The Ancient Faith

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T.W. Brents

Having previously disposed of unconditional election and reprobation as taught by the Presbyterian Confession, we come now to notice another doctrine taught by the same authority, as well as by most of the denominations, which obtains much more general acceptance than the Calvinistic view of election and reprobation, but which is equally fatal to the obedience of faith required in the gospel, to which we deem it proper to call attention before we set out to learn the duty of man in order to his adoption into the family of God. This is what is called by its advocates “Hereditary Total Depravity.”


We will make a few quotations from the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, as the highest authority known to us that contains this doctrine, which will correctly set it before the reader. And we do not make these quotations for the purpose of following this doctrine into all its legitimate results in detail, but for the purpose of showing its bearing upon the subject of obedience to God: “By this sin (eating the forbidden fruit) they (our first parents) fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.” Now, it seems to us that if this picture correctly represents the disposition of the human heart at birth, the devil can be no worse. His Satanic Majesty cannot be more than utterly indisposed, disabled, and opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil. Nor can we very well see how man can get any worse in the scale of moral turpitude. He cannot get worse than wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body — and this is his condition at birth, if the doctrine be true — yet Paul tells Timothy that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” 2 Tim. iii:13. How can they get worse? Wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body! Opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and still wax worse and worse! Does not the common observation of every man contradict this doctrine? The theory is, as we shall see directly, that this corrupt nature remains until the man is converted to Christianity, as some teach, while others insist that it remains through life even in those truly regenerated. Then we cannot be wholly defiled, opposite to all good by nature, for we see many men who make no pretension to Christianity at all, quite as ready to visit the sick and administer to the wants of the poor as many who claim to have had their hearts cleansed by the Spirit of God. These persons are surely not opposed to all good while thus doing good; if they are, then their feelings and actions are strangely inconsistent.

But we are told that from this original corruption do proceed all actual transgressions. If this be true, how came Adam to sin? This corruption of nature is the cause of all actual transgression, and it was the consequence of Adams’s sin, but not the cause of it, according to the theory, and hence he was not under its influence until after he sinned. As this inherited corruption of nature is the source of all actual transgression now, what caused his transgression then? His transgression must have been caused by some other influence than the corruption of nature supposed to be the consequence of his sin; and if so, why may not the same or similar causes influence others now? We are now subject to many temptations from which he was then free. He could not have been tempted to steal from his neighbor, for there was no one then living to be his neighbor, and no one owned anything but himself. He could not have been tempted to kill, for there was no person to kill but his wife. He could not have had a temptation to adultery, for the only woman on earth was his wife. Notwithstanding he was free from many sources of temptation that beset our pathway, he failed in the first trial he had of which we have a record. Then, surely, other causes than corruption inherited from him on account of his sin may cause transgression now.  


But we are told that “this their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.” Chap. vi, sec. 1. It does not seem to us that “permit” is exactly the word here. We have already been told that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” It did come to pass that they ate of the fruit whereof God commanded them not to eat. Then does it not follow that God not only permitted them to eat, but unchangeably ordained that they should eat the fruit and violate the law He had given, having “purposed to order it to his own glory?” But how God could be glorified by this violation of His law, especially if we contemplate its results in the light of this theory, we are not very well prepared to see. We have been accustomed to think that the best way to glorify God is to honor His authority by obedience to His commands. How could God be glorified by the direct violation of His positive command, when it made man wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body? Did He glory in man becoming opposite to all good and wholly inclined to all evil, that He might punish him in hell forever? Could there be any justice in placing man under a law which God had unchangeably ordained he should break? Was it not downright mockery for God to command him to obey when He had previously decreed that he should disobey? But was God glorified by the corruption of His creature man? Let us see: “And 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. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Gen. vi:5, 6. Did God grieve on account of His own glorification? If God was glorified by Adam’s sin, the consequence of which was the entire corruption of the nature of his offspring, from whence flow all actual transgressions, the wickedness of the antediluvians was as much the result of it as the wickedness of any other people; hence we cannot see how He would grieve over the result of an act which He had previously determined to order to His own glory, and which He had unchangeably ordained should come to pass. Again: Would God have given man a command that He had unchangeably fore-ordained to be broken, that He might subject him to “death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal,” then tell us that He “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John iii:16), and
at the same time restrict the benefits of His death to a few elect ones, and allow the devil to have the many, and thus be glorified by their destruction — it being no fault of theirs? But if all actual transgressions proceed from this supposed corruption of nature, it is difficult to account for the difference of inclination to sin which we see manifested by different persons.  


We are accustomed to expect the same cause, when surrounded by the same circumstances, to produce the same effect on all occasions; yet we see persons, even in the same family, surrounded by as nearly the same circumstances as human beings can be in this life, somewhat differently inclined to sin; and, as circumstances differ, these differences increase, until one is a moral, upright man, another a drunkard, another a thief, and another a murderer. Can anyone tell, in keeping with this theory, why Cain killed his brother? They were both possessed of the same corrupt nature, and precisely to the same extent. Why, then, was one more vicious than the other? We cannot increase or intensify the meaning of such words as wholly, all, total, etc. We cannot say more wholly defiled, more all the faculties, more all evil, more all good. If all Adam’s progeny are wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body, opposed to all good and wholly inclined to all evil, Cain could not have been more corrupt than Abel. And if this corrupt nature is the source of all actual transgressions, it was the cause of Cain’s sin; and Abel being possessed of this corruption of nature to the same extent, would have been just as much inclined to kill Cain as Cain would have been to kill Abel. Men differ as widely in their inclinations to sin as it is possible for them to differ in anything, and they could not thus differ if the same corrupt nature influenced all and was possessed by all to the same extent. But worse still, from our stand-point the theory necessarily damns every infant that dies in infancy. If all infants come into the world with natures inherited from our first parents, wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body, then those who die in infancy must go to hell on account of this defilement, or go to heaven in this defilement, or they must have it removed in some way unknown to the Bible. The makers of the creed plainly saw this difficulty, and attempted to provide for it. Chap. x, sec. 3, they tell us that “elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when and where and how he pleaseth.” Thus, they provide for elect infants dying in infancy, but they make no effort to save any but the elect, telling us plainly that Christ died for none others.  


