Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV

Author: John Wesley

To the Reader.

1. To set the doctrine of Christian perfection too high is the ready way to drive it out of the world. Let a man only describe it as implying a freedom from mistakes and human infirmities; and whoever knows there is no such freedom in this life naturally concludes, "There is no perfection." Hence we should always carefully guard against this, by insisting, it is no more and no less than giving God all our heart; loving Him with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves.

2. This is well consistent with a thousand infirmities, which belong to every soul while in the body. To place this in the clearest and fullest light, I have published the following extract from the artless Journal of a plain woman, wrote merely for her own use. I have no doubt but God had all her heart. But yet how many were her infirmities! And these are the more apparent, because she was a person of no uncommon endowments; one that had just plain, natural understanding, without any advantage of education, and who wrote down daily just what she felt, with all possible artlessness and simplicity. The chief of these are wandering thoughts; (whether natural or preternatural;) listlessness in private prayer; (I believe, entirely owing to bodily disorder;) hurry in business; (it seems, not apparent to others, though frequently felt by herself;) want of a steady, invariable advertence to the presence of God; speaking too many words, more than were strictly necessary; speaking, through ignorance, a word not strictly true; speaking sometimes too quick, so as to have the appearance of anger; omission of things which had better be done. Perhaps one might mention, likewise, under this head, such vehement temptations to anger, to impatience, to fretfulness, to immoderate sorrow, and to follow her own will, that at divers times she escaped with the skin of her teeth, and scarce knew whether she escaped or not. So particular a detail of these things may be of singular use to those who find the same temptations; and who may be encouraged thereby, to "hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end."

3. But it may be objected, "If perfection means only that love which is consistent with all these infirmities, then how does it differ from what is experienced by every believer?" I answer,

(1.)Many are delivered from these infirmities, in a far greater measure than she was. I judge her to have been a real witness of Christian perfection, but only in a low degree.

(2.)Whom do you know that experiences even what she did, — that never-failing love of God and man; that uninterrupted calmness of mind; that invariable meekness, gentleness, humility; that continual hunger and thirst after righteousness, after the entire image of God; above all, that absolute, unreserved dependence upon Christ, as the fountain of every good and perfect gift, of all holiness and happiness? Does every believer experience this? I will be bold to say, not one in a thousand. I suppose, not one upon earth, unless he has received another gift, widely different from what he received when he was justified. At least, I know no one in the three kingdoms who comes up to this experience, (besides a few in their first love,) unless, after justification, he has found a second change wrought in a moment. However, concerning that circumstance we need not dispute, whether it be wrought gradually or instantaneously; only let the change be wrought; only let our souls be reserved in the whole image of God; only let all that mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; let Him reign in our hearts without a rival, at all times, and in all places. Let us be all devoted to Him in soul and in body; and let all our thoughts, and words, and actions be continually offered up to God, as holy sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ.

4. A few more circumstances relating to this amiable woman may not be unacceptable to the reader. Elizabeth, the daughter of William and Joan Tuck, was born at Penzance, December 20, 1734. She was brought to Redruth when about four years old; and, as she grew up, lived as other harmless people did. June 30, 1755, she was married to one Andrew Harper, a shop-keeper of Redruth; and, three or four years after, she became weak and sickly. At the same time she grew distressed in her mind, which she strove to remove by various was; but all to no purpose. In the latter end of the year 1763, a fever brought her to the brink of eternity. She was greatly afraid to die; and hearing there were some in the town who had no fear of death, she entreated her husband, without delay, to send for one of the Preachers. Conversing with him, she saw the way of conquering the fear of death. She soon recovered her health, and from that time sought the Lord with her whole heart, till, on Easter day, (having joined the society before,) as she was receiving the Lord’s supper, these words were strongly applied to her soul: "It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth?" She went home, called her husband, and said, "Now all my sins are forgiven. I am not afraid to die now; for I love God, and I know He loves one."

5. From this time she walked closely with God, and was hearty and zealous in his cause. There was nothing in her power which she was not ready to do for the servants or children of God. She was exceedingly tempted, after she believed God had cleansed her from inbred sin. Of this she gives a large account in her Journal; but she did not cast away her confidence. When she saw death approaching, she was not moved, but calmly looked up to God. She exhorted her husband, and all near her, not to love the world, or the things of the world. A little after she said, "’Lord, thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love thee.’ Thou knowest it hath been my only desire to please thee: Come, Lord Jesus! Come, and sanctify me throughout, spirit, soul, and body! O come quickly!" In a little time she cried, "He is come! He is come!" and presently fell asleep.


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Chicago: John Wesley, "To the Reader.," Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV, ed. Thomas Jackson in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024,

MLA: Wesley, John. "To the Reader." Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV, edited by Thomas Jackson, in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV, London, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Wesley, J, 'To the Reader.' in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV, ed. . cited in 1872, Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume XIV, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2024, from