In CHAPTER 1, Wesley says that Adam was created as a perfectly righteous man, but after the Fall he became corrupt. This corruption is somehow transmitted through the desires of the body (or, the flesh). It causes us to have evil thoughts and feelings (inward sins). This is called original sin:–and it manifests in atheism, idolatry, pride, self-will, independence from God, and a love for the ways of the world.
Babies, although born with an original sin nature, can only be punished with physical death (Rom. 5:12). Hell, and its eternal punishment, is called “the second death”–and is only for wicked adults. This is because they committed actual sins by their free choice, and died without Christ in an unrepentant state (Rev. 21:8). [Babies are free from Hell’s penalty, because Jesus died on the cross for all original sin, in both adults and children;] but the cross also released prevenient grace into the world, thereby establishing man’s freedom to respond to the Gospel with the Holy Spirit’s assistance.
[My personal addition (John)–Babies don’t go to Hell. I agree with Wesley. However, it is not necessarily because the death of Christ atoned universally for original sin. It is more so because babies don’t understand the law of God. They do not have the rational ability to understand it, and so, are not accountable to its commandments and penalties (they have not reached an age of accountability, to understand God’s law, and respond to it). Instead, babies are legally pronounced “innocent” before the Judge of Heaven, because although “sin is the transgression of the law,” babies are not capable of transgressing it willfully, because they do not have the knowledge to understand the law (Matt. 19:14; 1 John 3:4).]
In CHAPTER 2, entitled, “Atonement, Justification, and Sanctification,” Wesley says that Satisfaction Theory (Anselm) and Penal Substitution (Calvin), when mixed together, provide an accurate Biblical view of the atonement. The death of Christ satisfied the justice and wrath of God for all who believe this Gospel.
The moral law is the will of God; it makes men conscious of sin; and is to be heartily obeyed by every real Christian–but it is not to be used, or seen as a means of works-justification, or for “earning God’s forgiveness.” The Holy Spirit, by means of regeneration, empowers saved Christians to obey the moral law.
Justification – The Forgiveness of Sins by Faith in the Atonement
Sanctification – Growing in Ethical Love (Matthew 5-7)
In CHAPTER 3, Wesley says the order of salvation goes like this:
1. Original Sin (Dead to God)
2. Consciousness of Sin by the Moral Law
3. Revelation (Faith) that Jesus Died for Sin
4. Past Sins Forgiven (Justification)
5. Desire to Live Holy (Regeneration)
6. Struggling with Romans 7-8 (Sanctification)
7. Exalted Level of Holy Love (Entire Sanctification)
(a) Growth by Continual Repentance
(b) Growth by Means of Grace and Good Works
(c) Growth by Obedience to the Moral Law
(d) Glorification After Death, If the Christian Perseveres in Faith
In CHAPTER 4, entitled “Christian Perfection,” Wesley says perfection is an inherent ethical perfection in love and obedience to God, whereas the Reformers only saw perfection as a perfection in faith (p. 136). Wesley sought to “reform” the Reformed view of sanctification further than it had been taken, and so took liberty to borrow ideas from the following books: Jeremy Taylor’s Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Holy Dying, Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, and William Law’s A Practical Treatise Upon Christian Perfection and A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. [Note: Wesley parted ways with him in 1756, because Law fell into universalism.] All four of these books were influenced by the Catholic ascetical-mystical tradition of the “imitation of Christ,” and its concepts of self-denial. Much later in his life, Wesley even supported the Catholic book by Francis de Sales: An Introduction to the Devout Life. And Wesley was prone to quote from Catholic devotional writers at various times.
In a mixed life (balancing the contemplative life and the active life)–properly, all good works are performed with perfect love–but the performance of them is imperfect (hence the continued need for reliance upon Christ’s blood). Christian perfection is the perfect intent to love God and man; and this intent comes from an “anointing” of “perfect love” (Rom. 5:5; 1 John 4:18) that can be received after years of striving against the flesh, and mortifying sin in your members. Technically, it is not sinlessness, but it comes close.
In CHAPTER 5, Wesley says that Christians love Christ “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, KJV), especially through what He did for us on the cross, dying and atoning for the forgiveness of our sins. And now, we share God’s love for all men to receive this same forgiveness of sins, because “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Rom. 5:5). But the love of God and the law of God are the will of God. And so, “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us” (Rom. 8:4), God has graciously given Christians an inward anointing for righteousness, or, He “put His laws in our minds and wrote them on our hearts” (Heb. 8:10). This RIGHTEOUS, ETHICAL LOVE seeks to obey God’s will, and God’s law. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3, KJV). It seeks to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:39), especially to love one’s Christian brothers and sisters (who are really godly and live a holy life), and to pitiably and prayerfully and compassionately love one’s enemies (that they too might experience the forgiveness of sins and the freedom of living a holy life). For the Christian who loves God and man, by the energy of the Holy Spirit within him, the moral law of God is not a curse to him; it is LIFE to him; it is not so much a condemning force in his life (because of his faith in Christ’s blood); rather, the law is the directing force in his life, the words of wisdom from on high; to him: “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).
In CHAPTER 6, Wesley says “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14), including so-called Christians. During the course of your Christian life, you will experience two main events: (1) The moment you “got saved” when you first repented from your wicked ways, and put your faith in the cross (present salvation, or justification by faith alone, consisting in the forgiveness of your sins). (2) The moment you felt a “second wind” to live a holy life (regeneration and sanctification).
Over the course of your Christian life, you look forward with godly fear toward the Day of Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15), but eventually developing so much love for God, that this fear disappears and turns into boldness (Php. 2:12; 1 John 4:17-18); also, a hope for entrance into Heaven by means of continuing in Christian faith and holiness all the days of your life: obeying the moral law of God, loving God and man, and making every effort to CONTINUE in faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, and a good conscience, so as not to lose your faith, or “make shipwreck” faith and conscience (1 Tim. 1:19), and hence fall headfirst into Hell for all eternity, being a castaway! (1 Cor. 9:27). Only after continued faith and holy living has passed the test on the Day of Judgment (Matt. 7:21-23), will final salvation and glorification begin.