Inbred Sin As Taught By The Methodist Church
The recognition of inbred sin, or the cleansing from the heart of the regenerated man of remaining sin, is seen in the “Wesleyan Catechism,” No. 2, where, after asking and answering the question, “What is regeneration?” and defining it as “that great change which God works in the soul when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,” then comes later on the question, “What is entire sanctification?”
The answer is: “The state of being entirely cleansed from sin so as to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.” According to this definition perfect cleansing or purity was not obtained in regeneration. But in the blessing of entire sanctification we are “entirely cleansed” and as a result have not only purity of heart, but perfect love to God and man. The whole thing we contend for is in the answer quoted from our standard catechism.
THE HYMN BOOK.
Let the reader take up the hymnal of the Methodist Church and turn to the department devoted to the Christian life and experience and see for himself the recognition of inbred sin in the confessions, lamentations, battlings with, and calling on God for deliverance from some kind of indwelling sinful principle or nature.
One hymn well known to all reads as follows:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.
Here the affirmation is made that God is loved, which establishes the fact of the regenerated condition. Then comes the lament over a proneness to wander away and leave God. This “proneness” is what we are trying to expose. Proneness to leave God is one thing, and the power to leave God is another. Every free moral agent has the power to turn from and forsake God. A Christian may realize this power and not feel the proneness. A wife has the power to leave her husband’s heart and home, but may not feel the inclination or proneness to do so. When the Church sings
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
it is not singing of free agency, but about a nature, principle, or bias to evil that can as certainly be removed by divine power as was the personal sins and guilt which were washed away by the same omnipotence.
Let the reader go farther in the hymn book and brood on such lines as the following in No. 411:
Remove this hardness from my heart, This unbelief remove.
And what is this but a confession of what every regenerated man has felt in his Christian life; an unbelief that at times astonished him, and a “hardness” that aroused the query, “Can I be a child of God, and have such a stony feeling in my soul?” All of which is answered by Ezekiel when he speaks of the “stony heart” which is not to be pardoned or grown out, but taken out by divine power. “I will take the stony heart out of your flesh.”
How the doctrine of remaining sin crops out in such lines as this,
Strange flames far from my heart remove;
and again in No. 426,
The word of God is sure And never can remove; We shall in heart be pure And perfected in love: Rejoice in hope, rejoice with me, We shall from all our sins be free.
Then in 441:
Scatter the last remains of sin And seal me thine abode; O make me glorious all within, A temple built for God!
This is certainly a very strange hymn if regeneration brings purity. In No. 445 we read:
Break off the yoke of inbred sin, And fully set my spirit free: I cannot rest till pure within, Till I am wholly lost in thee.
In full expectation and pantings of spirit for the blessing No. 447 is written:
O that in me the sacred fire Might now begin to glow, Burn up the dross of base desire, And make the mountains flow!
O that it now from heav’n might fall And all my sins consume! Come, Holy Ghost, for thee I call; Spirit of burning, come!
Refining fire, go through my heart, Illuminate my soul, Scatter thy life through ev’ry part And sanctify the whole.
No longer then my heart shall mourn, While, purified by grace, I only for his glory burn, And always see his face.
It would be easy to quote voluminously from Clarke, Fletcher, Watson, and Benson, but we prefer to select from
Certainly as the founder of the Methodist Church he has a right to be heard, and ought to be able to represent her doctrinal views. We quote from his sermon on “Sin in Believers.” The very title is significant. After describing the grace of regeneration in a man, he says: “But was he not freed from all sin, so that there is no sin in his heart? I cannot say this; I cannot believe it; because Paul says to the contrary … And as this position–that there is no sin in a believer, no carnal mind, no bent to backsliding–is thus contrary to the Word of God, so it is to the experience of his children. These feel a heart bent to backsliding, a natural tendency to evil, a proneness to wander from God. They are sensible of sin remaining in the heart, pride, self-will, unbelief; and of sin cleaving to all they speak or do.” “Although we are renewed, cleansed, purified, sanctified, the moment we truly believe in Christ, yet we are not then renewed, cleansed, purified, altogether; but the flesh, the evil nature, still remains, though subdued, and wars against the Spirit.”
Again in Mr. Wesley’s book on “Christian Perfection” (pages 37 and 38), after describing the blessedness of the regenerated life, he adds: “And now first do they see the ground of their heart; which God before would not disclose to them, lest the soul should fail before him and the spirit which he had made. Now they see all the hidden abominations there–the depths of pride, self-will, and hell.” Still again, on pages 80 and 81, is the answer to the question, “When may a person judge himself to have attained this?”
Ans. “When, after having been fully convinced of inbred sin by a far deeper and clearer conviction than that he experienced before justification, and after having experienced a gradual mortification of it, he experiences a total death to sin and an entire renewal in the love and image of God, so as to rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks.”
