Mark K. Olson, “Luther & Wesley on Justification by Faith Alone”

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Abstract: When John Wesley became an evangelical Christian in 1738, his new understanding of justification by faith alone was directly influenced by Martin Luther, passed down to him through the Moravians. This article explores the influence that Luther had on Wesley and his doctrine of justification over the course of his career. It was previously published in the journal Wesley and Methodist Studies 13:2 (June 2021), pp. 130-153.

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Martin Luther’s contribution to John Wesley’s doctrine of justification has never been fully spelled out. This is true even though scholars have repeatedly grounded Wesley’s doctrine on the Magisterial Reformers. Over eight decades ago George Croft Cell argued that in the spring of 1738 Wesley rediscovered the ‘Luther-Calvin idea . . . of a God-given faith in Christ’.[1] More recently Kenneth Collins suggested a link between the two men when he identified Wesley’s doctrine of justification as his ‘Protestant emphasis’.[2] Historians recognize Wesley’s debt to Luther. ‘In several important ways’, noted Mark Noll, ‘the Wesleys were the most effective proponents of the Reformation’s basic message in the two centuries since the Reformation began with the work of Martin Luther’.[3] However, even with these accolades Luther’s contribution remains general and undefined.

Wesley’s access to Luther’s teachings has been usually credited to the Moravians. Martin Schmidt considered Peter Böhler and Christian David, both Moravian ministers, as the two primary points of contact between Wesley and Luther. Schmidt explained ‘it was Böhler who gave [Wesley] the decisive and final impulse’ to embrace the Lutheran-Pietist view of justification and it was ‘David who confirmed the insight for him’.[4] Henry Rack, likewise, observed it was Böhler who directed Wesley to preach on faith, justification, and new birth three months before his Aldersgate conversion.[5] But even here Luther’s input remains imprecise and second hand, with the Moravians taking the lead. The purpose of this paper is to determine more precisely Luther’s contribution to Wesley’s understanding of justification over the course of his career.

Wesley’s References to Luther

The place to begin is to locate the references to Luther in the Wesley corpus. For this study thirty-four direct and indirect references were identified that cover a period of five decades.[6] Besides these references, two short biographies of Luther written by others appear in the Christian Library (1749-55) and the Arminian Magazine (1778). One of the challenges to assessing Wesley’s appropriation of Luther’s teachings is the limited content in many references, with little more than a notation in several cases. Even so, when the references are placed chronologically a pattern emerges, and this pattern offers important insights into Luther’s contribution to Wesley’s doctrine of justification.

The first reference is indirect and comes from Wesley’s manuscript Journal for January 1738. He recorded that during his time at Oxford he read Lutheran and Calvinist authors who ‘magnified faith to such an amazing size that it quite hid all the rest of the commandments’.[7] Given Luther’s stature on the subject, we can safely assume his views would have been included or at least mentioned by the authors Wesley read. The explanation given for this magnification was their reaction to ‘popery’. Given the political and religious tensions between Protestants and Roman Catholics since the Reformation in the sixteenth century, and the Anglican commitment to a middle path (via media) between Rome and Wittenberg (and Geneva), there is little surprise in Wesley’s remarks.As a high churchman in the Church of England who valued the via media, Wesley’s early views on justification mirrored the mainstream position of the Established Church in the eighteenth century: justification was initially granted in the sacrament of baptism (usually to infants) for the remission of inherited guilt due to original sin and later formally declared at the last judgment.[8] So, there were two moments of justification in mainstream Anglican theology: initial and final.[9] This viewpoint is often referred to as double justification and it played a significant role in Wesley’s understanding of justification throughout his life. Essential to this doctrine was the belief that faith and works serve as conditions, not as merit, in the believer’s justification.[10] This was deduced from the writings of Paul and James, which together emphasize faith and works as conditions in the believer’s justification.[11] Regarding works as a condition to final justification Jeffrey Chamberlain explained the Anglican position, ‘Since justification is not completed until it is determined that a person has met the conditions of faith and works, it could be said that sanctification preceded justification. That is, a person has to be made holy before his justification is complete and final.’[12] Therefore, the mainstream Anglican order of salvation was initial justification (baptism)—sanctification—final justification—glory. This order helps to explain Wesley’s early antipathy towards the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone, which denied an active role for works in the believer’s justification.

However, in early 1738 a fundamental change took place in Wesley’s understanding of justification.[13] From the Moravians he learned that justification signified an assurance of pardon and acceptance by God through faith in Christ.[14] This is what he testified to receiving on 24 May 1738:

Quote – ‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’[15]

This is the first direct reference to Luther in the Wesley corpus. And, as we will see, the memorandum in which this passage is found reveals much about Wesley’s appropriation of Luther’s teachings at the time. Wesley’s strong admiration for Luther was expressed three weeks later when he praised the Reformer for having been a ‘glorious champion of the Lord of Hosts’ by spearheading the rediscovery of the grand scriptural truth of justification by faith alone.[16]

After this Wesley’s opinion of Luther began to cool. The next reference is found in a diary notation for 21 February 1739, that simply says, ‘read Martin Luther’.[17] What Wesley read is not stated, but several weeks later he criticized the Reformer for classifying James as an ‘epistle of straw’, which he attributed to the ‘fury’ of Luther’s ‘Solifidianism’.[18] This would prove only a prelude to his criticisms of the Reformer. During the next year Wesley’s relationship with the Moravians soured due to sharp differences over issues of faith and the means of grace in relation to justification and the new birth. After their separation Wesley’s attitude toward Luther became more negative. In June 1741 he read Luther’s Commentary on Galatians and accused the Reformer of being ‘deeply tinctured’ with German mysticism and the thought of John Tauler (more later on Tauler).[19] He criticized Luther for ranting against reason as an ‘irreconcilable enemy to the Gospel of Christ’, and for aligning God’s law with ‘sin, death, hell, or the devil’. Wesley countered, ‘How blasphemously does he speak of good works and of the law of God . . . And teaching that Christ “delivers us from them” all alike’.[20] For a high churchman like Wesley, the Reformer’s negative remarks on God’s law rubbed against his Anglican sensibilities that valued good works as necessary for personal holiness and final justification. Wesley, therefore, concluded that Luther was the real source behind the Moravian errors of quietism and antinomianism. As he put it, ‘They follow Luther, for better, for worse.’

After this Wesley’s opinion of Luther remained respectful, yet measured, and at times openly critical. He referred to Luther as a great man, one truly called by God, who stood up for his convictions and taught the truth about salvation assurance.[21] Yet, in keeping with the latitudinarian spirit of the times, Wesley criticized the Reformer for being overly tenacious in his opinions and too intolerant toward those who disagreed with him.[22] Still, in 1749 Wesley felt the need to translate from German John Herrnschmidt’s The Life of Martin Luther, which was later published in the first edition of the Arminian Magazine (1778).[23] During this period Wesley’s sentiments toward Luther were summarized in a letter to Elizabeth Hutton, ‘I love Calvin a little, Luther more; the Moravians, Mr. Law and Mr. Whitefield far more than either…But I love truth more than all.’[24]

In his later years Wesley repeatedly quoted Luther’s statement that a revival lasts for only a generation to point out the superiority of the revival under his leadership.[25] He was quick to note that even Luther considered the revival of the sixteenth century as falling short, since most Lutherans reformed in opinion and liturgy but not in temper and life.[26] By contrast, Wesley claimed the present revival was one of ‘real religion’, even ‘the love of God and man ruling all their tempers, and words, and actions.’ This revival, claimed Wesley, had begun as a ‘grain of mustard seed’ in 1729 when Oxford Methodism began and had grown over the ensuing fifty years to the point of putting forth ‘great branches’, and would eventually ‘renew the whole race of mankind in righteousness and true holiness’.[27] Finally, it was in context of explaining Methodism’s unique calling by God that Wesley set down his settled thoughts on Luther and his contribution to authentic Christian experience:

Quote – It has been frequently observed that very few were clear in their judgment both with regard to justification and sanctification. Many who have spoken and written admirably well concerning justification had no clear conception, nay, were totally ignorant, of the doctrine of sanctification. Who has wrote more ably than Martin Luther on justification by faith alone? And who was more ignorant of the doctrine of sanctification, or more confused in his conceptions of it? In order to be thoroughly convinced of this, of his total ignorance with regard to sanctification, there needs no more than to read over, without prejudice, his celebrated comment on the Epistle to the Galatians.[28]

Even in later life Wesley recognized his debt to Luther for his doctrine of justification; yet he considered the Reformer’s theology lopsided in relation to the total work of God. In the same way, Wesley apprized the devotional writers of the Catholic tradition for writing ‘strongly and scripturally on sanctification’, but nevertheless ‘entirely unacquainted with the nature of justification’. In between (via media) stood the Methodists who have a ‘full and clear knowledge of each, and the wide difference between them’.[29]

To summarize, the references show that Luther’s influence was strongest in the late 1730s when Wesley was forming his evangelical doctrine of justification, swung the opposite direction in the early 1740s when he parted paths with the Moravians, and then moderated over the decades. This same pattern was suggested when in 1773 Wesley commented on the Protestant aphorism of justification by faith alone as the article upon which the church stands or falls (articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae).[30] He answered, ‘In the beginning of the year 1738, I believed it was so. Soon after I found reason to doubt. Since that time I have not varied . . . It is certainly the pillar and ground of that faith of which alone cometh salvation’.[31] Given that Wesley believed the aphorism originated with Luther, his statement indicates agreement with the Reformer in the late 1730s, disagreement in the early 1740s, and a more nuanced position thereafter.[32] The next step to ascertaining Luther’s contribution is to examine the streams or paths by which his teachings were passed down to Wesley.

Streams of Influence

From the above survey, three streams can be detected by which Luther’s influence touched Wesley directly and indirectly. The most well-known stream was German Pietism. Rooted in the Lutheran tradition, this stream included several leaders and groups in contact with Wesley: Augustus Hermannus Francke of Halle, his followers the Salzburgers,[33] and more importantly the Unitas Fratum, better known as the Moravians. In 1732 Wesley and the Oxford Methodists began to read the writings of Francke on pietist devotion and ministry to the poor, and it was during his voyage to America in the autumn of 1735 that Wesley was introduced to the Moravians. Although Wesley was exposed to Pietist beliefs on salvation before he met the Moravians, it was members of the Unitas Fratum that mentored him on justification as a conversion experience.[34] The Moravians introduced Wesley to other pietist works, including Johann Arndt’s True Christianity and Philip Spener’s Pia Desideria. Several of Arndt’s motifs resonated with Wesley, like humanity’s creation in the imago Dei (image of God), subsequent fall into sin, and need for spiritual rebirth.[35] Even more importantly, in the Desideria Spener quoted at length Luther’s Preface to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (hereafter, Preface to Romans) on the transforming power of faith in Christ, which Wesley readin April 1738. Reginald Ward informs us that by the eighteenth-century Luther’s Preface to Romans had become the ‘classical text for evangelical conversion’.[36] As we saw above, this text was instrumental to Wesley’s evangelical conversion at Aldersgate.

A second stream was Luther’s writings. Little was recorded by Wesley of the writings he read of Luther. From a memorandum written in early 1738 we know he was exposed to Lutheran concepts of justification while at Oxford and he listened to the reading of the Reformer’s Preface to Romans at Aldersgate (and possibly read it at the time).[37] Based on Wesley’s notation that Luther considered James an ‘epistle of straw’, he perhaps knew the Reformer’s Preface to the New Testament, from which the quote originates. In 1741 he read with a critical eye Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. From the other piece-meal quotations of Luther spread throughout his writings, we can gather that Wesley knew other sayings and teachings.[38] In some cases these quotations came from secondary sources, like Samuel Clarke’s Marrow of Ecclesiastical Historie (1650) and John Herrnschmid’s Life of Martin Luther.[39] From the available evidence it appears that Wesley read few of Luther’s writings. This has led scholars to conclude he did not grasp key aspects of the Reformer’s theology.[40] Since Wesley’s reading of Lutherled to mostly critical opinions of the Reformer and his theology, we can conclude that this stream did not contribute much of substance to Wesley’s doctrine of justification.

Besides German Pietism and Luther’s writings, a third stream was German mysticism. From his childhood Wesley was exposed to the Christian mystic tradition and at Oxford he began reading German mysticism.[41] We saw above that in 1741 Wesley criticised Luther for being tinged with the thought of John Tauler, a popular writer in the German mystic tradition.  Tauler was a favorite of Luther’s, along with the Theologia Germanica, whom Luther incorrectly thought wrote the Theologia. Luther published two editions of the Theologia (1516, 1518) with the endorsement that next to the Bible and St. Augustine no book had taught him more about God.[42] In total there were seventeen editions of the Theologia released during the Reformer’s lifetime. Wesley was introduced to the Theologia by William Law in July 1732 and over the next several years read it with great interest. Soon after arriving in America in 1736 he read the Life of John Tauler, probably recommended by his Moravian friends. But Tauler and the Theologia soon fell out of favor with Wesley. In a letter to his brother Samuel in November 1736, Wesley acknowledged that the mystics, like Tauler and the Theologia, had almost shipwrecked his faith with their teachings on union with God at the expense of good works and the means of grace. Similar complaints would be made against the Moravians during the ‘Stillness Controversy’ of 1740. Wesley charged them with advocating mystical quietism by instructing seekers to be ‘still’, which meant to abstain from using the means of grace until one received justifying faith.[43] The fact that Wesley would accuse Luther of being tainted with German mysticism reflects the degree to which this stream swayed his opinion of the Reformer and his theology.

Finally, there was one stream not mentioned by Wesley that proved influential on the development of his evangelical doctrine of justification: the English Reformation. Alister McGrath noted that Luther exerted a definite influence on early Reformers in the English Church, and it was these Reformers that contributed to Wesley’s evangelical understanding of justification in the late 1730s.[44] Luther’s ideas were eagerly discussed at the White Horse tavern at Cambridge in the 1520s and Anglican scholars acknowledge that Lutheran views on justification informed the doctrinal standards of the Church of England, notably the Book of Homilies and Articles of Religion.[45] Though Paul Avis says that Luther’s impact has been exaggerated at times, he argued for Lutheran influence on the liturgical and doctrinal life of the English church in the sixteenth century, including the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer.[46] Lutheran influence is evident in Article XI on justification:

Quote – ‘We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deserving: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily on Justification.’[47]

This Article and its exposition in the Book of Homilies by Thomas Cranmer left a definite mark on Wesley’s doctrine of justification.[48] In late 1738 Wesley published an extract of three sermons from the Book of Homilies, titled The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works.[49] Then, a year later he reissued the writings of Robert Barnes on justification.[50] Both Barnes and Cranmer were personally influenced by Luther on the doctrine of justification. As we will see, these two extracts offer important insights into the nature and extent of Wesley’s appropriation of Luther’s teachings in the late 1730s.

These four streams represent the paths by which Luther had a direct and indirect influence on Wesley. Yet, of the four German Pietism and the English Reformation contributed constructively to Wesley’s evangelical doctrine of justification. It is notable that both streams reflect second-hand influence. Even so, Wesley’s appropriation of Luther was far greater than what he probably realized at the time.

Luther’s Contribution

To determine Luther’s influence, we first need to sketch the salient points of the Reformer’s teachings on justification. Luther grounded his doctrine of justification on the twin truths of our absolute need for grace due to our sinful condition and the Pauline antithesis of faith and works.[51] Described in a forensic sense as ‘alien righteousness’,[52] justification signified both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the forgiveness of sin, grounded on Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law and penal sufferings and death (later known as Christ’s active and passive righteousness).[53] Imputation was understood by Luther to involve a ‘glorious exchange’, in which the groom (Christ) and the bride (the Christian) share everything in common: Christ assumes the believer’s sin and guilt and the believer is clothed with Christ’s righteousness and innocence.[54] Lutheran scholar John Trinklein observed that Luther understood ‘alien righteousness’ to constitute the believer’s standing before God in an absolute sense, with no degrees or shades of grey.[55]  In contrast to Catholicism, which taught that justification involves being made righteous, Luther asserted that believers are declared righteous by their faith in Christ.[56] Any attempt to rely on one’s goodness to merit righteousness before God was seen in Pauline terms as seeking salvation by ‘works of the law’.[57] Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone became a fundamental tenet of Protestantism in its opposition to Catholicism.

Besides defining justification in a forensic sense, Luther understood it to include the beginning of new creation through union with Christ in the life of the Christian.[58] That is, justifying faith generates a new existence in which believers spontaneously do good works, triumph over the power of sin (‘Through faith a person becomes free from sin’[59]), and enjoy assurance of salvation; yet remain throughout life simul justus et peccator—simultaneously righteous and sinner.[60] It was this view of justifying faith that Luther stressed in his Preface to Romans.[61] Since faith in Christ alone justifies before God, unbelief was seen by Luther as the ‘root and source of all sin’.[62] With his dialectic of law and gospel, Luther understood the law’s primary function to be accusatory (conviction of sin and divine condemnation) and therefore preparatory for faith in Christ. However, he did stress the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament scriptures as important for Christian growth and maturity. Many Lutheran scholars conclude that Luther implicitly affirmed the three uses of the law.[63]

Turning to Wesley’s evangelical documents in the spring of 1738 we see Luther’s imprint in several areas. In the Aldersgate Memorandum, written two weeks after his evangelical conversion, Wesley followed Luther’s lead by grounding justification on our absolute need for grace and the Pauline antithesis of faith and works.[64] He described his pre-conversion state as seeking salvation by works. That is, ‘ignorant of the righteousness of Christ’ Wesley sought to ‘establish [his] own righteousness’.[65] Placing himself as under the accusatory function of the law, Wesley cried out in despair:

Quote – I was now properly ‘under the law’; I knew that ‘the law’ of God was ‘spiritual’…Yet was I ‘carnal, sold under sin’ . . . I was indeed fighting continually, but not conquering. Before, I had willingly served sin: now it was unwillingly, but still I served it.[66]

Feeling chained to this ‘vile, abject state of bondage to sin’,[67] Wesley learned from Luther through Peter Böhler that his fundamental problem was unbelief and the ‘one thing needful’ was a ‘true, living faith’ in Christ, even a ‘full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for me . . . as my sole justification, sanctification, and redemption’.[68] Then, on 24 May Wesley received the felt assurance of forgiveness and victory over sin that his spirit longed for. Appealing to John 1:29 and Romans 8:2, Wesley testified that Christ had ‘taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death’.[69] What has received little attention from scholars was the degree to which Wesley’s language and motifs in the Aldersgate Memorandum expressed Luther’s viewpoint in the Preface to Romans.[70]

Similar themes are found in Wesley’s evangelical manifesto Salvation by Faith, first preached three weeks after his Aldersgate conversion. To begin with, the accusatory function of the law was stressed. Quoting Romans 3:20, Wesley inserted the word ‘only’ in the text to make it clear that ‘“by the law is only the knowledge of sin.”’[71] Next, justification was defined as by grace through faith in the merits of Christ’s ‘life, death, and resurrection’.[72] In his death Christ took away the ‘curse of the law’ and ‘blotted out’ our guilt under the law so that there is ‘no condemnation’ for those who believe in Christ.[73] Nevertheless, the accent fell on the non-imputation of sin. Wesley spoke of ‘remission of the sins that are past’ but did not mention the imputation of Christ’s obedience to the believer.[74] Third, possibly even more revealing was Wesley’s statement that justification in the ‘largest sense’ includes the new birth and ‘deliverance from the whole body of sin’.[75] Here, he echoed Luther’s broader definition of justification to include the work of new creation. To summarize, in Wesley’s earliest evangelical documents several key motifs of Luther’s doctrine of justification are clearly stated, thus showing how far he had appropriated the Reformer’s teachings at the time.

