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clude, that the guilt of Adam's first sin was never transferred from him to his posterity, by the authority or appointment of God.
Some, however, may still farther ask, Does not the scripture speak of imputation? and does not imputation suppose that God may and does transfer both righteousness and unrighteousness from one person to another? Though the scripture speaks of good and bad actions being imputed, yet it never speaks of their being transferred. This will appear, if we consider the scripture account of imputation. According to scripture, a man's own actions are imputed to himself when he receives the due reward of his deeds. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted," or imputed, "to him for righteousness." That is, he was rewarded for his own virtue, or received the benefit of his own goodness. Shimei, who had deserved to die for cursing David, came to him and said, "Let not my Lord impute iniquity unto me." That is, let me not suffer the just consequence of my own personal criminality. Thus men's own actions are imputed to themselves, when they receive the good or evil which their actions deserve. And according to scripture, the actions of one man are imputed to another, when one man receives benefit or suffers evil on account of another's conduct. David imputed the virtue of Jonathan to his son, when he showed kindness to the son for the father's sake. And God imputed the iniquities of the fathers to the children, when he made the children of Korah, Dathan and Abiram suffer, in consequence of their father's rebellion. But it is here to be observed, that in these instances of imputation there is no transferring of righteousness or unrighteousness from one person to another. The virtue of Jonathan was not transferred to Mephibosheth, nor the guilt of Korah to his children. But the virtue of Jonathan rendered it proper for David to show kindness to Mephibosheth, and the guilt of Korah rendered it proper for God to show his displeasure toward him, by punishing his children according to their own desert. This is the true and proper idea of imputation. And in this sense of the word it is granted, that God does impute the first sin of Adam to his posterity. Accordingly we read in the context: "By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation." But though both sin and death come upon us in consequence of Adam's first sin, yet that sin is not transferred to us, nor are we punished for it. 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. Moral corruption is essentially different from natural corruption. The latter belongs to the body, but the former belongs to the mind. Adam undoubtedly conveyed to his posterity a corrupt body, or a body subject to wounds, bruises and putrefying sores. But such a body could not corrupt the mind, or render it morally depraved. There is no morally corrupt nature distinct from free, voluntary, sinful exercises. Adam had no such nature, and therefore could convey no such nature to his posterity. But even supposing that he really had a morally corrupt nature distinct from his free, voluntary, sinful exercises, it must have belonged to his soul, and not to his body. And if it belonged to his soul, he could not convey it to his posterity, who derive their souls immediately from the fountain of being. God is the Father of our spirits. The soul is not transmitted from father to son by natural generation. The soul is spiritual; and what is spiritual is indivisible; and what is indivisible is incapable of propagation. Adam could not convey any part of his soul to his next immediate offspring, without conveying the whole. It is, therefore, as contrary to philosophy as to scripture, to suppose that Adam's posterity derived their souls from him. And if they did not derive their souls from him, they could not derive from him a morally corrupt nature, if he really possessed such a nature himself.
Besides, the scripture puts this matter beyond doubt. For the apostle repeatedly says that it was by one offence of Adam that his posterity became sinners. He calls it the offence; one man's offence; the offence of one; one man's disobedience. It was Adam's first offence of eating the forbidden fruit that ruined his posterity. But how could that first offence convey a morally corrupt nature to those who did not exist when it was actually committed? If Adam's first act of disobedience did not convey a corrupt nature to his posterity at the very moment when it was committed, it never could convey such a nature to them afterwards. And no one ever supposed that his first transgression immediately affected and polluted his posterity, who had then no existence. It is utterly inconceivable, therefore, that Adam should transmit a corrupt nature to his future offspring by his first act of disobedience.