But the Calvinists are but a very small part of those who adopt this theory — how will the others escape? The Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith substitutes the word all for elect, thus: “All infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth.” Chap. x, sec. 3. And how did the authors know this? Where is the proof that Christ, by the Spirit, removes this depravity from those dying in infancy and allows it to remain in the living ones? The creed refers us to Luke xviii:15, 16: “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” We have two objections to this proof: “First, these were living and not dead or dying children: how can it, therefore, prove anything about what the Spirit does for those dying in infancy? Second, It proves just the opposite of infantile depravity. If Jesus had said, “Suffer little children to come, and forbid them not, that the total depravity and corruption of their little defiled hearts may be removed by the Spirit, for of such as they will then be is the kingdom of God,” then the text would have been appropriate. But as it is, it would fill the kingdom of God with subjects wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body, opposed to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil. “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such [not as they will be, but are now] is the kingdom of God” — that is, of such total depravity, and subjects wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body, is the kingdom of God!!! Mr. Jeter, the great Baptist luminary of Virginia, says: “Infants dying in infancy, must, by some process known or unknown, be freed from depravity — morally renewed or regenerated, or they can never be saved — never participate in the joys of heaven.”  


Jeter’s Campbellism Reexamined, pages 51, 52. And on page 49 he says: “I shall now proceed to show that, in the case of dying infants and idiots, regeneration takes place by the agency of the Spirit, without the Word.” Thus we see that one error assumed and adopted creates the necessity for perhaps many others. The false assumption that infants are wholly depraved has forced upon these authors and their ilk the doctrine of infant regeneration and abstract spiritual influences. Nor is this all: the doctrine of infant baptism originated here. Does anyone demand proof? He shall have it. Dr. Wall, the most voluminous and authoritative writer that has ever wielded a pen in defense of infant baptism, says: “And you will see in the following quotations that they often conclude the necessity of baptism for the forgiveness of sins, even of a child that is but a day old.” Wall’s History, vol. 1, page 48.


After making a quotation from Justin Martyr, who wrote about forty years after the apostles, and about A.D. 140, our author says: “I recite this only to show that in these times, so very near the apostles, they spoke of original sin affecting all mankind descended of Adam; and understood that, besides the actual sins of each particular person, there is in our nature itself, since the fall, something that needs redemption and forgiveness by the merits of Christ. And that is ordinarily applied to every particular person by baptism.” Ibid, 64. On pages 104, ’05, Dr. Wall quotes Origen, one of the most learned of the Greek fathers, as follows: “Besides all this, let it be considered, what is the reason that, whereas the baptism of the Church is given for forgiveness of sins, infants also are, by the usage of the Church, baptized; when, if there were nothing in infants that wanted forgiveness and mercy, the grace of baptism would be needless to them…. Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Of what sins? Or when have they sinned? Or
how can any reason of the laver in their case hold good, but according to that sense that we mentioned even now: none is free from pollution, though his life be but of the length of one day upon the earth? And it is for that reason, because by the sacrament of baptism the pollution of our birth is taken away, that infants are baptized.”

In the writings of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, is a letter written by a council of sixty-six bishops to one Fidus, about the close of the second century. Dr. Wall gives that part of this letter which pertains to the subject in hand, and says of it: “These bishops held that to suffer the infant to die unbaptized was to endanger its salvation.” Wall’s History, vol. 1, page 139.  


In support of infant baptism, Mr. Wesley says: “If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism, seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved unless this be washed away by baptism. It has been already proved that this original stain cleaves to every child of man, and that hereby they are children of wrath, and liable to eternal damnation.” This comes to us not only as written by Mr. Wesley, but it was “Published by order of the General Conference” in New York, in 1850. Doctrinal Tracts, page 251. Many other quotations might be given from various authors held in high esteem by the various parties of these days; but surely these are sufficient to show that infant baptism grew out of the false assumption that infants are totally depraved in all the faculties and parts of soul and body — children of wrath, and liable to eternal damnation for Adam’s sin, unless baptized. We know that modern defenders of the practice are unwilling to admit this, but Dr. Wall, as a historian, gives authority for what he says; and historical facts, though ignored, cannot be wiped out. They are events of the past, and must so remain, though erased from the pages of every book on earth. If, therefore, we have succeeded, or do succeed, in showing that the dogma of hereditary total depravity is untrue, we will have shown not only that man has the power to believe and obey God, but also that the doctrine of abstract spiritual influences, infant regeneration, and infant baptism, as dependencies upon it, are necessarily untrue. Then, seeing the importance of our subject, let us continue our examination of it. If Adam’s posterity inherited the corrupt nature described after the fall, then why do not children of Christians inherit their parents’ purified natures after their conversion? Surely, if God directly controlled the matter, He would have had as much pleasure in the transmission of purity of nature to the children of the faithful, as He would have had in entailing corruption of nature on the children of the disobedient. And if He had not specially controlled it, but left it to the laws of nature, we can see no reason why purity of heart would not have been as readily transmitted to the children of the Christians as defilement of nature would have been to the children of the wicked. But the creed tells us that “this corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated.” Presbyterian Confession, chap. vi, sec. 5, page 41. Here, as usual, the creed and the Bible are in direct antagonism. When Peter addressed his fellow-apostles and elders, on one occasion, he said: “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as unto us; and put no difference between us and them purifying their hearts by faith.” Acts xv:7-9. In writing to his brethren, he says, “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth.” 1 Pet. i:22. Now, if this corruption remains in those who are truly converted, how is it possible for persons to be wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body, utterly indisposed, disabled, opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, as described by the creed, and yet their hearts purified by faith, and their souls by obedience, as described by Peter. Surely, the converts to the creed are not the brethren of Peter; nor are they the blest of the Lord, for he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matt. v:8.


Jesus, in his explanation of the parable of the sower, (Luke viii:15), says, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” If there was not another passage of scripture in the Bible bearing on the subject, this one would be quite sufficient to spoil the whole theory. Had Jesus been educated in the theological schools of our day, He would not have spoken of honest and good hearts receiving the Word, for He would have been therein taught that there are none such; but, on the contrary, all Adam’s race are wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body, opposed to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil. It seems to us that all speculative theorizing about doubtful interpretations of Scripture, to sustain our favorite dogma, should bend before such direct, plain, and positive statements of the Saviour as the above quoted.

But we are told in the creed that our natures are not only made totally corrupt by Adam’s sin, but that the GUILT of it was imputed to all his descendants. This we regard as a fatal mistake growing out of a failure to discriminate between guilt and consequences. It is certainly true that we suffer in consequence of Adam’s sin, but that we are in any sense guilty of it, or morally accountable for it, is not exactly clear to us. To suffer the consequences of an act is one thing, but to be held guilty of it, by imputation or otherwise, is quite a different thing. A man, for illustration, may own an estate sufficient to abundantly supply the wants of his family for life, but, by gambling, he may have it all swept away in a single day; his wife and children may be reduced to poverty and want by his wickedness, and thus made to keenly feel the consequences of his act, but surely no one would regard them guilty in consequence of their misfortune. So we suffer death as a consequence of Adam’s sin, as we will more clearly see directly; but this is not quite sufficient to show that we are guilty of or responsible for it. If we are guilty of or responsible for his first sin, why are we not accountable for all other sins committed by him? As he was childless when driven from the garden, and was an hundred and thirty years old when Seth, his third son, of which we have an account, was born, and was nine hundred and thirty years old when he died, it follows that he lived more than eight hundred years after eating the interdicted fruit. It is next to certain, therefore, that he did many things wrong during this long period. Is there any good reason why we are guilty of his first sin, and guilty of no other sin committed by him? And if we are responsible for and guilty of Adam’s sin, are we not equally guilty of all the sins committed by our own father? He is much nearer us than Adam, and we can plainly see in ourselves some things inherited from him. If, then, we are guilty of the sins of Adam, we see no escape from the guilt of our father’s sin. And as these are but two extremes in the long chain of parentage from us to Adam, we can see no reason why we may not be held guilty, according to the same rule, of all the sins of every parent between them. If so, well may we ask, “Lord, who then can be saved?” When we do the best we can, we have quite enough in our own record to answer for; and if we are thus charged with the sins of those who have lived before us, then the last lingering ray of hope for the salvation of man is forever extinguished. We are encouraged, however, by the fact that God has contradicted the whole theory, saying: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Ezek. xviii:20. It seems to us that the prophet intended to describe the false reasoners of our day, when he said: “The Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.” Jer. xvi:19.

But is it possible, in the nature of things, that sin can be transmitted from parent to child? In order to arrive at a satisfactory solution of this question, it may be well to ascertain what sin is; and this we can do with great certainty, for we have a definition of it given by inspiration. John says “sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John iii:4. In the light of this definition, how is it possible that a transgression by one man may be transmitted to another, or from parent to child? God has said, “Thou shalt not kill.” In violation of this law, a man thrusts a dagger to the heart of his neighbor. This is sin. Now this act, being the act of a father, cannot possibly become the act of his child; nor can the child be made responsible for it. He may approve the act, and for this approval may receive merited punishment; but it was the wicked approval that brought guilt to him, and not the act of the father. Without such approval, he may
suffer in consequence of his father’s act — may be made an orphan by it — but surely the act itself cannot become his act. Sin is nowhere in God’s word defined to be a weakness, or hereditament, but a transgression or act of the guilty himself. “God is love,” and cannot punish man for that which he has no power to prevent. But we have said that we die as a consequence of Adam’s sin. This is true, and yet we are not guilty of it. When Adam fell from the plastic hand of God, he was as mortal as he was after he ate of the interdicted fruits: how, then, is death a consequence of that act? He was placed in a garden or orchard, in which grew, among others, two trees, respectively called The tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For his government in this garden, God gave him a law, saying: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die.” Gen. ii:16, 17. We have adopted the marginal reading of the Polyglot Bible, because it is agreed, by scholars, to be an improvement upon the King’s translation.  


It will be seen, by an examination of this law, that Adam had access to the tree of life before he ate of the interdicted fruit, and the properties of the fruit of this tree were such as to counteract the mortal tendencies of his nature, and keep him alive as long as he had access to it. But when he violated God’s law, it was only necessary that he should be driven from the garden, so that he might no longer have access to this life-giving fruit, that, under the laws of mortality to which his nature subjected him, he might suffer the penalty of the law which said, “dying thou shalt die.” Hence, God said: “Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Gen. iii:22-24. Thus, we see how Adam died in consequence of his sin, and that he would not have died had he not sinned; hence says Paul, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Rom. v:12. Not that he possessed physical immortally before he sinned, for he did not, but he had a remedy for his mortality of which he was deprived after he sinned. We are sometimes asked whether or not the lower animals die as a consequence of Adam’s sin? We answer they do not, but they die as a result of the common laws of mortality to which the whole animal creation are subject. They have been subject to these laws from the time they were created, not having had access to the fruit of the tree of life, as Adam did before he sinned. From this stand-point it is easy to see how Adam’s posterity died as a consequence of his sin. His children inherit from him just such an organization as he had both before and after he sinned and as they are born out of the garden of Eden, and away from the tree of life, they cannot have its fruit to counteract the mortal tendencies of their nature, and hence, like him, dying they die. Shall we hence conclude that Adams offspring are guilty of his sin? As well may we conclude that the African child that falls a victim to cannibalism sinned by being born in Africa. It was its misfortune to be born in a locality where men eat each other: so it is our misfortune to be born out of the garden of Eden, where, for a time we cannot get fruit from the tree of life; but if we do our Father’s commandments, there is coming a period when we will have a right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. There is much speculation in the world with reference to the kind of death Adam and his posterity died as a consequence of his sin. Mr. Ewing, in his Lectures (page 63), tells us that, “By reason of our union with our federal head and representative, we sinned in him, and fell with him, and death is the consequence — death spiritual, temporal, and eternal.” If the death which Adam and the human race died was not only spiritual and temporal, but eternal, then we see no remedy that can reach such a case. Eternal must mean without end — of endless duration. Then, if this death be eternal, there can be no more life and hence all our efforts to save those who are eternally dead can do no good, and the whole family of man is lost — hopelessly lost. If a single son of Adam be saved, it follows that he was not eternally lost; for — it matters not in what sense he be dead — if ever made alive, that is an end to his death, and, consequently, his death could not have been eternal.


But Mr. Ewing further tells us (page 62): “The whole soul of man is entirely depraved, corrupt, and alienated from God — a child of wrath, an heir of hell, going astray from the womb, conceived in sin, an enemy to God, having a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; the understanding darkened, the affections earthly, and the whole man sensual and devilish.” Truly, this is an appalling picture of our nature at birth, entailed upon us for no other reason than that we descended from Adam, with whom, by a single act of his, we fell into this deplorable condition six thousand years before we were born. And when we add to this thought the language of the Presbyterian Confession — that “this corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated” — we have a most ridiculous description of Christian character manufactured by this theory. Behold a Christian with a heart not only entirely depraved, sensual and devilish, but hating God, and an heir of hell!!! We do not suppose the authors of these books believed this monstrous absurdity themselves, or intended to teach it to others, but they were involved in it by the blinding influences of a false theory. Be this as it may, however, we cannot admit that this is a correct picture of that “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”  The mind of man is composed of numerous faculties, which may be divided into two grand divisions, called, respectively, Animal and Intellectual. By “animal faculties,” we mean such as are possessed by man and beast; or we might simply say by animals, for man is only an intellectual animal.  

As examples of this class of faculties we may mention Alimentiveness, Combativeness, Destructiveness, Amativeness, Philoprogenitiveness, etc., etc. In man they are usually called propensities, but in lower animals they are called instincts. Paul calls them “the carnal mind,” and tells us “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. viii:7. It would do but little good to read the Ten Commandments to a horse, as he would not be subject to them — neither, indeed, could he be; and it would do about as little good to read them to the purely carnal mind of man (if it were possible to do so), composed of similar constituents, which knows no law but animal gratification. But God has given to man an intellectuality capable of appreciating law, and has given him a law adapted to his organization, by which his carnal propensities are to be exercised, and by which the whole man is to be governed. And while the whole man is governed by laws received from God, and applied by the intellectual man, all is harmony and order, and without sin; but when these laws are superseded by animal propensities, such as appetite, passion, and lust, then come confusion, violence, and crime. And thus originated sin in the garden of Eden. God gave Adam a law for the government of his appetite, and while he obeyed it he had life and peace; but when law was supplanted by appetite, sin came, and death by sin. From the description of man’s nature found in the creeds, it would seem that the authors regard these animal propensities as filling the entire measure of the human mind. But the duality of mind is well established by experience, observation, metaphysics, reason, and the Bible. The carnal mind we have seen already: the perceptive and reflective faculties, of which there are many, and the moral sentiments, such as Benevolence, Veneration, Conscientiousness, Firmness, Hope, etc., make up the intellectual and moral nature of man, to which God’s law is addressed, and Paul tells us, “they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Rom. viii:5, 6. The antagonism of these two departments of man’s nature is well shown in Paul’s description of himself. “I find then,” says he, “a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Rom. vii:21-23. Had this dual nature been dispensed with in the creation of man, he must have been all animal, and therefore nothing more than a brute; or he must have been all intellectual and moral, without any counter-tendencies in his nature, and therefore would have been a mere machine, acting as compelled to act, under one set of principles, and hence there would have been neither merit nor demerit in any thing he did; nor could he have had the slightest freedom of will, and, therefore, could not have been in the slightest degree accountable to his Creator, Who, in that event, would have been operating him as a mechanic does his machine. But if we can arrive at the meaning of the language, “dying thou shalt die,” as connected with the law given to and violated by Adam, then we think we may arrive at a knowledge of the kind of death he died. This we certainly can do with great clearness, as we have an exegesis of the language by God Himself. After Adam violated the law, God adjudicated his case, and pronounced the sentence upon him. Both as the Giver of the Law and as God, He certainly knew what He meant by the language of the law, and He certainly pronounced the sentence in accordance therewith. What, then, was the sentence? “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Gen. iii:19. Surely, this must mean literal, physical death, nothing more, nothing less.  


Moses wrote the history of this affair about two thousand five hundred years after it occurred, when the word die, in all its forms, was of no doubtful import, but had a well-settled meaning in the current usage of that day. A few examples may not be out of place here. In the fifth chapter of Genesis, we have the word employed by the same writer no less than eight times, as follows: “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.” Ver. 5. “And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.” Ver. 8. “And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died.” Ver. 11. “And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.” Ver. 14. “And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.” Ver. 17. “And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.” Ver. 20. “And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.” Ver. 27. “And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.” Ver. 31. These cases clearly show what Moses understood by the word die, and as he is the same writer that recorded the law violated by Adam, he must have meant the same by “die,” in the law, that he meant in the other cases referred to. Again, the word die must certainly mean just the opposite of the word live. This word in its various forms occurs in the same chapter to indicate physical life. Had God afflicted Adam with greater punishment than the terms employed indicated to him, then would He not have deceived him? And He determined upon other and greater punishment for him, after he committed the act, than that threatened in the law violated, then we insist that it was ex post facto in its character, and therefore unjust. The circumstances under which Adam violated God’s law would have rather invoked a commutation of punishment than an increase of it. He did not know good and evil until he acquired a knowledge of it by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is evident from the language of God after he ate of it: “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” Gen. iii:22. He could only appreciate the law as a positive prohibition, but his moral obligation to obey God, as his Creator, he could not appreciate. He did not so much as know that he was naked, for God said: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Ibid, 11. Certainly, then, if ignorance be a mitigating circumstance, Adam was entitled to the full benefit of it. From our stand-point such a thought as spiritual corruption by inheritance is utterly impossible. Paul says, “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” Heb. xii:9. Does not this passage plainly prove that the fathers of our flesh are not the fathers of our spirits? To our mind it shows that while our bodies are inherited from our parents, the Spirit is not so inherited, but comes directly from God. Hence the style: “Fathers of our flesh,” “The Father of spirits.” Our bodies we inherit from our parents, and, consequently, physical impurities may be transmitted from parent to child, but we suppose all will agree that the mind, the spiritual or inner man, is the seat of moral depravity. If, then, we do not get our spirits by inheritance, it is impossible that we should inherit spiritual depravity from Adam. May we further examine the Scriptures on this subject? “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” Zech. xii:1. If God forms the spirit within man, it seems improbable that he gets it by inheritance. Again: Solomon says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” Eccl. xii:7. By this we learn not only that the spirit returns to God at death, but that God originally gave it. The words “returns to God” clearly imply that it had been there before. We cannot say we returned to a place to which we had never been. In returning, it did not go in or with the body, as the body returned to the ground as dust. As, therefore, the spirit returns independent of the body, is it not likely that God gave it to man, not by or through the body, but for the body? The words “God who gave it” have somewhat the same ring, too; nevertheless, they alone would not be quite conclusive, for He gives us food, raiment, and many other things through means prepared to produce them.  


The question for us, then, is: does he give the spirit through means or without means — does He give it directly or indirectly — does He give it as we have seen that He takes it — or does He give it by procreation, organization, or some other means? Let us see. When Jesus restored the ruler’s dead daughter to life, Luke says “her spirit came again, and she arose straightway.” Luke viii:55. The spirit of the damsel came again. From whence did it come? Solomon says the spirit returns to God, who gave it. Then it is clear that her spirit went to God when she died, and came directly from Him when she was made alive. The words “came again” imply that it had done the same thing before; and as we have no account of her being miraculously made alive before, it follows that it was at the beginning of her existence that her spirit came directly from God the previous time. But we are told that the spiritual man did not come directly from God, but is the creature of the organization. We have not room for a thorough examination of this objection here, but we must notice it briefly — not by way of respect for materialistic infidelity,
of which it is the cornerstone, but in respect to our own argument, against which it may be presented. First, then, if the spirit came not from God, how are the scriptures above quoted and the reasonings therefrom to be met? And how can a material organization create an immaterial soul capable of existence separate from the organization after the latter has ceased to be? Or if the soul, created by materiality, is itself material, why is it not subject to chemical analysis? The material organization is not only subject to chemical analysis, but has been analyzed repeatedly. The ultimate elements of it have been found, and if the soul is also material, why has it not been subjected to the same process? Surely, the advocates of materialism have the ability to do it if it were possible — and the defense of their theory would invoke the disposition to do it – if they, then, have not done it, it is clear that, because of the soul’s immateriality, they cannot do it. That the soul is capable of existence after the separation of soul and body, is clear from what we have already quoted from Solomon — that the body returns to the ground and the spirit returns to God, who gave it; not only so, but it is also clear from numerous other passages. Paul says: “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord…. We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Cor. v:6, 8. John “saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God.” Rev. vi:9.

 We might further quote Luke xvi:24, 27, concerning the rich man and Lazarus, and many other scriptures on this subject; but enough has been quoted to satisfy those who read and believe the Bible, and others will not likely read what we write about it. The body may be likened to a machine controlled by the mind or spiritual man. No machinery has ever been known capable of generating its own motive power; hence the “Perpetual Motion” has not been invented. If the human organism creates the soul, its own motive power, then it is an exception to all known law on the subject. If, then, our argument holds good, and the spirit came, not by inheritance, but directly from God, it follows that when it is given, it is not only good, but very good, and the whole theory of hereditary depravity is most certainly false. The child comes into the world with its infantile mind composed of numerous faculties susceptible of being cultivated and developed by impressions made upon it through the senses, and when all its faculties are properly balanced, educated, and governed, they are calculated to make the man useful and happy, but if neglected may make him vicious and miserable – and his inclinations to virtue or vice depend much upon the circumstances and influences surrounding him; hence inclinations to sin are as different in different persons as the circumstances have been different by which they have been influenced from infancy to manhood. We most firmly believe that many men who were raised under improper influences and became desperately wicked – perhaps terminated their lives upon a scaffold — if they had been raised under wholesome influences, would have been useful members of society and finally saved in heaven, and vice versa. Thus we see the importance of observing Solomon’s admonition: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it;” with which Paul agrees, saying, “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” But there are differences of mental power manifested by different persons, growing out of a difference in the physical machinery inherited from our parents. This we not only admit, but firmly believe; but these do not affect our position in the least. An engine may run a vast amount of well-made and properly applied machinery, and thus exhibit great power, but were we to apply the same engine to heavy, cumbersome, unwieldy, unbalanced machinery, it could do but little, though the same man operated it. So a man who has inherited a fine organization, large and well balanced brain, of fine material, will exhibit much more mental power than one who had inherited an imperfect organization of coarse material. But inherited weakness, whether physical or mental, is not sin — no guilt can attach to it — and therefore the differences in mental power spoken of cannot prove the doctrine of total depravity; on the contrary, if they prove anything concerning it, they contradict it, for these differences cannot be the result of total depravity, because all who are totally depraved are, in this respect, exactly alike. There is no comparative degree in total depravity.

 But we must briefly notice some of the proofs relied on to sustain the doctrine. First, we are told that the infant gets angry as soon as born, and thus gives evidence of total depravity. If this be proof conclusive, then God is totally depraved, too, for He said to Moses, when the people worshiped the calf made by Aaron, “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them.” Ex. xxxii:10. And again: “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Ps. vii:11. Does the infant smile as well as cry? And does it not very soon divide its toys and food with its associate, thus exhibiting feelings of kindness as well as anger?

But we are referred to some scriptures which we must notice: “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 sepulcher; 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 ways, and the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Rom. iii:10-18. Now, we only need to carefully read this quotation in order to see that it cannot apply to any inherited corruption of nature existing at birth, but to such as had corrupted themselves by wicked works. Infants are not expected to be righteous, for righteousness consists in doing right. Nor are they expected to understand — to seek God — to have gone out of the way, or in the way — to have done good or evil. Their tongues have not used deceit, nor are their mouths full of cursing and bitterness, for they cannot talk at all. Their feet are not swift to shed blood, for they cannot hurt anyone. And it will be borne in mind that the passage is relied upon to prove an inherited corruption of nature that comes into the world with us by ordinary generation. Paul makes this quotation from David — Ps. xiv — where he tells how they became corrupt: “They have done abominable works.” Hence their corruption came not by Adam’s sin, but by their own wickedness.

Next we examine the language of David — Ps. li:5: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Whatever may be the meaning of this passage, it cannot be the imputation of sin to the child. “In sin did my mother conceive me;” that is, she acted wickedly when I was conceived. Were the wife to say, “In drunkenness my husband beat me,” or the child that “in anger my father whipped me,” surely no one would attribute drunkenness to the wife or anger to the child; neither can they impute the sin of the mother to the child. We come now to notice the language of the prophet with regard to “Judah and Jerusalem” — Isa. i:5, 6: “Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.” This was not spoken with regard to any inherited defilement attaching to anyone, but with regard to the Jews as a nation. As a nation they had become corrupt — not by inheritance, but by actual transgressions of their own. And God had scourged them, and afflicted them for their own wickedness (not Adam’s sin), unfit as a nation, they were comparable to a man full of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, and still they would not reform; hence, by His prophet, He asks, ‘Why should ye be stricken anymore? ye will revolt more and more?” — as much as to say: “I have sent fiery serpents to bite you, by which thousands have died; I have allowed you to go to war with the nations around you until multiplied thousands have been slain in battle; and in various ways I have chastened you as a father chasteneth his children; but all to no purpose. Why should I afflict you further? it will only make you worse and worse.” “Your country is desolate; your cities are burned with fire; your land strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate as overthrown by strangers” — thus clearly speaking of national calamities that had befallen them as a nation. Not a word of allusion to Adam’s sin or its consequences in the whole connection.

