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All mankind constantly, in all ages, without fail in any one instance, run into that moral evil, which is in effect their own utter and eternal perdition in a total privation of god’s favour, and suffering of his vengeance and wrath.

By Original Sin, as the phrase has been most commonly used by divines, is meant the innate sinful depravity of the heart. But yet when the doctrine of original sin is spoken of, it is vulgarly understood in that latitude, which includes not only the depravity of nature, but the imputation of Adam’s first sin; or, in other words, the liableness or exposedness of Adam’s posterity, in the divine judgment, to partake of the punishment of that sin. So far as I know, most of those who have held one of these, have maintained the other; and most of those who have opposed one, have opposed the other; both are opposed by the author chiefly attended to in the following discourse, in his book against original sin: and it may perhaps appear in our future consideration of the subject, that they are closely connected; that the arguments which prove the one establish the other, and that there are no more difficulties attending the allowing of one, than the other.

I shall, in the first place, consider this doctrine more especially with regard to the corruption of nature; and as we treat of this, the other will naturally come into consideration, in the prosecution of the discourse, as connected with it. As all moral qualities, all principles either of virtue or vice, lie in the disposition of the heart, I shall consider whether we have any evidence, that the heart of man is naturally of a corrupt and evil disposition. This is strenuously denied by many late writers, who are enemies to the doctrine of original sin; and particularly by Dr. Taylor.

The way we come by the idea of any such thing as disposition or tendency, is by observing what is constant or general in event; especially under a great variety of circumstances; and above all, when the effect or event continues the same through great and various opposition, much and manifold force and means used to the contrary not prevailing to hinder the effect. I do not know, that such a prevalence of effects is denied to be an evidence of prevailing tendency in causes and agents; or that it is expressly denied by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin, that if, in the course of events, it universally or generally proves that mankind are actually corrupt, this would be an evidence of a prior corrupt propensity in the world of mankind; whatever may be said by some, which, if taken with its plain consequences, may seem to imply a denial of this; which may be considered afterwards. But by many the fact is denied; that is, it is denied, that corruption and moral evil are commonly prevalent in the world: on the contrary, it is insisted on, that good preponderates, and that virtue has the ascendant.

To this purpose, Dr. Turnbull says, 233233    Moral Philos. p. 289, 290. “With regard to the prevalence of vice in the world, men are apt to let their imagination run out upon all the robberies, piracies, murders, perjuries, frauds, massacres, assassinations they have either heard of, or read in history; thence concluding all mankind to be very wicked. As if a court of justice were a proper place to make an estimate of the morals of mankind, or an hospital of the healthfulness of a climate. But ought they not to consider, that the number of honest citizens and farmers far surpasses that of all sorts of criminals in any state, and that the innocent and kind actions of even criminals themselves surpass their crimes in numbers; that it is the rarity of crimes, in comparison of innocent or good actions, which engages our attention to them, and makes them to be recorded in history, while honest, generous domestic actions are overlooked, only because they are so common? as one great danger, or one month’s sickness, shall become a frequently repeated story during a long life of health and safety.—Let not the vices of mankind be multiplied or magnified. Let us make a fair estimate of human life, and set over against the shocking, the astonishing instances of barbarity and wickedness that have been perpetrated in any age, not only the exceeding generous and brave actions with which history shines, but the prevailing innocency, good-nature, industry, felicity, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind at all times; and we shall not find reason to cry out, as objectors against Providence do on this occasion, that all men are vastly corrupt, and that there is hardly any such thing as virtue in the world. Upon a fair computation, the fact does indeed come out, that very great villanies have been very uncommon in all ages, and looked upon as monstrous; so general is the sense and esteem of virtue.”—It seems to be with a like view that Dr. Taylor says, “We must not take the measure of our health and enjoyments from a lazar-house, nor of our understanding from Bedlam, nor of our morals from a gaol.” (P. 77. S.)

With respect to the propriety and pertinence of such a representation of things, and its force as to the consequence 147 designed, I hope we shall be better able to judge, and in some measure to determine, whether the natural disposition of the hearts of mankind be corrupt or not, when the things which follow have been considered. But for the greater clearness, it may be proper here to premise one consideration, that is of great importance in this controversy, and is very much overlooked by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin in their disputing against it.

That it is to be looked upon as the true tendency of the innate disposition of man’s heart, which appears to be its tendency, when we consider things as they are in themselves, or in their own nature, without the interposition of divine grace. Thus, that state of man’s nature, that disposition of the mind, is to be looked upon as evil and pernicious, which, as it is in itself, tends to extremely pernicious consequences, and would certainly end therein, were it not that the free mercy and kindness of God interposes to prevent that issue. It would be very strange if any should argue, that there is no evil tendency in the case, because the mere favour and compassion of the Most High may step in and oppose the tendency, and prevent the sad effect. Particularly, if there be any thing in the nature of man, whereby he has an universal unfailing tendency to that moral evil, which, according to the real nature and true demerit of things, as they are in themselves, implies his utter ruin, that must be looked upon as an evil tendency or propensity; however divine grace may interpose, to save him from deserved ruin, and to overrule things to an issue contrary to that which they tend to of themselves. Grace is sovereign, exercised according to the good pleasure of God, bringing good out of evil. The effect of it belongs not to the nature of things themselves, that otherwise have an ill tendency, any more than the remedy belongs to the disease; but is something altogether independent on it, introduced to oppose the natural tendency, and reverse the course of things. But the event to which things tend, according to their own demerit, and according to divine justice, is the event to which they tend in their own nature; as Dr. T.’s own words fully imply, (Pref. to Par. on Rom. p. 131.) “God alone (says he) can declare whether he will pardon or punish the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind, which is in its own nature punishable.” Nothing is more precisely according to the truth of things, than divine justice: it weighs things in an even balance; it views and estimates things no otherwise than they are truly in their own nature. Therefore undoubtedly that which implies a tendency to ruin, according to the estimate of divine justice, does indeed imply such a tendency in its own nature.

And then it must be remembered, that it is a moral depravity we are speaking of; and therefore when we are considering whether such depravity do not appear by a tendency to a bad effect or issue, it is a moral tendency to such an issue, that is the thing to be taken into the account. A moral tendency or influence is by desert. Then may it be said, man’s nature or state is attended with a pernicious or destructive tendency, in a moral sense, when it tends to that which deserves misery and destruction. And therefore it equally shows the moral depravity of the nature of mankind in their present state, whether that nature be universally attended with an effectual tendency to destructive vengeance actually executed, or to their deserving misery and ruin, or their just exposedness, to destruction, however that fatal consequence may be prevented by grace or whatever the actual event be.

One thing more is to be observed here, that the topic mainly insisted on by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin, is the justice of God; both in their objections against the imputation of Adam’s sin, and also against its being so ordered, that men should come into the world with a corrupt and ruined nature, without having merited the displeasure of their Creator by any personal fault. But the latter is not repugnant to God’s justice, if men actually are born into the world with a tendency to sin, and to misery and ruin for their sin, which actually will be the consequence, unless mere grace steps in and prevents it. If this be allowed, the argument from justice is given up: For it is to suppose, that their liableness to misery and ruin comes in a way of justice; otherwise there would be no need of the interposition of divine grace to save them. Justice alone would be sufficient security, if exercised, without grace. It is all one in this dispute about what is just and righteous, whether men are born in a miserable state, by a tendency to ruin, which actually follows, and that justly; or whether they are born in such a state as tends to a desert of ruin, which might justly follow, and would actually follow, did not grace prevent. For the controversy is not, what grace will do, but what justice might do.

I have been the more particular on this head, because it enervates many of the reasonings and conclusions by which Dr. T. makes out his scheme; in which he argues from that state which mankind are in by divine grace, yea, which he himself supposes to be by divine grace; and yet not making any allowance for this, he from hence draws conclusions against what others suppose of the deplorable and ruined state mankind are in by the fall. 234234    He often speaks of death and affliction as coming on Adam’s posterity in consequence of his sin; and in p. 20, 21. and many other places, he supposes, that these things come in consequence of his sin, not as a punishment or a calamity, but as a benefit. But in p. 23. he supposes, those things would be a great calamity and misery, if it were not for the resurrection; which resurrection he there, and in the following pages, and in many other places, speaks of as being by Christ; and often speaks of it as being by the grace of God in Christ. P. 63, 64. Speaking of our being subjected to sorrow, labour, and death, in consequence of Adam’s sin, he represents these as evils that are reversed and turned into advantages, and from which we are delivered through grace in Christ. And p. 65, 66, 67. he speaks of God thus turning death into an advantage through grace in Christ, as what vindicates the justice of God in bringing death by Adam. P. 152, 156. One thing he alleges against this proposition of the Assembly of Divines—That we are by nature bond-slaves to Satan—That God hath been providing, from the beginning of the world to this day, various means and dispensations, to preserve and rescue mankind from the devil. P. 168, 169, 170. In answer to that objection against his doctrine. That we are in worse circumstances than Adam, he alleges the happy circumstances we are under by the provision and means furnished through free grace in Christ. P. 228. In answering that argument against his doctrine —That there is a law in our members, bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and death.Rom. vii —He allows, that the case of those who are under a law threatening death for every sin, (which law he elsewhere says, shows us the natural and proper demerit of sin, and is perfectly consonant to everlasting truth and righteousness,) must be quite deplorable, if they have no relief from the mercy of the lawgiver. P. 90-93. S. In opposition to what is supposed of the miserable state mankind are brought into by Adam’s sin, he alleges, The noble designs of love, manifested by advancing a new and happy dispensation, founded on the obedience and righteousness of the Son of God; and that, although by Adam we are subjected to death, yet in this dispensation a resurrection is provided; and that Adam’s posterity are under a mild dispensation of Grace, &c. P. 112. S. He vindicates God’s dealings with Adam, in placing him at first under the rigour of law, transgress and die, (which, as he expresses it, was putting his happiness on a foot extremely dangerous,) by saying, that as God had before determined in his own breast, so he immediately established his covenant upon a quite different bottom, namely, upon grace. P. 122, 123. S. Against what R. R. says, That God forsook man when he fell, and that mankind after Adam’s sin were born without the divine favour, &c. he alleges, among other things, Christ’s coming to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world—And the riches of God’s mercy in giving the promise of a Redeemer to destroy the works of the devil—That he caught his sinning falling creature in the arms of his grace. In his note on Rom. v. 20. p. 297, 298. he says as follows: “The law I conceive, is not a dispensation suitable to the infirmity of the human nature in our present state; or it doth not seem congruous to the goodness of God, to afford us no other way of salvation but by a law, which, if we once transgress, we are ruined for ever. For who then from the beginning of the world could be saved? And therefore it seems to me, that the law was not absolutely intended to be a rule for obtaining life, even to Adam in paradise: Grace was the dispensation God intended mankind should be under; and therefore Christ was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world.”—There are various other passages in this author’s writings of the like kind. Some of his arguments and conclusions to this effect, in order to be made good, must depend on such a supposition as this;—that God’s dispensations of grace, are rectifications or amendments of his foregoing constitutions and proceedings, which were merely legal; as though the dispensations of grace, which succeed those of mere law, implied an acknowledgment, that the preceding legal constitution would be unjust, if left as it was, or at least very hard dealing with mankind; and that the other were of the nature of a satisfaction to his creatures, for former injuries, or hard treatment. So that, put together the injury with the satisfaction, the legal and injurious dispensation, taken with the following good dispensation, which our author calls grace, and the unfairness or improper severity of the former, amended by the goodness of the latter, both together made up one righteous dispensation.

The reader is desired to bear in mind what I have said concerning the interposition of divine grace not altering the nature of things, as they are in themselves. Accordingly, when I speak of such and such an evil tendency of things, belonging to the present nature and state of mankind, understand me to mean their tendency as they are in themselves, 148 abstracted from any consideration of that remedy the sovereign and infinite grace of God has provided.—Having premised these things, I now assert, that mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue; that they universally run themselves into that which is, in effect, their own utter eternal perdition, as being finally accursed of God, and the subjects of his remediless wrath through sin.—From which I infer, that the natural state of the mind of man is attended with a propensity of nature, which is prevalent and effectual, to such an issue; and that therefore their nature is corrupt and depraved with a moral depravity, that amounts to and implies their utter undoing.

Here I would first consider the truth of the proposition; and then would show the certainty of the consequences which I infer from it. If both can be clearly and certainly proved, then I trust, none will deny but that the doctrine of original depravity is evident, and so the falseness of Dr. T.’s scheme demonstrated; the greatest part of whose book, called the Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, &c. is against the doctrine of innate depravity. In p. 107. S. he speaks of the conveyance of a corrupt and sinful nature to Adam’s posterity as the grand point to be proved by the maintainers of the doctrine of original sin.

In order to demonstrate what is asserted in the proposition laid down, there is need only that these two things should be made manifest: one is this fact, that all mankind come into the world in such a state, as without fail comes to this issue, namely, the universal commission of sin; or that every one who comes to act in the world as a moral agent, is, in a greater or less degree, guilty of sin. The other is, that all sin deserves and exposes to utter and eternal destruction, unto God’s wrath and curse; and would end in it, were it not for the interposition of divine grace to prevent the effect. Both which can be abundantly demonstrated to be agreeable to the Word of God, and to Dr. T.’s own doctrine.

That everyone of mankind, at least such as are capable of acting as moral agents, are guilty of sin, (not now taking it for granted that they come guilty into the world,) is most clearly and abundantly evident from the Holy Scriptures: 1 Kings viii. 46. “If any man sin against thee; for there is no man that sinneth not.” Eccl. vii. 20.“There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.”Job ix. 2, 3.“I know it is so of a truth (i.e. as Bildad had just before said, that God would not cast away a perfect man, &c.) but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” To the like purpose, Psal. cxliii. 2. “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” So the words of the apostle, (in which he has apparent reference to those of the Psalmist,) Rom. iii.19, 20. “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” So, Gal. ii.16. 1 John i. 7-10 “If we walk in the light, the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” In this and innumerable other places, confession and repentance of sin are spoken of as duties proper for all; as also prayer to God for pardon of sin; also forgiveness of those that injure us, from that motive, that we hope to be forgiven of God. Universal guilt of sin might also be demonstrated from the appointment, and the declared use and end of the ancient sacrifices; and also from the ransom, which every one that was numbered in Israel, was directed to pay, to make atonement for his soul. (Exod. xxx. 11-16.) All are represented, not only as being sinful, but as having great and manifold iniquity. (Job ix. 2, 3. James. iii.1, 2.)

There are many scriptures which both declare the universal sinfulness of mankind, and also that all sin deserves and justly exposes to everlasting destruction, under the wrath and curse of God; and so demonstrate both parts of the proposition I have laid down. To which purpose that passage in Gal. iii. 10. is exceeding full: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” How manifestly is it implied in the apostle’s meaning here, that there is no man but what fails in some instances of doing all things that are written in the book of the law, and therefore as many as have their dependence on their fulfilling the law, are under that curse which is pronounced on them that fail of it! And hence the apostle infers in the next verse, “that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God:” 235235    Gal. iii. 11. as he had said before in the preceding chapter, ver. 16. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The apostle shows us he understands, that by this place which he cites from Deuteronomy, “the Scripture hath concluded, or shut up, all under sin.” Gal. iii. 22. So that here we are plainly taught, both that every one of mankind is a sinner, and that every sinner is under the curse of God.

To the like purpose is Rom. iv. 14. also 2 Cor. iii. 6, 7, 9. where the law is called “the letter that kills, the ministration of death, and the ministration of condemnation.” The wrath, condemnation, and death, which is threatened in the law to all its transgressors, is final perdition, the second death, eternal ruin; as is very plain, and indeed is confessed. And this punishment which the law threatens for every sin, is a just punishment; being what every sin truly deserves; God’s law being a righteous law, and the sentence of it a righteous sentence.

All these things are what Dr. Taylor himself confesses and asserts. He says, that the law of God requires perfect obedience. (Note on Rom. vii. 6. p. 308.) “God can never require imperfect obedience, or by his holy law allow us to be guilty of any one sin, how small soever. And if the law, as a rule of duty, were in any respect abolished, then we might in some respects transgress the law, and yet not be guilty of sin. The moral law, or law of nature, is the truth, everlasting, unchangeable; and therefore, as such, can never be abrogated. On the contrary, our Lord Jesus Christ has promulgated it anew under the gospel, fuller and clearer than it was in the mosaical constitution, or any where else:—having added to its precepts the sanction of his own divine authority.” And many things which he says imply, that all mankind do in some degree transgress the law. In p. 228. speaking of what may be gathered from Rom. vii. and viii. he says, “We are very apt, in a world full of temptation, to be deceived, and drawn into sin by bodily appetites, &c. And the case of those who are under a law threatening death to every sin, must be quite deplorable, if they have no relief from the mercy of the lawgiver.”

But this is very fully declared in what he says in his note on Rom. v. 20. p. 297. His words are as follows: “Indeed, as a rule of action prescribing our duty, it (the law) always was and always must be a rule ordained for obtaining life; but not as a rule of justification, not as it subjects to death for every transgression. For if it could in its utmost rigor have given us life, then, as the apostle argues, it would have been against the promises of God. For if there had been a law, in the strict and rigorous sense of law, which could have made us live, verily justification should have been by the law. But he supposes, no such law was ever given: and therefore there is need and room enough for the promises of grace; or as he argues, Gal. ii. 21. it would have frustrated, or rendered useless, the grace of God. For if justification came by the law, then truly Christ is dead in vain, then he died to accomplish what was, or might have been, effected by law itself without his death. Certainly the law was not brought in among the Jews to be a rule of justification, or to recover them out of a state of death, and to procure life by their sinless obedience to it: For in this, as well as in another respect, it was weak; not in itself, but through the weakness of our flesh, Rom. viii. 3. The law, I conceive, is not a dispensation suitable to the infirmity of the human nature in our present state; or it doth not seem congruous to the goodness of God to afford us no other way of salvation, but by law; which if we once transgress, we are ruined for ever. for who then, from the beginning of the world, could be saved?” 149 How clear and express are these things, that no one of mankind, from the beginning of the world, can ever be justified by the law, because every one transgresses it! 236236    I am sensible, these things are quite inconsistent with what he says elsewhere, of sufficient power in all mankind constantly to do the whole duty which God requires of them without a necessity of breaking God’s law in any degree. (p. 63-68. S.) But, I hope, the reader will not think me accountable for his inconsistences.

And here also we see, Dr. T. declares, that by the law men are sentenced to everlasting ruin for one transgression. To the like purpose he often expresses himself. So p. 207. “The law requireth the most extensive obedience, discovering sin in all its branches.—It gives sin a deadly force, subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death; and yet supplieth neither help nor hope to the sinner, but leaving him under the power of sin and sentence of death.” In p. 213. he speaks of the law as extending to lust and irregular desires, and to every branch and principle of sin; and even to its latent principles, and minutest branches; again (Note on Rom. vii. 6. p. 308.) To every sin, how small soever. And when he speaks of the law subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death, he means eternal death, as he from time to time explains the matter. In p. 212, he speaks of the law in the condemning power of it, as binding us in everlasting chains. In p. 120. S. he says, that death which is the wages of sin, is the second death; and this, p. 78. he explains of final perdition. In his Key, p. 107. § 296. he says, “The curse of the law subjected men for every transgression to eternal death.“ So in Note on Rom. v. 20. p. 291. “The law of Moses subjected those who were under it to death, meaning by death, eternal death.” These are his words.

He also supposes, that this sentence of the law, thus subjecting men for every, even the least, sin, and every minutest branch and latent principle of sin, to so dreadful a punishment, is just and righteous, agreeable to truth and the nature of things, or to the natural and proper demerits of sin. In this he is very full. Thus in p. 186. P. “It was sin (says he) which subjected us to death by the law, justly threatening sin with death. Which law was given us, that sin might appear; might be set forth in its proper colours; when we saw it subjected us to death by a law perfectly holy, just and good; that sin by the commandment, by the law, might be represented what it really is, an exceeding great and deadly evil.” So in note on Rom. v. 20, p. 299. “The law or ministration of death, as it subjects to death for every transgression, is still of use to show the natural and proper demerit of sin.” Ibid. p. 292. “The language of the law, dying thou shalt die, is to be understood of the demerit of the transgression, that which it deserves.Ibid. p. 298. “The law was added, saith Mr. Locke on the place, because the Israelites, the posterity of Abraham, were transgressors as well as other men, to show them their sins, and the punishment and death, which in strict justice they incurred by them. And this appears to be a true comment on Rom. vii.13.—Sin, by virtue of the law, subjected you to death for this end, that sin, working death in us, by that which is holy, just, and good, perfectly consonant to everlasting truth and righteousness.—Consequently every sin is in strict justice deserving of wrath and punishment; and the law in its rigour was given to the Jews, to set home this awful truth upon their consciences, to show them the evil and pernicious nature of sin; and that being conscious they had broke the law of God, this might convince them of the great need they had of the favour of the lawgiver, and oblige them, by faith in his goodness, to fly to his mercy, for pardon and salvation.”

If the law be holy, just, and good, a constitution perfectly agreeable to God’s holiness, justice, and goodness; then he might have put it exactly in execution, agreeably to all these his perfections. Our author himself says, p. 133. S. “How that constitution, which establishes a law, the making of which is inconsistent with the justice and goodness of God, and the executing of it inconsistent with his holiness, can be a righteous constitution, I confess, is quite beyond my comprehension.”

Now the reader is left to judge, whether it be not most plainly and fully agreeable to Dr. T.’s own doctrine, that there never was any one person from the beginning of the world, who came to act in the world as a moral agent, and that it is not to be hoped there ever will be any, but what is a sinner or transgressor of the law of God; and that therefore this proves to be the issue and event of things, with respect to all mankind in all ages, that, by the natural and proper demerit of their own sinfulness, and in the judgment of the law of God, which is perfectly consonant to truth, and exhibits things in their true colours, they are the proper subjects of the curse of God, eternal death, and everlasting ruin; which must be the actual consequence, unless the grace or favour of the lawgiver interpose, and mercy prevail for their pardon and salvation. The reader has seen also how agreeable this is to the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. If so, and if the interposition of divine grace alters not the nature of things as they are in themselves, and that it does not in the least affect the state of the controversy we are upon—concerning the true nature and tendency of the state in which mankind come into the world—whether grace prevents the fatal effect or no; I trust, none will deny, that the proposition laid down, is fully proved, as agreeable to the Word of God, and Dr. T.’s own words; viz. That mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue, that they universally are the subjects of that guilt and sinfulness, which is, in effect, their utter and eternal ruin, being cast wholly out of the favour of God, and subjected to his everlasting wrath and curse.

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