John Fletcher


1. Phillyrides puerum cithara perfecit Achillem.

2. The word perfection comes from the Latin perficio, to perfect, to finish, to accomplish; it exactly answers to the words tamam and teleiow, generally used in the Old and New Testament. Nor can their derivatives be more literally and exactly rendered than by perfect and perfection. If our translators render sometimes the word tam by upright and sincere, or by sincerity and integrity, it is because they know that these expressions, like the original word, admit of a great latitude. Thus Columel calls wood that has no rotten part, and is perfectly sound, lignum sincerum; and Horace says that a sweet cask, which has no bad smell of any sort, is vas sincerum. Thus also Cicero calls purity of diction, which is perfectly free from faults against grammar, integritas sermonis: Plautus says that a pure, undefiled virgin is filia integra. And our translators call the perfectly pure milk of God's word, the sincere milk of the word, 1 Pet. ii, 2. If, therefore, the words sincerity and integrity are taken in their full latitude, they convey the fullest meaning of tummah, and teleiothV, that is, perfection.

3. I think I have said in one of the Checks that Archbishop Leighton doubted whether those who do not sincerely aspire after perfection, have saving grace: that doubt (if I now remember right) is Mr. Alleine's, though this quotation from the archbishop shows that he was not far from Alleine's sentiment, if he was not in it. Pious Dr. Doddridge is explicit on this head:"To allow yourself," said he, "deliberately to sit down satisfied with any imperfect attainments in religion, and to look upon a more confirmed and improved state of it as what you do not desire, nay, as what you secretly resolve that you will not pursue, is one of the most fatal signs we can well imagine, that you are an entire stranger to the first principles of it." (Doddridge's Rise and Progress, chap. xx.

4. Between Adamic and Christian perfection we place the gracious innocence of little children. They are not only full of peccability like Adam, but debilitated in all their animal and rational faculties, and, of consequence, fit to become an easy prey to temptation, through the weakness of their reason, and the corruption of their concupiscible and irascible powers. Nevertheless, till they begin personally to prefer moral evil to moral good, we may consider them as evangelically or graciously innocent. I say graciously innocent, because, if we consider them in the seed of fallen Adam, we find them naturally "children of wrath," and under the curse: but if we consider them "in the seed of the woman," which was promised to Adam and to his posterity, we find them graciously placed in a state of redemption and evangelical salvation. For "the free gift which is come upon all men to justification," belongs first to them, Christ having sanctified infancy first. And therefore we do not scruple to say, after our Lord, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Now the kingdom of heaven is not of sinners as sinners, but of little children, as being innocent through the free gift; or of adults, as being penitent, that is, turned from their sins to Christ.

5. The Rev. Mr. Toplady, in his Historic Proof, p. 235, informs us that a popish archbishop of St. Andrews condemned Patrick Hamilton to death, for holding among other doctrines, "That children incontinent after baptism are sinners," or, which is all one, that baptism does not absolutely take away original sin. This anecdote is important, and shows that our Church levels at a popish error the words of her articles, which Mr. Hill and Mr. Toplady suppose to be levelled at Christian perfection.

6. See the edition printed in London in 1773, p. 328.

7. Among the professors, who have lately set up as witnesses of perfect love, I am not a little surprised to find Mr. Hill himself. This gentleman, who has treated Mr. Wesley with such severity, for standing up in defence of perfect love, or Christian perfection, most solemnly ranks himself among the perfect lovers of their neighbours, yea, of their adversaries! Hear him make his astonishing profession before the world, at the end of his pamphlet called, The Admonisher Admonished. "I most solemnly declare," says he, "that I am in perfect charity with Dr. Adams, as well as with you, sir, my unknown antagonist." I never yet heard a perfectionist make so solemn and so public a profession of perfect love.

8. The arguments by which the doctrine of the necessary indwelling of sin in all believers till death is supported in that essay, will be considered in section xiv.

9. Some time after I had written this, looking into "Dr. Doddridge's Lectures on Divinity," p. 451, I was agreeably surprised to find that what that judicious and moderate Calvinist presents as the most plausible sense of Rom. vii, 14, is exactly the sense which I defend in these pages. Take his own words:"St. Paul at first represents a man as ignorant of the law, and then insensible of sin; but afterward being acquainted with it, and then thrown into a kind of despair, by the sentence of death which it denounces, on account of sins he is now conscious of having committed; he then farther shows that even where there is so good a disposition as to 'delight in the law,' yet the motives are too weak to maintain that uniform tenor of obedience, which a good man greatly desires, and which the Gospel by its superior motives and grace does in fact produce."


Sed trahit invitam nova vis, aliudque cupido,
Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora, proboque,
Deteriota sequor.OVID.

