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The doctrine of original sin, as stated in the Westminster Assembly's Larger Catechism, is as follows:

“ Question. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell ?

Answer. The sinfulness of that estate wbereinto man fell, consisteib in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness, wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually, which is commonly called Original Sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.

* Question. What misery did the fall bring npon mankind ?

Answer. The fall brought upon mankind the loss of coinmunion with God, his displeasure and curse, so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond-slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world and in that which is to come.

Question. What are the punishments of sin in this world ?

Answer. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sepse, strong delusions, hardness of beart, borror of conscience, and vile affections, or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils which befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments, togetber with death itself.

Question. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?

Answer. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation froin the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous forments in soul and body without intermission, in hell-fire forever.”

With these statements the following are to be connected which are found in the Confession. C. ii.

“ By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.

“ These angels and men thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

“ Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and

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good pleasure of his will, bath chosen in Christ unto everlast-
ing glory, out of his own free grace and love, without any fore-
sight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them,
or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes,
moving him thereunto, and all to the praise of his glorious

“ The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the
unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or
withholdeth mercy, as be pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign
power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to
dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious

The Westminster Assembly's Confession and Catechisins are the standards of doctrine publickly received by the Presbyterian Churches in America. The professors of the Theological Seminary at Princeton, which is under the patronage of the General Assembly, are obliged to swear, “not to inculcate, teach, or insinuate any thing which sball appear (to the person taking the oath) to contradict or contravene, either directly or indirectly, any thing taught in said Confession of Faith or Catechisms." At the Theological Seminary under the care of Dr. Mason, the student is, or was, required to commit to memory the whole text of the Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism.


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REPENTANCE and CONVERSION were the frequent subjects of exhortation with the ancient prophets, with John the Baptist

, with Jesus and his Apostles. Tbey urged these duties with the earnestness which their importance demanded. Every faithful preacber of truth and virtue since their time bas not failed to repeat the emphatical exhortations of the scriptures to men to repent and be converted. While mankind remain what they are, repentance and conversion are among the first duties which they should perform. With many persons a radical change of moral character inust take place before they can enter into the kingdom of God.

This subject should be understood. There are mistakes prevailing in some minds in regard to it, which are of a pernicious tendency. The object of this Essay is to offer some

remarks, which may serve to correct these misapprehensions, and assist in obtaining a proper view of it.

1. Conversion respects altogether the moral character, and means an alteration in the sentiments, temper, manners, or life. We do not understand by it any change in the natural constition of the mind or body that a man, when he is regenerated, loses any of the faculties, which his Creator has bestowed on him, or acquires others which he did not before possess. In the scriptures, indeed, God is said to take away from men their stony heart, and to give them a heart of flesh ;* to give them a new heart and a new spirit ;t men are said to become new creatures, and to be born again; but this language is figurative. If it must be understood literally, if the change inplied in these expressions is a physical change, men would not bave been called on to repent and be converted, since only a creative power can alter the nature which God has given them; nor would they have been required, as they are by the same prophet, from whom this language is in part quoted, to cast away from them all their transgressions, whereby they bad transgressed, to make them a new heart and a new spirit, I and to turn themselves and live. The language employed is strong; but its strength implied only the greatness of the alteration which they were to make in themselves. In fine, when Nicodemus inquired of Jesus, how it'was possible that a man should be born again ; our Saviour replied, that which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the spirit is spirit; which is, as if he had said, I am not speaking of a natural or animal birth, but of that which is spiritual or moral; and except a man be born of water, that is, be baptized, which was the customary rite by which a change of religion was at that time indicat. ed, and, be adds, of the spirit, that is, undergo an alteration of feeling, sentiment and moral character, in which he would be assisted by the divine power, he could not see the kingdom of God, he was not prepared to become a disciple of Christ. This conversation had particular reference to the case of Nicodemus, but admits of an application to otber persons more or less direct as their circumstances correspond with his. A more explicit commentary on this subject was given by Jesus, when he placed a little child in the midst of his disciples, and said, that except they were converted and became as little children, they could not enter into the kingdom of God. What was the design of this striking incident but to teach them, that in order to become in truth the members of the christian

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* Ezekiel xi. 19., † Ez. XXXVI. 26.

