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CHAP. III.

THAT GREAT OBJECTION AGAINST THE IMPUTATION OF ADAM’S SIN TO HIS POSTERITY, CONSIDERED, THAT SUCH IMPUTATION IS UNJUST AND UNREASONABLE, INASMUCH AS ADAM AND HIS POSTERITY ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME. WITH A BRIEF REFLECTION SUBJOINED OF WHAT SOME HAVE SUPPOSED, OF GOD IMPUTING THE GUILT OF ADAM’S SIN TO HIS POSTERITY, BUT IN AN INFINITELY LESS DEGREE THAN TO ADAM HIMSELF.

That we may proceed with the greater clearness in considering the main objections against supposing the guilt of Adam’s sin to be imputed to his posterity; I would premise some observations with a view to the right stating of the doctrine; and then show its reasonableness, in opposition to the great clamour raised against it on this head.

I think, it would go far towards directing us to the more clear conception and right statement of this affair, were we steadily to bear this in mind: that God, in every step of his proceeding with Adam, in relation to the covenant or constitution established with him, looked on his posterity as being one with him. And though he dealt more immediately with Adam, it yet was as the head of the whole body, and the root of the whole tree; and in his proceedings with him, he dealt with all the branches, as if they had been then existing in their root.

From which it will follow, that both guilt, or exposedness to punishment, and also depravity of heart, came upon Adam’s posterity just as they came upon him, as much as if he and they had all co-existed, like a tree with many branches; allowing only for the difference necessarily resulting from the place Adam stood in, as head or root of the whole. Otherwise, it is as if, in every step of proceeding, every alteration in the root had been attended, at the same instant, with the same alterations throughout the whole tree, in each individual branch. I think, this will naturally follow on the supposition of there being a constituted oneness or identity of Adam and his posterity in this affair.

Therefore I am humbly of opinion, that if any have supposed the children of Adam to come into the world with a double guilt, one the guilt of Adam’s sin, another the guilt arising from their having a corrupt heart, they have not so well conceived of the matter. The guilt a man has upon his soul at first existence, is one and simple, viz. the guilt of the original apostacy, the guilt of the sin by which the species first rebelled against God. This, and the guilt arising from the depraved disposition of the heart, are not to be looked upon as two things, distinctly imputed and charged upon men in the sight of God. Indeed the guilt that arises from the corruption of the heart, as it remains a confirmed principle, and appears in its consequent operations, is a distinct and additional guilt: but the guilt arising from the first existing of a depraved disposition in Adam’s posterity, I apprehend, is not distinct from their guilt of Adam’s first sin. For so it was not in Adam himself. The first evil disposition or inclination of Adam to sin, was not properly distinct from his first act of sin, but was included in it. The external act he committed was no otherwise his, than as his heart was in it, or as that action proceeded from the wicked inclination of his heart. Nor was the guilt he had double, as for two distinct sins: one, the wickedness of his will in that affair; another, the wickedness of the external act, caused by it. His guilt was all truly from the act of his inward man; exclusive of which the motions of his body were no more than the motions of any lifeless instrument. His sin consisted in wickedness of heart, fully sufficient for, and entirely amounting to, all that appeared in the act he committed.

The depraved disposition of Adam’s heart is to be considered two ways. (1.) As the first rising of an evil inclination in his heart, exerted in his first act of sin, and the ground of the complete transgression. (2.) An evil disposition of heart continuing afterwards, as a confirmed principle that came by God’s forsaking of him; which was a 221 punishment of his first transgression. This confirmed corruption, by its remaining and continued operation, brought additional guilt on his soul.

In like manner, depravity of heart is to be considered two ways in Adam’s posterity. The first listing of a corrupt disposition, is not to be looked upon as sin distinct from their participation of Adam’s first sin. It is as it were the extended pollution of that sin, through the whole tree, by virtue of the constituted union of the branches with the root; or the inherence of the sin of that head of the species in the members, in their consent and concurrence with the head in that first act. But the depravity of nature remaining as an established principle in a child of Adam, and as exhibited in after-operations, is a consequence and punishment of the first apostacy thus participated, and brings new guilt. The first being of an evil disposition in a child of Adam, whereby he is disposed to approve the sin of his first father, so far as to imply a full and perfect consent of heart to it, I think, is not to be looked upon as a consequence of the imputation of that first sin, any more than the full consent of Adam’s own heart in the act of sinning; which was not consequent on the imputation, but rather prior to it in the order of nature. Indeed the derivation or the evil disposition to Adam’s posterity, or rather, the co-existence of the evil disposition, implied in Adam’s first rebellion, in the root and branches, is a consequence of the union that the wise Author of the world has established between Adam and his posterity; but not properly a consequence of the imputation of his sin; nay, is rather antecedent to it, as it was in Adam himself. The first depravity of heart, and the imputation of that sin, are both the consequences of that established union; but yet in such order, that the evil disposition is first, and the charge of guilt consequent, as it was in the case of Adam himself. 375375    My meaning, in the whole of what has been said, may be illustrated thus: Let us suppose that Adam and all his posterity had co-existed, and that his posterity had been, through a law of nature established by the Creator, united to him, something as the branches of a tree are united to the root, or the members of the body to the head, so as to constitute as it were one complex person, or one moral whole: so that by the law of union there should have been a communion and co-existence in acts and affections; all jointly participating, and all concurring, as one whole, in the disposition and action of the head: as we see in the body natural, the whole body is affected as the head is affected; and the whole body concurs when the head acts. Now, in this case, all the branches of mankind, by the constitution of nature and law of union, would have been affected just as Adam, their common root, was affected. When the heart of a root, by a full disposition, committed the first sin, the hearts of all the branches would have concurred; and when the root, in consequence of this, became guilty, so would all the branches; and when the root, as a punishment of the sin committed, was forsaken of God, in like manner would it have fared with all the branches; and when the root, in consequence of this, was confirmed in permanent depravity, the case would have been the same with all the branches; and as new guilt on the soul of Adam would have been consequent on this, so also would it have been with his moral branches. And thus all things, with relation to evil disposition, guilt, pollution, and depravity, would exist, in the same order and dependence, in each branch, as in the root. Now, difference of the time of existence does not at all hinder things succeeding in the same order, any more than difference of place in a co-existence of time. Here may be observed, as in several respects to the present purpose, some things are said by STAPFERUS, an eminent divine of Zurich, in Switzerland, in his Theologia Polemica, published about fourteen years ago:—in English as follows. “Seeing all Adam’s posterity are derived from their first parent, as their root, the whole of human kind, with its root, may be considered as constituting but one whole, or one mass; so as not to be properly distinct from its root; the posterity not differing from it, any otherwise than the branches of from the tree. From which it easily appears, how that when the root sinned, all which is derived from it, and with it constitutes but one whole, may be looked upon as also sinning; seeing it is not distinct from the root, but one with it.”—Tom. i. cap. 3. § 856. 57. “It is objected, against the imputation of Adam’s sin, that we never committed the same sin with Adam, neither in number or in kind. I answer, we should distinguish here between the physical act itself, which Adam committed, and the morality of the action, and consent to it. If we have respect only to the external act, to be sure it must be confessed, that Adam’s posterity did not put forth their hands to the forbidden fruit: in which sense, that act of transgression, and that fall of Adam, cannot be physically one with the sin of his posterity. But if we consider the morality of the action, and what consent there is to it, it is altogether to be maintained, that his posterity committed the same sin, both in number and in kind, inasmuch as they are to be looked upon as consenting to it. For where there is consent to a sin, there the same sin is committed. Seeing therefore that Adam with all his posterity constitute but one moral person, and are united in the same covenant, and are transgressors of the same law, they are also to be looked upon as having, in a moral estimation, committed the same transgression of the law, both in number and in kind. Therefore this reasoning avails nothing against the righteous imputation of the sin of Adam to all mankind or to the whole moral person that is consenting to it. And for the reason mentioned, we may rather argue thus: the sin of the posterity, on account of their consent, and the moral view in which they are to be taken, is the same with the sin of Adam, not only in kind, but in number; therefore the sin of Adam is rightfully imputed to his posterity.”—Id. Tom. iv. cap. 16. § 60, 61. The imputation of Adam’s first sin consists in nothing else than this, that his posterity are viewed as in the same place with their father, and are like him. But seeing, agreeable to what we have already proved, God might, according to his own righteous judgment, which was founded on his most righteous law, give Adam a posterity that were like himself; and indeed it could not be otherwise, according to the very laws of nature: therefore he might also in righteous judgment impute Adam’s sin to them, inasmuch as to give Adam a posterity like himself, and to impute his sin to them, is one and the same thing. And therefore if the former be not contrary to the divine perfections, so neither is the latter. Our adversaries contend with us chiefly on this account, that according to our doctrine of original sin, such an imputation of the first sin is maintained, whereby God, without any regard to universal native corruption, esteems all Adam’s posterity as guilty, and holds them as liable to condemnation, purely on account of that sinful act of their first parent: so that they without any respect had to their own sin, and so, as innocent in themselves, are destined to eternal punishment.—I have therefore ever been careful to show, that they do injurously suppose those things to be separated in our doctrine which are by no means separated. The whole of the controversy they have with us about this matter, evidently arises from this, that they suppose the mediate and the immediate imputation are distinguished one from the other, not only in the matter of conception, but in reality. And so indeed they consider imputation only as immediate and abstractly from the mediate; when yet our divines suppose, that neither ought to be considered separately from the other. Therefore I chose not to use any such distinction, or to suppose any such thing, in what I have said on the subject: but only have endeavoured to explain the thing itself, and to reconcile it with divine attributes. And therefore I have everywhere conjoined both these conceptions concerning the imputation of the first sin, as inseparable; and judged, that one ought never to be considered without the other.—While I have been writing this note, I consulted all the systems of divinity, which I have by me, that I might see what was the true and genuine opinion of our chief divines in this affair: and I found that they were of the same mind with me: namely, that these two kinds of imputation are by no means to be separated, or to be considered abstractly one from the other, but that one does involve the other.” He there particularly cites these two famous reformed divines, Vitringa and Lampins. Tom. iv. cap 17. § 78.

The first existence of an evil disposition, amounting to a full consent to Adam’s sin, no more infers God being the author of that evil disposition in the child, than in the father. The first arising or existing of that evil disposition in the heart of Adam, was by God’s permission; who could have prevented it, if he had pleased, by giving such influences of his Spirit, as would have been absolutely effectual to hinder it; which, it is plain in fact, he did withhold: and whatever mystery may be supposed in the affair, yet no Christian will presume to say, it was not in perfect consistence with God’s holiness and righteousness, notwithstanding Adam had been guilty of no offence before. So root and branches being one, according to God’s wise constitution, the case in fact is, that by virtue of this oneness answerable changes or effects through all the branches co-exist with the changes in the root: consequently an evil disposition exists in the hearts of Adam’s posterity, equivalent to that which was exerted in his own heart, when he eat the forbidden fruit. Which God has no hand in, any otherwise, than in not exerting such an influence, as might be effectual to prevent it; as appears by what was observed in the former chapter. 376376    See also p. 39, note, § 8, &c. 48 § 12, &c. 80 § 9, &c. 82§ 17, &c. 121 § 7, &c.

But now the grand objection is against the reasonableness of such a constitution, by which Adam and his posterity should be looked upon as one, and dealt with accordingly, in an affair of such infinite consequence; so that if Adam sinned, they must necessarily be made sinners by his disobedience, and come into existence with the same depravity of disposition, and be looked upon and treated as though they were partakers with him in his act of sin. I have not room here to rehearse all Dr. T.‘s vehement exclamations against the reasonableness and justice of this. The reader may at his leisure consult his book, and see them in the places referred to below. 377377    Page 13. 150, 151, 156, 261. 108, 109, 111. S. Whatever black colours and frightful representations are employed on this occasion, all may be summed up in this, That Adam and his posterity are not one, but entirely distinct agents. But with respect to this mighty outcry made against the reasonableness of any such constitution, by which God is supposed to treat Adam and his posterity as one, I would make the following observations.

I. It signifies nothing to exclaim against plain fact. Such is the fact, the most evident and acknowledged fact, with respect to the state of all mankind, without exception of one individual among all the natural descendants of Adam, as makes it apparent, that God actually deals with Adam and his posterity as one, in reference to his apostacy, and its infinitely terrible consequences. It has been demonstrated, and shewn to be in effect plainly acknowledged, that every individual of mankind comes into the world in such circumstances, as that there is no hope or possibility of any other than their violating God’s holy law, (if they ever live to act at all as moral agents,) and being thereby justly exposed to eternal ruin. 378378    Part I. Chap. I, the three first sections. And God either thus deals with mankind, because he looks upon 222 them as one with their first father, and so treats them as sinful and guilty by his apostacy; or (which will not mend the matter) he, without viewing them as at all concerned in that affair, but as in every respect perfectly innocent, subjects them nevertheless to this infinitely dreadful calamity. Adam by his sin was exposed to the calamities and sorrows of this life, to temporal death and eternal ruin; as is confessed. And it is also in effect confessed, that all his posterity come into the world in such a state, as that the certain consequence is their being exposed, and justly so, to the sorrows of this life, to temporal death and eternal ruin, unless saved by grace. So that we see, God in fact deals with them together, or as one. If God orders the consequences of Adam’s sin, with regard to his posterity’s welfare—even in those things which are most important, and which in the highest degree concern their eternal interest— to be the same with the consequences to Adam himself, then he treats Adam and his posterity as one in that affair. Hence, however the matter be attended with difficulty, fact obliges us to get over it, either by finding out some solution, or by shutting our mouths, and acknowledging the weakness and scantiness of our understandings; as we must in other innumerable cases, where apparent and undeniable fact, in God’s works of creation and providence, is attended with events and circumstances, the manner and reason of which are difficult to our understandings.—But to proceed.

II. We will consider the difficulties themselves, insisted on in the objections of our opposers. They may be reduced to these two: First, That such a constitution is injurious to Adam’s posterity. Secondly, That it is altogether improper, as it implies falsehood, viewing and treating those as one, which indeed are not one, but entirely distinct.

First difficulty, That appointing Adam to stand, in this great affair, as the moral head of his posterity, and so treating them as one with him, as standing or falling with him, is injurious to them. To which I answer, it is demonstrably otherwise; that such a constitution was so far from being injurious to Adam’s posterity, any more than if every one had been appointed to stand for himself personally, that it was, in itself considered, attended with a more eligible probability of a happy issue than the latter would have been: and so a constitution that truly expresses the goodness of its Author. For,

1. It is reasonable to suppose, that Adam was as likely, on account of his capacity and natural talents, to persevere in obedience, as his posterity, (taking one with another,) if they had all been put on the trial singly for themselves. And supposing that there was a constituted union or oneness of him and his posterity, and that he stood as a public person, or common head, all by this constitution would have been as sure to partake of the benefit of his obedience, as of the ill consequence of his disobedience, in case of his fall.

2. There was a greater tendency to a happy issue, in such an appointment, than if every one had been appointed to stand for himself; especially on two accounts. (1.) That Adam had stronger motives to watchfulness than his posterity would have had; in that not only his own eternal welfare lay at stake, but also that of all his posterity: (2.) Adam was in a state of complete manhood, when his trial began. It was a constitution very agreeable to the goodness of God, considering the state of mankind, which was to be propagated in the way of generation, that their first father should be appointed to stand for all. For by reason of the manner of their coming into existence in a state of infancy, and their coming so gradually to mature state, and so remaining for a great while in a state of childhood and comparative imperfection, after they were become moral agents, they would be less fit to stand for themselves, than their first lather to stand for them.

If any man, notwithstanding these things, shall say, that for his own part, if the affair had been proposed to him, he should have chosen to have had his eternal interest trusted in his own hands: it is sufficient to answer, that no man’s vain opinion of himself, as more fit to be trusted than others, alters the true nature and tendency of things, as they demonstrably are in themselves. Nor is it a just objection, that this constitution has in event proved for the hurt of mankind. For it does not follow, that no advantage was given for a happy event, in such an establishment, because it was not such as to make it utterly impossible there should be any other event.

3. The goodness of God in such a constitution with Adam appears in this: that if there had been no sovereign gracious establishment at all, but God had proceeded only on the basis of mere justice, and had gone no further than this required, he might have demanded of Adam and all his posterity, that they should perform perfect perpetual obedience, without ever failing in the least instance, on pain of eternal death; and might have made this demand without the promise of any positive reward for their obedience. For perfect obedience is a debt, that every one owes to his Creator; and therefore is what his Creator was not obliged to pay him for. None is obliged to pay his debtor for discharging his just debt.—But such was evidently the constitution with Adam, that an eternal happy life was to be the consequence of his persevering fidelity, to all such as were included within that constitution, (of which the tree of life was a sign,) as well as eternal death to be the consequence of his disobedience.—I come now to consider the

Second difficulty.—It being thus manifest, that this constitution, by which Adam and his posterity are dealt with as one, is not unreasonable on account of its being injurious and hurtful to the interest of mankind, the only thing remaining in the objection, against such a constitution, is the impropriety of it, as implying falsehood, and contradiction to the true nature of things; as hereby they are viewed and treated as one, who are not one, but wholly distinct; and no arbitrary constitution can ever make that to be true, which in itself considered is not true.

This objection, however specious, is really founded on a false hypothesis, and wrong notion of what we call sameness or oneness, among created things; and the seeming force of the objection arises from ignorance or inconsideration of the degree, in which created identity or oneness with past existence, in general, depends on the sovereign constitution and law of the supreme Author and Disposer of the universe.

