|« Prev||CHAPTER IV. Several other Objections answered.||Next »|
WHEREIN SEVERAL OTHER OBJECTIONS ARE CONSIDERED.
Dr. T. objects against Adam’s posterity being supposed to come into the world under a forfeiture of God’s blessing, and subject to his curse through his sin,—That at the restoration of the world after the flood, God pronounced equivalent or greater blessings on Noah and his sons, than he did on Adam at his creation, when he said, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, &c.*—To this I answer, in the following remarks.
1. As has been already shown, that in the threatening denounced for Adam’s sin, there was nothing which appears inconsistent with the continuance of this present life for a season, or with propagating his kind; so for the like reason, there appears nothing in that threatening, upon the supposition that it reached Adam’s posterity, inconsistent with enjoying the temporal blessings of the present life, as long as this is continued; even those temporal blessings which God pronounced on Adam at his first creation. For it must be observed, that the blessings which God pronounced on Adam when he created him, and before the trial of his obedience, were not the same with the blessings which were suspended on his obedience. The blessings thus suspended, were the blessings of eternal life; which, if he had maintained his integrity through his trial, would have been pronounced upon him afterwards; when God, as his judge, should have given him his reward. God might indeed, if he had pleased, immediately have deprived him of life, and of all temporal blessings, given him before. But those blessings pronounced on him before-hand, were not the things for the obtaining of which his trial was appointed. These were reserved till the issue of his trial should be seen, and then to be pronounced in the blessed sentence, which would have been passed upon him by his judge, when God came to decree to him his reward for his approved fidelity. The pronouncing of these latter blessings on a degenerate race, that had fallen under the threatening denounced, would indeed (without a redemption) have been inconsistent with the constitution which had been established. But giving them the former kind of blessings, which were not the things suspended on the trial, or dependent on his fidelity, (and these to be continued for a season,) was not at all inconsistent therewith.
2. It is no more an evidence of Adam’s posterity being not included in the threatening denounced for his eating the forbidden fruit, That they still have the temporal blessings of fruitfulness, and a dominion over the creatures, continued to them; than it is an evidence of Adam being not included in that threatening himself, That he had these blessings continued to him, was fruitful, and had dominion over the creatures, after his fall, equally with his posterity.
3. There is good evidence, that the benedictions God pronounced on Noah and his posterity, were granted on a new foundation; a dispensation diverse from any grant, promise, or revelation, which God gave to Adam, antecedently to his fall; even on the foundation of the covenant of grace, established in Christ Jesus; a dispensation, the design of which is to deliver men from the curse that came upon them by Adam’s sin, and to bring them to greater blessings than ever he had. These blessings were pronounced on Noah and his seed, on the same foundation whereon afterwards the blessing was pronounced on Abraham and his seed, which included both spiritual and temporal benefits.—Noah had his name prophetically given him by his father Lamech, because by him and his seed deliverance should be obtained from the curse, which came by Adam’s fall. Gen. v. 29. “And he called his name Noah, (i. e. rest,) saying, This name shall comfort us concerning our work, and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” Pursuant to the scope and intent of this prophecy (which indeed seems to respect the same thing with the prophecy in Gen. iii. 15. ) are the blessings pronounced on Noah after the flood. There is this evidence of these blessings being conveyed through the channel of the covenant of grace, and by the redemption through Jesus Christ, that they were obtained by sacrifice; or were bestowed as the effect of God’s favour to mankind, which was in consequence of smelling a sweet savour in the sacrifice which Noah offered. And it is very evident by the epistle to the Hebrews, that the ancient sacrifices never obtained the favour of God, but only by virtue of the relation they had to the sacrifice of Christ.— Now that Noah and his family had been so wonderfully saved from the wrath of God, which had destroyed the rest of the world, and the world was as it were restored from a ruined state, there was a proper occasion to point to the great salvation to come by Christ: as it was a common thing for God, on occasion of some great temporal salvation of his people, or restoration from a low and miserable state, to renew the intimations of the great spiritual restoration of the world by Christ’s redemption. 388388 It may be noted, that Dr. T himself signifies it as his mind, that these blessings on Noah were on account of the covenant of grace, p. 84, 90, 91. 92. S. God deals with the generality of mankind, in their present state, far differently, on occasion of the redemption by Jesus Christ, from what he otherwise would do; for, being capable subjects of saving mercy, they have a day of patience and grace, and innumerable temporal blessings bestowed on them; which, as the apostle signifies, ( Acts xiv. 17.) are testimonies of God’s reconcilableness to sinful men, to put them upon seeking after God.
But beside the sense in which the posterity of Noah in general partake of these blessings of dominion over the creatures, &c. Noah himself, and all such of his posterity as have obtained like precious faith with that exercised by him in offering his sacrifice, which made it a sweet savour, and by which it procured these blessings, have dominion over the creatures, through Christ, in a more excellent sense than Adam in innocency; as they are made kings and priests unto God, and reign with Christ, and all things are theirs, by a covenant of grace. They partake with Christ in that dominion over the beasts of the earth, the fowls of the air, and fishes of the sea, spoken of in the 8th Psalm; which is by the apostle interpreted of Christ’s dominion over the world, (1 Cor. xv. 27. and Heb. ii. 7. ) And the time is coming, when the greater part of the posterity of Noah, and each of his sons, shall partake of this more honourable and excellent dominion over the creatures, through him in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Neither is there any need of supposing that these blessings have their most complete accomplishment, till many ages after they were granted, any more than the blessing on Japhet, expressed in those words, God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.
But that Noah’s posterity have such blessings given them through the great Redeemer, who suspends and removes the curse which came through Adam’s sin, surely is no argument, that they originally, as in their natural state, are not under the curse. That men have blessings through grace, is no evidence of their being not justly exposed to the curse by nature; but it rather argues the contrary. For if they did not deserve the curse, they would not depend on grace and redemption for the removal of it, and for bringing them into a state of favour with God.
Another objection, which our author strenuously urges against the doctrine of original sin, is, that it disparages the divine goodness in giving us our being; which we ought to receive with thankfulness, as a great gift of God’s beneficence, and look upon as the first, original, and fundamental fruit of the divine liberality. 389389 Page 256, 357, 260, 71-74. S.
To this I answer, in the following observations:
1. This argument is built on the supposed truth of a thing in dispute; and so is a begging of the question. It is built on this supposition, that we are not properly looked upon as one with our first father, in the state wherein God at first created him, and in his fall from that state. If we are so, it becomes the whole race to acknowledge God’s great goodness to them, in the state wherein mankind was made at first; in the happy state they were then in, and the fair 228 opportunity they then had of obtaining confirmed and eternal happiness; and to acknowledge it as an aggravation of their apostacy; and to humble themselves, that they were so ungrateful as to rebel against their good Creator. Certainly, we may all do this with as much reason, as the people of Israel in Daniel’s and Nehemiah’s times who did with thankfulness acknowledge God’s great goodness to their fathers, many ages before; and in their confessions they bewailed, and took shame to themselves, for the sins committed by their fathers, notwithstanding such great goodness. (See the 9th chapter of Daniel, and the 9th of Nehemiah.)
2. If Dr. T. would imply in his objection, that it doth not consist with the goodness of God, to give mankind being in a state of misery, what ever was done before by Adam, whether he sinned or did not sin. I reply, if it be justly so ordered, that there should be a posterity of Adam, which must be looked upon as one with him; then it is no more contrary to God’s attribute of goodness to give being to his posterity in a state of punishment, than to continue the being of the same wicked and guilty person, who has made himself guilty, in a state of punishment. The giving of being, and the continuing of being, are both alike the work of God’s power and will, and both are alike fundamental to all blessings of man’s present and future existence. And if it be said, it cannot be justly so ordered, that there should be a posterity of Adam, which should be looked upon as one with him, this is begging the question.
3. If our author would have us to suppose, that it is contrary to the attribute of goodness for God, in any case, by an immediate act of his power, to cause evidence, and to cause new existence, which shall be an exceeding miserable existence, by reason of exposedness to eternal ruin; then his own scheme must be supposed contrary to the attribute of God’s goodness: for he supposes that God will raise multitudes from the dead at the last day (which will be giving new existence to their bodies, and to bodily life and sense) in order only to their suffering eternal destruction.
4. Notwithstanding we are so sinful and miserable, as we are by nature, yet we may have great reason to bless God, that he has given us our being under so glorious a dispensation of grace through Jesus Christ: by which we have a happy opportunity to be delivered from this sin and misery, and to obtain unspeakable eternal happiness. And because, through our own wicked inclinations, we are disposed so to neglect and abuse this mercy, as to fail of final benefit by it, this is no reason why we ought not to be thankful for it, even according to our author’s own sentiments. What (says he 390390 Page 72, 73. S. ) if the whole world lies in wickedness, and few therefore shall be saved? Have men no reason to be thankful, because they are wicked and ungrateful, and abuse their being and God’s bounty? Suppose our own evil inclinations do withhold us, viz. from seeking after happiness, of which under the light of the gospel we are placed within the nearer and easier reach, “suppose, the whole Christian world should lie in wickedness, and but few Christians should be saved, is it therefore certainly true, that we cannot reasonably thank God for the gospel?” Well, and though the evil inclinations, which hinder our seeking and obtaining happiness by so glorious an advantage, are what we are born with, yet if those inclinations are our fault or sin, that alters not the case: and to say, they are not our sin, is still begging the question. Yea, it will follow from several things asserted by our author, that notwithstanding men are born in such circumstances, as that they are under a very great improbability of ever becoming righteous, yet they may have reason to be thankful for their being. Thus particularly, Dr. T. asserts, that all men have reason of thankfulness for their being; and yet he supposes, that the heathen world, taken as a collective body, were dead in sin, and could not deliver or help themselves, and therefore stood in necessity of the christian dispensation. And not only so, but he supposes, that the christian world is now at length brought to the like deplorable and helpless circumstances, and needs a new dispensation for its relief. According to these things, the world in general, not only formerly but even at this day, are dead in sin, and helpless as to their salvation; and therefore the generality of them that are born into it, are much more likely to perish, than otherwise, till the new dispensation comes: and yet he supposes, we all have reason to be thankful for our being. Yea, further still, I think, according to our author’s doctrine, men may have great reason to be thankful to God for bringing them into a state, which yet, as the case is, is attended with misery, as its certain consequence. As, with respect to God’s raising the wicked to life, at the last day; which, he supposes, is in itself a great benefit, procured by Christ, and the wonderful grace of God through him: and if it be the fruit of God’s wonderful grace, surely men ought to be thankful for that grace, and praise God for it. Our doctrine of original sin, therefore, no more disparages God’s goodness in man’s formation in the womb, than his doctrine disparages God’s goodness in their resurrection from the grave.
Another argument, which Dr. T. makes use of, against the doctrine of original sin, is what the Scripture reveals of the process of the day of judgment; which represents the judge as dealing with men singly and separately, rendering to every man according to his deeds, and according to the improvement he has made of the particular powers and talents God has given him personally. 391391 Page 65, 66, 111. S.
But this objection will vanish, if we consider what is the end or design of that public judgment. Now this will not be, that God may find out what men are, or what punishment or reward is proper for them, or in order to the passing of a right judgment of these things within himself, which is the end of human trials; but it is to manifest what men are to their own consciences, and to the world. As the day of judgment is called the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; in order to this, God will make use of evidences, or proofs. But the proper evidences of the wickedness of men’s hearts (the true seat of all wickedness) both as to corruption of nature, and additional pollution and guilt, are men’s works.
The special end of God’s public judgment will be, to make a proper, perfect, open distinction among men, rightly to state and manifest their difference one from another, in order to that separation and difference in the eternal retribution that is to follow: and this difference will be made to appear, by their personal works.
