John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 11th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon linked below, or jump right in with us!


Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The Witness of Our Own Spirit” is the eleventh sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and is related to the previous sermon, “The Witness of the Spirit, I.” In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Witness of Our Own Spirit.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.

Key quote: 

To conclude. Christian joy is joy in obedience – joy in loving God and keeping his commandments. And yet not in keeping them as if we were thereby to fulfil the terms of the covenant of works; as if by any works of righteousness of ours we were to procure pardon and acceptance with God. Not so: we are already pardoned and accepted through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus – not as if we were by our own obedience to procure life, life from the death of sin. This also we have already through the grace of God. ‘Us hath he quickened, who were dead in sin.’ And now we are ‘alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord’. But we rejoice in walking according to the covenant of grace, in holy love and happy obedience. We rejoice in knowing that ‘being justified through his grace’, we have ‘not received that grace of God in vain’; that God having freely (not for the sake of our willing or running, but through the blood of the Lamb) reconciled us to himself, we run in the strength which he hath given us the way of his commandments. He hath ‘girded us with strength unto the war’, and we gladly ‘fight the good fight of faith’. We rejoice, through him who liveth in our hearts by faith, to ‘lay hold of eternal life’. This is our rejoicing; that as our ‘Father worketh hitherto’, so (not by our own might or wisdom, but through the power of his Spirit freely given in Christ Jesus) we also work the works of God. And may he work in us whatsoever is well-pleasing in his sight, to whom be the praise for ever and ever! [20]

One sentence summary:  

The Christian’s joy comes from that happy peace, calm satisfaction of spirit, which arises from the testimony of his own conscience that he is a child of God.

Scripture passage for the sermon:

“This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” – 2 Corinthians 1:12 (KJV)

Concise outline of “The Witness of Our Own Spirit”

1. Such is the voice of every true believer in Christ, so long as they abide in faith and love.
2. What is the nature and ground of a Christian’s joy?
3. What are we to understand by conscience?
4. By ‘man is a conscious being’ is meant people have inward perception of things present and past relating to themselves, their own tempers, and outward behavior.
5. According to St. Paul, conscience is a faculty or power of perceiving right or wrong in individual’s hearts and lives.
6. What is the rule by which people judge right or wrong? The Word of God – this alone.
7. To have a good conscience toward God we must have a right understanding of the Word of God and a true knowledge of ourselves. Then, an argument of our heart and lives with the Word of God. Finally, an inward perception of this agreement with our rule.
8. A good conscience must be built on the right foundation – faith in Jesus Christ. Heart and life produce good fruit – i.e., conformity to the rule of God’s commandments.
9. This includes every notion of our heart, tongue, hands, and bodily members.
10. This world is thoroughly impregnated by the evil spirit it continually breathes.
11. We need simplicity – singly fixed on God, aimed at God alone.
12. And sincerity – simplicity is the intention sincerity is the execution of it.
13. Difference between Godly sincerity and the sincerity of the heathens.
14. This does not come through any power of our own that we naturally possess.
15. It comes through the power of the Holy Ghost which works in us to will and do his good pleasure.
16. This is the ground of the Christian’s joy.
17. This is not a natural joy.
18. The joy of a Christian does not arise from blindness of conscience, from not being able to discern good from evil.
19. The joy of a Christian does not arise from any dullness or callousness of conscience.
20. Christian joy is joy in obedience – in loving God and keeping his commandments.


Read “The Witness of Our Own Spirit” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first ten Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.