CONTAINING OBSERVATIONS ON PARTICULAR PARTS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE, WHICH PROVE THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN.
CONTAINING OBSERVATIONS ON ROM. 5:12, TO THE END
Remarks on Dr. T.’s way of explaining this text
THE following things are worthy of notice, concerning our author’s exposition of this remarkable passage.
I. He greatly insists, that by death in this place no more is meant, than that death which we all die, when this present life is extinguished, and the body returns to the dust. That no more is meant in the 12, 14, 15, and 17th verses (p. 27) he declares as evidently, clearly, and infallibly so, because the apostle is till discoursing on the same subject; plainly implying, that infallibly the apostle means no more by death, throughout this paragraph on the subject. But as infallible as this is, if we believe what Dr. T. says elsewhere, it must needs be otherwise: for (p. 120. S) speaking of those words in Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” he says, “Death in this place is widely different from the death we now die; as it stands there opposed to eternal life, which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ, it manifestly signifies eternal death, the second death, or that death which they shall hereafter die, who live after the flesh.” But the death (in the conclusion of the paragraph we are upon) that comes by Adam, and the life that comes by Christ (in the last verse of the chapter), is opposed to eternal life just in the same manner as in the last verse of the next chapter: “That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” So that by our author’s own argument, death in this place also, is manifestly widely different from the death we now die, as it stands here opposed to eternal life, through Jesus Christ; and signifies eternal death, the second death. And yet this is a part of the same discourse, begun in the 12th verse; as reckoned by Dr. T. himself in his division of paragraphs, in his paraphrase and notes on the epistle. So that if we will follow him, and admit his reasonings in the various parts of his book, here is manifest proof, against infallible evidence! So that it is true, the apostle throughout this whole passage on the same subject, by death, evidently, clearly, and infallibly means no more than that death we now die, when this life is extinguished; and yet by death, in some part of this passage, is meant something widely different from the death we now die — MANIFESTLY eternal death, the second death.
But had our author been more consistent with himself, in laying it down as certain and infallible, that because the apostle has a special respect to temporal death, in the 14th verse, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses,” therefore he means no more in the several consequent parts of this passage, yet he is doubtless too confident and positive in this matter. This is no more evident, clear, and infallible, than that Christ meant by perishing — in Luke 13:5 when he says, I tell you, Nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish — no more than such a temporal death, as came on those who died by the fall of the tower of Siloam, spoken of in the preceding words of the same speech; and no more infallible, than that by life, Christ means no more than this temporal life, in each part of that one sentence — Mat. 10:39, “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it” — because in the first part of each clause he has respect especially to temporal life.
The truth of the case, with respect to what the apostle here intends by the word death, is this, viz. The whole of that death which he, and the Scripture everywhere, speaks of as the proper wages and punishment of sin, including death temporal, spiritual, and eternal; though in some parts of this discourse he has a more special respect to one part of this whole, in others to another, as his argument leads him; without any more variation than is quite common in the same discourse. That life, which the Scripture speaks of as the reward of righteousness, is a whole containing several parts, viz. The life of the body, union of soul and body, and the most perfect sensibility, activity, and felicity of both, which is the chief thing. In like manner the death, which the Scripture speaks of as the punishment of sin, is a whole including the death of the body and the death of the soul, and the eternal, sensible, perfect destruction and misery of both. It is this latter whole, that the apostle speaks of by the name of death in this discourse, in Rom. 5 though in some sentences he has a more special respect to one part, in others to another: and this, without changing the signification of the word. For having respect to several things included in the extensive signification of the word, is not the same thing as using the word in several distinct significations. As for instance, the appellative, man, or the proper name of any particular man, is the name of a whole, including the different parts of soul and body. And if anyone in speaking of James or John, should say, he was a wise man, and a beautiful man; in the former part of the sentence, respect would be had more especially to his soul, in the latter to his body, in the word man: but yet without any proper change of the signification of the name to distinct senses. In John 21:7 it is said, Peter was naked, and in the following part of the same story it is said, Peter was grieved. In the former proposition, respect is had especially to his body, in the latter to his soul: but yet here is no proper change of the meaning of the name, Peter. And as to the apostle’s use of the word death in the passage now under consideration, on the supposition that he in general means the whole of that death which is the wages of sin, there is nothing but what is perfectly natural in supposing that — in order to evince that death, the proper punishment of sin, comes on all mankind in consequence of Adam’s sin — he should take notice of that part of this punishment which is visible in this world, and which everybody therefore sees does in fact come on all mankind (as in verse 14). And is it not equally natural from thence to infer, that all mankind are exposed to the whole of that death which is the proper punishment of sin, whereof temporal death is a part, and a visible image of the whole, and (unless changed by divine grace) an introduction to the principal, and infinitely the most dreadful, part.