There are two things, with regard to which men will be tried, and openly distinguished, by the perfect judgment of God at the last day; according to the twofold real distinction subsisting among mankind: viz. (1.) The difference of state; that primary and grand distinction, whereby all mankind are divided into two sorts, the righteous and the wicked. (2.) That secondary distinction, whereby both sorts differ from others in the same general state, in degrees of additional fruits of righteousness and wickedness. Now the Judge, in order to manifest both these, will judge men according to their personal works. But to inquire at the day of judgment, whether Adam sinned or no, or whether men are to be looked upon as one with him, and so partakers in his sin, is what in no respect tends to manifest either of these distinctions.
1. The first thing; to be manifest, will be the state, that each man is in, with respect to the grand distinction of the whole world of mankind into righteous and wicked; or, in metaphorical language, wheat and tares; or, the children of the kingdom of Christ, and the children of the wicked one; the latter, the head of the apostacy; but the former, the head of the restoration and recovery. The Judge, in manifesting this, will prove men’s hearts by their works, in such as have had opportunity to perform any works in the body. The evil works of the children of the wicked one will be the proper manifestation and evidence or proof of whatever belongs to the general state of such; and particularly they will prove, that they belong to the kingdom of the great deceiver, and head of the apostacy, as they will demonstrate the exceeding corruption of their nature, and full consent of their hearts to the common apostacy; and also that their hearts never relinquished the apostacy, by a cordial adherence to Christ, the great restorer. 229 The Judge will also make use of the good works of the righteous to show their interest in the redemption of Christ; as thereby will be manifested the sincerity of their hearts in their acceptance of, and adherence to, the Redeemer and his righteousness. And in thus proving the state of men’s hearts by their actions, the circumstances of those actions must necessarily come into consideration, to manifest the true quality of their actions; as, each one’s talents, opportunities, advantages, light, motives, &c.
2. The other thing to be manifested, will be that secondary distinction,, wherein particular persons, both righteous and wicked, differ from one another, in the degree of secondary good or evil; the degree of evil fruit, which is additional to the guilt and corruption of the whole body of apostates and enemies; and the degree of personal goodness and good fruit, which is a secondary goodness, with respect to the righteousness and merits of Christ, which belong to all by that sincere faith manifested in all. Of this also each one’s works, with their circumstances, opportunities, talents, &c. will be the proper evidence.
As to the nature and aggravations of the general apostacy by Adam’s sin, and also the nature and sufficiency of the redemption by Jesus Christ, the great restorer, though both these will have vast influence on the eternal state, which men shall be adjudged to, yet neither of them will properly belong to the trial men will be the subjects of at that day, in order to the manifestation of their state, wherein they are distinguished one from another. They will belong to the business of that day no otherwise, than the manifestation of the great truths of religion in general; as the nature and perfections of God, the dependence of mankind on God, as their creator and preserver, &c. Such truths as these will also have great influence on the eternal state, to which men will then be adjudged, as they aggravate the guilt of man’s wickedness, and must be considered in order to a due estimate of Christ’s righteousness, and men’s personal virtue; yet being of general and equal concernment, will not properly belong to the trial of particular persons.
Another thing urged by our author particularly against the imputation of Adam’s sin, is this: “Though, in Scripture, action is frequently said to be imputed, reckoned, accounted to a person, it is no other than his own act and deed.” 392392 Page 3, &c. 105. In the same place he cites a number of places of Scripture, where these words are used, which he says are all that he can find in the Bible.
But we are no way concerned with this argument at present, any further than it relates to imputation of sin, or sinful action. Therefore all that is in the argument, which relates to the present purpose, is this: that the word is so often applied in Scripture to signify God’s imputing of personal sin, but never once to his imputing of Adam’s sin.—So often!—How often?—But twice. There are but two of all those places which he reckons up, that have any reference to God imputing sin to any person, where there is any evidence that only personal sin is meant; (Levit. xvii. 3, 4. and 2 Tim. iv. 16.) All therefore that the argument comes to, is this: that the word impute, is applied twice in Scripture to the case of God imputing sin, and neither of those times to signify the imputing of Adam’s sin, but both times it has reference to personal sin; therefore Adam’s sin is not imputed to his posterity. And this is to be noted, that one of these two places, even that in Levit. xvii. 3, 4. does not speak of imputing the act committed, but another not committed. The words are, “what man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, and bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the Lord, before the tabernacle of the Lord, blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; that man shall be cut off from among his people,” i. e. plainly, murder shall be imputed to him: he shall be put to death for it, and therein punished with the same severity as if he had slain a man. It is plain by Isa. lxvi. 3. that, in some cases, shedding the blood of beasts, in an unlawful manner, was imputed to them, as if they slew a man.
But whether it be so or not, although in both these places the word impute, be applied to personal sin, and to the very act, or although this could be said of all the places which our author reckons up; yet that the word impute, is never expressly applied to Adam’s sin, does no more argue, that it is not imputed to his posterity, than it argues, that pride, unbelief, lying, theft, oppression, persecution, fornication, adultery, sodomy, perjury, idolatry, and innumerable other particular moral evils, are never imputed to the persons that committed them, or in whom they are; because the word impute, though so often used in Scripture, is never applied to any of these kinds of wickedness.
I know not what can be said here, except one of these two things: that though these sins are not expressly said to be imputed, yet other words are used that do as plainly and certainly imply that they are imputed, as if it were said so expressly. Very well, and so I say with respect to the imputation of Adam’s sin. The thing meant by the word impute, may be as plainly and certainly expressed by using other words, as if that word were expressly used; and more certainly, because the words used instead of it, may amount to an explanation of this word. And this, I think, is the very case here. Though the word, impute, is not used with respect to Adam’s sin, yet it is said, all have sinned; which, respecting infants, can be true only of their sinning by his sin. And, it is said, by his disobedience many were made sinners; and, judgment and condemnation came upon all by that sin; and that by this means death, the wages of sin, passed on all men, &c. Which phrases amount to full and precise explanations of the word, impute; and therefore do more certainly determine the point really insisted on.
Or, perhaps it will be said, with respect to those personal sins before-mentioned, pride, unbelief, &c. it is no argument they are not imputed to those who are guilty of them, that the very word impute, is not applied to them; for the word itself is rarely used; not one time in a hundred, and perhaps five hundred, of those wherein the thing meant is plainly implied, or may be certainly inferred. Well, and the same also may be applied likewise, with respect to Adam’s sin.
