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the entire paragraph from Mr. Wakefield's translation, which appears to me on the whole the most correct; and an attentive perusal may perhaps enable the reader to judge whether the words of the Apostle appear to imply any other consequence as resulting to us from Adam's sin, than that undisputed one of death, to which all men are liable.
6 12 So then as through one man sin came into the world, and death through sin, thus also death passed over to all mankind, because all sinned.* (13 For sin was in the world all the time before the law; and though sin is not charged where there is no law, 14yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a pattern of him that was to come.) 15 But the kindness was not like the sin ; for if by the sin of one all men died,t much more hath the gracious gift of God, by the kindness of one man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto all. 16 And this gist was not as in the case of that single sin ;£ for the sentence followed one sin unto condemnation ; but the gracious gift followed many sins unto acquittal. 17 For if death reigned through the sin of one man, much more will they who receive the abundantly gracious gift of this acquittal reign in life through that one, Jesus Christ. 18 As then by one sin, all came into condemnation, so also by one kindness all men came into a deliverance of life. 19 For as by the disobedience of one man all became as sinners, so likewise, by the obedience of one, all will be constituted righteous."
It appears to me evident that the Apostle is here speaking of that · death which entered into the world by Adam's sin, and is common to all mankind, and of that restoration to life which is in like manner made known unto all men by Jesus Christ. The only part of the passage which seems to imply anything more is the last verse ; which however is only a continuation of the parallel the writer had been carrying on between the offence of one man, and the righteousness or obedience of another man, and their respective consequences. Hence when the many or all are said to be made, or constituted sinners, we are to understand it in the same sense as the judgment passed upon all mentioned in the preceding
The two verses are thus paraphrased by Dr. Priestley : as therefore all men suffer death for the offence of one man, so all receive life in consequence of the obedience of another man ; for as in consequence of the disobedience of one man, all were treated as if they had been sinners, so in consequence of the obedi
* Dr. John Taylor translates the words somewhat more literally, "And so death passed upon all men, unto which all have sinned ;"explaining them thus,“ Death passed upon all men, as far even as which all men were constituted sinners, or were treated as sinners ; that is to say, all men became sufferers to this extent in consequence of Adam's one offence.” For the grounds of this explanation see more particularly the remarks on the nineteenth verse. + [ål mod 101,] the many; the great mass of mankind.
Mr. Wakefield here follows a reading which is placed in bis margin by Griesbach as one deserving of notice, though not admitted into his text.
ence of another man, they are treated as if they had been righteons ;-the former sentence of death being reversed, and all being raised to immortal life.” The expression “were made sinners” corresponds to that which occurs 2 Cor. verse 21, where Christ, who knew no sin, is said to have been made sin for us—that is, was con-demned, treated as though he had been a sinner. It is a Hebrew form of speech, of which there are many examples in the Old . Testament. Thus Psalm xxxvi. 33.—“The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.”—(Literally, nor make him a sinner.) Again, Proverbs, xvii. 15.—“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth (literally, maketh a sinner) the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord.”
We feel ourselves authorized therefore to conclude, that when the Apostle uses the expression “ by one man's disobedience many were made sinners,” he means simply that in consequence of Adam's offence, the many, that is mankind at large, were made subject to death, by the judgment or express appointment of God. On the other hand, when the many were made righteous through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, it pleased God to make him the instrument of the reversal of that sentence whereby death had passed upon all men, announcing through his gospel the restoration to life at the general resurrection, and not only so, but mercies and gifts, privileges and advantages both here and hereafter, far exceeding and counterbalancing any evils we may be subject to in consequence of the first transgression.
