If the doctrine of total depravity (see Romans 3:9-20) seems strange to modern ears, it is only because we have been shaped by the (largely) a-theological milieu of the evangelical American church. Doctrines like this were standard fare for earlier generations of saints. This morning, in preparation for my sermon, I was using an old Puritan prayer book to help me call on God. The specific prayer I was reading is titled “A Minister’s Praises.” Notice the things the Puritans considered “normal” in a MINISTER’S struggle against sin:
Thou art in Jesus the object of inexpressible joy, and I take exceeding pleasure in the thought of thee.
But Lord, I am sometimes thy enemy; my nature revolts and wanders from thee.
Though thou hast renewed me, yet evil corruptions urge me still to oppose thee.
Help me to extol thee with entire heart-submission, to be diligent in self-examination, to ask myself whether I am truly born again, whether my spirit is the spirit of thy children, whether my griefs are those that tear repenting hearts, whether my joys are the joys of faith, whether my confidence in Christ works by love and purifies the soul.
Give me the sweet results of faith, in my secret character, and in my public life.
Cast cords of love around my heart, then hold me and never let me go…
Let me love thee in a love that covers and swallows up all, that I may not violate my chaste union with the beloved;
There is much unconquered territory in my nature: scourge out the buyers and sellers of my soul’s temple, and give me in return pure desires, and longings after perfect holiness.
For some additional reading on depravity and why it is “the hinge on which the gospel turns,” check out this (very) abridged version of Luther’s Bondage of the Will. May it whet your appetite for the whole book – it is Luther at his very best.