Notes from John Fletcher on Christian Perfection

A Servant Should be Like his Master

Now if your Master was tempted

and assaulted to the last;

if to the last he watched and prayed,

using all the means of grace himself,

and enforcing the use of them upon others;

if to the last he fought against the world,

the flesh, and the devil,

and did not “put off the harness” (stop toiling)

till he had put off the body;

think not yourselves above him;

but “go and do likewise.”

If he did not regain paradise,

without going through the most complete

renunciation of all the good things of this world,

and without meekly submitting

to the severe stroke of his last enemy, death,

be content to be “perfect as he was:”

nor fancy that your flesh and blood

can inherit the celestial kingdom of God,

when the flesh and blood which Emmanuel himself

assumed from a pure virgin,

could not inherit it without passing under

the cherub’s flaming sword:

 I mean, without going through the gates of death.

Perfection is not yet Complete in Wisdom

Perfect love does not imply perfect knowledge;

but perfect humility,

and perfect readiness to receive instruction.

Remember, therefore,

that if ever ye show  that ye are above being instructed,

even by a fisherman

who teaches according to the Divine anointing,

ye will show that ye are fallen

from a perfection of humility

into a perfection of pride.

Perfection is not Angelic; it is Perfected in Weakness

Uninterrupted transports of praise,

and ceaseless raptures of joy,

do not belong to Christian, but to angelical perfection.

Our feeble frame can bear but a few drops

of that glorious cup.

In general, that new wine is too strong for our old bottles;

that power is too excellent for our earthen, cracked vessels;

but weak as they are, they can bear a fulness of meekness,

of resignation, of humility,

and of that love which is willing to “obey unto death.”

If God indulge you with ecstacies, and extraordinary revelations,

be thankful for them: but

be “not exalted above measure by them;”

take care lest enthusiastic delusions mix themselves with them;

and remember that your Christian perfection

does not so much consist

in “building a tabernacle” upon Mount Tabor,

to rest and enjoy rare sights there.

as in resolutely taking up the cross,

and following Christ to the palace of a proud Caiaphas,

to the judgment hall of an unjust Pilate,

and to the top of an ignominious Calvary.

Perfection is a Call to Suffering

Ye never read in your Bibles,

“Let that glory be upon you which was also upon St. Stephen,

when he looked up steadfastly into heaven,

and said, Behold! I see the heavens opened,

and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

But ye have frequently read there,

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,

who made himself of no reputation,

took upon him the form of a servant,

and being found in fashion as a man,

humbled himself,

and became obedient unto death,

even the death of the cross.”

 See him on that ignominious gibbet!

He hangs; abandoned by his friends,

surrounded by his foes, condemned by the rich,

insulted by the poor! He hangs;

a worm and no man, a very scorn of men,

and the outcast of the people!

 All that see him laugh him to scorn!

They shoot out their lips and shake their heads, saying,

He trusted in God, that he would deliver him;

let him deliver him, if he will have him!”

There is none to help him:

one of his apostles denies, another sells him;

and the rest run away.

“Many oxen are come about him:

fat bulls of Bashan close him on every side;

they gape upon him with their mouths

as it were a raging lion; he is poured out like water;

his heart in the midst of his body is like melting wax;

his strength is dried up like a potsherd;

his tongue cleaveth to his gums;

he is going into the dust of death;

many dogs are come about him;

and the counsel of the wicked layeth siege against him;

his hands and feet are pierced; you may tell all his bones;

they stand staring and looking upon him;

they part his garments among them,

and cast lots for the only remains of his property,

his plain, seamless vesture.

Both suns, the visible and the invisible, seem eclisped.

No cheering beam of created light gilds his gloomy prospect.

No smile of his heavenly Father supports his agonizing soul!

No cordial, unless it be vinegar and gall,

revives his sinking spirits!

He has nothing left except his God.

Perfection is Matured by Loving Others

But his God is enough for him.

In his God he has all things.

And though his soul is seized with sorrow, even unto death,

yet it hangs more firmly upon his God by a naked faith,

than his lacerated body does on the cross by the clenched nails.

The perfection of his love shines in all its Christian glory.

He not only forgives his insulting foes

and bloody persecutors, but,

in the highest point of his passion,

he forgets his own wants,

and thirsts after their eternal happiness.

Together with his blood, he pours out his soul for them;

and, excusing them all, he says,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

O ye adult sons of God,

in this glass behold all with open face

the glory of your Redeemer’s forgiving, praying love;

and, as ye “behold it, be changed

into the same image from glory to glory,

by the loving Spirit of the Lord.” 

Perfection: Humble, Pure, and Honest

“Be therefore clothed with humility,

let it not only fill, but cover you all over.

Let modesty and self diffidence (distrust, doubt)

appear in all your words and actions.

Let all you speak and do show that you are little,

and base, and mean,

and vile in your own eyes.

As one instance of this,

be always ready to own any fault you have been in.

If you have at any time thought,

spoke, or acted wrong,

be not backward to acknowledge it.

Never dream that this will hurt the cause of God:

no, it will farther it.

Be therefore open and frank

when you are taxed with any thing:

let it appear just as it is;

and you will thereby not hinder,

but adorn the Gospel.”

~ John Wesley

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