Date of Award

Summer 1992

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Misner, Paul


According to Albert Outler, "The single most consistent theme in Wesley's thought over the entire span of his ministry was 'holy living' and its cognate goal: perfection." Outler points out that, between 1739 and 1785, Wesley preached on the theme of perfection at least eighteen times from Matthew 5:48 and another fifty times from Hebrews 6:1. Over that period of time, as one would expect, there were developments in emphasis, "but the main outlines of the doctrine remain[ed] constant. "2 Wesley himself often argued that he had been consistent with himself as he proclaimed the message of Christian perfection over the years. He preached his first sermon on the topic, "The Circumcision of the Heart," on January 1, 1733. With respect to this sermon Wesley would later (1765) write in "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection," "This was the view of religion I then had, which even then I scrupled not to term perfection. This is the view I have of it now, without any material addition or diminution. "3 Even later than this (1778) Wesley noted in his journal, "Nay, I know not that I can write a better [sermon] on the Circumcision of the Heart, than I did five-and-forty years ago. Perhaps, indeed I may have read five or six hundred books more than I had then, and may know a little more History, or Natural Philosophy, than I did; but I am not sensible that this has made any essential addition to my knowledge in Divinity. Forty years ago I knew and preached every Christian doctrine which I preach now. " A careful reading of Wesley reveals that this is a very broad statement in which he does not include developments in emphasis or refinements in his explanations. However, both Wesley and modern Wesleyan scholarship are in agreement that the main tenets of his teaching on Christian perfection remained consistent...



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?