II. Dr. T.’s explanation of this passage makes wholly insignificant those first words, By one man sin entered into the world, and leaves this proposition without any sense at all. The apostle had been largely and elaborately representing, how the whole world was full of sin, both among Jews and Gentiles, and all exposed to death and condemnation. It is plain, that in these words he would tell us how this came to pass, namely, that the sorrowful event came by one man, even the first man. That the world was full of sin, and full of death, were two great and notorious facts, deeply affecting the interests of mankind; and they seemed very wonderful facts, drawing the attention of the more thinking part of mankind everywhere, who often asked this question. Whence comes evil, moral and natural evil? It is manifest, the apostle here means to tell us, how these came into the world, and came to prevail in it as they do. But all that is meant, according to Dr. T.’s interpretation, is, “He began transgression” (Page 56). As if all that the apostle meant, was, to tell us who happened to sin first; not how such a malady came upon the world, or how anyone in the world, besides Adam himself, came by such a distemper. The words of the apostle, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” show the design to be, to tell us how these evils came, as affecting the state of the world; and not only as reaching one man in the world. If this were not plain enough in itself, the words immediately following demonstrate it; “And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” By sin being in the world, the apostle does not mean being in the world only in that one instance of Adam’s first transgression, but being abroad in the world, among the inhabitants of the earth, in a wide extent, and continued series of wickedness; as is plain in the first words of the next verse, “For until the law, sin was in the world.” And therefore when he gives us an account how it came to be in the world, or, which is the same thing, how it entered into the world, he does not mean only coming in one instance.
If the case were as Dr. T. represents, that the sin of Adam, either in its pollution or punishment, reached none but himself, any more than the sin of any other man, it would be no more proper to say, that by one man sin entered into the world, than if — were it inquired, how mankind came into America, and there had anciently been a ship of the Phoenicians wrecked at sea, and a single man of the crew was driven on this continent, and here died as soon as he reached the shore — it should be said, By that one man mankind came into America.
Besides, it is not true, that by one man, or by Adam, sin entered into the world, in Dr. T.’s sense: for it was not he but Eve that began transgression. By one man Dr. T. understands Adam, as the figure of Christ. And it is plain, that it was for his transgression, and not Eve’s, that the sentence of death was pronounced on mankind after the fall, Gen. 3:19. It appears unreasonable to suppose the apostle means to include Eve, when he speaks of Adam; for he lays great stress on it, that it was BY ONE, repeating it several times.
III. In like manner this author brings to nothing the sense of the causal particles, in such phrases as these, so often repeated, “Death by sin,” Rom. 5:12, “If through the offence of one, many be dead,” verse 15, “by one that sinned, — judgment was by one to condemnation,” verse 16, “By one man’s offence, death reigned by one,” verse 17, “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all,” etc. verse 18, “By one man’s disobedience,” verse 19. These causal particles, so variously repeated, unless we make mere nonsense of the discourse, signify some connection and dependence, by some sort of influence of that sin of one man, or some tendency to that effect, which is so often said to come BY it. But according to Dr. T. there can be no real dependence or influence in the case, of any sort whatsoever. There is no connection by any natural influence of that one act to make all mankind mortal. Our author does not pretend to account for this effect in any such manner, but in another most diverse, viz. A gracious act of God, laying mankind under affliction, toil, and death, from special favor and kindness. Nor can there be any dependence of this effect on that transgression of Adam, by any moral influence, as deserving such a consequence, or exposing to it on any moral account: for he supposes, that mankind are not in this way exposed to the least degree of evil. Nor has this effect any legal dependence on that sin, or any connection by virtue of any antecedent constitution, which God had established with Adam: for he insists, that in that threatening, “In the day thou eatest thou shalt die,” there is not a word said of his posterity (p. 8). And death on mankind, according to him, cannot come by virtue of that legal constitution with Adam; because the sentence by which it came was after the annulling and abolishing that constitution (p. 113. S). And it is manifest, that this consequence cannot be through any kind of tendency of that sin to such an effect; because the effect comes only as a benefit, and is the fruit of mere favor: but sin has no tendency, either natural or moral, to benefits, and divine favors. And thus that sin of Adam could neither be the efficient cause, nor the procuring cause; neither the natural, moral, nor legal cause; nor an exciting and moving cause, any more than Adam’s eating of any other tree of the garden. And the only real relation that the effect can have to that sin, is a relation as to time, viz. that it is after it. And when the matter is closely examined, the whole amounts to no more than this, that God is pleased, of his mere good will and pleasure, to bestow a greater favor upon us, than he did upon Adam in innocency, after that sin of his eating the forbidden fruit; which sin we are no more concerned in, than in the sin of the king of Pegu, or the emperor of China.