We are next referred to the language of David — Ps. lviii:1-8: “Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent; they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear: which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.” Here, again, we need only read the passage carefully to see that it cannot apply to infants at birth. In heart these work wickedness: children at birth do not work wickedness. The wicked are estranged from the womb: the theory says all are wicked and estranged. They go astray as soon as they are born — speaking lies: the theory says they are born astray. These persons spake lies: infants cannot speak at all. Shall we hear David’s prayer for them? “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth.” Do infants have teeth in their mouth at birth? He continues: “Break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord. Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.” Surely, this was a singular prayer coming from David for the punishment and destruction of infants!!! This was simply strong language used to describe the wickedness of the congregation and judges mentioned in the first verse!

We are next referred to the language of Paul to the Ephesians — chap. ii:1-3: “And you hath be quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” This does not fit the theory, for then it should read “dead in a trespass or sin.” But how came their death? “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others.” This shows us clearly how their nature became corrupt, which was by wicked works, or, as Paul expresses it, fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Not a word about Adam’s sin: they were dead in their own sins.  

But we are referred to Rom. v:12: ”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.” This passage does have reference to Adam’s sin and its consequences, but it falls very far short of proving that all men, or even Adam, became totally depraved. David sinned very grievously; yet his heart was perfect with the Lord his God (1 Ks. xv:3), insomuch that he was a man after God’s own heart. (1 Sam. xiii:14; Acts xiii:22.) If his sin left his heart perfect with God, how did a single sin of Adam totally deprave him and all his posterity? If a man were to commit a crime worthy of death, and were to have the sentence of death passed upon him, still all this could not prove him totally depraved, opposed to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil; he may have some good emotions yet. Here we might safely dismiss the passage, having shown that it does not prove that for which it is introduced; but can we learn the meaning of it? The fact that almost every exponent of it has a theory of his own, derived from it, is quite enough to prove the import of it to be doubtful. A doubtful interpretation of an obscure passage must not come in contact with a plain passage about the meaning of which there can be no mistake. When the phrase “all have sinned” is interpreted to mean that the whole race of man sinned in Adam, it seems to us a plain contradiction of God’s law, which says: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” The theory says the children of Adam do bear his iniquity, and his wickedness is not only on him, but also on them. It is also antagonistic to John’s definition of sin — that “sin is the transgression of the law;” and also with the fact seen already – that a transgression or act (for sin is an act) of one man cannot be transmitted to or become the act of another. We regard the passage as clearly metonymical. The consequences of Adam’s sin being suffered by all, the sin is said to have been committed by all; the consequences being put for the act. The apostle alludes to the sin of Adam, as a consequence of which all suffer death in accordance with the laws of their mortal nature inherited from Adam, they not having fruit from the tree of life with which to counteract mortality as Adam had before he sinned; and thus “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Ver. 14.

It is somewhat strange to us that those who profess to disbelieve Universalism can believe that the death here spoken of is spiritual death. If spiritual death passed upon all men because they all sinned in Adam, then Universalism must be true; for the apostle goes on to say: “If through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” The grace of God and the gift by grace has abounded to just as many through Christ, the last Adam, as are dead by the offense of the first Adam; “therefore, as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Ver. 18. The same all who suffer by the offense of one, are made alive by the righteousness of another. This is not only the teaching of Paul here, but he communicates the same thought to his brethren at Corinth. The fifteenth chapter of his first letter to them is devoted to the resurrection of the dead, and in the 22d verse he has the following very significant language: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” As in Adam all die — not died back yonder in the garden, but die now in Adam. And who dies in Adam? All men, most certainly. Even so in Christ shall the same all be made alive: the infant and the aged, the wicked and the just, all die, and their “dust returns to the earth as it was;” but when the trump of God shall sound, they will be raised from the dead through Christ — “but every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” Ver. 23. But we are sometimes told that if man is not guilty of Adam’s sin, then Christ’s mission and death were useless. Surely, such persons have very narrow views of the subject. How shall we escape the punishment due us on account of our own sins? And how shall we be raised from the dead only through Christ? It is nowhere said in the word of the Lord that Christ died to save man from Adam’s sin; but we have abundant testimony proving that He came to save man from his own sins. Joseph was told by the Lord to call the infant Saviour Jesus, because He should save His people from their sins, not Adam’s sin. Peter commanded his hearers, when preaching from Solomon’s porch: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” It was their sins which were to be blotted out, and not Adam’s sin. God’s promise, in the new covenant, to His people was: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” The new covenant made no provision for Adam’s sin; therefore, if God ever remembered it against His people under this covenant, He is remembering it yet. Paul said to the Colossians, “You being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh.” They were not dead in Adam’s sin, nor in the uncircumcision of his flesh. Under the Jewish law, God made provisions for pardon of sins committed against it, and He mentions many sins for which offerings were to be made in a prescribed form; but He provided no remedy for Adam’s sin, nor did He ever speak of it as chargeable to the Jews. Surely, if God has Adam’s sin in remembrance against Adam’s posterity, He would have mentioned it somewhere, or in some dispensation made provision for the pardon of it. Christ came, then, “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree;” but He came not only that we might have pardon of our sins, but, as we have already seen, that we may have a resurrection of the dead; hence, the language of Paul: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” Surely, these are objects sufficiently important to invoke the mission and sufferings of the Christ the Son of God — salvation from sin, a resurrection from the grave, and eternal life.