11. At that time Mr. Whitefield was in orders, and had "received the Spirit of adoption." As a proof of it, I appeal, (1.) To the account of his conversion at Oxford, before he was ordained; and, (2.) To these his own words: "I can say, to the honour of rich, free, distinguishing grace, that I received the Spirit of adoption before I had conversed with one man, or read a single book on the doctrine of free justification by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ." That is, before he had any opportunity of being drawn from the simplicity of the Scripture Gospel, into the Calvinian refinements. (See his Works, vol. iv, page 45.) Now, those Christians, who leave babes and young men in Christ "at so great a distance from them," are the very persons whom we call "fathers in Christ," "perfect Christians."

12. This doctrine of St. John is perfectly agreeable to that of our Lord, who said that "Judas had a devil," because he gave place to the love of money; and who called Peter himself "Satan," when he "savoured the things of men," in opposition to "the things of God."

13. If Mr. Hill consult the original, he will find that the word translated sinneth, is in the future tense, which is often used for an indefinite tense in the potential mood, because the Hebrews have no such mood or tense. Therefore our translators would only have done justice to the original, as well as to the context, if they had rendered the whole clause, "There is no man that may not sin; instead of "There is no man that sinneth not."

14. Here, and in some other places, St. Paul by "works" means only the deeds of a Christless, anti-mediatorial law, and the obedience paid to the Jewish covenant, which is frequently called "the law," in opposition to the Christian covenant, which is commonly called "the Gospel," that is, the Gospel of Christ, because Christ's Gospel is the most excellent of all the Gospel dispensations. The apostle, therefore, by the expression, "not of works," does by no means exclude from "final" salvation, the law of faith, and the works done in obedience to that law: for, in the preceding verse, he secures the obedience of faith when he says, "Ye are saved, that is, made partakers of the blessing of the Christian dispensation, by grace through faith." Here then the word "by grace" secures the first Gospel axiom, and the word "through faith" secures the second

15. If the arguments and expostulations contained in these sheets be rational and Scriptural, is not Mr. Wesley in the right when he says, that "all preachers should make a point of preaching perfection to believers, constantly, strongly, and explicitly:" and that "all believers should mind this one thing, and continually agonize for it?" And do not all the ministers, who preach against Christian perfection, preach against the perfection of Christianity, oppose holiness, resist the sanctifying truth as it is in Jesus, recommend an unscriptural purgatory, plead for sin, instead of striving against it, and delude imperfect Christians into Laodicean ease?

16. Two Hebrew words, which mean lights and perfections.

17. Mr. Wesley says, second rest, because an imperfect believer enjoys a first, inferior rest: if he did not, he would be no believer.

18. Is not this expression too strong? Would it not be better to soften it as Mr. Hill has done, by saying, "Take away the love of or the bent to sinning?" Can God take away from us our power of sinning, without taking away our power of free obedience?

19. Mr. Wesley says, perfect love, with St. John.

20. Mr. Wesley says, indeed, pure and sinless; but when Mr. Hill sings pure, unspotted, he does not spoil the sense. For every body knows that the pure, unspotted Jesus does not differ from the sinless, immaculate Lamb of God. This fine hymn (I think) is not in Mr. Madan's collection, but he has probably sung it more than once. However, it is adopted in the Shrewsbury Collection, of which Mr. Hill is the publisher, in conjunction with Mr. De Courcy. Is it not surprising, that in his devotional warmth that gentleman should print, give out, and sing, Mr. Wesley's strongest hymns for Christian perfection; when, in his controversial heat, he writes so severely against this blessed state of heart? And may not I take my leave of him by an allusion to our Lord's words, Out of thy own mouth, thy own pen, thy own publications, thy own hymns, thy own prayers, thy own Bible, thy own reason, thy own conscience, and, (what is most astonishing!) thy own professional and baptismal vow, I will judge thy mistakes! Nevertheless, I desire the reader to impute them, as I do, not to any love for indwelling sin, but to the fatal error which makes my pious opponent turn his back upon the genuine doctrines of grace and justice, and espouse the spurious doctrines of Calvinian grace and free wrath.

21. We do not hereby deny that some believers have a testimony in their own breasts that they shall not finally fall from God. "They may have it," says Mr. Wesley, in the same tract, "and this persuasion that 'neither life nor death shall separate them from God,' far from being hurtful, may in some circumstances be extremely useful." But wherever this testimony is Divine, it is attended with that grace which inseparably connects holiness and good works, the means, with perseverance and eternal salvation, the end: and, in this respect, our doctrine widely differs from that of the Calvinists, who break the necessary connection between holiness and infallible salvation, by making room for the foulest falsefor adultery, murder, and incest.

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