. Repentance says, "Without him I can do nothing:"
Faith says, "I can do all things through Christ strengthening
Through Him I can not only overcome, but expel, all the enemies
of my soul. Through Him I can "love the Lord my God with all
my heart, mind, soul, and strength;" yea, and "walk in holiness
and righteousness before him all the days of my life."
III. THE GREAT HARM THINKING WE ARE WHOLLY SANCTIFIED WHEN WE ARE
1. From what has been said, we may easily learn the mischievousness
of that opinion, that we are wholly sanctified when we are
justified; that our hearts are then cleansed from all sin. It
is true, we are then delivered, as was observed before, from the dominion
of outward sin; and, at the same time, the power of inward
sin is so broken, that we need no longer follow, or be led by it:
But it is by no means true, that inward sin is then totally destroyed;
that the root of pride, self-will, anger, love of the world, is then;
taken out of the heart; or that the carnal mind, and the heart bent
to backsliding, are entirely extirpated. And to suppose the contrary
is not, as some may think, an innocently harmless mistake. No: It
does immense harm: It entirely blocks up the way to any farther change;
for it is manifest, "they that are whole need not a Physician,
but they that are sick." If, therefore, we think we are
quite made whole already, there is no room to seek any farther healing.
On this supposition it is absurd to expect a farther deliverance from
sin, whether gradual or instantaneous.
DEEP CONVICTION IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
2. On the contrary, a deep conviction that we are not yet whole;
that our hearts are not fully purified; that there is yet in us
a "carnal mind," which is still in its nature "enmity
against God;" that a whole body of sin remains in our heart,
weakened indeed, but not destroyed; shows, beyond all possibility
of doubt, the absolute necessity of a farther change. We allow,
that at the very moment of justification, we are born again: In that
instant we experience that inward change from "darkness into
marvelous light;" from the image of the brute and the devil,
into the image of God; from the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, to
the mind which was in Christ Jesus. But are we then entirely changed?
Are we wholly transformed into the image of him that created us? Far
from it: We still retain a depth of sin; and it is the consciousness
of this which constrains us to groan, for a full deliverance, to Him
that is mighty to save. Hence it is, that those believers who
are not convinced of the deep corruption of their hearts, or but slightly
and, as it were, notionally convinced, have little concern about entire
sanctification. They may possibly hold the opinion, that such
a thing is to be, either at death, or some time, they know not when,
before it. But they have no great uneasiness for the want of
it, and no great hunger or thirst after it. They cannot, until
they know themselves better, until they repent in the sense above
described, until God unveils the inbred monsters face,
and shows them the real state of their souls. Then only, when they
feel the burden, will they groan for deliverance from it. Then,
and not till then, will they cry out, in the agony of their soul,
Break off the yoke of inbred sin,
And fully set my spirit free!
I cannot rest till pure within,
Till I am wholly lost in thee.
3. We may learn from hence, Secondly, that a deep conviction
of our demerit, after we are accepted, (which, in one sense, may
be termed guilt,) is absolutely necessary, in order to our seeing
the true value of the atoning blood; in order to our feeling
that we need this as much, after we are justified, as ever we did
before. Without this conviction we cannot but account the blood of
the covenant as a common thing, something of which we have not now
any great need, seeing all our past sins are blotted out. Yea, but
if both our hearts and lives are thus unclean, there is a kind of
guilt which we are contracting every moment, and which, of consequence,
would every moment expose us to fresh condemnation, but that
He ever lives above,
For us to intercede,
His all-atoning love,
His precious blood, to plead.
It is this repentance, and the faith intimately connected with
it, which are expressed in those strong lines,
I sin in every breath I draw,
Nor do thy will, nor keep thy law
On earth, as angels do above:
But still the fountain open stands,
Washes my feet, my heart, my hands,
Till I am perfected in love.
4. We may observe, Thirdly, a deep conviction of our utter
helplessness, of our total inability to retain anything we
have received, much more to deliver ourselves from the world of iniquity
remaining both in our hearts and lives, teaches us truly to
live upon Christ by faith, not only as our Priest, but as our King.
Hereby we are brought to "magnify him," indeed;
to "give him all the glory of his grace;"
to "make him a whole Christ, an entire Savior;
and truly to set the crown upon his head." These excellent words,
as they have frequently been used, have little or no meaning; but
they are fulfilled in a strong and deep sense, when we thus, as
it were, go out of ourselves, in order to be swallowed up in him;
when we sink into nothing, that He may be all in all.
Then, his almighty grace having abolished "every high
thing which exalted itself against him," every temper,
and thought, and word, and work "is brought to the obedience
LONDONBERRY, April 24, 1767
Works of John Wesley, Sermon 14, "The Repentance of Believers"