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Scriptural Examination of Original Sin.
515 all people who had any title to the his nature. I read of a tree of life, Christian name. Time however con- and a tree of knowledge which grew vinced me, chiefly by study of the in the garden of Eden, that to the Scriptures, that amongst the rest this former man had free access, and that doctrine of original sin, was not to be from the latter he was prohibited ; but found in revelation. Experience and I read nothing of the natural immore observation, equally led me to feel, tality of his creature, made of the dust, and think, that its tendency was very nor of any powers, either of body or bad, dishonourable to God, and pro- mind, that he possessed in a superior ductive of much evil to men ; that it degree over many of his descendants. was not inerely a doctrine on which He appeared to me to be the same Scripture was silent, and that there- frail, fallible and peccable creature in fore it might be true, but that it was his original state that his posterity have an error which both Scripture and ever been. My reason told me that reason condemn. I would advise my he could have but few wants, few friends, who are the subjects of reli- ideas, very limited knowledge, that gious depression, arising out of this his language must have been barren, soul-harrowing doctrine, to take the that he could have no acquaintance method that succeeded with me: if with either science or arts, that withthey can find a better I shall not ob- out a miraculous communication of ject to it. My method was this: 1 ideas from the fountain of intelligence, took the sacred volume and deter. he would have continued in this state mined to abide by its dictates what- of imbecility and ignorance, till he ever they might be; I kept my mind slowly, and by degrees, acquired ideas. as indifferent as I could to every thing I saw that his positive duties were but except the decision of truth; I would few, and that as his nature was frail, not admit during the investigation for the test of his obedience was simple. a moment, that the belief or reject- I conceived of him as a youth whose ion of this doctrine was of any conse- capacity is indeed good, whose pasquence whatever with respect to my sions are strong, whose experience is future state, for had interest or fear nothing. His passions prevailed, his prevailed while the question was pend- reason was vanquished, he took of the ing, the decision would have been forbidden fruit, he sought happiness, dictated not by reason, but passion. more happiness, a higher degree of I kept all my thoughts together, as glory, he fell, and found death; he much as possible, upon the one was told by his Creator the consepoint I was investigating, and I tried quence of his disobedience, he was to dismiss every thing foreign to it. I capable of understanding what he was had no business with the existence of told, but in an evil moment he transmoral evil, nor with the universal gressed. Were a man to be found mortality of creatures, nor with the with an equal simplicity of nature, frailties, follies, and imperfections of and placed in the same circumstances, mankind. I had nothing to do with he would doubtless act in the sanie catechisms, creeds, the opinions or manner, and precisely the same conimpertinences of fathers, priests or
follow. expositors. I cared as little for the weak, passion strong, temptation mere assertions of those about me on urgent, the man falls, and the sinner either side: when they quoted texts, dies. “ All die for that all have sin. I compared them with others, and ned.” “It is appointed to all men suffered no hypothetical explanation once to die.” It appeared to me thereto contradict plain evidence; I was to fore that death is an ordinance of see and examine for inyself; I prayed nature and that it is only an evil to an to God as a believer in Jesus Christ, accountable creature, who has broken for his assistance and blessing, and the laws of God. Dust thou art and opened the Bible. I began with the to dust thou shalt return.” As I read Mosaic account of the creation of nothing of the death of the soul in man. There I read, Gen. ii. 7, that this account of the fall of man, I. “ the Lord God formed man of the found nothing there to support the dust of the ground, and breathed into modern doctrine of destruction or that his nostrils the breath of life, and man of eternal future torment, nor indeed became a living soul," and that he could I gather from any thing in that placed him in circumstances suited to history, the evidence of a future slate,
Scriptural Examination of Original Sin. and I saw nothing there to induce me I then proceeded to the examination to think that a just God would impart of such other passages of Scripture, as any moral incapacity, or radical and I knew were advanced with a view to inherent depravity to Adam's descend- establish this doctrine of original sin. ants, much less the imputation of his The next I considered was that awful sin. By a necessity of nature, 1 per- one recorded in Gen. iv. 8, 9, the ceived, that the first man must pro- murder of Abel, the fruit of envy and duce creatures in his own image, by revenge; but I hear the Creator exwhich I understood frail, fallible, and borting Cain to do well, and promising peccable beings like himself, liable him acceptance on that condition; and io sorrows and death, but possessed I read, Heb. xi. that Abel obtained of equally high mental powers of witness that he was righteous : he reason and conscience, the image and believed and obeyed—“God testifying superscription of God; and therefore of his gifts;" yet both were the sons of accountable like their original parent the same parents, consequently both for their moral actions, and in many partook of the same nature. 'I supinstances more than he was, because posed that both had the same moral placed in different and more favoure capacity, and were therefore liable to able circumstances. I therefore think, the saine degree of responsibility. I that to represent, as some have done, saw no difference in the brothers in the venerable parent of the human the eye of God, beside moral differace as the greatest of all sinners, is an rence evinced by their conduct; hence instance of the folly of hypothesis, I concluded that not nature but habits and of shameful disrespect to the first made one brother a murderer and the of men, nor is it at all calculated 10 other a righteous man. The next give glory to God his Creator. Jose- portion of Scripture I considered was phus says well, that Moses spake the account of the moral state of the philosophically concerning the fall of world before the flood-Gen. vi. 5, 11, man, he meant I suppose figuratively. &c. “And God saw that the wickedMany truths historical and moral ness of man was great upon the earth, were thus according to the eastern and that every imagination of the wisdom, given 10 the world by the thoughts of his heart was only evil ancient sages.
