Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of fallen man, " a universal bias" to sin.1 Dr. Chalmers calls this proclivity a " sinful" bias, in one or two instances; but more usually he designates it as "a prior tendency to sin."2 "We cannot but regard as of momentous import all those [Scriptural] expressions which serve to connect the actual wickedness of man with a tendency to wickedness from his youth up."8 Again he speaks of this " native tendency" as implied, though "not expressly affirmed, in the Scriptural narrative of the antediluvian times."4 Viewing men morally, we find them totally depraved. No exceptions to the statement can be adduced. This universal fact carries us to the doctrine that every man is afflicted with a " sore mental disease."6 If the actual depravity be general, the "hereditary disposition" must be general also.6 "When we say that all men have sinned, it is on the basis of their actual sins that we are enabled to speak in terms of such generality. When we say that in all men there is a prior tendency to sin, we are but resolving this general fact into its principle or cause."7 "There is an original and an actual in the sins of men, a prior tendency to sin, bound up, as it were, in the very frame and composition of humanity, an element within the receptacles of every infant's bosom, and which, should he live long enough for its expansion and forthgoings, will infallibly yield in every instance the bitter fruit of transgression."8 This is the language of the orator, rather than of the scientific theologian, but the meaning of the author is sufficiently plain. He makes a clear distinction between original and actual sin; and it is in view of the latter that he most vividly portrays human guilt. The aversion of Dr. Chalmers to "metaphysics"9 led him to dismiss the subject of the immediate " origin of human depravity" sooner than we could desire. Leaving the domain of our fallen nature, he carries the question back, not only to Adam, but beyond him, making Satan the chief cause of human sinfulness.10 He says, however, that the diseased state of our nature, no i Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 417. 2 Ibid. p. 421. 8 Ibid. p. 416. * Ibid. p. 417. 4 Ibid. p. 418. 6 Ibid. p. 421.

N 'Ibid. p. 241. 8 Ibid. • Ibid. p 440. » Ibid. J>p. 423—434.

Vol. XIII. No. 51. 43 less than its infallible consequence, which is actual sin, is a fact which reason may discover. Philosophy teaches the doctrine as really as the Bible. He also explains his meaning, in speaking of the disease of man's nature as a state of sinfulness. "We did not need the information of Scripture to teach us that a universal sinning on the part of our species argued a universal sinfulness; and which sinfulness too, we could, without the help of Scripture, have denominated a prior tendency."i ing that this change was total in the beginning, that he resorts to history to show that the transmitted " poison " has steadily increased in depth and malignity, from age to age.1 Infants are more corrupt now, than they were in the days of the patriarchs. This natural bias, which we inherit by fixed law of descent, and which becomes stronger in proportion as it is yielded to, does not strictly necessitate actual transgression. It is in part the occasional, but not the efficient cause of sin. The remarks of Dr. Chalmers are guarded on this point. He does not here teach that our evil nature is a judicial penalty; he only traces it to a well known law, which God, in His sovereignty, saw fit to make. That nature, though a necessity itself, seems only the certainty of disobedience. The language of Dr. Chalmers is explicit, to show that an exercise of free agency comes between the tendency to sin and actual guilt. "Nothing is virtuous, or vicious either, which is not voluntary."1 "Because of Adam's sin all do sin, just as because of Adam's sin all must die."* He asserts in various places,4 that native corruption is no excuse for actual sin, and that the latter is "the rightful object of condemnation and punishment." XII. The Extent of Human Guilt. In his treatment of this topic, Dr. Chalmers begins with the actual sins of men. The sphere which they occupy is certainly one which admits of guilt. There is no controversy among theologians here. It is in the guilt ""charged upon" original sin that the difficulty lies.6 Sinful acts are connected with a prior disposition to sin, but this does not affect their character. The guilt of every such act "lies in the nature of it, and not in its cause."' The doctrine of philosophical necessity, as explained by Edwards, is applicable to the volitions of the human mind.7 This vinculum, which binds the act to the tendency, admits of degrees of strength ;8 and hence we are left to infer that it is never a strict necessity.1 "There is a force ab extra, which might compel a man against his will; and there is a force ab intra, in virtue of which it [the will] is fixedly and resolutely bent."3 "The former kind of force does away with all the moral characteristics of an action." 3 "Whether the other kind of force cancels, in like manner, the demerit of an evil action, I would make a plain appeal to the moral sense and consciences of men."4 Examples are here brought forward, to illustrate the universal judgment of mankind, that the greater the ab intra force, the deeper the guilt of the individual who yields to it.6 In each of these instances it must be admitted, since all men imply it in their judgments, that the stronger propensity to sin is the result of previous indulgence. It is in view of the entire character of the delinquent, and not merely of a single act, that this deeper guilt is imputed to him. In regard to the connection between sinful volitions and their antecedent motives, Dr. Chalmers says: "This is a transcendentalism of which common minds may be incapable; and yet they have just as vivid, and, let me add, as just a perception of the right and wrong, as the most philosophic and profound of our mental analysts. Let the philosophical speculation of these prior tendencies be what it may, or let the theological doctrine of original as distinguished from actual sin be what it may; it leaves the real character and desert of the sins themselves just where it found them, the rightful object of blame."8 Thus far Dr. Chalmers feels assured that conscience keeps pace with the Bible in charging guilt upon mankind. Does the Bible advance still farther in the discovery of human demerit? On this question the students of the Sacred Volume are divided. "All men commit actual sin, because of an 1 By the term " cause" Dr. Chalmers ordinarily means an invariable antecedent. He regards the wrong bias of our nature and actual sin as the two terms of a sequence. Such a connection docs not restrict the idea of efficiency to the former; hence guilt may be predicated of the latter.

