John Wesley’s conviction that the Methodist movement existed primarily to proclaim the doctrine of Christian perfection (or entire sanctification) is well-known. Here is Wesley in his own words:
“This doctrine (full sanctification) is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly He appeared to have raised us up.”
For Wesley, the recovery of this good news is the distinctive contribution of the Methodists; to lose it would be to lose our identity. Tragically, we seem to have done just that. This quote from George MacDonald gets straight to the heart of the matter when it comes to why we must recover and hold on to the message of holiness:
“The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while yet those sins remained: that would be to cast out of the window the medicine of cure while yet the man lay sick; to go dead against the very laws of being. Yet men, loving their sins, and feeling nothing of their dread hatefulness, have, consistent with their low condition, constantly taken this word concerning the Lord [Matt.1:21] to mean that He came to save them from the punishment of their sins. This idea – this miserable fancy, rather – has terribly corrupted the preaching of the gospel. The message of the good news has not truly been delivered” (Life Essential, 15).
For MacDonald, to suggest that Christ came to save us from the consequences of our sin, namely hell, without also declaring the hope that Christ came to free us from a life marred by perpetual sin is nothing less than a corruption of the gospel. Again, MacDonald, “this is what He came to deliver us from – not the things we have done, but the possibility of doing such things any more” (16). I can only imagine that Wesley would agree and encourage the present day people called Methodists to preach a gospel that is whole and uncorrupted.