Some things are entirely distinct, and very diverse, which yet are so united by the established law of the Creator, that by virtue of that establishment, they are in a sense one. Thus a tree, grown great, and a hundred years old, is one plant with the little sprout, that first came out of the ground from whence it grew, and has been continued in constant succession; though it is now so exceeding diverse, many thousand times bigger, and of a very different form, and perhaps not one atom the very same: yet God, according to an established law of nature, has in a constant succession communicated to it many of the same qualities, and most important properties, as if it were one. It has been his pleasure, to constitute an union in these respects, and for these purposes, naturally leading us to look upon all as one.—So the body of man at forty years of age, is one with the infant body which first came into the world, from whence it grew; though now constituted of different substance, and the greater part of the substance probably changed scores (if not hundreds) of times: and though it be now in so many respects exceeding diverse, yet God, according to the course of nature, which he has been pleased to establish, has caused, that in a certain method it should communicate with that infantile body, in the same life, the same senses, the same features, and many the same qualities, and in union with the same soul; and so, with regard to these purposes, it is dealt with by him as one body. Again, the body and soul of a man are one, in a very different manner, and for different purposes. Considered in themselves, they are exceeding different beings, of a nature as diverse as can be conceived; and yet, by a very peculiar divine constitution, or law of nature, which God has been pleased to establish, they are strongly united, and become one, in most important respects; a wonderful mutual communication is established; so that both become different parts of the same man. But the union and mutual communication they have, has existence, and is entirely regulated and limited, according to the sovereign pleasure of God, and the constitution he has been pleased to establish.

223 And if we come even to the personal identity of created intelligent beings, though this be not allowed to consist wholly in what Mr. Locke supposes, i. e. Same consciousness; yet I think it cannot be denied, that this is one thing essential to it. But it is evident, that the communication or continuance of the same consciousness and memory to any subject, through successive parts of duration, depends wholly on a divine establishment. There would be no necessity, that the remembrance and ideas of what is past should continue to exist, but by an arbitrary constitution of the Creator.—If any should here insist, that there is no need of having recourse to any such constitution, in order to account for the continuance of the same consciousness; and should say, that the very nature of the soul is such as will sufficiently account for it, its ideas and consciousness being retained, according to the course of nature: then let it be remembered, who it is that gives the soul this nature; and let that be remembered, which Dr. T. says of the course of nature, before observed; denying, that the course of nature is a proper active cause, which will work and go on by itself without God, if he lets and permits it; saying, that the course of nature, separate from the agency of God, is no cause, or nothing; and affirming, that it is absolutely impossible, the course of nature should continue itself, or go on to operate by itself, any more than produce itself; 379379    Page 134. S. and that God, the original of all being, is the only cause of all natural effects. 380380    Page 140. S. Here it is worthy also to be observed, what Dr. Turnbull says of the laws of nature, as cited from Sir Isaac Newton. 381381    Mor. Phil. p. 7. “It is the will of the mind that is the first cause, that gives subsistence and efficacy to all those laws, who is the efficient cause that produces the phenomena, which appear in analogy, harmony, and agreement. according to these laws.“ And, “the same principles must take place in things pertaining to moral as well as natural philosophy.” 382382    Ibid. p. 9.

From these things it will clearly follow, that identity of consciousness depends wholly on a law of nature; and so, on the sovereign will and agency of GOD. And therefore, that personal identity, and so the derivation of the pollution and guilt of past sins in the same person, depends on an arbitrary divine constitution; and this, even though we should allow the same consciousness not to be the only thing which constitutes oneness of person, but should, besides that, suppose sameness of substance requisite. For, if same consciousness be one thing necessary to personal identity, and this depends on God’s sovereign constitution, it will still follow that personal identity depends on God’s sovereign constitution.

And with respect to the identity of created substance itself, in the different moments of its duration, I think we shall greatly mistake, if we imagine it to be like that absolute, independent identity of the first being, whereby he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Nay, on the contrary, it may be demonstrated, that even this oneness of created substance, existing at different times, is a merely dependent identity; dependent on the pleasure and sovereign constitution of him who worketh all in all. This will follow from what is generally allowed, and is certainly true, that God not only created all things, and gave them being at first, but continually preserves them, and upholds them in being. This being a matter of considerable importance, it may be worthy here to be considered with a little attention. Let us inquire therefore, in the first place, whether it be not evident, that God does continually, by his immediate power, uphold every created substance in being; and then let us see the consequence.

That God does, by his immediate power, uphold every created substance in being, will be manifest, if we consider that their present existence is a dependent existence, and therefore is an effect and must have some cause; and the cause must be one of these two; either the antecedent existence of the same substance, or else the power of the Creator. But it cannot be the antecedent existence of the same substance. For instance, the existence of the body of the moon, at this present moment, cannot be the effect of its existence at the last foregoing moment. For not only was what existed the last moment, no active cause, but wholly a passive thing; but this also is to be considered, that no cause can produce effects in a time and place in which itself is not. It is plain, nothing can exert itself, or operate, when and where it is not existing. But the moon’s past existence was neither where nor when its present existence is. In point of time, what is past entirely ceases, when present existence begins; otherwise it would not be past. The past moment has ceased, and is gone, when the present moment takes place; and no more coexists with it, than any other moment that had ceased, twenty years ago. Nor could the past existence of the particles of this moving body produce effects in any other place, than where it then was. But its existence at the present moment, in every point of it, is in a different place, from where its existence was at the last preceding moment. From these things, I suppose, it will certainly follow, that the present existence, either of this, or any other created substance, cannot be an effect of its past existence. The existences (so to speak) of an effect, or thing dependent, in different parts of space or duration, though ever so near one to another, do not at all co-exist one with the other; and therefore are as truly different effects, as if those parts of space and duration were ever so far asunder. And the prior existence can no more be the proper cause of the new existence, in the next moment, or next part of space, than if it had been in an age before, or at a thousand miles’ distance, without any existence to fill up the intermediate time or space. Therefore the existence of created substances, in each successive moment, must be the effect of the immediate agency, will, and power of god.

If any shall insist upon it, that their present existence is the effect or consequence of past existence, according to the nature of things; that the established course of nature is sufficient to continue existence once given; I allow it. But then it should be remembered, what nature is in created things; and what the established course of nature is; that, as has been observed already, it is nothing, separate from the agency of God; and that, as Dr. T. says, god, the original of all being, is the only cause of all natural effects. A father, according to the course of nature, begets a child; an oak, according to the course of nature, produces an acorn, or a bud; so according to the course of nature, the former existence of the trunk of the tree is followed by its new or present existence. In one case, and the other, the new effect is consequent on the former, only by the established laws and settled course of nature; which is allowed to be nothing but the continued immediate efficiency of god, according to a constitution that he has been pleased to establish. Therefore, according to what our author urges, as the child and the acorn which come into existence according to the course of nature, in consequence of the prior existence and state of the parent and the oak, are truly immediately created by God; so must the existence of each created person and thing, at each moment, be from the immediate continued creation of God. It will certainly follow from these things, that God’s preserving of created things in being, is perfectly equivalent to a continued creation, or to his creating those things out of nothing at each moment of their existence. If the continued existence of created things be wholly dependent on God’s preservation, then those things would drop into nothing upon the ceasing of the present moment, without a new exertion of the divine power to cause them to exist in the following moment. 383383    The christian observer, (vol. v. p. 177.) in reviewing a sermon, entitled, “Predestination to Life,” remarks: “It may be allowed, (though even this is not to us in the sense formerly explained, a self-evident proposition,) that all created nature, as such, tends to nihility. Since it sprung out of nothing, only through the intervention of Almighty Power, it must certainly relapse into nothing when the intervening power is removed. Since it became something only during the pleasure of another, it will cease to be something when left to itself. But it is not apparent, why that which never subsisted but in a state of virtue and purity, should of itself have a tendency to subsist in any other state; or why, when left to itself, if it continue at all, it should not continue in that state in which it was left.” But, in p. 186. he retracts what he first said, in the following very singular note: “The preceding sheet was printed off before we perceived that we had expressed ourselves at p. 177. col. 2. in language which may be construed into an admission of the truth of the doctrine maintained by Dr. Williams, as it respects the necessary tendency of all created nature to nihility. In a popular sense, indeed, it may perhaps be said, (though the proposition will be found “to fill the ear rather than the mind,”) that what sprung out of nothing at the pleasure of another, must again become nothing when left to itself; and, for the sake of shortening the discussion, we were willing to concede thus much. We must at the same time confess that we do not quite understand the position, that created beings tend to nihility: and we leave it to our readers to judge whether there be much more meaning in saying that ‘what is tends not to be,’ than in saying that ‘what is not tends to be;’ or, in other words, whether a tendency to annihilation in that which exists, be at all more conceivable, than a tendency to become existent in that which exists not.” How far the writer had any good reason for retracting what he first asserted, and thereby opposing the sentiments, not only of the author he reviews, but of nearly all the divines that ever have written upon providence, let the reader judge by a careful perusal of this chapter. We are ignorant of what Bishop Burnet says on this head, (Art. I p. 30. 3d Ed.) but are well satisfied his notion is as incapable of being supported by sound reason, as it was novel; and as little calculated to support the cause of piety as any one opinion he advances, in his undecisive and latitudinarian exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles. ( See particularly Art. ix. on Original Sin.) For what can be a more heterodox opinion, or more full of horrid impiety, if traced to its just consequences, that the sentiment advanced by that Bishop and by the christian observer! though we are far from supposing that either the one or the other foresaw these consequences. The best excuse we can form for this writer is, that “he does not quite understand the position” against which he writes. This record, we believe, is true; and is equally applicable to several other positions in that article. But then, the public expects from a Reviewer a comprehensive acquaintance with the subject which he criticises, instead of “a wood of words” and inconclusive declamations. However, he seems to be notoriously deficient in comprehending the true state of the question. A great part of that long article consists in proving what was not denied, and in disproving what was never asserted; with a goodly portion of contradictory propositions. We might have expected, that an author who studiously shuns the intricacies of a subject which will, in his apprehension, “descend to posterity with all the difficulties on its head”— a subject, the depth of which “the sounding line of metaphysics will never fathom”—would have kept himself more free from embarrassments and self-contradictions. And it was also to be expected from one who professes to advocate the cause of piety and practical religion, that he should keep aloof from the horrible sentiment suggested by Burnet, in opposition to the almost unanimous verdict of all the pious and learned divines that ever lived. We almost shudder to draw the inference demonstrably implied in the sentiment.—That the world would continue in being, were there no God to uphold it! When we say, that this is the just inference drawn from the sentiment held by the christian observer, we mean, by the individual Reviewer in question, whose critique disgraces that excellent work. Aware, perhaps, that the author whose works we now publish was of the same way of thinking; or at least, that his works have the same tendency with what he opposes, he observes: “We are apt to think that the metaphysical cast which the celebrated Mr. Edwards gave to his writings in divinity, has to a certain degree produced an unfavourable effect on the minds of his followers.” It would have been extremely difficult for this writer to point out any preacher who comes closer in men’s consciences, or any writer who more effectually promotes the interest of genuine, humble, holy, practical religion, than President Edwards; and the editors of his works are fully conscious, that what they publish tends, in the most direct manner, when duly considered and understood, to essential truth—to God: of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.—W. If there be any who own, that God preserves things in being, and yet hold that they would continue in 224 being without any further help from him, after they once have existence; I think, it is hard to know what they mean. To what purpose can it be, to talk of God preserving things in being, when there is no need of his preserving them? Or to talk of their being dependent on God for continued existence, when they would of themselves continue to exist, without his help; nay, though he should wholly withdraw his sustaining power and influence?

It will follow from what has been observed, that God’s upholding of created substance, or causing of its existence in each successive moment, is altogether equivalent to an immediate production out of nothing, at each moment. Because its existence at this moment is not merely in part from God, but wholly from him; and not in any part, or degree, from its antecedent existence. For, to suppose that its antecedent existence concurs with God in efficiency, to produce some part of the effect, is attended with all the very same absurdities, which have been shown to attend the supposition of its producing it wholly. Therefore the antecedent existence is nothing, as to any proper influence or assistance in the affair: and consequently God produces the effect as much from nothing, as if there had been nothing before. So that this effect differs not at all from the first creation, but only circumstantially; as, in the first creation there had been no such act and effect of God’s power before: whereas, his giving existence afterwards, follows preceding acts and effects of the same kind, in an established order.

Now, in the next place, let us see how the consequence of these things is to my present purpose. If the existence of created substance, in each successive moment, be wholly the effect of God’s immediate power, in that moment, without any dependence on prior existence, as much as the first creation out of nothing, then what exists at this moment, by this power, is a new effect; and simply and absolutely considered, not the same with any past existence, though it be like it, and follows it according to a certain established method. 384384    When I suppose, that an effect which is produced every moment by a new action or exertion of power, must be a new effect in each moment, and not absolutely and numerically the same with that which existed in preceding moments, what I intend, may be illustrated by this example. The lucid colour or brightness of the moon, as we look steadfastly upon it, seems to be a permanent thing, as though it were perfectly the same brightness continued. But indeed it is an effect produced every moment. It ceases, and is renewed, in each successive point of time; and so becomes altogether a new effect at each instant; and no one thing that belongs to it, is numerically the same that existed in the preceding moment. The rays of the sun, impressed on that body, and reflected from it, which cause the effect, are none of them the same: the impression, made in each moment on our sensory, is by the stroke of new rays: and the sensation excited by the stroke, is a new effect, an effect of a new impulse. Therefore the brightness or lucid whiteness of this body is no more numerically the same thing with that which existed in the preceding moment, than the sound of the wind that blows now, is individually the same with the sound of the wind that blew just before; which, though it be like it, is not the same, any more than the agitated air, that makes the sound, is the same; or than the water, flowing in a river, that now passes by, is individually the same with that which passed a little before. And if it be thus with the brightness or colour of the moon, so it must be with its solidity, and every thing else belonging to its substance, if all be, each moment, as much the immediate effect of a new exertion or application of power. The matter may perhaps be in some respects still more clearly illustrated thus.—The images of things in a glass, as we keep our eye upon them, seem to remain precisely the same, with a continuing perfect identity. But it is known to be otherwise. Philosophers well know, that these images are constantly renewed, by the impression and reflection of new rays of light: so that the image impressed by the former rays is constantly vanishing, and a new image impressed by new rays every moment, both on the glass and on the eye. The image constantly renewed, by new successive rays, is no more numerically the same, than if it were by some artist put on anew with a pencil, and the colours constantly vanishing as fast as put on. And the new images being put on immediately or instantly, do not make them the same, any more than if it were done with the intermission of an hour or a day. The image that exists this moment, is not at all derived from the image which existed the last preceding moment: for, if the succession of new rays be intercepted, by something interposed between the object and the glass, the image immediately ceases: the past existence of the image has no influence to uphold it, so much as for one moment. Which shows, that the image is altogether new-made every moment; and strictly speaking, is in no part numerically the same with that which existed the moment preceding. And truly so the matter must be with the bodies themselves, as well as the images: they also cannot be the same, with an absolute identity, but must be wholly renewed every moment, if the case be as has been proved, that their present existence is not, strictly speaking, at all the effect of their past existence; but is wholly, every instant, the effect of a new agency, or exertion of the powerful cause of their existence. If so, the existence caused is every instant a new effect, whether the cause be light or immediate divine power, or whatever it be. And there is no identity or oneness in the case, but what depends on the arbitrary constitution of the Creator; who by his wise sovereign establishment so unites these successive new effects, that he treats them as one, by communicating to them like properties, relations, and circumstances; and so, leads us to regard and treat them as one. When I call this an arbitrary constitution, I mean, that it is a constitution which depends on nothing but the divine will; which divine will depends on nothing but the divine wisdom. In this sense, the whole course of nature, with all that belongs to it, all its laws and methods, constancy and regularity, continuance and proceeding, is an arbitrary constitution. In this sense, the continuance of the very being of the world and all its parts, as well as the manner of continued being, depends entirely on an arbitrary constitution. For it does not at all necessarily follow, that because there was sound, or light, or colour, or resistance, or gravity, or thought, or consciousness, or any other dependent thing the last moment, that therefore there shall be the like at the next. All dependent existence whatsoever is in a constant flux, ever passing and returning; renewed every moment, as the colours of bodies are every moment renewed by the light that shines upon them; and all is constantly proceeding from god, as light from the sun. In him we live, and move, and have our being.

Thus it appears, if we consider matters strictly, there is no such thing as any identity or oneness in created objects, existing at different times, but what depends on God’s sovereign constitution. And so it appears, that the objection we are upon, made against a supposed divine constitution, whereby Adam and his posterity are viewed and treated as one, in the manner and for the purposes supposed—as if it were not consistent with truth, because no constitution can make those to be one, which are not one—is built on a false hypothesis: for it appears, that a divine constitution is what makes truth, in affairs of this nature. The objection supposes, there is a oneness in created beings, whence qualities and relations are derived down from past existence, distinct from, and prior to, any oneness that can be supposed to be founded on divine constitution. Which is demonstrably false; and sufficiently appears so from things conceded by the adversaries themselves: and therefore the objection wholly falls to the ground.

There are various kinds of identity and oneness, found among created things, by which they become one in different manners, respects, and degrees, and to various purposes; 225 several of which differences have been observed; and every kind is ordered, regulated, and limited, in every respect, by divine constitution. Some things, existing in different times and places, are treated by their Creator as one in one respect, and others in another; some are united for this communication, and others for that; but all according to the sovereign pleasure of the fountain of all being and operation.

It appears, particularly, from what has been said, that all oneness, by virtue whereof pollution and guilt from past wickedness are derived, depends entirely on a divine establishment. It is this, and this only, that must account for guilt and an evil taint on any individual soul, in consequence of a crime committed twenty or forty years ago, remaining still, and even to the end of the world, and for ever. It is this that must account for the continuance of any such thing, and where, as consciousness of acts that are past; and for the continuance of all habits, either good or bad: and on this depends every thing that can belong to personal identity. And all communications, derivations, or continuation of qualities, properties, or relations, natural or moral, from what is past, as if the subject were one, depends on no other foundation.

And I am persuaded, that no solid reason can be given, why God—who constitutes all other created union or oneness according to his pleasure, and for what purposes, communications, and effects he pleases—may not establish a constitution whereby the natural posterity of Adam, proceeding from him, much as the buds and branches from the stock or root of a tree, should be treated as one with him, for the derivation, either of righteousness, and communion in rewards, or of the loss of righteousness, and consequent corruption and guilt. 385385    I appeal to such as are not wont to content themselves with judging by a superficial appearance and view of things, but are habituated to examine things strictly and closely, that they may judge righteous judgment, whether on supposition that all mankind had co-existed, in the manner mentioned before, any good reason can be given, why their Creator might not, if he had pleased, have established such an union between Adam and the rest of mankind, as was in that case supposed. Particularly, if it had been the case, that Adam’s posterity had actually, according to the law of nature, some how grown out of him, and yet remained continuous and literally united to him, as the branches to a tree, or the members of the body to the head; and had all, before the fall, existed together at the same time, though in different places, as the head and members are in different places: in this case who can determine, that the Author of nature might not, if it had pleased him, have established such an union between the root and branches of this complex being, as that all should constitute one moral whole; so that by the law of union, there should be a communion in each moral alteration, and that the heart of every branch should at the same moment participate with the heart of the root, be confirmed to it and concurring with it in all its affections and acts, and so jointly partaking in its state, as part of the same thing? Why might not God, if he had pleased, have fixed such a kind of union as this, an union of the various parts of such a moral whole, as well as many other unions, which he has actually fixed, according to his sovereign pleasure? And if he might, by his sovereign constitution, have established such an union of the various branches of mankind, when existing in different places, I do not see why he might not also do the same, through they exist in different times. I know not why succession, or diversity of time, should make any such constituted union more unreasonable, than diversity of place. The only reason, why diversity of time can seem to make it unreasonable, is that difference of time shows, there is no absolute identity of the things existing in those different times: but it shows this, I think, not at all more than the difference of the place of existence.

As I said before, all oneness in created things, whence qualities and relations are derived, depends on a divine constitution that is arbitrary, in every other respect, excepting that it is regulated by divine wisdom. The wisdom which is exercised in these constitutions, appears in these two things. First, in a beautiful analogy and harmony with other laws or constitutions, especially, relating to the same subject; and secondly, in the good ends obtained, or useful consequences of such a constitution. If therefore there be any objection still lying against this constitution with Adam and his posterity, it must be, that it is not sufficiently wise in these respects. But what extreme arrogance would it be in us, to take upon us to act as judges of the beauty and wisdom of the laws and established constitutions of the supreme Lord and Creator of the universe! And not only so, but if this constitution, in particular, be well considered, its wisdom, in the two forementioned respects, may easily be made evident. There is an apparent manifold analogy to other constitutions and laws, established and maintained through the whole system of vital nature in this lower world; all parts of which, in all successions, are derived from the first of the kind, as from their root, or fountain; each deriving from thence all properties and qualities, that are proper to the nature and capacity of the species: no derivative having any one perfection, unless it be what is merely circumstantial, but what was in its primitive. And that Adam’s posterity should be without that original righteousness, which Adam had lost, is also analogous to other laws and establishments, relating to the nature of mankind; according to which, Adam’s posterity have no one perfection of nature, in any kind, superior to what was in him, when the human race began to be propagated from him.

And as such a constitution was fit and wise in other respects, so it was in this that follows. Seeing the divine constitution concerning the manner of mankind coming into existence, was such as did so naturally unite them, and make them in so many respects one, naturally leading them to a close union in society, and manifold intercourse, and mutual dependence—things were wisely so established, that all should naturally be in one and the same moral state; and not in such exceeding different states, as that some should be perfectly innocent and holy, but others corrupt and wicked; some needing a Saviour, but others needing none; some in a confirmed state of perfect happiness, but others in a state of public condemnation to perfect and eternal misery; some justly exposed to great calamities in this world, but others by their innocence raised above all suffering. Such a vast diversity of state would by no means have agreed with the natural and necessary constitution and unavoidable situation and circumstances of the world of mankind; all made of one blood, to dwell on all the face of the earth, to be united and blended in society, and to partake together in the natural and common goods and evils of this lower world.

Dr. T. urges, 386386    Page 14. that sorrow and shame are only for personal sin; and it has often been urged, that repentance can be for no other sin. To which I would say, that the use of words is very arbitrary: but that men’s hearts should be deeply affected with grief and humiliation before God, for the pollution and guilt which they bring into the world with them, I think, is not in the least unreasonable. Nor is it a thing strange and unheard of, that men should be ashamed of things done by others, in whom they are nearly concerned. I am sure, it is not unscriptural; especially when they are justly looked upon in the sight of God, who sees the disposition of their hearts, as fully consenting and concurring.

From what has been observed it may appear, there is no sure ground to conclude, that it must be an absurd and impossible thing, for the race of mankind truly to partake of the sin of the first apostacy, so as that this, in reality and propriety, shall become their sin; by virtue of a real union between the root and branches of mankind, (truly and properly availing to such a consequence,) established by the author of the whole system of the universe; to whose establishments are owing all propriety and reality of union, in any part of that system; and by virtue of the full consent of the hearts of Adam’s posterity to that first apostacy. And therefore the sin of the apostacy is not theirs, merely because God imputes it to them; but it is truly and properly theirs, and on that ground God imputes it to them.

By reason of the established union between Adam and his posterity, the case is far otherwise between him and them, than it is between distinct parts or individuals of Adam’s race; betwixt whom is no such constituted union: as, between children and other ancestors. Concerning whom is apparently to be understood that place, Ezek. xviii. 1-20. 387387    Which Dr. T. alleges, p. 10, 11 S. Where God reproves the Jews for the use they made of that proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge;” and tells them, that hereafter they shall no more have occasion to use this proverb; and that if a son sees the wickedness of his father, and sincerely disapproves it and avoids it, and he himself is righteous, he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; that all souls, both the soul of the father and the sin are his, and that therefore the son shall not bear the iniquity of his father, nor the father bear the iniquity of the son; but the soul that sinneth, it shall die; that the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. The thing denied, is 226 communion in the guilt and punishment of the sins of others, that are distinct parts of Adam’s race; and expressly, in that case, where there is no consent and concurrence, but a sincere disapprobation of the wickedness of ancestors. It is declared, that children who are adult and come to act for themselves, who are righteous, and do not approve of, but sincerely condemn, the wickedness of their fathers, shall not be punished for their disapproved and avoided iniquities. The occasion of what is here said, as well as the design and plain sense, shows, that nothing is intended in the least degree inconsistent with what has been supposed concerning Adam’s posterity sinning and falling in his apostacy. The occasion is, the people’s murmuring at God’s methods under the Mosaic dispensation; agreeable to that in Levit. xxvi. 39. “And they that are left of you, shall pine away in their iniquity in their enemies’ land, and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them:” and other parallel places, respecting external judgments, which were the punishments most plainly threatened, and chiefly insisted on, under that dispensation, (which was, as it were, an external and carnal covenant,) and particularly the people suffering such terrible judgments in Ezekiel’s time, for the sins of Manasseh; according to what God says by Jeremiah, (Jer. xv. 4.) and agreeable to what is said in that confession, Lam. v. 7. “Our fathers have sinned and are not, and we have borne their iniquities.”

