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MAN'S STATE OF SIN.
This will require distinct consideration of the Fact of the Fall, its Moral and Penal Consequences, particularly what is usually called Original Sin, and Actual Sin.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE FALL. The possibility of a lapse from righteousness has already been adverted to. It lay in the lofty reality of man's creature being and position, gifted with rational freedom and capacities for the higher blessedness of holy fellowship with His Creator and of dominion over lower nature. It is worthy of note that the possibility of sin was found in the endowments that were the supreme excellences and elevation of man's nature, lifting him into divine similitude. It was not from any stint in the rank of his being or its privileges. In his free, holy personality God placed man alongside of Himself, a creature capable of the loftiest divine reality-holy character. But the possibility of free conformity to the divine holiness is the correlate to the possibility of non-conformity; and this gift of personality was perversely misused in violation of righteousness. Even reason itself sees that the moral evil that marks man is possible only to a nature of lofty endowments.
1. The fall must be viewed as a historical fact. It
1 Pp. 392-393.
is so represented in the Biblical account (Gen. iii. 1-19). Whatever symbolism interpreters may find, or think they find, in the narrative, the account is manifestly meant to affirm a historic event of immense moral and spiritual import in the conduct and experience of the newlycreated human race. We see no necessity for resolving it into a simple allegory or empty legend, nor pro priety in doing so. Though, after the oriental manner, symbolic or figurative forms of representation appear, yet the account moves on with evident air of historic purpose, to certify, in its essential reality, an actual transgression of divine commandment, a perversion of the human will from its true principle of holy obedience to God. And the genuine historicity of the account is implied and guaranteed by its clear linkage with the precedent record of the nature and status creationally given to man, and with the onward narration, sketching various consequences wrought by the moral lapse which had thus “brought sin into the world," and opening into the whole providential dispensation of divine forbearance, corrective discipline, and redemptory grace and provision, whose record fills the Old Testament and consummates itself in the New. The New Testament distinctly treats the fall as a historical event (Rom. v. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 22; 1 Tim. ii. 14).
2. Man fell through an external solicitation (Gen. iii. 1-7; Rev. xii. 9; XX. 2). He was not wholly self
moved. The fall was not purely and absolutely from within. It did not originate by the inner forces of man's nature, by constitutional set of his powers to the deed. These forces, in their direct adaptations and initial action, were in themselves either morally good or morally indifferent, i. e., some of them were positive and specific adjustments to righteousness, others per se only to physical functions; e.g., natural appetite for attractive food was not in itself wrong. It was good and holy in its place. The natural desire for knowledge, appealed to, was a noble feeling given for man's exaltation in holy intelligence. And the distinctively moral forces of his constitution, such as the affirmations of his reason and conscience, were positively conformed to righteousness. So had no temptation and deception come from without, it seems credible that the actual conditions of transgression might not have been realized. The external Satanic assailment, to which the Biblical representation attributes it, worked toward its issue, (a) by awakening doubt as to the fact of God's prohibitory law and responsibility for its violation; (6) by stimulating the desire for knowledge in unethical way; and (c) exciting ambitious pride, aspiring to rank as divine. To this fact of the external source of the temptation and deception must be added the further fact of the first man's privative condition, as utterly without experience. No long use of the powers of freedom had, through the law of habit, established a habitude of obedience. The concreated harmony of his nature with holiness was yet without the teaching and supporting power which comes from experience in moral life. These facts do not annul the guilt of the transgression. But they throw explaining light on the way of its occurrence.
3. The effects of the apostasy could not but be unspeakably serious. (a) Necessarily the sin brought actual guilt and condemnation. In the truest reality, the offenders were guilty, and amenable to the penal consequences which the guilty act might work in their nature and relations. Their sin, by the very necessity of its own essence, placed them not only outside of God's approval, but under bond to retributive consequences. Viewed in connection with the infinite claims of God and the eternal ethical principles which the apostasy set at nought, its guilt must have been exceedingly great. (6) It brought spiritual death, a dissolution of the true spiritual union and fellowship of the human life with God. Made in the divine image, a child of God, man's divinely-meant life and blessedness could be realized only in God. But by this diremption of the given spiritual relation, the true life was lost. This is indeed the deepest reality in the woeful consequences of that primal sin-a nature that by its free, but false, action had disordered itself, withdrawn itself from harmony with God and righteousness, and thus “died” to the holiness and blessedness for which it was created. Man had perverted, corrupted, and depraved his own nature by turning away from God. By inevitable law of moral reaction the will is enslaved by the power to which it allies or surrenders itself: Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John viii. 34). “In trespasses and sin” man is dead' with respect to his true life. It is in this we are to find the meaning of the Edenic warning: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (c) This depravity became the heritage of Adam's posterity. The law of descent, each nature after its kind, made the fallen nature the nature of the
Before the fall, holiness was natural to man; after the fall depravity became inherent and transmissible as a sinful condition. Sin is not indeed the “essence" or “substance” of man, but a state of moral disorder self-introduced by man-corrupt tendencies in the soul's life powers.' There can be no doubt that, by a natural law, evil does propagate and intensify itself.
1"Form of Concord,” Part II., ch, i.
But such propagation and intensifying imply the corrupting power of the individual lapses from righteousness. From what we thus know of this law of propagation, it is only a consistent conclusion when we accept the Biblical teaching that the primal Adamic disobedience and self-perversion left, for hereditary descent, a human nature already wounded and despoiled of competent spiritual power for the true holy life. (d) It brought to man eternal death, if not recovered by Divine grace. By this we mean—assuming his Divine destination to immortality of existence—an endless continuance of his alienation from God and corruption of his nature, if left to himself. “Eternal death' expresses the pro longation of the self-wrought condition of 'spiritual death' beyond the redemptory opportunities and grace of the earthly life into eternity. (e) Bodily or temporal death, for man, is Biblically made in some way consequent on his lapse into sin. It seems to have been included in the warning: “Thou shalt surely die” (Gen. ii. 17), and the exclusion from the “tree of life.” This connection of temporal death with the lapse into sin is plainly implied in the great fact that the work of redemption brings resurrection of the dead, restoring what sin took away (Rom. viii. 23)."
THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN. Among the consequences of the fall has been noted the corruption or depravity introduced into man's nature and made continuous for the race through hereditary relation. This claims further consideration. It is, confessedly, a
1 As to the way sin may have brought about bodily death, see pp. 390-392.