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things most naturally operated on his alienated mind and heart, through the regularly constituted modes of thought and feeling.
God continues still the same providential and preserving power. His hand sustains the poor, disordered mind. He does not instantly dash the wretched being from His hand, and cause him to return to his original nonentity; but He supports him, and imparts the very same sustaining agency to invigorate his acts and exercises, as when those acts and exercises were his going forth to Him, and were regulated by His friendship,
But He does not choose to undo what has been done, and bring the rebellious mind back from its disorded action. He is under no obligation to do this. And the consequence is, that refusing so to do, the causes of deranged action and emotion still subsisting, there continue to take place unceasing developments of a disordered or depraved heart. In all this. however, there was no introduction of any physical essence, or substance, or principle, &c. into the nature of man, nor the loss of any such thing. This may suffice with regard to our first parents. It was the instant cessation of the mind's actings, as to all the activities, and enjoyments of spiritual lise;i. e. the appropriate goings forth of mind and heart to God, as the supreme good and chief end. Such is the history of the fall of our first parents.
It concerns us to trace the influence of this change in the moral character and sensibilities, on the successive generations of their offspring. The sacred scriptures teach us, that the human race are all descended from one common original, and that they transmitted their character to all their offspring. It iscertain that mortality has been inherited from Adam, and that mortality was the consequence of sin—the first sin. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; an i so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."'! However we may speculate on the causes of human
1. R. v. 12.
corruption, or whatever theories we may frame, with regard to the nature of the human mind, and the character and responsibilities of a moral agent, it cannot be denied, that all are sinners. “For there is not a just. man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not.” Death has, in every successive generation, “reigned over them that have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgres
The world has not furnished one instance of a perfectly sinless and holy creature, having appeared among the sons of men, since the apostacy of the first pair, save that of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Ever and anon the same developments have been made. “The wicked go astray from the womb, speaking lies." All the way through life-in every stage of human existence, there are actions which demonstrate the depravity of man.
Whence this state of things? Various opinions have been advanced, as to the origin of this depravity, some referring it—to the influence of education and example—others to the animal body, with which the soul is connected--others entirely to the outward circumstances of man's condition in this world--others to some modification of the nature of the soul, derived by natural descent--and others still to some physical taint or impurity, lodged in the very constitution of our nature, which operates as an efficient principle in the production of depraved acts. The falsity of the first supposition, has already been exposed. Whether the second be fuct, can never be proved; for certain it is, that the connexion of matter and spirit, in a moral being, does not necessarily render that being a sinner, either immediately or ultimately. The other opinions will all be determined, if we can resolve the inquiry, as to that in which original sin consists.
1. Eccles. vii. 20.
2. Rom. v. 14.
It is exceedingly difficult, in speaking on this subject, to use terms not liable to be misunderstood. The shorter catechism uses the phrase, “the corruption of our whole nature,” to describe, as it would seem, that which, in the day when it was framed, was "commonly called original sin. What is meant by the “whole nature,” all will not agree. By this phrase, one thinks is taught the idea of there being something sinful simply in created nature; i. e. that the soul and body of the infant yet unborn, are, in themselves, prior to all moral acts and exercises, sinful. Another, taking it for granted that the catechism cannot possibly mean to teach such a doctrine as that of physical depravity, understands the phrase, as designating the general character of those actions, committed in all the appropriate circumstances of the being.
