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The sinner stands in a different relation to the sin in the two cases. In actual sin, he is the doer. It is of his personal free choice, his own act. In original sin it is an inheritance—in him back of all personal activity or consent. Thus in actual sin, the sin is one's own in a sense in which it is not in original sin. The relation of responsibility with respect to it is modified by the difference. In actual sin one is responsible for the origination or existence of the sin; in original sin there can be no responsibility for this. In view of this deep and inerasable distinction and difference between original sin and actual sin, the different relations in which men stand to each, and the consequent modification of responsibility, the question arises whether theology has always and fully developed a view of the bearings of redemptive grace on the possibilities and terms of forgiveness and salvation, consistent with the clearly recognized distinction? From the beginning, child
membership in the Church, inherited from the Old Testament covenant, rested in recognition of the grace of forgiveness of sin and of regeneration as reaching the condition of those who were in original sin alone. This covered the question of responsibility for original sin so far as it concerned infants within the organism of the Church. But there was a vast infant-world outside of the reach of this order. Gradually, from misapplying to infancy the condition of salvation through faith addressed in the Scriptures only to adults, theology settled into denial of salvation to infants dying without baptism. They were regarded as lost through original sin and its demerits alone. This view held sway through the Eastern and Western Churches. It is the teaching of the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches to-day. Protestantism inherited it. The problem of God's holding infants dying before actual sin responsible, has been upon it from the Reformation. The discussion of it has been constant and immense. The great Protestant confessions and general dogmatics were loyal to the Scriptures in affirming the innate depravity to be sin, and, in its very essence, ill-deserving. Nevertheless, theology could not rest at this point, without theoretic search into the full truth of the bearing of God's redemptive provision and administration with respect to the question of His penal exaction of the demerit of original sin. Luther broke with the prevalent view, in believing that God does not hold responsible for it the unbaptized children of believing parentage : “He will think kindly of them.” Lutheran and all Protestant theology has, in the main, followed him. It has, largely, gone further. Searching more and more thoroughly into the significance of the redemptive economy through forgiveness and spiritual recovery, and interpreting its scope of inclusion as adequately reached both in the Church's charter covenant, embracing unconscious infancy as well as believing parentage, and in the Redeemer's assurances of the Heavenly Father's care for little children, it has gradually reached general belief that under this order of divine grace, forgiveness of original sin, as distinguished from actual, is no more hindered with respect to the whole world of infancy than to the child of the believer, by the want of bap 'tism or personal knowledge of Christ. This belief is regarded as warranted by the necessary implications of the great fundamental fact, that Christ, as representing universal humanity, made Himself, in His work and sufferings, a propitiation for the sins of the whole world and “tasted death for every man," and that thus the whole human race, in all its individuals, is under altered relations and conditions of responsibility with respect to sin. Whether held to it, or released from it through forgiveness, depends, for those who have and know the Gospel, upon their acceptance or rejection of the revealed Saviour and salvation. The standard and measure of responsibility for the heathen, among whom the Gospel, with its message of redemptive love, light, and opportunity is unknown, has not been distinctly revealed. An apostle implies that they are judged according to the light they have. And with respect to infants among them, dying before commission of actual sin, and without "rejection of the Gospel, it is difficult to see how, under the economy of a gracious salvation, they should be regarded as held to responsibility for original sin, while in Christian lands such children, at least those of believers, dying unbaptized, are regarded as not so held.' Those, no more than these, have sinned or can sin, against the Gospel light and have not personally refused faith in the Saviour.
The majority of our Lutheran dogmaticians, while agreeing as to the salvation of the unbaptized children of believers, have, nevertheless, hesitated with respect to the children of non-Christians, though hoping the best for them. Some, however, have confidently denied their damnation. So Dannhauer, Balthasar Mentzer, Musaeus, Scherzer, and Cotta in his notes on Gerhard. They reason from the generic import of the Gospel teaching and conclude that “the analogy of faith makes certain that no one is condemned absolutely (absolute, i. e.,
1 Dr. Dorner, “System of Christian Doctrine," Vol III., p. 64, says: “That the children of Christian parents are saved is not doubted by our dogmatic theologians."
irrespective of some conditions), and that only actual resistance of the means of faith, unbelief alone, condemns.” They agree in asserting that “original sin alone is not adequate cause of damnation." All the grace God has to give He gives without condition to those who are absolutely incapable of complying with any conditions.
An echo of this conclusion is heard when Dr. C. P. Krauth, interpreting the Augsburg Confession in the light of its fundamental principles and essential theology, says: “It is not the teaching of the Confessions that there ever has been or ever will be a single soul lost by original sin alone.” 1
This principle of the divine administration that, through a full propitiation for sin in the suffering love and righteousness of Christ, God holds all infant human life, which has no guilt save that of original sin, under the grace of forgiveness instead of the disfavor or displeasure due to moral evil—a stay of judgment by an active reign of love for sin's overthrow and the rescue of its subjects-opens to our view the real sense and limitations in which all men are held in actual responsibility with respect to sin. To faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and its self-surrender to the love of God in Him, all sin is cancelled in forgiveness and is in process of vanquishment through regeneration. To childhood, before the
. age of moral discernment and knowledge, there is no requital of original sin, but a gracious acceptance and divine love. With respect to this condition of sinful nature, those to whom belong the care, nurture, and moulding of the child-period into Christian knowledge and obedience, sustain a tremendous responsibility with respect to the continued existence and issues of this evil, the overthrow of whose working is demanded by all the high interests of the life and destiny for which man has been created. On emergence from childhood into the moral personality of youth and manhood there is the pressure of an unspeakably solemn responsibility upon every man for whatever sway he, in his freedom, gives to the inborn depravity in face of the behests of conscience and the known will of God-especially in despite of the redemptory grace that provides pardon of guilt and recovery of the soul to the sinless holiness divinely meant for its life and blessedness. Men are thus accountable through free adoption of inherited sin as the life of their lives, making it their own choice, and carrying it on into actual sinning, which still further debases the subjective constitution.
1 "The Conservative Reformation," p. 429.
As distinguished from sin inherited, actual sin means sin in conduct, and presents no problems of speculative difficulty. Though it flows from the fountain of evil in a corrupted nature, its defining characteristic is that it consists in personal violations of moral obligation or the law of righteousness. It stands in personal abuse of free-agency in relation to God and fellow-men. Of it the world has always been full, in every conceivable form of evil, wrong, vice, violence, and crime. It is the wreckage of character, personal welfare and happiness, social order and peace. It is the self-ruin of individuals, the overthrow of families, the blight and destruction of nations. Its misdeeds make the atmosphere of the world vibrate with horrors.
The traditional classification suffices to mark proper distinctions: