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ON THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN.
ROMANS V. 18.
By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to con
Fall the articles of faith which have had the reputation of orthodoxy, or have generally been supposed to be plainly taught in the holy scriptures, none perhaps, have made more infidels; and none appear indeed, harder to reconcile with reason and common sense, than the doctrines of imputed sin, and imputed righteousness. There are some others which may not be less incomprehensible; particularly the doctrine of three persons in one God, and that of two distinct natures in the one person of Jesus Christ. But then these are altogether above our full investigation, rather than evidently contrary to human reason. Besides, in the God-head, and in the Divine Mediator, things wonderful, and secret things which belong to God alone, might well be expected: whereas the just grounds of our own condemnation, when we are condemned; and of our justification, when we are justified, one would think, were among the things which it should belong to us to understand, But how sin can justly be imputed to the personally
innocent; or righteousness to those who are personally sinful-how one can deserve condemnation because another has sinned, or justification and a reward because another has been obedient, at first view, it looks hard to conceive, if not utterly impossible ever to comprehend.
Such, however, is the weakness of our reason, and so liable are we to err in judgment, that it surely does not become us hastily to reject the Bible, which has so much evidence of being the word of God, merely because it contains a few such apparent paradoxes as these. Nor should we despair of seeing the reasonableness, of what the scriptures really teach concerning these doctrines, without a patient and very careful examination.
In the New-Testament or the Old, the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, and of the righteousness of Christ to believers in him, are no where taught, I think, in more plain and express terms, than in this passage, part of which has been now read. The apostle here says, "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
But at present I have chosen to pay a particular attention only to the former of these doctrines-that of original sin. On this subject it is proposed,
I. To show, that all men are now by nature in a state of sin and condemnation.
II. That they were brought into this state by the fall of Adam: and,
III. To see if this may not be so understood, as to appear consistent with justice.
That all men are now, by some means or other, in a state of sin, is evident,
1. From what is expressly said in scripture, and what is plainly seen or known in fact, of the early and universal depravity of mankind.
We are told of God's saying to Noah, after the flood, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." It is said, Eccl. vii. 20, "There is not a just man upon earth, that doth good, and sinneth not." The apostle says, Rom. iii. 9, 10, We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." In Psal. lviii. 3, it is said, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."
And have we not abundant evidence from our own observation, that mankind of every age, are more or less wicked? Do not little children early go astray still, and speak lies? and do they not discover evil inclinations, long before they can speak or go alone? Do we not plainly see in them many symptoms, from their very birth, of the same tempers and passions, some of the same at least, which break out afterwards, in all manner of evil works? And when we consider how this whole world from the time that men began to multiply, hath ever been, and still is, "like the troubled sea, whose waters cast. up mire and dirt:" what a multitude of rulers, laws and punishments, have been found necessary for the preservation of any peace in society; which after all, has been but very imperfectly preserved: what scenes of wars and fightings among the nations, are perpetually exhibited: what vast armies of human beings, have been slaughtered by human hands: what a Golgotha and an Aceldama the earth has been, ever since it was stained with the blood of Abel :when we consider all these things, have we not a most sensible, shocking evidence of the truth of
Solomon's observation? "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead."
2. The mortality of mankind, in every period of life, is a full proof of their being sinners from the birth.
Death, was the original threatening for sin. Temporal death, was expressly a part of the sentence passed upon Adam: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." And that God doth not, and that it may be concluded from his perfections he never will, inflict the pains of death, on any of his rational creatures who are free from sin, is plainly implied in several passages of scripture. "Remember, I pray thee," says Eliphaz to Job, "who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" And Abraham says, in his intercession to God for Sodom, "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?--That be far from thee-shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" When therefore, we see that no age is exempted from the stroke of death-when we see infants thus destroyed, as well as adults; when we are so often witnesses of their being cut off with pining sickness, or taken out of the world suddenly by terrible convulsions; have we not indisputable evidence, that, in the view of Him who knoweth all things, even infants are not innocent?
The apostle in our context, is supposed to make use of this argument, in proof of original sin. He speaks of the passing of death upon all men, and of its reigning even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. That is, I conceive, over infants; who could not have transgressed any known law of God, as Adam did. The argument is grounded on the justice of God, with which it is supposed inconsistent to inflict such a death as we now die, on all men, of every age, unless all were some way really sinful.
To evade this evidence, some have said, the sufferings of infants may be compensated, or made up to them. They may, for ought that we know, all of them, enjoy, in this life, or in the life to come, more than they suffer. Their existence, the whole of it taken together, may be preferable to non-existence. And if it be so, then no injury is done them, by the pains they are made to endure, though they be perfectly free from sin.
But, it may be observed, in answer to this evasion, that it is not very agreeable to our ideas of a just judge, to inflict pains and penalties on an innocent person, because he has done him good before; or means to satisfy him for the injury afterwards.
It may be answered also, that this would destroy all distinction between the innocent and the guilty, in regard to the proper treatment of them; and so would utterly defeat the grand design of inflicting punishment on evil doers. If such a way of procedure were just, and known to be so, displeasure could never be made manifest by punishing. Suffering could never, in any case, be a certain proof of sin. Upon the principle of this evasion, inflicting the pains of hell, for millions of ages, on the most innocent, might be perfectly just nor could it ever be known by the torments of any of the damned, that God was at all angry with them, or that they were not as pure as the angels of heaven, in his sight. For, until the end of eternity, this possibility will remain, of their receiving more good than they suffer evil. Their existence, for ought that any creature can tell, may still be made better to them than non-existence. After the longest duration of most extreme misery, suffered for no offence, there will be time enough, or eternity enough, for all to be amply made up to them, in the enjoyment of still more durable happiness. And consequently, if such a way of treating innocent creatures were just, God could never show his wrath by punishing any workers of iniquity: because it never