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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, January 11, 2009

I think highly of John Wesley. With George Whitefield he was one of the greatest preachers of the eighteenth century. He and George Whitefield were used by God to set the world on fire with their preaching. So great was the revival that broke out during the ministry of these men that we now call it the "First Great Awakening." I cannot go into detail concerning the events that came to pass during this remarkable time in history. It is enough to say that Whitefield and Wesley turned the world upside down. Whitefield was a Calvinist. Wesley was an Arminian. Yet both men preached the need for conversion, and thousands were saved under their ministries. When Whitefield died it was discovered that he wished for John Wesley to preach his funeral sermon, which he did, giving strong praise for the evangelist.

I have never read anything clearer regarding total depravity than this sermon. And that doctrine needs to be reemphasized repeatedly in our pulpits at this time. However, I fear that many preachers today would close their doors to Wesley if they thought he would preach this sermon in their churches. That's what happened in England in the 18th century. Again and again, Wesley records in his journal, "I must preach there no more," as pastor after pastor was too fearful to let his message be given. And I ask pastors who read this sermon on the Internet, “How about your church? Could Wesley preach this sermon there?” It should be remembered that sermons like this one were used by God to kindle the greatest revival since the Reformation, or Pentecost itself!

I give you now my modern-language version of "Original Sin," by the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., Oxford:

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

This description of mankind is far different from the high view of human nature which men have held in all ages. Many ancient writers gave good descriptions of the dignity of the human race. Some of them spoke of man as having happiness and good virtue within him, or at least in his power. They said that man is able to live by his own power, and that man is only a little inferior to God Himself.

These heathen philosophers were not alone. Many who are called Christian preachers have spoken strongly about the goodness of man, as if mankind were innocent and perfect. Sermons like this have been very common in this century [the 18th century], and probably in no part of the world more than in our own country of England. There are many preachers here who have done their best to show what they have called, “the good side of human nature.” If they are right, then man is still only “a little lower than the angels,” or, as the words may be more literally rendered, “a little less than God.”

Is it any wonder that these sermons are eagerly received by most people? For who is not easily persuaded to think that he is good? As a result, preachers and writers like this are widely read, admired, and applauded. So many have believed their message of “positive thinking” about man, and “possibility thinking,” as a “positive” message about mankind that it is now very unfashionable to say anything bad about human nature [Dr. Hymers’ note: Mr. Wesley’s thoughts do indeed apply to our time!]. Man is now seen as having a few infirmities, but is generally believed to be very innocent, and wise, and full of goodness [Joel Osteen preaches this way on television every Sunday. So do many others].

But, in the meantime, what are we to do with our Bibles? The Bible never agrees with this! These sermons and books are completely irreconcilable with the Scriptures! They are not what the Bible teaches about man. The Scriptures say, “by one man’s disobedience [all men] were [constituted] sinners,” and that “in Adam all died,” spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God; that fallen, sinful Adam then “begat a son in his own likeness,” for it was not possible that he could beget a son in any other form! For “who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” As a result, all men are by nature “dead in trespasses and sins,” “without hope, without God in the world,” and therefore “children of wrath,” so that everyone can say, “I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” All of us can therefore say, “there is no difference,” in that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” of that glorious image of God in which man was originally created. That is why when “the Lord looked down from heaven above upon the children of men, he saw that they were all gone out of the way; they were altogether become abominable, there is none righteous, no, not one.” This verse tells us that there is no one that truly sought after God.

That is why our text says,

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

This is the way God sees mankind. And I will show three things: First, what mankind was like before the Flood; secondly, to ask if they are the same now; and thirdly, to add some implications, some inferences, from our observations.

I. First, I will show what mankind was like before the Flood.

We can fully trust what God said about mankind,

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

God saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” It wasn’t this or that man. It wasn’t a few people only. It wasn’t even most people who were wicked. It was mankind in general. God saw that people were universally wicked. Everyone was wicked! Genesis 6:5 includes the whole human race! There were millions of them – and all of them were wicked! Only Noah, among all that immense multitude of people, only “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). Only Noah, and then his family, were exceptions to this universal wickedness, which a short time later brought about universal destruction. They alone were saved by grace. All the rest were found guilty and were punished for their sins.

And “God saw…that every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). “Every imagination of his heart…” It is not possible to find words of greater significance. Those words include every affection, every passion, every appetite, every motive, every thought. Everything about mankind “was only evil continually.”

God saw that all mankind was evil, against the nature of God. God saw that all mankind was against Him! The hearts of all men were against God!

