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VI.

ORIGINAL SIN.

IN advancing to the doctrine of original sin, we are still dealing with the Epistles of St. Paul and with the doctrine of St. Paul. Our aim has been throughout to trace the growth of the idea of sin to its full consciousness in the primitive Church; and St. Paul is the last expression of this consciousness. Within the sphere of Revelation we do not reach any further development of the doctrine, although still further developments awaited it in the thought of the fifth century, and in the later thought of Protestantism. We have been so much in the habit of identifying these later modes of thought with certain passages in the Pauline Epistles, that it is difficult for us to separate them. Such passages have so long spoken with an Augustinian or Arminian voice, that we can hardly read them without catching the argumentative tone of the one or other. But such voices are the 170afterthought of the Church heard in controversy, and not the original voice of St. Paul. It lies in the very principle of the historic method that we should try to distinguish the original from the after thought, and, as I said before, read always forwards instead of backwards.

Deeply as St. Augustine had drunk of the spirit of St. Paul, and closely kindred as they were in intellectual and emotional nature, they were yet widely separated in time and circumstances. There is a great interval of thought betwixt the first and the fifth century, and a very changed atmosphere surrounds the African Bishop from that which surrounded the Apostle of the Gentiles. It is well for us to know how St. Augustine interpreted St. Paul. No student can probably understand the full meaning of the latter who does not know something of the former: yet Augustinianism is something quite distinct from Paulinism. It had to deal with different questions and different adversaries—with the Pelagian instead of the Pharisee—with the full-grown Manichee instead of the infant Gnostic. In the great conflict of his day, against Manichæan and Pelagian opponents alike, St. Augustine was mighty through God in the truth of St. Paul. From the great apostle he drew the strength of his convictions, and the weapons of his warfare. He developed St. Paul’s thought in order to meet and confound the errors around him; 171and he did this with so much power, with such a living insight into the profundities of that thought, and such a genius of intellectual and spiritual authority, that he has left the impress of his theology upon the Western Church until this day—surviving alike the influence of the Reformation and the more serious disintegration of modern criticism. The Church of the West can never speak of St. Augustine in other words than those of reverence. But this is no reason why we should only read St. Paul through his interpretations. The very dominance of his influence should rather put us on our guard against doing so. St. Paul is too great a figure even to stand behind St. Augustine, and his thought in all its bearings is to be caught if possible by the theological student in its original freshness and life. It is difficult, no doubt, to do this. It cannot be done without a special training. Standing as we do at the end of a long line of controversial thought, it is hard for us to get to the beginning and unwind the line downwards. It is much easier for us to take the end as the beginning, and not trouble ourselves further. But this is to abandon Theology as a science; and in such a case we had better let it alone altogether.

In dealing further with the Pauline doctrine of sin, or with that final aspect of it which is known as the doctrine of Original Sin, it will not be possible altogether 172to avoid points which owe their importance to later theology—so much of this theology rises directly out of the heart of the apostle’s thought. Still it will be our aim to keep here, as elsewhere, close to our subject,—to steer as clear of controversy as we can, and to fix our attention down to the living features of the Pauline theology in itself. The interest felt in these Lectures has been mainly owing, as I fancy, to the manner in which I have sought to look at the subject, and to trace the great and solemn idea with which it is concerned along the fresh lines of its development in the spiritual consciousness of the race, rather than to make it a topic for polemical argument, however well-intentioned. Controversy can never cease in Theology any more than in other subjects of inquiry; and in it, more often than in many other subjects, the thesis or the affirmative can only be clearly seen and understood in contrast with the antithesis or negative. Truth can only be made bright in the face of error. Yet theological ideas will only rise into the region of Science, and become living ideas for all reverent intellects of whatever Church, when they have been rescued by the labours of many thinkers from the atmosphere of party controversy, and set in the light of a comprehensive inquiry into all the facts of that spiritual Order which runs through human history;—in other words, when they are seen to be real growths of that spiritual 173consciousness which is not only inseparable from Humanity, but which is its highest manifestation in all times of healthy moral and intellectual progress.

In our preceding Lecture we dealt with the doctrine of St. Paul in so far as it may be said to be a doctrine of experience. Three special points occupied us: Ist, The universality of sin; 2d, The nature or seat of sin; and 3d, Its effects or consequences. For the proof of all these points St. Paul appealed to experience. The universality of sin was no mere theory or opinion of his, enforced by his authority. He looked on the Gentile and the Jewish world alike, and saw them “guilty before God.” The righteousness or spiritual good for which man was formed—his own conscience being the witness—was nowhere realised. All had sinned and come short of that glory of God, without sharing in which there could be no human blessedness. This miserable conclusion was clearly proved to him by the facts around him; and the facts were not, alas! exceptional facts, save in some darker features. Man is no less a sinner at all points of his history than in the time of St. Paul. In explanation of the rise of sin in us, and its nature, he no less appealed to experience. His whole analysis. of the “flesh” and the “spirit,” and again, of the “flesh” and the “mind,” and of the conflict ever raging betwixt these higher and lower elements of our being, was in the main an appeal to 174the experience of all in whom any higher life has been awakened, who have risen from the death of the mere nature-life to the consciousness of an Ideal or a sense of duty, for which they ought to live—after which they ought to aspire. And, lastly, in speaking of the consequences of sin, he described these as more or less experienced by all who yield to the “law of sin and death” that is in their members. The end unto death is one which sinners may or may not realise in its fulness, but it is nevertheless always a reality. The wages may be deferred, or may not be consciously received; but they are paid, without stint, sooner or later. The fatal consequences may not always equally appear, but they never fail in some form or another.

So far, therefore, the doctrine of the apostle may be said to be a doctrine of experience. His analysis is an analysis of spiritual facts, verifiable by you and by me, and by all who have the same spiritual nature. The facts may be denied. The apostle was quite well aware of this. But that did not alter his estimate of their reality. He had no doubt they would approve themselves whenever the voice of conscience was heard in a man, or the power of any divine Ideal taken hold of by him. This was enough for him. The state of those who knew nothing of the facts was out of account. It was a state worse than the most bitter consciousness of sin, because it was 175one in which the true life of man, as distinguished from his lower or mere animal life, had not yet emerged.

1. But besides this doctrine of experience, there is a further doctrine in St. Paul—a philosophy of the subject, which in part at least transcends experience. Sin is not only in human nature—the expression of that lower side of it which he calls the “flesh,”—but it is an hereditary characteristic of it. Man is born in sin. In one sense, this may be said to be a mere truism. If man is composed of flesh as well as mind or reason—if there is a lower carnal life in all, and the only question is not as to the experience of the lower but of the higher life—then there can be no doubt that sin is an original element of human nature. It comes to us by birth. The universality of sin implies that sin is the outgrowth of original tendencies, and that man is a sinner, not merely by the fact that he deliberately chooses the evil rather than the good, but because his nature is evil, or has inherited evil properties. To this extent, the doctrine of original sin is a mere generalisation from obvious facts. The mixed impulses with which we come into the world bear their natural fruit of good and evil. Not only so; but, as it is the lower or animal side of human life that may be said to grow first—to put forth its shoots with most vigour in the beginning—it is inevitable that 176the manifestations of our lower life should show an early activity, and that evil rather than good should spring up in the fertile soil. There is nothing that can be said to transcend experience in such a doctrine as this; nor is there anything in it that can well admit of question on any hypothesis of human origin and destiny.

That all individual men and women are what they are of good or evil, in virtue not only of their own individual acts, but of inherited tendencies which have descended from a long antecedent past, is so far an indisputable conclusion. No creature is, so to speak, merely itself in the world. It is where it is, or what it is, as the result of an indefinite advance and appropriation of preceding forms of existence. And this is true not only of the forms of animal life, but of all organic forms, moral and intellectual as well as animal. There is a continuous growth everywhere, and all share in this growth. All come forth from the teeming bosom of the past. None stand isolated or self-centred. Not to speak of the necessary connection between the higher and the lower nature of man—a connection which none can deny, however strenuously they may resist the materialistic interpretations drawn from it—intellectual and moral life by themselves are seen to run along continuous threads, and to grow into what they are as the result of many accessories. They are no more 177isolated than any other phenomena of nature and of life.