To take the story continually. The earth was corrupt literally, is to receive a fable without before God, and the earth was filled its moral, the account would be very with violence.” This passage I knew lame and absurd. It is indeed a de- was advanced as a stock text, to prore scription of the triumph of passion the radical and inherent corruption of over reason and conscience, and thus human nature, derived from the the birth of sin, misery, and death. fallen Adam; yet, while I admitted Read the subject in this light, and it all this strong language, as giving a is intelligible, the imagery awfully just description of universal degeneracy sublime, well adapted and beautiful, of manners and corruption of hearts, and the moral in the highest degree I saw nothing in it to prove the impressive. Let our sons contemplate original and radical corruption of Adam, and our daughters their first nature; I knew that bad habits demother, in their happy state of simple prave the heart and imagination, and and satisfied nature, before the riotous that if partial corruption of principles passions began their wild uproar, existed, universal corruption might before irregular desire awoke in their also prevail, that men might become bosoms, before reason quitted her desperately wicked, that the voice of throne, and sensation assumed the conscience might be stified, and a sceptre. Then let them consider these moral death ensue. I knew that parents of the world the victims of when men “like not to retain God in remorse, dissatisfaction, guilt and their knowledge,” he might “ give death. And let them fly with horror them over to a reprobate mind." I the pursuing and fascinating serpent, knew that “what may be known of the first temptation to vice. Child of God is nevertheless manifest in them," the dust! to taste is death. “ Enter for “God hath shewed it to them." not into the path of the wicked, and I knew that “the invisible things of go not in the way of evil men, avoid him from the creation of the world it, pass not by it, wrn from it, and (before and after the fall of man) are. pass away."
clearly seen being understood by the
Scriptural Examination of Original Sin.
things that are made, even his eternal shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my power and Godhead, so they are with- mother couceive me."
I always out excuse.” I was convinced there. thought that “ sin was any transfore that the Anlediluvians could not gression of or want of conformity to lay their sins to the door of Adam, or the law of God." I knew that this their Creator, by pleading the original definition was totally inapplicable to and radical corruption of their nature the condition of a new born infant, or as the cause why “their foolish hearts to the conception of a human being. were darkened, and every imagination I knew that God“ made us and not we evil continually." I found also that ourselves.” I read Job s. 8, 12, that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, “God's hands had made and fashioned and a just man before God even in him, granted him life and favour, and these bad times.