Later that year, Wesley moved beyond the themes found in the Aldersgate Memorandum and Salvation by Faith to endorse a forensic view of justification. Following the lead of the English Reformers, Wesley claimed in The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works, that everyone is a sinner by transgressing God’s law, and therefore were ‘constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification’.[76] He followed this up by stating, ‘God sent his only Son into the world to fulfil the law for us’, and by the merits of his death to ‘make satisfaction to the Father for our sins’.[77] Just as Luther taught, Wesley affirmed justification to be due ‘not only to God’s mercy and grace, but his justice also’.[78] He then added:

Quote – ‘Christ is now the righteousness of all them that truly believe in him. He for them paid their ransom by his death. He for them fulfilled the law in his life; so that now in him and by him every Christian may be called a fulfiller of the law, forasmuch as that which their infirmity lacked Christ’s righteousness has supplied.’[79]

In these passages Wesley clearly restated Luther’s doctrine of ‘alien righteousness’, including the imputation of Christ’s active and passive righteousness. The imputation of Christ’s active and passive righteousnes was inferred in other writings as well. In March 1739 Wesley mentioned Christ’s ‘righteousness and blood’ as the ‘cause of our salvation’ in a letter to James Hervey and repeated the same phrase in his Journal for August and September.[80] In October Wesley reissued Robert Barnes treatise on justification that espoused a Lutheran view of justification by imputation. Barnes taught, ‘Wherefore, we say with blessed St. Paul, that faith only justifieth by imputation; that is, all the merits and goodness, grace and favour, and all that is in Christ to our salvation, is imputed and reckoned unto us, because we hang and believe on him’.[81] Three years later Wesley advocated the same position in The Principles of a Methodist:

Quote – ‘Christ therefore is now the righteousness of all them that truly believe in him. “He for them paid the ransom by his death. He for them fulfilled the law in his life”. So that now in him, and by him, every believer may be called a fulfiller of the law’.[82]

These examples show that from 1738 to 1741 Wesley fully adopted Luther’s concept of alien righteousness, including the imputation of Christ’s active and passive righteousness.

Another motif of Luther’s found in Wesley’s early evangelical writingswas the idea of faith spontaneously generating good works. This idea was inherent in Luther’s teachings on justification as new creation. In his Preface to Romans Luther defined faith as a ‘living, daring confidence in God’s grace’ through which the Spirit ‘incessantly’ does good works.[83] In fact, Luther went so far as to assert that faith ‘does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them’.[84]  In like manner Wesley wrote, ‘True faith cannot be hid, but will break out and show itself by good works’.[85]  Appealing to horticultural images, faith was said to naturally bring forth ‘all good motions and good works’.[86] But Wesley’s views would change by 1740. The idea of faith spontaneously generating good works in an almost effortless manner became one of the underlying issues that divided Wesley and the Moravians during the ‘Stillness Controversy’. The idea was inherent in the Moravian understanding of full assurance (i.e. no doubts) as the required evidence for genuine conversion.[87] Wesley responded by arguing for degrees of faith, which meant that good works do not always spontaneously generate in the Christian. Instead, he argued for the practice of spiritual disciplines to produce a holy life.[88]

To summarize, even though Luther’s influence came to Wesley second hand, first through the Moravians and then by the English Reformers, his earliest evangelical writings demonstrate that he absorbed much of Luther’s teachings on justification. It is fair to say that Wesley essentially adopted a Lutheran view of justification in 1738. Nevertheless, important differences remained. Notably, Luther’s belief that believers remain simul justus et peccator finds little support in Wesley. Rather, in keeping with his high church Anglican heritage Wesley taught a robust view of the Christian life that includes a definite break with sin.[89] This belief became even stronger as his doctrine of Christian perfection as a post-justification blessing took shape in the years 1739 to 1741.[90]

Luther’s Lasting Legacy with Wesley

Following his fallout with the Moravians in 1740 and critical assessment of Luther in 1741, Wesley gravitated back to his roots in the Anglican post-Restoration era and toward a moderate Reformed view of justification. Consequently, Luther’s influence on Wesley waned over the years. Central to this trajectory was Wesley’s commitment to personal holiness and his deep concern with antinomianism among the Moravians and Calvinists, due in part to their teachings on Christ’s imputed righteousness.

In December 1744 Wesley finished part one of his Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion. Whereas for a period following his evangelical conversion he possibly denied double justification, he now reaffirmed it openly.[91] Justification was defined according to standard Anglican theology of the period: ‘present forgiveness, pardon of sins, and consequently acceptance with God’.[92] Preceded by repentance (if there is time and opportunity) and evidenced by good works, Wesley affirmed faith as the sole condition.[93] No explicit mention was made to imputation.  Instead, Christ’s righteousness was explained as the meritorious cause of justification and salvation (more on meritorious cause below).[94] In all these points Wesley restated accepted Anglican theology in the eighteenth century. Where he parted paths with many Anglican divines was by linking justification to evangelical conversion with its emphasis on the experience of new birth and salvation assurance.[95]

Four months later, Wesley published a lengthy abridgment of Richard Baxter’s Aphorisms of Justification, which he read and discussed at several Methodist conferences. Baxter presented a moderate Reformed view of justification that resonated with Wesley’s Arminianism. The Aphorisms was highly valued by Wesley and contributed to several of his writings, including the two dialogues ‘between an antinomian and a friend’ in 1745,[96] the sermon on justification the following year,[97] and the infamous 1770 Conference Minutes, which Calvinists found so objectionable.[98] Following Baxter, Wesley reversed his prior position on Christ’s active righteousness and asserted that Christ’s righteousness was imputed only in a passive sense for the pardon of sin. Forgiveness alone was sufficient to entitle one to eternal life since Christ’s sufferings fully satisfied God’s law.[99] Hence, there was no need for an imputation of Christ’s active righteousness. In agreement with Baxter, Wesley argued that to insist salvation was ‘performed by Christ and not by ourselves’ was nothing less than a ‘monstrous piece of antinomian doctrine’.[100] He moreover agreed with Baxter on double justification, which we saw was standard in the high church Anglican tradition. While present justification was by faith alone, final justification was by faith andworks as the scriptures taught in passages like Matthew 25:21-35.[101] So, by the mid-1740s an evangelical Anglican/moderate Reformed view of justification had replaced the Luther/Moravian position at several key points in Wesley’s doctrine of justification.

