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In the one instance God is simply viewed-without any prying into His secret thoughts and purposes, as having established a constitution through which, if perverted by their great progenitor, from whom they were to spring, men would be naturally rendered sinners, and subjected to the consequences of such perversion. In this there can be no impeachment of divine justice. Injury is done to no one, and there is an awful exhibition, made of the madness, and folly, and ruinous tendency, of rebellion. The descendants of the first rebei, as they are evolved from him, alike partakeof his constitutional nature, and are subjected to the consequences of his doings. They are introduced into being, under the operation of causes which render sin, suffering, and death, morally certain, and this, as to fact, is as far as any one can venture to go upon this subject, whatever his theory may be.
In the other instance, God is viewed as punishing those who have no personal sins, for no faults of their own, and, to give such a procedure the semblance of justice as to them, as having adopted an expedient in what is called the union of representation.” But on what is this alledged "union of representation,” founded? It cannot certainly be arbitrary. There must be some ostensible ground for it. That is to be found in the relationship existing between Adam and his offspring, i. e. in the fact of their descent or development from him.
Eventually, therefore, when the idea of the imputation of sin, comes to be sifted and examined, it amounts to nothing more nor less, than what we have said about the consequences of the act of one man, terminating on another, by virtue of that law of mutual dependence, which marks the government of God. But, since the phrase is by no means unambiguous—has been misapprehended-is objected to by many—and has led to disputes among those, who agree a to the sulystantial facts of revelation, is it not safer to decline the use of a technicality, which renders so much explanation necessary, and does not, after all, meet the difficulty contemplated ?
"The union of representation” is indeed insisted on by some, as of vital consequence. But we think, that here too is an unnecessary dispute about terms, and their meaning. If, by this, is meant nothing more, than that Adam did not act exclusively for himself; but that his conduct was to determine the character and conduct of those that should come after him, we will not object. But if it is meant to designate any positive procedure of God, in which He made Adam to stand, and required him to act, as the substitute of the persons of his offspring, numerically considered and by name head for head, so that they might be held, as in commercial transactions, personally liable for this very sin, as being guilty co-partners with him in it, we certainly may require other and better proof, than what is commonly submitted. The prophet complains, in reference to the generations that had preceded him; “Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne THEIR iniquities.” 1 Will it be contended, that in the eye of God, the fathers had been constituted the representatives, in this strict sense, of that generation; so that they were punished for the fathers' sins, committed before they were born? We presume not. Our Saviour says, that in consequence of the forefathers of the Jewish people, in his day, having put the prophets, &c. to death, it should be required at the hands of them, their children or descendants. “That the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation." Will any one affirm, that there was "the union of representation” there? Or, when it is.
1. Lam, s.
2. Luk xi. 50. 51
said, in the second commandment, that "God visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations,” will it be contended, that this is because the former stood as the representatives of the latter, acting, legally, in their name, and for them? We presume not. And yet stronger language cannot be employed, to denote the results which follow from Adam's sin, by virtue of our connection with him. Why, then, must we suppose, that there is a principle in the one case, different from that in the other? And that what seems to flow out of the natural relation between parent and children, and to be the natural consequence of such relation, must be attributed to a legal union or moral identity, between Adam and his offspring ?
There is, we apprehend, involved in this theory of the "union of representation," a principle-or, rather, it grows out of an assumption, which certainly is not revealed truth, and whether it be truth at all, perhaps can never be determined, that no creature possessed of susceptibilities, which may capacitate it for moral action, can be regarded, at any moment of its being, but as under the government of law; so that, if not yet able, voluntarily to act for itself, in the prosecution of its interests, or the manifestation of its subinission, it must be done for it by another, admitted and recognized in law, as its proper and legal representative.
This assumption relates to the conduct of God Himself, as though, by the very act of creating a rational being, He must, as the great moral governor, provide for its being dealt with, at every moment of its existence, and having its destinies determined, according to law, if not in its own person, and for its own acts, in the person and for the acts of its legal representative. Will any one say, that such an obligation on God, does, in fact, exist?
It is very manifest, that these things are not believed by many, whom, nevertheless, we cannot but recognize as the
children of God. Why then contend about speculative principles, or theories, according to which one man and another prefers weaving together the facts of scripture--when, if technicalities and theories were laid aside, it would be found, that all are agreed, as to the matter of fact? If a man will confess, that the transaction of God with our first parents, was such as to affect the whole human race;—that it is in consequence of their sin that we all die;—that it is most certain too, that as soon as we are capable of moral agency, we become guilty of actual sin;--and that such is the condition, or state of things, under which men are born into this world, that they will universally and voluntarily perpetuate the rebellion of the first pair, without some other agency than was originally employed to prevent it,what more can be desired by the most strenuous advocate of such technicalities, as the representative character of Adam, the imputation of sin, sinning in Adam, falling with him, original sin, the corruption of our whole nature, and the like? Must a man be denounced as having denied the faith—be branded with the charge of heresy, and be subjected to all the fears, and suspicions, and evil speaking, which must thence arise, affecting alike his reputation and usefulness, merely because he does not express himself in terms, consecrated by long usage, but terms of man's inventing, while he nevertheless admits every fact that can be established, either by scripture or observation? Is it right, does it at all savour of the spirit of christianity, to declaim against him, as having broken his ordination vows, merely because he does not think it expedient to adopt the language of the Confession of Faith; which, like all other living languages, has suffered from the changes continually taking place in the signification of words, while he admits and believes, that the “system of doctrine," as set forth in that confession, when its terms are fairly and properly un
derstood, is agreeable to the sacred Scriptures? Does his ordination vow, bind him always to express his views of the great facts of Scripture, in the language of the confession? Assuredly it does not. And if a man admits the grand essential facts of revelation, though he may even object against human technicalities, yet ought we to receive him as a brother. The Bible has not thrown those facts together into systematic order, and required us to adopt it. Why, then, shall we be so tenacious of technical terms, and systematic arrangement of truth, when, perhaps, there may be much, if not of false philosophy, at least of human imperfection in both.
These remarks are not made, because of any dislike or hostility towards Confessions of Faith, much less towards our own, as a convenient instrument of ecclesiastical fellowship, but to guard against the substitution &exaltation of such fellowship, to the exclusion and injury of that which is christian. The experience ofthe church has shewn, that submission
to formularies, though most rigidly enforced, cannot secure v the spirit of christianity, or even perfect unity of sentiment
among a people. It is the unity of the Spirit alone, which constitutes the effectual and eternal bond; but that, instead of being promoted, is impaired by zealous contentions for technicalities, and set forms of speech, without fraternal fellowship to ascertain, as heart beats in unison with heart, whether, and how far, there is accordance in the belief of the grand essentials of our religion. It is for the faith of the gospel, that we are earnestly to contend; but that has reference to facts of revelation, and not to the theories or technicalties, which men hare thrown around them.
Ifit be said that infants die, in consequence of some inherent taint, or physical disorder in their moral susceptibilities, derived by natural generation from Adam, rendering them personally guilty, and deserving of damnation, before their own actual sin, the idea is certainly different. But this, as.