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variety of character, even among members of the same family, the children of the same parents, and having the same example and education.
But do not children suffer from their connection with bad parents? We answer, yes.
But this is not peculiar to the relation of parents and children. We are liable to suffer morally and physically from our connection with every one with whom we associate. We are liable to be corrupted, or robbed, or deceived, or murdered even, by a perfect stranger. The good or evil we receive from our parents is greater than any other, because with them we have a closer, more important and lasting connection. Being free beings, both parents and children, we could not receive the good without being exposed to the evil. On the whole, the good preponderates, both in that and in every other relation. That evil should be admitted into it is no more strange than that it should have been admitted into the universe at all. And men, Christ has told us, are accountable, not for what they have not, but for what they have. God is not a hard master, reaping where he had not sown, requiring the full tale of brick, and withholding the straw. The circumstances of every human being are diverse from those of every other human being, the talents and opportunities different. One of these circumstances is the moral qualities of our parents, and those diversities of disposition and temperament, if any such there be, which we have inherited from them. And if the representations of the Scripture are true, they will
all be taken into account by a righteous God, in the judgment of each.
And here we are led to remark, that the doctrine of original sin, while it reflects the highest dishonour on the character of God, and adds gloom to our conceptions of the miserable condition of man under such a government,
government, and is apparently intended to humble mankind, in fact annihilates human guilt altogether. The more depraved man's nature is by an agency not his own, the less to blame is he for doing wrong.
A man who is famishing is less to blame for stealing than one whose appetite is fully supplied. So if God creates men devils, he cannot expect any thing from them them but the actions and characters of devils. He cannot create a bramble and then expect from it grapes or figs. He cannot create a tiger and then punish it because it does not behave with the gentleness of a lamb. He cannot create a fish with a nature to swim in the sea, and then punish it because it does not walk upon the shore. He cannot make an animal with a violent antipathy to water, "disabled, disinclined and made opposite” to it, and altogether inclined to live on land, and then punish it for not diving into the ocean. God expects all creatures to act according to their natures, or he would not have given them such natures. He would have given them natures best calculated for that action which best pleases him. The nature he gives them is the strongest possible indication of his design, and the purpose for which they are
made. God creates us
us as really through our parents as he did Adam without parents. And we have just the constitution and nature which he designed, as much as he had. If sin be the only, the necessary, the natural action of our constitution, or of that combination of powers which God has given us, then sin is the natural use and exercise of all our faculties, and must be presumed to be the end for which they were made. Sin is then the natural use, not the perversion, of our powers. Sin then is no longer sin. Virtue would a perversion, would be sin. The very essence of sin is that it is a perversion of our nature and powers from the end and use for which they were designed to something else. The end of a thing cannot possibly be other than the only end which it is made capable of attaining. Then if sin be the only thing which man by his natural powers can do, sin is the end for which he is made. Virtue cannot be the end for which man is made, if he is made naturally utterly incapable of virtue. So this system, in its zeal to break man down and humble him under a sense of his sin, overshoots its mark, proves too much, defeats its own object, and makes man no sinner at all. For the power to do right is necessary to the guilt of doing wrong. The power to obey is indispensable to the moral turpitude of disobedience. All guilt supposes choice of evil when good was in our power. If good is not within our choice, then the very condition is taken away which constitutes any act sin. Accountability and power,
according to the eternal laws of justice and the nature of things, must be always precisely commensurate with each other. To suppose that God made man for virtue, and gave him such a constitution that its natural spontaneous and necessary frụit and action is vice, is a contradiction in terms. Man's nature, the nature of every individual born into the world, is given him by God. The parents are merely the instruments in his hands. If he chooses to work with vitiated, imperfect instruments, so as to vitiate and ruin the nature and constitution of the being he creates, so that it naturally and necessarily goes wrong forever, then it is an act of his sovereign pleasure, perfectly arbitrary if the being be incapable of suffering from going wrong, and perfectly unjust, tyrannical and cruel, if he be capable of misery.
But it may here be asked, how happens it that man is a sinner? Why, if man be created innocent and pure, does it happen that every man violates the laws of God? I can give no better answer to this, than the account which the Westminster divines have given of the causes of Adam's first sin.” “Our First Parents,” say they, with great simplicity, “being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state wherein they were created, by sinning against God.” So we say of all their offspring, being left to the freedom of their own will, they fall from the state wherein they were created by sinning against God. If then we have no need of going further back with the parents why is there with their offspring?
The capacity, the possibility of sin, and temptations to it, are involved as necessary to the very state of probation and trial. Without this possibility, capacity, temptation, there could be no virture, no merit, no reward. There must, in order to a fair trial, be a balance in the mind between temptation, and reason and conscience, such as the will may turn it either way. It is to be supposed, is it not, that man would sometimes do wrong as well as right? He has a constitution, all the parts of which minister to his happiness if rightly used. But every thing is capable of abuse. Pleasure may be sought in violation of the moral sense. Of course sin and ultimate unhappiness is the result. But that very misery is calculated to cure the sin, and teach us to avoid it in future, so that even retributory suffering is not pure unmingled evil. Though nauseous, it is medicinal, and tends to restore moral health.
It only remains to examine the few, very few, passages of Scripture, in which it is thought that this doctrine is taught. We have seen that original sin is not taught either expressly or by implication in Genesis. Neither man's mortality, nor the sinfulness of his offspring is there made the penalty of his sin. We do not deny that the Jews in after ages invented these and many other fictions concerning the fall, as for instance the devil's animating and speaking through the serpent, and that these superstitions are alluded to by Christ and his apostles in the New Testament, in illustration of