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§ 11. Preëxistence.
The principle that a man can be justly held responsible or regarded as guilty only for his own voluntary acts and for then subjective consequences, is so plausible that to many minds it has the authority of an intuitive truth. It is, however, so clearly the 215doctrine of the Bible and the testimony of experience that men are born in sin, that they come into the world in a state of guilt and of moral pollution, that a necessity arises of reconciling this fact with what they regard as self-evidently true. Two theories have been proposed to effect this reconciliation. The first is that of preexistence. Origen, and after him here and there one in the history of the Church, down to the present day, assumed that men existed in another state of being before their birth in this world, and having voluntarily sinned against God in that previous state of being, they come into this world burdened with the guilt and pollution due to their own voluntary act. This view of the subject never having been adopted by any Christian church, it does not properly belong to Christian theology. It is sufficient to remark concerning it: —
1. That it does not pretend to be taught in the Scriptures, and therefore cannot be an article of faith. Protestants unite in teaching that “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, and man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or the traditions of men.” As the doctrine of the preexistence of souls is neither expressly set down in the Bible, nor deducible from it, as is admitted, it cannot be received as one of the formative principles of Christian doctrine. All that its Christian advocates claim is that it is not contradicted in Scripture, and therefore that they are free to hold it.
2. But even this cannot be conceded. It is expressly contrary to the plain teachings of the Word of God. According to the history of the creation, man was formed in the image of God. His body was fashioned out of the dust of the earth, and his soul was derived immediately from God, and was pronounced by him “very good.” This is utterly inconsistent with the idea that Adam was a fallen spirit. The Bible also teaches that Adam was created in the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and fell from that state here in this life, and not in a previous and higher state of being. The Scriptures also, as we have seen, say that it was by one man that sin entered into the world, and death by sin, because all sinned in that one man. There is a causal relation between the sin of Adam and the condemnation and sinfulness of his posterity. This contradicts the theory which refers the present sinfulness of men, not to the act of Adam, but to the voluntary act of each individual man, in a previous state of existence.216
3. This doctrine is as destitute of all support from the testimony of consciousness as from the authority of Scripture. No man has any reminiscences of a previous existence. There is nothing in his present state which connects him with a former state of being. It is a simple, pure assumption, without the slightest evidence from any known facts.
4. The theory, if true, affords no relief. Sins of which we know nothing; which were committed by us before we were born; which cannot be brought home to the conscience as our own sins, can never be the righteous grounds of punishment, any more than the acts of an idiot. It is unnecessary however to pursue this subject further, as the objections against the realistic theory, in most instances, bear with equal force against the theory of preexistence.
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