Ez. xviii. 31.

family, they must acquire the innocence, docility, and meekness of children; certainly it was not bis design in this case to teach that any physical change was necessary.

We understand by conversion, the renunciation of erroneous sentiments, and the adoption of true principles, ibe purging from the heart every evil affection, and the introduction of others which are virtuous and holy; the denial and subjugation of irregular and criminal desires and passions, and the cultivation of ihose wbich are innocent and pure; the breaking up of sintul babils, and the pursuit of a course of life in accordance with the precepts and spirit of religion. A change of character of this description is Conversion.

2. We observe nexi, that conversion, as implying a great and reinarkable change in sentiment or moral character, cannot be necessary to all persons.-Men are educated in every one of the innumerable varieties of religious sentiment, which prevail in the world, and, consequenily, unless the truth remains in concealment from all, some persons have from their childhood been trained up in the knowledge and belief of the truth. If, for example, the views of religion entertained by Calvin be conformable to the Gospel--and it is not necessary in this case that we should affirm or deny it—there are many persons who have been educaled in the belief of these sentiinents, who have never doubted, and who continue with their whole hearts to believe them. Must the religious views of such persons be changed ? If their present sentiments are correct, the alteration of them cannot be desired.

Again, there are persons, who, blessed with faithful and pious parents, have been led in the way in which they should go ; whose hearts have always been iender and merciful; on whose lips the law of kindness has always dwelt; who bave maintained ine strictest habits of self-goveroment; who have always been accustomed to speak the truth, to be sober, chaste and temperate, to perform exact justice with their sellow men; and who have humbly sought to understand the gogpel and to conforın to its requisitions. Kindness and mercy, truih, temperance, and honesiy, the observance of the institutions of religion, are all christian duties and essentials of the christian character. The characters, which we have described having been trained in babits of early piety, have been used always to look up to God as a father and friend, with filial love, gratitude, confidence and devotion. Allow that such characters as these are of rare occurrence, yet they sometimes appear, and what remarkable alteration of heart, or manuers, or life, must they pass through, in order to come near to the standard of christian duty? We do not pretend that any hunian character is spotless, that any man is wholly without sin.

Since men are but dust, and buman nature is frail, it cannot be aid of any man, that he has never trangressed the boondaries of duty, bas never been found sleeping at his post, never stumbled nor fell in the path of bis pilgrimage, never Turned aside to repose in the heat of the day, nor been seduced from the straight course by some glitteriog phantom into the mazes of error, nor been found slaking his thirst at the fountain of criminal indulgence. Even the best christians, who have most deeply felt the sanctifying power of religion, some. times do the things which they ought not, and omit to do what they should. Repentance with them is a daily exercise, and they are often found prostrate before the throne of infinite love, supplicating mercy from him whom they feel that they hare chiefly offended. But there are those, who, “from their youth up, have kept the commandments of God,” and, though guilty of occasional inadvertences and transgressions, have yet never been addicted to any habitual sin. What great alteration of character, deserving the name of conversion, as it is Usually applied, can take place in such persons, which would not be injurious rather than beneficial?

On this topick, however, we may appeal to the teaching of Jesus, as decisive. He says to his disciples, “except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Is it not a fair inference from this language, that these children did not need conversion, for, as he said in another place, of such is ibe kingdom of God? Is it not equally obvious, that the persons, whom he addressed, having themselves been children, did not, at that time, need conversion. On another occasion he is more explicit: I came not, he says, to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance; for they that he whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. What do we infer from this, but that there were some righteous, who were not called to conversion ; that there were some whole, who needed not the medicines of the great moral physician? It is pretended, that this was merely the language of irony and satire. This supposition seems derogatory to the gravity, frankness, and dignity of the character of Jesus.

3. We remark next, that conversion cannot intend the same thing in respect to all persons. When men are required to repent and be converted, this injunction is not addressed to all persons with the same views, in the same sense, and to the same extent. All are not required to do the same things, and

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