The doctrine of hereditary corruption, therefore, stating it merely as we are now stating it, is so far from being contradictory to modern ideas, that it may be said to be a direct corollary from the doctrine of evolution. Assuming that there is sin at all in the world, or something answering to what we call sin, it becomes a direct inference from the scientific observation of facts, that sin has propagated itself from generation to generation and from race to race. If it is a feature in humanity, it is a feature which has come to us from our progenitors, and contributed its share to make man what he now is. If what we call corruption is universal, then it is necessarily hereditary. For, in fact, there is nothing in our human nature, or, for that part of the matter, in nature anywhere, which is not so far hereditary. All forms of life and activity have a lineage. They are only what they are as the outcome of this lineage; and man, therefore, can only be a sinner because he has come of a line of sinners, and the evil that is in him has been passed over to him from those who have gone before him.

2. But the doctrine of the apostle is something more than this: it is something, indeed, very different from this. His mind does not move on the plane of inductive observation at all. He was a 178great master of facts within the spiritual sphere, a psychological analyst of no mean skill. He delights to deal with the realities of our inward experience, and to make the truth manifest in the sight of conscience. But he would never have dreamt of looking for any confirmation of his special doctrine in the laws of the natural world. The natural world was far less real to him than the spiritual,—and cosmic conceptions had no place in his mind beside the religious and scholastic conceptions in which he had been bred as a Pharisee, and which were illuminated and spiritualised, not extinguished, by his Christian culture. In his full explanation of the universality of sin, therefore, he rises into a quite different atmosphere, and travels beyond the range of ordinary experience. Sin is with him not merely transmitted to us, as all our qualities must be transmitted: but it comes to us by definite passage from the sin of Adam as the prototype and representative of our race. His idea of original sin is not simply the transmission of sinful qualities from generation to generation by the principle of natural inheritance. It is an idea of spiritual injury and penal consequence inflicted upon the race by the first sin, and directly imputed to the race in consequence of that sin. This is the doctrine which he lays down in two well-known passages,189189   Rom. v. 12 et seq.; 1 Cor. xv. 22. one of which in the fifth chapter of the 179Epistle to the Romans has long been a subject of difficulty and controversy.

It may be urged, as some have done,190190   See remarks of Mr. Jowett, Appendix XIX. that too much importance has been attached to these passages of St. Paul. They form, after all, but a small part of his writings—a few verses amongst thousands. Yet the commentary on them has filled the Christian world, and great parties in the Church have waged around them an incessant strife. It may be granted that Christian controversialists have made too much of these detached portions of St. Paul’s writings. It is the bane of all controversy to concentrate attention upon single points, and to forget the connection of thought and doctrine in the emphasis of these points. Texts have played an unhappy part in the history of Theology, and led men’s minds away from the balance and co-ordination of Christian truth. This has come from a wrong conception of Revelation, and is passing away with the conception out of which it sprang. But, admitting this, we may be sure that the instinct of the Church has not been wrong in attributing vital importance to the passages in question, and that they bring before us very fundamental elements of St. Paul’s thought. His doctrine of original sin may have been argued too endlessly in the Church, and drawn out into conclusions which it will hardly bear. 180But it is one of real moment in his whole system of thought.

The passage in the Epistle to the Romans runs as follows in our version:191191   Διὰ τοῦτο ὥσπερ δι᾽ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰς τὸν κόσμον εἰσῆλθεν, καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος, καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν, ἐφ᾽ ῷ πάντες ἥμαρτον. Ἄχρι γὰρ νόμου ἁμαρτία ἦν ἐν κόσμῳ, ἁμαρτία δὲ οὐκ ἐλλογεῖται μὴ ὄντος νόμου. Ἀλλὰ ἐβασίλευσεν ὁ θάνατος ἀπὸ Ἀδὰμ μέχρι Μωϋσέως καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς μὴ ἁμαρτήσαντας ἐπὶ τῷ ὁμοιώματι τῆς παραβάσεως Ἀδὰμ, ὅς ἐστιν τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος.—Rom. v. 12-14. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned. For until the law” (up to the time of giving the law) “sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” Further, in the nineteenth verse:192192   Ὥσπερ γὰρ διὰ τῆς παρακοῆς τοῦ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἁμαρτωλοὶ κατεστάθησαν οἱ πολλοί, οὕτως καὶ διὰ τη̂ς ὑπακοη̂ς του̂ ἑνὸς δίκαιοι κατασταθήσονται οἱ πολλοί.—Rom. v. 19. “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” The passage in the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians is comparatively brief and general: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”193193   Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῳ̂ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται.—1 Cor. xv. 22.

