« PreviousContinue »
The fall of man. Adam, endowed with reason and conscience, capable of loving God supremely and thereby securing forever that favor divine which is life, was put upon probation. A free, moral and accountable agent, God treated him as such by placing him under law. The law was that which the Creator had a perfect right to ordain, and which the creature had power to obey. It was a law in distinction from a covenant or constitution. Its words addressed to Adam personally; containing a precise prohibition, sanctioned by a precise penalty; Adam the very person prohibited; the thing prohibited his eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and the penalty annexed death; 1. it had all the characteristics of a proper law. Strange that it should ever have been mistaken for a covenant.2 It differs from other divine laws in but a single particular. That is, in duration. It was intended for the time being to answer a specific purpose. That purpose answered, the law was no longer in force. 3 In its nature, its extent — applicable to those and those only who are specified in it, and its power to condemn - exercised only against those who disobey, its resemblance to all other divine laws is perfect. 4 The penalty by which this law was sanctioned is eternal death. Temporal death is no fit penalty for sin against a holy God. Spiritual death is neither more nor less than sin itself; and to suppose that sin itself was threatened as a punishment for sin, is absurd. It robs the threatening of all significance. 5
This law Adam broke. Of the forbidden fruit the woman gave to him, and he did eat. Eve, previously beguiled by Satan, had already partaken of the interdicted tree. In the most favorable circumstances possible for persevering obedience, with unimpaired natural ability to maintain his integrity, with the express prohibition of God sanctioned by the threat of death, directly before him, he yet put forth his rash hand and ate of the forbidden fruit. The deed was done, the penalty incurred, and he died to holiness and peace apparently forever. The frown of God was upon him, and he already began to have an earnest of eternal death.
This sin of Adam was original sin. 6 No one else can be guilty of it. It is named thus, not because it was the first transgression in the world, for Eve was before Adam in sin; nor simply because it was the first offence of the first man; but because, by a divine constitution, this was the particular sin which should so remarkably affect the moral condition of all mankind. In the divine purpose it was so arranged, that all the subsequent sinfulness of the first parents and their
whole posterity should be seen to have been occasioned by this one sin.1 'By one man's disobedience many were made sinners.' So intimately connected was Adam with his children, that his lapse had a most disastrous influence upon their state and prospects. Not that his posterity committed his first sin; not that he transferred to them the guilt of that offence; not that he conveyed to them a morally corrupt nature; but that God appointed Adam to be the public head of his race, and determined to treat them according to his conduct.' 2
The great reason why God devised and adopted this mode of treatment, was his regard for his own glory. Some particular reasons may also be assigned. There was fitness in placing human nature, uncorrupted and unimpaired, on trial. This trial, in the circumstances, was equivalent to a trial of each individual of the race. Its repetition in every other case, then, would have been neither wise nor benevolent. Resulting as it did, this trial prepared the way for the promise of a Saviour. If Adam, surrounded with such safeguards and appliances that his fall has been a marvel to the universe, nevertheless fell before the tempter and was in perishing need of one mighty to save, it was quite certain that every man would have the same need.4 Be it remembered, however, that the fall of Adam placed his posterity under no absolute necessity of sinning. A certainty that we shall, is not a necessity that we must sin. Sin, in its own nature, is voluntary, not necessitated. Adam must answer for his own sins, and we must answer for ours.' 5 God has done no injustice, therefore, to the race in making' Adam the public head of his posterity. No one has the least right to complain of this arrangement, because there is no imputation of Adam's sin to his descendants, nor transfer of his guilt to them, nor punishment inflicted on them for his sake. In the exercise of his sovereignty, God had a perfect right to bring man into being, and appoint the bounds of his habitation, or place him under any constitution which infinite wisdom saw to be best.
"If he had a right to bring us into existence, he had an equal right to determine how he would bring us into existence, whether as single detached individuals, like the angels, or as naturally and constitutionally connected with our first and great progenitor." 7
Man's present condition. Though fallen he has still all the powers of a moral and responsible agent. His mind is immaterial and indivisible, yet it has many faculties and susceptibilities. In perceiving,
1 Works, Vol. IV. p. 493. Ib. pp. 487-491. 3 Ib. p. 492. Ib. p. 493. Ib. p. 497. 7 Ib.
"Ib. p. 496.
remembering, reasoning, judging, and willing, it is the same man, working all in all. The power to perform these operations constitutes him a moral agent. This is his natural ability to do whatsoever God requires of him. That which specially distinguishes man from the lower orders of creation is conscience. He has indeed far higher capacity for progress in knowledge and happiness than they 2; but his peculiar characteristic is the faculty of moral discernment.3. With this power, he sees the essential difference between virtue and vice; is conscious of moral obligation; is self-approved when he does right, and self-condemned when he does wrong; and feels that he deserves reward or punishment according to his works. Such are his powers now, although he has lost that moral image of God in which he was created. He can make indefinite advancement in knowledge and holiness, and is under the most imperative obligation to love God with all his heart and soul.
What he might and ought to do, however, he utterly fails to do. From the commencement of his moral agency, he begins to sin. Making self his god, he withholds his supreme affections from the true God. Observation and experience render it probable, and the Scriptures make it quite certain, that, as soon as a human being has the powers of a moral agent, he exercises unholy affections. In other words he sins as soon as he becomes capable of sinning.5 How early this is, may not perhaps be known with absolute certainty, but probably it is sooner than he can utter his thoughts; 6 nay, it is very natural to conclude that infants are moral agents as soon as they are agents. All by nature, are 'dead in trespasses and in sins.' The race is sinful. 'All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' Why is this? Not because they have not power to exercise holy affections, as well as sinful ones. They have this power. Not because a sinful nature was transmitted to them from the first sinner, by which all their sinful exercises are caused. For it is impossible to conceive of a corrupt and sinful nature prior to, and distinct from corrupt and sinful exercises.' 8 Nor is it through the force of a selfdetermining, self-sufficient, independent power,9 by which they set themselves in opposition to God. But the ultimate reason is to be found in the eternal purpose of God that, if the first man, tried in circumstances the most auspicious should disobey and fall, his de
I Works, IV. p. 503.
Ib. pp. 158, 159.
Vol. IV. p. 508. Dr. Emmons did not, as some have imagined he did, believe in the annihilation of infants See Note, Vol. IV. p. 510.
scendants, should begin their responsible agency as sinners. purpose, however, contemplated and made certain the entire moral freedom of each individual sinner. His native depravity furnishes no excuse for past transgression, and is no insurmountable obstacle to repentance and a holy life.2
Dr. Emmons believed that entire depravity both of heart and act, may be predicated of sinners.3 This depravity consists entirely in moral exercises, and as the moral exercises of a sinner are all wrong, he is entirely depraved. But it is the moral feeling which gives character to the outward act; and if sinners always act from the heart, and if the heart from which they act be totally depraved, then total depravity must be affirmed of all their actions.4 Not that there is nothing in them which may be called good. They may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, relieve the oppressed, cherish kindly affections, and perform many deeds of apparent benevolence.5 But, as they do all these things under the influence of a selfish spirit, God who weighs the motives of all, must condemn them. Even when they engage in religious services, their hearts are not right with God, and therefore their apparent sacrifice is an abomination in his sight.' God, 'viewing the best actions of sinners as flowing from a totally corrupt heart, abhors and condemns them as altogether criminal.'6 It is perfectly easy to account for all the kind offices and amiable natural affections of sinners, without supposing that God, who looketh upon the heart,' sees in them the least particle of moral goodness."
The essence of all moral evil, is selfishness. In this consists the depravity of every sinner. Not in some deranged or vitiated state of the natural powers or the constitutional susceptibilities: not in some evil taste, whether inherited or implanted by the Creator; but in the constant and supreme preference of self to God. It would be proper for sinners to love themselves as a part of God's intelligent creation, or according to their real worth as designed to glorify the Creator; 8 but they love themselves selfishly, or because they are themselves. This makes them supremely selfish; and in this selfishness is the essence of all their depravity. This is the carnal mind - enmity against God.
"It seeks a personal interest, which is diametrically opposite to the glory of God, and the general interest of his kingdom. It tends to spread misery and destruction through the universe. Can there be any thing virtuous, or amiable, or praiseworthy in such a totally selfish love,
Person and Atonement of Christ.
which is disconformity to God, disobedience to his law, and in its nature and tendency destructive of all the good of his holy kingdom?"
Man's need of a Saviour. Having broken the law of God, man is exposed to suffer its penalty. He cannot save himself from everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. He must forever perish unless something can be done to honor the law which he has violated, vindicate the justice and veracity of God, and as fully secure the great interests of the universe as would the direct execution of the penalty against him. It would have been just for God to let the law take its course on every transgressor. But it was his purpose from eternity to save multitudes of the human family. That he might do this consistently with the integrity of his own character, he gave his only begotten Son to die for the sins of men. That he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, God hath set forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.' 'The atonement was necessary entirely on God's account.'2 Not on account of sinners; for he might have destroyed them all, or he might, in the exercise of his mere sovereignty have saved them all, without doing injustice to them, or any of his creatures. But he could not have been true to his word, nor just to his law, and yet save sinners without an atonement. The great problem to be solved in the government of God was, How can God be just, and yet merciful towards offenders? This question no finite intelligence could answer. Infinite Wisdom devised and infinite Benevolence adopted a plan which met all the exigencies of the case. The death of Christ on the cross was adapted to show God's hatred of sin, his regard for his law, and to answer most gloriously all those purposes which the execution of the penalty would have done. Knowing that he could effect these ends by the vicarious sufferings of a proper substitute, God accepted the offer of his own Son the only substitute in the universe, who was competent to the great work of making a complete atonement for sin. The importance of the subject, then, acquires a definite statement of our author's views respecting the
§ 10. Person and Atonement of Christ.
Foretold by prophets, typified by various rites and trusted in by thousands before he made his appearance in the world; taking upon him our nature, embodying the God in the man, living to be a pattern 2 Ib. Vol. V. p. 18.
1 Works, Vol. IV. p. 547.