In attempting to trace this tendency of human nature to its source, Dr. Chalmers brings us to the first sin of Adam. Previous to that act of disobedience, man's nature was an image of God's, and it had the power to multiply itself as such. But, as a result of the transgression of Adam, humanity underwent an essential change, and this altered substance remained under the same law of reproduction. The disordered nature was "transmitted as if by a law of physical necessity."2 "We read of Seth, that he was born after the image of Adam; not of Adam in his original, but of Adam in his transformed likeness."8 This " first descent," in the line which survived the flood, " was marked by a transition of the same likeness from father to son, which transition we have only to suppose to take place at every future descent, that a connection in the way of cause and consequent may be established between Adam's first sin and the universal sinfulness of our race."1 Dr. Chalmers attempts a philosophical analysis of the process by which Adam's sin resulted in the corruption of his own nature.6 His reasoning may not, in this instance, be satisfactory to all minds; he does not seem to have valued it very highly himself. The transmission of this corrupt nature, however, to all the posterity of Adam, he regards as necessitated by a universal law. He insists with much earnestness that such is the true account of the present corruption of human nature. He brings many analogies from the animal and vegetable kingdoms, to support this position. And so far is he from teach

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

8 Insts. Thcol. Vol. I. p. 441. s Ibid. * Ibid.

• Ibid. p. 442. « Ibid. p. 440. original and prior tendency to sin in all men — a tendency derived, they [some theologians] allow, from Adam — insomuch that, because Adam sinned, all men are sinners; yet responsible, they say, only for their own sins." « This language, however, does not express the opinion of Dr. Chalmers. He admits that conscience stops at the limit of actual transgression; but he thinks that revelation oversteps that limit. "Now, it is at this point that we think the Bible shoots ahead, as it were, of the conscience." 2 The Scriptures reveal to us a sphere of human guilt, which "unaided nature" is not able to discover; and which, when known, must rest entirely on the authority of the Bible.8 This opinion is frankly avowed, notwithstanding the previous statement of Dr. Chalmers, that " the supremacy of conscience is an identical proposition." * Yet he will not admit any "conflict" between "the light of nature and the light of revelation." When the latter states, "if statement it really be,"5 that men "have the guilt laid to their charge of that specific transgression into which Adam fell in the garden of Eden," it is a doctrine "not against but beyond" conscience. 6 How that can be only beyond conscience, the "justness and reasonableness" of which she fails to admit even after its discovery, Dr. Chalmers does not explain. Neither does he attempt to account for the fact, that she so often asserts her "supremacy" in opposition to "the doctrine of the direct and proper imputation to us of Adam's sin." Yet every one will be ready to admire the spirit in which he states this theory. Nothing is said of a federal headship, or of an organic unity of the race; but every such idea is left out, as a vain attempt to " rationalize " the mystery. He "believes" that he is stating a doctrine of the Bible; and "when God speaks to us, it is our part to keep silent." "Having satisfied ourselves with the credentials of a professed message from Him, nothing remains but that, with the docility of little children, we should learn and receive the contents of it."7 He says that at one time he was disposed to a "middle view"

l lusts. TheoL Vol. I. p. 452. J Ibid. 8 Ibid. p. 453. 4 Ibid. p. 452. « Ibid. 8 Ibid. 7 Ibid. p. 453.

« AnteriorContinuar »