Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

dently of, any voluntary emotion or action on their part. But this idea seems to be attended with some serious difficulties; for, (1.) it appears to contradict the essential principles of our moral consciousness. We never did, and we never can, feel guilty of another's" act, which was done without any knowledge or concurrence of our own. We may just as well say, that we can appropriate to ourselves, and make our own, the righteousness of another, as his unrighteousness. But we can never, in either case, even force ourselves into a consciousness that any act is really our own, except one in which we have had a personal and voluntary concern. A transfer of moral turpitude is just as impossible as a transfer of souls

'(2.) Such an imputation as that in question, would be in direct opposition to the first principles of moral justice, as conceived of by us, or as represented in the Bible. That "the son shall not die for the iniquity of the father," is as true as that "the father shall not die for the iniquity of the son ; " as God has most fully declared in Ezek. xviii.'

'... Those who hold this theory, usually maintain that our depravity is not only connate and innate, but that being such, it is also the punishment of Adam's sin which is imputed to us. There are, however, some very formidable difficulties in the way of this. For, (1.) the sin, in this case, of Adam's posterity, i. e. their original sin, is, by the very ground of the theory, merely putative, not real and actual. But what is the punishment? Actual, to be sure, according to the statement of those who advocate this theory; and actual, indeed, to a tremendous degree. The punishment begins with our being; it is connate and innate, and contains within itself not only the commencement of a misery that is naturally without end, but is, at the same time, the root and ground of all other sins which we commit, and which serve unspeakably to augment our condemnation and misery. Now can the human mind well conceive, that perfect justice would punish with actual and everlasting and inevitable corruption and misery, beings who are sinners only putatittcly, i. e. in mere supposition and not in fact 1 For myself, I can only say, that all the elements of my moral nature set themselves spontaneously in arry against such a representation as this. It is one of those cases which make it necessary for me to be made over again, and to have new and different faculties, before I can admit its truth.' &-c. &.c. Stuart's Comm. on Romans.

So much with regard to the hypothesis of imputation. In other places he examines the theory that Adam's sin and guilt are propagated to his descendants, ' by ordinary generation;' and shows that such a propagation would be altogether dissimilar to that which is often alleged in its favor, the transmission of certain peculiarities from parents lo children; that it would involve the idea of the communication to us of all the sins, and all the virtues too, of all our ancestors, from Adam down to ourselves; or, should it be absurdly contended, that this law of propagation runs direct from Adam to each of his descendants, without passing through the intermediate ancestors, then it would suppose that he propagated to us his penitence as well as his sin, his reward as well as his punishment. The notion also of Edwards, that we are one with Adam, and so participated in his act, is discussed by the Professor, who fairly encloses the metaphysician with his own cobweb.

With regard to the moral character of little children, he seems to have gone further than the New Haven divines, at least further than they have openly advanced. The latter pronounce them innocent when they are born, and until they are capable of moral action. But at what time they become moral agents, whether the next instant, or the next year, or several years after their birth, they do not determine. Professor Smart, however, implies that there is a considerable period in which they remain innocent, as will be seen by the instances he adduces. After referring to a number of passages in the Old and New Testaments, he adds,

'The substance of these declarations of the Scriptures, is, that "to him who knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, it is sin," that where there is no such knowledge, i. e. "where there is no law, there is no transgression ;" for "sin js avo,u.ia i. e. want of conformity to law ; of course, a voluntary non-conformity must be meant, the voluntary non-conformity of an intelligent, rational, moral, free agent; for no other is capable of sin, unless we would maintain that inanimate substances, and brutes, and ideots, aad madmen, are sinners. Thus one class of texts, above cited, teaches. Another class as clearly shows that our sins bear an exact proportion, in respect to their heinousness, to the degree of light which we have, and the motives to holy obedience by which we are urged; all of which, of course, implies that if we were in a state in which we had no light, and were incapable of perceiving or feeling the force of any motives, then we should not be sinners. Another class, moreover, developes to us very clearly that infants are incapable of the knowledge in question. Even of the child Immanuel is this explicitely asserted ,' and the assertion is made, moreover, concerning him, after his birth, Isa. vii. 15, 16. The very same thing is explicitly affirmed also by Moses, concerning all the very young children of the Israelites: " Your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil," Deut. i. 39. To the same purpose is the text in Jonah iv. 11. It is the like view of little children which the Saviour presents, when he says to his disciples, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. xviii. 3. Again : " Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," Matt. xix. 14. Mark x. 13. Luke xviii. 15, 16. So likewise the apostle Paul: "Howbeit, in malice be ye children," 1 Cor. xiv. 20. These comparisons do not imply, that little children are positively holy. I know of no declaration in the Bible of such import. But they do seem to imply that they are innocent, (innocuous), i. e. that they are not the subjects of positively sinful passions and affections, such as malice, ambition, &c.; for on any other ground, how could they be made the objects of such a comparison as they here are?' 'All men,' says he again, ' pronounce infants to be innocent, until theory bids them contradict this.' Comm. on Romans.