Some observations on the connections, scope, and sense of this remarkable paragraph, Rom. 5:12, etc. With some reflections on the evidence which we here have of the doctrine of original sin
THE connection of this remarkable paragraph with the foregoing discourse in this epistle, is not obscure and difficult, nor to be sought for at a distance. It may be plainly seen, only by a general glance on what goes before, from the beginning of the epistle: and indeed what is said immediately before in the same chapter, leads directly to it. The apostle in the preceding part of this epistle had largely treated of the sinfulness and misery of all mankind, Jews as well as Gentiles. He had particularly spoken of the depravity and ruin of mankind in their natural state, in the foregoing part of this chapter; representing them as being sinners, ungodly, enemies, exposed to divine wrath, and without strength. This naturally leads him to observe, how this so great and deplorable an event came to pass; how this universal sin and ruin came into the world. And with regard to the Jews in particular, though they might allow the doctrine of original sin in profession, they were strongly prejudiced against what was implied in it, or evidently followed from it, with regard to themselves. In this respect they were prejudiced against the doctrine of universal sinfulness, and exposedness to wrath by nature, looking on themselves as by nature holy, and favorites of God, because they were the children of Abraham; and with them the apostle had labored most in the foregoing part of the epistle, to convince them of their being by nature as sinful, and as much the children of wrath, as the Gentiles: it was therefore exceeding proper, and what the apostle’s design most naturally led him to, that they should take off their eyes from their father Abraham, their father in distinction from other nations, and direct them to their father Adam, who was the common father of mankind, equally of Jews and Gentiles. And when he had entered on this doctrine of the derivation of sin and death, to all mankind from Adam, no wonder if he thought it needful to be somewhat particular in it, seeing he wrote to Jews and Gentiles; the former of which had been brought up under the prejudices of a proud opinion of themselves, as a holy people by nature, and the latter had been educated in total ignorance.
Again, the apostle had, from the beginning of the epistle, been endeavoring to evince the absolute dependence of all mankind on the free grace of God for salvation, and the greatness of this grace; and particularly in the former part of this chapter. The greatness of this grace he shows especially by two things. (1.) The universal corruption and misery of mankind; as in all the foregoing chapters, and in several preceding verses of this chapter (Rom. 5:6-10). (2.) The greatness of the benefits which believers receive, and the greatness of the glory for which they hope. So especially in verse 1-5, and 11th of this chapter. And here, verse 12, to the end, he still pursues the same design of magnifying the grace of God, in the favor, life, and happiness which believers in Christ receive; speaking here of the grace of God, the gift by grace, the abounding of grace, and the reign of grace. And he still sets forth the freedom and riches of grace by the same two arguments, viz. The universal sinfulness and ruin of mankind, all having sinned, all being naturally exposed to death, judgment, and condemnation; and the exceeding greatness of the benefit received, being far greater than the misery which comes by the first Adam, and abounding beyond it. And it is by no means consistent with the apostle’s scope, to suppose, that the benefit which we have by Christ, as the antitype of Adam, here mainly insisted on, is without any grace at all, being only a restoration to life of such as never deserved death.
