The Works of John Wesley (1872 ed. by Thomas Jackson), vol. 11,  29, pp. 366-446. 



[It is not to be understood, that Mr. Wesley's sentiments concerning Christian Perfection were in any measure changed after the year 1777. This tract underwent several revisions and enlargements during his life-time; and in every successive edition the date of the most recent revision was specified. The last revision appears to have been made in the year 1777; and since that period, this date has been generally continued on the title-page of the several editions of the pamphlet. -- EDIT. (EDIT. refers to Thomas Jackson)] 
 With commentary notes, scripture references, etc., added in the left table field as needed.  This edition carefully prepared for a new millenium by Rick Galbraith, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 2002.
Due reference should be given to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (, hosted by Calvin College, from which the original of the text was obtained.

 Arguments 9 through 12  
1738 to 1740  First Volume of Hymns and Sacred Poems.
 Tract, The Character of a Methodist.
 No opposing reaction to that tract.
 Sermon on Christian Perfection.


 9. First Hymns

 Ninth Argument

top   section index   previous argument   next argument
Publishes First Volume of Hymns and Sacred Poems
In 1739, my brother and I published a volume of "Hymns and Sacred Poems." In many of these we declared our sentiments strongly and explicitly. So, page 24, -- Turn the fall stream of nature's tide; Let all our actions tend To thee, their source; thy love the guide, Thy glory be the end. Earth then a scale to heaven shall be; Sense shall point out the road; The creatures all shall lead to thee, And all we taste be God. Again, --
     Lord, arm me with thy Spirit's might, Since I am call'd by thy great name:
     In thee my wand'ring thoughts unite, Of all my works be thou the aim:
     Thy love attend me all my days, And my sole business be thy praise. (Page 122.) 

Again, -- 
     Eager for thee I ask and pant, So strong the principle divine, 
     Carries me out with sweet constraint, Till all my hallow'd soul be thine; 
     Plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea, And lost in thine immensity! (Page 125.) 

Once more, -- 
     Heavenly Adam, life divine, Change my nature into thine; 
     Move and spread throughout my soul, Actuate and fill the whole. (Page 153.) 

It would be easy to cite many more passages to the same effect. But these are sufficient to show, beyond contradiction, what our sentiments then were. 

Wesley's Footnotes:


 10. First Tract

Tenth Argument

top   section index   previous argument next argument
Publishes Tract,
The Character of a Methodist

1.  Mark 12:28-34
2.  Psalm 73:25
3.  Psalm 73:26
4.  John 4:14
5.  1 John 4:18
6.  1 Thess 5:16
7.  1 Peter 1:3

8.  1 Thess 5:18
9.  Job 1:21
10.  1 Peter 5:7
11.  Philippians 4:6

12.  1 Thess 5:17
13.  Hebrews 11:1-3

14.  Mark 12: 29-33
15.  Matthew 5:44
16.  Matthew 5:44 (both)


17.  Matthew 5:8

Other readings on purity:
2 Samuel 22:7 (Psalm 18:26)
Psalm 24:4
Proverbs 15:26; 20:9,11; 21:8
2 Timothy 2:22
1 Peter 1:22
18.  Proverbs 13:10
19.  Colossians 3:12
20.  1 John 2:15
21.  Isaiah 26:8

22.  John 4:34; 6:38
23.  Matthew 6:22,23
  &  Luke 11: 34, 36
24.  Exodus 28:36; 39:30;
  &  Zechariah 14:20

Other readings on holiness:
1 Chronicles 16:29
2 Chronicles 20:21
Psalm 29:2; 30:4; 48:1
96:9; 97:12
Jeremiah 2:3
1 Thessalonians 3:13
Hebrews 12:14
 25.  2 Corinthians 10:5

26.  Matthew 12:33, Luke 6:44
27.  John 14:15,21; 15:10
28.  James 2:10
29.  Acts 24:16
30.  Matthew 6:10

31.  Mark 12:28-34
32.  Romans 12:1,2

33.  1 Corinthians 10:31
34.  Deuteronomy 6:7 (Shema)
35.  Colossians 3:17

36.  Hebrews 21:1
37.  Matthew 6:19,20;
  &  Luke 12:33,34
38.  Titus 3:2;  James 4:11
  &  Zechariah 8:16,17; 
  &  Ephesians 4:25
39.  Ephesians 4:22; 
  &  Matthew 12:36
40.  Ephesians 4:12,29
41.  Philippians 4:8
42.  ?

