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ON ORIGINAL SIN.
19. By one man's disobedience, many were made sinners. THE Apostle undertakes, in this Epistle, to lay open the gospel seheme of salvation. In the prosecution of this purpose, he proves, that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, and justly exposed to suffer the curse of the divine law. He next brings into view the atonement of Christ, as the only foundation of pardon and acceptance with God. This leads him to state the doctrine of justification, through faith in the divine Mediator. But lest some should stumble at the idea of the sinner's being saved on account of his substitute; he proceeds, in this chapter, to illustrate the matter by a similar and well known instance. He says, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” He takes it for granted, that the christians to whom he is writing believed, that Adam stood as the public head of his posterity, and so by his first offence exposed them to both sin and death. And this being taken for granted, he goes on to illustrate the saving influence of Christ's mediatorial conduct, by the destructive influence of Adam's probationary conduct. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.". The text, taken either in this eonnexion, or as an independent sentence, naturally leads us to consider the fatal influence of Adam's first of fence, upon all his natural posterity. This is an im
portant subject; and in order to place it in as clear a
I Show, that all men are sinners.
IV. Show, why God ordered it so that Adam should make them sinners.
I. I am to show, that all men are sinners.
Thiş melancholy truth has been universally acknowleuged. All nations have perceived and lamented the moral corruption of human nature. The ancient Poets, who have painted the moral characters of men, and the ancient Historians, who have recorded their moral conduct, unite in exhibiting plain and incontestible evidence of human depravity. We cannot find, in all antiquity, one sinless nation, nor one sinless person. Human nature has been the same, wherever planted and however cultivated, in every age and in every part of the world. Though mankind have spread far and wide over the face of the earth, and lived under the influence of different climates, of different laws, and of different religions; yet they have universally discovered the same corruption of heart.
The truth of this account is fully confirmed, by the express declarations of Scripture. We read, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We read, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” Job demands, “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" David confesses before God, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” And under this impression he
prays, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no flesh be justified.” Solomon puts the question to every child of Adam, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure
sin?” And after a critical and extensive view of mankind, he observes, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” The Apostle Paul is still more plain and particular upon this point. “What then” says he, "are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God, they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable: There is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their way. And the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” These divine declarations, in concurrence with universal observation and experience, clearly demonstrate, that all men, without a single exception, are sin
The next thing is, II. To show that we became sinners, by Adam. The moral corruption of human nature is of great antiquity. The oldest heathen Writers could not, by the light of nature, nor tradition, trace it back to its original source. They generally supposed, however, that man had actually degenerated from his primitive purity. They were loth to believe, that he came out of the forming hand of his Maker, with a corrupt heart. But we have no occasion for conjectures on this subject. The Scripture acquaints us with the original rectitude, and first apostasy, of the human race, The Apostle ascribes the universal sinfulness and mortality of mankind to the first offence of the first man, Adam. “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. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. Therefore, by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; for by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.” The one offence of Adam, which the Apostle here so often mentions, and which he represents as so fatal to mankind, was the offence of his eating the forbidden fruit; of which we have a particular account in the third chapter of Genesis. And he expressly declares, that that single act of our first Parent, introduced sin and death among all his natural descendants, from generation to generation. I proceed,
III. To show how we became sinners by Adam. The text says, that by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.” This plainly implies, that Adam's first offence was, some way or other, the occasion of the universal sinfulness of his future offspring. And the question now before us is, how his sin was the occasion of ours. This is the most difficult branch of our subject; and in order to proceed upon plain and sure ground, I would observe,
1. That Adam did not make us sinners, by causing us to commit his first offence. His first offence, we know, was his eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And since he committed that transgression
before we were born, it is a plain dictate of common sense, that we had no concern in it. We could no more eat of the forbidden fruit, before we were born, than Adam could have eaten of it, before he was created. And though we have been guilty of many and great offences; yet we are all conscious, that we never sinned with our first Parent, in his first transgression. Neither our reason nor experience, therefore, will allow us to believe, that Adam made men sinners, by causing them to eat of the forbidden fruit, which they never saw, in a place where they never were, and at a time before they existed.
Nor can we more easily believe,
2. That he made his posterity sinners, by transferring to them the guilt of his first transgression. Guilt is a personal thing, which belongs to him alone, who does a sinful action. The guilt of any action can no more be transferred from the agent to another person, than the action itself. It has just been observed, that Adam could not transfer his first act of disobedience to his posterity; and if he could not transfer the act itself, it is equally evident, that he could not transfer the guilt of it. As he could not have made himself guilty of eating the forbidden fruit, without his choosing to eat of it; so he could not make his posterity guilty of eating of the forbidden fruit, without their choosing to do the same action. But we know, that he never made them choose to commit his first sin; and, therefore, he could not bring them under the guilt of his first transgression. It was as much out of the power of Adam, to transfer his own personal guilt to his posterity, as it is now out of the power of any other parent, to transfer his own personal guilt to his children. So far we all have clear and distinct ideas upon this subject.