Though primarily indicating the belief that the justified believer is no longer bound by the moral law, the term can also imply, as in the controversy of 1739-41, an indifference to the due use of the means of grace. John Wesley vigorously and consistently opposed this view, while the antinomians and some Calvinists accused him of teaching 'works righteousness'. The paradoxical Wesleyan response to this charge is expressed in Charles Wesley's couplet: 'Joyful from my own works to cease,/Glad to fulfil all righteousness'. These issues were dealt with especially in the Conferences of 1744, 1745 and 1770. In 1745 Wesley admitted that 'the truth of the Gospel lies within a hair's breadth' of Calvinism and Antinomianism; but in 1770 he emphasized the importance of 'works meet for repentance'. His positive insistence on the pursuit of holiness as the goal of the Christian life was reinforced by his fear of antinomianism.

See also: Cudworth, William; Hall, Westley; Wheatley, James

  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol. 4, 'Documents and Source Material' (1988) pp. 166-7
  • W.S. Gunter, The Limits of Love Divine (Nashville, 1989)
  • R.P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Nashville, 1995) pp.240-1
  • Peter Lineham, 'The Antinomian Methodists' [Cudworth and Wheatley], in Malcolm Chase and Ian Dyck (eds.), Living and Learning (Aldershot, 1996), pp.35-51