CONTAINING ANSWERS TO OBJECTIONS
THAT GREAT OBJECTION AGAINST THE IMPUTATION OF ADAMíS 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 ADAMíS 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 Adamís 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 clamor 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 Adamís posterity just as they came upon him, as much as if he and they had all coexisted, 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 Adamís 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 apostasy, 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 Adamís posterity, I apprehend, is not distinct from their guilt of Adamís 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 Adamís 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 Godís forsaking of him; which was a 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 Adamís posterity. The first existing of a corrupt disposition, is not to be looked upon as sin distinct from their participation of Adamís 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 apostasy 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 Adamís 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 of the evil disposition to Adamís posterity, or rather, the coexistence of the evil disposition, implied in Adamís 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.
The first existence of an evil disposition, amounting to a full consent to Adamís 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 Godís 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 Godís holiness and righteousness, notwithstanding Adam had been guilty of no offense before. So root and branches being one, according to Godís wise constitution, the case in fact is, that by virtue of this oneness answerable changes or effects through all the branches coexist with the changes in the root: consequently an evil disposition exists in the hearts of Adamís 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 [See also p. 39, note, ß 8, etc. 48 ß 12, etc. 80 ß 9, etc. 82 ß 17, etc. 121 ß 7, etc.].
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.ís 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 [Page 13. 150, 151, 156, 261. 108, 109, 111. S.]. Whatever black colors 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 apostasy, and its infinitely terrible consequences. It has been demonstrated, and shown 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 Godís holy law (if they ever live to act at all as moral agents), and being thereby justly exposed to eternal ruin [Part I Chap. I, the three first sections.]. And God either thus deals with mankind, because he looks upon them as one with their first father, and so treats them as sinful and guilty by his apostasy; 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 Adamís sin, with regard to his posterityís welfare ó even in those things which are most important, and which in the highest degree concern their eternal interest ó 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 Godís works of creation and providence, is attended with events and circumstances, the manner and reason of which are difficult to our understandings. ó 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 Adamís 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 Adamís posterity, any more than if everyone 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 everyone 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 father 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 manís 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 this 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 everyone 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. ó 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. ó I come now to consider the
SECOND difficulty. ó 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. ó 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.
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. ó 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 (Page 134. S); and that God, the original of all being, is the ONLY CAUSE of all natural effects (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 (Mor. Phil. p. 7). ďIt 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 phśnomena, which appear in analogy, harmony, and agreement, according to these laws.Ē And, ďthe same principles must take place in things pertaining to moral as well as natural philosophyĒ (Mor. Phil. 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. Or, if same consciousness be one thing necessary to personal identity, and this depends on Godís sovereign constitution, it will still follow that person identity depends on Godís 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, today, and forever. 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 moonís 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 coexist 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 milesí 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 Godís 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 Godís 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. If there be any who own, that God preserves things in being, and yet hold that they would continue in 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 Godís 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 Godís 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 Godís 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. And there is no identity or oneness in the case, but what depends on the arbitrary 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 color, 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 colors 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 Godís 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 ó as if it were not consistent with truth, because no constitution can make those to be one, which are not one ó 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; 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 forever. 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 everything 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 ó who constitutes all other created union or oneness according to his pleasure, and for what purposes, communications, and effects he pleases ó 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.
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 Adamís 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, Adamís 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 ó 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 Savior, 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 (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 menís 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 apostasy, 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 Adamís posterity to that first apostasy. And therefore the sin of the apostasy 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 Adamís race; betwixt whom is no such constituted union: as, between children and other ancestors. Concerning whom is apparently to be understood that place, Eze. 18:1-20 (which Dr. T. alleges, p. 10, 11. S). Where God reproves the Jews for the use they made of that proverb, ďThe fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the childrenís teeth are set on edge;Ē 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 son 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 communion in the guilt and punishment of the sins of others, that are distinct parts of Adamís 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 Adamís posterity sinning and falling in his apostasy. The occasion is, the peopleís murmuring at Godís methods under the Mosaic dispensation; agreeable to that in Lev. 26:39, ďAnd they that are left of you, shall pine away in their iniquity in their enemiesí land, and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them:Ē 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 Ezekielís time, for the sins of Manasseh; according to what God says by Jeremiah (Jer. 15:4) and agreeable to what is said in that confession, Lam. 5:7, ďOur fathers have sinned and are not, and we have borne their iniquities.Ē
In what is said here, there is a special respect to the gospel-dispensation; as is greatly confirmed by comparing this place with Jer. 31:29-31. Under which dispensation, the righteousness of Godís dealings with mankind would be more fully manifested, in the clear revelation then to be made of the method of Godís judgment, by which the final state of wicked men is determined; which is not according to the behavior of their particular ancestors; but everyone 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 apostasy, is not in the least intermeddled with, by anything 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 ó who gives account to none of any of his matters, and whose ways are past finding out ó 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, forever to silence such bold expressions as these ó ĒIf this be just, ó if the Scriptures teach such doctrine, etc. then the Scriptures are of no use ó understanding is no understanding, ó and, what a GOD must he be, that can thus curse innocent creatures! ó Is this thy GOD. O Christian!Ē ó etc., etc.
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 Adamís sin) concerning the opinions of two divines, of no inconsiderable note among the dissenters in England, relating to a partial imputation of Adamís 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 Adamís sin, but only some little part of it, relieves nothing but oneís imagination. To think of poor little infants bearing such torments for Adamís 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 oneís 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 Adamís 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 Adamís 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 manís sin cannot be justly reckoned to anotherís 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 Adamís 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 neighbors, 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 Adamís 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 nonexistence. 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 no 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 Adamís 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 one at all.
It seems to me pretty manifest, that none can, in good consistence with themselves, own a real imputation of the guilt of Adamís 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 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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