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open to temptation as ours is; else why did he fall? he must like us, have had a law in his members warring against the law of his mind; and he was actually led captive by it. Not one word is uttered, in the original sentence on Adam, of any depravation of our constitution in consequence of his offence. No malediction was poured on the nature of bis hapless children by our most merciful and equitable Creator. Labour, suffering, and death were indeed allotted to him, and with him to all his sons. But we find nothing more than this. Not one word of that most terrific sentiment, that the frailty of one man is punished by perpetually and totally corrupting the souls of all his innocent descendants, and while thus born incapable of good, dooming them to eternal and remediless woe.
So far from this, the mercy of our God beams forth in all its brightness, even when he denounces the penalty of his violated law. Never does he appear more truly to be the tender and compassionate Father of our race. He inflicts indeed, upon man, the necessity of perpetual labour ; but labour, though thus the child of sin, he means should be the mother of virtue and of happiness. Suffering too is denounced. But it is still designed as the minister of good to man.
It is meant to soften the rigour of his heart, to melt it to penitence, and bring him back to God. And even the sentence of death, full of terrors, as it must always be, was mitigated to the first pair, at the moment
it was uttered, by the promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. And blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we now know that even then a ransom was providing from its power, and that a glorious plan of redemption was formed, which was to lead captivity captive, to reconcile the world to God, and unfold life and immortality to all the faithful followers of Jesus.
In this view of the apostasy of our first parents—which is not essentially affected, whether you regard it as a literal narrative, an oriental allegory, or a philosophical fable—the consequences of the Fall on their posterity are represented to be toil, pain, and death. I beg you now to read over the sacred history, and convince yourselves, that not a hint, not a word is to be found, which implies that the nature of man was cursed for the sin of Adam, and his heart tainted and blackened to the
If we were not accustomed to such an idea in infancy, I am persuaded that every feeling of our souls would revolt from it, and that we should wonder that every christian does not regard it as a libel on the infinite benignity of our just and merciful Creator.
If then we find nothing in the sentence passed upon Adam, which declares that his posterity should bring with them into the world a guilty nature, we may be satisfied that such an idea cannot be really found in
For the original sentence would certainly contain the whole of his punishment. There are three or four passages, however, from which a contrary
, idea has been inferred, which I'will just point out to your notice.
In the fifth chapter of Genesis it is said, that Seth was born in the likeness of Adam, after his image," and from this it is inferred that the likeness of God, in which Adam was created, had been lost. But how obvious is it to remark, that if Seth was like to Adam, and Adam like to God, then Seth must also be like to God. And if there could be any
doubt, it would be put to rest by a passage in the ninth chapter of the same book, where the reason given why murder is to be punished by death is, that in the image of God made he man. And again in James iii. 9, where it is said of all men, they are made after the similitude of God.
We find in the sixth chapter of Genesis a strong description of the sinfulness of our race, which preceded the deluge. It was indeed dreadful. But as it is expressly ascribed to man’s voluntary abuse of his nature, it can lend no aid to the idea of its original guilt. “ All flesh” it is said, “ had corrupted his way upon the earth.” A similar remark may be extended to a parallel passage in the fourteenth psalm.
Nothing further is found to support this idea in all the writings of Moses, and all the historical books of the Old Testament.
In the fifteenth chapter of Job, fourteenth and sixteenth verses, it is said, “ What is man that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman that he should be righteous.” “ How much more abominable and filthy is man,which drinketh iniquity like water.” This passage I have already considered in a former discourse. It is from the mouth, you will remember, of one of those friends of Job, who were reproved by the Almighty for their ignorance and presumption.
The next passage that is quoted, is from the fifty first Psalm, in which David in the agony of his remorse and contrition, exclaims ; “ Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
This language, at the thought of his atrocious crimes, we should say would be in our own tongue nothing more than a natural hyperbole. How plainly does it seem so, when we consider the latitude of oriental poetry.
In all the recorded teachings of our Lord himself, it is not pretended by any one, that there is any declaration of the native corruption of the human heart. He addresses mankind as sinners, as we all know ourselves to be, and calls them to repentance and conversion. But he never intimates that they brought their sin with them into the world, that they were born the objects of the wrath and curse of their Creator, or addresses them as naturally incapable of doing any thing which God bąs made it their duty to perform.
I might be excused from any farther examination of the few detached passages, which are sometimes quoted for this opinion ; since it is monstrous to suppose that any essential doctrine of the religion of Christ is wholly omitted, and even contradicted, in his own teachings. There is one passage, however, to which I would just allude. In the fifth chapter of Romans the Apostle draws a contrast between the blessings introduced by Christ, and the evils which were the consequence of the fall. The phraseology which he uses in one or two verses sounds somewhat strong to a merely English ear, though the idea is very obviously consistent with the general doctrine of the scriptures. “By one man,” says the Apostle, “ sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death passed upon all men;" why? because he had sinned ? No, but because “ all have sinned.” Death is inflicted on them, for the same reason that it was inflicted on him. But as Adam was a specimen, a representative, of his species, the death which passes on all is represented in the subsequent verses, by way of brevity, as the penalty of his offence ; and that they are treated as sinners, is spoken of as the consequence of his sin. No one, however, who attends to the general scope and spirit of the passage will be in danger of misunderstanding the Apostle ; particularly if we remember what the original sentence passed on Adam was, and consider, that St. Paul Cannot mean to teach any thing contrary to what is there taught.