This is the more easily done, because we are all by nature atheoi, Atheists, in the world; and that in so high a degree that it requires no less than an almighty power to counteract that tendency to dissipation which is in every human spirit, and restore the capacity of attending to God, and fixing itself on him. For this cannot be done till we are new creatures; till we are created anew in Christ Jesus; till the same power which made the world make us a “clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us.” (Sermon 79)
Or as such, the working of the Grace Which Goes Before.
In sermon 125, Wesley goes on to write more about the Atheists and wonders about the life that they have actually lived. Indeed, for the one with no hope, seeing themselves only as a momentary blip in the universe which will sooner or later no longer exist itself is not living; it is existing. He writes, in the parabolic story of a century old-trapped frog,
And as this poor animal was destitute of sensation, it must have equally been destitute of reflection. Its head (of whatever sort it was) having no materials to work upon, no ideas of sensation of any kind, could not produce any degree of reflection. It scarce, therefore could have any memory, or any imagination. Nor could it have any locative power, while it was so closely bound in on every side. If it had in itself some springs of motion, yet it was impossible that power should be exerted, because the narrowness of its cavern could not allow of any change of place.
No reflection… We often forget that Christians were the first modern Scientists, not out of doubt, but out of reflection, out of a divine imagination let loose by the power of the Spirit bringing more truth. I get the sense from John that he is not so hardpressed upon these types of Atheists as those whom he called ‘practical atheists’ – Christians.
His sermon wasn’t directed towards those who do not believe in God – as indeed, he affirms that morality, without benefit, can exist independently of the “Christian dispensation” – but to those who do and claim the name of Christ. They who have not been transformed – they are the “practical atheists!”
But meantime this is nothing to those that name the name of Christ: — all those, being under the law, the Christian law, shall undoubtedly be judged thereby; and, of consequence, unless those be so changed as was the animal above mentioned, unless they have new senses, ideas, passions, tempers, they are no Christians. However just, true, or merciful they may be, they are but Atheists still!
In the closing lines, it is apparent that he wasn’t walking about those atheists who could still call upon God, but to those Christians who refused to do so!
My dear friends! You do not see God. You do not see the Sun of righteousness. You have no fellowship with the Father, or with his Son, Jesus Christ. You never heard the voice that raiseth the dead. Ye know not the voice of your Shepherd. Ye have not received the Holy Ghost. Ye have no spiritual senses. You have your old, natural ideas, passions, joys, and fears; you are not new creatures.
All I’m saying is that Wesley beats Luther, 1o to 0
- Wesley: On Zeal and the local church (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
- Why Do Atheists Criticize Christians? (Part 2) (nogodz.wordpress.com)
- 10 Reasons Atheists Should Be Partying With Jesus, Not Darwin (senaittewolde.wordpress.com)