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subject of great difficulty, presenting some of the profoundest questions in anthropology and religion. It has formed one of the chief battle-fields between orthodox Scriptural theology and almost every form of variant and misleading error. From the days of Pelagius down to modern Socinianism and Unitarianism the church has been obliged to face denials of the fact of "original sin" or false views of it, and to vindicate the Biblical doctrine concerning it.
The designation itself, “original sin,” is, indeed, not Biblical but ecclesiastical. It is a coinage of theology to name a truth of Scripture teaching. The term "original ” is not employed as referring to any evil belonging to man by virtue of his own origin, but to two facts : (a) the origin of human sin in the sin of the first or original man; (6) the fact that it is the fountain or source from which comes the “actual” sin in our personal lives.
The teaching of the Scriptures, in its essential truths, as understood by our Church, is stated in the Augsburg Confession: “Our churches likewise teach, that since the fall of Adam all men who are naturally engendered are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God or confidence toward Him, and with sinful propensities; and that this disease or original sin is truly sin, and still condemns and causes eternal death to those who are not born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit.” The Form of Concord re-asserts the substance of this Article, guarding the truth from both Pelagian and Manichæan error. With this the Ninth Article of the Church of England is in substantial agreement, as are
1 Article II.
Epit., ch. i.
the chief Confessions of the large historical churches of Protestantism.
A representative definition or two may well be quoted. From Quenstedt: “Original sin is a want of original righteousness, derived from the sin of Adam and propagated to all men who are begotten in the ordinary mode of generation, including the dreadful corruption and depravity of human nature and all its powers, excluding all from the favor of God and eternal life, and subjecting them to temporal and eternal punishments, unless they are born again of water and the Spirit, or obtain the remission of their sins through Christ."? From Hollaz: “Original sin is a want of original righteousness, connected with a depraved inclination, corrupting in the most inward parts the whole human nature, which was derived from the fall of our first parents, and is propagated to all men by natural generation, rendering them indisposed to spiritual good, but inclined to evil, and making them the objects of divine wrath and eternal condemnation”? Analyzing any or all of these statements, which may be taken as correct, we find they include the following distinct points : (1) Original sin arises from Adam's sin and fall. (2) It belongs to all men, without exception, born according to the order of nature. (3) It is propagated by hereditary descent. (4) It consists of two things, first, a want, a privation of original righteousness, a state of soul indisposed to good; secondly, a positive inclination to evil, a real corruption or depravity, an active and strong tendency contrary to the law of holiness. Even this kind of sin is no mere negation—an absence simply of what is good, the jn ov of some speculative teaching. (5) It is really sin. (6) It involves guilt, draws divine condemnation. (7) Unless forgiven and overcome by grace, it brings eternal death.
* ii., 62.
These various points will be more fully understood as the essential features of the doctrine are recalled and considered in order.
1. The fact of original sin is, of course, basal for the whole consideration of the subject. In Christian theology the first and ruling authority for this is drawn from the Scriptures. Beyond doubt the Scriptures teach it. It is involved not only in the account of the fall, but fundamentally underlies the whole conception of the divine administration described as dealing with a race alienated from God, love, and righteousness, and deeply corrupt. Startling expressions of it are continuously given in word and event. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “I will destroy man from the face of the earth ” (Gen. vi. 5-7; Ps. xiv. 2-3 ; li. 5). It underlies the entire order of the legal, sacrificial, and prophetic dispensations of the Old Testament. It is directly taught in Rom iii. 9-23; V. 12-21; 1 Cor. ii. 14; Eph. ii. 2-10; John iii. 5-6. Just as decisively is it involved in all the Scriptures which teach the necessity of regeneration or renewal in order to holiness and heaven (John iii. 3; Eph. iv. 21-24; 2 Cor. v. 17). The “new creature,"
""new man,” is correlate to “the natural man as despoiled of the innocence and holiness in primal man. Every word in the Bible assertive of the necessity of regeneration or renovation of man for his true life and destiny is a reaffirmation of the truth of this depravity. And so is every statement that connects man's universal bodily death with sin, and opens to view a resurrection
from the dead as an outcome of redemption (Rom. v. 1221; viii. 19-23; 2 Cor. v. 4; 1 Cor. xv. 20-26; John xi. 25). All die because all are in sin. If the attempt be made to discredit this relation of sin to death by scientific evidence that death was in the world, reigning over animal life, and that it still reigns, though they have not sinned, the answer is that their dying is nowhere made to rest on this cause. They were never included in the covenant or scope of immortality. Their case is not the same as that of man. Animal death is a problem by itself. The divine revelation was not given to throw light upon it, but upon man's condition and way of recovery to his true life and immortality. And the whole form of Christian doctrine is found deeply structured to the needs involved in this sinfulness of the race.
The prevalence of sin as a fact in the world is strongly confirmatory of the Scripture teaching. Wherever man is found, sin is found. It is manifestly congenital. No one can look on human life as it is in fact, as exhibited in the condition, character, deeds, and spirit of the earth's population in all nations and history —the everlasting sway of ambition and wrong, the interminable horrors of war and carnage, the selfishness, hate, and violence torturing every community, the omnipresent evils that disfigure and desolate family and personal life wherever the eye is turned-no one can look on it all and count our nature a holy and unfallen thing, as made by a God of love and righteousness. The bias to sin shows itself in the first dawnings of self-conscious individual life, universally. A universal effect must have a universal cause.
This doctrine of native sinfulness is not due simply to our Biblical training. Pagan writers have asserted it strongly. Plato represents some evil in
every one as a corruption from his parents.' Aristotle finds, along with the reason which inclines every man upward, another inborn principle which fights and strains against the reason. Ovid confesses : “I see the better and approve it, yet I follow the worse."'s Seneca says: “It was the complaint of our ancestors, it is our own, it will be that of posterity, that morals are subverted, that corruption reigns.". From all over the vast Orient
»4 has been coming for ages the ache and shadow of inborn sin which theory there counts as brought by transmigration from a pre-existent state. The various attempts to account for this prevalence of actual sin without admitting the corrupted condition of human nature through the Adamic fall, have not been successful, either singly or together. For example:
(a) The Pelagian teaching, holding moral indifference, absence of all native “bias, whether good or bad,” to be essential to the liberty of free-agency and responsibility, has alleged such“ original sin ” to be contradicted by the fact of responsibility. But this effort to explain every man's acting as he does as an ultimate fact of his free agency, each one falling for himself, breaks on the illogical assumption that the universal fact of sin can be fairly explained by any indifferent cause. If the will or nature is without bias, how is it that it makes sinners of all men ?
(6) It is explained as due to the influence of example. But the inadequacy of this remains evident till it is shown how evil example could have obtained universal supremacy except through a disordered condition of the nature itself. Moreover, the tendency to sin Plato, “Menon,” p. 89.
3"Metamorphoses," vii., 20. Ethics," XXXV., 32.
4 " De Benef.,” i., 10.