Here's the quote:
"We say that man not only cannot do anything good but cannot even think it, so that he may learn to depend totally on God and, despairing of himself, to cast himself entirely upon him; and so that [man] may give the credit, if he has done anything good, to God and not to himself...by ourselves we are helpless"Now this idea is a Protestant flavoured Augustinianism (arguably of course as Augustine did believe in merit), but aside from big labels that make me feel like I know the first thing about theology, I have found in my practical life that this is true.
Call me a post-modernist because I don't want to say it's true for everyone, but for me I am a terrible sinner. There is no way around it, I am just bad. I have tried so hard to be good, but I suck (as Mark Driscoll would say). I have found in my day to day life that I am helpless, I can't stop sinning.
It's St. Paul all over again with: "for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." (Rm 7:15 KJV) and "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (v.18).
I have felt what is called Regeneration in theology while at Bible School in England, I was a much better Christian than I am now. However even then I look at my prayer journal, and on days I would dream for now I write things like 'forgive my miserable sinfulness' etc (see Puritans for details). As horrific as it sounds I think Calvin is right, if I know nothing else about myself, I know that I am a terrible sinner, and that I must cast myself at Christ's feet if I am ever to be saved. I think I may have given up my belief in merit.
I am currently reading "True Spirituality" by Francis Schaeffer and it is a challenging book, last night I read the chapter on death to self and I actually sat there counting the cost and thinking about what being a Christian truly means. Ultimately I remembered my baptismal vows and my entry into the new covenant, and once again I will start over, trying to be a Christian, trying to fix my plethora of problems.
As David once probably prayed (another debate I'll ignore right now), I too must pray.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me...Create in me a clean heart, O God. -Psalm 51