Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
~ Genesis 3:16-19
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
~ Isaiah 24:5-6, Jeremiah 7:24, Romans 3:19, Job 5:6-7, Job 14:1, Romans 5:12-14
On the Apostasy of Man, and the Evil Consequence to Him, by Samuel Hopkins.
This is from his work called, “The System of Doctrines, contained in Divine Relation, Explained and Defended. Shewing Their Consistence and Connexion with Each Other”, Volume One, Chapter 8.
Man, who was placed in a happy and honourable situation, did not continue in it; but by transgressing the divine command, and violating the holy covenant, plunged into a state of infinite guilt and wretchedness, under the curse and threatened penalty of the law of God.
Moses gives a particular history of this first apostasy of man, in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. He does not tell us how long man continued innocent and obedient, after he was created; or give us a history of what passed, and of all the particular events and transactions which took place in a state of innocency; such a history being of no use and importance to us, while we continue in the present state. The whole will doubtless be revealed to all mankind at the day of judgment.
The Serpent is said to be the tempter, by whom Eve was deceived, and led to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree; and then gave it to Adam, and he eat of it also. It is said, “The serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” He appeared to have more sagacity than any other of the brute creation. Probably he had an erect and very beautiful form, and had nothing of the appearance and form of serpents since the fall of man. He appeared near the forbidden tree, or on it; perhaps eating of the fruit of it. It seems probable that Eve, seeing him there, and eating of the fruit of the tree, was surprised; upon which the serpent spoke, “Hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve replied, that God had given them full liberty to eat of every tree in the garden, except that one; but had forbidden them to touch that, upon the severest penalty. The serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” It is most probable that the serpent told the woman that by eating of the fruit of that tree, he had obtained the use of reason, and the faculty of speech, which she saw him now to exercise; and therefore said, that from his own experience, he could assure her, that if she would eat of this fruit, she should be so far from dying, that she should arrive to a much higher degree of perfection and knowledge. The first motion in her mind disposing her to regard and believe the serpent, rather than God, who had said, she should surely die, if she eat of that tree, was wrong and sinful: so that she really fell from her innocence, before she actually took of the fruit, and ate. Her doing the latter was completing her apostasy, by a full exertion of her will in open rebellion. And the first motion of Adam’s heart, which implied the least degree of inclination to hearken to the woman, and eat of the forbidden fruit, was a sinful one; and he was a rebel in heart, before he actually ate.
Nothing is spoken of as the tempter but the serpent; because nothing else was visible but the serpent speaking and reasoning; or rather deceiving and lying. But the story itself, when properly considered, will necessarily lead us to conceive of some superior, invisible agent, speaking and acting in and by the serpent, making him the instrument, by which he effected his design. And as it could not be a good spirit, which by the serpent acted this part, it must be an evil one; which is confirmed by what God said to the serpent, after the apostasy of man, which will be considered more particularly in its place. But this is reduced to a certainty in succeeding divine revelation, where the devil and his angels are brought into view: And Christ evidently alludes to this instance of ruining mankind by deceit and lying when he says, “The devil was a murderer from the beginning; and he is a liar, and the father of it.” And the devil is repeatedly called the dragon, and the serpent, “That old serpent called the devil, and satan which deceiveth the whole world,” plainly alluding to the serpent which in the beginning deceived and seduced our first parents. 177 The devil, in order to carry on his design, made use of the serpent as his instrument, he being a creature best suited to answer his purpose. And God saw fit to suffer him to do it.
By this act of disobedience, our first parents violated the covenant which God had made with them, and forfeited all the good promised to obedience, and brought upon themselves the penalty threatened. It was not, indeed, completely executed upon them immediately. They fell under the divine displeasure and wrath, which was sufficiently great to destroy them forever; and which, if fully executed on them, must make them miserable, without end. They were condemned, and fell into a state of complete eternal ruin, being totally and forever undone and lost, without any help or hope. Thus they died immediately on sinning: Though the full execution of the punishment did not take place immediately; yet as they were condemned and cursed, and utterly undone, and had nothing in their reach or view to prevent infinite evil coming upon them, the evil threatened in a true sense fell upon them, and they died in the day on which they transgressed. The sentence of death, and the penalty threatened in the law under which the angels were, fell upon those who sinned immediately; but it will not be completely executed till the day of judgment; nor will it ever be, because it is endless punishment, to which they are condemned. It will be in execution without end, and so, strictly speaking, will never be fully executed: And yet the execution is according to the threatening. So it is in the case of man; he fell under the threatening immediately on his sinning, though the full and complete execution of it, do not take place for many ages.
St. Paul says, “When the commandment or law came, sin revived, and I died:” That is, he found himself dead. He found himself under the curse of the law, which was contained in the original threatening, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” If Paul found himself dead, agreeable to the threatening of the law, then Adam did really die in the same sense, or the same death: and sin, even the first act of disobedience, wrought this death
177 Rev. xii. 9, 14, 15.—xx. 2.
in him. The evil which the law threatened, “Thou shalt surely die,” in this sense, came upon him. He fell under the curse. This sentence fell upon him, and he was a dead man. Paul calls this death, or dying; and by this tells us what dying means in the threatening; and that Adam did die on that day in which he ate the forbidden fruit.
Bat if this were not so, and Adam did not die the death threatened on the day he sinned, this may be consistent with the execution of the threatening, according to the true intent of it. The threatening, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” expresses two things, viz. The certainty of the punishment, as infallibly connected with transgression; and that the threatened penalty should follow on one or the first act of rebellion. We find much the same language used, to express one or both these; and not that the threatening should be immediately executed, or on the day in which the crime was committed. “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression. As for the wicked less of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness: Neither shall the righteous be able to live in the day that he sinneth; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die or it.”178 This does not express the time when death should be executed or take place; but the certainty of the punishment. “For it shall be that on the day that thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shall know for certain, that thou shalt surely die.”179 This does not mean, that he should die on the same day in which he should pass over Kidron; but that he should certainly be put to death for this offence, without any farther trial.
This apostasy of our first parents, was a total apostasy: That is, by giving themselves up to this sin, an inclination to sin took the dominion in their hearts, and they wholly lost all their moral rectitude and holiness, or the moral image of God, in which they were created. This is not expressly asserted in the history of their sin; but it may be inferred from the nature of the case. By this transgression they forfeited all favour from their Maker, and fell under his displeasure, and were cursed, according to the law and constitution, under which they were when they sinned; and it was inconsistent therefore to shew them any favour; especially such a favour, as preserving them from total apostasy, or their being continued in the exercise of love to God, while they were under that constitution, and antecedent to the revelation of the dispensation of grace. Moreover, the first act of sin carried in it an inclination to universal sinfulness, and opposition to holiness in general, or to all and every degree of holiness; and according to the natural course of things, would issue in total depravity, in the exclusion of all moral good, and the complete possession and reign of moral evil in their hearts. This consisted in their ceasing to love God, and loving themselves only; which self love, or selfishness, was in every degree of it opposed to the law under which they were, and
178 Ezekiel xxxiii. 12, 13.
179 1 Kings ii. 37.
the fruitful source of all sin; which will more fully appear, when this subject will come more particularly into view, in its proper place. There was nothing therefore that could prevent their total apostasy, or becoming wholly sinful, and opposed to the law of God, and all holiness, unless God had miraculously interposed, contrary to the law and constitution under which they sinned, to prevent it, and exercised mere sovereign favour, which, as has been observed, would be inconsistent with the constitution under which they sinned.
The above reasoning, to prove that the apostasy of man was total, appears to be confirmed by the apostasy of the angels who sinned. It is presumed all will grant that their first apostasy was not partial, but total. If the angels fell totally in their first rebellion, why not man also? It is true that under another and a new dispensation of grace through a Mediator, holiness is introduced and maintained in the heart of the believer, in a small and low degree, while there is also a degree of sinful exercise; and both these, sin and holiness, continue through life; and particular acts of sin of which believers are guilty, do not bring on total depravity, and wholly extinguish every degree of divine love: But this may with propriety be called a miracle, being contrary to the course of nature, and the constitution of things, which origin- ally took place, and is the effect of the new constitution, by which the original order or course of nature is counteracted by the introduction of a gracious dispensation; and the nature and natural course of sin is interrupted and opposed, by special divine interposition: But this is so far from an evidence that our first parents could go into an overt act of rebellion, consistent with retaining any degree of love to God, that it is a proof of the contrary, and that man, by the first apostasy, sunk into total depravity, and became wholly a rebel, and altogether opposed to the divine law.
It has been observed, and it is thought proved in the foregoing chapter, that all mankind were created and comprehended in the first man; as much as were all the trees and plants, in the first trees and plants which were made, with the seed in themselves, to produce a succession of trees and plants after their kind, to the end of the world. Therefore in what God said to Adam, and his transactions with him in giving him law, and forming a covenant with him, he was considered and treated as comprehending all mankind; and he was the real and constituted head of the whole race, so that his obedience or transgression should affect all mankind, as it affected him, and was to be considered as the obedience or disobedience of all. It is proposed now, to attempt to explain this point more fully, and show how far, and in what respects, all Adam’s posterity are comprehended in the first transgression, and affected by it.
I. By the constitution and covenant with Adam, his first disobedience was the disobedience of all mankind. That is, the sin, and consequent ruin of all the human race, was by this constitution infallibly connected with the first sin of the head and father of the race. By the divine constitution, the appointment of God, if the head and father of mankind sinned, the whole race of men, all his posterity, should sin; and in this sense it should be the sin of the whole. Accordingly, when the head became a sinner, and moral corruption took possession of the heart, a sure foundation was laid, by the constitution under which man was, for the same sin and moral corruption to take place and spread through all the human race: Just as by a divine appointment, or a law of nature, the sap of the root or original stock of a tree passes into the numerous limbs, twigs and the fruit of the tree, as they successively grow out of it. If the sap or nature of the root or stock be bad, sour or poisonous, the same is communicated to the whole, and every branch, and all the fruit and seed of the whole tree, is corrupt, sour, or poisonous, and of all the trees which spring from that, or are produced by the seed of it. Thus, if any tree was, when first created, of a poisonous nature, and produced such fruit, all that race of trees, or all that should spring from it, would of course be of the same nature. And if a tree or plant, which was created al first good and wholesome, did degenerate, and become corrupt and poisonous, all that should proceed from that, would, of course, be equally corrupt.