We have already adverted to various considerations tending to show that this sentence of condemnation, the appointments which constituted the punishment of the first sin, being made to affect all succeeding generations, are in many respects only blessings in disguise. “ It is just as if a father,” (I use the ingenious, but very just and appropriate illustration of an excellent writer upon this question, Dr. John Taylor, of Norwich), “ for some irregularities in his first child, should determine to lay a restraint upon him, either in diet, dress, or diversions ; and at the same time should judge it expedient to make it a rule with all the other children he might afterwards have. In this instance it is easy to see how the "judgment to condemnation” pronounced on the offence of the first-born, cometh upon the other children, even before they are brought into the world, without any injustice, day perhaps with a great deal of kindness on the father's part. Upon the first it is a proper punishment; on the rest it cometh as wholesome discipline. And yet, through the offence of one, they are debarred from some pleasures or enjoyments. By the offence of one, the judgment to condemna-, tion cometh upon all the rest—by one child's offence restraint reigneth ; and by one child's disobedience the many that come after him are made sinners or sufferers ; inasmuch as they are deprived of some indulgences which might have given them pleasure, but which their father saw, everything considered, would not be for : their good."
I am far from pretending that I have removed all the difficulties in this passage ; undoubtedly it is a very intricate and obscure passage. But it is enough for my present purpose if I have shown
that, whatever may have been the writer's full and entire meaning, nothing like the commonly received doctrine of original sin can be collected from it. Here is nothing said of the public character of Adam as the representative or “ federal head" of mankind
; nothing of the imputation of his offence to his descendants ; nothing of the alleged total debasement or corruption of their natures as the consequence of his transgression ; nothing of their being wholly inclined to all evil and that continually ; nothing, in fine, of any other evil resulting to us from Adam's sin, except the appointment of death as the instrument of our removal from the present scene of things. And even this the Apostle mentions, not for the purpose of dwelling upon it as a punishment inflicted upon us for the sin of our first parents (an idea wbich I am persuaded never entered into his imagination), but to show that it is, as we have just observed, a blessing in disguise ; whatever pain or afflic. tion attends it being far outweighed and altogether lost in the surpassing excellence and glory of that restoration for which it pre-. pares the way to a more desirable state of existence, the expectation of which we enjoy through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now these two are, as I have already said, the only two places in the whole Bible where the sin of Adam is spoken of as affecting the condition of his descendants. It is granted that there are in addition to these, various other texts which are frequently cited in support of this doctrine ; but they appear to me to have very little to do with the subject ; being for the most part merely strong descriptions of the great depravity of some individual, or of the general spread of wickedness among numerous bodies of men ; lamentable facts which no one denies, but which may be accounted for by the unhappy influence of perverse education, bad example, and temptations addressed to craving appetites and uncontrolled passions. One of the texts most frequently referred to is Psalm li. 5. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;" (or rather, in sin did my mother cherish me.) This is manifestly the strong language of contrition and self-abasement. "The psalm was probably composed, as the title imports, shortly after those heinous crimes which constitute the great blot in the history of David ; when he had been awakened to deep feelings of remorse, and a suitable conviction of his sin by the visit of Nathan the prophet. He is deeply affected by a painful sense of the enormity of his crime, and expresses it in terms which can scarcely have been meant to be taken literally, but the purport of which evidently is, that his depravity could not have been greater if he had been originally shapen in iniquity, and made capable of nothing else. But that it has nothing to do with original sin is evident when we consider that there is not one word about Adam or the effect of his sin upon us, and moreover that the Psalmist is confessing, lamenting, and describing in strong terms his own personal wickedness, of which these words, in the way that some understand them, would be rather a plea in palliation; but this is clearly far from his intention,
Another text much relied upon is Ephesians ii. 3. And were by nature children of wrath, even as others.” Such is the form ia
which you find this text commonly cited by controversial writers.. It is, you perceive, not even a complete sentence, but a detached clause, separated from its connexion, without anything to inform us to whom it is intended to apply, or under what circumstances and limitations. If we read from the beginning of the chapter, we find. that the Apostle is addressing his Gentile converts, and comparing their present condition, being admitted to a knowledge of the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, with that in which their unbelieving neighbours still were, and in which they had partaken with them afore time,“ when they walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom,” he continues (identifying himself, according to his frequent practice, with his Gentile brethren), "we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
The phrase "by nature” seems here to denote originally, or previous to our conversion ; 'as when the Apostle elsewhere speaks of* the Gentiles as doing by nature the things contained in the law and compares them to branches of an olive tree wild by nature, grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree ; contrasting the state in which they had been as heathens with the change wrought upon them by their reception of the covenant of grace. The term wrath, when used with reference to the Divine Being and his dealings with his sinful creatures, has acquired in our language, partly perhaps in consequence of its frequent use in theological controversy, a stronger and harsher meaning than the original word will authorize. As commonly used at present, it seems to express, not the calm and dignified displeasure with which it may be supposed that a Being of unspotted holiness will regard the pollution and misery of sin, but a vehement and furious passion, hardly consistent with the ideas we naturally form of absolute purity and per fection. Our notions of the Divine character and attributes are doubtless obtained in the first instance, by transferring to the Deity. whatever conceptions of moral excellence we have derived from intercourse with the best of our fellow-creatures, carried for ward to the highest conceivable perfection, and purified from all
* Romans ii. 14. Here the Apostle evidently refers, not to anything. born with them, or existing independently of education and experience, but in the absence of any divine revelation, by the influence of those pure or benevolent sentiments which the circumstances they had been placed in had a natural tendency to generate. It is curious to observe the contradictory position in which the ordinary mode of interpretation places these two passages. If in the one, we were born children of wrathi, in the other, some at least were born disposed to do the things contained in the law. It is our belief that we are not born either in one state or the other. But one thing at least is obvious, that in the latter text St. Paul distinctly admits it to be possible, that by the unassisted impulses of their own nature and reason, men might arrive at a knowledge of rectitude and virtue, and might even be influenced by suitable motives to a correspondent practice, to such an extent as to make them fit objects of acceptance in the sight of God.
that admixture of human frailty, weakness and vice, to which even the best of mankind are liable. But in this instance, we seem to ascribe to our heavenly Father not the virtues, but the infirmities, the violent emotions and malignant passions incident to human nature. The original word (opyn) is the same which is used (Mark iii. 5.) where our Saviour is said to look round on the Pharisees -« with anger being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." This mixture of indignant displeasure at their depravity with a deep and tender compassion for its unhappy results, aptly displays in the person of Christ, the sentiments which it becomes us to ascribe to his God and Father, of whom he is to us the image and representative. Even in this sense of the word, I doubt whether any other passage can be found to encourage the notion that the heathens, while wandering in ignorance and darkness, are represented in Scripture as objects of the wrath of God. On the contrary, though they knew not Him, He was ever actuated by love and pity towards his erring guilty children.
“ God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved.” In this very passage, the Apostle proceeds in language which directly contradicts and disproves this supposition. God is so far from being filled with wrath towards them, that He is “rich in mercy, and for His great goodness wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Jesus Christ.” Hence, it seems most probable, that in the present instance, the term “ children of wrath,” denotes not any sentiment ascribed to God, but an excessive, ill-governed passion in the breast of the sinner. As a children of disobedience” in the preceding verse evidently signifies “guilty of disobedience,"
children of wrath” seems naturally to denote, “ addicted to wrath.” Such excessive anger and resentment was a natural consequence of the habits which he describes as prevailing among those who walked in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires and devices of the flesh and of the mind ; that is, giving way to the uncontrolled impulses of passions not under the guidance of reason, and aggravated by disorderly and intemperate habits. In conformity with this interpretation of the text, we find both in this epistle and that to the Colossians, which was written at the same time and bears a close analogy to it, repeated admonitions on this very subject, which lead us to suppose St. Paul had particular reasons for thinking that such admonitions were more especially wanted among his converts in those places. “Be ye angry and sin not ; let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” “Let all bitterness; and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, with all malice, be put away far from you,” &c. The true meaning, therefore, of the Apostle's words seems to be," and we were originally, that is before we embraced the Gospel, addicted to wrath, and other violent and bad passions, even as others.”*
* The same form of expression frequently occurs in the Old Testament :-“Are ye not children of transgression ?" Isaiah lvii. 4.
And shall devour the crown of the head of the tumultous ones,” (literally children of noise.) Jer. xlviii. 45. “ Children of iniquity." Hosea x. 9. • Sons of valour.” 2 Chron. xxviii, 6. “ Sons of affliction.” Prov. xxxi. 5, &c.