Изображения страниц

Christ's death was, to redeem men from a sin which is not their own? And is this sin then, which (to use the writer's own words) is not "strictly and properly theirs, for those not yet born could not perform an act;" (p. 90.) is this sin so much greater than all the sins that men have themselves committed, in their own persons, that the death of Christ, or the redemption wrought by him, is not even to be named as having respect to these transgressions, and nothing of christianity is left, unless you assume the position that redeeming blood is designed simply to expiate original sin? Can any one inform me to what age this “ orthodoxy” belongs; and where the history of it is to be found among the fathers, whose authority is so much relied on by this historian ? Will any one show how it agrees with the declaration of Paul in Rom. v. 16, where he asserts, that the condemnation which came upon men was through Adam, on account of one offense, viz. his eating the forbidden fruit; but the free gift was of many offenses? What were these many? If atoning blood only washes away original sin, how does grace superabound above the mischief done by Adam? Rom, v. 20, comp. v. 17.

Again on p. 94, the following declaration occurs in the early history in question. “It was left for modern critics to discover,

" that David (in Ps. li. 5, conceived in sin and born in iniquity,) was here bewailing the sinfulness of his mother; such an idea never seems to have entered the mind of any of the ancient commentators."

How is it then, that the writer of this very sentence produces Jerome, on p. 97, as contradicting this idea, “David says, I was conceived in sin etc., not in the iniquity of his mother, nor of his own personal sin, but in the sin of human nature?" Did Jerome then, undertake to contradict that of which “an idea never entered his mind.” And did the idea never enter the minds of those interpreters whom he thus contradicted?

But I have some other inquiries to make respecting the historian's statements. For the present, I neither affirm nor deny the doctrine of imputation. But I frankly confess that I have difficulties difficulties originating not from philosophy or a heretical penchant, but from scripture, and from the first principles of moral consciousness. The writer in question holds, that the sin of Adam was imputed to all his posterity, to their guilt, condemnation, and ruin, without any act on their part, p. 90. Of course, then, from the moment they began to exist, that moment they were involved in this imputation. This he does most expressly affirm, by adopting, on page 94, the statement of “ancient commentators” that David « contracted pollution in his conception." But how does this agree with the declaration of Paul in Rom. ix. 11, who says, concerning Jacob and Esau, long after their “conception” and when advanced to such maturity as to struggle in the womb, (Gen.

xxv. 22,) “ The children being not yet born, neither having done ANY THING good or evil, (si ayadov xaxov) that the purpose etc.” Paul here argues to prove the doctrine of election, from the fact, that God could not have had any reference to the moral merit or demerit of these children, inasmuch as there was none. On the ground of the writer in question, was this true? If so, I should be gratified to learn how it is true.

Again, Paul seems to declare that a knowledge of law and duty, is necessary in order that sin should exist. Thus, Rom. v. 13, “ sin is not imputed when there is no law.” But the historian represents sin as imputed, in that very condition or state in which there is none. It is imputed, before any knowledge whatever can be supposed to exist. Now, as the phrase, “when there is no law,” most plainly means, when there is no knowledge of any law,' I find it impossible to conceive how the statements of the historian and the apostle, can both stand.

Again ; Rom. iv. 15, “Where no law is, there is no transgression." But how can this be, where there is not only original sin prior to all knowledge of law, but original sin so great as to absorb the whole of the redemption of Christ; so that the redemption is anulled, if we consider it as expiating the guilt of actual violations of known law, and there is nothing left in the gospel worth contending for. p. 93.

Once more; in James iv. 17, it is said, “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Is it then sin, when one knows not to do good, and does it not? I refer of course to a want of knowledge which is involuntary and unavoidable ; for it is only such a case that can be made a question of. When Jesus, in John ix. 41, says to the Pharisees, “If ye were

should have no sin;" does not he most clearly recognize the principle, that the sins of men must be what is done when they have light, and in a voluntary manner?

When John Ist Epistle iii. 4, defines sin to be a “transgression of the law;" does not this, especially when compared with the texts just cited, suppose some knowledge of the law transgressed? And moreover, is this a transgression by one's self, or by what another has done? This last question leads to some others. Is it a scripture doctrine, that the guilt of others is imputed to men as their own ? And if so, then how is the following declaration to be construed, viz. “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himn, and the wickedness of of the wicked shall be upon him, Ezk. xviii. 20? And again, Ez. xvi. 3, “ the soul that sinneth, it shall die?”

I ask also, whether the first principles of moral consciousness do not decide, that sin, in its proper sense, is the result of what

blind, ye

[ocr errors]


we have done ourselves; not of wiat others have done for


without our knowledge and consent? I ask, in what part of the bible we are called upon to repent of Adan's sin? And finally, whether the historian would honestly say, with all his attachment to the opinions of the fathers, that he has ever so appropriated Adam's sin to himself, as truly to recognize it as his own, and to repent of it as such ?

I ask finally, when the writer congratulates himself on the “comfort of being supported by the ancients” in his opinions ; and likewise “by all the moderns, whose opinions have any weight,” (p. 94.) whether the man who believes that the Logos is a derived and dependent being; who believes that the apostate angels, had carnal intercourse with the antedeluvian women, and begat the giants mentioned in Gen. vi. 1–4; who believes that water baptism is essential to salvation; who holds that the satisfaction made by the death of Christ, was made to the devil, in order to take away his right over men; who maintains that the Logos was in the place of a human soul in Christ; and many other things of the like nature ; may not likewise congratulate himself, (and with as much reason too as the historian,) that he is supported by the “opinion of the ancients?” I ask also, why he has omitted to quote the opinion of the ancients before the time of Augustine? Why has he onitted the Alexandrian school? Why has he not cited Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and generally those of the Greek church?

