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thought of the atonement there was a true and terrible sense in which the whole race had fallen under condemnation because of sin. The righteous sacrifice of Christ removed unconditionally the original imputation of guilt. This imputation was upon the race as a whole, and was removed by one act of atonement. A familiar illustration may be supposed. A father commits a capital crime, and falls into the disgrace naturally attending the execution of a just legal penalty. His children not only share his material and social undoing, but, in a sense, his penalty, not indeed of direct sentence, but more really it may be than if a measured penalty were visited. It is the same in the larger estate of man. The children that share the penalty must share also the pardon and restoration when they come. Our race did share unconditionally this restoration to favor.
This is the meaning of the clause in the Second Article: “Not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of men.” The words "original guilt” there describe a view which no other form of words could now describe, which has been modified by the historical advance of Anglican and Wesleyan theology into the doctrine expressed in the terms of the Article (VII.) now under discussion: "Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam.” This "corruption" may and quickly does become sin when indorsed by the choice or election of the will. Then that which before was negative now becomes positive in quality.
The particular illustration of the doctrine is in infants or children who have not committed actual sin.
The Articles of our Confession and the maturest views of our founder deliver us upon certain scriptural ground. Such children are without sin, without guilt, without condemnation, "for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In view of our historical and confessional situation on this subject, Dr. Bledsoe says: “It is impossible, therefore, that newborn infants could be guilty of sin, in the true sense of the word, inasmuch as they are incapable of a voluntary transgression of a known law. They are fallen, ruined, depraved beings, but not sinners. They deserve no punishment whatever."
These views have become an open vision to every man who follows sanely in the paths which the history of our theology has made. The arbitrary terminology which remains to us in some instances (notably in this) has sometimes brought confusion; but its substitution by another less direct, less well-defined would augment the confusion a thousand times over. It is plain that the destiny of Methodism is to fight her newest battles on the doctrines of sin and salvation under the old flag of her liberation.
I have thought it well to be at so much pains concerning this particular point in our Confession since it is the one on which are usually concentrated the charges and exceptions that the hasty and sciolistic critics are accustomed to urge against the Articles as being relics and remains of an effete Calvinism, or whatever else, according to the taste or bent of the objector. If one desires to establish such a charge against the theology of Methodism, he must go elsewhere than to its Arti
cles of Religion. After a lifelong search for truth, Mr. Wesley found it and led his followers into the light of it as embodied in these clarified Articles.
INTERPRETATION. 1. "Original sin." We have elsewhere discussed the technical use of this term as an Article heading in an Arminian Confession. It is retained, and must continue to be retained,4 through the force of the precedent of the Augustinian dogma which has dominated every principal theology of the world—that is, the modern world-except our own. Augustine may well be called the father of the dogma of inherited guilt, for it was unknown to the early fathers of the Church, and finds no warrant in Holy Scripture. Augustine invented it as a means of making headway against Pelagius and Coelestius, whose errors were, in fact, not so great as his own. From Irenæus to Ambrose there is found no support of the Augustinian dogma. They held, did these earlier fathers, Eastern and Western, to the doctrine of man's natural corruption, his hereditary moral ruin; but there was no dream that this corruption was guilt, or deserved, or was to be visited by, the wrath of God. In this Methodism stands with the Church of the first four centuries,5 The oft-repeated words of the Master concerning the
*This title has been retained in the Japanese Articles, though all other references to original sin have been cut out.
B“The early fathers held and asserted, it is true, the universality of human corruption, or the original infection of our nature from Adam. But this 'corruption' or 'infection' they did not call sin.” (Bledsoe.)
state of little children are sufficient to overturn a world of theology built upon the false premise of a sin inherited from Adam.
The doctrine of Methodism refers the origin of sin to a principle. The New Testament ultimately deals with sin in the concrete. The Holy Ghost convinces the world of sin. All sin, all transgression of the law, has its root in that principle of evil. The first sinthat is, Adam's sin-sprang out of it, like a plant from its root. All subsequent sin is related to that first sin as the expandings of a tree are related to the first stage of its growth. Mark this: the first sin—the sin of Adam-is not the principle; that principle lies deeper than the Adamic sin, if so it must be called. That principle is ever present. Those who sin after Adam do not sin in him, but with him. In addition to this, the moral effects of the first sin, and indeed of all earlier sins, have made it easier for us who come after to sin. We are put by heredity on the plane of natural desire. When the laws of heredity are fully understood and expounded, it is almost certain that we shall see that the scientific doctrine will be much nearer the oft-decried theological doctrine than is now generally believed. It will reveal a practical identity with the teachings of this Methodist tenet. It is a question of natural and necessary entailments which are to be arrested and remedied by adequate interpositions. Here is the sphere of the great, glad gospel of the sindestroying seed of the woman. But for the remedial agencies of grace sin had long ago destroyed the race.
2. “In the following of Adam.” It is plain that those who sin do not simply imitate the first sinner of the race, but are influenced by a principle which that first sin uncovered and developed into life-a principle which has been kept active by every subsequent sin. It is not imitation, but participation; not so-called federal implication, but a partnership complication. We are all sinners together, and the sin inevitably springs from the ancient root and source.
Certain of questions which will be raised by the above reflections, I undertake a brief discussion of what is involved in the idea of a principle of evil from which sin is derived. The giving of a commandment to the first moral representative of the race supposed his ability to keep or to violate it. The first idea relates to the principle of original righteousness, from which man is "very far gone." Original righteousness was the virgin innocency—the untested powers—of man. The other idea—the ability to violate the commandment-relates to the opposite principle of sin. The angels are believed to have sinned before man. The nature of angelic sin' is in no wise different from human sin—it is the transgression of a known law. That law was the substance of the Ten Commandments. The principle of evil was embodied in the serpent—the tempter. That principle is ever present, and becomes sin to those who allow it, who adopt it in action. The first man allowed it, adopted it, and thus brought it into the sphere of his affections and motives. Heredity, which is a correlate of life, set the principle moving down the currents of universal being. The principle of evil is, everywhere, on the negative side of the commandment, as the principle of grace or righteousness is on the positive side.