But some say that Mr. Wesley changed his views before he died, and that this change took place in the year 1784, and is seen in his abridgment of the Seventh Article of Religion, where the words teaching inbred sin were left out.
This as an argument proves too much, for we find that he left no article on heaven or hell. Why does not some one say that Mr. Wesley changed his views here, concluding, doubtless, that there were no such places!
In complete refutation of this we call attention to the footnote of the Church Editor on the first page of “Christian Perfection”. It is not to be understood that Mr. Wesley’s sentiments concerning Christian perfection were in any measure changed after the year 1777.”
Mr. Wesley himself says, on page 39 of “Christian Perfection”: “Whether our present doctrine be right or wrong, it is, however, the same which we taught from the beginning.”
But still more overwhelming is the proof that he never changed, by reference to his own writings up to the last year of his life.
Mr. Wesley died in 1791. Certain people say that “he changed his views” in 1784. Let the reader carefully observe the dates and language of the following extracts from his writings, and see the truth for himself, and be at rest on this subject forever. We all know that the doctrine of a second work of grace depends upon the fact of a sinful principle or nature left in the soul after regeneration. If the heart is made pure at conversion, then there is nothing but a gradual and everlasting development to take place, and there is no need for any exhortation to be given Christians but to grow in grace.
Instead of this, however, we find Mr. Wesley continually urging believers on to the obtainment of a blessing which he calls “perfection,” “perfect love,” and “full sanctification.” If he “changed his views,” nothing of this kind ought to have fallen from his lips or pen after the year 1784, as we see in the following extracts:
“At our love feast in the evening at Redwell several of our friends declared how God had saved them from inbred sin with such exactness, both of sentiment and language, as clearly showed that they were taught of God.” (Journal.)
“And it will be well as soon as any of them find peace with God to exhort them to ‘go on to perfection.’ The more explicitly and strongly you press all believers to aspire after full sanctification as attainable now by simple faith, the more the whole work of God will prosper.” (Vol. VII., page 184)
“I have not for many years known this society in so prosperous a condition. This is undoubtedly owing first to the exact discipline which has for some time been observed among them; and next to the strongly and continually exhorting believers to ‘go on to perfection.’ ” (Journal.)
“It requires a great degree of watchfulness to retain the perfect love of God; and one great means of retaining it is frankly to declare what God has given you, and earnestly to exhort all the believers you meet to follow after full salvation.” (Vol. VII., page 13.)
“I am glad to find that your love does not grow cold; nor your desires after all the mind that was in Christ. O, be satisfied with nothing less; and you will receive it by simple faith.” (Vol. VII., page 124.)
“About one I preached to another very serious congregation in the town; whom therefore I exhorted to leave the first principles and go on to perfection.” (Vol. IV., page 732.)
“I am glad that Brother D–has more light with regard to full sanctification. This doctrine is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly he appears to have raised us up.” (Vol. VII., page 153.)
Who was it said that Mr. Wesley had changed his views in 1784?
“To retain the grace of God is much more than to gain it; hardly one in three does this. And this should be strongly and explicitly urged on all who have tasted of perfect love. If we can prove that any of our local preachers or leaders, either directly or indirectly, speak against it, let him be a local preacher or leader no longer. I doubt whether he should continue in the society; because he that could speak thus in our congregation cannot be an honest man.” (Letter to Dr. A. Clarke, Vol. VII., page 206.) Shades of Wesley! What would he think today if he saw his preachers turned out of pulpits, and located, discounted, and ridiculed for believing in, obtaining, and preaching this very grace and experience which he says Methodists were chiefly raised up to propagate? He actually says that if any of the preachers or leaders speak against it he should be a preacher or leader no longer, and doubts whether he should continue in the society! If Mr. Wesley were here today, what a tremendous change and revolution in Church affairs there would be!
“A man that is not a thorough friend to Christian perfection will easily puzzle others, and thereby weaken, if not destroy, any select society.” (Vol. VII., page 238.)
Here is given the explanation of how a great Holiness church, full of fire, can go down under the pastorate of a man who secretly opposes or openly fights the doctrine and experience that gave the Church its power and made it such a wonderful success. Mr. Wesley says that such a course “puzzles,” “weakens,” and “destroys” any “select society.” Some of the brethren today say that the church went down because there was nothing in it, that the whole thing was a soap bubble, Mr. Wesley says that it goes down by a man opposing the doctrine of Christian perfection.
“Whenever you have opportunity of speaking to believers, urge them to go on to perfection. Spare no pains! And God, even our own God, still give you his blessing.” (Vol. VII., page 238. )
More extracts and quotations could be given; one six weeks before he died, and another three days before his spirit passed away. But enough has been written to show that Mr. Wesley never changed his views; but died as he lived, a firm believer in a second work of grace and blessing for believers, which he calls perfection or full sanctification, and which he steadily insisted on was obtainable now by simple faith.