Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

an historical account, and satisfactory knowledge of the moral constitution under which it occurs.

The simple statement is, that God prohibited the common parents of the human race, from eating the fruit of a certain trec--the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; doubtless called such, not because of any natural virtue which its fruit possessed, to quicken man's intellectual powers; for then would not its fruit have been withheld; but because it was made the test of man's obedience or subjection to God, his governor. His abstinence from, or participation of its fruit, would indicate or furnish knowledge as to his moral character, whether he was good or whether he was evil.

By means of an appeal, made directly to the senses and the heart of Eve, through the subtlety of the tempter, she was induced to violate the command of God. This result, however, was obtained through the natural exercise of her voluntary powers--i. e. according to the laws which God had ordained, to regulate their exercise. Motives and arguments, for and against, were presented to, and balanced in her mind. How long the process continued, we know not; but, eventually, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant (desire) to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat." This act changed the entire character; for all the subsequent acts and exercises, the purposes, thoughts and sensibilities of their souls, became contrary to God. Whereas, before, there was the controling influence of the love of God, a consciousness of their attachment to Him, a knowledge of their relation with Him, to diffuse bliss throughout their souls, and regulate all their acts and emotions; there now succeeded an awful apprehension of Ilis displeasure, a consciousness of their

Gen. iii. 6.

own ingratitude, rebellion and guilt, and a knowledge that they should inevitably meet the retributions of His justice, whose commands they had violated.

These feelings, these exercises of mind and heart, were altogether new and painful, and quite contrary to those which originally characterised them. Instead of the harmonious actings of mind and heart toward God, as the fountain of their bliss, there was a terror of God, and a desire to escape from Him and to shun His notice, indicating, altogether, a very deficient state of heart toward Him. Their interests were no longer subordinated to the glory of God, and sought as thus subordinate; but exalted as supreme, and prosecuted to the neglect, and even contempt of the divine honor and authority. Such is the general nature of human depravity.

It consists not in the destruction of any moral capacity whatever. It was the same heart that once loved God supremely, which now feared and shunned Him, It was the same mind that delighted to contemplate and commune with Ilim, which now fled from His presence. No constitutional change had been sustained, but all his acts and emotions were deranged, Mindand heart alike had been thrown into disordered action, through apprehensions and emotions which followed from the ascendant influenee of his selfishness.

It is obvious that such derangement must continue, as long as the causes operating to produce it--that is, as long as God remains the same-determined to punish sin; and man having forfeited his claims and relationship, and friendly communication with Him, seeks his happiness in the world, The causes of this deranged and corrupt exercise of the mind and heart of man, lay not in the inter:ral essence and structure, or constitutional principles and properties of the soul; but in the character of God as moral governor, and in the altered relations and circumstances, which the first act of rebellion induced, as these things most naturally operated on his alienated mind and heart, through the regularly constituted modes of thought and feeling.

God continues still the same providential and preserving power. His hand sustains the poor, disordered mind. He does not instantly dash the wretched being from His hand, and cause him to return to his original nonentity; but He supports him, and imparts the very same sustaining agency to invigorate his acts and exercises, as when those acts and exercises were his going forth to Him, and were regulated by His friendship,

But He does not choose to undo what has been done, and bring the rebellious mind back from its disorded action. He is under no obligation to do this. And the consequence is, that refusing so to do, the causes of deranged action and emotion still subsisting, there continue to take place unceasing developments of a disordered or depraved heart. In all this. however, there was no introduction of any physical essence, or substance, or principle, &c. into the nature of man, nor the loss of any such thing. This may suffice with regard to our first parents. It was the instant cessation of the mind's actings, as to all the activities, and enjoyments of spiritual lise;i. e. the appropriate goings forth of mind and heart to God, as the supreme good and chief end. Such is the history of the fall of our first parents.

It concerns us to trace the influence of this change in the moral character and sensibilities, on the successive generations of their offspring. The sacred scriptures teach us, that the human race are all descended from one common original, and that they transmitted their character to all their offspring. It iscertain that mortality has been inherited from Adam, and that mortality was the consequence of sin—the first sin. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; an i so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."'! However we may speculate on the causes of human

1. R. v. 12.

corruption, or whatever theories we may frame, with regard to the nature of the human mind, and the character and responsibilities of a moral agent, it cannot be denied, that all are sinners. “For there is not a justo man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not." Death has, in every successive generation, "reigned over them that have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgres

sion.”2

The world has not furnished one instance of a perfectly sinless and holy creature, having appeared among the sons of men, since the apostacy of the first pair, save that of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Ever and anon the same developments have been made. “The wicked go astray from the womb, speaking lies.” All the way through life-in every stage of human existence, there are actions which demonstrate the depravity of man. Whence this state of things? Various opinions have been advanced, as to the origin of this depravity, some referring it—to the influence of education and example—others to the animal body, with which the soul is connected--others entirely to the outward circumstances of man's condition in this world--others to some modification of the nature of the soul, derived by natural descent--and others still to some physical taint or impurity, lodged in the very constitution of our nature, which operates as an efficient principle in the production of depraved acts. The falsity of the first supposition, has already been exposed. Whether the second be fact, can never be proved; for certain it is, that the connexion of matter and spirit, in a moral being, does not necessarily render that being a sinner, either immediately or ultimately. The other opinions will all be determined, if we can resolve the inquiry, as to that in which original sin consists.

1. Eccles. vii. 20.

2. Rom. v. 14.

1

It is exceedingly difficult, in speaking on this subject, to use terms not liable to be misunderstood. The shorter catechism uses the phrase, “the corruption of our whole nature,” to describe, as it would seem, that which, in the day when it was framed, was "commonly called original sin. What is meant by the “whole nature,” all will not agree. By this phrase, one thinks is taught the idea of there being something sinful simply in created nature; i. e. that the soul and body of the infant yet unborn, are, in themselves, prior to all moral acts and exercises, sinful. Another, taking it for granted that the catechism cannot possibly mean to teach such a doctrine as that of physical depravity, understands the phrase, as designating the general character of those actions, committed in all the appropriate circumstances of the being.

1. Such appears to be the grammatical and obvious construction of the answer to the 18th question in the Shorter Catechism. In the answer ta the 25th question of the Larger Catechism, the ambiguity is not reliered. Different punctuations convey different ideas. We shall not attempt to decide, whether original sin is described in the Catechisms, as of a triungu lar character, consisting conjointly in “the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature," or in the first or last exclusively. It is certain that some Calvinistic writers do treat of it, as comprising the whole three; and it is as certain, that expressions occur in the formularies of the primitive Scottish church, and the confession of faith itself, which seem to limit it to Adam's transgression. The Assembly, in 1590, appointed a committee, consisting of Messrs. John Craig, Robert Pont, Thomas Buckingham and Andrew Melvine, to prepare a Catechism “Anent the examination before the communion.” This Catechism, drawn up by the Chairman of the Committee, was the next year presented to the Assembly, and adopted; and in the subsequent year, the follow. ing act was passed in relation to it-For swa meikle as, at the special Desire of the Kirk, ane Forme of Examination before the Communion was pennit and formit be their Brother Mr. John Craig, qubilk is now imprintit, and allowit be the Voyce of the Assembly. Therefore it is thought needful that every pastor travel with his Flock, that they may buy the samen Buik, and read it in their es, quhereby they may be better instructit.” In that Catechism, so highly approved of, and designed to be used so extensively in

« ZurückWeiter »