In what is said here, there is a special respect to the gospel-dispensation; as is greatly confirmed by comparing this place with Jer. xxxi. 29-31. Under which dispensation, the righteousness of God’s dealings with mankind would be more fully manifested, in the clear revelation then to be made of the method of God’s judgment, by which the final state of wicked men is determined; which is not according to the behaviour of their particular ancestors; but every one is dealt with according to the sin of his own wicked heart, or sinful nature and practice. The affair of derivation of the natural corruption of mankind in general, and of their consent to, and participation of, the primitive and common apostacy, is not in the least intermeddled with, by any thing meant in the true scope and design of this place in Ezekiel.

On the whole, if any do not like the philosophy or the metaphysics (as some perhaps may choose to call it) made use of in the foregoing reasonings; yet I cannot doubt, but that a proper consideration of what is apparent and undeniable in fact, with respect to the dependence of the state and course of things in the universe on the sovereign constitutions of the supreme Author and Lord of all—who gives account to none of any of his matters, and whose ways are past finding out—will be sufficient, with persons of common modesty and sobriety, to stop their mouths from making peremptory decisions against the justice of God, respecting what is so plainly and fully taught in his holy word, concerning; the derivation of depravity and guilt from Adam to his posterity.

This is enough, one would think, for ever to silence such bold expressions as these—“If this be just,—if the Scriptures teach such doctrine, &c. then the Scriptures are of no use—understanding is no understanding,—and, what a god must he be, that can thus curse innocent creatures!— Is this thy god, o Christian!”—&c. &c.

It may not be improper here to add something (by way of supplement to this chapter, in which we have had occasion to say so much about the imputation of Adam’s sin) concerning the opinions of two divines, of no inconsiderable note among the dissenters in England, relating to a partial imputation of Adam’s first sin.

One of them supposes, that this sin, though truly imputed to infants, so that thereby they are exposed to a proper punishment, yet is not imputed to them in such a degree, as that upon this account they should be liable to eternal punishment, as Adam himself was, but only to temporal death, or annihilation; Adam himself, the immediate actor, being made infinitely more guilty by it, than his posterity. On which I would observe; that to suppose, God imputes not all the guilt of Adam’s sin, but only some little part of it, relieves nothing but one’s imagination. To think of poor little infants bearing such torments for Adam’s sin, as they sometimes do in this world, and these torments ending in death and annihilation, may sit easier on the imagination, than to conceive of their suffering eternal misery for it. But it does not at all relieve one’s reason. There is no rule of reason, that can be supposed to lie against imputing a sin in the whole of it, which was committed by one, to another who did not personally commit it, but what will also lie against its being so imputed and punished in part. For all the reasons (if there be any) lie against the imputation; not the quantity or degree of what is imputed. If there be any rule of reason, that is strong and good, lying against a proper derivation or communication of guilt, from one that acted, to another that did not act; then it lies against all that is of this nature. The force of the reasons brought against imputing Adam’s sin to his posterity (if there be any force in them) lies in this, That Adam and his posterity are not one. But this lies as properly against charging a part of the guilt, as the whole. For Adam’s posterity, by not being the same with him, had no more hand in a little of what was done, than the whole. They were as absolutely free from being concerned in that act partly, as they were wholly. And there is no reason to be brought, why one man’s sin cannot be justly reckoned to another’s account, who was not then in being, in the whole of it; but what will as properly lie against its being reckoned to him in any part, so as that he should be subject to any condemnation or punishment on that account. If those reasons are good, all the difference is this; that to bring a great punishment on infants for Adam’s sin, is a great act of injustice, and to bring a comparatively smaller punishment, is a smaller act of injustice; but not, that this is not as truly and demonstrably an act of injustice, as the other.

To illustrate this by an instance something parallel. It is used as an argument why I may not exact from one of my neighbours, what was due to me from another, that he and my debtor are not the same; and that their concerns, interests, and properties are entirely distinct. Now if this argument be good, it lies as truly against my demanding from him a part of the debt, as the whole, indeed it is a greater act of injustice for me to take from him the whole of it, than a part; but not more truly and certainly an act of injustice.

The other divine thinks, there is truly an imputation of Adam’s sin, so that infants cannot be looked upon as innocent creatures; yet seems to think it not agreeable to the perfections of God, to make the state of infants in another world worse than a state of non-existence. But this to me appears plainly a giving up of that grand point of imputation, both in whole and in part. For it supposes it to be not right, for God to bring any evil on a child of Adam, which is innocent as to personal sin, without paying for it, or balancing it with good; so that still the state of the child shall be as good as could be demanded in justice, in case of mere innocence. Which plainly supposes, that the child is not exposed to any proper punishment at all, or is not at all in debt to divine justice, on account of Adam’s sin. For if the child were truly in debt, then surely justice might take something from him, without paying for it, or without giving that which makes its state as good, as mere innocence could in justice require. If he owes the suffering of some punishment, then there is no need that justice should requite the infant for suffering that punishment; or make up for it, by conferring some good, that shall countervail it, and in effect remove and disannul it; so that, on the whole, good and evil shall be at even balance, yea, so that the scale of good shall preponderate. If it is unjust in a judge, to order any quantity of money to be taken from another, without paying him again, and fully making it up to him, it must be because he had justly forfeited none at all.

It seems to me pretty manifest, that none can, in good consistence with themselves, own a real imputation of the guilt of Adam’s first sin to his posterity, without owning that they are justly treated as sinners, truly guilty, and children of wrath, on that account; nor unless they allow a just imputation of the whole of the evil of that transgression; at least, all that pertains to the essence of that act, as a full and complete violation of the covenant, which God had established; even as much as if each one of 227 mankind had the like covenant established with him singly, and had by the like direct and full act of rebellion, violated it for himself.


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