During this same period Wesley moved away from Luther’s broader definition of justification that included new creation. We saw above that in June 1738 Wesley included the new birth within his broader definition of justification. This same perspective was restated in July 1739 when he told the Anglican divine Henry Stebbing that from justifying faith springs forth the new birth and fruits of the Spirit.[102] Though at the time a line was drawn between justification and sanctification (and new birth), the overall impression was that justification in a broader, experiential sense includes not only forgiveness and acceptance, but also new existence and new life.[103] By 1746 that line became sharper and more definite. In the sermon Justification by Faith, Wesley stated explicitly thatthough both justification and sanctification are given in the same instant, they are distinct gifts and of a ‘totally different nature’.[104] The first pertains to a believer’s standing; the second to their existence. The first ‘implies what God does for us through the Son’; the second to ‘what he works in us by his Spirit’. In ‘rare instances’, Wesley acknowledged, do biblical writers speak of justification in ‘so wide a sense’ to include sanctification and new birth, but the two are ‘sufficiently distinguished’ as not to be confused or merged.[105] The demarcation between new creation (new birth and sanctification) and justification now clearly defined Wesley’s gospel message.[106]

Wesley continued to be reticent in his use of imputation language when speaking of justification; and when he did so, he narrowed its meaning to the non-imputation of sin. This is seen in his interactions with James Hervey and his supporters over a nine-year period (1756-1765) that culminated in a landmark sermon on the subject in 1765. Hervey had been a member of the Oxford Methodists and in 1755 published an extended work in which he argued vigorously for the Calvinist view of justification and the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness.[107] Hervey shared some of the material with Wesley prior to its publication and Wesley responded with suggestions. But seeing his remarks ignored in the published edition, Wesley wrote a lengthy letter spelling out his disagreements with Hervey.[108] Pointing out that the phrase ‘the imputed righteousness of Christ’ is not scriptural, Wesley asserted that belief in it is not necessary for salvation.[109]  To the contrary, Christ’s passive righteousness is sufficient since it ‘procured the pardon and acceptance of believers’ before God.[110] To Hervey’s notion that justification is ‘complete the first moment we believe’, Wesley countered there are ‘as many degrees in the favour as in the image of God’, thus leaving room for his doctrine of double justification.[111]

The landmark sermon The Lord Our Righteousness represented Wesley’s settled position on imputation. Though he was addressing his Calvinist opponents, the sermon reflects where he agreed and disagreed with Luther as well. Wesley began by distinguishing between Christ’s divine and human righteousness to clarify it was his human righteousness that is imputed to believers. He now affirmed the imputation of Christ’s active and passive righteousness since both represented his obedience to the Father for humanity’s redemption. But he parted paths with Luther and Reformed when he limited imputation to the remission of sin:

Quote – ‘But in what sense is this righteousness imputed to believers?’ In this: all believers are forgiven and accepted, not for the sake of anything in them, or of anything that ever was, that is, or even can be done by them, but wholly and solely for the sake of what Christ hath done and suffered for them.[112]

From Wesley’s perspective, Christ’s active and passive righteousness serve together as the meritorious cause of justification. By this he meant that Christ paid the ransom, satisfied God’s justice, and therefore deserves all credit for the believer’s pardon and acceptance with God.[113] The believer offers no righteousness of their own. Instead, they ‘cast away all confidence in [their] own righteousness’ and trust solely in ‘what Christ has done and suffered’ for their salvation.[114] This explanation of imputation allowed Wesley to maintain his Arminian convictions while proclaiming the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone.

This, however, was a far cry from how imputation was understood by most Calvinists and by Luther himself. Imputation, according to standard Reformation theology, was the formal cause of justification. Christopher Allison explained formal cause to be ‘that which made it to be what it is, as heat makes a thing hot’.[115] Luther explained it this way, ‘Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours’ so that the believer has ‘the same righteousness as he’.[116] As we saw above, Luther used the marriage analogy to explain the ‘glorious exchange’: Christ assumes the believer’s sin and clothes them with his perfect righteousness. For Luther, then, Christ’s imputed righteousness provides the Christian with more than forgiveness and acceptance, it gives the believer a legal standing of perfect righteousness before God, thus entitling them to eternal life based on merit; meaning, Christ’s merit reckoned to their account.

The antinomian implications of the formal cause interpretation were anathema to Wesley for two main reasons. First, it rubbed against his Arminian convictions that affirmed the conditionality of salvation. Second, it undercut his high church Anglicanism which stressed personal holiness as necessary for final justification. In Wesley’s theology of double justification, a person ‘works for as well as from life’.[117] Just as good works follow present justification when a person believes in Christ, they prepare for final justification at the judgment seat of Christ.[118] In The Lord Our Righteousness Wesley reaffirmed inherent righteousness as well as imputed righteousness. That is, ‘God implants righteousness in everyone to whom he has imputed it’.[119] He acknowledged that he seldom spoke of imputed righteousness because so many drew antinomian conclusions from it.[120] On a practical level, the formal cause teaching nullified the necessity for personal holiness in relation to salvation. Wesley’s feelings on the matter were so strong that when he prepared his collected Works for publication in the early 1770s he removed all references to the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness from his early tracts The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Work and The Principles of a Methodist.[121]

Nevertheless, Wesley still recognized his debt to Luther. In The Lord Our Righteousness he reaffirmed Luther’s core tenet, justification by faith alone, as the articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae, or that ‘catholic or universal faith which is found in all the children of God’ and is necessary for eternal salvation.[122] Though in keeping with his evangelical convictions Wesley reinterpreted it to apply not to the visible church, but to the invisible body of true believers spread throughout the denominations and national churches of Christendom—the ecclesiola in ecclesia.[123]  He reiterated that no one can merit salvation before God. For Christ alone satisfied God’s justice and purchased salvation through what he had done and suffered.[124] His righteousness is the ‘whole and sole foundation of all our hope’.[125] Therefore, there is no room for boasting before God.[126] For every believer has ‘cast away all confidence in [their] own righteousness’ and by faith alone are ‘forgiven and accepted merely for the sake of what Christ has done and suffered’.[127] True saving faith, Wesley stressed, always has the ‘righteousness of Christ for its object’, even if some use different expressions or hold different opinions on the matter.[128] Lastly, Wesley claimed this was what he had taught since 1738, the year when he adopted an evangelical Protestant view of justification. These points specify the lasting contribution Luther made to Wesley’s doctrine of justification.[129]

These contributions were in substance reaffirmed twenty-two years later in the sermon On God’s Vineyard (quoted at length earlier). In it Wesley expounded on Methodism’s vocation to proclaim the grand scriptural truths of salvation by faith and ‘“without holiness no man could see the Lord”’.[130] Wesley opined that ‘very few’ in the Christian world have a good grasp of both justification and sanctification.[131] Luther had written ‘more ably’ than anyone on justification, yet failed to understand sanctification; whereas several in the Catholic tradition have written ‘strongly and scripturally’ on sanctification, but were ‘entirely unacquainted with the nature of justification’.[132] Wesley goes on to say that the Methodists proclaim both truths without one taking precedence over the other. With ‘equal zeal’ they teach the ‘doctrine of free, full, present justification’ and biblical truth of ‘entire sanctification’.[133] Though Wesley did not go into specifics explaining where he agreed or disagreed with Luther, his remarks about justification being free, full, and available to all in this present life summarized the contribution Luther had made to the universal church and to the Methodists regarding the ‘nature of justification’.