But wasn’t there some good mixed with the evil? No, none at all. The text says, that mankind’s heart “was only evil continually.” We cannot deny that the Holy Spirit was striving with men (ref. Genesis 6:3). For 120 years, while the ark was being built, the Holy Spirit strove to call men to repent. Yet they resisted all good thoughts that the Spirit of God put into their hearts. They rejected the work of the Holy Spirit and went on in their sinful state.

But, we may ask, “Was there no intermission of this evil? Were there no times when something good was found in someone’s heart?” No, we have no reason to believe that there was a time when their hearts were good. For God “saw that every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually,” every year, every day, every hour, every moment. Man was never good. He never deviated from wickedness.

II. Second, I will ask whether people are the same now.

This is certain: the Scriptures give us no reason to think that mankind is any different now. It was over a thousand years later that God told David, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Psalm 14:3). And all the prophets say the same thing, from one generation to the other. Isaiah said, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores” (Isaiah 1:5-6). The same view of mankind is given by all the Apostles in the New Testament. For instance, the Apostle Paul writes, “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:9-10). From both the Old and New Testaments we learn that man in an unconverted state is as lost and ruined today as he was in the days before the Flood. “That every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [is] only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

This low view of mankind is proved by daily experience. It is true that unconverted people don’t see it this way. That is not surprising. A man who is born blind continues to be blind! He is unaware of his blindness because he has become used to being blind. In the same way, a person who is unconverted has always been spiritually blind, and, so, is used to being blind, and doesn’t see his need of being any other way. But when God opens the spiritual eyes of a lost person, he is convinced that every man living, especially himself, is altogether wicked and lost. When you are awakened, you will see that everyone, including yourself, is full of ignorance, sin, and wickedness.

When God opens your eyes you will see that you have been “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). In the original Greek, “without God in the world” literally means “atheists in the world.” By your very nature, you had no knowledge of God, no acquaintance with Him. It is true that you may believe that God exists, but the existence of God is only a theory to you before you are converted – just as you may believe that there is a Chairman of the Communist Party in China, although you have never met him [Mr. Wesley spoke of the Emperor of China, the last of which was deposed in 1911]. So, in the same way, you know that God exists, but you do not know Him personally. You cannot know God personally without being converted. As the Bible tells us, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save [except] the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).

We read of an ancient king who wanted to know what was the natural language of man. As an experiment, he ordered two babies, as soon as they were born, to be taken to an isolated place and brought up without hearing a human voice. What was the result? Why, when they were brought out of their confinement, they spoke no language at all; they only made sounds, like those of animals.

If two babies were raised like that without any teaching about religion the result would be just the same. They would have no religion at all. They would have no more knowledge of God than an animal from the forest. Such is natural religion, apart from the influence of God’s Spirit!

And having no knowledge of God, we can have no love for God. We cannot love someone we do not know. Most people talk about loving God, and maybe they think they do love Him. But the fact is too plain to deny: No one loves God naturally, any more than he loves a rock or the earth he walks on. What we love we enjoy. But no one has any natural enjoyment of God. In an unconverted state you can’t even understand how anyone could enjoy God. You do not like Him at all. You never even think about Him very much. To love God! That is far above, out of your sight. You cannot reach the place of loving God.

Also, unconverted people have no fear of God. I will admit that some people develop an irrational, superstitious fear. But even that is learned, by conversation or example. By nature “God is not in all our thoughts.” Unconverted people have no more fear of God than they have love for God. They just don’t think about God most of the time. And when they do think about Him, He is very hazy and unreal, and far away to them.

Thus are all people truly “atheists in the world,” without God in the world. In an unconverted state, everyone is godless. By nature you are an idolater. You worship yourself instead of God. That is why you miss church often on Sunday. You worship and serve yourself instead of God – like any heathen idolater.

All pride is idolatry. It is thinking more highly of our own selves than of God. Because of your pride you say, “That’s not what I think. That’s not what I believe.” What is this? It is pride.

But pride is not the only form of idolatry you are guilty of. Like Lucifer, you say, “I will do what I want.” You do what pleases yourself. If someone asks you why you did a certain thing, you say, “Because I wanted to do it.” You have no thought whatever of doing what God wants! Your self-will is as evil as Lucifer’s.