Another thing observable in the apostle’s grand scope from the beginning of the epistle, is, that he endeavors to show the greatness and absoluteness of dependence on the redemption and righteousness of CHRIST, for justification and life, that he might magnify and exalt the Redeemer; in which design his whole heart was swallowed up, and may be looked upon as the main design of the whole epistle. And this is what he had been upon in the preceding part of this chapter, inferring it from the same argument, even the utter sinfulness and ruin of all men. And he is evidently still on the same thing from the 12th verse to the end; speaking of the same justification and righteousness, which he had dwelt on before, and not another totally diverse. No wonder, when the apostle is treating so fully and largely of our restoration, righteousness, and life by Christ, that he is led by it to consider our fall, sin, death, and ruin by Adam; and to observe wherein these two opposite heads of mankind agree, and wherein they differ, in the manner of conveyance of opposite influences and communications from each.
Thus, if the place be understood, as it used to be understood by orthodox divines, the whole stands in a natural, easy, and clear connection with the preceding part of the chapter, and all the former part of the epistle; and in a plain agreement with the express design of all that the apostle had been saying; and also in connection with the words last before spoken, as introduced by the two immediately preceding verses, where he is speaking of our justification, reconciliation, and salvation by Christ; which leads the apostle directly to observe, how, on the contrary, we have sin and death by Adam. Taking this discourse of the apostle in its true and plain sense, there is no need of great extent of learning, or depth of criticism, to find out the connection. But if it be understood in Dr. T.’s sense, the plain scope and connection are wholly lost, and there was truly need of skill in criticism, and the art of discerning, beyond or at least different from that of former divines, and a faculty of seeing what other men’s sight could not reach, in order to find out the connection.
What has been already observed, may suffice to show the apostle’s general scope in this place. But yet there seem to be some other things to which he alludes in several expressions. As particularly the Jews had a very superstitious and extravagant notion of their law, delivered by Moses; as if it were the prime, grand, and indeed only rule of God’s proceeding with mankind as their judge, both in their justification and condemnation, or from whence all, both sin and righteousness, was imputed; and had no consideration of the law of nature, written in the hearts of the Gentiles, and of all mankind. Herein they ascribed infinitely too much to their particular law, beyond the true design of it. They made their boast of the law; as if their being distinguished from all other nations by that great privilege, the giving of the law, sufficiently made them a holy people, and God’s children. This notion of theirs the apostle evidently refers to, Rom. 2:13, 17-19, and indeed through that whole chapter. They looked on the law of Moses as intended to be the only rule and means of justification; and as such, trusted in the works of the law, especially circumcision; which appears by the third chapter. But as for the Gentiles, they looked on them as by nature sinners, and children of wrath; because born of uncircumcised parents, and aliens from their law, and who themselves did not know, profess, and submit to the law of Moses, become proselytes, and receive circumcision. What they esteemed the sum of their wickedness, and condemnation, was, that they did not turn Jews, and act as Jews. To this notion the apostle has a plain respect, and endeavors to convince them of its falseness, in chap. 2:12-16. And he has a manifest regard again to the same thing here. (Rom. 5:12-14) Which may lead us the more clearly to see the true sense of those verses; about the sense of which is the main controversy, and the meaning of which being determined, it will settle the meaning of every other controverted expression through the whole discourse.
Dr. T. misrepresents the apostle’s argument in these verses; which, as has been demonstrated, is in his sense altogether vain and impertinent. He supposes, the thing which the apostle mainly intends to prove, is, that death or mortality does not come on mankind by personal sin; and that he would prove it by this medium, that death reigned when there was no law in being which threatened personal sin with death. It is acknowledged, that this is implied, even that death came into the world by Adam’s sin: yet this is not the main thing the apostle designs to prove. But his main point evidently is, that sin and guilt, and just exposedness to death and ruin, came into the world by Adam’s sin; as righteousness, justification, and a title to eternal life come by Christ. Which point he confirms by this consideration, that from the very time when Adam sinned, sin, guilt, and desert of ruin, became universal in the world, long before the law given by Moses to the Jewish nation had any being.
The apostle’s remark, that sin entered into the world by one man, who was the father of the whole human race, was an observation which afforded proper instruction for the Jews, who looked on themselves as an holy people, because they had the law of Moses, and were the children of Abraham, an holy father; while they looked on other nations as by nature unholy and sinners, because they were not Abraham’s children. He leads them up to a higher ancestor than this patriarch, even to Adam, who being equally the father of Jews and Gentiles, both alike come from a sinful father; from whom guilt and pollution were derived alike to all mankind. And this the apostle proves by an argument, which of all that could possibly be invented, tended the most briefly and directly to convince the Jews; even by this reflection, that death had come equally on all mankind from Adam’s time, and that the posterity of Abraham were equally subject to it with the rest of the world. This was apparent in fact, a thing they all knew. And the Jews had always been taught, that death (which began in the destruction of the body, and of this present life) was the proper punishment of sin. This they were taught in Moses’s history of Adam, and God’s first threatening of punishment for sin, and by the constant doctrine of the law and the prophets; as already observed.
