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LECTURE V.

ORIGINAL SIN.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”—Ezekiel, xviii. 20.

“ORIGINAL sin,” say the articles of the Church of England, “is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh always lusted contrary to the spirit, and, therefore, in every person born into the world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation.”

It is expressed more strongly and broadly in the Westminster Catechism. “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. The sinfulness of that state, whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. All

mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and the pains of hell forever.”

It is not too much to say of this doctrine, that it shrouds the universe in gloom. It represents the myriads of the human race to be created at the very commencement of their existence, heirs of hell, and the torments of the damned. And as a full half of the human race die in infancy and childhood, this world is a mere nursery for the regions of woe, where the young plants of immortal existence spring up only to be removed to the dreary plains of endless sorrow; earth is only the vestibule, the entrance to the chambers of eternal death. The whole race of mankind are born under God's wrath and curse, grow worse and worse while they live, and finally sink down, with few exceptions to inconceivable and eternal sufferings; and all this, not for what they have done, for any guilt or fault of their own, but in punishment of a sin, in which they did not participate, and of which they are entirely innocent, committed ages ago by a remote ancestor. He, who can look in the face of an infant in all its loveliness, and helplessness, and feel his heart yearn at the slightest accident which gives it pain, and believe this, must attribute to his Maker a character of infinite atrocity instead of mercy. Should you see a human parent torturing his children to death as soon as they were born, could you ever look on him with any other feeling

than that of horror and detestation? So it seems to me, any man who believes that God sends to eternal torments, myriads of the infants that are born into the world can never worship him from any other motive than the most abject and degrad

ing fear.

In the first place we remark, that the doctrine of original sin is incredible, because it involves the highest injustice on the part of God. If it be true, then there is an end of all religion. Religious affections towards God are founded on a belief of his moral perfection. The evidence of his moral perfection is found in what he does. And if he has done that which clearly contradicts all our ideas of justice, it is impossible for us to regard him as just, or to worship and love him as such.

That the condemnation of mankind to endless misery on account of Adam's sin would be unjust, is a proposition so plain that it only requires to be stated to strike the intuitive sense of justice, which God has implanted in every bosom. It is so plain that no reasoning can make it plainer. It only admits of illustration by parallel cases.

Suppose a law should be enacted, whereby it was decreed, that not only every thief should be imprisoned for life, but his children as soon as they were born to the remotest generation; would not such a law be considered unjust? But how infinitely less unjust than the condemnation of children for the sin of a remote ancestor, to interminable torments? Suppose it should be decreed that every murderer should not only be hung himself, but that all his

descendants to the end of time should have their eyes put out as soon as they were born? Could such a law as that be tolerated for a moment? Would not a legislature who could enact such a law be thought worthy of the eternal execration of mankind? And yet the injustice of such a law would be trifling, compared with that of dooming them to everlasting woe, instead of depriving them of one of their senses. It is to be borne in mind, likewise, that the effect of Adam's sin is two-fold. Its guilt is not only immediately imputed to his posterity, so that they are born under God's wrath and curse, but the same death in sin and corrupted nature is conveyed to his posterity, “whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.”

After this, when men are “disabledto all good, and made incapable of doing any thing good, then a law is proposed to them, not one article of which they can keep or perform, any more than the blind can see, or the lame can walk, and God punishes them for disobedience by all the pains that are consequent on sin in this world, and in the world to

Such a complication of injustice as this far transcends all human conception; it exceeds all the injustice, which has been committed in all the tyrannies that have existed since the commencement of time. We say, therefore, that there must be some mistake here, some grand defect, either in the premises, or the reasonings by which such a doctrine is deduced from them,

come.

I cannot doubt, that many pious and good men have thought themselves compelled by sufficient evidence to receive this doctrine as true, and doubtless, have considered it useful to break down and subdue the stubborn heart of sinful man. But I say, at the same time, that I know no doctrine, which to me seems · more calculated to vitiate and destroy all true piety to God and charity to man, to corrupt the moral sense and harden the heart.

I will only add to this part of the subject the candid confession of one of the most learned of

Orthodox commentators on the New Testament is who are now alive, Professor Stuart of Andover.

“Those,” says he, “who hold this theory usually maintain, that our depravity is not only connate, that is, born with us, but in us, innate, and that being such, it is also the punishment of Adam's sin which is imputed to us.

There are some very formidable difficulties in the way of this. For the sin in this case of Adam's posterity, that is, their original sin is by the very ground of the theory, merely imputed, not real and actual. But what is the punishment, actual to be sure, according to the statement of those, who advocate this theory, and actual indeed in a tremendous degree. The punishment begins with our being, it is born in us, and with us, and contains within itself not only the commencement of a misery, which is naturally without end, but is at the same time the root and ground of all other sins, which we commit, and which serve unspeakably to augment our

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