Last of all, I would particularly request, if any writer should favor me with an answer to these inquiries, that reasons, and not names, may be given in support of his statements. If it be suggested that none but a heretic could ask such questions, I would reply, that there are minds in our country which are not satisfied that calling hard names is argument; or that the argumentum ad invidiam is the happiest weapon which a meek and humble christian can use. Men are very apt to suspect, that such arguments would not be employed, if better ones were at hand in their stead. I only add that I am A PROTESTANT.

We have inserted the above communication at the particular request of a respected correspondent, whose familiarity with the subject entitles bis inquiries to a serious consideration.

We cannot but think, however, that the question respecting the imputation of Adain's sin to his descendants, has become, in this country at least, chiefly a dispute about words. The historian, if we understand his statements, has abandoned the ground of Edwards and other standard writers, on this subject. He states unequivocally, that Adam's “first act of trangression” was “not strictly and properly that of his descendants, (for those not yet


born could not perform an act) but interpretatively or by imputation.” p. 90. Now Edwards affirms the direct contrary. "The sin of the apostasy is not theirs merely because God imputes it to them, but it is truly and properly theirs, and on that ground God imputes it to them.” Orig. Sin, p. 4, chap. 3. Stapfer too, lays down the doctrine of imputation in the same manner.

6 God in imputing this sin (Adam's) finds this whole moral person (the human race) ALREADY a sinner, and not merely constitutes it such.” Theol. pol. cap. xvi. 9. 63. The Westminister divines also say, “all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation sinned in him, and fell with him, in that first transgression.” Now the historian very justly and properly rejects such philosophy. Adam's first act of transgression was not strictly and properly that of his descendants, says the historian. The sin of the apostasy is truly and properly theirs, say Edwards and the rest. It is theirs, says the historian, only as it is considered" or " reckonedtheirs, interpretatively or by imputation. No, says Edwards, it is so “ considered” or “ reckoned” because it is truly and properly theirs, and “is not theirs merely because God imputed it to

No one who does not totally confound all notions of personal identity, can hesitate to admit, that the historian has done right in rejecting the old statements on this subject.

We are glad likewise to see him proceed one step farther. He not only denies that we had any share in the act, but even in the guilt of Adam's first sin, in the ordinary acceptation of that term.

“ that the ill-desert of one man cannot be transferred to another”—that “imputation does not imply a transfer of moral acts or moral character, but the opposite of REMISSION.” To impute, according to this explanation of the term, is simply to hold the descendants of Adam SUBJECT to the consequences” of bis fall, though not sharing in the act or in its criminality. Accordingly, the historian states, that the word reatus or guilt “ as used by theologians," denotes merely this liability or subjection of our whole race, to those "consequences” which Adam brought upon himself personally by his fall. In other words, that Adam was not on trial for himself alone, but that by a divine constitution, all his descendants were to have, in their natural state, the same character and condition with their progenitor—that the universality and certainty of sin, therefore, are not the result of imitation or accidental circumstances, but of a divine constitution. This constitution he would undoubtedly admit, however, does not destroy free agency, or impose any fatal necessity of sinning, upon any of our race.

Now, in this statement, all who bear the name of Calvinists will unite; and they all regard it as exhibiting a cardinal doctrine of the gospel. And we cannot but think that most of the disputes on this subject, result simply from a diversity in the use of terms.

He tells us,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The historian insists on retaining the term imputation, while he gives up our oneness with Adam both in action and ill-desert. And if by impulation is meant simply, that we are subjected to the

consequences” of Adam's sin, all Calvinists maintain the doctrine. He insists too on saying, that the guilt of Adam's first sin, has come upon us.

But then he uses this term in a peculiar sense. “Guilt,” says Dr. Webster, “implies both criminality and liableness to punishment.” . The historian in this case, excludes the former. But Edwards certainly used the term as Webster defines it. Calvin lays down the general proposition, that," there could not be guilt without criminality,” non esset reatus absque culpa. Inst. L. ii. c. i. $ 8. Nor was he speaking of criminality in Adam, but in the subject of the guilt. Augustine, too, in the very passage quoted by the historian, says men are involved in guilt

, and on this account are held liable to punishment.” Surely he did not mean to say, that because men are liable to punishment, (reatu implicatos,) therefore, they are liable to punishment.” By reatus, then, he meant more than “ liability to punishment,” he included in it, ill-desert.The historian's sense of the term “guilt,” is, therefore, not only opposed to ordinary English usage, but we think also to the usage of the "ancients,” and to the doctrine which they meant to teach. At the present day certainly, it is an unfortunate term, if it means only, that men are subjected to sin and suffering, in consequence of Adam's transgression. The word punishment too has a peculiar sense, in the vocabulary of the historian. Native depravity he considers as a “punishment” inflicted upon us for the sin of Adam. Now Dr. Webster defines punishment to be “any pain or suffering inflicted upon a person for a crime or offense.” But the crime of Adam, the historian admits, was not ours. Nor have we any criminality distinct from, and

. antecedent to, native depravity ; for, in his view, this commences with the commencement of our being. He must therefore use the term “punishment” in a loose and general sense, to denote evil which comes upon us in “

consequence” of Adam's sin. In this sense he may indeed say that “the punishment due to one is inflicted on another.” But he cannot mean that this infliction is an act of retributive justice. That justice commands, “suum cuique tribuito,” give to every one according to his desert; and the historian tells us that we have no share in the ill-desert of Adam's sin. He will never say, therefore, in the face of a declaration from God himself, that in the strict exercise of retributive justice, “the legal penalty,” or “punishment due to one may be inflicted

another.” Wherein then lies the difference between him, and such men as Andrew Fuller, Dr. Dwight, and the whole body of New-England divines? In a different use of terms, to denote substantially the same thing. And is this a time for christian brethren to break



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »