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dingly, it is our duty, as the apostle says, to exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any be hardened, that is, lest this corruption of nature be increased, through the deceitfulness of sin, Heb. iii. 13.
2. Let us carefully distinguish between being born innocent, which the Pelagians affirm, and we deny, and being born defiled with sin, and so having a propensity of nature to it, as soon as we have a being; or let us more especially take heed that we do not charge this on God, as though he were the author thereof, as well as of our being, as though it were infused by him, and not acquired by us.
3. Since this corruption of nature so early discovers itself, and abides in us, as long as we are in this world, let us take heed that we do not use means to increase it, by giving way to presumptuous sins ; or endeavour to excite or draw it forth, either in ourselves, or others; for this will occasion abundance of actual transgressions.
Thus having considered that guilt which we bring with us into the world, and that corruption of nature, which discovers itself, as soon as we appear to be intelligent creatures, or are capable of any disposition to sin; we proceed to speak concerning the misery and punishment that ensues hereupon.
Quest. XXVII. What misery did the fall bring upon man.
kind? Answ. The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion
with God, his displeasure and curse, so as we are, by nature, children of wrath, bond-slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
AVING considered the doctrine of original sin, as im
puted to, and inherent in us, we are now led to speak concerning the miseries that are consequent hereupon, or the punishment that is due to it. And, inasmuch as the former of these is equal in all, and the latter increases, in proportion to that degree of obstinacy, and hardness of heart, which discovers itself in all ages, and conditions of life, and it is attended with greater guilt, as it is more deeply rooted in us, and gains very great strength by actual sin; it is necessary for us to consider the punishment due to original sin, as such, and how it differs from a greater degree thereof, which is due to its increasing guilt. The former of these is not distinguished from the latter, by many who treat on this subject; which gives occasion to some, who deny original sin, to represent it in the most terrible view, as though there were no difference between the wrath of God, that infants are exposed to, and that which js inflicted on the most obdurate sinner: but, that we may remove prejudices against this doctrine, and set it in a just light, we shall consider the punishment due to original sin, in both these respects.
1. The punishment due to original sin, as such, namely, in those who are charged with no other guilt, but that of Adam's first sin. This more especially respects those that die in their infancy, before they are capable of making any addition to it. Concerning these, I cannot but conclude with Augustin, in his defence of original sin against the Pelagians, that the punishment thereof is the most mild of any, and cannot be reckoned so great, as that it might be said of them, that it had been better for them not to have been born.*
That this may farther appear, let it be considered, that the punishment due to actual sin, or the corruption of nature increased thereby, is attended with accusations of conscience, inasmuch as the guilt, that is contracted by it, arises from the opposition of the will to God; and the alienation of the affections from him, is oftentimes attended with rebellion, against a, great degree of light, and many other aggravations, taken from the engagements
which we are under to the contrary, and is persisted in with obstinacy, against all those checks of conscience, and means used to prevent it; and, in proportion to the degree thereof, they, who contract this guilt, are said, as our Saviour speaks of the scribes and Pharisees, to be liable to the greater damnation, Matt. xxiii. 14. and the prophet Jeremiah speaks of some of the greatest opposers of his message, as those who should be destroyed with double destruction, Jer. xvii. 18. This is certainly a greater degree of punishment, than that which is due to original sin, as such; and, with respect to these, there are oftentimes many sad instances of the wrath of God 'breaking in upon the conscience, as he says by the Psalmist, that he would reprove them, and set their iniquities in order before their eyes, Psal. l. 21. and what our Saviour says elsewhere, concerning the worm that dieth not, Mark ix. 44. is to be applied to them. But this punishment does not belong to those who have no other guilt, but that of Adam's sin, imputed to them.
If this can be made appear, as, I hope, we shall be able to do, it may have a tendency to remove some prejudices, which many entertain against the doctrine of original sin, who express themselves with such an air of insult, as though they were opposing a doctrine which is contrary to the dictates of human nature, as well as represents God, as exercising the greatest severity against those who are chargeable with no other sin than this; and they generally lay hold on some unwary expressions, contributing very little to the defence of this doctrine, which might as well have been spared; for they are no less exceptionable, though prefaced with an apology, for the want of pity, which such like unguarded expressions seem to contain in them, when they say, that their milder thoughts, concerning this matter, will do those infants, who are tormented in hell, no good, as their severer ones can do them no prejudice. We may therefore be allowed to make a farther enquiry into this matter, especially when we consider, that those, who die in infancy, will appear, at the last day, to have been a very considerable part of mankind. And some tender parents have had a due concern of spirit about their future state, and would be very glad, were it possible for them, to have some hopes concerning the happiness thereof.
* See Aug.contra Julianum, Lib. V. cap. 8. Ego non dico, parvulos sine baptismo Christi morientes tanta pæna esse plectendos; ut eis non nasci potius expediret. Et ejusd. de peccat. merit. & remsis. Lib. I. cap. 16. Potest proinde recte dici, parvidos sine baptismo de corpore exeuntes, in damnatione omnium mitissima futuros.
Various have been the conjectures of divines about it. The Pelagians, and those who verge towards their scheme, have concluded, that they are all saved, as supposing that they are innocent, and not, in the least concerned in Adam's sin: but this is to set aside the doctrine we are maintaining; and therefore, I cannot think their reasoning, in this respect very conclusive.