But if Adam conveyed neither sin, nor guilt, nor moral depravity to his descendants by his first transgression, how then did that act of disobedience make them sinners? The only proper and direct answer to this question is,
4. That God placed Adam as the public head of his posterity, and determined to treat them according to his conduct. If
he persevered in holiness and obedience, God determined to bring his posterity into existence holy and upright. But if he sinned and fell, God determined to bring his posterity into existence morally corrupt or depraved. Adam disobeyed the law of his Maker; and according to the constitution under which he was placed, his first and single act of disobedience made all his posterity sinners; that is, it proved the occasion of their coming into the world unholy and sinful. By constituting Adam the public head of his posterity, God suspended their holiness and sinfulness upon his conduct. So that his holiness would constitutionally render them holy, and his sinfulness would constitutionally render them unholy or depraved. And this is the very idea which our text originally and clearly conveys. "By one man's disobedience many were constituted sinners." The word translated made ought to have been rendered constituted. Adam did not create or make his posterity sinners, but only constituted them such. His eating of the forbidden fruit violated that constitution which would otherwise have secured the holiness of all mankind. By his first transgression, therefore, he proved the occasion of God's bringing all his posterity into the world in a state of moral depravity. And in that way, and in that sense only, he made them sinners. It remains to show,
IV. Why God constituted such a connection between Adam and his posterity. The question is not, why God determined that Adam and his posterity should eventually become sinners; but why he brought about this event by placing Adam in a state of probation, and suspending the moral character of his posterity upon his conduct in his public capacity. We can easily see that God might have ordered the matter otherwise. He might have first made Adam sinful, and afterwards made his posterity like him, without forming any connection between his moral character and theirs. Why then did he not take this short and direct method, without first making Adam holy, and then placing him in a situation in which he meant he should fall, and by falling involve all his posterity in sin and ruin? To this it does not appear proper to answer, as many do, that God made Adam holy, put him into a state of probation, and constituted him the public head of his posterity, because it was more for his benefit and theirs that he should be placed in such a public capacity. It is more natural to conclude that if God had meant to consult the particular benefit of mankind, he would have confirmed Adam in holiness immediately upon his creation, and so have secured both his and their future holiness and happiness. We may reasonably suppose that God acted upon a broader scale than the particular good of Adam
or his posterity, and had a superior regard to his own glory, and the general good of the whole created universe. But though this was the general reason why God placed Adam in a state of probation and at the head of his posterity, yet several particular reasons for this part of the divine conduct may be suggested.
1. There was a propriety in trying human nature before it became corrupt. There is nothing better calculated to impress upon the minds of intelligent creatures a deep and lasting sense of their absolute dependence, than to be put into a state of trial. For this purpose God tried the angels before their revolt. And for the same purpose he saw fit to try Adam before he fell. Accordingly, in the first instance, he made him upright, and placed him in a state of probation; where he had a fair opportunity of confirming or of losing his original rectitude. And though God intended that both he and his posterity should eventually become sinful, yet, by this mode of conduct, he meant to convince both him and them, of their absolute dependence upon his sovereign will for the bestowment and continuance of his moral image. For,
2. By placing Adam, while perfectly holy, in a state of probation, God answered the same purpose that would have been answered by placing all his posterity in the same situation. By trying Adam, he virtually tried the whole human race. For Adam was as able and as likely to stand as any of his posterity would have been, had they been personally placed in similar circumstances. He was under the best advantages for standing the test of obedience, and for securing the everlasting approbation of his Maker. He was created in a state of manhood, and all his natural and moral powers were in their full vigor. He was capable of seeing the importance, and of feeling the obligations he was under of yielding perfect and perpetual obedience to the divine will. In these respects, he stood upon higher ground than any of his descendants could have stood, when they came into existence. So that they have no reason to imagine that they should have stood the trial any better than their first parent. His trial was a fair trial of human nature in its best estate. And since the first and best of men sinned and fell, all his posterity have sufficient evidence of being absolutely dependent upon God, without whose special influence they can neither become nor continue holy and happy. Besides,
3. By trying Adam singly and in the room of his posterity, God prepared the way to bring the Saviour of the world into view immediately after the fall. It would have appeared strange to Adam, and equally strange to his posterity from time
to time, if God had provided a Saviour for all mankind before it was made certain that all would become sinners and stand in need of a Saviour. But by making Adam the public head of his posterity, and connecting their moral character with his, God ascertained their future sinfulness by his first offence. For as soon as Adam needed a Saviour, it became absolutely certain that all his posterity would need one. This would not have appeared, had each individual of mankind stood for himself, as each individual of the angels did. One reason, therefore, why God placed Adam as the public head of his posterity, and suspended their moral character upon a single instance of his conduct, was because he intended to provide a Saviour for him and all his guilty race. This he did not intend to do for the angels after their fall; and therefore he placed each individual in a state of trial, to stand or fall for himself, without suspending the fate of all upon the conduct of one. We merely suggest these reasons for God's constituting Adam the public head of his posterity. For whether they are sufficient or insufficient to account for this instance of his conduct, is not very material; since neither our duty nor salvation depends upon our being able to clear it up. It is hoped, however, that what has been hinted may serve to remove some darkness and prejudice from the minds of those who have been much perplexed upon this subject.
1. It appears from the leading sentiments in this discourse, that Adam was the only person who committed and who was guilty of original sin. This phrase has been used to signify not only the sin of Adam, but the sin of Eve, and the sin of every one of their numerous posterity. It is true indeed, that Eve committed a first sin; and it is equally true that every other person has committed a first sin. But a sin's being the first that a person ever committed does not properly denominate it an original sin. Each angel that fell committed a first sin; but that first sin has never been called, nor considered to be, an original sin. This phrase is properly applicable to no other sin than that of Adam's eating the forbidden fruit. And that sin is properly called original, not because it was the first ever committed in this world, for Eve was first in transgression; nor simply because it was the first sin of the first man; but because it was that particular sin upon which the moral character of all mankind was constitutionally suspended. According to the divine constitution, that sin alone was the occasion of all the future sinfulness of Adam and Eve and their whole posterity.