In article 6 of John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, he shows when he began preaching on Christian Perfection (or at least when he had preached on the subject at an early point). He shares a few extended quotations from his sermon, “The Circumcision of the Heart,” which he preached on January 1, 1733 at St. Mary’s Church, Oxford University.
The scripture reference is to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 2, verse 29, which includes these words: “Circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” (NIV). Paul is discussing the covenant relationship of the Jews to God. The physical sign of that covenant was circumcision. Paul wants his readers to know that the evidence of a person’s belonging to the covenant people of God is not simply the evidence of a physical mark. Rather, the true evidence is the difference that membership in that covenant community makes in one’s life — beliefs, worship, ethics, dispositions, character, use of time and money. In other words, it’s the difference between referring to the letter of the law and getting at the spirit of the law—that intangible part to which the letter of the law is really pointing.
In his sermon, Wesley states:
‘Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment,’ It is not only ‘the first and great’ command, but all the commandments, in one… In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness: the royal law of heaven and earth is this, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’ The one perfect good shall be your one ultimate end. One thing ye desire for its own sake,–the fruition of Him who is all in all.
God is not only the creator of all that is, “seen and unseen” (in the words of the Nicene Creed), but also the ultimate end or purpose of all that is. God is not only all creation’s source and origin, but also it’s goal. Not only where it’s all come from, but also where it’s all headed.
Our lives are shaped by where we’ve come from, where we’re going, and how we approach the journey in between. Wesley points out that we come from God, that we are headed toward God as King and Judge, and that the journey is meant to be one lived by grace, growing in love and complete dedication of one’s life to God. The beautiful thing about this is that the One to whom we are to give our whole lives, gives himself to and for us. The command that sums up all commands–the command to love, is the thing that most imitates God himself.