Flames of Holy Love: Or, Why I’m a Methodist (#AndCanItBe)
This is John Wesley. And this vision of Christianity is why I am, and will remain, a Methodist.
“Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment.’ It is not only `the first and great’ command, but all the commandments in one. `Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,’ they are all comprised in this one word, love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness: The royal law of heaven and earth is this, `Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ The one perfect good shall be your one ultimate end. One thing shall ye desire for its own sake, — the fruition of Him who is all in all. One happiness shall ye propose to your souls, even an union with Him that made them, the having `fellowship with the Father and the Son,’ the being `joined to the Lord in one spirit.’ One design ye are to pursue to the end of time, — the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this; love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever ye desire or fear, whatever ye seek or shun, whatever ye think speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being.”
“Here is the sum of the perfect law, the circumcision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of its affections. — Other sacrifices from us he would not, but the living sacrifice of the heart hath he chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And let no creature be suffered to share with him; for he is a jealous God. His throne will he not divide with another; he will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted there, but what has Him for its ultimate object. This is the way wherein those children of God once walked, who being dead still speak to us: `Desire not to live but to praise his name; let all your thoughts, words, and works tend to his glory.’ `Let your soul be filled with so entire a love to Him that you may love nothing but for his sake.’ `Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to his glory in all you actions.’ For then, and not till then, is that `mind in us, which was also in Christ Jesus,’ when in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we `pursue nothing but in relation to him, and in subordination to his pleasure;’ when we too neither think, nor speak, nor act, to fulfil `our own will, but the will of Him that sent us;’ when, `whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do,’ we do it all `to the glory of God.”‘
These sublime words are excerpts from Wesley’s sermon, “The Circumcision of the Heart” cited in this form by Wesley himself in his A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (6). We often think about sanctification and growth in holiness in negative terms, but Wesley gives us such a magnificently positive vision of the holy life. For Wesley, holiness is not about checking off the commandments; it is nothing more or less than the enjoyment of God. The essence of holiness is enjoying God. Holiness is a heart full of God’s love, a heart that aims to do nothing except for God’s sake and for his pleasure. When our hearts are so consumed with the beauty and glory of the holiness of God, everything else will be in its proper place. May the God of all grace grant us this: that we may love nothing but for his sake and that our hearts may burn with the flame of his holy love.