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THE Doctrines of the Church are contained in her ThirtyNine Articles, to which every one of her Ministers is obliged to subscribe. The first eight Articles have been interpreted by Churchmen in general, with few shades of difference. The Ninth has been the subject of various, and even of opposite interpretations. It is as follows. Of Original, or Birth-Sin.
"Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk) but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from Original Righteousness, and is, of his own nature, inclined to Evil, so that the Flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's Wrath and -Damnation. And this infection of Nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the Flesh, called in the Greek Ogónμa cagnos, which some expound the wisdom, some the sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation to them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin."
There are two things affirmed in the Article-First, The total corruption and depravity of our nature, in con
Man is said to be very fur gone sequence of the fall. from Original Righteousness. In the Latin the expression is much stronger. It is quam longissime ab originali Justitia, as far gone as possible from Original Righteousness. Man is said to be of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit. Lest any person should suppose, that by Regeneration that propensity is wholly removed, it is added, “this infection of nature doth remain in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh is not subject to the Law of God."-Second, The demerit of our corrupted nature. "In every person born into the world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation." This passage in the Article some Divines in the Church have endeavoured to soften into temporal afflictions and death; and thus to exclude everlasting misery from that wrath and damnation, which the corruption of our nature is said to deserve. But if it be true, as the Scripture affirms it to be, that we were enemies to God when he gave his Son to die for us; if the carnal mind is enmity to God, and cannot be subject to his Law; if they that are in the flesh cannot please God; if the wages of sin is death, in that sense in which death is generally taken in the New Testament: if the stains of Original sin are of so scarlet and crimson a kind, that the blood of God's Son alone can wash them out; and if even infants need a Saviour, and are commanded by the Redeemer to be brought unto him; we have all the evidence that the nature of the case admits, that by our Original sin we are liable to punishment in the eternal world. A corrupted and vicious nature, which stands opposed to the holiness, and to the law of God, cannot be the object of his love. Now, as Bishop Burnet observes, " since there is no mean in God between
love and wrath, between acceptation and condemnation, if such persons are not in the first order, they must be in the second.If infants stand in no need of forgiveness, and of the mercy of God in the New Covenant, what have they to do with baptism in the name of Christ, which is one of its seals? St. Paul, in the strongest terms, affirms, that by the offence of one many were dead; that the judgment was by one to condemnation; and that by one man's disobedience many were made sinners." "As these words," says the same author, "are positive and of great importance in themselves, so all this is much the stronger by the opposition in which every one of them is put to the effects and benefits of Christ's death; particular, ly to our Justification through him, in which there is an imputation of the merits and effects of his death, that are thereby transferred to us; so that the whole effect of this discourse is taken away, if the imputation of Adam's sin is denied. And this explication does certainly quadrate more entirely to the words of the Article, as it is known that this was the tenet of those who prepared the Articles; it having been the generally received opinion from St. Austin downwards."
Bishop Burnet in his exposition of this Article, has given us the objections of some, whom he calls great Divines, in the Church, to the interpretation of God's wrath and damnation, as extending to the miseries of eternity, and their arguments for confining them wholly to temporal death, and the afflictions that prepare the way for it. They do not deny that those who drew up the Articles were of sentiments decidedly at variance with theirs. But they argue that they are only bound to sign the Articles in a literal and grammatical sense, and that temporal evils are sometimes, in Scriptural language, called God's
wrath and damnation. It were much to be wished that these Divines had expressed their objections in language more guarded than that which they have used. The Bishop makes them represent God's condemnation of all mankind to misery in the eternal world, as carrying in it an idea of cruelty beyond what the blackest tyrants ever invented. The very objectors to the doctrine allow, that by the fall of man the whole human race have suffered, and will to the end of the world continue to suffer, agonies innumerable; that they are tortured in life, and swallowed up in death. As these evils are universal, they far exceed those which all the tyrants of the world have been able to inflict. How then can they reconcile, upon their own principles, those inflictions of Divine Providence with the Justice of God. If the whole race of mankind have suffered so much, for nearly six thousand years, that in the language of Scripture, the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now; if these sorrows have fallen indiscriminately on the sons of men, with so heavy a weight that even the irreligious have been forced to complain," that man was made to mourn," how will these men prove, that it would be unjust to visit a corrupted nature with punishments in the other world, which we see and feel it to suffer in this? If the corruption and depravity of our nature did not deserve punishment, it would not be punished. ishment, it must deserve it in all worlds as well as in this one. The justice of God can no more punish an innocent rational being for a day, than for an eternity. All men when they come into the world, find themselves doomed to suffer, by a constitution antecedent to their being born into it; and doomed to suffer, because they bring into it a nature corrupted and depraved; now, what evi
But if it deserves pun
dence can these men produce to prove, that it is not the law of all worlds, that vitiated and contaminated natures must suffer, while they continue to be so ? The difficulty, therefore, is the same, admitting the facts, which are indisputable, upon their own principles, and whensoever they shall vindicate the ways of God to man, in the present world, the same arguments will vindicate the justice of God's allotments, in connecting sin with its demerits in the world of eternity.. If it be said that Original sin is only the fault of a nature unhappily descended, and what no man can help in himself, it is answered, that if this argument has any force, it concludes equally against the justice of temporal, as against the justice of eternal punishment. Would any man reckon it a sufficient evidence of justice, that without any crime he had suffered the tortures of a day, and not those of a year ? !
The objectors seem to proceed upon two mistakes. The first is, they seem to suppose that those who contend that Original sin deserves God's wrath and damnation in the other world, contend that it deserves all that punishment which actual guilt, by innumerable complicated crimes, and especially the rejection of the salvation of the Gospel, are justly condemned to suffer in the eternal world. If, in the other world there is so great a difference in the punishment of actual sinners, that some shall be beaten with few, and others with many stripes; if it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of Judgment, than for those who have neglected the Gospel, we may well believe, that the hell into which the wicked professors of Christianity shall fall, is a punishment vastly more severe, and justly more lasting, than the demerits of Original sin. To try the question by the description of that hell which is prepared for those who