I recently read the sermon manuscript by John Wesley on Original Sin. It was very good and I profited much from it. Wesley is not hard to follow like other people of his day. He is very knowledgeable and clear. He has something to say and he says it. He doesn't waste time on needless talk.
As for this sermon Wesley's text was Genesis 6:5, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." This is God's testimony about man. It was said of Jesus when He came and dwelt among us that, He did not entrust Himself to anyone, because He knew what was in man."
In contrast to God's testimony about man, we find in every age man's view of himself is rather different. Natural man views himself as independent, autonomous, as though he was a "little inferior to God Himself (pp.1)."
Regardless, it matters not what man says of himself, only what God says, and what God says is,
- "By one man's disobedience all men were constituted sinners."
- "In Adam all died."
- "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?"
- "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
- "I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
- All are "Dead in trespasses and sins."
- All are "Without hope and without God in the world."
- All are "Children of wrath."
- "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, He saw they were all gone out of the way; they were altogether become abominable, there was none righteous, no, not one."
- "The wickedness of man was great upon the earth."
No Bible will ever agree with natural man's conception of himself. He must be illumined by the Holy Ghost. Natural man must come to understand the truth.
This testimony of God about man is true. There has never been a generation of humanity, since the fall of Adam, that did not utterly sin against God in every possible way. Our wickedness is so great before God, He knows even the imaginations of our hearts. We as fallen people are contrary to God. As Wesley puts it: "Contrary to moral rectitude, contrary to the nature of God, which necessarily includes all good, contrary to the divine will, the eternal standard of good and evil; contrary to the pure, holy image of God, wherein man was originally created, and wherein he stood when God, surveying the works of His hands, saw them all to be very good; contrary to justice, mercy, and truth, and to the essential relations which each man bore to his creator and his fellow creatures (pp.3)." There is no good mingled into fallen man. Notice the testimony of God again, "God saw that the whole imagination of the heart of man was only evil." The account of Scripture continues on the same note (lest one be tempted to think things are better). Notice David's words in the Psalms, "They are all gone out of their way, of truth and holiness, there is none righteous, no, not one." Again Isaiah the prophet spoke in this way, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the the foot even unto the head there is no soundness; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores." Even so to this present day is the condition of every person apart from Jesus Christ. It is important to push this reality yet further. In our sin all of us are without God, we are alienated from His life. When God does open our eyes, we see, that before hand, "we were "atheoi en toi kosmoi" -literally without God, or, rather, Atheists, in the world (pp.4)."
As we have no knowledge of God in our fallen nature, so we can have no love for Him. Wesley puts it like this, "What we love, we delight in: But no man has naturally any delight in God. In our natural state we cannot conceive how any one should delight in Him. We take no pleasure in Him at all; He is utterly tasteless to us. To love God! It is far above our sight. We cannot, naturally, attain unto it (pp.5)." As we have no ability to love God or delight in Him, that leads us into treason. Namely, God is not at the center of our affections. Another way to say this would be, "In His natural state, every man is born into the world a rank idolater (pp.5)." As we exist in our natural condition, we have not the affections for God, which are suitable for the creature to possess, toward the Creator, and in our idolatry we are filled with pride. Pride exists within everyone of us because WE now are centered at the core of our affections! "And although pride was not made for man, yet where is the man that is born without it? But hereby we rob God of His unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp His glory (pp.6)." Scripture goes even further in exposing our true character. Scripture speaks of us as prideful, self-centered, traitors to be sons of Satan himself. Could this be all? Is there anything worse? Yes, it gets worse. "But at the next step we leave Satan behind; we run into an idolatry whereof he is not guilty: I mean love of the world; which is now as natural to every man, as to love his own will. What is more natural to us than to seek happiness in the creature, instead of the Creator?-To seek that satisfaction in the works of His hands, which can be found in God only (pp.6)?"
And so we continue in the reality of our natural state before God. Guilty of more than we can fathom. There is more to be understood yet still. The apostle John, spoke of yet two more terrible things, which are, "The Desire of the eye" and "The pride of life." Concerning the desire of the eye, "the desires of the pleasure of the imagination. These arise either from great or beautiful, or uncommon objects (pp.7)." Nothing satisfies our longing souls for long. Even the most beautiful things in life grow old and loose their ability to please. In reference to the pride of life, it is spoken of mainly, as the desire of praise, of the honour that comes from man.
In summary of this magnificent truth, which is the first part of the gospel, it may be said, all men are empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They are wholly ignorant of the total depravity of the entire nature of man, of everyone borne into the world, in every faculty of his soul reigns the flood of atheism, idolatry, pride, self will, and the love of the world.
What is the hope for us all? What is the rest of the gospel (literally good news "eungeliou")? I will let Wesley put it His way, "What is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ?...God's method of healing a soul which is thus diseased. Hereby the great physician of souls applies medicines to heal this sickness; to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all its faculties. God heals our atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he sent; by giving us faith, a divine evidence and conviction of God, and of the things of God- in particular, of this important truth, Christ loved me- and gave himself for me. By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed; that of self will by resignation, a meek and thankful submission to the will of God; and for the love of the world in all its branches, the love of God is the sovereign remedy. Now this is properly religion, "faith" thus "working by love;" working the genuine meek humility, entire deadness to the world, with a loving, thankful acquiescence in , and conformity to, the whole will and word of God."
"The great end of religion is, to renew our hearts in the image of God, to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parent. Ye know that all religion which does not answer this end, all that stops short of this, the renewal of our soul in the image of God, after the likeness of Him that created it, is no other than a poor farce, and a mere mockery of God, to the destruction of our own soul. O beware of all those teachers of lies, who would palm this upon you for Christianity! Regard them not, although they should come unto you with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness; with all smoothness of language, all decency, yea, beauty and elegance of expression, all professions of earnest good will to you, and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Keep to the plain, old faith, "once delivered to the saints," and delivered by the Spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: Therefore, "ye must be born again," born of God. By nature ye are wholly corrupted. By grace ye shall be wholly renewed. In Adam ye all died: In the second Adam, in Christ, ye all are made alive. "You that were dead in sins hath he quickened:" He hath already given you a principle of life, even faith in him who loved you and gave himself for you! Now, "go on from faith to faith," until your whole sickness be healed; and all that "mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!"
(All quotation taken- from Sermons of John Wesley, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)