These views strike us at once as perfectly rational, and the arguments, though not new, appear conclusive. But we must change the scene. Professor Stuart still maintains, with the New Haven divines, that we are born in a state very different, even in a moral respect, from that of Adam before his fall. 'Adam,' he informs us,' did neither sin as soon as he was capable of doing it; nor did he fail to live in a manner entirely holy, for some time; how long, the Scriptures have not told us. As though the Scriptures had told us that he lived entirely holy, for any period whatever! But to pass over this; — he contends, (I.) that all are now born destiiute of such a disposition to holiness as Adam originally had; (2.) that they come into the world in such a state that it is certain they will be sinners as soon as they are capable of sinning ; in other words, as soon as they are moral agents, and then ' will always sin in all their acts of a moral nature,' till they are regenerated; and (3.) that this so fatally adverse state in which they now begin their existence, is, by the sovereign appointment of God, owing to Adam's fall. How his transgression thus affects our natural state, the Professor despairs of ascertaining: the fact only does he discover; the manner is a mystery. Negatively, however, or in what ways this consequence is not produced, he can clearly determine. On the one hand, it is not, as some have held, by the influence of example descending from our first parents through succeeding generations; nor, as we have seen on the other hand, is it by the transmission of any guilt or sin, — from both of which the descendants of Adam are all born free. Thus far may we venture; the rest, to quote the Professor's language, is ' a matter of divine sovereignty, altogether beyond our power to fathom. We can speculate and reason about it, and wonder; but it becomes us to bow in humble submission.' Let it be clearly understood, however, that both Mr. Stuart and the New Haven school expressly maintain that in some way, as a consequence of Adam's transgression, all his posterity are born in a state, which, though innocent at first, still makes it certain that they will begin to sin when moral agency begins, and then continue to sin in every moral act, till they are renewed.

Such is the new orthodox hypothesis. Though, in the particulars just named, it runs into all the extravagance of the former, yet, taken as a whole, it overthrows the ground-work of the old scheme, and digs up its very foundation-stones. It denies all original sin; and maintains, expressly, that there is, and that there can be, no other sin in the universe, than personal, actual sin, committed after conscious intelligence begins. It not only denies both the imputation and propagation of Adam's guilt, but maintains that such a transfer would be utterly unjust, and that it is indeed impossible. It pronounces each individual, on his entrance into life, free from all previous guilt and accountability; and calls the old and contrary notion, (we quote the words of a New Haven divine,) 'the monstrous dogma, that God creates the soul sinful, and damns it for being so.' After all this, will our readers believe, what is the fact, that the authors of this new scheme are unwilling to give up the name of holding the 'doctrines of the Reformation?' Professor Stuart deprecates all idea that he denies the doctrines of the Reformation: he is only 'endeavoring to dissipate the mists which have hovered around them '! So important is it to retain the established watch-words, that he and the New Haven divines continue to speak, in a popular way, of mankind as 'sinners by nature;' and the latter use the forms (in a loose sense, they say,) that 'mankind sin from the first — sin from their birth — are sinners from the beginning,' —' are by nature totally depraved in moral character'! If we mistake not, some of them have proposed a definition under which they can even retain the precious phrase, original sin! Their motives are too apparent to need explanation.

H. B. *

Art. XXXIV.

The Mother's Wail.

How sad the silence of the place of death,
Where the stern victor strives a slave to chain;
How solemn even the softest sigh or breath,
When life's last whisper tells the end of pain;
Yet is it well to mark the change, to view
The living grace obscured, the filmy eye,
The fading of the cheek's most crimson hue,
And feel and know earth's beauteous ones must die!

It was the house of mourning, and the power
Of dread disease had rested on the place;
A blight had touched upon the fairest flower
That ever bloomed in childhood's winning grace; —
Peep anguish puled the mourning mothers brow,
And from her lip the frequent wailing broke,
And the tear-founts poured out a ceaseless flow,
As thus the dying infant feebly spoke:

'There is a sighing of sweet voices o'er me,
And notes of heavenly music breathe around,
And shadowy forms are hovering before me,
And waving wings give out a soothing sound;
Yet, mother, whisper; for thy voice is dearer,
Sweeter than angel-music to mine ear:
Come to me, mother, that I may be nearer
To those sweet sounds my heart leaps up to hear.

'Sing to me, mother, for my life is failing,
And gloomy shades obscure the cheerful light;
Oh grieve me not with the sad tone of wailing,
But rather soothe my dying bed to-night
Sing as thou oft hast done when pain oppressed me,
As thou wert wont whene'er I turned to weep;
Oh, sing as when thy mellow voice hath blessed me,
And calmed my senses to a gentle sleep.' —

'Oh, can the wounded bird take wing,
And carol in the fields of air;
Or can an anguished mother sing,
Oppressed with weariness and core?
Yet let me strive to cheer my child,
Giving her yet one parting token;
And be her dying hour beguiled,
Even though the mother's heart be broken.'

« AnteriorContinuar »