It is probable, Dr. T. intends an argument against original sin, by that which he says in opposition to what R. R. suggests of children discovering the principles of iniquity, and seeds of sin, before they are capable of moral action, 393393 Page 77, 78. S. viz. That little children are made patterns of humility, meekness, and innocence, (Matt. xviii. 3. 1 Cor. xiv. 20. and Psal. cxxxi. 2.)
But when the utmost is made of this, there can be no shadow of reason, to understand more by these texts, than that little children are recommended as patterns in regard of a negative virtue, innocence with respect to the exercises and fruits of sin, harmlessness as to the hurtful effects of it; and that image of meekness and humility arising from this, in conjunction with a natural tenderness of mind, fear, self-diffidence, yieldableness, and confidence in parents and others older than themselves. And so, they are recommended as patterns of virtue no more than doves, which are an harmless sort of creatures, and have an image of the virtues of meekness and love. Even according to Dr. T.‘s own doctrine, no more can be made of it than this: for his scheme will not admit of any such thing as positive virtue, or virtuous disposition, in infants; he insisting (as was observed before) that virtue must be the fruit of thought and reflection. But there can be no thought and reflection, that produces positive virtue, in children not yet capable of moral action; and it is such children he speaks of. And that little children have a negative virtue or innocence, in relation to the positive acts and hurtful effects of vice, is no argument that they have not a corrupt nature within them: for let their nature be ever so corrupt, yet surely it is no wonder that they be not guilty of positive wicked action, before they are capable of any moral action at all. A young viper has a malignant nature, though incapable of doing a malignant action, and at present appearing a harmless creature.
230 But their declaiming on this topic is like addressing the affections and conceits of children, rather than rational arguing with men. It seems this doctrine is not complaisant enough. I am sensible, it is not suited to the taste of some, who are so very delicate (to say no worse) that they can bear nothing but compliment and flattery. No contempt is by this doctrine cast upon the noble faculties and capacities of man’s nature, or the exalted business, and divine and immortal happiness, of which he is made capable. And as to speaking ill of man’s present moral state, I presume, it will not be denied, that shame belongs to them who are truly sinful; and to suppose, that this is not the native character of mankind, is still but meanly begging the question. If we, as we come into the world, are truly sinful, and consequently miserable, he acts but a friendly part to us, who endeavours fully to discover and manifest our disease. Whereas, on the contrary, he acts an unfriendly part, who to his utmost hides it from us: and so, in effect, does what in him lies to prevent our seeking a remedy from that, which if not remedied in time, must bring us finally to shame and everlasting contempt, and end in perfect and remediless destruction hereafter.
Another objection, which some have made against this doctrine, much like the former, is, that it tends to beget in us an ill opinion of our fellow-creatures, and so to promote ill-nature and mutual hatred.
To which I would say, if it be truly so, that we all come sinful into the world, then our heartily acknowledging it, tends to promote humility: but our disowning that sin and guilt which truly belongs to us, and endeavouring to persuade ourselves that we are vastly better than in truth we are, tends to a foolish self-exaltation and pride. And it is manifest, by reason, experience, and the word of God, that pride is the chief source of all the contention, mutual hatred, and ill-will which are so prevalent in the world; and that nothing so effectually promotes the contrary tempers and deportments, as humility. This doctrine teaches us to think no worse of others, than of ourselves: it teaches us, that we are all, as we are by nature, companions in a miserable helpless condition; which under a revelation of the divine mercy, tends to promote mutual compassion. And nothing has a greater tendency to promote those amiable dispositions of mercy, forbearance, long-suffering, gentleness, and forgiveness, than a sense of our own extreme unworthiness and misery, and the infinite need we have of the divine pity, forbearance, and forgiveness, together with a hope of obtaining mercy. If the doctrine which teaches that mankind are corrupt by nature, tends to promote ill-will, why should not Dr. T.‘s doctrine tend to it as much? For he teaches us, that the generality of mankind are very wicked, having made themselves so by their own free choice, without any necessity: which is a way of becoming wicked, that renders men truly worthy of resentment; but the other, not at all, even according to his own doctrine.
To which I shall briefly say, doubtless, supposing men are really become sinful, and so exposed to the displeasure of God, by whatever means, if they once come to have their eyes opened, and are not very stupid, the reflection on their case will tend to make them sorrowful; and it is fit it should. Men, with whom this is the case, may well be filled with sorrow, till they are sincerely willing to forsake their sins, and turn to God. But there is nothing in this doctrine, that in the least stands in the way of comfort and exceeding joy, to such as find in their hearts a sincere willingness wholly to forsake all sin, and give their hearts and whole selves to Christ, and comply with the gospel-method of salvation by him.
Another thing objected, is, that to make men believe that wickedness belongs to their very nature, tends to encourage them in sin, and plainly to lead them to all manner of iniquity; because they are taught, that sin is natural, and therefore necessary and unavoidable. 396396 Page 139, and 259.
But if this doctrine, which teaches that sin is natural to us, does also at the same time teach us, that it is never the better, or less to be condemned, for its being natural, then it does not at all encourage sin, any more than Dr. T.‘s doctrine encourages wickedness when it is become inveterate; who teaches that such as by custom have contracted strong habits of sin, are unable to help themselves. 397397 See his exposition on Rom. vii. p. 205 -220. But especially in his paraphrase and notes on the epistle. And is it reasonable, to represent it as encouraging a man in boldly neglecting and wilfully continuing in his disease, without seeking a cure, to tell him of his disease, to show him that it is real and very fatal, and what he can never cure himself of; yet withal directing him to a great Physician, who is sufficient for his restoration? But for a more particular answer to what is objected against the doctrine of our natural impotence and inability, as being an encouragement to go on in sin, and a discouragement to the use of all means for our help, I must for brevity refer the reader to what has been largely written on this head in my discourse on the Freedom of the Will.