 The first tract I ever wrote expressly on this subject was published in the latter end of this year. That none might be prejudiced before they read it, I gave it the indifferent title of "The Character of a Methodist." In this I described a perfect Christian, placing in the front, "Not as though I had already attained." Part of it I subjoin without any  alteration: -- 

"A Methodist is one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength.1  God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul, which is continually crying, `Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth whom I desire besides thee.'   My God and my all! `Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.'3   He is therefore happy in God; yea, always happy, as having in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life, and over-flowing his soul with peace and joy.4   Perfect love living now cast out fear,5   he rejoices evermore.6   Yea, his joy is full, and all his bones cry out, `Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten me again unto a living hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for me.'7

"And he, who hath this hope, thus full of immortality, in everything giveth thanks, as knowing this (whatsoever it is) is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning him.8   From him therefore he cheerfully receives all, saying, `Good is the will of the Lord;' and whether he giveth or taketh away,9   equally blessing the name of the Lord. Whether in ease or pain, whether in sickness or health, whether in life or death, he giveth thanks from the ground of the heart to Him who orders it for good; into whose hands he hath wholly committed his body and soul, `as into the hands of a faithful Creator.' He is therefore anxiously `careful for nothing,' as having `cast all his care on Him that careth for him;'10   and `in all things' resting on him, after `making' his `request known to him with thanksgiving.'11

"For indeed he `prays without ceasing;'12   at all times the language of his heart is this, `Unto thee is my mouth, though without a voice; and my silence speaketh unto thee.' His heart is lifted up to God at all times, and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing. In retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever with the Lord. Whether he lie down, or rise up, `God is in all his thoughts:' He walks with God continually; having the loving eye of his soul fixed on him, and everywhere `seeing Him that is invisible.'13

"And loving God, he `loves his neighbour as himself;'14  he loves every man as his own soul. He loves his enemies, yea, and the enemies of God.15   And if it be not in his power to `do good to them that hate' him,16   yet he ceases not to `pray for them,' though they spurn his love, and still `despitefully use him, and persecute him.'16

"For he is `pure in heart.'17   Love has purified his heart from envy, malice, wrath, and every unkind temper. It has cleansed him from pride, whereof `only cometh contention;'18   and he hath now `put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.'19  And indeed all possible ground for contention, on his part, is cut off. For none can take from him what he desires, seeing he `loves not the world, nor any of the things of the world;'20   but `all his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name.'21

"Agreeable to this his one desire, is this one design of his life; namely, `to do, not his own will, but the will of Him that sent him.'22   His one intention at all times and in all places is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He hath a single eye; and because his `eye is single, his whole body is full of light.23   The whole is light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth enlighten the house.' God reigns alone; all that is in the soul is `holiness to the Lord.'24   There is not a motion in his heart but is according to his will. Every thought that arises points to him, and is in `obedience to the law of Christ.'25

"And the tree is known by its fruits.26   For, as he loves God, so he `keeps his commandments;'27   not only some, or most of them, but all, from the least to the greatest. He is not content to `keep the whole law and offend in one point,'28   but has iii all points `a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards man.'29   Whatever God has forbidden, he avoids; whatever God has enjoined, he does. `He runs the way of God's commandments,' now He bath set his heart at liberty. It is his glory and joy so to do; it is his daily crown of rejoicing, to `do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.'30

"All the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might; for his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore, loving God with all his heart,31   he serves him with all his strength; he continually presents his soul and `body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God;'32   entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has, all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has, he constantly employs according to his Master's will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body. 