The disobedience of Adam decided the character of all his natural posterity; and rendered it certain, according to a divine, revealed constitution, that they should be born, and rise into existence as moral agents, in disobedience and rebellion: And that the same moral corruption which then took place in his heart, should spread through the whole race of mankind. In this sense, the first sin carried in it the sin of all mankind, and contained the seed, and was the foundation of all the moral corruption of the human race; as by this they were all constituted sinners,
II. As the first sin was, in the sense just explained, the common sin of all mankind, as the disobedience of them all was infallibly connected with it, and by it all the human race were constituted or made sinners; so as this first sin brought condemnation, or the penalty of the law on Adam, it fell equally on all mankind. For as the sin of Adam inferred and implied the disobedience of all, the consequent condemnation of all was equally implied and involved in the condemnation of Adam. Or the condemnation and penalty which fell on Adam, the father and head of mankind, really came upon all his posterity. As the sin was common to all, so was the curse. And it is here particularly to be observed, that as Adam first disobeyed, and condemnation and the curse came upon him, for his disobedience and in consequence of it; so these take place just in the same order in his posterity, their sin, or the moral corruption, which is common to all mankind, first takes place, as the ground and reason of their condemnation, and liableness to the threatened penalty.
The evidence that this was the original constitution under which mankind were placed has been in some measure given in the foregoing chapter. But there is more clear and certain evidence, that things have actually taken place in this manner and according to such a constitution; and that the sin of all the posterity of Adam, and the consequent condemnation and curse, were thus connected with the first sin of their common father and head, and come upon all mankind as the certain and appointed consequence of the original apostasy of man; the former being implied, and involved in the latter. This is now to be brought into view, and carefully considered.
1. The pain, sorrow, and train of evils in this world, which issue in the death of the body, to which all mankind are sentenced, and which actually came upon them all, in consequence of the original transgression, are a standing evidence, and full demonstration, that the sin and condemnation of all the posterity of Adam were infallibly connected with that first sin, and involved in it.
Though these evils were denounced to the first parents of mankind on their disobedience, and they only are addressed in the sentence; yet it is evident from fact, that all their posterity were included in them, and fell under the same sentence, and were doomed to the same evils. This is not only an evidence that Adam was considered, as including his posterity as their common head, so that what was said to him and of him, was said to, and of all mankind; but also renders it certain, that all his children were considered as sinners, in consequence of the apostasy of their first father; and that there was a certain connection between the first sin, and the sin and guilt of all mankind. For surely it would not be proper or just to sentence all mankind to these evils, when considered as perfectly innocent. There is therefore no possible way to account for this, consistent with the righteousness and equity of the divine government, but by supposing and granting that all the posterity of Adam were constituted, and considered to be sinners, in consequence of his sinning, or by his first offence, there being a certain constituted connection between his first transgression, and the sinning of all the human race.
Separation of soul and body, and the numerous particular natural evils which now take place among mankind in this life, could have had no existence, if the original threatening had been executed without mitigation; or had not the redemption taken place, by which mankind are put into a new state of probation, as has been before observed.
Nevertheless, had not man sinned, these evils which issue in the death of the body could not have taken place, as redemption also could not. Therefore these evils are introduced, and afflicted on man, in consequence of sin, and as a standing testimony of God’s displeasure with him, and consequently cannot be inflicted on any but sinners. We are therefore sure that as the death of the body, with other attendant evils, are inflicted on all mankind, they are all considered and treated as sinners; and consequently, that they are really sinners; and that their being such had a certain connection with the first sin, upon which they were condemned to these evils.
Adam is sentenced to the death of the body, and all the train of preceding evils, because he had sinned, and offended his Maker; and this is expressly declared to be the ground of the sentence. And as this sentence was extended to all his posterity, and they were included in it, as much as Adam himself, they were considered and treated by this as being sinners, whenever they should exist; which could not be, unless there were a certain established connection between the sin of the first man, and the sinfulness of all mankind. If it were possible that any of Adam’s natural posterity should be innocent, this sentence could not be extended to them; but they must have been excepted. Therefore as all are included in the sentence, not one of mankind can possibly be innocent; but the sinfulness and guilt of all are infallibly connected with the sin of Adam, and included in it, by an established constitution.
Many particular instances of the death of men, who have been cut off in divine providence, are represented to be expressions of God’s displeasure with them for their sins, such as the drowning of the old world; the destruction of the inhabitants of Sodom, &:c. and in- numerable other instances. How much more must the sentence of death upon all mankind, be an expression of God’s displeasure with them, for their sinfulness and guilt.
2. That the sin, and the consequent guilt and condemnation of all the human race, were by divine constitution connected with Adam’s sinning, is very particularly and expressly asserted by St. Paul.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Through the offence of one, many died. For the judgment was by one, to condemnation. By one man’s offence, death reigned by one. By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation. By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners.”180
Here sin, condemnation and death, are expressly said to be introduced into the world, upon all mankind, by one offence, one act of disobedience of one man, that is, Adam. When it is said that sin entered into the world by one, the meaning cannot be merely that one man sinned first, or that Adam committed the first sin, sinned before any of his posterity did sin; for this would be to assert nothing to the purpose. But by sin entering into the world, is meant its taking place among mankind, and spreading or extending to ail the posterity of Adam. Death entered into the world as sin did, as the consequence of it, by one man; and this passed or came upon all men, just as sin did. This is expressly asserted in the words immediately following, “For that all have sinned.” By one man sin entered into the world of mankind, as the common sin of all, and extended to every one of his posterity, and by this sin, death entered also, and came upon all mankind, in that by this one offence all became sinners; there being an established connection between the sin of this one man, and the sinning of all. That this is the truth, and what is asserted in those words, is made certain beyond dispute, by the repetition of the same assertion, in other and more express words, in the 19th verse. “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners.” Here the disobedience of Adam is said, in this sense, to be the disobedience of all his posterity, that their sinning was connected with his disobedience, or implied and involved in it; so that by his sinning,
180 Romans v. 12, &c.
they were all made sinners, or constituted sinners, as the Greek word properly signifies. That is, by a fixed, divine constitution, if Adam sinned, all his posterity were to become sinners; so that by his disobedience, he fixed this character upon all mankind.
Condemnation and death, or judgment to condemnation, came upon all men, considered as sinners, or as a consequence of sin, as it came upon Adam. It is represented in this light in this passage. Death entered into the world by sin, and came upon all men, because, or inasmuch as all men were sinners, being made sinners, by the disobedience of Adam their head, by virtue of the divine constitution and covenant made with him, they all fell under condemnation to death, considered in this character, or as sinners. “By one man’s offence death reigned.” All mankind being constituted offenders, or sinners by one offence of Adam, death took place, and held dominion and reigned over all. Again he says, verse 21, “As sin hath reigned unto death.” Death is asserted to be the consequence of the reign of sin in the world, or among mankind.
It has been observed, that by death, which is mentioned six times in this passage, is evidently meant eternal destruction, or the second death, as it is put in opposition to eternal life, and is the wages of sin; unless death mentioned in the 14th verse, be an exception. But if it be, and it were granted that the death of the body is intended whenever death is mentioned in this paragraph; yet this would not evade or weaken the evidence and proof it contains, that the posterity of Adam are constituted sinners by his first sin, so as by it to fall under condemnation, and become justly exposed to the second death. For if a moral agent be in such a sense a sinner, as to deserve any evil, he must deserve infinite evil, that is, endless punishment; for this, as has been proved, is the just wages of sin, and what every sin deserves. Therefore if any evil, even that of the death of the body, be inflicted on mankind, in consequence of Adam’s first act of disobedience, it carries in it a certain evidence, that they become sinners by that sin of his, there being an established connection between his sin and their being sinners, and that they deserve all the evil which the first sin deserved, and was threatened to the first act of disobedience, which was endless misery, the just wages of sin. In this view, the death of the body, to which all mankind are subjected, is a standing evidence that they are sinners, and consequently that they deserve endless punishment: For if they were not sinners, they could not be sentenced to this evil; and if they are sinners, and deserve this evil, they deserve infinite evil, which is the just desert of every sin. And as this death comes on all mankind in consequence of one act of disobedience of the first man, the head and father of all, it is a certain evidence that by his sin, all his posterity are constituted and become sinners, and were considered as such, as soon as Adam sinned; otherwise his sin could not have brought this death upon all mankind, or upon any but the first sinner. And their being condemned to this death, necessarily implied their personal sin in consequence of Adam’s sinning, and just desert of the second death, as has been shown.
Hence it appears, that as long as this passage of scripture is to be found in the Bible, we have good evidence that the sin and ruin of all mankind was implied, and certainly involved in the first act of disobedience of Adam.
3. This is also demonstrably certain, in that the posterity of Adam are all considered and treated as sinners, and deserving and exposed to endless ruin, in the method which has been opened and prosecuted for the recovery and salvation of man, by Jesus Christ. In the revelation of this salvation, and all that has been done to effect it, it is supposed that all mankind are lost in sin; that every one of the natural posterity of Adam who has been born, has been a sinner; and that every one that shall be born and exist to the end of the world, will exist a sinner, and in a state of condemnation and ruin. The gospel is represented as providing relief for all who believe, and the only way in which mankind can be saved, all being condemned and infallibly lost forever, who are not saved by Christ. There could be no reason for this, unless it were certain that all mankind would rise into existence sinners, and so be involved in condemnation and ruin, and stand in absolute need of the revealed Saviour. But this could not be, unless this was implied in the apostasy of the father of mankind, and upon this was fixed and made certain. 181 How could a Saviour from sin and destruction be provided and revealed for mankind, immediately upon the sin of Adam, if this sin did not involve the sin and ruin of all? for the innocent could have no need of such a Saviour. And with what propriety could the gospel be ordered to be preached to all nations, and to every one of the human race to the end of the world, if it were not certain that every one was in a state of sin and ruin? This can be well accounted for, if the sin and ruin of Adam’s posterity were connected with his first sin, and involved in it, by virtue of the covenant and constitution made with the father of mankind; and the whole is consistent and easy to be understood: But no consistent, rational, satisfactory account can be given of this, on any other supposition.
4. Agreeable to this, mankind are represented in the scripture, to be universally depraved and morally corrupt; and this appears to be true from fact and experience. It is needless to adduce all the passages of scripture in which this is asserted. St. Paul asserts this in such express and strong terms, when he is attending particularly to this point, that it will be established sufficiently for the present purpose, by appealing to his words. 182 “We have before
181 It is granted that all mankind might have been in a state of apostasy, had not this been the consequence of the sin of Adam, and connected with this, and made certain by it; but that they should be considered and treated as in such a state, and a Saviour be provided for them, and ordered to be preached and offered to them, when nothing had taken place with which this was connected, and by which it was rendered certain, appears to be highly improper and inconsistent.
182 Romans iii. 9, &c.
proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin: As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one,—That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” This witness is supported, and appears to be true from the character mankind have given of themselves, by their general conduct in all ages, as there never has appeared to be one perfectly upright, sinless person; and in general all nations and generations, of every age, have been exceeding corrupt and sinful; and that while many of them have had great light and advantage to be wise and virtuous, and when great and special means have been used with them in the best manner suited to make them so. By a great variety of experiments which have been made, it appears that mankind are so sunk into sin, and strongly inclined to evil, that no external applications, means, motives, and advantages are sufficient to reclaim them. And children, as soon as they are capable of manifesting any moral disposition or inclination, universally discover that which is contrary to the law of God.
If what the scripture asserts on this head, wanted any support from fact, this character which mankind have themselves drawn by their practice would be a sufficient one.
When St. Paul had asserted and proved in the words just quoted, that all mankind are become wholly corrupt and sinful, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” he proceeds to account for this, and show the ground and origin of the universal sinfulness of the posterity of Adam, in the paragraph which has been considered. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners.”183 And there is the greatest reason to believe, and rest satisfied in this account, not only as it is given by divine inspiration, but as it is the only rational, consistent and satisfactory account of this interesting affair, that can be given.
That such a constitution is just and wise, and that mankind have no reason to object to it as injurious to them, is evident from what has been observed upon it in the foregoing chapter. 184 But that this may appear yet more evident, and all objections be obviated, a particular explanation of this matter, and vindication of the divine conduct herein, will be now attempted.
It is carefully to be observed, that sin does not take place in the posterity of Adam, in consequence of his sin, or that they are not constituted sinners by his disobedience, as a punishment, of the penalty of the law coming upon them for his sin: It is not to be supposed that the offence of Adam is imputed to them to their condemnation, while they are considered as in themselves, in their own persons innocent: Or that they are guilty of the sin of their
183 Romans v. 12, &c.
184 Page 247, &c.
first father, antecedent to their own sinfulness. But all that is asserted, as what the scripture teaches on this head is, that by a divine constitution, there is a certain connection between the first sin of Adam, and the sinfulness of his posterity; so that as he sinned and fell under condemnation, they in consequence of this became sinful and condemned. Therefore when Adam had sinned, by this the character and state of all his posterity were fixed, and they were by virtue of the covenant made with Adam, constituted or made sinners like him; and therefore were considered as such, before they had actual existence. It was made certain, and known and declared to be so, that all mankind should sin as Adam had done, and fully consent to his transgression, and join in the rebellion which he began; and, by this, bring upon themselves the guilt of their father’s sin, by consenting to it, joining with him in it, and making it their own sin.
This cannot be objected to as an unjust appointment, or a constitution injurious to mankind, without equally objecting to God’s willing and ordering things so as to make it certain that any of his creatures should sin. If it was his will that Adam should sin, and he constituted and ordered things so that it was certain that he would sin, and he had a right to do this; then it was right and just to will and determine that all the posterity of Adam should sin, and to form a constitution, which established a certain connection of the latter with the former. The disobedience of Adam was connected with something which preceded it, and of which it was the consequence; and it was determined and fixed by God, as has been proved, and which all must grant who hold that God did permit Adam to sin: But none will say or think that this was a punishment inflicted on Adam, thus to determine, and form and fix a constitution which made his sinning certain; or that this was injurious to Adam, or in the least degree improper or unwise. And if this was just and wise and good, then it was equally so, to form a constitution which connected the sin of all mankind with the first sin of the father of the human race. Or, if he might and did permit Adam to sin, consistent with justice, wisdom and goodness, he might, consistent with all these, permit everyone of his posterity to sin, and therefore determine to do it. And if God had a right to order things so that all mankind should sin, independent of their connection with Adam and his sin, and this be no more unjust or injurious to them, than to order things so that Adam and myriads of angels should sin; then certainly no wrong is done to them, by ordering that this should depend upon, and take place in consequence of this sin of Adam. No objection can be made to this, which is not equally an objection to God’s ordering things so that sin should take place, and has taken place in any instance, among angels or men.
The following propositions must be granted, as axioms of indubitable truth, and may serve to give light to the point under consideration.
1. Every creature capable of moral agency and holiness is entirely dependent on God, not only for his continuance in existence, but for all his moral exercises; and especially for his moral excellence or holiness. This is a greater and higher gift than mere existence, and when it is given, the continuance of it is entirely dependent on the will of God. The most excellent creature in the exercise of perfect holiness, is, in his own nature changeable, and may become sinful; and nothing can secure him from this but the will and agency of the infinite, unchangeable Being.
2. God is under no obligation to preserve the moral agents which he creates, from sinning. If this proposition were not self-evident, the actual existence of sin is a demonstration of the truth of it.
3. God may, therefore, for wise reasons, will and determine not to prevent the sin and consequent ruin of his creatures; which is really willing that sin should take place. The truth of this proposition is also demonstrated by the sin which has actually taken place; for this could not have been, unless God, all things considered, willed it should be, otherwise it must have taken place contrary to his will, or while he was not willing it should exist, which is infinitely impossible.
4. If God may, and has actually exercised his will and choice about the existence of sin, and determined in favour of its actually taking place, and this be consistent with his wisdom, holiness and goodness, as it certainly is; then it is consistent with his glorious moral character, to dispose, order and do every thing which is necessary to be, ordered and done independent of the creature, and previous to their actually sinning, in order to the certain existence of this event. This has been observed in a former chapter; where it has been also shown that the former, viz. that God’s willing the existence of sin, does necessarily imply the latter: and that these are not really two distinct things; but one and the same.185
From all this, it appears, that God, being under no obligation to preserve any of his rational creatures from sinning, may, consistent with his righteousness, wisdom and holiness, order things so that any number of them shall become sinful, when this is most for his glory and the general good. Accordingly, it was agreeable to his will and purpose that vast numbers of the angels should fall into sin: And had this will and purpose reached all of them, they would have had no reason to complain of any injustice or wrong done to them. And therefore those who have not sinned, must ascribe it to the sovereign, distinguishing, undeserved favour of God, that they have been preserved innocent and holy, when so great a number of them went off into a state of rebellion. And he had a right to order it so that any number, or all of mankind, should become sinners, as they rose into existence, had there been no constitution connecting their sinning with the sin of Adam; and no injustice or injury would have been done to any. And since God has seen fit to order and constitute things so that the universal sinfulness of man should take place, in connection with the sin of Adam, and as the unfailing consequence of it, which he might have ordered without doing them any wrong, had not Adam first sinned, or without any consideration of his sin, or connection
185 See chap. iv. p. 129, 130, &c.
with it, surely there is no ground or colour of an objection to it, as being injurious to them. If mankind had no claim to be exempted from sin, had there been no connection between them and Adam, or had they no common head or father; then surely they have no reason to complain, that they are become sinners by a constitution, appointing Adam to be their public head, and connecting their becoming sinners with his sinning.
It is a notorious and acknowledged fact, that all mankind are sinners; sinning is infallibly connected with their existence. There is certainly some unfailing constitution or law, which constantly and effectually operates to produce this effect in all Adam’s posterity. We are sure this is just, and no wrong is done to man, that sin does thus infallibly take place in all, by some steady, efficacious cause, though we were not able to tell by what means, or in what way this universal corruption of man has been introduced, and taken place. And shall we complain as being injured by this, because God has seen fit to favour us with a revelation, informing us how, and in what way this universal sinfulness of the human race has been introduced and taken place; “That by one man sin entered into the world: And by one man’s disobedience, many (even all his posterity) are made sinners?”
And to complain of this, is not only to find fault with that which is just, by which no wrong is done to us; but to object to a most wise and good constitution. This constitution is perfectly agreeable to the natural relation in which Adam’s posterity stood to their common head and parent; and all mankind were so comprehended and included in the first man, that it was natural, proper and wise to deal with him as including all his posterity, and to constitute him to act for them all, as being in him. And there farther appears a natural propriety and fitness in such a constitution, if we consider the nature and tendency of sin, and the inclination, wish and attempt of the sinner who rebels against God. Adam’s first rebellion contained in it a desire and wish that all his posterity might sin as he did. This became agreeable to his heart as soon as sin entered into it; and so far as he had power and influence, it would certainly take place. To suppose the contrary, is inconsistent and absurd. The corruption and rebellion of all Adam’s children therefore must be the consequence of his sinning, unless his inclination, desire and attempt were crossed and counteracted. And his sin had a mighty and almost irresistible tendency to lead all his posterity into the same rebellion; and who can say this would not be the consequence, without one exception, had things taken their natural course, without being opposed and prevented by divine interposition? Adam’s sin had a natural tendency to corrupt the world of mankind, and according to the natural course of things would spread to every individual of his posterity. And this was agreeable to the inclination and choice of the father of mankind. The language of his transgression was, “Let all my posterity sin as I do, and be as I am; let them rise into existence in my own image and likeness: So far as I have power to beget and produce them, they shall be rebels like myself.”—Therefore, according to the natural course of things, and the nature and tendency of sin, and agreeable to the inclination and choice of Adam, the first act of sin by the common father and head of mankind, contained in it the infection and sin of all the human race; and must corrupt the whole, and issue in the rebellion and ruin of every one, unless counteracted and prevented by divine interposition. Hence it appears that the divine constitution connecting the sin and ruin of all mankind with the first sin of their common father, is so far from being arbitrary and unnatural, that it is an establishment, agreeable to the natural course, tendency and connection of things, and perfectly consonant to the nature of sin, and serves to make a display of this. And that a contrary constitution, which should prevent the spreading of the sin of Adam to his posterity, or corrupting any one of them, would be unnatural and improper, as it would counteract and prevent the natural tendency, and the nature, course and connection of things; and therefore would not have been wise and good—while the constitution which has taken place is agreeable to the nature of things, and both wise and good. It appears most wise and best that if any of mankind sinned, all should be sinners, and constituted so by the first sin, as this has laid a proper and ample foundation for the glorious work of redemption, for the character and works of the Redeemer, of whom Adam in this way was made a type,—the Redeemer and his works, and the consequent glory, being the grand design and end of all. But this will rise more clearly into view as we proceed.
It must be farther observed, that there is no reasonable objection to this constitution, in that it not only establishes a connection between the sin of Adam and the sinning of his posterity; but that the latter should be born in sin, so as to begin to sin, as soon as they begin to act as moral agents. For if a moral agent may begin to sin at any time, he may begin to sin as soon as he begins to exist with a capacity of sinning. And if God is not obliged to prevent his sinning at any time of his existence, he is under no obligation to prevent it the first moment of his existence. Therefore he had a right to determine the sinfulness of all Adam’s posterity as soon as they should exist, as a certain consequence of his disobedience: And there is no more ground of objection to this, than there is to Adam’s posterity sinning at any time of their existence, in consequence of his sinning.
If a person can have no reason to complain of any one but himself, if he be inclined to sin, and actually disobeys the divine command, at any time, at whatever distance from his beginning to exist, he will be equally without reason to complain that he is injured by any one, but by himself, if he be inclined to sin as soon as he begins to exist, and though he never were otherwise inclined. If any one should say, if he had not sinned early, even from his beginning to act, he should not have sinned now; or if he had not been always inclined to sin from his first existence, he should not have been inclined to sin since, with a view to exculpate himself, would this be any excuse? Was not his first inclination to sin, his own inclination, and as really blameable as if it had not been the first, or so soon? And because he began to sin so soon, does this excuse his sinning afterwards, and continuing to sin?
It seems proper, if not necessary, that if moral corruption be derived from Adam to his children, by a fixed law or constitution, it should take place from the beginning of their existence. If by their being his children, they become corrupt, they must of consequence be corrupt as soon as they exist, or become his children. If it were not so, it would not appear from fact, that they became sinful by being the posterity of Adam, or that their moral corruption was, by divine constitution, connected with his sin, by their being his children.
Agreeable to this, the scripture represents all mankind as sinful from the beginning of their existence. “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”186 That is, his infancy, from the beginning of his existence. “David says of himself, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”187 This must be as true of all mankind, as of David. “The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”188 Here it is asserted at least, that as soon as they begin to act, they sin. And though it cannot be precisely determined how soon this is; yet it hence appears that they are by nature corrupt, and they begin to exist with that moral corruption, which is the same thing that appears as soon as there is opportunity, in visible action, in opposition to the rule of truth and duty, the divine law. The words immediately following these are “Their poison is like the poison of a serpent.” The serpent is generated a poisonous creature. Poison is in his nature from the beginning of his existence, and when he begins to bite that is acted out, with which he was born. There appears to be evident reference to this, in these words. The wicked are said to be estranged from the womb; to go astray, speaking lies, as soon as they be born: And in this respect their poison, their wickedness, is like the poison of a serpent. Solomon says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” By folly and foolishness in his writings, he generally means sin, or moral corruption: And certainly this is meant here, because he says, “The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” The rod of correction can drive no other foolishness away, but that which is of a moral kind. The expression is very strong and emphatical, and asserts that sin has gotten fast hold, and is firmly fixed in the heart of a young child, and that this is true of every child which is born. How could the early, native corruption of children be more fully expressed?—The same is asserted by Christ, when he says to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh.”189 It is abundantly evident from the whole passage in which these words are found, that by flesh here is meant moral corruption, or sin, in which sense this word is frequently used in the scriptures, especially in the writings of St. Paul. According to this, man is born in a state of moral corruption.
186 Gen. viii. 21.
187 Psalm li. 5.
188 Psalm lviii. 3.
189 John iii. 6.
A child, an infant, as soon as he exists, may have moral corruption or sin. As soon as he has any mental motion, which is of the nature of inclination, this motion, disposition or inclination, may be wrong, and have in it the foundation and seeds of every sin, being of the same nature with the sinful motions and inclinations of the hearts of adult persons. These motions, though invisible and unperceived by us, do really, and in the sight of the Omniscient Being, fix the actual moral character of the child, which discovers itself to men, as it has opportunity, and there is capacity to express it in actions and words. This is confirmed by observation and experience. Children commonly, before they can speak, discover that selfishness, that wilfulness and obstinacy, which is the root and source of all the sin which takes place among mankind. This, therefore, is of the same nature with moral evil in general, and was in the heart or mind when it first existed; and has grown up to a greater degree of strength, as the mind has been enlarged, and appears and is acted out, as the capacity increases, and opportunity and occasion are offered.
This sin, which lakes place in the posterity of Adam, is not properly distinguished into original and actual sin, because it is all really actual, and there is, strictly speaking, no other sin but actual sin. 190 As soon as sin exists in a child of Adam, though an infant, it consists in motion, or inclination, of the same nature and kind with sin in adult persons; all the difference is, the former is not so strong, and has not opportunity to be acted out, as the latter is. Sin, or an evil inclination, took place and existed in the heart of Adam, before he determined to eat, and did eat of the fruit which was forbidden. The very first motion in his heart, tending that way, was a sinful motion, though it was not perfected or completed till it produced the overt act. Who can say that this motion or inclination, which may be called lust, was stronger or had more activity in it, than the evil motion which may exist in the heart of an infant; which may be sufficient to produce the most horrid mental and external acts of sin, when capacity and opportunity are given? St. James says, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” He does not mean that lust is not sin; for this is contrary to all reason, and cannot be true. And if we should suppose this to be asserted or implied, we should make this apostle contradict St. Paul, who says, “I had not known sin but by the law: For I had not known lust, except the law had said. Thou shalt not covet.” Here he speaks of lust and sin,
190 What has been meant by this distinction may be agreeable to the truth, if by actual sin be meant the expression and acting out of the depravity or sinful disposition of the heart, in distinction from the sin of the heart, while not thus expressed. But the latter is as really actual sin, as the former. Therefore there is no ground for calling one actual sin, and the other not. Original sin is that total moral depravity, which takes place in the hearts of all the children of Adam, in consequence of his apostasy, which consists in exercise or act, as really as any sin can do, and therefore cannot be distinguished from actual sin.
as synonymous, by which he means one and the same thing. St. James, when he distinguishes lust from sin, intends by the latter, what is called, an overt act of sin, or sin when it is finished or completed in overt acts, agreeable to the following expression. “Sin, when it is finished.” It is begun in the first and least motion of lust, or evil inclination and motion in the heart, and finished by being acted out in an overt act of the will. Both are actual sin, yet there is a distinction which maybe made.
The existence of sin in the heart of a child, as soon as it is capable of any thing of a moral nature, can be as well accounted for, and as easily, as the sin of an adult person, or as the first existence of sin in the heart of Adam. The former being as consistent with the divine perfections, and the nature of man, as the latter. What has been said in the fourth chapter on the origin and cause of moral evil, may serve to illustrate this. And it takes place in the hearts of all the posterity of Adam, by virtue of the divine constitution, which has been considered and explained above.
On the whole, it is presumed that none but those who assert that the sin of man does take place, contrary to the will and purpose of God, and that it is not, all things considered, agreeable to his will that it should exist, can have any objection to the doctrine of original sin, as it has been stated above, which asserts the universal sinfulness of Adam’s posterity, to be connected with his first sin by a just, wise and good constitution, made by God, when he created man. And of these, it is hoped, there are but few, since they must, by such assertion, contradict the truth plainly delivered in the holy scriptures, and deny the supremacy and absolute independence and infinite felicity of the Most High God; as has been observed in the fore-mentioned chapter.
In order to set this important scripture doctrine in a yet more full and clear light, the following things must be observed.
I. Mankind are born totally corrupt or sinful, in consequence of the apostasy of Adam. That is, they have naturally, as the children of Adam, no degree or kind of moral rectitude, and their hearts are full of moral evil. That the first apostasy was total, and that man became immediately wholly sinful, having no degree of moral rectitude, has been shewn to be, at least, probable, if not certain; and therefore when he begat a son in his own likeness, he must come into existence wholly sinful. But that this is in fact true of all mankind, is expressly and repeatedly asserted in divine revelation. It was early declared that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”191 The total corruption and depravity of mankind cannot be asserted in stronger and more decisive language than this. With reference to this assertion, it is said, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”192 Agreeable to this, Solomon says,
191 Gen. vi. 5.
192 Chap. viii. 21.
“The heart of the sons of men (that is, of all mankind) is full of evil. If it be full of evil, there can be no good in it. Again, it is said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”194 St. Paul asserts the total depravity of man, and that there is nothing in him naturally which is morally good and right, in very express and strong terms, repeated over and over again. He quotes the following words from the Old Testament, and expressly applies them to all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles. “There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”195 This truth is implicitly asserted in many passages of scripture. Only a few will be mentioned, since it is so clearly asserted in what has been quoted. When Christ says, “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh,” that is, nothing but flesh, he really asserts that man, as he is born, in his natural state, is destitute of all moral goodness: For by flesh is meant that which is opposed to the holy Spirit, or holiness; and is put for moral corruption; which is abundantly evident by the writings of St. Paul. Christ says, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” All under the gospel are invited to come. “Whosoever will, let him come.” Yet Christ says, “No man can come unto me, except the Father, which sent me, draw him.” All this put together proves that all mankind are wholly opposed to the character of Christ, which they could not be, if they had the least degree of moral rectitude, or inclination to that which is right. Oar Lord further says, “Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink, in my name, because you belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.”196 If he who exercises so much regard to Christ, as to give a cup of water for his sake, to one of his disciples, shall be saved; then men have not by nature the least inclination to embrace him, but must be his enemies, which indeed is abundantly declared, both by Christ and his apostles. “He that is not with me, is against me. Ye shall be hated of all men, for my name’s sake. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” By the world, is meant mankind in general. To hate Christ implies a mind not only destitute of all right disposition; but under the dominion of a strong evil propensity. St. Paul says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God. In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” The carnal mind and the flesh are the same, and stand opposed to the mind renewed by the Spirit of God in regeneration. It is said, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: For they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual, judgeth all things.” As the natural man is opposed to the spiritual man, that is, a
193 Eccl. ix. 3.
194 Jer. xvii. 9.
195 Romans iii. 10, &c.
196 Mark ix. 41.
true Christian, it must mean man in his natural state in which he is born, or the world of mankind; which is confirmed by our Saviour’s saying the same which is here said of the natural man of mankind, as distinguished from his disciples. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you.”197 This represents man as not having the least degree of true taste and discerning of mind with respect to things of a moral, spiritual nature, which is the same with being destitute of all moral rectitude, or holiness. Nothing but total depravity can render men wholly blind to spiritual things, and so as to be opposed to them, and refuse to receive them. This is confirmed by what Christ says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”198 He has no true discerning and understanding respecting it; but is wholly in the dark. Nothing but viciousness or depravity of mind can thus blind them; and a being destitute of every degree of conformity to the law of God, This is asserted by St. John, “Every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God.”199 “Love is the fulfilling of the law,” which requires nothing but love. It is necessary to have this love, in order to see and know God. And consequently this is necessary in order to see the Spirit of God; for he is God; and in order to know the things of the Spirit of God, and see the kingdom of God. And he who has this love does know God, and receives the things of the Spirit. But all who are not born of God and saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, are wholly without every degree of this kind of love; for every one that loveth, is born of God. Therefore all who are not born of God are wholly without every degree of conformity to the law of God, or of real holiness; consequently, are wholly depraved or sinful.
This fact, the total depravity of mankind, is confirmed by experience and observation. Mankind have given this character of themselves, in all ages of the world, not only that they are sinners; but that there is none that doeth good, no, not one, unless he be renewed by divine grace, and is made a new creature, by being created in Christ Jesus, unto good works. 200
II. It is of importance to observe, That the total moral depravity and sinfulness of mankind, which by divine constitution takes place in consequence of the sin of their common
197 John xiv. 16, 17.
198 John iii. 3.
199 1 John iv. 7, 8.
200 That those appearances and things which are found in mankind in general, which have been by some considered as true virtue and real goodness, and produced as an argument that mankind are not wholly depraved, are not true virtue, is proved in President Edwards’s Dissertation on the nature of true virtue.
father, is as much their own sin, and they are consequently as answerable and blameable for it, as if this their sinfulness had taken place in any other or different way that is conceivable or possible.
Indeed, it is a plain contradiction to say, or suppose, that any person’s moral depravity or sin is not his own sill, and that all the blame and ill desert of it does not lie upon him; for if it be not his sin, and he is not answerable for it, it is not sin or moral depravity, but must be of a different and contrary nature, and consistent with innocence and moral perfection; and consequently cannot subject the person to any blame or desert of evil.
Therefore to talk, or think, of the total or partial moral depravity of mankind, as not being wholly their own depravity or sin, and they not wholly accountable for it, and as if they are not odious and ill deserving in proportion to the degree of their moral corruption or sinfulness, is most absurd, and tends only to blind and delude.
If the natural capacity and powers of mankind were debased and sunk, and become much less, and more feeble, independent of any moral depravity or sinfulness of theirs, this would not be their sin; nor could they be answerable or blamed for it. And if, in consequence of their being the children of Adam, and of his sin, they had lost their rational powers, and all natural capacity, necessary to constitute them moral agents; this could not render them sinful or blameable in the least degree; and, by the supposition, they would be utterly incapable of either. The constituted consequence and effect of the sin of Adam, as it respects his posterity, is their total moral depravity or sinfulness; and not the removal or debasing their natural powers of mind in the least degree, any farther than the corruption and sinfulness of their hearts has influence to prevent the proper use of their understanding, and natural powers of mind with which they are endowed; and they are by this moral depravity, perverted and improved to the purpose of sin and rebellion against God. Therefore nothing is necessary in order to restore man to the perfect possession of his natural powers, and the proper exercise and use of them, but the removal of the moral corruption of his heart, and restoration to the perfect exercise of holiness: Which moral corruption is in every instance and degree of it, wholly his own corruption and sin, in whose heart it takes place, and he is blameable and answerable for it all, be it more or less; and it is impossible it should be otherwise, as has been observed and proved. But as this matter is liable to be misunderstood, and many difficulties respecting it have much embarrassed the minds of not a few, it is proper to give it a more particular attention.
1. The sinfulness of mankind being connected with the sin of Adam, as the constituted consequence of it, does not in any respect, or in the least degree, make it less their own sin, or render them the less answerable and blameworthy for it.
The previous certainty that they will all sin, however, and in whatever way this becomes certain, whether by the divine decree, or constitution, or whatever, cannot render it less their own sin, or them less guilty, than if there were no certainty that they would sin antecedent to their actually sinning. This has been considered and proved in a former chapter, and cannot be consistently denied by any who admit the foreknowledge of God, and believe in divine revelation. If the previous certainty that men will act wrong, and sin, renders their conduct not wrong and sinful, which is indeed a contradiction; then, according to the Bible, neither Pharaoh, nor the Israelites, nor Judas, nor the Jews in crucifying Christ, were guilty of any sin; and others innumerable, whose actions were predicted in holy writ. Yea, according to this, there is, there can be, no sin in the universe, since all the actions of creatures were foreknown and therefore certain from eternity. It was certain that Adam would sin before he was a sinner. This did not render his transgression, no sin, or not his own sin, or in the least exculpate him for what he did: So far from this, that it necessarily implied, that he would be a sinner, and that he should be wholly answerable for that which was his own sin. And if the sinfulness of all the posterity of Adam w as certainly connected with his sinning, this does not make them sinners, before they actually are sinners; and when they actually become sinners, they themselves are the sinners, it is their own sin, and they are as blameable and guilty as if Adam had never sinned, and each one were the first sinner that ever existed. The children of Adam are not answerable for his sin, and it is not their sin any farther than they approve of it, by sinning as he did: In this way only they become guilty of his sin, viz. by approving of what he did, and joining with him in rebellion. And it being previously certain by divine constitution, that all mankind would thus sin, and join with their common head in rebellion, renders it no less their own sin and crime, than if this certainty had taken place on any other ground, or in any other way; or than if there had been no certainty that they would thus all sin, were this possible.
2. The moral corruption or sin of mankind, is not the less their own sin and crime, be- cause they begin to sin so early, and are morally depraved as soon as they exist, capable of any thing of a moral nature. It is evident from scripture and from fact, as has been shown, that this is true of all the children of Adam. They are sinful as soon as they are capable subjects of any thing of a moral kind, and their first moral exercises are wrong and sinful: But nevertheless, it is their own depravity, and all their moral exercises are as much their own, and this corruption and these exercises are as really criminal, as they could be, did they not take place so soon; but in any supposable after time. The time in which a person begins to have moral exercises, right or wrong, whether earlier or later, does not alter the nature of those exercises. If his exercises be wrong and selfish, from the beginning of his existence, they are in their own nature as really wrong and sinful, as if he had been holy a thousand years, and after that had fallen into a course of the same wrong and sinful exercises and conduct. It is not necessary, in order to a creature’s being sinful, that he should first be virtuous, or free from moral corruption. The first sin of Adam would have been as really his own sin, and his own crime, had he sinned sooner than he did; yea, if that had been the first act of his, and he had never had one virtuous exercise: His previous holy exercises might be the means of rendering his sin which he afterwards committed, more criminal than otherwise it would have been; but had there been no such holy exercises previous to his sin, and his first exercises had been contrary to holiness, they would have been as much his own exercises, and as really criminal, as was his first sin, which he committed after he had been holy for a time. The plain, incontestible reason has been given for this, viz. That all sin consists in the nature and quality of the exercises which take place in a moral agent, and not in any thing which goes before, or follows after them, and which is not of the same kind.
If a person finds himself now a sinner, and that from the heart he approves of, and chooses rebellion against God and his laws, he is not the less a sinner, because he has been of the same disposition many years, and has always sinned, since he has been conscious of any of his own exercises; yea, has in fact had the same disposition, from the beginning of his existence. His having sinned before, and done nothing else but sin, since he began to act, is no excuse for his sinning now, and going on to sin, nor does it make his present sinful exercises less his own sin, nor any of the precedent ones, than if he never had such exercises more than at one time of his life. Yea, according to the common sense of mankind, he is the more criminal, and his character is the worse and more odious, for his being always given to wickedness, and to do evil, from a child; so that it is natural, or in his very nature, to do evil. It has been often said of persons, in order to represent them very criminal, and set their character in a bad and odious light, “Their conduct has been always bad and mischievous, their character has been bad from children, they sprang from very wicked families; they are vicious by nature; and mischievousness runs in their very blood, &c.”
King David represents himself in this light, and speaks of his native corruption as his own, and as an aggravation of all his sins, and the odiousness of his own character, in that remarkable penitential psalm of his, mother conceive me.”
“Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
It is not necessary to determine when or how soon the children of Adam became moral agents, or what is necessary to constitute them such, in order to decide the point now under consideration; since it is only asserted that the moral corruption of mankind, is not the less their own sin and fault, because it takes place as soon as they are capable of moral exercise, be that when it may. Many have supposed that none of mankind are capable of sin or moral agency, before they can distinguish between right and wrong, and know what the law of God requires, and what it forbids: But this wants proof, which never has been yet produced. And it appears to be contrary to Divine Revelation: For that speaks of sins committed ignorantly, and supposes a person may sin and be guilty in those exercises, and that conduct, in which he has no knowledge or consciousness that he is doing wrong. Hence it appears, that persons may be moral agents, and sin without knowing what the law of God is, or of what
201 Psalm li.
nature their exercises are; and while they have no consciousness that they are wrong. And if so, then as soon as children are capable of the least motion and exercise of the heart, which is contrary to the law of God, such motions and exercises are sin in them, and their sin, though they are ignorant of it: And of such sinful inclinations and exercises, they may be capable as soon as they exist the children of Adam. It is certain no one can know it not to be so: And this is agreeable to the representation the scripture gives of the matter, which puts it beyond all doubt. This has been particularly considered, page 273, &c.
3. The corruption of mankind is not the less their own moral depravity and sin, and they are not the less culpable and guilty, because it is so deeply fixed in their hearts, and they are totally corrupt and sinful.—This observation might be thought quite needless, and as only saying, that a greater degree of sinfulness is not less than a small degree; or that ten or a thousand degrees of moral corruption are not less than one degree; or that sin is not the less sinful, because it is so great. I say, this observation would be needless and but trifling, were it not too common to believe and assert the contrary, though not in plain and express terms; however unreasonable and absurd.
If one degree of sinfulness, or opposition of heart to the law of God in any person, be wholly his own sin, and he is justly accountable for it, and the blame and guilt of it lies upon him; then, if he has ten, or a thousand degrees of evil inclination and opposition to the law of God; this must be all still his own sin, and he proportionably more criminal and blame- worthy. If inclination to oppose the law of God be wrong and criminal; then it must be criminal in proportion to the strength of such inclination. And if this be the constant reigning inclination and choice of his heart, so as wholly to exclude every degree of opposite inclination and choice, he is wholly sinful, and criminal in proportion to the strength and constancy of his evil disposition, by which his heart is obstinately fixed and bent to do evil. This is the clear dictate of reason, and the contrary is most absurd, and supposes that the more strongly the heart is inclined to oppose God and his law, the less criminal the man is; and that when the heart is wholly and constantly fixed in opposition to the law of God, this opposition of heart to God becomes wholly innocent, so that a man cannot be justly condemned for it; whereas if he had less opposition to God, and a very small degree of it, it would be very odious and sinful. That the greatest possible degree of moral corruption does not excuse, but increase the odiousness and guilt of the man so depraved, is not only demonstrable by reason, but is the dictate of common sense, and feelings of mankind. If a person appears wholly and constantly inclined to falsehood, and to injure his neighbours; and if no means and arguments used with him, or motives set before him to desist from his evil conduct, have the least impression or effect upon him, to reclaim him; but he obstinately persists in his evil practices, we consider him not as innocent and blameless, because his moral depravity is so deeply fixed that he is incurable by any possible means; but as more odious and criminal in proportion to the degree and obstinacy of his incurable and unalterable inclination to do evil.
It has been thought and urged by many, that fallen man cannot be wholly blameable for his moral depravity, because he has lost his power to do that which is good, and is wholly unable to change and renew his depraved heart. But what has been before observed, must be here kept in mind, that man has not lost any of his natural powers of understanding and will, &:c. by becoming sinful. He has lost his inclination, or is wholly without any inclination to serve and obey his Maker, and entirely opposed to it. In this his sinfulness consists; and in this lies his blame and guilt, and in nothing else; and the stronger and more fixed the opposition to the law of God is, and the farther he is from any inclination to obey, the more blameable and inexcusable he is, as has been observed and proved. So that when it is considered what must be meant by man’s losing his power, and having no ability to do right, if there be any real meaning, and any thing be meant that is agreeable to the truth, the objection and difficulty vanishes entirely; and it appears that man is under no inability to obey the law of God, but what consists in his inclination to disobey. And it is easy to see that if inclination to disobey God, be it ever so strong, will excuse disobedience, and render it blameless; then there cannot possibly be any such thing as sin and blame in the universe; unless creatures may commit sin contrary to all their inclination and choice.
It is certain that every degree of inclination contrary to duty, which is and must be sinful, necessarily implies and involves an equal degree of difficulty, and inability to obey. For indeed, such inclination of the heart to disobey, and the difficulty or inability to obey, are precisely one and the same. This kind of difficulty or inability, therefore, always is great ac- cording to the strength and fixedness of the inclination to disobey; and it becomes total and absolute when the heart is totally corrupt, and wholly opposed to obedience. But this inability to obey, being, the same in kind and degree with opposition of heart to obedience, does not excuse disobedience, or in the least remove the blame of it, unless opposition of heart to obedience renders disobedience no crime: Which none, it is presumed, will assert or believe.
This leads to observe, that the holy scriptures speak frequently of this kind of inability, or want of power to do good; and always represent it as inexcusable and blameable. Our Saviour said. “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.” And yet apparently blamed the Jews for rejecting, and not coming to him, and said to them, “Ye will not come to me, that you might have life.” From whence it appears that the cannot, the inability mankind are under to come to him, is precisely the same thing with their unwillingness, or opposition of heart to come to him, as the matter has been stated above. Nothing but the opposition of the heart, or will of man, to coming to Christ, is, or can be in the way of his coming. So long as this continues, and his heart is wholly opposed to Christ, he cannot come to him, it is impossible, and will continue so, until his unwillingness, his opposition to coming to Christ, be removed by a change and renovation of his heart by divine grace, and he made willing in the day of God’s power. And yet this inability, and impossibility to come to Christ, consisting wholly in the opposition of his will or heart to Christ, is the man’s own sin, and he is criminal in proportion to the degree of his inability, or the strength and fixedness of the opposition of his heart to Christ.
This kind of inability, therefore, is so far from being an excuse for not coming to Christ, that it is in its own nature criminal, being nothing but sin, a strong fixed opposition of heart to that which is most reasonable and right. No man can act contrary to his present inclination and choice. But whoever imagined that this rendered his inclination and choice innocent and blameless, however wrong and unreasonable it might be?
St. Paul says, “the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” None can think the Apostle means to excuse man’s enmity against God, because it renders him unable to obey the law of God, and cannot be subject to it. The contrary is strongly expressed, viz. that this enmity against God is exceeding criminal, in that it is directly opposed to God and his law, and involves in its nature an utter inability to obey the law of God; yea, an absolute impossibility.
On the whole, it is hoped that by what has been said above on the apostasy of man, it will appear that the doctrine of original sin has been stated and explained agreeable to the holy scripture; and that it does not imply any thing unreasonable and absurd, or injurious to mankind; but is the result of a constitution which is perfectly agreeable to the nature of things, reasonable, wise and good; that the children of Adam are not guilty of his sin, are not punished, and do not suffer for that, any farther than they implicitly or expressly approve of his transgression, by sinning as he did: And that their total moral corruption and sinfulness is as much their own sin, and as criminal in them, as it could be if it were not in consequence of the sin of the first father of the human race, or if Adam had not first sinned: And that they are under no inability to obey the law of God, which does not consist in their sinfulness and opposition of heart to the will of God: Therefore are wholly inexcusable, and may justly suffer the wages of sin, which is the second death,
III. This subject of the introduction of sin into the world, and the total moral corruption of all the natural posterity of Adam, cannot be properly finished without observing, and more particularly considering, what is the nature of sin, and wherein it consists.
The most express and concise definition of sin, which, perhaps, we have in the Bible, is in the following words, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Or, as it might perhaps more properly be rendered. Sin is a violation of the law; or a deviation from law. Sin supposes a law; “For where no law is, there is no transgression.” And every motion or exercise of the heart of a moral agent, which is not perfectly conformed to the law of God, which requires all love to God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love their neighbour as themselves, is sin, as it is a deviation from this law. As the law requires love, and nothing but love, it may be determined with great certainty that sin consists in that which is contrary to that love which the law requires, be it what it may. There can be no neutral moral exercises, which are neither conformable to the law of God, nor contrary to it; therefore every exercise of the heart of a moral agent, which is not agreeable to the law of God, is contrary and opposed to it. It must be also observed, and kept in mind, that sin. as does holiness, consists in the motions or exercises of the heart or will, and in nothing else. Where there is no exercises of heart, nothing of the nature of moral inclination, will or choice, there can be neither sin nor holiness. Nothing external or out of the heart, or will, and which has no connection with that, can be of the nature of morality, either virtue or sin: External motions or exertions, in words and actions, are virtuous or sinful, only as they are connected with the heart, and are the expressions, fruits or effects of inclination, design and choice; and all the virtue or sin consists wholly in the latter. This observation, the truth of which none can dispute, is made in order to direct us where to look for sin, even into the heart, and no where else; when we are inquiring after the nature of it, and wherein it consists.
Therefore if we would find what sin is, and what is that in which it consists, we must look for these exercises of heart, that disposition, inclination or choice, in which there is no love to God and our neighbour; and which are contrary to loving God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. And if we can find, and on sure ground determine, what these are, we shall know what is the nature of sin, and wherein it essentially consists.
Love to God, and love to our fellow creatures, is of the same nature and kind, and differs only as it is exercised towards different objects. It consists most essentially in benevolence or good w ill to being in general: In this is necessarily included all virtuous love, or all the love which the law of God requires, such as love of complacency in moral beauty and excellence, and love of gratitude to benevolent beings, &c. Love to God, who is infinitely the greatest, and the sum of all being, consists primarily and essentially in good will or friendship of heart towards him, in acquiescing and rejoicing in his existence, glory, and infinite felicity, and in seeking the promotion of his interest and honour, &c. And this implies all the virtuous love required in the divine law: And where there is no degree of this kind, disinterested affection, there is no virtuous love to God or man. If this were not so evident from the nature of things, it is capable of being proved from scripture many ways. The apostle John says, “God is love.” And then proceeds immediately to say, “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” This is love of pure, disinterested benevolence, to creatures infinitely odious and guilty. This is the love meant when he said, “God is love;” for this is introduced to illustrate that assertion. Hence it follows with certainty, that disinterested benevolence is primary and essential in the divine moral character. Consequently, this is the love which is required of creatures in the divine law: For the law of God is a transcript of his own moral perfection; and so far as creatures are conformed to this, they are like God in his moral character, and partakers of the divine nature; and exercise the same kind of love and holiness which forms the moral character of God. St. Paul gives a particular description of the love in which holiness consists; 202 and he says, “It is kind,” that is, it is benevolent, and good will to others, consequently to being in general, and to God, the first and sum of all being. He also says, “It seeketh not her own,” by which assertion he sets it in direct opposition to self love, for in the exercise of this a man seeketh his own, and nothing else; and he makes it wholly a disinterested affection; for if holy love seeketh not her own, it seeketh the good of being in general, as her only object, and cannot have the least degree of selfishness in its nature; but is directly opposed to it.
That the love to our fellow creatures required in the law of God, is love of benevolence, which is disinterested, is certain, as it is a love which will extend to those who have no moral excellence, even those of the worst moral character, and to our greatest enemies, to- wards whom a virtuous love either of complacence or gratitude cannot be exercised. And it follows from this also, that the love to God which is required, is love of disinterested benevolence: for, as has been observed, the love to God, and to our neighbour, which the law of God requires, is of the same nature and kind, and the one implies and involves the other. And this is the farther evident and certain, from the apostle’s considering the love of Christians, as of the same nature and kind with this disinterested love of God, in this passage; and from his exhorting them to imitate God in this his disinterested benevolence, by loving as he does. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
It being thus evident that the love required in the divine law, in which holiness consists, is disinterested benevolence, which is primary and most essential in all virtuous love; and in which all is included; it appears from what has been observed, that sin consists in that affection and those exercises, which are directly opposed to disinterested benevolence to being in general, and all those affections and exercises which are implied in true benevolence or good will to others. And this must be self love, or selfish affection and exercises; for this, and this only is, or can be opposed to disinterested regard and good will to other beings; and to all those exercises which are implied in true benevolence. If a person has no other exercises but self love, or the love of his own self, and those moral inclinations and affections which are implied in this, he does by the supposition regard himself only, and has respect to nothing but his own supposed good or interest; and cannot exercise the least degree of disinterested affection to any other being. And as that heart whose exercises may be all re- solved into self love, being implied in it, and flowing from it, does not, and cannot exercise any true benevolence to other beings, but is wholly opposed to it; so every degree of self love, be there more or less, is in its own nature opposed to the love required in the divine
202 1 Cor. xiii.
law: And therefore is in its nature, and in every degree of it, sin, being contrary to true holiness. And if a person be not wholly selfish, but exercises some degree of disinterested regard and good will to other beings; yet every degree of self love which he exercises is as opposite to disinterested affection, as if he had no benevolence; and therefore as sinful. The nature of self love is not changed from sin to holiness, nor does it become an innocent affection, by the exercise of a degree of opposite disinterested affection, or by being diminished, as to the degree of it, so as to be exerted with less strength and vigour, and in a measure counteracted by opposite affection. Still every exertion of self love is as really sin, as if it were exercised in a higher degree, and were not restrained and counteracted by opposite, disinterested love. No one does or can suppose that benevolent affection changes its nature, and becomes wrong and sinful, by being exercised in a low degree, and counteracted, and kept very much under by selfishness: But this might be as reasonably supposed, as that selfishness does become innocent and virtuous, when exercised in a small degree, and under the restraints of benevolence to being in general. Yea, if the latter be true or possible, the former must be so too.
Hence it is evident, that sin consists in sell love, and those affections and exercises which are implied in this, and naturally flow from it as their root. This is in its own nature opposite to all virtuous, holy affection, to all truth and reason; and is of a criminal nature, in every degree of it, wherever it is found; and where there is nothing of this, there is nothing criminal or wrong. Self love pays a supreme and sole regard to an infinitely small and inconsiderable part of existence, and the feeling and language of all the exercises of it is, “I am, and there is none else. There is no other being worthy of any regard, but myself.” “Self love re- gards nothing but self, as such, and subordinates every being and every thing to this; and opposes every thing which, in the view of the selfish person, opposes him, and his selfish interest. He who is under the government of this affection, takes all to himself, and gives nothing to any other being, as if he was the greatest, the best, and only worthy and important being in the universe.
Self-love is the root of all pride; or rather is pride itself, as there is no distinction to be made of which there can be any conception. Pride is self love exercised in self esteem, and desire to exalt self, &:c. Self love is blindness and delusion itself, as it is a contradiction to all truth; and is the source of all the blindness and delusions with respect to things temporal and spiritual, which have or can ever take place. This sets man against God, and his fellow creatures, and against himself, that is, against his true interest, and renders him really miserable; and prepares him to be completely miserable forever, unless it be removed. In short, there can be no kind or degree of moral depravity which has appeared among men, or of which there can be any conception, which does not consist in self love, in the various exercises and fruits of it: And where there is no selfishness, there is no sin, there can be no deviation from the law of God.
Therefore when the apostle Paul speaks of the nature of sin, and that in which he found it to consist when he came to the knowledge of it, he comprehends it all in selfishness, or coveting, which is the same. He says, “I had not known sin, but by the law: For I had not known lust, except the law had said. Thou shalt not covet.” He refers to the tenth command in the decalogue, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, &c. nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Coveting that to ourselves, which belongs to others, is an exercise of self love. In this the apostle represents sin to consist; even in the inmost latent exercises of this selfishness in the heart, being the root and fountain of all sin. Agreeable to this, the same apostle, when he describes the great degree of vice and wickedness which shall take place in the last days, sets self love at the head, as the source and root of the whole. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves; covetous, boasters, proud, &:c.”203 Any one who will attentively read over this catalogue of iniquity, will see, that every vice here mentioned, is implied in the self love which is first introduced, and is only a different modification of that which men will practise because they are lovers of their own selves: and consequently act out this self love in a variety of forms, which therefore are called by these different names.
It therefore appears, that as holiness is, in the holy scripture, reduced to one simple principle, love, and made to consist wholly in this, by which is evidently meant disinterested good will to being in general, capable of happiness, with all that affection necessarily included in this; so sin is there represented as consisting in the simple principle or exercise of self-love, which, in its own nature, comprehends all sin, every exercise and affection which is a deviation from the divine law; and is directly and wholly opposed to that love which this law requires. 204
It has been said, that every degree of self love cannot be sin, but must be lawful and right, since it is reasonable that we should have some regard, at least, for ourselves, and desire and seek our own interest and happiness, not inconsistent with that of others; and were
203 2 Timothy iii. 1-5.
204 Our Lord says, all which the law requires is love, therefore holiness consisted wholly in this (Matt. xxii. 37-40) And St. Paul says, “He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13 ) And, as has been observed, he represents sin as consisting in the coveting what belongs to others, which is forbidden in the tenth command; which is self love. The love required, gives all to being in general, and reserves and desires nothing to self, as self, or as an object distinct from universal being. The self love forbidden, covets and seeks all to self, as such, as distinguished from being in general, and opposite to it. It gives nothing to any other being, but, so far as its grasp can reach, takes and holds all good to self, as such, and as opposed to every other being; and seeks to subordinate every other being and thing to his own self, will and interest. The former is required as that in which all holiness consists. The latter is forbidden, as the root and essence of all sin.
there no self love, men could not be influenced by promises and threatening; and there would be no propriety in these, of which the Bible is full. Besides, the command to love our neighbour supposes and enjoins self love. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Here the love of our own selves is mentioned as the stated measure, by which our love to others is to be regulated. If we are forbid to exercise any degree of self love, the command is inconsistent, and comes to nothing.
