Wesley noted a transition in article 5 of his A Plain Account of Christian Perfection from reading the bible to studying it “as the one, only standard of truth” in 1729. And he saw its teaching “in a clearer and clearer light.” So, what did he see?
Hence I saw, in a clearer and clearer light, the indispensable necessity of having “the mind which was in Christ,” and of “walking as Christ also walked;” even of having, not some part only, but all the mind which was in Him; and of walking as He walked, not only in many or in most respects, but in all things.
Salvation is by grace through faith. It is God’s doing, received by us as a gift. And, in Paul’s words, “we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Our works don’t save us, but saved people do good works. Why? Because grace is transformative. God’s grace is not only powerful enough to justify us before God, but also to sanctify us in and for God.
Wesley saw in the Gospels and in the rest of the New Testament that the full project of God’s salvation is not only saving us from the consequences of things we’ve done, though that’s a part of it. The full project is heart surgery (and we would add the mind and the will too!) in which we are transformed by God’s grace and power into Christlikeness.
As Wesley saw in that “clearer and clearer light,” God’s aim is to transform us not just a little bit, but all the way. God’s grace is not limited to forgiveness only, but works in us for “an entire inward and outward conformity to our Master.”
Sound extreme? Well, it is. Submission to and participation in the grace of God is not easy for us. But it’s not our project, it’s God’s from start to finish. And the testimony of the saints, the most mature Christians of all, is that this work of grace is worth it.