"By consequence, `whatsoever he doeth, it is all to the glory of God.'33   In all his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this, which is implied in having a single eye, but actually attains it; his business and his refreshments, as well as his prayers, all serve to this great end. Whether he `sit in the house, or walk by the way,' whether he lie down, or rise up, he is promoting, in all he speaks or does, the one business of his life.34   Whether he put on his apparel, or labour, or eat and drink, or divert himself from too wasting labour, it all tends to advance the glory of God, by peace and good-will among men. His one invariable rule is this: `Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, even the Father, through him.'35

"Nor do the customs of the world at all hinder his ` running the race which is set before him.'36   He cannot therefore `lay up treasures upon earth,'37  no more than he can take fire into his bosom. He cannot speak evil of his neighbour,38   any more than he can lie either for God or man. He cannot utter an unkind word of any one; for love keeps the door of his lips. He cannot `speak idle words; no corrupt conversation'39  ever `comes out of his mouth;' as is all that is not `good to the use of edifying,'40   not fit to `minister grace to the hearers.' But `whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are' justly `of good report,'41   he thinks, speaks, and acts, `adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.'42  " 

These are the very words wherein I largely declared, for the first time, my sentiments of Christian perfection. And is it not easy to see, (1.) That this is the very point at which I aimed all along from the year 1725; and more determinately from the year 1730, when I began to be homo unius libri, "a man of one book," regarding none, comparatively, but the Bible? Is it not easy to see, (2.) That this is the very same doctrine which I believe and teach at this day; not adding one point, either to that inward or outward holiness which I maintained eight-and-thirty years ago? And it is the same which, by the grace of God, I have continued to teach from that time till now; as will appear to every impartial person from the extracts subjoined below.

Wesley's Footnotes:


 11. tract result

Eleventh Argument

top   section index   previous argument   next argument
 No objection made to
that tract.
 I do not know that any writer has made any objection against that tract to this day; and for some time, I did not find much opposition upon the head, at least, not from serious persons. But after a time, a cry arose, and, what a little surprised me, among religions men, who affirmed, not that I stated perfection wrong, but that "there is no perfection on earth;" nay, and fell vehemently on my brother and me for affirming the contrary. We scarce expected so rough an attack from these; especially as we were clear on justification by faith, and careful to ascribe the whole of salvation to the mere grace of God. But what most surprised us, was, that we were said to "dishonour Christ," by asserting that he "saveth to the uttermost;" by maintaining he will reign in our hearts alone, and subdue all things to himself. 
Wesley's Footnotes:

 12. Preaches again

Twelfth Argument

top   section index   previous argument next argument
Dr. Gibson, Bishop of
London, at Whitehall,
gives Wesley
permission to "publish
to all the world"

The result:
The Sermon on
Christian Perfection

1. Wherein he shows
in what sense 
Christians are not

2. In which he also
shows in which
sense Christians are
to be perfect.

-cannot infer that all
Christians must 
continue to sin as long
as they live. 12.2.2

-we are not to be 
measured by Old 
Testament. 12.3.

-we are not to be 
measured by the
Apostles' failure.

-James gives an example
of what we are not to be,
chastising those who would 
be teachers but who cannot
bridle their tongues.  12.4.2

-However, John says that if
we claim to be without sin, 
we are liars and the truth is
not  in us.  12.4.3

-What John is really
intending to point out, the
possibility of being cleansed
from sin, he states in verse 9

-If our hearts are no longer 
evil,  then where can evil 
thoughts spring from.

-By the same token, where
will evil temper spring from,
if our hearts are pure?

-These are  what constitute
full salvation and 
pure heartedness
12.6, 12.6.1, 12.6.2

1. Proverbs 24:16 This
verse suggests the just man
will rise from the snares set
against him.
2. Ecclesiastes 7:20 Solomon
says there is not a righteous 
man who contiually does good 
and does not sin.