In the end, Luther’s contribution to Wesley’s doctrine of justification was significant but limited. It was strongest in the late 1730s when Wesley was forming his evangelical understanding of justification but waned in influence after Wesley separated from the Moravians in 1740. Yet Wesley never forgot the debt he owed to the Reformer. Part of the reason for the decline was that Luther’s influence mostly came to Wesley second-hand; first through German Pietism and then through the English Reformation. The only writing of Luther’s to influence Wesley’s theology constructively was his Preface to Romans, which played a significant role in his evangelical conversion at Aldersgate. At the time, Wesley adopted several teachings and motifs from Luther: free grace, the accusatory function of the law, unbelief as the root of sin, the Pauline antithesis of faith and works, saving faith as trust in Christ’s righteousness (‘alien righteousness’), justification includes both forgiveness and new creation (new birth and power over sin), and the spontaneous generation of good works by living faith. The last two points led Wesley to connect justification to evangelical conversion and the experience of salvation assurance. The one teaching Wesley did not adopt of the Reformer was that Christians remain both righteous and sinful throughout life (simul justus et peccator). This cut against his Anglican heritage on holy living and his belief in Christian perfection.

Following his critical assessment of Luther in 1741, Wesley gravitated toward a moderate Reformed view of justification that agreed with his Arminian convictions. This involved moving away from some aspects of Luther’s teachings on imputed righteousness and new creation. Troubled by the antinomian tendencies among the Moravians and Calvinists, Wesley advocated that Christ’s death was sufficient for justification before God. Critical to this change was his acceptance of a mainstream Anglican definition of justification as forgiveness and acceptance, which in Protestant theology was connected to Christ’s death and not to his obedience to God’s law. Consequently, the imputation of Christ’s obedience was not needed for justification before God. To claim otherwise led to antinomianism and this undercut the necessity of personal holiness for final justification. The doctrine of double justification, inherited from his Anglican heritage, was reasserted by Wesley in the mid-1740s and remained an essential feature of his doctrine of justification. At the time, Wesley sharply demarcated between justification and the new birth (and sanctification). Though both blessings are received in the same instant, they are distinct gifts and serve different purposes. The former is what God ‘does for us’ through the Son, the latter is what he ‘works in us’ by the Spirit.[134]

In the 1760s Wesley settled the issue of imputation. He once again acknowledged his debt to Luther for his core conviction that justification is by faith alone in the merits of Christ’s righteousness. Thus, he never let go of the conviction that gospel justification is grounded on free grace. But Wesley dismissed the forensic viewpoint of Luther (and the Calvinists) that accented the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness. Even so, Wesley continued to teach the Spirit’s witness as a perceptible assurance of acceptance, which was an echo of Luther’s teachings found in the Preface to Romans. To his death Wesley recognized the debt the universal church owed to Luther for his rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but he carved a different path than the Reformer with his doctrine of full sanctification in the life of the Christian.

[1] George Croft Cell, The Rediscovery of John Wesley (Lanham: University Press of America, 1935), 71. There have been a number of studies that compare aspects of Wesley’s theology to Luther’s: Kiyeong Chang, The Theologies of the Law in Martin Luther and John Wesley (Lexington: Emeth Press, 2014); Justo Gonzalez, John Wesley and the Protestant Reformation (Nashville: Foundery Books, 2019);Franz Hildebrandt, From Luther to Wesley (Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1951); William P. McDonald, ‘A Luther Wesley Could Appreciate? Toward Convergence on Sanctification’, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology 20.1 (2011): 43-63; Tore Meistad, Martin Luther and John Wesley on the Sermon on the Mount (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 1999).

[2] Kenneth J. Collins, John Wesley: A Theological Journey (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 160-4, 169.

[3] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997, 2000), 223.

[4] Martin Schmidt, John Wesley: A Theological Biography, 3 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962, 1972, 1973), 1:305.

[5] Henry D. Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism, 3rd edn (London: Epworth Press, 2002), 138, 145.

[6] The breakdown is as follows: 1730s 5, 1740s 7, 1750s 5, 1760s 4, 1770s 6, 1780s 7.

[7] W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater, eds. Journals and Diaries, in The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley, 34 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984-Present), 18:213 (Hereafter, Works).

[8] On Wesley’s early views of justification, see Mark K. Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate: Interpreting Conversion Narratives (London: Routledge, 2019), 51-4.

[9] For the mainstream Anglican view, see Jeffrey S. Chamberlain, ‘Moralism, Justification, and the Controversy over Methodism’, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 44-4 (October 1993), 671-2. For background on the Anglican view of justification, see C. FitzSimons Allison, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter (Wilton: Morehouse Barlow, 1966).

[10] George Bull, Harmonia Apostolica (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1842, [orig. London, 1670]), 28-40; Richard Lucas, Religious Perfection: Or a Third Part of the Enquiry After Happiness, 5th edn (London: Innys and Manby, 1735), 33-4;John Tillotson, Fifteen Sermons on Various Subjects, 2nd edn, Corrected (London, 1704), 274. See Alister McGrathIustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 3rd edn(Cambridge University Press, 2005), 281.

[11] Romans 3:21-5:1; James 2:14-26.

[12] Chamberlain, ‘Moralism, Justification, and the Controversy over Methodism’, 671.

[13] Journal, 6 March 1738 (Works, 18:228)

[14] Journal, 6 March, 28 April, 14 & 24 May 1738 (Works, 18:228, 235, 239-40, 245-6, 248-9).

[15] Journal, 24 May 1738 (Works, 18:249-50).

[16] Salvation by Faith III.9 (Works, 1:129). In the sermon justification and salvation are treated as synonymous.

[17] Journal, 21 February 1739 (Works, 19:377).

[18] Journal, April 4, 1739 (Works, 19:47).

[19] Journal, June 15, 1741 (Works, 19:201).

[20] Journal, June 15, 1741 (Works, 19:200-1).

[21] Journal, July 19, 1749 (Works, 20:285); Letter to Richard Tompson, February 5, 1756 (Works, 27:7); 1747 Conference Minutes, §7 (Works, 10:190).

[22] A Further Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion (1745) Pt. III, IV.6 (Works, 318-19).

[23] Journal, July 19, 1749 (Works, 20:285). Jerry Walls suggests Wesley translated the Life for the Christian Library but later decided not include it (“John Wesley’s Critique of Martin Luther,” Methodist History (October 1981), 31,

[24] Letter, August 22, 1744 (Works, 26:113).

[25] Letter, February 12, 1779, in John Telford, ed. The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley, 6 vols. (London: Epworth Press, 1935), 6:339-40; ‘The General Spread of the Gospel’ §16 (1783, Works, 2:492); ‘On Family Religion’ §3 (1783, Works 3:335). Cf. 1768 Conference Minutes Q.23 (§9) (Works, 10:364).

[26] ‘The Wisdom of God’s Counsel’ §10 (1784, Works, 2:556); ‘Of Former Times’ §14 (1787, Works, 3:449).

[27] ‘Of Former Times’ §§22-23 (Works, 3:452-3).