The thought of the apostle in these and other 181passages circulates around Adam on the one hand, and Christ on the other, as centres of spiritual influence. The state of man before Christ, and the state of man after—or of all who belong to Christ and share in His redeeming work—is strongly contrasted. Adam, as sinner, gives its character to the one; Christ, as Saviour and the righteous One, gives its character to the other. In the passage from the Epistle to the Romans, sin and death are represented as the ruling powers in the world. Adam is the source through which they have entered into the world. Through his one act of sin, Adam not only fell himself, but the line of spiritual integrity was broken in him. The flaw extended to the race. “Sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all, for that all have sinned.” In other- words, sin passed to us from Adam, and death from sin. This is the simple meaning of the words as they stand in our version. They might seem at first to add little to the doctrine of hereditary corruption as generalised from the facts of experience. But on a closer view they will be found to add various features to this doctrine. They emphasise the position of Adam as not merely the first in a line of sinners, but as the type or representative of the whole line—one whose act was fatal not only for himself, but for all who followed him. All mankind fell with him into the death which he 182had incurred. (a.) This typical character of Adam; (b.) the descent of spiritual depravity from him; and (c.) the fatal character of the results which followed not only for himself but for his posterity—in other words, the judicial character of these results in their downward passage—are all ideas more or less involved in the passage. Let us look at them a little more carefully, and see how far they are true ideas of the apostle without special reference to the deductions of later theology.

(a.) As to the first or the typical character of Adam, there can be no doubt. This thought is plainly implied in the passage as a whole, as well as in the passage quoted from the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and in other passages of the same chapter.194194   1 Cor. xv. 45, 47. It is a familiar thought of the apostle. Adam was with him not only the first man historically, but the first man representatively. He stands before all others not only in time, but in idea. He is the earthly type, as Christ is the spiritual type, of humanity. This contrast of typical relation is no accident of the apostle’s thought. It is embedded in it, and reappears constantly. There is a sense to him in which mankind were summed up in Adam, as believers are summed up in Christ. He has a profound feeling of the unity of the race, and of this unity Adam is a type or symbol. His act is therefore 183more than his own act. It has consequences not merely of historical sequence, but of representative meaning.

(b.) But the unity of the human race is with St. Paul no mere natural unity, or unity of external conditions. He looks at man not from the outside, but from the inside, and sees the race everywhere bound together by inward links. It is true that it is the lower and not the higher side of humanity that Adam represents and sums up. Christ is the representative of the higher or spiritual side—the Lord from heaven. But even man’s lower relations are inwardly apprehended. It is not merely natural dispositions that have come from Adam—it is sin—an inward depravity—a will enfeebled for all that is good, and prone to all that is evil. This inward view of the apostle separates his thought from all mere physiological considerations. These he neither denied nor affirmed. They were out of his sight. When he speaks of man, even on the lower or earthly side of his being, as represented by Adam,—he thinks of him as a being under moral conditions and responsibilities. The transmission of sin, therefore, is with him not a mere accumulation of evil dispositions and tendencies, but an injury in the will or moral power.

(c.) This injury is characterised by him as death. In our last Lecture we so far expounded the meaning of this expression, and promised to return to it; and 184it is in connection with this subject, or the consequences of Adam’s sin, that the special difficulty of St. Paul’s doctrine arises. The full force of what the apostle means by death is brought before us in the two passages under consideration. It is the dissolution of the inward life of righteousness, which is alone the true life of all the true children of God. But it is also more than this. It is a state of condemnation, or of liability to punishment. The presence of sin is not merely ruinous in us, but it calls down the judgment of God. The “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” There can be no other relation betwixt our unrighteousness and the righteousness of God but a relation of condemnation. And this relation is passed over to men by the Fall. “And so death has passed upon all men, for that” (ἐφ᾽ ᾧ) “all have sinned.”

