This section is a brief digression in answer to a question posed by a visitor to the church I attend.

How early was John Wesley's teaching on holiness seen as a "second blessing" experience?

This section is a selection of the material available to this web site, and does not attempt to cover the ground of such books as Wesley's Sermons, "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection", the Wesley hymns, and other primary sources on this subject.

The main insight we are able to offer is from the writings of Hester Ann Roe (later Mrs. Rogers) who learnt directly from both John Wesley and from John Fletcher (of Madely). Her account of a sermon preached by Wesley at Leek in 1782 is very instructive, as is her account of Fletcher's preaching about the same time.

The overall balance of our evidence is : -

Wesley taught both Justification by Faith (after Luther) and Sanctification by Faith.
While holiness of life is a gradual process beginning at the time of the New Birth, there is also an instantaneous event by which a believer may enter into an experience of sanctification. H. A. Roe's letters (rtf) explain this clearly; her experience (rtf), language and doctrine being from John Wesley. This is clearly given in H. A. Roe's account of his preaching. Extract (rtf)
She also distinguishes (in the letters) sins of weakness and ignorance from willful sins.

Fletcher taught similarly to Wesley (Fletcher's Polemical Essays and also Letters to Parishioners), but also preached a more recognisably Pentecostal view of the work of the Holy Spirit. This is given in H. A. Roe's account of his preaching. Extract (rtf)

Revivalists amongst the later Methodists (1790s) went around preaching Wesleyan Entire Sanctification, and this became a feature of offshoots such as the Primitive Methodists. We can see this in the life of Hugh Bourne. Extract (rtf)

A "second blessing" experience commonly refered to as Entire Sanctification but also called a Baptism in the Holy Ghost was a common factor in the faster growing Methodist branches of the 19th century, whose growth was through mission work and new converts.
This followed the original Wesleyan preaching of Justification by Faith evidenced by Scriptural Holiness of Life.

We make the observation that one difference following the Death of John Wesley was that during his life, Methodism was a revival movement within the Church of England. After his death, it broke free from that organisational confinement, and became a movement of ordinary people, so spreading in new ways.

Regarding Fletcher, we must note that Wesley wrote to him asking that Fletcher join the Methodists with a view to taking Wesley's place if he should die first. Letter (rtf)

We also include an extract from Anatomy of a Conversion by Rev. Dr. Philip S. Watson (formerly a tutor at Handsworth College) This excellent account of the Conversion and the mission of the Wesley's is out of print but not yet out of copyright. We would like to see it available to every Methodist Local Preacher. His section on Full Salvation (rtf) is a valuable summary of this theme. He concisely shows the place of Christian Love in sanctification.

Note the place of the "Prayer Meeting" in these accounts (for example, of Hugh Bourne). It seems to have been common practice for the Preacher and any who would pray with him to have spent some time in prayer before a meeting. But there was also a Prayer Meeting after the Preaching Meeting, at which the enquirers sought salvation. The Preacher would close the main meeting, and those who would stayed for the Prayer Meeting. This was the secret of the success of Methodist preaching.

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March 2002