This doctrine was for John Wesley the central emphasis of the Methodist movement. Indeed, he believed that it was to spread 'scriptural holiness' that God had providentially raised it up. In 1774, he asked, 'If we do not "go on to perfection", how shall we escape lukewarmness, Antinomianism, hell-fire?', and at the very end of his life he told R.C. Brackenbury that the doctrine of full sanctification was 'the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists'. His doctrine, however, was already controversial in his lifetime and has remained so. He argued that it was God's purpose to bring all believers to a state where they no longer sinned, but were 'made perfect in love'. At first he seems to have regarded this as a 'second blessing', given instantaneously. Later he understood that it could be gradually bestowed. He believed, moreover, that the blessing could be lost, so that the believer is as dependent on graceto retain it as to gain it.
Outler identifies the key publications in Wesley's attempt to define his understanding of perfection as two sermons (1741 and 1765) and his Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766). Recognizing that the notion of 'perfection' is open to misunderstanding, Wesley argued that Christian perfection is compatible with 'sinful' tempers not yet recognized, and with sinning through ignorance, and that it does not involve perfect knowledge. His teaching was vilified by Calvinists who held that a saved person remained always and necessarily a sinner - simul justus et peccator. The adequacy of his doctrine of sin as primarily conscious has also been challenged. It is notable that although Wesley encouraged his followers to testify when they had experienced Christian perfection, he never claimed it for himself.
Charles Wesley' MS Journal:
September 26, 1740: 'Was greatly assisted in the evening to preach Christian perfection - that is, utter dominion over sin; constant peace and love, and joy in the Holy Ghost; the full assurance of faith, righteousness, and true holiness.'
September 21, 1746: 'To the bands I explainewd the nature of Christian perfection, another name for Christian salvation.'