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ignorant of his devices, as not to know that they take place, as well in the most specious measures of business and learning, as in the wildest pursuits of pleasure. But this, however, you cannot but see, that the world is not still a Paradise of God, guarded and ennobled with the light of glory: it is, indeed, a place, where God has determined he will not appear to you, at best, but leave you in a state of hope, that you shall see his face when this world is dissolved. ,
However, there is a way to rescue ourselves, in great measure, from the ill consequences of our captivity; and our Saviour has taught us that way. It is by suffering. We must not only “suffer many things," as he did, and so enter into our glory; but we must also suffer many things, that we may get above our corruption at present, and enjoy the Holy Spirit.
The world has no longer any power over us, than we have a quick relish of its comforts ; and suffering abates that. Suffering is, indeed, a direct confutation of the pretences which the flattering tempter gains us by : for I am in human life, and if that life contains such soft ease, ravishing pleasure, glorious eminence, as you promise, why am I thus? Is it because I have not yet purchased riches to make me easy, or the current accomplishments to make me considerable? Then I find that all the comfort you propose, is by leading me off from myself; but I will rather enter deep into my own condition, bad as it is: perhaps I shall be nearer to God, the Eternal Truth, in feeling sorrows and miseries that are personal and real, than in feeling comforts that are not so. I begin already to find, that all my grievances centre in one point; there is always at the bottom one great loss or defect, which is not the want of friends or gold, of health or philosophy. And the abiding sense of this may possibly become a prayer in the ears of the Most High : a prayer not resulting from a set of speculative notions, but from the real, undissembled state of all that is within me; nor indeed so explicit a prayer as to describe the thing I want, but considering how strange a want mine is, as explicit a one as I can make.
Since then suffering opens me a door of hope, I will not put it from me as long as I live: it helps me to a true discovery of one period of my existence, though it is a low one; and bids fairer for having some connexion with a more glorious period that may follow, than the arts of indul. gence, the amusements of pride and sloth, and all the dark policy of this world, which wage war with the whole truth that man must know and feel, before he can look towards God. It may be, while I continue on the cross, I shall, like my Saviour, “put off principalities and powers; recover myself more and more from the subjection I am indeed in (which he only seemed to be) to those wicked rulers, and to “ triumph over them in it.” At least it shall appear, in the day when God shall visit, that my heart though grown unworthy of his residence, was too big to be comforted by any of his creatures; and was kept for him, as a place originally sacred, though, for the present, unclean.
But supposing that our state does require of us to “die daily,” to sacrifice all that this present life can boast of, or is delighted with, before we give up life itself; supposing also, that in the hour we do somewhat of this kind, we receive light and strength from God, to grow superior to our infirmities, and are carried smoothly towards him in the joy of the Holy Ghost : yet how can a man have such frequent opportunities of suffering? Indeed, martyrdoms do not happen in every age, and some days of our lives may pass without reproaches from men: we may be in health, and not want food to eat and raiment to put on, (though health itself and nutrition itself, oblige us to the pain of a constant correction of them;) yet still, the love of God and heavenly hope, will not want something to oppress them in this world.
Let a man descend calmly into his heart, and see if there be no root of bitterness springing up; whether at least his thoughts, which are ever in motion, do not sometimes sally out into projects suggested by pride, or sink into indolent trifling, or be entangled in mean anxiety? Does not he find a motion of anger, or of gaiety, leavening him in an instant throughout; depriving him of the meekness, and steady discernment, he laboured after ? Or, let him but conceive at any time, that unfeigned obedience, and watchful zeal, and dignity of behaviour, which is suitable, I do not say to an angel, but to a sinner that has “ a good hope through grace,” and endeavour to work himself
up to it; and if he find no sort of obstacle to this within him, he has indeed then no opportunity of suffering. In short, if he is such an abject sort of creature, as will, unless grace should do him a perpetual violence, relapse frequently into a course of thinking and acting entirely without God; then he can never want occasions of suffering, but will find his own nature to be the same burden to him, as that “ faithless and perverse generation” was to our Saviour, of whom he said, “ How long shall I be with you ? how long shall I suffer you ?"
I will conclude all with that excellent Collect of our Church :-"O God, who in all ages has taught the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort, through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, One GOD, world without end. Amen."
AS BELIEVED AND TAUGHT BY JOHN WESLEY, A. M. FROM
THE YEAR 1725, TO THE YEAR 1777.
1. WHAT I purpose in the following pages is, to give a plain and distinct account of the steps, by which I was led, during a course of many years, to embrace the doctrine of Christian Perfection. This I owe to the serious part of mankind; those who desire to know all the truth as it is in Jesus. And these are only concerned in questions of this kind. To these I would nakedly declare the thing as it is, endeavouring all along to shew, from one period to another, both what I thought, and why I thought so.
2. In the year 1725, being in the 23d year of my age, I met with Bishop Taylor's Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying. In reading several parts of this book, I was exceedingly affected: that part in particular, which relates to Purity of Intention. Instantly I resolved to dedi. cate all my life to God; all my thoughts, and words, and actions; being thoroughly convinced, there was no medium, but that every part of my life, (not some part only,) must either be a sacrifice to God, or to myself; that is, in effect, to the devil.
Can any serious person doubt of this, or find a medium between serving God, and serving the devil ?
8. In the year 1729, I met with Kempis's Christian Pattern. The nature and extent of inward Religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever it had done before. I saw that giving even all my life to God, (supposing it possible to do this, and go no farther,) would profit me nothing, unless I gave my heart; yea, all my heart, to him. I saw, that “ Simplicity of intention, and purity of affection," one design in all we speak or do, and one desire ruling all our tempers, are indeed “the wings of the soul,” without which she can never ascend the mount of God.
4. A year or two after, Mr. Law's Christian Perfection, and Serious Call, were put into my hands.
These convinced me more than ever, of the absolute impossibility of being half a Christian. And I determined, through his Grace, (the absolute necessity of which I was deeply sensible of,) to be all-devoted to God, to give him all my soul, my body, and my substance. Will
any considerate man say, that this is carrying matters too far? Or that any thing less is due to him, who has given himself for us, than to give him ourselves; all we have, and all we are?
5. In the year 1729, I began not only to read, but to study the Bible, as the one, the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion. Hence I saw, in a clearer and clearer light, the indispensable necessity of having the Mind which was in Christ, and of walking as Christ also walked ; even of having, not some part only, but all the Mind which was in him; and of walking as he walked, not only in many or most respects, but in all things. And this was the light, wherein at this time I generally considered religion, as an uniform following of Christ, an entire inward and outward conformity to our Master. Nor was I afraid of any thing more, than of bending this rule to the experience of myself, or of other men; of allowing myself in.. any the least disconformity to our grand Exemplar.
6. On January 1, 1733, I preached before the University, in St. Mary's Church, Oxford, on “ The circumcision of