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seems, and supposed they were pining away in cap. tivity, merely for the transgressions of their progeni tors. Hence they used this proverb; "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge ;" and hence they said, "The ways of the Lord are not equal." But the Most High tells them they misunderstood the matter; and he lays it down as the universal rule of his moral administration, "Every man shall die for his own sins." God may send calamities upon children, which he would not have sent upon them, had it not been for the ini quities of their ancestors. He may threaten parents with the ruin of their offspring, as the consequence of their idolatry, profaneness, lewdness, intemperance, or neglect of parental duties; and he may execute such threatenings. In this way, God's visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children is agreeable to his common Providence; and his threatening so to do may answer important purposes. It will have a powerful tendency to restrain parents from vice and negligence, unless they are without natural affection. But we are not to suppose that the children, in such cases, are ever miserable beyond the measure of their own demerit; or that they are any more sinful than they might justly have been left to be, if they had had the best of parents. Accordingly, it is sometimes seen that the most virtuous and pious persons have as abandoned, and as wretched children, as any in the world; which shows that this is a matter of divine sovereignty. It hence appears that children may be miserable without its being a punishment of them for their parents' sins; though wicked parents are often punished in the misery of their children.
In this way, and in no other that I know of, can we reconcile what God says of his visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, with his solemn declaration in Ezekiel, already mentioned; "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father," &c. The evident meaning of which declaration is, that no
one shall suffer evil, beyond his personal desert. This may be, and yet the sins of parents may occasion the sin and misery of children; provided the children are no more miserable, nor sinful, than they might have been left to be, had their parents been perfectly good.
In like manner, I conceive, the fall of Adam was the occasion of the fallen state, and condemnation, of all men. They would not have been in their present state of sin and misery, had it not been for his disobedience and offence. Yet they might, in the nature of things, without any unrighteousness in God, have been as depraved and wretched as they now are, had they been formed immediately out of the dust, and had there been no Adam.
If it be asked, How can it consist with the righteousness of God, to condemn men as being sinful from their birth, without the imputation of some antecedent sin ?
I answer; just as well as it can be righteous for him to condemn one who has fallen into such a sinful state, after he had existed in innocence ever so long. God's leaving a creature to lose his virtue, or to become a sinner at first, can never be a matter of punishment. The difficulty in people's minds, now suggested, arises, I apprehend, from a wrong notion of what is necessary to constitute any one a sinner. They seem to imagine that he must have brought his first sinfulness upon himself, by some antecedent sin; or else it is not his own fault. But this is evidently an absurd and contradictory supposition. The first sin of any creature, must be the first; and cannot be the fruit or punishment of some former sin. We cannot suppose there was any sin committed by Adam, or imputed to him, previously to his first sin, and as the cause of his being first left to become sinful, without supposing a most palpable contradiction. And one who hath never done any thing amiss, though he may have lived an hundred years in the
perfect performance of every duty, no more deserves to be left of God to fall then into a state of sin and misery, than the child unborn, who has never done either good or evil. God hath an undoubted right to suffer innocent creatures to become sinners; and as good a right the first moment of their existence, as at any other time: and their first sin is sin-their own sin-their own fault, as much as any subsequent ones, and no more. If God were under obligation in justice to keep his creatures from falling, till after they had by sin, provoked him to leave them to themselves, there could be no possibility of their ever sinning, nor any such thing as a state of probation. They would necessarily, all of them be in a state of absolute confirmation in everlasting holiness and happiness, from the beginning of their existence. Or, if any of them should sin, it would be God's fault, and not their's. The probation would be of Him; not of them. But God hath seen fit, for wise reasons undoubtedly, to place angels and men in states of probation; and to suffer some of them to fall; and some into remediless perdition. He might, had that been most wise, have created all mankind at once, and put them all into a state of probation individually, as it is probable he did in regard to the angels.. And he might have permitted them universally to fall, as he did some of the angels, and our first parents; nor would they, in that case, have had any reason to complain of unrighteous treatment. And why have we any more reason now, as God hath in fact ordered things? Now he hath seen fit to create at first only one man and one woman, to be the progenitors of all the rest of the human kind-to create them in perfect maturity of natural powers, and in perfect rectitude of disposition-to place them under as good external advantages for persevering obedience as could reasonably be desired; and to ordain that their brobation should be instead of the probation of all men? That if they persevered and kept their virtue, through
the time appointed, all descending from them should be born in a state of confirmation, and be exposed to no further trial? That if they fell, all their descendants should be brought into existence in a fallen condition, like their's; depraved, inclined to sin, and, of consequence, under condemnation? What reason have we, their children, to complain of unrighteousness in being thus left, and thus condemned from our birth, any more than they had of being left as they were? or any more than we should have had, if we had been born holy, and had continued so twenty or an hundred years, and then had been left to become as sinful and miserable as we now are? Human nature has had a fair trial, in its most perfect state. We know, or might know, that had we been tried in innocence as Adam and Eve were, and been left as they were left, we should have sinned and fell as they did. All the ends of the trial of innocent human nature, on a constitution requiring sinless perseverance as the condition of life, are sufficiently answered by the trial of our first parents. Wisdom requires no more. And in point of justice, what can be the objection? The time and manner of the probation of creatures, and even whether they be in a state of probation at all, are matters of wise sovereignty only. All that justice requires, is that the innocent should not be condemned, nor the wicked justified. We are not condemned being innocent. We were born sinners; we were conceived sinners; and as such only are we condemned. We did not make ourselves sinners, it is true, by any bad conduct before we were inclined to sin: but no more did Adam. He was condemned only for being a sinner, and for committing sin; and just so is every one of us. Only as, according to a divine constitution founded in sovereign wisdom entirely, the trial of human nature in innocence was in Adam alone, (either including or exclusively of Eve ;) so it may with propriety be said, "By the offence of one, judgment came upon
all men to condemnation :" as, had he persevered in obedience, the justification of life would have come upon all on account of his righteousness. But, as in that case, none besides the personally innocent would have been justified; so, in the present case, none but personal sinners are condemned.
Certainly, we have but a miserable plea for the arrest of judgment, in point of justice, if we cannot plead personal innocence; but only object to the manner of our becoming sinners. Sin, is in itself sinful. If we have inherent sin, let it come by derivation from Adam, or how it will, our condemnation is just.
Should any say, It is impossible that we should be born in sin, otherwise than by imputation; unless we suppose a pre-existence of souls. That there cannot be personal sin in any one till there is knowledge of law and duty, or of right and wrong: but of this, a new-born infant is certainly incapable.
I answer; The objector takes for granted, that there can be no such thing as depravity of nature, an evil temper, or a wicked heart, prior to the actual commission of sin. But this is not sufficiently selfevident to be assumed as a principle which needs no proof. On the contrary, it is agreeable to common sense, and seems plainly supposed in several texts and doctrines of scripture, that depravity of nature must be antecedent to all sinful actions, and the cause of them. But if so, there may be a wicked heart prior to knowledge. There may be a propensity to sinful actions in a child, before it is come to years to choose the evil, and refuse the good. This may be in us, as early as we have human souls.
There is the same impossibility of original righteousness, as of original sin, on the principle of the present objection. Created holiness must be prior to knowledge and volition, as much as native sin. Yet Moses says man was created in the image of God. Solomon lays it down as a certain truth,