John Wesley on “Sincerity”

TUESDAY, May 13th, 1746.

THE following persons being met at the New-Room, in Bristol: John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Hodges, Jonathan Reeves, Thomas Maxfield, Thomas Westell, and Thomas Willis; it was inquired, —

Q. 12. What is sincerity?

A. Willingness to know and do the whole will of God. The lowest species thereof seems to be “faithfulness in that which is little.”

Q. 13. Has God any regard to man’s sincerity?

A. So far, that no man in any state can possibly please God without it; neither, indeed, in any moment wherein he is not sincere.

Q. 14. But can it be conceived that God has any regard to the sincerity of an unbeliever?

A. Yes, so much, that, if he persevere therein, God will infallibly give him faith.

Q. 15. What regard may we conceive him to have to the sincerity of a believer?

A. So much, that in every sincere believer he fulfills all the great and precious promises.

Q. 16. Whom do you term a sincere believer?

A. One that walks in the light, as God is in the light.

Q. 17. Is sincerity the same with a single eye?

A. Not altogether. The latter refers to our intention; the former, to our will or desires.

Q. 18. Is it not all in all?

A. All will follow persevering sincerity. God gives every thing with it; nothing without it.

Q. 19. Are not then sincerity and faith equivalent terms?

A. By no means. It is at least as nearly related to works as it is to faith. For example, Who is sincere before he believes? He that then does all he can; he that, according to the power he has received, brings forth “fruits meet for repentance.” Who is sincere after he believes? He that, from a sense of God’s love, is zealous of all good works.

Q. 20. Is not sincerity what St. Paul terms a willing mind? (2 Corinthans 8:12.)

A. Yes: If that word be taken in a general sense. For it is a constant disposition to use all the grace given.

Q. 21. But do we not then set sincerity on a level with faith?

A No. For we allow a man may be sincere, and not be justified, as he may be penitent, and not be justified; (not as yet;) but he cannot have faith, and not be justified. The very moment he believes, he is justified.

Q. 22. But do we not give up faith, and put sincerity in its place, as the condition of our acceptance with God?

A. We believe it is one condition of our acceptance, as repentance likewise is. And we believe it a condition of our continuing in a state of acceptance. Yet we do not put it in the place of faith. It is by faith the merits of Christ are applied to my soul. But if I am not sincere, they are not applied.

Q. 23. Is not this that “going about to establish your own righteousness,” whereof St. Paul speaks, Romans 10:3?

A. St. Paul there manifestly speaks of unbelievers, who sought to be accepted for the sake of their own righteousness. We do not seek to be accepted for the sake of our sincerity; but through the merits of Christ alone. Indeed, so long as any man believes, he cannot go about (in St. Paul’s sense) to “establish his own righteousness.”

-The Works of John Wesley – Volume 8, p. 329