Imatges de pÓgina
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of Christendom. Is it Scriptural and true? Or is this depravity a state without moral quality, simply a condition of injury or disadvantage, a calamity, void of sinfulness ? From the days of Pelagius there have been those who have said that “sin" is predicable only of personal or voluntary acts—that the moral nature back of these is simply capacity-endowment for personal choices and action to which alone moral quality or character belongs. They assert that as moral character is something for which man is held responsible, there can be no predication of sin as fact or feature of the individual human life back of the exercise of personal choices and behavior. Each human life attains character for itself only by and in these. But this criticism of the doctrine is far more specious than sound. Beyond all question, the Scriptures speak of this innate disposition to evil as sin. When the apostle (Rom. vi. 12) says: “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof," he so characterizes it; for he specifically designates the “lusts” or depravities existing prior to the acts of free choice, which men may “obey" or resist, as "sins.” The same conception is seen in “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (verse 14), and “Whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered, and being made free from sin, ye became seryants of righteousness” (verses 17-18). In fact, the apostle's entire discussion in this connection seems meant to give prolonged emphasis to the sinfulness of the corrupt state of human nature, as well as to the necessity of the grace of salvation from it through the new life of faith. In verse 6 he speaks of “our old man,” i. e., the old ego or self, the personality in its entire sinful condition before regeneration, as so alive with impious and immoral tendencies that the bad ego must be “crucified" with Christ if the bondage is to be overcome in a true liberty of manhood. (Compare Eph. iv. 22-24; Col. iii. 9.) St. John's definition of sin fully embraces the innate moral disorder : “Sin is lawlessness” (åvoula), non-conformity to law, which may mark a state or disposition of the soul, as settled aversions or affinities, as well as outward acts or separate choices. (See also 1 John v. 17.) The same view is clearly embedded in Jesus' statement : “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings” (Matt. xv. 19), for the states and impellings in the inner depravity are the fountain sources of the acts of will and conduct. They give the character that is seen in action. The critics of the truth in question will need to revise their restrictive definition of sin if they are to reach harmony with the Biblical teaching in its more comprehensive and profound representation of it. We must say “more profound," because it is based in the deeper and necessary principle that moral good and evil are such by virtue of what they are in their very nature, and not by virtue of their cause or source,' and that the grounds of the moral distinction are immutable.

This conclusion is sustained when we penetrate and mark the essence of sin. From the time of Augustine Christian thought has prevailingly conceived the central essence as selfishness-self-seeking as over against duty to God and fellow

men. It takes on innumerable

1 Jonathan Edwards says: "The essence of virtue or vice of dispositions of heart lies not in their cause, but in their nature."-"Freedom of Will," Part IV., sec. I.

forms, whether it violates the obligations on the divine or the human side. But whatever form it assumes in either relation, sin is the placing of self-will or selfishness above the claims of right and love. It is the adoption of a false and discordant principle. It is so in sins of omission and commission. In the mirror of the very first human sin, a disobedient assertion of self-will is seen as the all-embracing beginning of humanity's infinite forms of sin and sinfulness. It is plain that the sway of this spirit must alienate from God and fellow-men, and throw all the vital relations of life into unspeakable disorder and moral wrong. And if a person sins in an act of free choice, he thus, eo ipso, places his nature in a sinful and guilty attitude toward duty and righteousness. He has dropped his nature out of its true harmonies and adaptations to God and his fellow-men, broken and disordered its normal working and life-forces away from the supreme law of love. And if, as was the case with Adam, beyond this personal actual sin and guilt, and the state of moral disorder into which his powers are thus reduced, there is the further principle of hereditary transmission of constitutional nature, pure or corrupted, to which human experience has ever given impressive witness, this corruption becomes part of the intrinsic character of descendants as a sinful state.

It is evident, thus, that sin is predicable of both acts and states of personality. It may belong to deeds, or to the character of the manhood existing back of the deeds. They are different forms of sin, but in each it is sin. It is a plain mistake to affirm sin of acts and deny it of depravity—to refuse to recognize it in the condition or attitude of the soul itself, in its settled alienation from God, its aversion to the duties of love and holy obedience. If a single act of disobedience is sin, something in its essential quality wrong, which the moral sense asserts “ought not” to be, what shall be said of the deep, abiding temper of lawlessness, whose wrong affinities of evil are lodged in the very life-forces which lie behind and cause the evil acts or choice? The badness is not merely superficial or a mere appearance, or harmless prior to an act of will, but a breach with the principle of duty in the very life of the soul, a bad fountain polluting its streams. Surely this is per se evil, evil in the ethical sense, a inoral “ought not,” “sin." The error that denies this is grounded in one of two mistakes or in both, viz. : a more restrictive definition of sin than that of Bible usage, or in a superficial estimate of the import of this inborn antagonism to righteousness.?

1 A false impression is sometimes made by an attempt to identify, or at least to parallel, this depravity with " disease.” But it cannot justly be held as either identical or parallel. From all that we know of disease, even under the light of modern science, it is something that belongs to the material organism, some break or disorder in the physical processes, a reality that is inapplicable to the spirit-unit which is the ego of free-personality. A free, personal spirit, uncompounded, such as man is at the center and in the essence of his being, may alienate himself from God by free act of sin and break away from the true life for which he has been made, the life of righteousness and goodness. He may thus bring even into his bodily organism the disorders that we call disease. Disease is not matter's own self-choice. Matter is incapable of sin–because not personal. But "sin" is sin, in its initiation as self-introduced into the human “soul,” which is personal. Disease is one thing, sin is quite another and different. The one attaches to matter, the other to spirit. But, it may be asked, does not this very distinction compel us to the conclusion that sin can be found only in free acts of personal choice? The correct answer is, no. For just as there may be and is a law of hereditary descent for “disease" in impersonal being, there may be and is a law of hereditary descent of “sin," in the form of an alienated attitude or state of the personal life and nature of the soul. Sin attaches to soul-life-disease to bodily or physical. But sin is not disease, nor disease sin.

There is one fact, however, that must be noted at this point, and remembered for consideration in another relation, the fact that theology makes, as it must, the clear distinction between this "original sin ” and “actual sins." Our view of the whole subject, and of the problems it involves, must bear this distinction constantly in mind, if we are to reach precise and just conclusions as to the import of this form of sin, and especially concerning the responsibility which it involves.

(6) But there is a further and more complex questionthe question most perplexing in the long discussion of the problem of original sin—whether this depravity, thus truly sin, also includes guilt. The Augsburg Confession says of it, that it "condemns and causes eternal death." After the prolonged controversy, how are we to hold on this point? We must clearly distinguish between sin and guilt. Sin, as we have seen, is the wrong act or state of the soul, diverging from the law of duty or righteousness : guilt may be defined as the consequent ill-desert or demerit involved in the sin, its desert of punishment (reatus pænæ). Doing right, or being right, is intrinsically that which ethically “ought to be," and deserves favor and happiness. Correspondently to this good desert of righteousness, is the bad desert of sin. It merits ill, it calls for punitive repression. Because it is sin it involves guilt, and involves the one because it is the other. The two things are inseparable.

But here objection is made. It is conceded that such guilt is affirmed in conscience in connection with our sins as committed in our free agency, but in the case under consideration we are involved in the sin by no act of our own, but from a point back of our own agency. It has come upon us and has a place in us by

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