And the apostle’s observation — that sin was in the world long before the law was given, and was as universal in the world from the times of Adam, as it had been among the heathen since the law of Moses — showed plainly, that the Jews were quite mistaken in their notion of their particular law; and that the law which is the original and universal rule of righteousness and judgment for all mankind, was another law, of far more ancient date, even the law of nature. This began as early as the human nature began, and was established with the first father of mankind, and in him with the whole race. The positive precept of abstaining from the forbidden fruit, was given for the trial of his compliance with this law of nature; of which the main rule is supreme regard to God and his will. And the apostle proves that it must be thus, because if the law of Moses had been the highest rule of judgment, and if there had not been a superior, prior, divine rule established, mankind in general would not have been judged and condemned as sinners, before that was given (for “sin is not imputed, when there is no law,”) as it is apparent in fact they were, because death reigned before that time, even from the time of Adam.
It may be observed, that the apostle, both in this epistle, and in that to the Galatians, endeavors to convince the Jews of these two things, in opposition to the notions and prejudices they had entertained concerning their law. (1.) That it never was intended to be the covenant, or method by which they should actually be justified. (2.) That it was not the highest and universal rule or law, by which mankind in general, and particularly the heathen world, were condemned. And he proves both by similar arguments. — He proves, that the law of Moses was not the covenant, by which any of mankind were to obtain justification, because that covenant was of older date, being expressly established in the time of Abraham, and Abraham himself was justified by it. This argument the apostle particularly handles in the third chapter of Galatians, particularly in verse 17-19 and especially in Rom. 4:13-15. He proves also, that the law of Moses was not the prime rule of judgment, by which mankind in general, and particularly the heathen world, were condemned. And this he proves also the same way, viz. by showing this to be of older date than that law, and that it was established with Adam. Now, these things tended to lead the Jews to right notions of their law, not as the intended method of justification, nor as the original and universal rule of condemnation, but something superadded to both; superadded to the latter, to illustrate and confirm it, that the offense might abound; and superadded to the former, to be as a schoolmaster, to prepare men for its benefits, and to magnify divine grace in it, that this might much more abound.
The chief occasion of obscurity and difficulty, attending the scope and connection of the various clauses of this discourse, particularly in the 13th and 14th verses, is that there are two things (although closely connected) which the apostle has in view at once. He would illustrate the grand point he had been upon from the beginning, even justification through Christ’s righteousness alone, by showing how we are originally in a sinful miserable state, how we derive this sin and misery from Adam, and how we are delivered and justified by Christ as a second Adam. At the same time he would confute those foolish and corrupt notions of the Jews, about their nation, and their law, which were very inconsistent with these doctrines. And he here endeavors to establish, at once, these two things in opposition to those Jewish notions.
(1.) That it is our natural relation to Adam, and not to Abraham, which determines our native moral state; and that, therefore, being natural children of Abraham, will not make us by nature holy in the sight of God, since we are the natural seed of sinful Adam. Nor does the Gentiles being not descended from Abraham, denominate them sinners, any more than the Jews, seeing both alike are descended from Adam.
(2.) That the law of Moses is not the prime and general law and rule of judgment for mankind, to condemn them, and denominate them sinners; but that the state they are in with regard to a higher, more ancient, and universal law, determines them in general to be sinners in the sight of God, and liable to be condemned as such. Which observation is, in many respects, to the apostle’s purpose; particularly in this respect, that if the Jews were convinced, that the law, which was the prime rule of condemnation, was given to all, was common to all mankind, and that all fell under condemnation through the violation of that law by the common father of all, both Jews and Gentiles, then they would be led more easily and naturally to believe, that the method of justification, which God had established, also extended equally to all mankind: and that the Messiah, by whom we have this justification, is appointed, as Adam was, for a common head to all, both Jews and Gentiles. — The apostle aiming to confute the Jewish notion, is the principal occasion of those words in the 13th verse, “for until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed, when there is no law.”
As to the import of that expression, “even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” not only is the thing signified, in Dr. T.’s sense of it, not true; or if it had been true, would have been impertinent, as has been shown: but his interpretation is, otherwise, very much strained and unnatural. According to him, “by sinning after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” is not meant any similitude of the act of sinning, nor of the command sinned against nor properly any circumstance of the sin; but only the similitude of a circumstance of the command, viz. the threatening with which it is attended. A far-fetched thing, truly, to be called a similitude of sinning! Besides, this expression in such a meaning, is only a needless, impertinent, and awkward repetition of the same thing, which it is supposed the apostle had observed in the foregoing verse, even after he had proceeded another step in the series of his discourse. As thus, in the foregoing verse the apostle had plainly laid down his argument (as our author understands it), by which he would prove, that death did not come by personal sin, viz. because death reigned before any law, threatening death for personal sin, was in being: so that the sin then committed was against no law, threatening death for personal sin. Having laid this down, the apostle leaves this part of his argument, and proceeds another step, nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses: and then returns, in a strange unnatural manner, and repeats that argument or assertion again, but only more obscurely than before, in these words, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; i.e. over them that had not sinned against a law threatening death for personal sin. Which is just the same thing as if the apostle had said, “they that sinned before the law, did not sin against a law threatening death for personal sin; for there was no such law for any to sin against at that time: nevertheless death reigned at that time, even over such as did not sin against a law threatening death for personal sin.” Which latter clause adds nothing to the premises, and tends nothing to illustrate what was said before, but rather to obscure and darken it. The particle (êáé) even, when prefixed in this manner, is used to signify something additional, some advance in the sense or argument; implying, that the words following express something more, or express the same thing more fully, plainly, or forcibly. But to unite two clauses by such a particle, in such a manner, when there is nothing besides a flat repetition, with no superadded sense or force, but rather a greater uncertainty and obscurity, would be very unusual, and indeed very absurd.
I can see no reason why we should be dissatisfied with that explanation of this clause, which has more commonly been given, viz. That by them who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, are meant infants; who, though they have indeed sinned in Adam, yet never sinned as Adam did, by actually transgressing in their own persons; unless it be, that this interpretation is too old, and too common. It was well understood by those to whom the apostle wrote, that vast numbers had died in infancy, within that period of which he speaks, particularly in the time of the deluge. And it would be strange, that the apostle should not have the case of such infants in his mind; even supposing his scope were what our author supposes, and he had only intended to prove that death did not come on mankind for their personal sin. How directly would it have served the purpose of proving this, to have mentioned so great a part of mankind who are subject to death, and who, all know, never committed any sin in their own persons! How much more plain and easy the proof of the point by that, than to go round about, as Dr. T. supposes, and bring in a thing so dark and uncertain as this, that God never would bring death on all mankind for personal sin (though they had personal sin) without an express revealed constitution; and then to observe, that there was no revealed constitutions of this nature from Adam to Moses — which also seems to be an assertion without any plain evidence — and then to infer, that it must needs be so, that it could come only on occasion of Adam’s sin, though not for his sin, or as any punishment of it; which inference also is very dark and unintelligible.
If the apostle in this place meant those who never sinned by their personal act, it is not strange that he should express this by their not sinning after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. We read of two ways of men being like Adam, or in which a similitude to him is ascribed to men: one is, being begotten or born in his image or likeness, Gen. 5:3. Another is, transgressing God’s covenant or law, like him, Hos. 6:7. They, like Adam (so, in the Heb. and Vulg. Lat.) have transgressed the covenant. Infants have the former similitude, but not the latter. And it was very natural, when the apostle would infer that infants become sinners by that one act and offense of Adam, to observe, that they had not renewed the act of sin themselves, by any second instance of a like sort. And such might be the state of language among Jews and Christians at that day, that the apostle might have no phrase more aptly to express this meaning. The manner in which the epithets, personal and actual, are used and applied now in this case, is probably of later date, and more modern use.
And the apostle having the case of infants in view, in this expression, makes it more to his purpose to mention death reigning before the law of Moses was given. For the Jews looked on all nations besides themselves, as sinners, by virtue of their law; being made so especially by the law of circumcision, given first to Abraham, and completed by Moses, making the want of circumcision a legal pollution, utterly disqualifying for the privileges of the sanctuary. This law, the Jews supposed, made the very infants of the Gentiles to be sinners, polluted and hateful to God; they being uncircumcised, and born of uncircumcised parents. But the apostle proves, against these notions of the Jews, that the nations of the world do not become sinners by nature, and sinners from infancy, by virtue of their law, in this manner, but by Adam’s sin: inasmuch as infants were treated as sinners long before the law of circumcision was given, as well as before they had committed actual sin.
What has been said, may, as I humbly conceive, lead us to that which is the true scope and sense of the apostle in these three verses; which I will endeavor more briefly to represent in the following paraphrase.
Rom. 5:12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. “The things which I have largely insisted on, viz. the evil that is in the world, the general wickedness, guilt, and ruin of mankind, and the opposite good, even justification and life, as only by Christ, lead me to observe the likeness of the manner in which they are each of them introduced. For it was by one man that the general corruption and guilt which I have spoken of, came into the world, and condemnation and death by sin: and this dreadful punishment and ruin came on all mankind by the great law of works, originally established with mankind in their first father, and by his one offense, or breach of that law; all thereby becoming sinners in God’s sight, and exposed to final destruction.
Rom. 5:13. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed, when there is no law. “It is manifest that it was in this way the world became sinful and guilty; and not in that way which the Jews suppose, viz. That their law, given by Moses, is the grand universal rule of righteousness and judgment for mankind, and that it is by being Gentiles, uncircumcised, and aliens from that law, that the nations of the world are constituted sinners, and unclean. For before the law of Moses was given, mankind were all looked upon by the great Judge as sinners, by corruption and guilt derived from Adam’s violation of the original law of works; which shows, that the original universal rule of righteousness is not the law of Moses; for if so, there would have been no sin imputed before that was given; because sin is not imputed, when there is no law.
Rom. 5:14. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. “But that at that time sin was imputed, and men were by their judge reckoned as sinners, through guilt and corruption derived from Adam, and condemned for sin to death, the proper punishment of sin, we have a plain proof; in that it appears in fact, all mankind, during that whole time which preceded the law of Moses, were subjected to that temporal death, which is the visible introduction and image of that utter destruction which sin deserves, not excepting even infants, who could be sinners no other way than by virtue of Adam’s transgression, having never in their own persons actually sinned as Adam did; nor could at that time be made polluted by the law of Moses, as being uncircumcised, or born of uncircumcised parents.”
Now, by way of reflection on the whole, I would observe, that though there are two or three expressions in this paragraph, Rom. 5:12, etc. the design of which is attended with some difficulty and obscurity, as particularly in the 13th and 14th verses, yet the scope and sense of the discourse in general is not obscure, but on the contrary very clear and manifest; and so is the particular doctrine mainly taught in it. The apostle sets himself with great care to make it plain, and precisely to fix and settle the point he is upon. And the discourse is so framed, that one part of it greatly clears and fixes the meaning of other parts; and the whole is determined by the clear connection it stands in with other parts of the epistle, and by the manifest drift of all the preceding part of it.
The doctrine of original sin is not only here taught, but most plainly, explicitly, and abundantly taught. This doctrine is asserted, expressly or implicitly, in almost every verse, and in some of the verses several times. It is fully implied in that first expression in verse 12, “By one man sin entered into the world.” The passage implies, that sin became universal in the world; as the apostle had before largely shown it was; and not merely (which would be a trifling observation) that one man, who was made first, sinned first, before other men sinned; or, that it did not so happen that many men began to sin just together at the same moment. The latter part of the verse, “and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for the (or, if you will, unto which) all have sinned,” shows, that in the eye of the Judge of the world, in Adam’s first sin, all sinned; not only in some sort, but all sinned so as to be exposed to that death, and final destruction, which is the proper wages of sin. The same doctrine is taught again twice over in the 14th verse. It is there observed, as a proof of this doctrine, that “death reigned over them which had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” i.e. by their personal act; and therefore could be exposed to death, only by deriving guilt and pollution from Adam, in consequence of his sin. And it is taught again in those words, who is the figure of him that was to come. The resemblance lies very much in this circumstance, viz. our deriving sin, guilt, and punishment by Adam’s sin, as we do righteousness, justification, and the reward of life, by Christ’s obedience; for so the apostle explains himself. The same doctrine is expressly taught again, Rom. 5:15, “Through the offence of one, many be dead.” And again twice in verse 16, “it was by one that sinned:” i.e. It was by Adam, that guilt and punishment (before spoken of) came on mankind: and in these words, “judgment was by one to condemnation.” It is again plainly and fully laid down in the verse 17, “By one man’s offence, death reigned by one.” So again in verse 18, “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Again very plainly in verse 19, “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners.”