The precise meaning of these few words has been vehemently contested. Do they imply merely, as in our version is all their obvious meaning, that as death followed the sin of Adam, so death follows the sin of all? All die, because all have sinned. Or is the thought that death or condemnation follows directly and universally the commission of Adam’s sin, irrespective of personal sin? Under the influence of this last view Augustine translated the words, “in whom all have sinned;” and this translation has 185passed into the Vulgate.195195   ”In quo omnes peccaverunt.” See Appendix XX. for a more special statement of Augustine’s views. Instead of translating the words conjunctively, as from the earlier times of the Church they had been understood, and as they are rendered in our version, he sought to find a subject to the relative196196   . in Adam as the first man. But no modern scholar can be said to advocate this translation, which, moreover, yields a meaning at variance with the context. For how does the apostle proceed in his argument? “For until the law,” he says, or up to the time of the law, “sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” He had stated that sin was introduced into the world by one man, or by Adam’s transgression of the divine law, and that death had followed sin, and passed upon all. But an objection seems to occur to him—If sin is always the transgression of law, what are we to make of the period betwixt Adam and Moses, when there was no positive law given to mankind? How could sin be reckoned against man when there was no law? He answers in the verses that follow: “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” The evidence, therefore, that there was really sin in the world then, is that death prevailed. It is true that sinners then were 186not sinners in the same sense as Adam. They did not transgress a positive divine law as he did. But they were none the less sinners. Although they had no definite law or express divine command given them to test their obedience, they had the law of reason and of conscience. The voice of God might have been heard in their hearts if they had listened to it. But they failed to do this, and they sinned therefore, although not after the similitude of Adam’s sin. He does not explain all this. His reasoning is enigmatic here, as in many other places; but this is clearly his thought, as elsewhere expressed in the epistle. The sufficient evidence to his mind of the presence of sin in all the time from Adam to Moses is the prevalence of death during this time. Death reigned then as at other times.

It seems plain, therefore, that the apostle connects death in every case with the personal commission of sin. The death which has passed upon all men is not merely a death on account of Adam’s sin, but on account of their own sins. Death is everywhere the evidence of sin. It implies sin; and its universality, therefore, is a proof of the universality of sin, just as its prevalence during the period from Adam to Moses was a proof that men were sinners then as at all other times, although they were not living under definite law. “The apostle’s idea is, that sin as well as death is universal, and that they are inseparably 187linked to each other. The universality of sin, however, is not so immediately and clearly apparent as the universality of death; and so it is inferred that sin is universal from the fact that death is universal, there being no death apart from sin, which is its cause. The whole argument shows distinctly that, though he sees in sin and death the operation of a principle reigning in humanity since Adam, he yet conceives the death of man to be essentially connected with his own sin: ‘Death came to all,’ or passed upon all, ‘because all have sinned.’ The coming of death, in other words, cannot be explained except on the supposition that all have sinned. The one always involves the other.”197197   Baur’s St. Paul, ii. 185.

While on the one hand, therefore, death follows from Adam’s sin, it is no less inseparably connected in every case with personal sin. In other words, while the punishment of Adam’s sin did not stay with himself, but was diffused with the diffusion of the sin which he initiated, it is not passed over by itself merely. The true relation is—(1) Adam’s sin; (2) Our sin; (3) Death cleaving necessarily to both. But it may be said, Does not the death of infants, who commit no actual sin, and who are yet subject to death, imply the imputation of Adam’s sin to them? If death and sin are inseparable, is not their death to be explained only by the fact that Adam’s 188sin and death are passed over to them? Whatever force there may be in such a view, it certainly derives no confirmation from the present passage, which distinctly asserts the personal presence of sin as the cause or explanation of death. But what, then, of the death of infants? This, which was a puzzle in the fifth century, cannot, in the same degree, puzzle us, for reasons I have more than once explained. The dissolution of the physical system is nowhere in St. Paul nor in Scripture represented as solely the result of sin. The death of Adam, the death of sin, in St. Paul, is always something more than mere physical death. It may include the death of the body—it does this plainly and prominently in the passage before us—but it always includes more; and, even when it refers to physical death, it is not the decay of nature—the extinction of an organism, which is the essential note of the word—but the pain and misery and spiritual apprehension which the decay, in the case of human beings, irresistibly suggests. It is beyond doubt that death itself, in the mere sense of decay, is inherent in all organism; that the conditions of life, in short, are death; and that infant organic structures consequently should die when weak, or imperfect, or ready to vanish away, is no more remarkable than that any other organism should perish. The mystery of all life and death when we go beneath the 189surface, as we are incessantly prompted to do in the case of human beings, is impenetrable. But on the surface there is no more mystery in one case than another. Death follows the exhaustion of living tissue in young and old alike, and, as a mere natural fact, is independent of moral conditions, or, at least, nowhere solely follows them.

The physical death of infants, therefore, does not require sin to explain it. And as to anything further, we have no knowledge. The final fate of infants, which perplexed Augustine’s mind, cannot perplex ours. Of the meaning of death in the future, or what is known as perdition, we have no call here to speak. The reality that is in it comes from sin; it is the final punishment of sin. And those who go down in darkness to dwell in misery outside the Divine presence are receiving in the end wages due to them. The thought is awful enough, and may well make sinners pause before their feet stumble, and the light pass from their eyes, and, behold, there is only darkness. But it would not only be awful, but horrible, if we supposed that this dread reality awaited any life which had not here come to moral consciousness, or known the choice of good and evil. If we can be sure of anything at all, we may be sure of this, that God will deal with all as they have really done, rendering unto every man according to his works. If there is any 190moral truth at all, this is moral truth—that God will act fairly, and that none will receive what they have not deserved in their own doings. There is no principle more frequently enunciated both in the New and the Old Testament Scriptures. Whatever, therefore, may be the consequence of Adam’s sin to infants, we may be sure that they will not suffer for these consequences. As they have not known to do evil, they cannot have evil rendered to them. Their fate may be beyond our scrutiny. An impenetrable veil may rest upon it, and we may never be able to lift it; but we take refuge in the sure truth, that the Judge of all will do what is right, and that He to whom we commit the child-life, which He has mysteriously given and mysteriously taken away, is “our Father which art in heaven”—whose face the angels of little children continually behold.198198   Matt. xviii. 10, 14.

But what, then, is the precise force of our relation to Adam? To what extent do we suffer for his sin? What is imputed to us in consequence? The death which is passed upon all men—what is it more particularly? We have already seen that the relation of Adam to the sinful race which has proceeded from him is typical. There is more in it to his posterity than there in the relation of any other man to the race; and this not merely because he was first in natural order, but because the race was in a 191certain sense anticipated in him or summed up in him. It admits of no doubt that this was one of the governing ideas of the apostle’s mind. Whether we make it any more clear by drawing it out according to our own imperfect analogies, and turning the mystery into a logical illustration, seems questionable. But plainly it was in the mind of the apostle that we suffer directly from Adam’s sin—not merely in the loss of spiritual faculty and divine good which we would otherwise have possessed—but in definite punishment. God deals with the race judicially on account of it, as a sinful race. As our ‘Confession of Faith’ has it, (Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death, and sin, and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity.”199199   Westminster Confess. of Faith, c. vi. III. I am glad to be able to quote these words for their own sake, and because of their source. They are weighty and, upon the whole, sober words; and although they necessarily take us away from the immediate atmosphere of Scripture, they do not seem to me, rightly understood, to exceed the fair meaning of St. Paul.

The terms of the statement in the Confession are deserving of particular attention. They speak not of an imputation of sin—as many have done unadvisedly—but of the guilt of sin. And the distinction is an important one in theological language. 192The expression “guilt” has always had more meanings than one, and the theological language of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is only intelligible when this is kept in view. When we say that a man is guilty, we primarily mean that he has really done the crime or evil deed imputed to him. But when a person is pronounced guilty, or has incurred guilt, we also mean that he has become obnoxious to punishment. Here, as often elsewhere, the meaning of a familiar word runs out into a secondary and even a tertiary sense. First, and properly, the word means personal ill-doing. If I say to myself, “I am guilty,” I accuse myself of a wrong that I ought not to have done. The idea is specially and prominently that of self-reference. The evil I could not, or should not, I have done. But the idea is also that of self-condemnation, or the desert of punishment. I deserve to suffer for what I have done. The two feelings are inseparable. Conscious wrong-doing is at the same time conscious condemnation. And every wrong-doer who has been brought to a sense of his wrong will have the one feeling as well as the other. And even if the wrongdoer have no sense of his wrong, the fact that he has committed a wrong, and that he deserves punishment for it, is not altered in his case. Let the act be carried home to him, and let it be proved that he did it—that he was, as it is said, art and part in it—193and he only deserves punishment all the more that he has professed unconsciousness of the act, or added falsehood to his folly or crime. In these two meanings the proper or the moral sense of guilt is summed up; and it would have been better, therefore, that the use of the word had not been extended further. But it has been extended in theological language to the still further or tertiary sense of liability to punishment as the consequence of wrong-doing. The results of wrong accumulate and descend, not only upon the offender, but upon all connected with him. And the term “guilt” has been passed over to denote this condemned state, or state of punishment.

This is the only intelligible sense in which it can be said that the guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to us.[See Appendix XXI.] We did not personally participate in Adam’s sin. We cannot be brought to feel that we did so, or that we deserve punishment for having done so. The race may deserve punishment inasmuch as it was summed up in him as its representative, and that in this sense it sinned and fell in him. There are those who think that the apostle’s meaning is not exhausted without this deeper view of this subject which takes in the whole of humanity as bound up in Adam—as a united whole in him, and dealt with as a whole. His ill-deserving is therefore passed over to 194all, although in the nature of things, or on the broad ground of natural reason, that personal merit or demerit is incommunicable, it can never be brought home to all. It must be admitted that the apostle’s language is of a strongly realistic turn, and that he conceives Adam and his race as, so to speak, identified in the divine view. This has been clearly allowed in our exposition; but it has been equally clear that sin itself, and the ill-desert that comes from it, as always personal, are not imputable. If this extreme view, therefore, be maintained, it can only be as a mystery—as something lying behind the region of ordinary thought. The clear dictate of conscience is, that we can only deserve ill when we have done ill.

No one more clearly recognises this axiom of the moral sense than the apostle himself. In the very passage which has been more or less the basis of all our thought in this Lecture, we have seen how clearly he brings out death as always the consequence of personal sin, and not merely of Adam’s sin. The personal element is always emphasised by him, as by all the Biblical writers, in connection with sin. It is you and I who sin, and who will be punished for our own sins. This broad moral commonplace, intelligible by all, owned by all, runs through Scripture, and is the great line upon which all its exhortations and warnings turn. It seems hardly possible to 195attach the conception of ill-desert to anything but personal wrong-doing. It may be doubted if the apostle ever intends to do this, realistic as is his conception of humanity, and of the relation in which it stands to the first man.

But neither can there be any doubt that he passes over to humanity the state of condemnation or obnoxiousness to punishment into which Adam fell. That is to him a matter of fact. Adam’s sin is in this sense guilt to all, that it brings punishment to all. And if there is also mystery in this,—that a race should be punished because the first man kept not his first estate—if the moral sense is not without difficulty here (there may be those who think the difficulty hardly a step removed),—there are at least also broad facts of experience that come in to help us in facing this mystery. It is a fact, however we may explain it, that guilt in this sense is imputable. The punishment of wrong-doing descends far beyond the wrong-doer. Children are involved in their parents’ shame. A family without any ill-deserving suffers many ills, and even a sort of death itself, from the criminality of its head. A nation is plunged into misery, and reaps the reward of iniquity through all its bounds, when its chief men stand condemned at the bar of moral judgment, or have plunged it into flagrant wrong. If it be true that sin is’ always personal, and God will render unto 196every man according to his works, it is no less true that all sin is diffusive, and carries with it a train of endless consequences, many of them of a strictly penal character. We may be sure we will not suffer at last for anything that we have not done. In point of fact, the question is a theoretical one for all who have grown to know good and evil. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”200200   1 John, i. 8. From the first dawn of moral consciousness, we have been conscious of short-coming. Actual sin has become inextricably interwoven in us with original sin, and we stand on our own deserts before the bar of divine judgment. We need not therefore trouble ourselves with the question how far we shall be punished for the sins of another, seeing our own sins are more than can be reckoned up, and that we know in our hearts, if’ we know anything, that no injustice will be done us by Him who judges righteously.