that his visitation had preserved his I read in Gen. viii. 2, that “the spirit." I heard the same man asking imagination of man's heart is evil from (Job xxxi. 15,) concerning the poor his youth," (not from his birth or slave, “ did not he that made me in nature,) a sad proof this of human the womb, make him, and did not one frailty and the proneness of man to fashion us in the womb?" I shuddegenerate, like Adam, from that dered at the idea that God was the nature, at an early period of his author of sin, I considered the situaexistence. Accordingly, this is as- tion of the man who used the lansigned as a reason not for judgment, guage quoted in Psalm li. I supposed but for mercy, “I will not again curse it to be David, an adulterer, a murthe ground any more for man's sake, derer, but an humble penitent, and I neither will I again smite any more, could not think that he was seeking every living thing as I have done." I to palliate the enormity of his crimes. suppose the most ancient portion of the I knew nothing of the character of his Bible except Genesis is the Book of parents, but I supposed that all he Job. Some have quoted a passage in derived from them, with his animal the fifteenth chapter of that poem, to nature, were a huinan soul subject to prove the doctrine of the total depravity constitutional frailty and strong pas. of nature. “What is man that he sions, peculiarly prone to excess, pee should be clean, or he who is born of culiarly susceptible of certain iinpresa a woman that he should be righteous, sions, which if not restrained by behold he (God) putteth no trust in his reason and conscience, were liable to saints, yea, the heavens are not clean in carry him away from the path of his sight, how much more abomina- rectitude. I read his history; I saw ble and filthy is man who drinketh this man a potent and ambitious iniquity like water." Thus speaks monarch, with a great soul, but I Eliphaz, and the Lord said to Eliphaz never saw him so great as when he the Temanite, “my wrath is kindled humbled himself before God; and against thee, and against thy two confessed, and forsook his sin. I was friends, for ye have not spoken of me sure that he knew better than to exthe thing that is right as my servant cuse it by condemning the nature of Job hath." Job xlii. 7. It would his parents, much less the nature of be therefore highly improper to exalt man formed by that God who the reveries and dogmas of this man fashioneth the hearts of men alike," into the language of unerring revela- who hath done whatsoever he pleased, tion; but suppose his assertion to be “and whose tender mercies are over strictly true, we are not attempting to all his works." disprove that all men are sinners, but In the strong, and figurative lanto know whether all men are so by quage of Eastern poetry, the Psalmist a necessity of nature, whether they describes the constitutional weakness are born one entire mass of moral which plunged him into guilt, and he corruption derived from Adam. If a justly censures himself, but not his man " drink iniquity' like water," parents nor his God. I had not lived the poisoned beverage is no part of so long in the world, without observhis nature, and to drink is a voluntary ing that human beings constitutionally act. In this instance we have an old differed, that one man was heavy, trite proverb verified.
phlegmatic, and stupid, a second sanThe next passage I turned to, is guine, a third irritable, a fourth a sead in Psalm li. 5. “ Behold I was mean, poor and timid animal, some VOL. XI.
u train up
Scriptural Examination of Original Sin. were cold and barren spirits without God for his goodness) to capacity, and destitute of invention, a child in the way he should go," and that others were unable to compare was encouraged by the delightful hope two ideas together and draw a rational that when he shall “come to be old, conclusion; that some were as desti- he will not depart from it." tuie of memory as others of invention, I had seen that “ a wise son useth I had seen idiots and creditors with his father's instruction and maketh a good memories, and poets and debtors glad father," therefore I said “My with none at all; I had seen souls of son be wise and make my heart glad fire and souls of ice. Seriously, I that I may answer him that reproaches accounted for the poetic imagery of me:" I said to my neighbour “ corDavid in Psalm li: from the depth rect thy son and he shall give thee of his guilt, the strength of his feel- rest, yea he shall give delight unto thy ings, and the radical nature of his soul." I read Prov. x. 7, that the just penitence, expressed in the figurative man walketh in his integrity, his language of an highly wrought Eastern children are blessed after him, -that imagination.
a child is known by his I knew that there was nothing to doings whether his work be he found in the sacred records which whether it be right," rer. 11.' I read David possessed to justify the literal Psalm cxxxvii. that " Childreir are an sense of his reinark, a sense as contra- heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of dictory to the tenor of his own wri- the womb is his reward." I knew tings as to reason. I could not there. who had said, “Suffer lule children fore help rejecting that passage con to come unto me and forbid them not, sidered as a proof of the universal for of such is the kingdom of heaven." propagation of a radical and corrupt Except ye be converted, and be. moral nature, derived from the first come as little children, ye shall not sinuer or the imputation of his guilt see the kingdom of heaven." I thereto all his descendants. I turned over fore began to think that they did not the pages of revelation till I came as soon as they were born deserve to Psalm lviii. 3. There I read God's wrath and eternal damnation." that “the oricked are estranged from I now looked around me with the womb, they go astray as soon as pleasure : I thought I had travelled they be born, speaking lies." This ihrough half my journey, that the passage I had heard frequently quoted prospect was clearing up, the clouds to prove the universal and original dispersing, light rising out of obscudepravity of the heart of human rity, the heart-cheering sun began to beings. I could not accept this as a spread around me its life-nourishing proof of it; I knew that new born beams; but a Reverend Gentleman infants had no power to do good or quoted a passage in Jer. xvii. 9, on the evil, that they were incapable of a deceitfulness of the heart: he asserted moral choice, that they were destitute indeed that all who did not believe of the faculty of speech, that they his explanation must be bad men ; he were too helpless to go astray, and seemed to glory in the baseness of his that so far from speaking lies, they nature; he told me that the will, the could not speak at all. I was free to conscience, the understanding, all the admit that the children of the wicked powers of the mind, and all the promight be corrupted in early life by pensities of the heart of every, inan the bad example of their parents, that under the sun were by nature deceitthey might go astray from nature and ful above all things, and desperately virtue, and thus be estranged from wicked; he added that whoever denied the womb, and I had been often this fact, proved it by the very denial ! grieved to see the direful contagion of I read the passage, and context. vice spreading itself, like a fatal There I found, Jer. xvii. 1, that “the plagne, infecting the very souls of sin of Judah is written with a pen of vouth and childhood. I had seen iron, and with the point of a diamond, irith terror lving, deceit, dishonesty, graven upon the table of their hearts, debauchery, villaing, pride, illiberality and upon the horns of the altar." i and hypocrisy, propagated in the satv that the man whose heart departs heart's core of she rising generation, from the Lord and trusts in man shall be the wickedness and folly of parents. be like the heath of the desert, inhabitBut I was directed also, (blessed being the parched places of the wilder
Scriptural Examination of Original Sin.