[28] ‘On God’s Vineyard’ I.5 (Works, 3:505).

[29] ‘On God’s Vineyard’ I.5 (Works, 3:506).

[30] Some Remarks on Mr. Hill’s ‘Farrago Double-Distilled’ VII, in Thomas Jackson, ed. The Works of John Wesley, 3rd edn (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 10:432 (Hereafter, Works, Jackson). See also Journal, December 1, 1767 (Works, 22:114). For Luther’s support for the article, see ‘The Smalcald Articles’ II, in Timothy F. Lull and William R. Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 3rd edn (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 343.

[31] Some Remarks…Mr. Hill VII (Works, Jackson, 10:432).

[32] The Lord Our Righteousness §4 (Works, 1:450).

[33] On Wesley’s interactions with the Salzburgers in America, see Geordan Hammond, John Wesley in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[34] For example, Wesley was exposed to pietist views on the new birth and salvation in Francke’s work Nicodemus: or, a Treatise against the Fear of Man a full two years before his contact with the Moravians.

[35] These motifs are evident in Wesley’s edition of Arndt’s work. See Christian Library, vol. 1 (Bristol: Felix Farley, 1749-50).

[36] W. R. Ward, Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, 1670-1789 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 43.

[37] Luther’s Preface was probably read in German that night. See Dean Drayton, ‘Wesley at Aldersgate and the Discovery of a German New Testament’, Aldersgate Papers vol. 9 (September 2011), 67-91.

[38] Albert Outler attributed Luther’s remark on the length of a revival to his work Fastenpostillen (1525) (Works, 2:492 n47). So, Wesley possibly knew this work.

[39] See editorial footnotes to Salvation by Faith III.9 (Works, 1:129 n120); ‘The Repentance of Believers’ I.9 (Works, 1:340 n45); ‘The Wisdom of God’s Counsel’s’ §10 (Works, 2:557 n38).

[40] Jerry Walls pointed out that in Wesley’s critique of the Galatian commentary he misunderstood Luther’s mysticism, use of reason, and views on sanctification (‘John Wesley’s Critique of Martin Luther’, 29-41). More recently, John Trinklein noted several areas in which Wesley did not grasp Luther’s theology. See his ‘Holiness Unto Whom? John Wesley’s Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in Light of The Two Kinds of Righteousness’, PhD Diss. (Concordia University, 2016).

[41] On Wesley’s involvement with Christian mysticism, see Robert G. Tuttle, Mysticism in the Wesleyan Tradition (Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press, 1989).

[42] Martin Luther, Theologia Germanica, trans. Susanna Winkworth (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007), 9-10.

[43] Second Journal ‘Preface’ (Works, 18:220); Journal,31 December 1739 (Works, 132-3). The specific means of grace listed by Wesley included attending church, the private reading of scripture, private prayer, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

[44] McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 258.

[45] Mark Chapman, Anglican Theology (New York: T&T Clark, 2012), 33, 66, 71; J. R. H. Moorman, A History of the Church in England, 3rd edn (Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1980), 163; Michael S. Whiting, Luther in English: The Influence of His Theology of Law and Gospel on Early English Evangelicals, 1525-35 (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2010), 161-337.

[46] Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 28.

[47] Article XI, Book of Common Prayer, 1662 Version (London: Everyman’s Library, 1999), 555.

[48] Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Part I, II.3-7 (Works, 11:110-15); A Short History of Methodism §10 (Works, 9:369); The Lord Our Righteousness II.6 (Works, 1:456); On God’s Vineyard I.4 (Works, 3:505).

[49] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works (Oxford, 1738). See Works, 12:32-43.

[50] Two Treatises. The first, On Justification by Faith only…The second, On the Sinfulness of Man’s natural Will…the Learned and Judicious Dr. Barnes (London: John Lewis, 1739). See White, Luther in English, 309-37.

[51] Jaroslav Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma: 1300-1700 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 145-6.

[52] Luther, ‘Two Kinds of Righteousness’, in Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther: Basic Theological Writings, 119.

[53] Luther implicitly understood imputation to include both Christ’s active and passive righteousness. See ‘Heidelberg Disputation’ §25, ‘Two Kinds of Righteousness’, ‘Lectures on Galatians’ (1535), and ‘The Freedom of the Christian: Threefold Power of Faith’ in Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 24, 87, 120, 409-11; Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma, 150; Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1966), 227-8, 234. Distinguishing between Christ’s active and passive righteousness would become a formal feature of later Lutheran and Reformed theology.

[54] Luther, The Freedom of the Christian, in Lull and Russell, ed. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 409; Trinklein, ‘Holiness Unto Whom?’, 178.

[55] John Trinklein, ‘Holiness Unto Whom?’, 167.

[56] Althaus, Theology of Martin Luther, 230.

[57] Romans 3:20, 28; 4:1-4; Galatians 2:16, 3:1-14.

[58] The Finnish school has highlighted this aspect of the Reformer’s doctrine. See Tuomo MannermaaChrist Present in Faith: Luther’s View of Justification (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005); Kirsi Stjerna, ‘Finnish Interpretation of Luther,’ in Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Tradition, gen. ed. Timothy J. Wengert (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017). Other scholars have noted this aspect of Luther’s theology. See, Althaus, Theology of Martin Luther, 226, 234; Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 262; Trinklein, ‘Holiness Unto Whom?’, 178.

[59] Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 79.

[60] Althaus, Theology of Martin Luther, 235, 242; Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology, 262-3, 265.

[61] Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 79. On justification signifying a new existence in Luther’s doctrine of justification, see Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology, 262-3.

[62] Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 78.

[63] Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology, 271, 275. Luther explicitly affirmed two uses for the law and suggested a third. Lutheran scholars recognize that his writings influenced the development of the law’s third use in Protestant theology. See Hans Wiersma, ‘Law, Uses of the’, in Timothy J. Wengert, gen. ed. Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 411-13.

[64] The Aldersgate Memorandum represents the eighteen numbered paragraphs in the Journal entry for 24 May 1738 (Works, 18:242-51). Wesley wrote the Memorandum immediately following his evangelical conversion (Works, 18:242 n30). See Mark K. Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate: Interpreting Conversion Narratives (Oxon: Routledge, 2019), 36-7.

[65] Aldersgate Memorandum §9 (Works, 18:246).

[66] Aldersgate Memorandum §§9-10 (Works, 18:246-7).

[67] Aldersgate Memorandum §10 (Works, 18:247).

[68] Aldersgate Memorandum §§11, 12 (Works, 18:247, 248-9, emphasis his).

[69] Aldersgate Memorandum §14 (Works, 18:250, emphasis his). Wesley repeatedly appealed to John 1:29 to refer to justification as an assurance of forgiveness and acceptance before God. On this point, see Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate, 48-50.

[70] In the Preface Luther discussed all the major motifs that Wesley included in the Aldersgate Memorandum, including law, sin, righteousness, faith, the gift of the Spirit, assurance and freedom from sin (Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 76-85).

