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XIX.

(Lecture VI., page 179.)

DOCTRINE OF IMPUTATION OF SIN.

Mr. Jowett’s remarks on this subject, to which we have alluded in the text, are deserving of quotation. There is force in what he says, and a much-needed caution, as to 239the tendency of theologians to generalise widely, and draw large propositions from a few Scriptural data—sometimes little more than “figures of speech.” But, all the same, the line of thought concentrated in the two special passages to which he refers, and which form the basis of our Sixth Lecture, is essentially Pauline. The ideas involved in the passages, and the contrasts drawn in them betwixt Adam and Christ, enter into the heart of the apostle’s thought, and cannot be explained away as mere rhetorical exaggeration.

“That so many opposite systems of Theology,” he says, “seek their authority in Scripture, is a fair proof that Scripture is different from them all. That is to say, Scripture often contains in germ what is capable of being drawn to either side; it is indistinct where they are distinct; it presents two lights where they present only one; it speaks inwardly, while they clothe themselves in the forms of human knowledge. That indistinct, intermediate, inward point of view at which the truth exists but in germ, they have on both sides tended to extinguish and suppress. Passing allusions, figures of speech, rhetorical oppositions, have been made the foundation of doctrinal statements, which are like a part of the human mind itself, and seem as if they never could be uprooted, without uprooting the very sentiment of religion. Systems of this kind exercise a constraining power which makes it difficult for us to see anything in Scripture but themselves.

“For example, how slender is the foundation in the New Testament for the doctrine of Adam’s sin being imputed 240to his posterity!—two passages in St. Paul at most, and these of uncertain interpretation. The little cloud, no bigger than a man’s hand, has covered the heavens. To reduce such subjects to their proper proportions, we should consider: First, what space they occupy in Scripture; secondly, how far the language used respecting them is literal or- figurative; thirdly, whether they agree with the more general truths of Scripture and our moral sense, or are not ‘rather repugnant thereto;’ fourthly, whether their origin may not be prior to Christianity, or traceable in the after-history of the Church; fifthly, whether the words of Scripture may not be confused with logical inferences which are appended to them;. sixthly, in the case of this and some other doctrines, whether even poetry has not lent its aid to stamp them in our minds in a more definite and therefore different form from that in which the apostles taught them; lastly, how far in our own day they are anything more than words.”—Jowett’s ‘Comm. on Epistle to Romans,’ p. 180, 181.

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