From “Christian Perfection” (1760)
Christians, therefore, are not so perfect as to be free either from ignorance or error. We may, add, nor from infirmities. Only let us take care to understand this word aright: Only let us not give that soft title to known sins, as the manner of some is. So, one man tells us, “Every man has his infirmity, and mine is drunkenness;” Another has the infirmity of uncleanness; another of taking God’s holy name in vain; and yet another has the infirmity of calling his brother, “You fool,” (Matt. 5:22), or returning “railing for railing” (1 Pet. 3:9). It is plain that all you who thus speak, if you do not repent, shall, with your infirmities, go quick into hell.
But I mean hereby, not only those which are properly termed bodily infirmities, but all those inward or outward imperfections which are not of a moral nature. Such are the weakness or slowness of understanding, dullness or confusedness of apprehension, incoherency of thought, irregular quickness or heaviness of imagination. Such (to mention no more of this kind) is the want of a ready or of a retentive memory. Such in another kind, are those which are commonly, in some measure, consequent upon these; namely, slowness of speech, impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation; to which one might add a thousand nameless defects, either in conversation or behavior. These are the infirmities which are found in the best of men, in a larger or smaller proportion. And from these none can hope to be perfectly freed till the spirit returns to God that gave it (Ecc. 12:7).
Nor can we expect, until then, to be wholly free from temptation. Such perfection does not belong to this life. It is true, there are those who, being given up to work all uncleanness with greediness (Eph. 4:19), scarce perceive the temptations which they resist not, and so seem to be without temptation. There are also many whom the wise enemy of souls, seeing to be fast asleep in the dead form of godliness, will not tempt to gross sin, lest they should awake before they drop into everlasting burnings. I know there are also children of God who, being now justified freely (Rom. 5:1), having found redemption in the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7), for the present feel no temptation. God has said to their enemies, “Do not touch my anointed, and do my children no harm” (1 Chron. 16:22). And for this season, it may be for weeks or months, he causes them to “ride on high places” (Deut. 32:13), he bears them as on eagles’ wings (Ex. 19:4), above all the fiery darts of the wicked one. But this state will not last always; as we may learn from that single consideration, that the Son of God himself… was tempted even to the end of his life. Therefore, so let his servant expect to be; for “it is enough that he be as his master” (Luke 6:40.)
John Wesley (1703-1791) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, and the founder of the Methodist movement. After experiencing a profound conversion in 1738, he began a ministry of itinerant evangelistic preaching, travelling an average of 8000 miles a year and making thousands of converts. He sparked a renewal in preaching and discipleship that swept across the Anglo-American world and is one of the fathers of evangelicalism. He is commemorated on March 3 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches. The text is adapted for contemporary readers.