[71] Salvation by Faith II.3 (Works, 1:122, emphasis mine). Wesley later expressed a threefold use of the law, as did Calvin and Melanchthon (‘The Original, Nature, Properties, and Use of the Law’, Works, 2:1-19).

[72] Salvation by Faith I.5, II.3 (Works, 1:121, 122).

[73] Salvation by Faith II.3 (Works, 1:122).

[74] Salvation by Faith II.3 (Works, 1:122).

[75] Salvation by Faith II.7, (1738 edition, Works, 1:124 n. 64).

[76] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works I.1 (Works, 12:32).

[77] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works I:1 (Works, 12:32).

[78] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works I.5 (Works, 12:34).

[79] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works I.7 (Works, 12:34-5, emphasis his).

[80] Letter to James Hervey, March 20, 1739 (Works, 25:610); Journal, 27 August, 13 September 1739 (Works, 19:89, 96).

[81] Robert Barnes, On Justification by Faith only, according to the Doctrine of the Eleventh Article of the Church of England, in W. M. Engels, ed. Writings of Tindal, Frith, and Barnes, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Education, 1842), 124.

[82] The Principles of a Methodist §5 (Works, 9:51). The quotations are from the Book of Homilies, ‘Sermon of the Salvation of Mankind,’ Pt. 1.

[83] Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 79.

[84] Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 79.

[85] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works, II.5 (Works, 12:40).

[86] The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works, II.6 (Works, 12:41).

[87] Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate, 77-78. Mark K. Olson, ‘The Stillness Controversy of 1740: Tradition Shaping Scripture Reading’, Wesleyan Theological Journal 46-1 (2011), 126-33.

[88] Olson, ‘The Stillness Controversy of 1740’, 126-33.

[89] Salvation by Faith II.6 (Works, 1:124).

[90] For chronological developments in Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection, see Mark K. Olson John Wesley’s Theology of Christian Perfection: Developments in Doctrine & Theological System (Fenwick: Truth in Heart, 2007), 81-176.

[91] A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Pt. I, I.1 (Works, 11:105). In his journal entry for 13 December 1739, Wesley explicitly denied double justification (Works, 19:128), though in 1773 he reframed his remarks. See Wesley, Some Remarks on Mr. Hill’s ‘Farrago Double-Distilled’ IV (Works, 13:507).

[92] A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Pt. I, I.2 (Works, 11:106). On Anglican terminology of justification, see Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate, 51.

[93] A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Pt. I, I.2 (Works, 11:105-6).

[94] A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Pt. I, I.6 (Works, 11:108).

[95] A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Pt. I, I.4-5 (Works, 11:107). See Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate, 53-4.

[96] For the two dialogues, see Works, Jackson,10:266-83.

[97] ‘Justification by Faith’ (Works, 1:181-199).

[98] As did Wesley in the Conference Minutes, Baxter advocated that believers work for life as well as from life. Cf. An Extract of Mr Richard Baxter’s Aphorisms of Justification XLV (for Wesley’s extract, see Works, 12:86) and the 1770 Conference Minutes (Works,10:392-4).

[99] Extract of Baxter’s Aphorisms IV.8 (Works, 12:57-8).

[100] Extract of Baxter’s Aphorisms XVII (Works, 12:69).

[101] Extract of Baxter’s Aphorisms XLV (Works, 12:85). Matthew 25:21-35 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 are cited in the extract to show that works are included in our final justification.

[102] Journal, 31 July 1739 (Works, 19:85).

[103] Journal, 13 September 1739 (Works, 19:96-7).

[104] Justification by Faith II.1 (Works, 1:189).

[105] Justification by Faith II.1 (Works, 1:189).

[106] For example, in The Scripture Way of Salvation (1765) Wesley referred to justification and sanctification as the ‘general parts’ of our salvation (Works, 2:157). This demarcation served an important purpose in Wesley’s later soteriology. In 1788 Wesley used the language of justification to describe the ‘faith of a servant’ and the language of new birth to describe the ‘faith of a son’. See On Faith I.10-12 (Works, 3:497-8). On this point, see Olson, Wesley and Aldersgate, 108-9, 111.

[107] James Hervey, Theron and Aspasio: or, a Series of Dialogues and Letters, Upon the Most Interesting and Important Subjects, 2 vols. (Dublin: Robert Main, 1755).

[108] ‘Letter to James Hervey’ (Works 13:321-44).

[109] ‘Letter to James Hervey’ (Works, 13:324).

[110] ‘Letter to James Hervey’ (Works,13:324, 328, 330).

[111] ‘Letter to James Hervey’ (Works, 13:326).

[112] The Lord Our Righteousness II.5 (Works, 1:455).

[113] The Lord Our Righteousness II.6, 8 (Works, 456, 457).

[114] The Lord Our Righteousness II.11, 13 (Works, 1:458, 459).

[115] C. FitzSimons Allison, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter (Wilton: Morehouse Barlow, 1966), 3.

[116] Luther, ‘Two Kinds of Righteousness’, in Lull and Russell, eds. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 120.

[117] Wesley, 1770 Conference Minutes (Works, 10:392, 908, emphasis his).

[118] See Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 2:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

[119] The Lord Our Righteousness II.12 (Works, 1:458, emphasis his). Christ’s righteousness as imputed and imparted is again reaffirmed in Wesley’s 1790 sermon On the Wedding Garment (Works, 4:139).

[120] The Lord Our Righteousness II.20 (Works, 1:462).

[121] See editorial remarks in The Doctrine of Salvation, Faith, and Good Works, I.3, 5, 7 (Works, 12:33 n3, 34 n6, 35 n11) and The Principles of a Methodist §5 (Works, 9:51 n19).

[122] The Lord Our Righteousness §4 (Works, 1:450-1, emphasis his).

[123] The phrase means ‘little churches within the church’ and was used by the Moravian Pietists. Wesley referenced the visible and invisible church in the sermon On Spiritual Worship (Works 3:94).

[124] The Lord Our Righteousness II.6 (Works, 1:456).

[125] The Lord Our Righteousness II.13 (Works, 1:459).

[126] The Lord Our Righteousness II.5 (Works, 1:455).

[127] The Lord Our Righteousness II.10, 11 (Works, 1:458).

[128] The Lord Our Righteousness II.1-3 (Works, 1:454).

[129] The Lord Our Righteousness II.6 (Works, 1:456).

[130] On God’s Vineyard I.5, II.1 (Works, 3:505, 508).

[131] On God’s Vineyard I.5 (Works, 3:505).

[132] On God’s Vineyard I.5 (Works, 3:505-6).

[133] On God’s Vineyard I.8 (Works, 3:507).

[134] Justification by Faith II.1 (Works, 1:187).

[This article was taken with permission from Mark K. Olson’s website where the original version can be found.]