Others, who do not deny original sin, suppose, notwithstanding, that the guilt thereof is atoned for, by the blood of Christ. This would be a very agreeable notion, could it be proved; and all that I shall say, in answer to it, is, that it wants confirmation. As for those who suppose, with the Papists, that the guilt of original sin is washed away by baptism, as some of the fathers have also asserted, this has so many absurd consequences attending it, that I need not spend time in opposing it; one of them is, that it makes that, which, at most, is but a sign or ordinance, for our faith, in which we hope for the
of regeneration to be the natural means of conferring it, which is contrary to the design of all the ordinances, which God has appointed: but, passing by this, which will afford little foundation for hope.
Others have concluded, that all the infants of believing parents, dying in infancy, are saved, as supposing that they are interested in the covenant of grace, in which God promises, that he will be a God to believers, and their seed. This would be a very comfortable thought, to those who have hope concerning their own state. But I cannot find that this argument is sufficiently maintained; since it seems very evident, that all such like promises rather respect the external, than the saving blessings of the covenant of grace.
Others therefore conclude, (as many good and pious Christians have done, that when they have been enabled, by an act of faith, in which they have enjoyed some sensible experience of the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, to give up their infant-seed to Christ, whether it be in baptism, or not) from the frame of their own spirit, and the evidence they have had of the power of God, exciting this act of faith, that God would own that grace which he hath enabled them to exercise, and consequently that he has accepted of this solemn act of dedication of them to him, which has given them comfortable and quieting thoughts about the salvation of their infant-seed. This is not only an excellent method, used by them, but it seems to be as just a way of reasoning about the salvation of those who die in infancy, as any that is generally made use of; and, it may be, David might infer the salvation of his child, when he says, I shall go to him; but he shall not return to me, 2 Sam. xii. 23. from some such method as this. But, since these are uncommon instances of faith, and such as every sincere Christian has not always been found in the exercise of, I would hope, that there are multitudes of infants saved, concerning whom we have no certain ground to determine who they are ; and why may not we suppose, that there are many of them, who belong to the election of grace, that are not the seed of believing parents? However, notwithstanding all the pious and kind thoughts, which the conjectures of men suggest, we must be content to leave this, as a secret that belongs to God, and not unto us to know.
Therefore all that I shall attempt, at present, is, to prove, that if all, who die in their infancy, are not saved, yet their condemnation is not like that which is due to actual sin, or those habits thereof, which are contracted by men. And here it must be allowed, pursuant to our former method of reasoning, that, if they are not saved, they have the punishment of loss inflicted on them; for the right to the heavenly blessedness, which Adam forfeited and lost, respected not only himself, but all his posterity. Whether they have any farther degree of punishment inflicted on them, or how far they are liable to the punishment of sense, I dare not pretend to determine. I do not care to conclude, with some of the Remonstrants, such as Episcopius, Curcellæus, and others, that they always remain in an infantine state, or, that they have no more ideas in the other world, than they had in this; for this is to suppose what cannot be proved. Besides, if they always remain in this state, this must be supposed, either to be the consequence of nature, and argued from their want of ideas, while they were in this world, or else it must be by a particular dispensation of providence, respecting some infants in the next, and not all. To suppose the former, is to suppose
that none are saved, since remaining in an infantile state, is not salvation; for it is beyond dispute, the soul that is saved, whether it went out of the world an infant, or a man is exceedingly enJarged, and rendered receptive of the heavenly blessedness. And if, on the other hand, they suppose, that their remaining in this infantile state, is by a particular dispensation of providence, this, was it true, would be a small punishment, indeed, inflicted on them for Adam's sin : But we have as little, or less ground to conclude this, than that all infants are saved; and therefore I cannot give into this notion, which, indeed, differs but little from that of the Papists, who suppose them, if dying unbaptized, to remain in a state of insensibility; which is no other, than an ungrounded conjecture. And, as for the account which we have, in some of their writings concerning the place alloted for them, which they call Limbus Infantium, and its situation between heaven and hell, this is no better than a theological romance; and it cannot but be reckoned triling and ludicrous, and nothing else but an imposing their own fancies, as articles of faith.
I dare not, indeed, allow myself to be too peremptory, or give my thoughts too great a loose on this subject: but, since it is taken for granted by all, who give into the doctrine of original sin, that infants, if not saved, are liable to the punishment of loss, which has been before considered, as the immediate consequence of the imputation of Adam's sin; yet it doth not appear, to me, that they have such a tormenting sense of the greatness of their loss, as others have who were adult, and had received the knowledge of divine things, which infants are not capable of. These, as it is more than probable, carry the ideas, which they had received of divine things, out of the world with them, which infants cannot be said to do; and therefore, if ever they have the knowledge thereof, and consequently of the glory of the heavenly state, it must be by extraordinary revelation. How far they may be led into this matter, by observing the glorious work, which shall be performed in the most visible manner, in the day of judgment, I pretend not to determine. This, indeed, will give them some apprehensions of the happiness which others are possessed of, and they are excluded from: But even this cannot have so great a tendency to enhanse their misery, as when hardened and presumptuous sinners, who have despised and neglected the means of grace, are said, as our Saviour speaks to the Jews, To see. Abraham, Isaac, and Facob, in the kingdom of God, and they themselves thrust out, Luke xiii. 28. as intimating, that this will, in a judicial way, be a means to enhanse their misery ; and consequently they cannot but have such a tormenting sense thereof, as what will make their loss appear greater, and so