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cumstances that would certainly result in their becoming
Again. Is it not grace that saves us from sinning? What then is it but grace that saves infants from sinning by snatching them away from circumstances of temptation? In what way does grace save adults from sinning but by keeping them from temptation, or by giving grace to overcome temptation? And is there no grace in rescuing infants from circumstances that are certain, if left in them, to lead the child into sin.
All that can be justly said in either case is that if infants are saved at all, (which I suppose they are,) they are rescued by the benevolence of God from circumstances that will result in certain and eternal death, and made heirs of eternal life. But after all it is useless to speculate about the character and destiny of those who are confessedly not moral agents. The benevolence of God will take care of them. It is nonsensical to insist upon their moral depravity before they are moral agents, and it is equally frivolous to assert that they must be morally depraved as a condition of their being saved by grace.
We deny that the human constitution is morally depraved, 1. Because there is no proof of it.
2. Because it is impossible that sin should be an attribute of the substance of soul or body. It is and must be an attribute of choice or intention and not of substance.
3. To make sin an attribute or qualitiy of substance is contrary to God's definition of sin. Sin, says the apostle, is "anomia" a "transgression of, or a want of conformity to the moral law." That is, it consists in a refusal to love God and
our neighbor, or, which is the same thing, in loving ourselves supremely.
4. To represent the constitution as sinful is to represent God, who is the author of the constitution, as the author of sin. To say that God is not the direct former of the constitution, but that sin is conveyed by natural generation from Adam who made himself sinful, is only to remove the objection one step farther back, but not to obviate it: for God established the physical laws that of necessity bring about this result.
5. But how came Adam by a sinful nature? Did his first sin change his nature? or did God change it as a penalty for sin? What ground is there for the assertion that Adam's nature became in itself sinful by the fall? This is a groundless, not to say ridiculous assumption and a flat absurdity. Sin an attribute of nature! A sinful substance! Sin a substance! Is it a solid, a fluid, a material or a spiritual substance?
I received the following note from a brother on this subject: "The orthodox creeds are in some cases careful to say that original sin consist in the substance of neither soul nor body. Thus Bretschneider, who is acknowledged among the rationalists in Germany, says: "The Symbolical Books very rightly maintained that original sin is not in any sense the substance of man, his body or his soul, as Flavius taught,that it has been infused into human nature by Satan, and mixed with it, as poison and wine are mixed."
They rather expressly guard against the idea that they mean by the phrase "man's nature," his substance, but somewhat which is fixed in the substance. They explain original sin, therefore, not as an essential attribute of man, that is, a necessary and essential part of his being, but as an accident, that is, somewhat which does not subsist in itself, but as something accidental that has come into human nature. He quotes the Formula Concordantia as saying: "Nature does not denote the substance itself of man, but something which inheres fixed in the nature or substance." Accident is defined "what does not subsist by itself, but is in some substance and can be distinguished from it."
To this I answer, what does it mean? Here it seems is sin as a substance by itself, not a part nor an attribute of soul or body. But is this a created substance? or is it a self-existent substance? What a wonder it must be! Who ever saw this substance? Or is it an invisible and intangible substance?
A virus, a poison mixed with, yet distinct from the constitution. Do these writers think by this subtility to relieve the subject of constitutional moral depravity of its intrinsic absurdity? If so, they are greatly mistaken, for really they only render it more absurd and ridiculous. What! sin a substance by itself!—a sui generis, no doubt. Was it created by God, or by Adam, or by Satan, or has it been forced into being by some monstrous error in the processes of nature? Has it the attributes of a material or a spiritual substance? or is this unknown? How is it ascertained that it is a substance separate from both body and mind, or that it is a substance at all? I fear that christian men and even doctors of divinity will never be ashamed to vindicate this ridiculous absurdity, until some master hand shall so expose it as to make a man blush at the folly of asserting it.
6. I object to the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness that it makes all sin, original and actual, a mere calamity and not a crime. To call it a crime is to talk nonsense. What, a sinful nature the crime of him upon whom it is entailed without his knowledge or consent! If the nature is sinful in such a sense that action must be, which is the doctrine of the confession of faith, then sin in action must be but a calamity, and can be no crime? It is the necessary effect of a sinful nature. This can not be a crime.
7. This doctrine represents sin as a disease and obedience to law impossible until the nature is changed by a sovereign and physical agency of the Holy Spirit in which the subject is passive.
8. Of course it must render repentance, either with or without the grace of God impossible unless grace set aside our reason. If repentance implies self-condemnation we can never repent in the exercise of our reason. Constituted as we are, it is impossible that we should condemn ourselves for a sinful nature or for sinful actions that are unavoidable. The doctrine of original sin, or of a sinful constitution and of necessary sinful actions represents the whole moral government of God -the plan of salvation by Christ, and indeed every doctrine of the gospel as a mere farce, and as the veriest humbug that ever insulted and mocked the intelligence of man. Upon this supposition the law is tyranny, and the gospel an insult to the unfortunate.
9. Again. This doctrine represents sin as being of two kinds: original or constitutional and actual-sin of substance and sin of action; whereas neither the bible nor common sense
acknowledges but one kind of sin, and that consists in disobedience to the law.
10. This doctrine represents a sinful nature as the physical cause of actual sin.
11. It acknowledges a kind of sin of which no notice will be taken at the judgment. The bible every where represents the deeds done in the body, and not the constitution itself, as the only things to be brought into judgment.
12. It necessarily begets a self-justifying and God condemning spirit. Man must cease to be a reasonable being, and give himself up to the most ridiculous imaginations before he can blame himself for Adam's sin, as some have professed to do, or before he can blame himself for possessing a sinful nature, or for sins that unavoidably resulted from a sinful nature.
13. This doctrine necessarily leads its advocates rather to pity and excuse sinners than unqualifiedly to blame them.
14. It is difficult and indeed impossible for those who really believe this doctrine to urge immediate repentance and submission on the sinner, feeling that he is infinitely to blame unless he instantly comply. It is a contradiction to affirm that a man can heartily believe in the doctrine in question and yet truly and heartily blame sinners for not doing what is naturally impossible to them. The secret conviction must be in the mind of such an one that the sinner is not really to blame for being a sinner. For in fact if this doctrine is true he is not to blame for being a sinner any more than he is to blame for being a human being. This the advocate of this doctrine must know. It is vain for him to set up the pretence that he truly blames sinners for their nature, or for their conduct that was unavoidable. He can not do it any more than he can honestly deny the necessary affirmations of his own reason. Therefore the advocates of this theory must merely hold it as a theory without believing it, or they must in their secret conviction excuse the sinner.
15. Again. It naturally and necessarily leads its advocates, secretly at least, to ascribe the atonement of Christ rather to justice than to grace-rather as an expedient to relieve the unfortunate than to render the forgiveness of the excuseless sinner possible. The advocates of the theory in question can not but regard the case of the sinner as rather a hard one, and God as under an obligation to provide a way for him to escape from a sinful nature entailed upon him in spite of himself, and from actual transgressions which resulted from his nature by a law of necessity. If all this is true, the sinner's
case is infinitely hard, and God would be the most unreasonable and cruel of beings if he did not provide for their escape. These convictions will and must lodge in the mind of him who really believes the dogma of a sinful nature. This in substance is sometimes affirmed by the defenders of the doctrine of original sin.
16. This doctrine is a stumbling block both to the church and the world-infinitely dishonorable to God, and an abomination alike to God and the human intelligence, and should be banished from every pulpit and from every formula of doctrine, and from the world, it is a relict of heathen philosophy, and was foisted in among the doctrines of Christianity by Augustine, as every one may know who will take the trouble to examine for himself. Who does not know that this view of moral depravity that I am opposing, has long been the strong hold of Universalism? From it they have inveighed with resistless force against the idea that sinners would be sent to an eternal hell. Assuming the long defended doctrine of original or constitutional sinfulness, they proceed to show that it were infinitely unreasonable and unjust in God to send them to hell. What, create them with a sinful nature from which proceed by a law of necessity actual transgressions, and then send them to an eternal hell for having this nature, and for transgressions that are unavoidable! Impossible! they say, and the human intelligence responds, Amen.
From the dogma of a sinful nature or constitution also has naturally and irresistibly flowed the doctrine of inability to repent, and the necessity of a physical regeneration. These too have been a sad stumbling block to Universalists as every one knows who is at all acquainted with the history of Universalism. They infer the salvation of all men from the fact of God's benevolence and physical omnipotence! God is Almighty, and he is love. Men are constitutionally depraved, and are unable to repent. God will not, can not send them to hell. They do not deserve it. Sin is a calamity, and God can save them, and he ought to do so. This is the substance of their argument. And, assuming the truth of their premises, there is no evading their conclusion. But the whole argument is built on "such stuff as dreams are made of." Strike out the ridiculous dogma of a sinful nature, and their whole edifice comes to the ground in a moment.
II. The proper method of accounting for Moral Depravity. The term "Moral" is from the Latin Mos-Manners. The term "Depravity," as has been shown, is from De and Pra