Upon this it may be observed, that a person may have and exercise a proper regard for himself, and desire and seek his own interest and happiness, without the least degree of the self love which is opposed to disinterested benevolence, or which is not implied in it. The person who exercises disinterested good will to being in general must have a proper and proportionable regard to himself; as he belongs to being in general, and is included in it, as a necessary part of it. It is impossible he should love being in general, or universal being, and not love himself; because he is included in universal being. And the more he has of a disinterested, universal benevolence, and the stronger his exercises of it are, the more regard will he have to his own being, and the more fervently will he desire and seek his own interest and happiness. But here it must be observed, that he will not desire and seek it as his own, or because it is his own interest, considered as distinct and detached from the interest of the whole, or of being in general; but as included in it. Thus disinterested benevolence to being in general loves our neighbour as ourselves; in which there is nothing selfish, but ourselves are loved as included in the general object of disinterested love. The least degree of selfish love necessarily destroys all due proportion, and sets up a selfish interest detached from that of others, and injurious to the whole. It is in the very nature of it an enemy to the harmony and happiness of the whole, and breaks in upon it, and tends to spread confusion and evil through the whole, in opposition to universal benevolence; and is inconsistent with our loving our neighbour as ourselves; but, by the supposition, loves self and nothing else. Hence it appears that the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” excludes and forbids all self love, or selfishness, and enjoins that disinterested love to the whole, which necessarily includes a proper and proportionable love and regard to our own existence and interest, as implied in that of the whole. And in this view of the matter, it appears that he who has disinterested benevolence to the whole may be influenced by promises and threatenings, and is as proper a subject of them, and more so, than the most selfish person in the world. 205
Thus it appears from scripture, and the reason and nature of things, that the sin which entered into the world by one man, the father of the human race, and has spread to all his
205 This subject is more particularly considered in “An Inquiry into the Nature of True Holiness,” published in the year 1773, and reprinted at New-York, in the year 1791 To which the reader is referred, who shall desire to see it more fully discussed.
children, by which they are totally corrupted, and involved in guilt and ruin, consists wholly in self love. Nothing but that which has the nature of selfishness is sin; and this is in its own nature, and in every degree, a transgression of the law of God, and contrary to true holiness. It is useful and important that we should have this scriptural idea of holiness and sin, as it will put us under advantage to know how far we ourselves are sinful, or what is sin in us, as well as to judge of the moral corruption of mankind.
I. In the part the devil acted in seducing man, and leading him off into rebellion against God, may be seen the nature and tendency of sin, and what is the disposition or inclination of the sinner. When Satan became a rebel against his Maker, his inclination and desire was to disappoint and dethrone him, if possible, and to spread rebellion through the universe; and he wished to have every creature that existed, or ever should exist, to join with him, and do as he had done: And his sinning had a mighty tendency to this, and did accomplish it, so far as his influence reached, and had its natural effect. He actually drew off into rebellion with him myriads of angels. And had it been in his power, and had not God prevented it, he would have drawn them all off from obedience to God. He wished to extinguish all holiness from the universe. He acted out this disposition, this enmity against God and man, and all holiness, in seducing man, and spreading sin and ruin through this world.
Sin in man is of the same nature and kind with the sin of the devil, by which man is inclined to do as he does, and in which man has joined with him, to desire and pursue the same thing which he seeks; and it tends to produce the same effects, the sin and ruin of the whole universe. Therefore our Saviour says to the Jews, “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” 206 That is, ye are of the same disposition with the devil, and desire and pursue the same things. “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” 207 Here we are to look to see the nature and tendency of sin, when acted out, and the inclination and choice of the sinner; and to learn our own character as sinners, in which we imitate the devil, and exercise the same desires and lusts of self-love and pride, in which his first rebellion consisted; and in which consists his obstinate perseverance in disobedience, and all his attempts against God and man. This, if properly considered, will lead us to view ourselves, and the character of mankind, in a much worse light than that in which men generally view themselves; and will serve to discover the infinite evil of all sin, as tending, and desiring and attempting, to spread unbounded mischief, and infinite natural evil through the universe.
206 John viii. 41.
207 1 John iii. 8.
The consequence is, that the sinner deserves to be punished with infinite evil, or everlasting destruction.
Doubtless one reason why it was so ordered that one, the first act of sin, should spread total corruption and ruin over all the countless myriads of the human race, was to discover to all intelligent creatures the evil nature and tendency of sin. This constitution, as has been observed, was only ordaining that sin should, in this respect, have its natural course, and spread, agreeable to the inclination and desire of the first transgressor, through all his posterity; And hereby the evil there is in every act of sin, is held up to the view of men and angels, discovering to all that it deserves the endless punishment threatened in the divine law.
Let no one then condemn Satan for his rebellion and persisting in sinning, while he justifies himself, or even thinks better of himself, who is doing the same thing, and rendering himself like the devil, and joining with him, and justifying him, by every act of sin of which he is guilty. Nor let any of the children of Adam object to the constitution which connects their sin with his; nor complain of the sin of their common father, while they are disposed to excuse and justify themselves in that conduct by which they consent to his sinning as he did, and imitate him, and desire to spread sin and ruin as far as he has done, and would do it, were it in their power; and which they are attempting to do, even in making the objection. Rather let all condemn, and humble themselves in the sight of the Lord, for their joining with Satan in rebellion, and imitating and justifying Adam in his transgression, and doing what they could to spread and perpetuate disobedience. And let all adore and give glory to almighty power, infinite wisdom and goodness to that glorious Being, who does in any degree counteract sin and the sinner; and in any instance prevent the just and natural consequences of it; and turn all to his own glory, and the greatest good of his kingdom.
II. From the history of the apostasy of man, and the way in which sin entered into the world, we are warned of the folly and danger of disregarding divine revelation, and giving the least heed to any assertions or suggestions which are contrary to the revealed will of God, or which are not warranted by that.
The first suggestion which Satan made was contrary to that which God had declared; and by giving heed to that, sin was introduced, and has brought sin and ruin on all mankind. And this same deceiver and father of lies has at all times since, and does now, in various ways, attempt to lead men to disregard what God has said in his word, and believe those things which are not warranted by it, but are really contrary to those divine oracles. And so far as he succeeds, he gets the advantage of men; and in this way they fall into his snare, and are led captive by him. This is the continued source of all the sinful practices in the world, and of all the delusions and false religions which take place among mankind.
With what care and circumspection does it become us to examine every doctrine and practice which is proposed or suggested to us as right and true; and to reject with resolution and abhorrence every thing of this kind, which is not agreeable to the oracles of God. Upon this law and testimony we ought to keep our eye, with constant, painful care and study, to understand it, and a readiness immediately to reject every thing which is not warranted by that, as dangerous delusion, from whatever quarter, or by whomsoever it may be proposed, and however plausible and tempting it may be.
III. The particular suggestion of Satan, contrary to revealed truth, by which he tempted our mother Eve to transgress, is worthy to be considered as a warning to us. “The serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” By hearkening to this lie of Satan she fell into sin and ruin. We may be sure the devil has been ever since urging this same lie upon men, as the great and principal delusion by which he holds them secure in his snare, and tempts them to go on boldly in rebellion. Those who are persuaded to believe this lie, which Satan tries by all means and ways in his power to propagate, are fallen into his snare; and in their attempts to promote it, they are his instruments and servants; and he influences them to the utmost of his power to make their bands strong, and to heighten their confidence, that they shall have peace, and no evil shall come upon them, though they walk after the imagination of their own hearts: And they have his assistance in searching and studying the scriptures to find passages, and to pervert them, so as to strengthen themselves and others in this dangerous delusion, by which their hearts are steeled against any impression by the many awful threatenings in the word of God.
And where he cannot persuade men to believe there is no future punishment for impenitent sinners, he does all he can to keep them stupid and thoughtless, with respect to it, and make them feel and act as if they were exposed to no such punishment; and to flatter themselves with peace and safety, until sudden destruction cometh upon them. This is one special mean of holding men in security and ease in sin, in the Christian world. And Satan has great advantage against mankind, in promoting this delusion, because it is agreeable to their hearts, and it is the nature of sin to be pleased with it, and to make men stupid and unbelieving with respect to the reality and dreadfulness of future punishment, and the danger in which they are of falling into it.
Let all beware of this delusion, by which sin first entered into the world, and which has been the mean of thousands and millions falling into that endless punishment, which they have not believed, or not realised, that it would ever come. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” “Woe unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power.”
Let the ministers of the gospel, the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, not be silent, but cry aloud, and warn the wicked, to whom God has said, Ye shall surely die; and sound an alarm to all the secure in their sins, if by any means, they may be awakened from their deadly sleep, and delivered from their delusions, and fly from the wrath to come, before it shall be too late.
IV. This subject leads us to see and reflect upon the infinitely guilty, miserable and lost state into which mankind are fallen by sin. They begin to sin, as soon as they are capable of moral exercise; and by one sinful exercise, were they guilty of no more, they undo themselves forever, if not delivered by mere sovereign grace. All their exercises are wrong and sinful, by which they are growing more and more guilty and ill deserving; and all the light they have, and the favours they enjoy, being abused, render them unspeakably criminal. They are so wholly inclined to sin, and with such strength and obstinacy of heart, fixed in enmity against God and his law, that they stand ready to oppose all means and every method that can be taken and used to recover them from sin and reclaim them; and if left to themselves, will only wax worse and worse, until they plunge into endless ruin, and intolerable misery. They are continually provoking God to cast them into everlasting destruction, on whose sovereign mercy they depend every moment, to save them from dropping into hell; and by whose forfeited grace, and almighty power alone, they can be recovered to repentance, and from sin and infinite evil. And at the same time they are flattering themselves in their evil ways, involved in the darkness and delusion of sin; loving darkness, and hating the light, and cannot be told in what an infinitely evil and dangerous case they are; that is, cannot be made to believe it, though they be told, and are ready to hate their best and only friends, and look upon them as their enemies; while they love their enemies, who are doing all they can to destroy them forever. But who can describe, or fully conceive the sinful, miserable, ruined condition into which mankind are fallen; and in which we all naturally are, and shall be forever, unless delivered by infinite, sovereign grace.