Our author is pleased to advance another notion, among others, by way of objection against the doctrine of original sin: that if this doctrine be true, it would be unlawful to beget children. He says, 398398 Page 145. “If natural generation be the means of unavoidably conveying all sin and wickedness into the world, it must itself be a sinful and unlawful thing.” Now, if there be any force of argument here, it lies in this proposition, whatsoever is a means or occasion of the certain infallible existence of sin and wickedness, must itself be sinful. But I imagine Dr. T. had not thoroughly weighed this proposition, nor considered where it would carry him. For, God continuing in being the devil, and others that are finally given up to wickedness, will be attended, most certainly and infallibly, with an eternal series of the most hateful and horrid wickedness. But will any be guilty of such vile blasphemy, as to say, therefore God’s upholding of them in being is itself a sinful thing? In the same place our author says, “so far as we are generated in sin, it must be a sin to generate.” But there is no appearance of evidence in that position, any more than in this: “So far as any is upheld in existence in sin, it is a sin to uphold them in existence.” Yea, if there were any reason in the case, it would be strongest in the latter position: for parents, as Dr. T. himself observes, are not the authors of the beginning of existence: whereas, God is truly the author of the continuance of existence. As it is the known will of God, to continue Satan and millions of others in being, though the most sure consequence is the continuance of a vast infernal world, full of everlasting hellish wickedness: so it is part of the revealed will of God, that this world of mankind should be continued, and the species propagated, for his own wise and holy purposes; which will is complied with by the parents joined in lawful marriage. Their children, though they come into the world in sin, yet are capable subjects of eternal holiness and happiness: which infinite benefits for their children, parents have great reason to expect, in the way of giving up their children to God in faith, through a Redeemer, and bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I think, this may be answer enough to such a cavil.
Another objection is, That the doctrine of original sin is no oftener, and no more plainly, spoken of in Scripture; it being, if true, a very important doctrine. Dr. T. in many parts of his book suggests to his readers, that there are very few texts, in the whole Bible, wherein there is the least appearance of their teaching any such doctrine.
Of this I took notice before, but would here say further: That the reader who has perused the preceding defence of this doctrine, must now be left to judge for himself, whether there be any ground for such an allegation; whether there be not texts in sufficient number, both in the Old Testament and New, that exhibit undeniable evidence of this great article of christian divinity; and whether it be not a doctrine taught in the Scripture with great plainness. I think, there are few, if any, doctrines of revelation, taught more plainly and expressly. Indeed it is taught in an explicit manner more in the New Testament than in the Old. Which is not to be wondered at; it being thus with respect to all the most important doctrines of revealed religion.
231 But if it had been so, that this doctrine were but rarely taught in Scripture; yet if we find that it is indeed declared to us by God, if held forth to us by any word of his; then what belongs to us, is, to believe his word, and receive the doctrine which he teaches us; and not to prescribe to him how often he shall speak of it, and to insist upon knowing what reasons he has for speaking of it no oftener, before we will receive what he teaches us; or to pretend that he should give us an account, why he did not speak of it so plainly as we think he ought to have done, sooner than he did. In this way of proceeding, if it be reasonable, the Sadducees of old, who denied any resurrection or future state, might have maintained their cause against Christ, when he blamed them for not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God; and for not understanding by the Scripture, that there would be a resurrection to spiritual enjoyment, and not to animal life, and sensual gratifications; and they might have insisted, that these doctrines, if true, were very important, and therefore ought to have been spoken of in the Scriptures oftener and more explicitly, and not that the church of God should be left, till that time, with only a few obscure intimations of that which so infinitely concerned them. And they might with disdain have rejected Christ’s argument, by way of inference from God calling himself in the books of Moses, the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For answer, they might have said, that Moses was sent on purpose to teach the people the mind and will of God; and therefore, if these doctrines were true, he ought in reason and in truth to have taught them plainly and frequently, and not have left the people to spell out so important a doctrine, only from God’s saying, that he was the God of Abraham, &c.
One great end of the Scripture is; to teach the world what manner of being GOD is; about which the world, without revelation, has been so wofully in the dark: and that God is an infinite being, is a doctrine of great importance, and a doctrine sufficiently taught in the Scripture. But yet, it appears to me, this doctrine is not taught there, in any measure, with such explicitness and precision, as the doctrine of original sin: and the Socinians, who denied God’s omnipresence and omniscience, had as much room left them for cavil, as the Pelagians who deny original sin.
Dr. T. particularly urges, that Christ says not one word of this doctrine throughout the four Gospels; which doctrine, if true, being so important, and what so nearly concerned the great work of redemption, which he came to work out, (as is supposed,) one would think, it should have been emphatically spoken of in every page, of the Gospels. 399399 Page 242, 243.
In reply to this, it may be observed, that by the account given in the four Gospels, Christ was continually saying, those things which plainly implied, that all men in their original state are sinful and miserable. As, when he declared, that they which are whole, need not a physician, but they which are sick; 400400 Matt. ix.12. That he came to seek and to save that which was lost. 401401 Matt. xviii.11. Luke xix.10. That it was necessary for all to be born again, and to be converted, and that otherwise they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven; 402402 Matt. xviii. 3. —and, that all were sinners, as well as those whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, &c. and that every one who did not repent, should perish; 403403 Luke xiii.1-5. —Withal directing everyone to pray to God for forgiveness of sin; 404404 Matt.vi.12. Luke xi.4. —Using our necessity of forgiveness from God, as an argument with all to forgive the injuries of their neighbours; 405405 Matt. vi. 14, 15. —Teaching, that earthly parents, though kind to their children, are in themselves evil; 406406 Matt. vii. 11. —And signifying, that things carnal and corrupt are properly the things of men; 407407 Matt. xvi. 23. —Warning his disciples rather to beware of men, than of wild beasts; 408408 Matt. x.16, 17. —Often representing the world as evil, as wicked in its works, at enmity with truth and holiness, and hating him; 409409 John vii.7, viii.23, xiv. 17, xv. 18, 19. —Yea, and teaching plainly, that all men are extremely and inexpressibly sinful, owing ten thousand talents to their divine creditor. 410410 Matt. xviii. 21, to the end
And whether Christ did not plainly teach Nicodemus the doctrine of original total depravity, when he came to him to know what his doctrine was, must be left to the reader to judge, from what has been already observed on John iii. 1-11. And besides, Christ in the course of his preaching took the most proper method to convince men of the corruption of their nature, and to give them an effectual and practical knowledge of it, in application to themselves in particular, by teaching and urging the holy and strict law of God, in its extent, and spirituality, and dreadful threatenings: which, above all things, tends to search the hearts of men, and to teach them their inbred exceeding depravity; not merely as a matter of speculation, but by proper conviction of conscience; which is the only knowledge of original sin, that can avail to prepare the mind for receiving Christ’s redemption; as a man’s sense of his own sickness prepares him to apply in good earnest to the physician.