This section has been edited to include numbering, titles and highlighted references.
I think it was in the latter end of the year 1740, that I had a conversation with Dr. Gibson, then Bishop of London, at Whitehall. He asked me what I meant by perfection. I told him without any disguise or reserve. When I ceased speaking, he said, "Mr. Wesley, if this be all you mean, publish it to all the world. If any one then can confute what you say, lie may have free leave." I answered, "My Lord, I will;" and accordingly wrote and published the sermon on Christian perfection. 

In this I endeavoured to show, (1.) In what sense Christians are not, (2.) In what sense they are, perfect. 

12.2.1   What sense they are not perfect:
"(1.) In what sense they are not. They are not perfect in knowledge. They are not free from ignorance, no, nor from mistake. We are no more to expect any living man to be infallible, than to be omniscient. They are not free from infirmities, such as weakness or slowness of understanding, irregular quickness or heaviness of imagination. Such in another kind are impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation; to which one- might add a thousand nameless defects, either in conversation or behaviour. From such infirmities as these none are perfectly freed till their spirits return to God; neither can we expect till then to be wholly freed from temptation; for `the servant is not above his master.' But neither in this sense is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no perfection of degrees, none which does not admit of a continual increase. 

"(2.) In what sense then are they perfect? Observe, we are not now speaking of babes in Christ, but adult Christians. But even babes in Christ are so far perfect as not to commit sin. This St. John affirms expressly; and it cannot be disproved by the examples of the Old Testament. For what, if the holiest of the ancient Jews did sometimes commit sin? We cannot infer from hence, that `all Christians do and must commit sin as long as they live.'

"But does not the Scripture say, `A just man sinneth seven times a day?' It does not. Indeed it says, `A just man falleth seven times.'1   But this is quite another thing; for, First, the words, a day, are not in the text. Secondly, here is no mention of falling into sin at all. What is here mentioned, is, falling into temporal affliction. 

"But elsewhere Solomon says, `There is no man that sinneth not.'2   Doubtless thus it was in the days of Solomon; yea, and from Solomon to Christ there was then no man that sinned not. But whatever was the case of those under the law, we may safely affirm, with St. John, that, since the gospel was given, `he that is born of God sinneth not.'3

"The privileges of Christians are in nowise to be measured by what the Old Testament records concerning those who were under the Jewish dispensation; seeing the fulness of time is now come, the Holy Ghost is now given, the great salvation of God is now brought to men by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is now set up on earth, concerning which the Spirit of God declared of old time, (so far is David from being the pattern or standard of Christian perfection,) `He that is feeble among them, at that day, shall be as David, and the house of David shall be as the angel of the Lord before them.'4   (Zech. 12:8.) 

``But the Apostles themselves committed sin; Peter by dissembling5, Paul by his sharp contention with Barnabas.6   Suppose they did, will you argue thus: `If two of the Apostles once committed sin, then all other Christians, in all ages, do and must commit sin as long as they live ?' Nay, God forbid we should thus speak. No necessity of sin was laid upon them; the grace of God was surely sufficient for them. And it is sufficient for us at this day. 

"But St. James says, `In many things we offend all.'7   True; but who are the persons here spoken of? Why, those `many masters' or teachers whom God had not sent; not the Apostle himself, nor any real Christian. That in the word we, used by a figure of speech, common in all other as well as the inspired writings, the Apostle could not possibly include himself, or any other true believer, appears, First, from the ninth verse, `Therewith bless we God, and therewith curse we men.' Surely not we Apostles! not we believers! Secondly, from the words preceding the text: `My brethren, be not many masters,' or teachers, `knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all.' We! Who? Not the Apostles nor true believers, but they who were to `receive the greater  condemnation,' because of those many offences. Nay, Thirdly, the verse itself proves, that `we offend all,' cannot be spoken either of all men or all Christians. For in it immediately follows the mention of a man who `offends not,' as the we first mentioned did; from whom therefore he is professedly contradistinguished, and pronounced a `perfect man.' 

"But St. John himself says, `If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves;' and, `If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.'8
"I answer, (1.) The tenth verse fixes the sense of the eighth: `If we say we have no sin,' in the former, being explained by, `If we say we have not sinned,' in the latter, verse.
(2.) The point under consideration is not, whether we have or have not sinned heretofore; and neither of these verses asserts that we do sin, or commit sin now.
(3.) The ninth verse explains both the eighth and tenth: `If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' As if he had said, `I have before affirmed, The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.' And no man can say, `I need it not; I have no sin to be cleansed, from.' `If we say, we have no sin, that `we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves,' and make God a liar: But `if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just,' not only `to forgive us our sins,' but also `to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,' that we may `go and sin no more.' In conformity, therefore, both to the doctrine of St. John, and the whole tenor of the New Testament, we fix this conclusion: A Christian is so far perfect, as not to commit sin. 

"This is the glorious privilege of every Christian, yea, though he be but a babe in Christ. But it is only of grown Christians it can be affirmed, they are in such a sense perfect, as, Secondly, to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers. First, from evil or sinful thoughts. Indeed, whence should they spring? `Out of the heart of man,' if at all, `proceed evil thoughts.'9   If, therefore, the heart be no longer evil, then evil thoughts no longer proceed out of it: For `a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.'10

"And as they are freed from evil thoughts, so likewise from evil tempers. Every one of these can say, with St. Paul, `I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;'11   -- words that manifestly describe a deliverance from inward as well as from outward sin. This is expressed both negatively, `I live not,' my evil nature, the body of sin, is destroyed; and positively, `Christ liveth in me,' and therefore all that is holy, and just, and good. Indeed, both these, `Christ liveth in me,' and, `I live not,' are inseparably connected. For what communion hath light with darkness, or Christ with Belial? 

"He, therefore, who liveth in these Christians hath `purified their hearts by faith;'12   insomuch that every one that has Christ in him, `the hope of glory, purifieth himself even as he is pure.'13   He is purified from pride; for Christ was lowly in heart:14   He is pure from desire and self-will; for Christ desired only to do the will of his Father:15   And he is pure from anger, in the common sense of the word; for Christ `was meek and gentle.16   I say, in the common sense of the word; for he is angry at sin, while he is grieved for the sinner.   He feels a displacency at every offence against God, but only tender compassion to the offender. 17

"Thus doth Jesus save his people from their sins, not only from outward sins, but from the sins of their hearts. `True,' say some, `but not till death, not in this world.' Nay, St. John says, `Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment;18   because, as he is, so are we in this world.' The Apostle here, beyond all contradiction, speaks of himself and other living Christians, of whom he flatly affirms, that, not only at or after death, but ` in this world,' they are `as their Master.' 

"Exactly agreeable to this are his words in the first chapter: `God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.'19   And again: `If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'20   Now, it is evident, the Apostle here speaks of a deliverance wrought in this world: For he saith not, The blood of Christ will cleanse, (at the hour of death, or in the day of judgment,) but it `cleanseth,' at the time present, us living Christians `from all sin.' And it is equally evident, that if any sin remain, we are not cleansed from `all' sin. If any unrighteousness remain in the soul, it is not cleansed from `all, unrighteousness. Neither let any say that this relates to justification only, or the cleansing us from the guilt of sin: First, because this is confounding together what the Apostle clearly distinguishes, who mentions, first, `to forgive us our sins, and then `to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' Secondly, because this is asserting justification by works, in the strongest sense possible; it is making all inward, as well as all outward, holiness, necessarily previous to justification. For if the cleansing here spoken of is no other than the cleansing us from the guilt of sin, then we are not cleansed from guilt, that is, not justified, unless on condition of walking `in the light, as he is in the light.' It remains, then, that Christians are saved in this world from all sin, from all unrighteousness; that they are now in such a sense perfect, as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers." 

It could not be, but that a discourse of this kind, which directly contradicted the favourite opinion of many, who were~ esteemed by others, and possibly esteemed themselves, some of the best of Christians, (whereas, if these things were so, they were not Christians at all,) should give no small offence. Many answers or animadversions, therefore, were expected; but I was agreeably disappointed. I do not know that any appeared; so I went quietly on my way. 

Wesley's Footnotes: