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Albert Outler on Wesley’s Sermon ‘Christian Perfection’

Albert C. Outler (1908-1989)

Albert C. Outler (1908-1989)

Some comments from Albert Outler about John Wesley’s sermon on “Christian Perfection” — and the fears it arouses:

If, for Wesley, salvation was the total restoration of the deformed image of God in us, and if its fullness was the recovery of our negative power not to sin and our positive power to love God supremely, this denotes that furthest reach of grace and triumph in this life that Wesley chose to call ‘Christian Perfection.’

Just as justification and regeneration are thresholds for the Christian life in earnest (‘what God does for us’), so also sanctification is ‘what God does in us’, to mature and fulfill the human potential according to his primal design.  Few Christians  had ever denied some such prospect, in statu gloriae; few . . . ever envisioned it as a realistic possibility in this life. . . .  Thus, Wesley’s encouragement to his people to ‘go on to perfection’ and to ‘expect to be made perfect in love in this life’ aroused lively fears that this would foster more of the self-righteous perfectionism already made objectionable by earlier pietists.

— Albert Outler (Ed). “An Introductory Comment” to Sermon 40: “Christian Perfection”. Works (Bic Ed) Vol 2, p. 97. (c) 1985.

John Wesley’s sermon on “Christian Perfection” (Sermon #40) was written in 1741.

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

Wesley says in his Journal:

I think it was 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.’ I answered, ‘My lord, I will’; and accordingly wrote and published the sermon on ‘Christian Perfection.’

You can read Wesley’s sermon here: “Christian Perfection” (Sermon #40).

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  1. […] Craig Adams in his Commonplace Holiness blog quotes Albert Outler on Wesley’s idea of perfection. […]

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