And as to Christ being no more frequent and particular in mentioning and inculcating this point in a doctrinal manner, it is probable, one reason to be given for it, is the same that is to be given for his speaking no oftener of God’s creating of the world: which, though so important a doctrine, is scarce ever spoken of in any of Christ’s discourses; and no wonder, seeing this was a matter which the Jews, to whom he confined his personal ministry, had all been instructed in from their forefathers, and never was called in question among them. And there is a great deal of reason, from the ancient Jewish writers, to suppose, that the doctrine of original sin had ever been allowed in the open profession of that people; 411411 What is found in the more ancient of the Jewish rabbies, who have written since the coming of Christ, is an argument of this. Many things of this sort are taken notice of by Stapferus, in his Theologia Polemica before mentioned. Some of these things which are there cited by him in Latin, I shall here faithfully give in English, for the sake of the English reader. ”—So Manasseh, concerning Human Frailty. p. 129.—Gen viii. 21. I will not any more curse the earth for man’s sake; for the appetite of man is evil from his youth; that is, from the time when he comes forth from his mother’s womb. For at the same time that he sucks the breasts, he follows his lust; and while he is yet an infant, he is under the dominion of anger, envy, hatred, and other vices to which that tender age is obnoxious.”— ”Prov. xxii. 15. Solomon says, Foolishness is bound to the mind of a child.” Concerning which place R. Levi Ben Gersom observes thus, “Foolishness as it were grows to him in his very beginning.” Concerning this sin, which is common and original to all men, David said, Psal. ii. 5. Behold I was begotten in iniquity, and in sin did my mother warm me. Upon which place Ebeb-Ezra says thus: “Behold, because of the concupiscence which is innate in the heart of man, it is said, I am begotten in iniquity. And the sense is, that there is implanted in the heart of man, jetzer harang, an evil figment, from his nativity.” And Manasseh Ben Israel, de Fragil. pag. 2. “Behold, I was formed in iniquity, and in sin hath my mother warmed me. But whether this be understood concerning the common mother, which was Eve, or whether David spake only of his own mother, he would signify, that sin is as it were natural, and inseparable in this life. For it is to be observed, that Eve conceived after the transgression was committed: and as many as were begotten afterwards, were not brought forth in conformity to the rule of right reason, but in conformity to disordly and lustful affections.” He adds, “One of the wise men of the Jews, namely, R. Aha, rightly observed, David would signify that it is impossible, even for pious men who excel in virtue, never to commit any sin.” “Job also asserts the same thing with David, chap xiv. 4. saying, “Who will give a clean thing for an unclean? Truly not one.” Concerning which words Aben-Ezra says thus: “The sense is the same with that, I was begotten in iniquity, because man is made out of an unclean thing.” Stapferus, Theolog. Polem. tom. iii. p. 36, 37. Id. Ibid. p. 132, &c. So Sal. Jarchi ad Gemaram, Cod. Schabbath, fol. 142. p. 2. “And this is not only to be referred to sinners; because all the posterity of the first man are in like manner subjected to all the curses pronounced on him.” And Manasseh Ben Israel, in his preface to Human Fraility, says, “I had a mind to show by what means it came to pass, that when the first father of all had lost his righteousness, his posterity are begotten liable to the same punishment with him.” And Munsterus on the Gospel of Matthew cites the following words, from the book called The Bundle of Myrrh:” The blessed Lord said to the first man, when he cursed him, Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. The thing which he means is, that because of his sin all who should descend from him, should be wicked and perverse, like thorns and thistles, according to that word of the Lord, speaking to the prophet: Thorns and irritators are with thee, and thou dwellest among scorpions. And all this from the serpent, who was the devil, Sammael, who emitted a mortiferous and corruptive poison into Eve, and became the cause of death to Adam himself, when he eat the the fruit.” Remarkable is the place quoted in Joseph de Voisin, against Martin Raymond, p. 471. of Master Menachem Rakanatensis, sect. Bereschit, from Midrasch Tehillim: which is cited by Hoerndekius, against the Jews, in these words: “It is no wonder, that the sin of Adam and Eve is written and sealed with the king’s ring, and to be propagated to all following generations; because on the day that Adam was created, all things were finished: so that he stood forth the perfection and completion of the whole workmanship of the world: so when he sinned, the whole world sinned; whose sin we bear and suffer. But the matter is not thus with respect to the sins of his posterity.” —Thus far Stapferus. Besides these, as Ainsworth on Gen. viii. 21. observes, “In Bereshith Rabba, a Hebrew commentary on this place, a rabbin is said to be asked, When is the evil imagination put into man? And he answered, From the hour that he is formed.” And in Pool’s Synopsis it is added, from Grotius, “So Rabbi Salomon interprets Gen. viii. 21. The imagination of man’s heart, is evil from his youth, of its being evil from the time that he is taken out of his mother’s bowels.” Aben-Ezra thus interprets Psal. li. 5. “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me; that evil concupiscence is implanted in the heart from childhood, as if he were formed in it; and by my mother, he understands Eve, who did not bear children till she had sinned. And so Kafvenaki says, How shall I avoid sinning? My ORIGINAL is corrupt, and from thence are those sins. So Manasseh Ben Israel, from this place (Psal. li. 5.) concludes, that not only David, but all mankind, ever since sin was introduced into the world, do sin from their original. To this purpose is the answer of Rabbi Hakkadosch which there is an account of in the Talmud. From what time does concupiscence rule over man? From the very moment of his first formation, or from his nativity? Ans. From his formation.”’—Pool’s Synops. in Loc. On these things I observe, there is the greatest reason to suppose, that these old rabbies of the Jewish nation, who give such heed to the tradition of the elders, would never have received this doctrine of original sin, had it not been delivered down to them from their forefathers. For it is a doctrine very disagreeable to those practical principles and notions, wherein the religion of the unbelieving Jews most fundamentally differs from the religion maintained among Christians: particularly their notion of justification by their own righteousness, and privileges as the children of Abraham. &c. without standing in need of any satisfaction, by the sufferings of the Messiah. On which account the modern Jews do now universally reject the doctrine of original sin, and corruption of nature: as Stapferus observes. And it is not at all likely, that the ancient Jews, if no such doctrine had been received by tradition from the fathers would have taken it up from the Christians, whom they had in such great contempt and enmity; especially as it is a doctrine so peculiarly agreeable to the christian notion of the spiritual salvation of Jesus, and so contrary to their carnal notions of the Messiah, and of his salvation and kingdom, and so contrary to their opinion of themselves; and a doctrine, which men in general are so apt to be prejudiced against. And besides, these rabbies do expressly refer to the opinion of their forefathers; as R. Manasseh says, “according to the opinion of the ancients, none are subject to death, but those which have sinned; for where there is no sin, there is no death.” Stapfer. tom. iii. p. 37, 38. But where we have more direct evidence, that the doctrine of original sin was truly a received doctrine among the ancient Jews, even before the coming of Christ. This appears by ancient Jewish writings, which were written before Christ: as, in the apocrypha, 2 Esdras iii. 21. “For the first Adam, bearing a wicked heart, transgressed, and was overcome: and so be all they that are born of him. Thus infirmity was made permanent; and the law also in the heart of the people, with the malignity of the root; so that the good departed away, and the evil abode still.” 2 Esdras iv. 30. “For the grain of evil seed hath been sown in the heart of Adam, from the beginning; and how much ungodliness hath it brought up unto this time? And how much shall it yet bring forth, till the time of threshing shall come?” And chap. vii. 46. “It had been better, not to have given the earth unto Adam; or else, when it was given to him, to have restrained him from sinning; for what profit is it, for men now in this present time, to live in heaviness, and after death to look for punishment? O thou Adam, what hast thou done? For though it was thou that sinned, thou art not fallen alone, but we all that came of thee.” And we read Eccl. xxv. 24. “Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” As this doctrine of original corruption was constantly maintained in the church of God from the beginning; so from thence, in all probability, as well as from the evidennce of it in universal experience, it was, that the wiser heathens maintained the like doctrine. Particularly Plato, that great philosopher, so distinguished for his veneration of ancient traditions, and diligent inquiries after them. Gale, in his Court of the Gentiles, observes as follows: “PLATO says, (Gorg. fol. 493.) I have heard from the wise men, that are now dead, and that the body is but our sepulchre. And in his Timaeus Locrus (fol. 103) he says, The cause of vitiosity is from our parents, and first principles, rather than from ourselves. So that we never relinquish those actions, which lead us to follow those primitive blemishes of our first parents. Plato mentions the corruption of the will, and seems to disown free will to true good; albeit he allows some (NOT ENGLISH), or natural dispositions, to civil good, in some great heroes. Socrates asserted the corruption of human nature, or (NOT ENGLISH) .—Grotius affirms, that the philosophers acknowledged, it was con-natural to men to sin. Seneca (Benef. 5. 14.) says, wickedness has not its first beginning in wicked practice; though by that it is first exercised and made manifest. And Plutarch (de sera vindictis) says man does not first become wicked, when he first manifests himself so: but he hath wickedness from the beginning; and he shows it as soon as he finds opportunity and ability. As men rightly judge, that the sting is not first engendered in scorpions when they strike, or the poison in vipers when they bite.—Pool’s Synopsis on Gen. viii. 21. To which may be subjoined what Juvenal says, —Admores natura recurrit Damnates fixa et mutari nescia. Englished thus, in prose: Nature, a thing fixed and not knowing how to change, returns to its wicked manners.—WATTS, Ruin and Recovery. though they were generally, in that corrupt time, very far from a practical 232 conviction of it; and many notions were then prevalent, especially among the Pharisees, which were indeed inconsistent with it. And though on account of these prejudices they might need to have this doctrine explained and applied to them, yet it is well known, by all acquainted with their Bibles, that Christ, for wise reasons, spake more sparingly and obscurely of several of the most important doctrines of revealed religion, relating to the necessity, grounds, nature, and way of his redemption, and the method of the justification of sinners, while he lived here in the flesh; and left these doctrines to be more plainly and fully opened and inculcated by the Holy Spirit after his ascension.
But if, after all, Christ did not speak of this doctrine often enough to suit Dr. T. he might be asked, Why he supposes Christ did no oftener and no more plainly teach some of his, Dr. T.‘s, doctrines, which he so much insists on? As, that temporal death comes on all mankind by Adam; and that it comes on them by him, not as a punishment or calamity, but as a great favour, being made a rich benefit, and a fruit of God’s abundant grace, by Christ’s redemption, who came into the world as a second Adam for this end. Surely, if this were so, it was of vast importance, that it should be known to the church of God in all ages, who saw death reigning over infants, as well as others. If infants were indeed perfectly innocent, was it not needful, that the design of that which was such a melancholy and awful dispensation towards so many millions of innocent creatures, should be known, in order to prevent the worst thoughts of God from arising in the minds of the constant spectators of so mysterious and gloomy a dispensation? But why then such a total silence about it, for four thousand years together, and not one word of it in all the Old Testament; nor one word of it in all the four Gospels: and indeed not one word of it in the whole Bible, but only as forced and wrung out by Dr. T.‘s arts of criticism and deduction, against the plainest and strongest evidence?