Here is everything to determine and fix the meaning of all the important terms used; as, the abundant use of them in all parts of the New Testament; and especially in this apostle’s writings, which make up a very great part of the New Testament; and his repeated use of them in this epistle in particular; and in the former part of this very chapter; and also the light that one sentence in this paragraph casts on another, which fully settles their meaning: as, with respect to the words justification, righteousness, and condemnation; and above all, in regard of the word sin, which is the most important of all, with relation to the doctrine and controversy we are upon. Besides the constant use of this term everywhere else through the New Testament, through the epistles of this apostle, this epistle in particular, and even the former part of this chapter, it is often repeated in this very paragraph, and evidently used in the very sense that is denied to belong to it in the end of Rom. 5:12 and verse 19 though owned everywhere else: and its meaning is fully determined by the apostle varying the term; using together with it, to signify the same thing, such a variety of other synonymous words, such as offense, transgression, disobedience. And further, to put the matter out of all controversy, it is particularly, expressly, and repeatedly distinguished from that which our opposers would explain it by, viz. condemnation and death. And what is meant by sin entering into the world, in verse 12 is determined by a like phrase of sin being in the world, in the next verse. — And that by the offense of one, so often spoken of here, as bringing death and condemnation on all, the apostle means the sin of one, derived in its guilt and pollution to mankind in general (over and above all that has been already observed), is determined by those words in the conclusion of this discourse, verse 20, “Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound: but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” These words plainly show, that the OFFENSE spoken of so often, the offence of one man, became the sin of all. For when he says, “The law entered, that the offence might abound,” his meaning cannot be, that the offense of Adam, merely as his personally, should abound; but, as it exists in its derived guilt, corrupt influence, and evil fruits, in the sin of mankind in general, even as a tree in its root and branches.
What further confirms the certainty of the proof of original sin, which this place affords, is this, that the utmost art cannot pervert it to another sense. What a variety of the most artful methods have been used by the enemies of this doctrine, to wrest and darken this paragraph of Holy Writ, which stands so much in their way, as it were to force the Bible to speak a language agreeable to their mind! How have expressions been strained, words and phrases racked! What strange figures of speech have been invented, and with violent hands thrust into the apostle’s mouth; and then with a bold countenance and magisterial airs obtruded on the world, as from him! — But blessed be God, we have his words as he delivered them, and the rest of the same epistle, and his other writings to compare with them; by which his meaning stands in too strong and glaring a light to be hid by any of the artificial mists which they labor to throw upon it.
It is really no less than abusing the Scripture and its readers, to represent this paragraph as the most obscure of all the places of Scripture, that speak of the consequences of Adam’s sin; and to treat it as if there was need first to consider other places as more plain. Whereas, it is most manifestly a place in which these things are declared, the most plainly, particularly, precisely, and of set purpose, by that great apostle, who has most fully explained to us those doctrines in general, which relate to the redemption by Christ, and the sin and misery we are redeemed from. And it must be now left to the reader’s judgment, whether the Christian church has not proceeded reasonably, in looking on this as a place of Scripture most clearly and fully treating of these things, and in using its determinate sense as a help to settle the meaning of many other passages of Sacred Writ.
As this place in general is very full and plain, so the doctrine of the corruption of nature, as derived from Adam, and also the imputation of his first sin, are both clearly taught in it. The imputation of Adam’s one transgression, is indeed most directly and frequently asserted. We are here assured, that by one man’s sin, death passed on all; all being adjudged to this punishment, as having sinned (so it is implied) in that one man’s sin. And it is repeated, over and over, that all are condemned, many are dead, many made sinners, etc. by one man’s offense, by the disobedience of one, and by one offense. And the doctrine of original depravity is also here taught, when the apostle says, “By one man sin entered into the world;” having a plain respect (as hath been shown) to that universal corruption and wickedness, as well as guilt, of which he had before largely treated.
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