I was in Kansas City attending seminary and taking a doctrine class, and thought I would try to write an article on the following topic — sin.
Part of my assignment has been to read quite a few of the sermons of John Wesley.
What makes the reading a little slow is the 18th century style of vocabulary. Nevertheless, Wesley gets his points across, and in the process causes one to reflect inwardly.
Wesley starts by saying that “by one man’s (Adam) disobedience all men were constituted sinners,” and that “in Adam all died,” that is, spiritually died.
Later, God noticed “only Noah found favor with God.” Noah and his family were the only ones on Earth who were worth saving before God sent a great flood.
Children’s Sunday school songs tell about all the animals that were collected and saved.
Here is Wesley’s assessment of how humankind was “before God brought the flood upon the earth.”
”For God, who saw the whole imagination of the thoughts of his heart to be only evil, saw likewise that it was always the same,” that it ‘”was only evil continually’”—every year, every day, every hour, every moment.
He never deviated into good.
So how are things now, Wesley asked in 1759?
There is a lot of evil, there is folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness, people “without God”, or rather, “atheists in the world.”
They had no religion at all, no love of God and no fear of God. The pride that humankind had for themselves was a form of idolatry.
Because of that pride, an attitude of self-will instead of God’s will existed. There is also the “desire of the eye,” “the desire of the pleasures of the imagination,” to purchase “grand or beautiful objects.” But, when the novelty of them wears out, the pleasure is over.
And finally “the love of the world, which is so deeply rooted in our nature,” lies in the pride of life, the desire of praise, of the honor that cometh of men.
Here is the secret surprise that Wesley let’s us all in on:
Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually?”
“Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an heathen still.”
Lately, we as health consumers are encouraged get involved with our own health care.
Wesley is encouraging us to take an active role in our spiritual care, too. Wesley looks at sin as a disease, a disease of the heart or soul, one might say.
Wesley encourages his listeners to, “Keep to the plain, old faith, once delivered to the saints, and delivered by the Spirit of God to your hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure!”