Is not Christ the first and the last?

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John Wesley, writing to William Law:

London, May 14, 1738.

Reverend Sir,

It is in obedience to what I think to be the call of God that I, who have the sentence of death in my own soul, take upon me to write to you, of whom I have often desired to learn the first elements of the gospel of Christ. . . .

For two years I have been preaching after the model of your two practical treatises, and all that heard have allowed that the law is great, wonderful, and holy.  But no sooner did they attempt to fulfill it but they found that it is too high for man, and that by doing “the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified.”

To remedy this, I exhorted them, and stirred up myself, to pray earnestly for the grace of God, and to use all the other means of obtaining that grace which the all-wise God hath appointed.  But still, both they and I were more and more convinced that this is a law by which a man cannot live; the law in our members continually warring against it, and bringing us into deeper captivity to the law of sin.

Under this heavy yoke I might have groaned till death, had not an holy man [Peter Boehler] to whom God lately directed me, upon my complaining thereof, answered at once: “Believe, and thou shalt be saved.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all thy heart, and nothing shall be impossible to thee.  This faith, indeed, as well as the salvation it brings, is the free gift of God.  But seek, and thou shalt find.  Strip thyself naked of thy own works and thy own righteousness, and fly to Him.  For whosoever cometh unto Him, He will in no wise cast out.”

Now, sir, suffer me to ask: How will you answer it to our common Lord that you never gave me this advice?  Did you never read the answer of Paul to him who said, “What must I do to be saved”?  Or are you wiser than he?  Why did I scarce ever hear you name the name of Christ — never, so as to ground anything upon “faith in His blood”?  If you say you advised other things as preparatory to this, what is this but laying a foundation below the foundation?  Is not Christ, then, the first as well as the last?  If you say you advised them because you knew that I had faith already, verily you knew nothing of me; you discerned not my spirit at all.  I know that I had not faith, unless the faith of a devil, the faith of Judas, that speculative, notional, airy shadow, which lives in the head, not in the heart.  But what is this to the living, justifying faith in the blood of Jesus, the faith that cleanseth from sin, that gives us to have free access to the Father, to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,”  to have “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” which dwelleth in us, and “the Spirit itself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God”? . . .

Once more, sir, let me beg you to consider whether your extreme roughness and morose and sour behavior, at least on many occasions, can possibly be the fruit of a living faith in Christ.  If not, may the God of peace and love fill up what is yet wanting in you!

I am, reverend sir,

Your humble servant,

John Wesley

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