The heart of Methodism in 16 lines

If you want a concise summary of Wesleyan theology, read the lyrics to Charles Wesley’s “Let Us Plead for Faith Alone.”

Let us plead for faith alone
Faith which by our works is shown;
God it is Who justifies,
Only faith the grace applies.

Active faith that lives within,
Conquers hell and death and sin,
Hallows whom it first made whole,
Forms the Savior in the soul.

Let us for this faith contend,
Sure salvation is the end;
Heaven already is begun,
Everlasting life is won.

Only let us persevere
Till we see our Lord appear,
Never from the Rock remove,
Saved by faith which works by love.

Every line of this hymn is packed with points of Wesleyan emphasis. You get free grace. You get the faith-works linkage. You get God’s agency and our response. You get the overcoming of sin and the distinction between justification and sanctification. You get the need to work out our salvation and persevere to the end. You get present salvation and eternal life. And you get the overall focus on the saving of our own souls that was the heart of Wesleyan preaching and practice.

I’m not a huge fan of the standard tune that this hymn is set to in our hymnal. I do find the words of this hymn to be a wonderful gift to Methodism and the wider church.

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