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certain connexion between the sin of Adam and that of his posterity': while Augustine asserted an innate, hereditary depravity, by the imputation of Adam's sin. The Reformers also, with one accord, taught that the sin of Adam was imputed to all his posterity, and that a corrupt nature descends from him to every one of his posterity, in consequence of which, infants are unholy, unfit for heaven, and justly exposed to future punishment. Their opinion seems to have been, that the very substance or essence of the soul was depraved, and that the moral contamination extended alike to all its powers and faculties, insomuch that sin became a property of every man's nature, and was propagated as really as Hesh and blood.
This opinion met with the first open resistance, after the Reformation, from Arminius and the Remonstrants, and was one of the five points keenly controverted at the Synod of Dort. The doctrine of native innocence, and of depravity as the effect of example, was again revived, and again condemned as unscriptural ; though, from that time, it gained ground, especially in the English church, where it became the predominant doctrine.
Our Puritan fathers adhered to the doctrine of original sin, as consisting in the imputation of Adam's sin, and in a hereditary depravity; and this continued to be the received doctrine of the churches of New England until after the time of Edwards. He adopted the views of the Reformers on the subject of original sin, as consisting in the imputation of Adam's sin, and a depraved nature transmitted by descent. But, after him, this mode of stating the subject was gradually changed, until, long since, the prevailing doctrine in New England has been, that men are not guilty of Adam's sin, and that depravity is not of the substance of the soul, nor an inherent or physical quality, but is wholly voluntary, and consists in the transgression of law, in such circumstances as constitutes accountability and desert of punishment. This change was not accomplished without discussion. It was resisted by those who close to be denominated Old Calvinists, and advocated by those who were called Hopkinsians, and New Divinity men, until, for many years, these views of original sin have been the predominant doctrine of the ministers and churches now denominated Evangelical. These, while they disclaim the language held by Calvin and Edwards on the subject of imputation, do, in accordance with the Bible, and the Reformers, hold that there is a connexion, of some kind, between the sin of Adam and the universal, voluntary, and entire depravity of his posterity, so that it is in consequence of Adam's sin that all mankind do sin, voluntarily, as early as they are capable of accountability and moral action.
The pamphlets and treatises on this subject were written, and the subject settled, chiefly before my recollection. But I have read them, and have searched the Scriptures, and have, from the beginning, accommodated my phraseology to opinions which had been adopted as the result of an investigation which commenced more than seventy years ago, and has been settled more than fifty years; and which is now, with some variety of modification, received substantially, as I apprehend, by two thirds, if not by three quarters, of the evangelical divines in the United States.
The mode, therefore, of stating and explaining the doctrine of original sin, and other kindred doctrines, which I have adopted, and which some affect to consider as new, and an approximation to Unitarianism, without sense enough on my part to perceive it, or honesty enough to avow it, is a mode of explaining and vindicating the doctrines of the Reformation which was adopted in New England more than seventy years ago. Some of the most approved writers on this subject are, Hopkins, the younger Edwards, West, Smalley, Spring, Strong, Dwight; and, in England, Andrew Fuller, one of the greatest and best of men.
The following quotations from several of these writers, will shew the fact, and the nature of the change in the mode of stating the doctrine of original sin.
“ It is not to be supposed that the offence of Adam is imputed to them his posterityl to their condemnation, while in their own persons innocent; or that they are guilty of the sin of their first father, antecedent to their own sinfulness. All that is asserted as what the Scriptures teach, is, that by a divine constitution there is a certain connexion between the first sin of Adam, and the sinfulness of his posterity.”—Hopkins, vol. i. p. 319.
The subject is thus stated by Dwight. 1. That by one man sin entered into the world. 2. That, in consequence of this event, all men have sinned. 3. That death, as the consequence of sin, has passed upon all men. And he says “it is clearly impossible that any being except a thinking, voluntary one, should be the subject of either virtue or sin.”
“Please to remember, that your wicked nature is your own, in the most personal sense. For, though we are sinners by Adam; though there is an established connexion between the sin of Adam and the sin of his posterity; though all the children of men are by nature totally depraved in consequence of Adam's sin ; yet sin is a personal quality. And as your hearts and souls are your own, and not the hearts and souls of other men; as your thoughts and volitions are your own, and not the thoughts and volitions of others; so your sin and evil nature are your own, and not the sin and evil nature of another. David, in his penitential con session, evidently refers to the established connexion between the sin of Adam and his posterity. For, he says, with the note of attention, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” But he does not confess the sin of Adam, any more than the sin of Seth;
nor will any other man who is the subject of a proper share of conviction. For sin is a personal quality, and cannot be transferred from one to another, any more than the heart or soul of one man can be transferred to another.”—Spring's Disquisition, as quoted in Ely's Contrast, p. 79.
“ 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. 1. Adam did not make us sinners, by causing us to commit his first offence. Nor can we more easily believe, 2. That he made his posterity sinners, by transferring to them the guilt of his first transgression. The doctrine of imputation, therefore, gives us no ground to suppose, that all mankind sinned in, and fell with Adam, in his first transgression; or that the guilt of his first sin was, either by him, or by the Deity, transferred to his posterity. Nor can we suppose, 3. That Adam made men sinners, by conveying to them a morally corrupt nature. There is no morally corrupt nature, distinct from free, voluntary, sinful exercises.”—Emmons, as quoted in Ely's Contrast, pp. 67, 69, 71. **“Men have lost none of their ability to obey his commands by the fall. They are as really able to obey every divine command as Adam was, when he came out of the forming hand of his Maker." - Mass. Miss. Magazine, as quoted in Ely's Contrast, p. 75.
“Virtue and vice, or sin and holiness, are predicable of nothing but moral actions.”—Hopkins, as quoted in Ely's Contrast, p. 49.
“Sin is a wrong choice or volition. Holiness is its opposite; a right choice or volition. Nothing else is sin ; nothing else holiness.” -Spring's Disquisition, as quoted in Ely's Contrast, p. 49.
“Infants are born with a nature, which, not by necessity, but by the free consent of the heart, will in all cases actually sin as soon as they are able. Without denying that more is true, I mean to assert no more when I speak of the depravity of infants, and when I call them sinners. Least of all do I undertake to decide on their condition in a future world. In the hands of divine mercy I leave them, and bow in submissive silence.”-Griffin's Park Street Lectures, pp. 13, 14.
That the reviewer and his brethren were unacquainted with this change in the language of New England Calvinists on the subject of original sin, “is not to be supposed for an instant, or by any stretch of charity.” The controversies are extant by which this change was acbieved. A Contrast between the language of the Reformers and the divines of New England has been published, with the recommendation of eighteen distinguished names of the old school. This Contrast was reviewed, in 1813, in the General Repository, a Unitarian work published at Cambridge, which contains the following passages, and many others like them. “Our ears are assailed and fatigued with the polemical clamor of the Old Calvinists and the New."* “ The
* No. 6. p. 347.
influence of the Assembly (the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church) must be strictly and exclusively devoted to the defence and support of Presbyterian Calvinism, as distinguished from, and opposed to, Andoverian Calvinism."* “The Calvinism of Andover and that of the General Associations may safely be considered the same, and they are not at all inclined to yield their 'improvements.””'t “The reformed, amputated, and enlarged state of the Westminster creed, as received at Andover, is quite a different Orthodoxy from the standards of Princeton. It may reasonably be doubted, whether there be a Calvinist in New England who would agree to the explanations of the New York Calvinists.”Í And Dr. Channing says “THE IMPUTATION OF ADAM's SIN TO HIS POSTERITY IS HASTENING TO JOIN THE EXPLODED DOCTRINE OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION."||
And yet, with all this knowledge, and these concessions, that the phraseology and faith of New England Calvinists is changed on the article of original sin, all those expressions which the Reformers adopted on that subject are quoted in evidence that the Calvinists of New England hold to the damnation of infants ! We ask the reviewer to reconcile this conduct with his high standing as a man of letters, in a station which renders bad example conspicuous. We ask him to reconcile it with fairness in controversy, with candor, with liberality, with honor, with conscience, and the giving up of that account with joy on which the destinies of eternity will turn. Can he reconcile his conduct to his friends even, whose abused credulity has betrayed them into a premature exultation ?
There is one point of Unitarian management, which we need the reviewer's aid to understand. When the Calvinistic system is explained and defended as it has been for half a century in New England, and honest men, who have heard it misrepresented, are convinced of its truth, and are in danger of throwing upon those who have slandei ed us, the charge of misrepresentation, then, to parry the charge, it is insisted that it is not Calvinism which we preachi, but that it is Unitarianism, or something fast approaching to it.
But, lest these too favorable testimonies should disarm their people of prejudice, and bring them and us to a too frequent and friendly alliance, it becomes necessary to create repellancy; and then all the offensive passages which can be found in Calvinistic authors are strung together, to deck out the system with appropriate horrors.
Now, we would ask these gentlemen to tell us on which side of these opposite representations is their real opinion,—when it is that their lips still speak the thing they mean, and when they merely take counsel of expediency. Why did the reviewer go back two hundred years for evidence of what Calvinists now believe? And why did he stop short, without a single quotation from modern creeds and authors ? Did he perceive that they would furnish ex* Gen. Repos. No. 6. p. 350.
# Ib. pp. 350, 361. || Sermon at the ordination of Mr. Gannet. VOL. I.
planations which would break entirely the force of his argument ? Why were no extracts given from Hopkins, Fuller, Smalley, West, Strong, and Dwight? Are authors of the last and of the present generations, to be overlooked, in representing the sentiments of the living ?
We derive no pleasure from exposing the false reasonings, and disingenuous conduct, and false accusations of the reviewer, but the satisfaction which results from a faithful, and we hope a successful, performance of our duty, in vindicating the cause of the servants of Christ from aspersion, and in fulfilling the obligations of public justice.
The charge so long circulated against Calvinists, that they believe in the damnation of infants, is utterly false; and knowing it to be so, I publicly denied it. A reviewer in the Christian Examiner, the organ of the Unitarian denomination, instead of apologizing for so great an injury, justifies the charge, and attempts to produce the truth in evidence. And, in language more supercilious, arrogant, and outrageous, against the laws of common propriety, than any my eyes ever fell upon, on pages usually consecrated to decency; he does not hesitate to charge Calvinists with having their understandings so debased, their moral sentiments so brutified, that they have not “sense” or “ spirit” enough to distinguish between the character of God and the Devil; and this on the authority of a passage in an author, whose real sentiments he most grossly misrepresented. In such circumstances, we have spoken not hastily, nor in anger, but deliberately and conscientiously, both as to inaiter and manner; for we are not of the number who suppose that rebuke can never be deserved, or that it is always inexpedient or inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel. Instead of this, had we animadverted upon instances of such moral obliquity without correspondent tokens of strong disapprobation, we should have felt that we betrayed the cause of Christ, and gave over the names of bis servants to unmerited reproach, and that we set an example of apathy to moral wrong, calculated to destroy responsibility, and deaden the sensibilities of the community to literary aggression.
And as to any supposed severity in exposing the ignorance or weakness of the reviewer, in the language of Edwards, “I would crave leave to say, that I humbly conceive, a distinction ought to be made between opposing and exposing a cause, or the arguments used to defend it, and reproaching persons. He is a weak writer indeed, who undertakes to confute an opinion, but dares not expose the nakedness and absurdity of it, nor the weakness nor inconsistence of the methods taken, and arguments used, by any, to maintain it, for fear he should be guilty of speaking evil of those things, and be charged with reproaching them. If an antagonist is angry at this, he thereby gives his readers too much occasion of suspicion towards himself, as chargeable with weakness or bitterness."