519 ness, where falls no dew, no former sinned or his parents that lie was born nor latter rain, whose sandy plain blind," but I wondered not at all, at yields no nourishment, produces no
Neither hath this green thing, and no seed for the sup- man sinned nor his parents.” I read port of the famished traveller, no of evil thoughts and evil deeds prospring, no purling brook to quench his ceeding out of the heart of man, and thirst, where only the dry and worth- I knew that nothing upon earth beless sand moss, the heath of the sides could produce theni. desert," preserved the semblance of I heard the human heart described, vegetation, like that moss, he shall Matt. xii. 35, as a treasury. “A good never partake of the gentle dew from man out of the good treasure of his heaven, nor of the blessings of the heart bringeth forih good things, and fertile earth, “he shall not see when an evil man out of the evil ireasure good cometh.” I saw that sinners of his heart bringeth forth evil things." were ingenious to deceive themselves I read in the parable of the sower, and others : I saw that the heart of Luke xv. of seed “sown in the good Judah with sin engraved upon it thus ground of an honest and good heart.” must be deeply and desperately wick- I saw the man Jesus, che son of Adam, ed, and that the altars upon which Abraham, Judah, David, Manasseh, sin in its blackest colours was written one of the wickedest tyrants that ever (altars consecrated to idols) “ whilst lived, and traced among his ancestors their children remembered them, and many great sinners, and I was sure their groves by the green trees upon that he derived his nature from his the high hills," where they worship- parents, yet I believed that he was ped Baal and Moloch and the Queen without sin," touched with a feeling of heaven, must be an abomination in of our infirmities, tempted in all the sight of God, “ who searches the points as we are, our brother, partaker heart, and tries the reins, even to give of our flesh and blood. Here a good every man according to his ways, and old lady interrupted me; she said that according to the fruit of his doings.” she was satisfied of the existence of I might err, I was not infallible, my corrupt nature, because infants cry heart might deceive me, but I sought when they are born! Good old lady! evidence, I think I was not influenced If you could be literally born a second either by hope or fear to reject this time, and have all your teeth to cut passage, like the rest that went before over again, you would cry too, but it, as wholly inconclusive testimony they evince passion before they can when produced to witness the univer- speak; yes, they are not blocks of sal, radical, original and moral corrp- marble, they have nerves and feel, rion of huaan nature.
they express their sense of uneasiness, I went on, I opened the New Testa. hunger, cold and pain: blind puppies, ment, I read Christ's Sermon on the too, whine from the same causes; Mount: there I found every thing to but if you cannot distinguish between prove that man was a frail, sinful mor the natural expression of animal feel. tal, but not a vessel filled by nature to ing, want, and passion, and original the very brim with moral corruption, sin, neither probably do you see the made under the wrath and curse of difference between a sinner and a God. I read of the pure in heart, of fool by nature, an unhappy circumthe merciful, of inherent righteous- stance, which will efiecually prevent ness, of a righteousness that must be us from plunging together into this produced, very far beyond that of the deep subject. Scribes and Pharisees, to fit a man I certainly found nothing in the for the kingdom of heaven. I read of Old Testament to support this docattainable perfection, of a good tree trine; but I am again interrupted. A producing good fruit, and a corrupt philosophical Calvinist, one of the tree evil fruit: I read of doing the rational brethren, who accounts for will of God, and hearing, and doing every thing, came forward with his the sayings of Jesus Christ, that the text, “ He answered and said, verily, wise man built his house upon this no one can bring a clean thing out of rock. I read John ix. of a blind man an unclean," Job xiv. 4, and context. restored to sight by Jesus Christ, and “Certainly not, therefore God will was surprised to hear the disciples not require more of such a creature, asking hin“ whether this man had than he is capable of performing, nor