Page images
PDF
EPUB

title to all the blessings to which he would be entitled were that righteousness personally his. So according to the same instrument, to impute the guilt of the sin of our first parents to their posterity, is to subject each of them to the same condemnation to death, spiritual, temporal and eternal," to which they would be subject, had they cach one for himself, personally committed that sin. That this is the true view of the subject is affirmed in the work before us, as the following paragraphs will show.

“ Another branch of original sin is the imputation of the guilt of Adam's transgression. This is rejected by many who admit original corruption. By the imputation of Adam's first sin, it is not intended that his personal transgression becomes the personal transgression of his posterity, but that the guilt of his transgression is reckoned to their account. And it is only the guilt of his first sin, which was committed by him as a public representative, that is imputed to his posterity, and not the guilt of his future sins, after he had ceased to act in that character. The grounds of this imputation are, that Adam was both the natural root and the fideral head or representative of all his posterity. The former is the only ground mentioned in this section of the Confession, probably, because the representative character of Adam in the covenant of works has not yet been brought into view ; but in the succeeding chapter this is distinctly recognized. And both in the Larger Catechism, (Quest. 22,) and in the Shorter, (Quest. 16,) the representative character of Adam in the covenant made with him, is explicitly assigned as the principal ground of the imputation of the guilt of his first sin to all his posterity."

Again: “As the condemnation of Adam comes to us, even so does the justification by Christ come to us. Now we know that the merit of the Savior is ascribed to us, else no atonement for the past, and no renovation of heart or life that is ever exemplified in this world for the future, will suffice for our acceptance with God. Even so, then, must the demerit of Adam have been ascribed to us. The analogy affirmed in these verses leads irresistibly to this conclusion. The judgment that we are guilty is transferred to us from the actual guilt of the one representative, even as the judgment that we are righteous is transferred to us from the actual righteousness of the other representative. We are sinners in virtue of one man's disobedience, independently of our own personal sins; and we are righteous in the virtue of another's obedience, independently of our own personal qualifications."

Such is the doctrine of imputation as set forth in the Confession of Faith. Let us now consider the corrupt nature which, according to its teachings, we derive from our first parents. Here the following dogmas pertaining to this subject, set forth in the above extracts from the instrument, deserve special attention.

1. This moral defilement conveyed from our first parents, "to all their posterity," pervades in the case of each indis vidual, “all the faculties and parts of soul and body."

2. On account of this "original corruption," the existence of practical obedience, and the non-existence of disobedience are to all unrenewed men, absolute impossibilities, they being thereby “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” Moral agency commences with all mankind in a state in which they cannot by any possibility on their part be holy, and cannot but sin.

3. In all men this corrupt nature, in other words, the original state of their mental and physical constitution “itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin."

4. This corruption of all our faculties, mental and physical, “ being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal." For tbree distinct reasons then, and for these exclusively, the finally reprobate are to be irrecoverably doomed to eternal perdition-for the act of another committed in a vast majority of instances, thousands of years, and in all long before their existence commenced-for the possession of a corruption of nature, mental and physical, a corruption in the production of which they had and can have had no more agency than in the creation of the world—and finally, for actual transgressions, which, on account of that nature, they cannot possibly but perpetrate. For no other crimes are they to be called to account at the judgment! The following extracts from the exposition of the chapter before us, will evince, in addition to the considerations above presented, that we have neither misrepresented the Confession of Faith, nor the views of its orthodox expounders in relation to it. In respect to the effects of the fall upon our first parents themselves, (* the same death in sin and corrupted nature being conveyed to all their posterity,'') we liave the following remarks.

“They 'fell from their original righteousness,' and became wholly corrupted in all the faculties of their souls, and members of their bodies. The understanding, once a lamp of life, was now overwhelmed in darkness. The will, once faithful for God, and regulated by his will, now became perverse and rebellious. The affections, once pure and regular, now became vitiated and disordered. The body, too, was corrupted, and its members became instruments of unrighteousness unto sin."

From the exposition of Section IV, which asserts the doctrine of inability consequent on this original corruption, the following claims special attention.

“The doctrine of original sin was universally received by the Church of God uutil the beginning of the fifth century, when it was denied by Pelagius. He maintained that the sins of our first parents were imputed to them alone, and not to their posterity: that we derive no corruption from their fall, but are born as pure and unspotted as Adain came out of the forming hand of his Creator." This opinion was adopted by Socinus in the sixteenth century, and is held by the modern Socinians. The Arminians, who derive their name from Arminius, a divine of the seventeenth century, may not speak in the same unqualified terms of the purity of the descendants of Adam, but ihey do not admit that their nature is wholly vitiated, or that they have entirely lost their power to do good. In opposition to such tenets our Confession teaches, that a corrupt nature is conveyed to all the posterity of Adam; and that, by ihis original corruption, we are Otterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil."

[ocr errors]

No extracts are required in elucidation of the sentiment that this corrupt nature is “both itself, with all the motions thereof, truly and properly sin.” From the exposition of the section on the desert of 5 sin, both original and actual,” the following paragraphs are abundantly sufficient.

3

“This section relates to the desert of sin. Being a transgression of the law of God, it must. in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, or render him liable to punishment. It exposes him to the wruth of God, for “the children of disobedience” are also "children of wrath,” that is, they deserve and are obnoxious to the wrath of God. It subjects him to the curse of the law, by which we may understand the condemnatory sentence of the broken law, which binds over the guilty sinner to all the direful effects of the wrath of God. It likewise subjects him to death, or the dissolution of the mysterious union between the soul and the body."

Again:

“ When we reflect on the loss which Adam sustained by his fall, and on the guilty and corrupted state in which we are thereby involved, and on the manifold miseries to which we are liable, both here and hereafter, let us be deeply impressed with a sense of the dreadful malignity and demerit of sin, the source of all our wo. Let us not dare to repine against God, or to impeach his goodness or equity, for permitting sin to enter into the world, and making us responsible for the transgression of the first Adam, but rather let us admire the divine wisdom and grace displayed in providing the second Adam, by whose obedience we may be made righteous, as by the disobedience of the first, we were made sinners."

Such is the doctrine of Imputation, of Physical or Constitutional Depravity, and of consequent Inability set forth in the Confession of Faith before us. From these the main, if not all of the peculiarities of the system of professedly Christian doctrine therein developed arise, as we will now proceed to show.

* An historical error, as we design hereafter to show.

The doctrine which next in order demands our attention is that of Free Will. We know of no class of Christians who do not maintain that liberty in some form is an irreversible condition of moral obligation and accountability. The only question at issue between them respects the nature of such libert ty. According to Necessitarians, this liberty is “the power, opportunity, or advantage that any one has to do as he pleases," or in the language of another writer, the "being able to do what one wills, or to abstain from doing what he wills not."

The advocates of liberty as opposed to necessity maintain, on the other hand, that the form of liberty above stated is entirely consistent with the most perfect fatalism of which the human mind has ever conceived, and has always been asserted by fatalists themselves. Suppose the old doctrine of fatalism as maintained by heathen philosophers to be true ; still men would have power to do as they choose. Indeed, whatever the truth in respect to the human Will may be, men cannot but do as they choose. The relation between acts of will and their effects is that of absolute necessity. How infinitely absurd then to assert that the connection existing between acts of will and their necessary results involves that form of liberty which is essential to moral obligation!

The commands of God also are, as all admit, primarily addressed to the mind, and directly require or prohibit certain mental states only. External actions are required only as the results of such states. How can our obligation to be in one mental state in distinction from another grow out of the relation existing between acts of will and their results, when such obligation would bind us with equal sacredness, did no such connection exist, even were we disembodied spirits. The true doctrine of liberty which lays the foundation of moral accountability is this. Selfishness or benevolence, obedience or disobedience to God are equally possible to man.

When he in fact exercises or does the one, he might in the same precise circumstances exercise or perform the other. Therefore he is under obligation to be benevolent instead of selfish, to obey instead of disobeying the commands of God, and is justly held subject to reward or punishment as he is, or does the one or the other. The doctrine of obligation or accountability resting on such a principle, every one can see with perfect distinctness, must bcomincnd itself to the conscience of every man, in the sight of God."

But what is the doctrine of Free Will as set forth in the Confession of Faith ? . We will present the entire chapter upon the subject, together with the exposition of the same, found in the work before us. We omit for want of space the last paragraph of the exposition, a paragraph in no way essential to a distinct elucidation of the subject.

“SECTION I..God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil.

EXPOSITION.

The decision of most of the points in controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, as President Edwards has observed, depends on the determination of the question- Wherein consists that freedom of the will which is requisite to moral agency? According to Arminians three things belong to the freedom of the will:

1. That the will has a self-determining power, or a certain sovereignty over itself, and its own acts, whereby it determines its own volitions.

2. A state of indifference, or that equilibrium, whereby the will is without all antecedent bias, and left entirely free from any prepossessing inclination to one side or the other.

3. That the volitions, or acts of the will, are conlingent, not only as opposed to all constraint, but to all necessity, or any fixed and certain connexion with some previous ground or reason of their existence. Calvinists, on the other hand, contend that a power in the will to determine its own determinations, is either unmeaning, or supposes, contrary to the first principles of philosophy, some thing to arise without a cause; that the idea of the soul exerting an actual choice or preference, while, at the same time, the will is in a perfect equilibrium, or state of indifference, is full of absurdity, and self-contradiction ; and that, as nothing can ever can come to pass without a cause, the acts of the will are never contingent, or without necessity : understanding by necessity a necessity of consequence, or an infallible connexion with something foregoing. Accord ing to Calvinists, the liberty of a moral agent consists in the power of acting according to his choice ; and those actions are free which are performed without any external compulsion or restraint, in consequence of the determinations of his own mind. “ The necessity of man's willing and acting in conformity to bis apprehensions and disposition, is, in their opinion, fully consistent with all the liberty, which can belong to a rational nature. The intinite Being necessaNily wills and acts according to the absolute perfection of his nature, yet with the highest liberty. Angels necessarily will and act according to the perfection of their natures, yet with full liberty ; for this sort of necessity is so far from interfering with liberty of will, that the perfection of the will's liberty lies in such a necessity. The very essence of its liberty lies in acting consciously, choosing or refusing without any external compulsion or constraint, but according to inward principles of rational apprehension and natural disposition.”

“Section 11.-Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well pleasing to God; but yet mutably, so that he might tall from it.

SECTION 11.--Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation ; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength to convert hintself, or prepare hiniself thereunto.

Section IV.-- When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet sq

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »