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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

The Circumcision of The Heart - John Wesley (Condensed Sermon)

Updated: Jan 15

This is part of a series of some of John Wesley's greatest sermons in condensed, detailed outline format.

The Circumcision of the Heart - Detailed Outline

John Wesley's Text for the sermon:

"Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." Romans 2:29.


These days, whoever preaches the most essential duties of Christianity, runs the risk of people thinking he is, "a setter forth of new doctrines." Most men have so lived away the substance of that religion, the profession whereof they still retain, that no sooner are any of those truths proposed which difference the Spirit of Christ from the spirit of the world, than they cry out, "Thou bringest strange things to our ears…”

This "circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit…" “…is not either outward circumcision, or baptism, or any other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit renewed after the image of Him that created it; -- is one of those important truths that can only be spiritually discerned.”

I. What is the circumcision of the heart?

A. It is defined as “the habitual disposition of soul which, in the sacred writings, is termed holiness; and which directly implies,”

1. Being cleansed from sin, "from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit;"

2. Being endued with those virtues which were also in Christ Jesus;

3. Being so "renewed in the spirit of our mind," as to be "perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect."

B. It is built on humility.

1. the humility to understand we can never achieve it in ourselves.

2. disregard of that "honor which cometh of man,"

3. lowliness of mind… learned of Christ, to follow his example and tread in his steps.

C. It is accomplished by “faith which alone is able to make them whole…” Which means…

1. “an unshaken assent to all that God hath revealed in Scripture”

2. “The revelation of Christ in our hearts; a divine evidence or conviction of his love…a sure confidence in his pardoning mercy,

D. It is accompanied by the “the testimony of their own spirit with the Spirit …they are the children of God.”

E. It is evidenced by these character and virtues:

1. Self discipline “to inure himself to endure hardship.”

2. Renouncing “the works of darkness, but every appetite… not subject to the law of God.”

3. Daily purification of “the inmost recesses of his soul from the lusts that before possessed and defiled it;”

4. Love. “…add love [of God], and thou hast the circumcision of the heart“ and “This implies that we love our brother also.” This means:

a) “One design you are to pursue to the end of time, -- the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things, so far as they tend to this. Love the creature as it leads to the Creator.”

b) That we "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” That we cease “seeking happiness in what gratifies either the desire of the flesh, by agreeably striking upon the outward senses; the desire of the eye, of the imagination, by its novelty, greatness, or beauty; or the pride of life, whether by pomp, grandeur, power, or, the usual consequence of them, applause and admiration;”

II. How can we know if a person has experienced the circumcision of the heart?

A. Is his heart circumcised by humility? “Does he continually feels in his inmost soul, that without the Spirit of God resting upon him, he can neither think, nor desire, nor speak, nor act anything good, or well-pleasing in his sight”?

B. Is his heart circumcised by faith? ”…he lives and walks by faith; directs every step, as "seeking Him that is invisible;"

C. Is he believing the same Gospel? “Our gospel, as it knows no other foundation of good works than faith, or of faith than Christ, so it clearly informs us, we are not his disciples while we either deny him to be the Author, or his Spirit to be the Inspirer an Perfecter, both of our faith and works… This is God's short and plain account of true religion and virtue; and "other foundation can no man lay."

D. Does the Holy "Spirit bear witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God;"? Does he have a “joyful assurance that they fulfil the terms, and shall obtain the promises, of that covenant”?

E. Is he willing to continue in a “constant and continued course of general self-denial” until "sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and body”?

F. Is his heart “circumcised by love,” “…engaging the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, in the ardent pursuit of that one object”?

Conclusion of the sermon:

This is “the sum of the perfect law; this is the true circumcision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of its affections… Other sacrifices from us he would not; but the living sacrifice of the heart he hath chosen. Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love.”


For an overview of the life and influence of John Wesley, check out that link.

To learn more about John Wesley's most famous sermons, click this link.

For my own 40 day curriculum of the Doctrine of John Wesley's circumcision of the heart in modern language, check out The Pursuing Holiness study at

It includes a 130 page workbook, and 40 daily videos to teach the meaning of holiness in the Scriptures, and how we can pursue it.

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