It was necessary, all the same, that this deeper view of the subject should come before us, and that we should look at the question of sin not merely on its personal, but, so to speak, its impersonal or original side. Both sides must be taken together. If we look at human nature merely in its historic connection, we seem bound in a chain of external facts, which leaves no room for personal freedom. The very idea 197of sin seems to vanish in its necessity. How can man be blamable for what he cannot help—for that which is the mere outcome of the nature which God has given him? If God has so connected us with a sinful race, and so connected the race with its fallen original,—then all seems His own doing. And having made us what we are,. how can He punish us that we are no better than we are? If we push the doctrine of original sin as some have done, we end in the subversion of sin altogether. But we look within, and we know that, whatever may be our connection with a given order of events which hold us in their dependence, we are free to act—that if we sin daily, we yet can help sinning—that even when temptation is at its strongest we can turn away from it, and choose that which is right and good. Nay, we know that the Right and Good form the true law of our being, to which we are truly bound, and not the wrong or the evil which yet so often bind us. There is that in us which is, deeper than all sinful habit, and which no force of original sin can overcome, if only we give it free play. And if we do not do so,—if we yield to the lower rather than to the higher—to the evil rather than to the good,—we know that we deserve to receive evil, and that punishment is our due. All our experience is thus mixed. We are bound, and yet we are free; we are sharers in original sin, and yet we ourselves are sinners; inheritors of evil, and 198yet voluntarily evil-doers. We may be unable to coordinate the two sides of our experience, but this is no reason why we should not acknowledge the one side as well as the other.

If we start merely from a single side of human nature, it is easy to build up systems, and there are minds which will always demand such systems. The Theological Necessitarian has had his day in the past; and, blind to the discrimination of moral facts, he has drawn out his theory till it has covered the whole field of Christian thought. It is now the high day of the Materialistic Necessitarian, who is prepared to explain all life—intellectual and moral as well as physical—from microscopic germs up to its most subtle and lofty developments. Such systems are said to be rigorous and consistent, and to know what they are about. They do not palter in a double sense, or stand with trembling and agitated gaze on the brink of mystery. All haze has gone from them; almighty Power in the one case, and almighty Law in the other, is made to solve all—to open the shell of the universe and show its secret. The modern system-monger seems quite as sure of this secret as the most confident theologian of the ancient school. He goes forth into the darkness with his naturalistic law of evolution in his hand, and all seems to him to fall into order. The great modern idea is to swallow up all the thought of the past, and to bear humanity 199prosperously into a dim future without a soul and without a God. But the facts of moral life are not thus to be borne down. They spring up irrepressibly from every attempt to merge them in some theoretic principle which only explains them at the expense of their reality. In this way they are not to be solved. They claim to be heard for themselves, and to vindicate their independence, however difficult it may be to reconcile them with any preconceived theory. The thinker, who feels bound to recognise both sides of human experience—the moral and intellectual alike—the spiritual and the scientific together,—who shrinks from no discovery of science and no advance in knowledge, and yet clings to the realities of the inner life and the verities of a Divine order,—has a hard time of it betwixt system-builders on the one side and the other;—the bigotries of an omniscient Science on the one hand, and the jealousies of an omniscient Theology on the other. He is flaunted by the one and suspected by the other. But the moderation which refuses to affirm where the grounds of affirmation are wanting, and is content to explore and recognise facts of whatever kind, even where it cannot co-ordinate them or bind them into a theory, is at once the best note of science, and the surest pledge of a theology that has some promise for the future, as well as hold upon the past.

200

And now I have done with these Lectures. It has been to me a grateful surprise that so many should have felt so true an interest in them. If I have said anything that has helped or may yet help any to think more truly of a great verity of our spiritual nature, or of the verities of religious life and doctrine altogether, I have reason to thank God and take courage. I have said nothing, I hope, in any case, which can serve to lessen the solemn reality of the great truth of which I have been speaking. I have endeavoured to keep close to my task of scientific exposition, and to allow as few jarring notes as possible to enter from any side. This appears to me—it has long appeared to me—the only useful mode of treating Christian doctrine.

Let us, in conclusion, remember that the sin of which I have been speaking is our own—your sin and mine; and that if there is sin at all, it is necessarily always misery. It bears its own doom with it. But the Son of God “was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin.”201201   1 John, iii. 5. His name is Jesus, because “He saves His people from their sins.”202202   Matt. i. 2. He has come into the world, “not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”203203   John, iii. 17. If we are conscious of the conflict of sin in ourselves—if in our higher moments, when we are ravished by the Good, we are yet held back by the 201Evil, and when we delight in the law of God, according to the inward man, we yet find a law in our members warring against the law of our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and death—let us remember that there is One who is able to help us, and who will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear; and let our prayer be—who would not have the experience out of which such a prayer springs, bitter though it be, rather than rest in the deadness of sin?—Save us, good Lord, and bring us from all the weary and sinful struggle of this mortal life to Thine own holy peace, and Thine everlasting kingdom and glory. Amen.

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