Next, you love this world and the things in it. I doubt that you are any better than a goat. No, I think the goat is better than you! The filthy things you think about by the hour show that your imagination is ruined. Your desire for filthy things continues, and grows stronger every day. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [is] only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

A third symptom of this fatal disease is “the pride of life,” the desire to be admired and “accepted” by other human beings. Even many preachers think that it is right to seek the approval of people. It makes you wonder if these men ever heard of Christ or the Apostles. It makes you wonder if they ever read the words of Christ, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44). If this is true, if it is impossible to believe as long as we seek honour from one another, and seek not the honour that comes from God, then think what a terrible condition the rest of mankind is in! A person who is more concerned about what lost friends or relatives think than what God thinks seeks the approval of people rather than God. Christ said, “How can ye believe which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” Since everyone wants to be accepted by others, rather than God, this shows what a terrible condition mankind is in.

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

III. Third, I will draw a few inferences from what has been said.

First, we see the great difference between Bible Christianity and all other religions. The ancient heathen philosophers spoke of particular sins, such as covetousness, cruelty, luxury, or prodigality. Some even dared to say “no man was born without vices of one kind or another.” But none of them saw the reality of the fact that all mankind is totally depraved, completely corrupted, and filled with all kinds of evil. Therefore, the first great difference between true Christianity and all other religions is the total ruin and corruption of man. The idea of man having an inbred evil nature is unique to Bible Christianity. Only the Bible teaches that “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] his heart is only evil continually.”

Second, all who deny original sin are lost men. They are still heathens. I ask, do you believe that mankind is evil by nature? Are humans completely fallen and ruined? Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually”? If you agree, you agree with Christianity. If you deny it, you are a lost man. If you reject this teaching you are not a Christian, no matter what you may say, you are still a heathen.

In the third place, we may learn from total depravity (original sin) what the true religion of Jesus Christ is all about. It is therapeia psuches, God’s method of healing the soul, which is ruined by the sin nature. In therapeia psuches Jesus Christ, the great physician of souls applies medicines to heal this deadly disease, to restore human nature, totally corrupted in all of its parts. Christ heals our atheism by the knowledge of Himself by giving us faith, a divine evidence of the true God, and the things of God. Speaking of this truth, it is said, “Christ loved me, and gave himself for me.” By repentance and lowliness of heart, the deadly disease of pride is healed. Self-will is healed by submitting to Christ with a meek and thankful submission to His will. For the love of the world, a new love for God is the sovereign remedy. Conversion changes the whole inner and outer man to conform to God, and to the Word of God. Why did Christ have to die on the Cross if man is not lost in depravity and hopeless sin? John 3:16 is meaningless if man is not hopelessly ruined. Why would we need the Blood of Christ if we were not hopelessly lost without it?

If mankind were not fallen and ruined, there would be no need for the Blood of Christ. There would be no need for the work of conversion in the human heart, in changing and renewing our minds. For an outward religion, without the inner work of God’s Spirit, would be enough. An outward religion is enough to those who deny the depravity of man’s nature. They are right if man is not ruined and full of wickedness – all that is needed is to clean up the outward life. Reforming the way you live is all that’s needed if their view is correct. Indeed, reforming the outward way you live is the one thing you need to do – if they are correct and you are not totally ruined, a helpless sinner.

But we have not learned this from the Bible. You know that God sees what is inside man, and He has a far different opinion of both conversion, and our ruined state, and how to recover from it. You know that the great reason for Christianity is to renew the heart in God’s image through conversion, to repair and heal that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we inherited from our first parent. You know that all so-called Christianity which does not renew the heart in true conversion fails to save a person from Hell. All religion that stops short of converting the soul back to its original state before mankind fell into sin, is nothing but a poor joke, and is a mockery to God.

O beware of all teachers and preachers of lies, who would give you outward religion, but not real conversion. Pay no attention to such preachers, although they come to you with words of false comfort.

Instead of listening to these false preachers, keep believing the old faith, “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), and now being delivered to your hearts by God’s Spirit.

You were born in sin: therefore “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). You must be born of God, by God, through God. Only God can cure your sinful nature and give you new life! By Adam all died. By Christ, you will be made alive, you “who were dead in trespasses and sins” – He will make alive again (Ephesians 2:1, paraphrased). He has already given you enough life to listen to this sermon. Now “go on from faith to faith” until your whole deadly sickness is healed by Christ!

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 3:9-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Not What These Hands Have Done” (by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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” (Genesis 6:5).

I.   First, think of what mankind was like before the Flood,
Genesis 6:5, 8, 3.

II.  Second, think of whether people are the same now,
Psalm 14:3; Isaiah 1:5-6; Romans 3:9-10; Ephesians 2:12;
Matthew 11:27; John 5:44.

III. Third, think of the inferences from what has been said,
Jude 3, John 3:7; Ephesians 2:1; I John 1:7.