« PreviousContinue »
of guilt, and criminality in some person is the only ground of guilt or obnoxiousness to punishment. But the latter may be transferred from those who are to those who are not personally subjects of the former, as in all cases, under the providence of God, of bearing the iniquities of others; which means simply to bear their punishment.
Punishment is evil judicially inflicted for sin. It is correlative to guilt. It may be inflicted on the offender personally, or on those who, through a representative or other relation, have such a community with him, that the punishment of his sins may be justly laid upon them.
ANTHROPOLOGY. THE DOCTRINE OF Sin. As the doctrine of sin logically precedes and underlies that of grace and redemption, so it may be considered in three aspects -- with regard to the subjects, the degree, and the origin of it. Although the question of its origin may be logically first, yet it is so related to the degree and subjects of it, that it will be most readily solved, in the present state of controversy among evangelical schools, by some preliminary consideration of the subjects and degree of it. With regard to these, to the best of our knowledge, all parties recognized, or claiming to be recognized, as evangelical, agree that the present condition of human nature is such, or that all men are found in such a state, that they are subject to suffering and liable to death from the first; and that they sin, and sin only, from the beginning of moral agency in the knowledge of the moral law, except so far as any may have been the subjects of a saving change of character. Indeed, these are undeniable facts of divine providence, which exist with or without a divine revelation. The Bible does not make them. Nor are believers in the Bible, which in some degree explains them, and provides the only adequate remedy for them, nor is any school of theologians, specially bound to account for them. Whatever burdens or perplexities these facts may involve, they equally burden all schools, not only of Christians, but of theists, who are
concerned to justify the ways of God to man. But, with this amount of agreement, there is still a wide margin fo disagreement, in regard to this antecedent connatural stater which brings with it suffering, liability to death, and a dread certainty of sinning on the opening of moral agency. Some regard it as a weakness, wholly devoid of moral character. Others as more than a weakness, as a debasement, but still indifferent as to moral quality. Another class regard it as indeed moral depravity, or a corruption of the moral nature, and some of them are willing to call it sinful, but still insist that it is innocent and not justly obnoxious to punishment. All these go upon the ground that nothing can be morally corrupt or, if so, punishable which is not produced by the will of the subject of it. They include some parties in both the Protestant and Romish churches. But a much larger class, including many Romish divines, all the Reformed and Lutheran, as shown by their confessions, the adherents of the Westminster and Savory confessions, the Edwardeans and Hopkinsians in this country (many of the latter, however, believing in moral agency from birth) hold that this native moral depravation is truly and properly sin, and constitutes the essence of original sin, in whole or in part. It is hardly necessary to say that the Articles of the Episcopal church pronounce this to be "original or birth-sin,” and also that “in every person that cometh into the world it deserve eth God's wrath and damnation." It is hardly necessary to show that the Presbyterian symbols, in common with thoso of the Reformation, aver the same thing, viz. that "original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed, from it," ! is “conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as that all who proceed. from them in that way are conceived and born in sin,” ? and that “every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God and curse of the
law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.” 1
The reasons why Presbyterians, in common with so large a portion of Christendom, certainly of Protestant Christendom, take this view of the original native corruption of man, whence proceed all actual transgressions, are : 1. It corresponds with the scriptural representations of our being conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity; that that which is born of the flesh is flesh; that we are by nature children of wrath. These, and like passages, answer to nothing short of native pollution and guilt. 2. Infants experience pain and are liable to death. But in mankind death is the penalty of sin. It was the penalty originally threatened agaist and executed upon the first sin of our race.
It is that which is declared to be the “wages," i. e. the penalty or retribution of sin. “ The soul that sinneth it shall die." In like manner, the scriptures universally connect tribulation and anguish with sin as its righteous ground. And herein they do but echo the dictates of the universal conscience of men, which refers suffering to sin as its meritorious ground. The barbarians on the island of Melita, seeing the viper fasten on Paul's hand, said: “ Surely this man is a murderer, whom vengeance (or retributive justice) suffereth not to live.” But that death is a penal visitation on all our race for sin, is explicitly asserted by the apostle, in a way which Presbyterians can neither get over nor around. “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. v. 12). Whether this refers to sinning in Adam or not, it none the less certainly asserts that death comes by sin, and upon all men for their sin, in person or in their representative. And if it refers to sinning in Adam as federal head, this brings upon all the subjects of it, as an immediate penal consequence, the loss of righteousness, and resulting inherent corruption, which being transgressions of, incur the penalty of, the law. It is not only far more scriptural, but far more consonant with our ideas of justice,
1 Confession of Faith, VI. 6.
that suffering and death should be the penalty of sin, than that they should be the effect of any mere arbitrary appointment of God. 3. Another reason why this natural pravity of disposition is judged sinful and ill-deserving, is its fruits. This is a scriptural test: “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit.” The root which bears only sin, is itself sinful. “ The works of the flesh are manifest” (Gal. xix. 20, 21). It is equally manifest that what produces them cannot be innocent. And here the principle applies, that the moral quality of dispositions is determined by their nature and fruits, not by their origin. Their origin may have to do with the vindication of God's relation to it, but not with their moral quality or ill desert. 4. A final reason why so large a part of the Christian world attribute a sinful moral quality to native human corruption is, that infants are capable subjects of the salvation of Christ, which has reference only to the sinful and the lost. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved.” " That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Therefore " except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It will, indeed, be scarcely maintained, that any are saved, out of Christ. But his salvation is from sin only, first its guilt and punishment, then its bondage and pollution. Infants dying in infancy are, as we believe, saved from both, through Christ.
THE IMPUTATION OF ADAM's Sin To mis PosterITY. It being conceded, then, that all men are born with their moral nature so depraved as either to be itself sinful, or to insure the certainty of sinning in and from the first moral action, the question arises : How is this degraded and ruined condition of our whole race to be accounted for? The light of nature which reveals the fact, reveals no explanation of it. The instincts and traditions of the race, however, point more or less distinctly to a state of purity and feliciiy, from
which it has fallen. It is conceded, moreover, by all with whom we are now concerned, that the word of God connects the fall of the race with the fall of its first progenitor, as the primal cause thereof. It is perhaps proper to note as exceptions to this remark, the small class who, like Coleridge, Dr. Julius Müller, and others, hold to a sort of transcendental probation and “timeless” fall of all and singular the members of our race, before birth and entrance into the body in time. This is virtually the doctrine of a probation and fall of all men in a pre-existent state, of which the degradation and misery of their native state is the punishment. In this more common-sense or non-transcendental form, the theory finds an occasional advocate. This scheme, of course, denies any causative connection of Adam's first sin with the fall of the race, and accounts for the scriptural eminence assigned him in the matter, by his case being the first in order, and so an eminent type or example of the lapse of all his descendants. This theory has significance, as conceding, or rather as constrained by, the overbearing evidence of two points: 1. That the natural state of our race is such as to admit of no explanation, unless it be a punishment for sin; 2. that this is inexplicable without a previous state of probation in which the sin and fall so punished occurred. This being so, no alternative remains but either that all men personally lived, and each for himself was on trial, and fell, in a pre-existent state, or that, in some way, they had their trial in Adam, and fell in his fall, of which their present degraded natural condition is the penal consequence. The objections to the former view are : 1. There is no evidence of any such pre-existent state, trial, and fall. 2. This hy. pothesis does not adequately explain the phenomena which it is desired to account for. What it seeks to provide is a fair trial for each one of our race, whereby he had a fair opportunity to escape a fall, and consequent ruin and misery. This could not be, unless they were created with a bias toward holiness as strong as their propensity to sin, so that there was at least an even chance in their favor. But