As to the arguments, made use of by many late writers, from the universal moral sense, and the reasons they offer from experience, and observation of the nature of mankind, to show that we are born into the world with principles of virtue; with a natural prevailing relish, approbation, and love of righteousness, truth, and goodness, and of whatever tends to the public welfare; with a prevailing natural disposition to dislike, to resent, and condemn what is selfish, unjust, and immoral; and a native bent in mankind to mutual benevolence, tender compassion, &c. those who have had such objections against the doctrine of original sin thrown in their way, and desire to see them particularly considered, I ask leave to refer them to a treatise on the nature of true virtue, lying by me prepared for the press, which may ere long be exhibited to public view. 412412 See Dissertation concerning the Nature of True Virtue, p. 122.
On the whole, I observe, there are some other things, besides arguments, in Dr. T.‘s book, which are calculated to influence the minds, and bias the judgment, of some sorts of readers. Here, not to insist on the profession he makes, in many places, of sincerity, humility, meekness, modesty, charity, &c. in searching after truth; and freely proposing his thoughts, with the reasons of them, to others; 413413 See his Preface, and p. 6. 237, 263, 267, 175. S. nor on his magisterial assurance, appearing on many occasions, and the high contempt he sometimes expresses of the opinions and arguments of very excellent divines and fathers in the church of God, who have thought differently from him 414414 Page 110, 125, 150, 151, 159, 161, 183, 188. 77. S. —both of which, it is not unlikely, may have a degree of influence on some of his readers—I would take some notice of another thing, observable in the writings of Dr. T. and many of the late opposers of the more peculiar doctrines of Christianity, tending (especially with juvenile and unwary readers) not a little to abate the force, and prevent the due effect, of the clearest scripture-evidences in favour of those important doctrines; and particularly to make void the arguments taken from the writings of the apostle Paul, in which those doctrines are more plainly and fully revealed, than in any other part of the Bible. What I mean, is this: These gentlemen express a high opinion of this apostle, and that very justly, for his eminent genius, his admirable sagacity, strong powers of reasoning, acquired learning, &c. They speak of him as a writer of masterly address, of extensive reach, and deep design, every where in his epistles, almost in every word he says. This looks exceedingly specious: it carries a plausible appearance of christian zeal and attachment to the Holy Scriptures, to bear such a testimony of high veneration for that great apostle, who was not only the principal instrument of propagating Christianity, but with his own hand wrote so considerable a part of the New Testament. And I am far from determining, with respect at least to some of these writers, that they are not sincere in their declarations; or, that all is mere artifice, only to make way for the reception of their own peculiar sentiments. However, it tends 233 greatly to subserve such a purpose; as much as if it were designedly contrived, with the utmost subtilty, for that end. Hereby their incautious readers are prepared the more easily to be drawn into a belief, that they, and others in their way of thinking, have not rightly understood many of those things in this apostle’s writings, which before seemed very plain to them. Thus they are prepared, by a prepossession in favour of these new writers, to entertain a favourable thought of the interpretations put by them upon the words and phrases of this apostle; and to admit in many passages a meaning which before lay entirely out of sight; quite foreign to all that in the view of a common reader seems to be their obvious sense; and most remote from the expositions agreed in by those who used to be esteemed the greatest divines, and best commentators. As to this apostle, being a man of no vulgar understanding, it is nothing strange if his meaning lies very deep; and no wonder then, if the superficial observation of vulgar Christians, or indeed of the herd of common divines, such as the Westminster Assembly, &c. falls vastly short of the apostle’s reach, and frequently does not enter into the true spirit and design of his epistles. They must understand, that the first reformers, and indeed preachers and expositors in general, for fifteen or sixteen hundred years past, were too unlearned and short-sighted, to be capable of penetrating into the sense, or fit to make comments on the writings, of so great a man as this apostle; or else had dwelt in a cave of bigotry and superstition, too gloomy to allow them to use their own understandings with freedom, in reading the Scripture. But, at the same time, it must be understood, that there is risen up now at length, in this happy age of light and liberty, a set of men, of a more free and generous turn of mind, of a more inquisitive genius, and of better discernment. By such insinuations, they seek advantage to their cause; and thus the most unreasonable and extravagant interpretations of Scripture are palliated and recommended: so that, if the simple reader is not very much on his guard, if he does not clearly see with his own eyes, or has too much indolence, or too little leisure, thoroughly to examine for himself, he is in danger of being imposed on with delusive appearances.
But I humbly conceive, that their interpretations—particularly of the apostle Paul’s writings, though in some things ingenious—are in many things extremely absurd, and demonstrably disagreeable, in the highest degree, to his real design, to the language he commonly uses, and to the doctrines currently taught in his epistles. Their criticisms, when examined, appear far more subtile, than solid; and it seems as if nothing can possibly be strong enough, nothing perspicuous enough, in any composure whatever, to stand before such liberties as these writers indulge. The plainest and most nervous discourse is analyzed and criticized, till it either dissolves into nothing, or becomes a thing of little significance. The Holy Scripture is subtilized into a mere mist; or made to evaporate into a thin cloud, that easily puts on any shape, and is moved in any direction, with a puff of wind, just as the manager pleases. It is not in the nature and power of language, to afford sufficient defence against such an art, so abused; as, I imagine, a due consideration of some things I have had occasion in the preceding discourse to observe, may abundantly convince us.
But this, with the rest of what I have offered on the subject, must be left with every candid reader’s judgment; and the success of the whole must now be left with God, who knows what is agreeable to his own mind, and is able to make his own truths prevail; however mysterious they may seem to the poor, partial, narrow, and extremely imperfect views of mortals, while looking through a cloudy and delusory medium; and however disagreeable they may be to the innumerable prejudices of men’s hearts:— and who has promised, that the gospel of christ, such as is really his, shall finally be victorious; and has assured us, that the word which goes out of his mouth, shall not return to him void, but shall accomplish that which he pleaseth, and shall prosper in the thing whereto he sends it.—Let god arise, and plead his own cause, and glorify his own great name. amen.
|« Prev||CHAPTER IV. Several other Objections answered.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version