Arminian Today

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John Wesley on Original Sin

John Wesley leaves no doubt that he holds to original sin as his Calvinist brethren did.  He states the following about those who would reject the doctrine.

1. I proceed to draw a few inferences from what has been said. And, First, from hence we may learn one grand fundamental difference between Christianity, considered as a system of doctrines, and the most refined Heathenism. Many of the ancient Heathens have largely described the vices of particular men. They have spoken much against their covetousness, or cruelty; their luxury, or prodigality. Some have dared to say that “no man is born without vices of one kind or another.” But still as none of them were apprized of the fall of man, so none of them knew of his total corruption. They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The other declares that all men are conceived in sin,” and “shapen in wickedness;” — that hence there is in every man a “carnal mind, which is enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to” his “law;” and which so infects the whole soul, that “there dwelleth in” him, “in his flesh,” in his natural state, “no good thing;” but “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil,” only evil, and that “continually.”

2. Hence we may, Secondly, learn, that all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are put Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, “We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation.” But here is the shibboleth: 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 only evil continually” Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still.

3. We may learn from hence, in the Third place, what is the proper nature of religion, of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is qerapeia yuchs, 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 all our Atheism by the knowledge of Himself, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath 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.

4. Indeed, if man were not thus fallen, there would be no need of all this. There would be no occasion for this work in the heart, this renewal in the spirit of our mind. The superfluity of godliness would then be a more proper expression than the “superfluity of naughtiness.” For an outside religion, without any godliness at all, would suffice to all rational intents and purposes. It does, accordingly, suffice, in the judgment of those who deny this corruption of our nature. They make very little more of religion than the famous Mr. Hobbes did of reason. According to him, reason is only “a well-ordered train of words:” According to them, religion is only a well-ordered train of words and actions. And they speak consistently with themselves; for if the inside be not full of wickedness, if this be clean already, what remains, but to “cleanse the outside of the cup” Outward reformation, if their supposition be just, is indeed the one thing needful.

5. But ye have not so learned the oracles of God. Ye know, that He who seeth what is in man gives a far different account both of nature and grace, of our fall and our recovery. Ye know that 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!”

There are those today who would deny that we are born with a sinful nature.  They teach that we are born sinless, that we do not inherit anything from Adam through the Fall (Genesis 3:1-7; Romans 5:12) but instead we are born into a sinful world that leads us to sin.  I hold that we are born with a sinful nature that we inherit from our father Adam.  Many hold that we are born with both a sinful nature and guilty of Adam’s sin.  They believe this because they believe that Romans 5:12-19 teaches that we are not just born with original sin but with original guilt.  I believe in original sin but deny original guilt.  A person goes to hell because of their sin and they sin because they desire to sin and commit sins against a holy God (1 John 3:4).  None will be in hell because of someone else’s sin but their own (Romans 1:18-32).  However, from the fall of Adam we do inherit original sin, the desire to be a sinner.  If we deny original sin, we must deny the substitutionary work of Christ who died in our place (Galatians 1:4).  If Adam is not our representative, how can Jesus be (Isaiah 53:4-11)?

Adam sinned so all die in him (1 Corinthians 15:22) because he was the head (1 Corinthians 11:3).  The explanation for the universality of death cannot be explained apart from Adam’s sin.  Why do babies die?  Why do the handicapped die?  They die because of Adam’s sin and he passed down his original sin to us all.  John Wesley went on to teach about how Adam’s sin has been imputed to all mankind.  Wesley said we all die because:

  1. Our bodies became mortal in Adam.
  2. Our souls died; that is, were disunited from God.  And hence,
  3. We are all born with a sinful, devilish nature.  By reason whereof,
  4. We are children of wrath, liable to death eternal (Romans 5:18; Ephesians 2:3).

John Calvin, on the other hand, taught clearly that we inherit both original sin and original guilt from Adam.  He wrote,

Hence, even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb, suffer not for another’s, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them.  Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bred of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God.  Hence, it follows, that it is properly deemed sinful in the sight of God; for there could be no condemnation without guilt.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/10/2013 at 10:00 AM

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