We read a biography on John Wesley with our kids recently and since then I have been reading through some of the writings and sermons of John Wesley trying to understand his theology.
In Sermon 44, entitled Original Sin, Wesley explains what is called "total depravity". In the sermon he starts off refuting the idea that man is basically good saying...
But, in the mean time, what must we do with our Bibles? — for they will never agree with this. These accounts, however pleasing to flesh and blood, are utterly irreconcilable with the scriptural.Wesley, then compares the heart of man prior to the flood - using Gen 6:5 as the basis - with that of man after the flood coming to the conclusion that they are no different. Here is how Wesley describes the heart of man:
“God saw all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart;” — of his soul, his inward man, the spirit within him, the principle of all his inward and outward motions. He “saw all the imaginations:” It is not possible to find a word of a more extensive signification. It includes whatever is formed, made, fabricated within; all that is or passes in the soul; every inclination, affection, passion, appetite; every temper, design, thought. It must of consequence include every word and action, as naturally flowing from these fountains, and being either good or evil according to the fountain from which they severally flow.Later he says this:
[Christianity] 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.”He will explain that "by nature" we do not 1) know God, 2) love God, or 3) fear God and concludes that all men are "Atheists in the world".
But as soon as God opens the eyes of their understanding, they see the state they were in before; they are then deeply convinced, that “every man living,” themselves especially, are, by nature, “altogether vanity;” that is, folly and ignorance, sin and wickedness.Only God can help the natural man understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14-15; John 16:7-11) including the very fact that he is a sinner, only God is righteous, and the coming judgment.
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.
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.
In this sermon Wesley has laid out our need for Jesus as total - we are totally unable to come to Him, until God open our eyes and helps us understand that we are sinners and that we need Him to cure the otherwise incurable disease!
Quotes taken "Sermons on Several Occasions John Wesley" available online @ Christian Classics Ethereal Library