Obrázky na stránke

2. Man is said to want that righteousness which he had at first, which is generally called, original righteousness. This is styled, the privative part of original sin, as the corruption of the human nature, and its propensity to all sin, is the positive part thereof. In considering the former of these, or man's want of original righteousness, we may observe,

(1.) That man has not wholly lost God's natural image, which he was possessed of, as an intelligent creature, consisting in his being endowed as such with an understanding, capable of some degree of the knowledge of himself and divine things; and a will, in many respects, free, viz. as to what concerns natural things, or some external branches of religion, or things materially good, and in his having executive powers, to act agreeably thereunto'; though these are miserably defaced, and come far short of that perfection, which he had in the state in which he was first created. Some have compared this to an old decayed building, which has, by the ruins of time, lost its strength and beauty, though it retains something of the shape and resemblance of what it was before. Thus the powers and faculties of the soul are weakened, but not wholly lost, by the fall. They are like the fruits of the earth, which are shrivelled and withered in winter, and look as though they are dead; or like a man, who has out-lived himself, and has lost the vivacity and sprightliness of his parts, as well as the beauty of his body, which he formerly had.

(2.) Our ability to yield acceptable obedience to God, much more perfect obedience, is wholly lost, as being destitute of a principle of spiritual life and grace, which must, if ever we have it, be implanted in regeneration; so that every one may say with the apostle, In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing, Rom. vii. 18.

(3.) We are destitute of a right to the heavenly blessedness, and all those privileges, that were promised upon condition of our first parents performing perfect obedience, according to the tenor of the covenant made with them in their state of innocency.

This want of original righteousness is the immediate conse.. quence of Adam's first sin. By original righteousness we understand, either that freedom from guilt, which man had before he sinned, which exempted him from any liableness to condemnation, and afforded him a plea before God for his retaining the blessings he was possessed of; and, had he persisted longer in his integrity, it would have given him a right to a greater degree of happiness : His perfect obedience was his righteousness, in a forensick sense; and the failure thereof, in our first parents, rendered both them and us destitute of it. But, since this is the same with what is expressed in the foregoing words, wherein we are

denominated guilty of Adam's first sin, we must consider something else, as intended in this expression, when we are said to want that righteousness wherein he was created.

We have before observed, that, by the fall of our first parents, the image of God in man was defaced : But now, we are to speak of his supernatural image, as what was wholly lost, and therefore all mankind are, by nature, destitute of a principle of grace ; upon which account it may be truly said, as the apostle does, There is none righteous ; no, not one, Rom. iii. 10. and elsewhere man is called, A transgressor from the womb, Isa. xlviii. 8. and, by nature, not only a child of wrath, but dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. ii. 1. and therefore it is necessary that we be created again to good works, or that a new principle of grace be implanted in regeneration, without which there is no salvation. Our being destitute of this supernatural principle of grace is distinguished from that propensity to sin, or corruption of nature, which is spoken of in the following words of this answer; and therefore, considering it as thus distinguished, and as called, by some, the privative part of original sin ; we are led to speak of man in his destitute state, deprived of that which was his glory, and tended to his defence against the assaults of temptation; and of those actual transgressions which are the consequence

thereof. This excellent endowment man is said to have lost.

Some divines express themselves with a degree of caution, when treating on this subject; and therefore, though they allow that man has lost this righteousness, yet they will hardly own that God took it away, though it were by a judicial act, as sup. posing that this would argue him to be the author of sin; and I would not blame the least degree of concern expressed to fence against such a consequence, did it really ensue on our asserting it; yet I cannot but conclude, that the holiness of God may be vindicated, though we should assert, that he deprived him of this righteousness, as a punishment of his sin, or denied him that power to perform perfect obedience, which he conferred on him at first; for there is a vast difference between God's restoring to him his lost power, to perform that which is truly and supernaturally good in all its circumstances; and the infusing habits of sin into his nature : This, we acknowledge, he could not do, consistently with his holiness, and shall make it farther appear, under a following head. But the other he might do, that is, leave man destitute of a power to walk before him in holiness and righteousness ; for, if God had been obliged to have given him this power, then his bestowing it on fallen man, would be rather a debt than a grace, which is contrary to the whole tenor of the gospel. But this leads us to consider the positive part of original sin ; therefore,

3. Man's sinfulness, as fallen, consists in the corruption of his nature, or a propensity and inclination to all evil, which, as it is observed, is commonly called, original sin, that is, original sin inherent, as distinguished from it, as imputed to us, which has been already considered. That the nature of man is vitiated, corrupted, and prone to all that is bad, is taken for granted by all ; and, indeed, he that denies it, must either be very much unacquainted with himself, or hardly retain the common notices which we have of moral good and evil. This is frequently represented, in scripture, as a plague, defilement, or deadly evil, with which his heart is affected; upon which account it is said, that it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. xvii. 9. that out of it proceed evil thoughts, and all other abominations of the most heinous nature, Matth. XV. 19. unless prevented by the grace of God.

This propensity of nature to sin discovers itself in the first dawn of our reason; so that we no sooner appear to be men, but we give ground to conclude that we are sinners. Accordingly it is said, The imagination of man's heart is only evil, and that from his youth, (a) Gen. vi. 5. compared with chap. viii. 21. and he is represented as estranged from the womb, going astray as soon as he is born, speaking lyes, Psal. lvii. 3. which is, notwithstanding, to be understood with this limitation, that we are prone to sin, as soon as we have any dispositions, or inclinations, to any thing; for it cannot be supposed that man is disposed to commit actual sin before he is capable of acting. Some, indeed, have attempted to prove that the soul of a child sins as soon as it is united to the body in the womb, and have

(a) Gen. vi. 5. Is a picture of antideluvian iniquity, it not only proves that guilt was universal, and all men affected; that it was general, the greater por. tion of the actions of men being evil; but that the depravity of every unsanctified man was total, extending not merely to his thoughts, but to bis imagination 73', the first frame or form of the thoughts. They were not partially, but only evil, and that not occasionally but continually. Yet the race who were destroyed, must have perfornied relative duties, parental and filial; and the tribes seem to have lived as free from war, at least, as those who have existed since the flood. I crimes before the flood exceeded in degree and multitude those of modern times, yet if they differed not in their nature, it will follow, that when the unrenewed in our days, are kind parents, dutiful children, honest men, and good citi. zens, they may be totally depraved; the “ imagination of the thoughts of their hearts may be only evil continually.As we know not their hearts, are to judge of them by their fruits, and are charitably to impute their actions to better motives, we may with propriety commend what God will condeirn. He sees the intentions, and the aversion of heart to him and holiness, and though he may reward virtuous conduct in this world, to encourage virtue, yet will eventually judge righteous judgment, and connect every action with its motives.

This scripture also shews us not only, that the material goodness of actions will not recommend them to God, but that cmscientiousness in the discharge of relative duties, (for this must have existed before the flood,) will not recommend them where the love of God, which is peculiar to the renewed mind, is absent.

carried this indefensible conjecture so far, as that they have maintained, that actual sin is committed in the womb. But this is not only destitute of all manner of proof, but it seems so very absurd, that, as few will be convinced by it, so it needs no confutation.

As for this propensity to sin, (whenever it may be said to take place) it is certain, that it is not equal in all; and in this it differs from Adam's guilt, as imputed to us, and from our want of original righteousness, as the immediate consequence thereof; for these corrupt inclinations appear, from universal experience, as well as the concurrent testimony of scripture, to be of an increasing nature ; so that some are more obstinate and hardened in sin than others; and the habits thereof, in many, áre compared to the tincture of the Ethiopian, or the leopard's spots, Jer. xiii. 23. which no humán art can take away. We are, indeed, naturally prone to sin at first; but afterwards the leprosy spreads, and the propensity, or inclination to it, increases by repeated acts, or a course of sin. The Psalmist takes notice of this, in a beautiful climax, or gradation ; They know not, neither will they understand, they walk in darkness, Psal. Ixxxii. 5.

We shall now take occasion to speak something concerning the rise or origin hereof. This is a difficulty which many have attempted to account for and explain, though with as little success as any thing that comes within the compass of our enquiries. Some ancient heretics * have thought, that because it could not be from God, who is the author of nothing but what is good, that therefore there are two first causes ; one of all good, which is God, and the other of all evil. But this is deservedly exploded,

as a most dangerous and absurd notion.

Others seem to assert, that God is the author of it; and, that they may exculpate themselves from making him the author of sin, which is the vilest reproach that can be cast upon him, they add, that he does this in a judicial way, as a punishment for the sin of our first parents, and that it is no reflection on him to suppose, that, as a Judge, he may put this propensity to sin into our nature ; so that it is, as it were, concreate with the soul, or derived to us, at the same time that it is formed in, and united to the body : But we cannot, by any means, conclude God to be the author hereof, though it be as a Judge ; for that would be to suppose his vindictive justice inconsistent with the spotless purity of his nature. We read, indeed, of God's giving men up to their own hearts' lusts, Psal. lxxxi. 11, 12. as a punishment for other sins ; but never of his producing in them an inclination to sin, though it be under the notion of a punishment: But this having been proved and illustrated, under a

The Marcionites in the second century, and the Manichees in the third.

foregoing answer, when speaking concerning the providence of God, as conversant about those actions, to which sin is annexed, in a judicial way, we shall pass it over in this place *.

The Pelagians, and, after them, the Papists, and some among the Remonstrants, being sensible, that this propensity of nature to sin cannot be denied, have taken such a method to account for it, as makes it a very innocent and harmless thing; and, that it may appear agreeable to the notion which they maintain of the innocency of man by nature, they suppose that the first motions, or inclinations of the soul to sin, or, to use their own expression, the first acts of concupiscence are not sinful; and, to support this opinion, they maintain, that nothing can be deemed a sin, but what is committed with the full bent of the will; and therefore when an unlawful object presents itself, how much soever the mind may be pleased with it, yet there is no sin till there is an actual compliance with it; and, for this, they bring that scripture, When lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin, James i. 15. that is, the second act of concupiscence, or the compliance with the first suggestions to sin, are only denominated sin ; and, as a consequence from this supposition, they pretend that these first acts of concupiscence were not inconsistent with a state of innocency; so that when Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, Gen. iii. 6. She did not sin till she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and, as a farther consequence deduced from this supposition, they conclude, that that original righteousness, which our first parents had, did not consist so much in a perfect freedom from all suggestions to sin, but it was rather a bridle to restrain them from compliance therewith, which, by not making a right use of, they complied with the motions of concupiscence, and so sinned. And, according to this scheme, that propensity of nature to sin, which we have in our childa hood, is an harmless, and innocent thing, and therefore we may suppose it to be from God, without concluding him to be the author of sin. But this is a vile and groundless notion, and such as savours more of Antinomianism, than many doctrines that are so called ; and, indeed, it is to call that no sin, which is, as it were, the root and spring of all sin, and to make God the author and approver of that, which he cannot but look on with the utmost detestation, as being contrary to the holiness of his nature ; to which nothing farther need be said, since the notion carries the black marks of its own infamy in itself.

There are others who oppose the doctrine of original sin, and pretend to account for the corruption of nature, by supposing that all men sinned for themselves ; which is nothing else but

Ses Page 54-57, ante. Vol. II.


« PredošláPokračovať »