1. Such appears to be the grammatical and obvious construction of the answer to the 18th question in the Shorter Catechism. In the answer ta the 25th question of the Larger Catechism, the ambiguity is not reliered. Different punctuations convey different ideas. We shall not attempt to decide, whether original sin is described in the Catechisms, as of a triungu lar character, consisting conjointly in “the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature," or in the first or last exclusively. It is certain that some Calvinistic writers do treat of it, as comprising the whole three; and it is as certain, that expressions occur in the formularies of the primitive Scottish church, and the confession of faith itself, which seem to limit it to Adam's transgression. The Assembly, in 1590, appointed a committee, consisting of Messrs. John Craig, Robert Pont, Thomas Buckingham and Andrew Melvine, to prepare a Catechism “Anent the examination before the communion.” This Catechism, drawn up by the Chairman of the Committee, was the next year presented to the Assembly, and adopted; and in the subsequent year, the follow. ing act was passed in relation to it-For swa meikle as, at the special Desire of the Kirk, ane Forme of Examination before the Communion was pennit and formit be their Brother Mr. John Craig, qubilk is now imprintit, and allowit be the Voyce of the Assembly. Therefore it is thought needful that every pastor travel with his Flock, that they may buy the samen Buik, and read it in their es, quhereby they may be better instructit.” In that Catechism, so highly approved of, and designed to be used so extensively in the answer to the 4th question, which is, “What things came to us by that fall; (of Adam:) there is an evident distinction made between natu ral corruption and original sin. The answer is, “Original sin and natural corruption.” In "tile confession of faith, and doctrine believed and professed by the protestants of Scotland, Aug 1560,” immediately after speaking of the transgression of our first parents, in eating the forbidden fruit, it is added, “By which transgression, commonly called original sin.” The first sin of Adam was, in 1560, “commonly called!” in Scotland, original sin.” In 1590, still they distinguished between original sin and natural corruption. In the 6th sec. of the 6th chap. of the Westminster confession of faith, we read that “Every sin,” both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby lie is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law. If original sin be represented as a transgression of law, it is not a sinful vuture. “The Sum of saving knowledge” holds the following language on the subject: “Our first parents being enticed by Satan, one of these Devils, speaking in a serpent, did break the covenant of works, in eating the for
The phrase original sin is very vague. It may denote, either the first sin, whether that be the first in the whole series of sins, committed by our race, viz: the first transgression of our guilty primogenitors; or, whether it be the first sinful act, in the series of transgressions, committed by any one of their descendants. Or, it may denote the original of sin; i. e. the fountain or source whence other sins proceed; and that, whether it be in reference to our first parents, the source of all the sins in this world, or in reference to any and every individual, the source of all the sins committed by them. Or, it may denote the sin of our original, whether it be the sin of every man's parents, connected with his origination, or the sin of our very first existence. Or, it may denote something which has the power to originate sin, and which is necessarily involved in our very being, from the first moment of its origination. In this last sense, as the Catechism intimates it was, in the days of the Westminster divines and previously, it is often used as the vulgar synonyme, for “the corruption of our whole nature.” Who does not see, how perplexing and
endless must be the disputes which will prevail, where a phrase, capable of such varied signification, is employed ? It is not found in the word of God, and therefore can claim no respect, as coming from inspired lips. It may, indeed, be consecrated in the technicalities of Theologians, but common sense would unquestionably suggest the propriety of abandoning it, when it is so liable to be misconstrued and misunderstood. We shall not, therefore, be at any pains to determine, whether it means the sin which is first in the series, or the sin that originates others, or the sin of our origin, or the "something" in our being, which has power to originate sin, or is the original of sin.
It may be profitable to inquire--Whether our very being, as we are born into this world, is itself sinful? Whether sin has its origin in any physical defect of our being, or other physical cause whatever? Whether there is any connexion between the first sin of Adam and our sins? What is the nature of that connexion ? And what light may be thrown on this subject, by a careful examination of facts, in relation to the developments of human depravity? A so
bidden fruit; wherefore they and their posterity, being in their loins, as branches in the root, and comprehended in the same covenant with them, became not only liable to eternal death, but also lost all ability to please God; yea, did become, by nature, enemies to God, and to all spiritual good, and inclined only to evil continually. This is our original sin, the bitter root of all our actual transgressions, in Thoughts, Word and Deed.” Here orig, inal sin would seem to be represented as our being, by nature, enemies of God, and having lost all ability--something in the very being which we inherit by natural descent, and which is the root of all actual sins. Augustine, who is quoted, with approbation, in the Biblical Repertory, says,"Original sin, therefore, ought not to be considered an infused habit, nor a habit acquired by repeated acts, but an innate disposition, derived from the voluntary transgression of the first man.” The reader will notice the sentiments of Calvin and others, quoted on this subject; nor can he fail to perceive how very vaguely, and confusedly, and contradictorily Calvinistic confessions of faith, and Calvinistic writers spoke, on the subject of origi. nal sin, when they incidentally undertook to define or to describe it.