Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V

Author: John Wesley


1. And First, "Think not I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill."

The ritual or ceremonial law, delivered by Moses to the children of Israel, containing all the injunctions and ordinances which related to the old sacrifices and service of the Temple, our Lord indeed did come to destroy, to dissolve, and utterly abolish. To this bear all the Apostles witness; not only Barnabas and Paul, who vehemently withstood those who taught that Christians "ought to keep the law of Moses;" (Acts 15:5;) — not only St. Peter, who termed the insisting on this, on the observance of the ritual law, a "tempting God," and "putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers," saith he, "nor we, were able to bear;" — but all the Apostles, elders, and brethren, being assembled with one accord, (verse 22,) declared, that to command them to keep this law, was to "subvert their souls;" and that "it seemed good to the Holy Ghost" and to them, to lay no such burden upon them. This "hand-writing of ordinances out Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to his cross." (Verse 28.)

2. But the moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the Prophets, he did not take away. It was not the design of his coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken, which "stands fast as the faithful witness in heaven." The moral stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law, which was only designed for a temporary restraint upon a disobedient and stiff-necked people; whereas this was from the beginning of the world, being "written not on tables on stone," but on the hearts of all the children of men, when they came out of the hands of the Creator. And, however the letters once wrote by the finger of God are now in a great measure defaced by sin, yet can they not wholly be blotted out, while we have any consciousness of good and evil. Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind, and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God, and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other.

3. "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." Some have conceived our Lord to mean, — I am come to fulfill this by my entire and perfect obedience to it. And it cannot be doubted but he did, in this sense, fulfill every part of it. But this does not appear to be what he intends here, being foreign to the scope of his present discourse. Without question, his meaning in this place is, (consistently with all that goes before and follows after,) — I am come to establish it in its fullness, in spite of all the glosses of men: I am come to place in a full and clear view whatsoever was dark or obscure therein: I am come to declare the true and full import of every part of it; to show the length and breadth, the entire extent of every commandment contained therein, and the height and depth, the inconceivable purity and spirituality of it in all its branches.

4. And this our Lord has abundantly performed in the preceding and subsequent parts of the discourse before us; in which he has not introduced a new religion into the world, but the same which was from the beginning; — a religion, the substance of which is, without question, as old as the creation, being coeval with man, and having proceeded from God at the very time when "man became a living soul;" (the substance, I say; for some circumstances of it now relate to man as a fallen creature;) — a religion witnessed to both by the Law and by the Prophets, in all succeeding generations. Yet was it never so fully explained, nor so thoroughly understood, till the great Author of it himself condescended to give mankind this authentic comment on all the essential branches of it; at the same time declaring it should never be changed, but remain in force to the end of the world.


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Chicago: John Wesley, "I.," Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V, ed. Thomas Jackson in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2023,

MLA: Wesley, John. "I." Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V, edited by Thomas Jackson, in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V, London, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Wesley, J, 'I.' in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V, ed. . cited in 1872, Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume V, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London. Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2023, from