We come now to notice the practical bearing of the doctrine of total depravity, as an effect of Adam’s sin, upon the reception of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation. The Presbyterian Confession of Faith tells us that “Man, by his fall into sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation … is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto.” Chap. ix, sec. 3. Now, if the alien has lost all ability of will to any spiritual good, it follows that he cannot even will or desire his own salvation. What can he do, then? Just nothing at all! He is as passive as a block of marble in the hands of the sculptor. But “when God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” Ibid, sec. 4. Thus, we see that this theory brings man into the world wholly defiled in all the faculties of soul and body, opposed to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, not even able to will any spiritual good accompanying salvation, until God converts and translates him into the state of grace, so as to free him from his natural bondage, and enable him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good. Then, if God never converts him and he is finally lost, who is to blame for it? Surely, not man, for he could not even will or desire his own salvation, or prepare himself thereunto. Why did Christ command that the Gospel be preached among all nations, and to every creature, promising salvation to those who would believe and obey?”, when He must have known, if this theory be true, that they could neither believe nor obey it? — nay, they could not even so much as will or desire their salvation, or anything good connected therewith, to say nothing of doing anything to secure it. And why did He threaten them with damnation if they did not believe it, when, according to the theory, they have no more power to believe it than they have to make a world?
We insist that the doctrine is too monstrously absurd to be entertained by any one for a moment — antagonistic to the whole tenor of God’s word and the spirit of the Christian religion — alike dishonoring to God and destructive to man. And when we remember that the world has been taught this doctrine for centuries by the large majority of those who have spoken and written concerning it, we are made to wonder, not that infidelity is abroad in the land, but that there are not an hundred infidels where there is one. God never, at any time, commanded man to do that which he was unable to do; and the very fact that He commands man to believe and obey Him, is evidence, high as heaven, that he has the ability to do the things required of him. All things necessary for man’s salvation and happiness which he is unable to do for himself, God has done or will do for him; but what he is able to do for himself, God requires of him, and will not do for him.  

These fundamental truths, however, we must leave the reader to amplify for himself: we can not pursue this branch of our subject further at present; though we have not exhausted it, we fear we may exhaust his patience ere we get before him some remaining thoughts deemed important to our investigation.

If God charged Adam’s posterity with the guilt of his sin, we wish to know when it was or will be, forgiven. Was it forgiven when Jesus made the atonement? If so, the whole theory of man’s present guilt of that sin is destroyed, for he cannot be guilty of a sin already pardoned. Is it pardoned when man is pardoned for his own sins? No, for the creed tells us that it remains through life in those who are regenerated; and it also tells us that it is appointed unto all men once to die, for that all have sinned. Surely, he would not yet have to die for a sin that had been pardoned. Is it forgiven at death? Where is the proof of it? And what are the conditions, if any, upon which it is to be done? Or, if unconditionally pardoned, what are the means to accomplish it? Is it forgiven in the intermediate state between death and the judgment? If so, why cannot all other sins be pardoned in that state? And if they can, why the necessity of having them pardoned in this life? Is it pardoned at the final judgment? If so, then we will be judged according to the deeds done in Adam’s body, and not everyone according to the deeds done in his own body. Is it not pardoned at all? Then, will the Christian be damned for the guilt of Adam’s sin after having been pardoned for his own sins? If so, the sentence will not be, “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity,” but, “Depart from me, all ye that have washed your robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Though your sins have all been canceled from the book of God’s remembrance, in accordance with the provisions of the new covenant, and though your righteousness is as robes of linen clean and white, there is one sin which, though not committed by you, is imputed to, or charged against you, for which you must go with the devil, that deceived you in Adam, into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, where you shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. Or, if he does not go to hell on account of it, will he go to heaven with it still charged against him with a nature totally depraved, wholly opposed to all good, and inclined to all evil? We most confidently deny that any one of Adam’s posterity ever has been or will be sent to hell for Adam’s sin. As we have stated more than once, all die as a consequence of it, and through Christ will be raised from the dead. Those who are intelligent, and therefore responsible, and who have heartily accepted and complied with the terms of pardon for their own sins, as offered them in the Gospel through Christ, will be raised to the enjoyment of life eternal. Here they will gain even more in Christ than they lost in Adam. As saith the poet:

“In him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.”

They exchange not only temporal for eternal life, but they exchange mortal for immortal bodies, and for the first time will they have put on immortality. Having done the commandments, they will have a right to the tree of life, and will enter through the gates into the city. In these immortal and spiritual bodies they will not again be subject to temptation and sin. The devil, who seduced Adam, will not be there; but they will have the society of God their Father, Jesus their elder brother, and, as saints of the Most High, they will join the angelic host in praising God and the Lamb forever and ever

“There pain and sickness never come,
And grief no place obtains;
Health triumphs in immortal bloom,
And endless pleasure reigns!
No cloud these blissful regions know,
Forever bright and fair!
For sin, the source of every woe,
Can never enter there.
There no alternate night is known,
Nor sun’s faint sickly ray;
But glory from the sacred throne
Spreads everlasting day.”

But what of the wicked? “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The wicked die as a consequence of Adam’s sin, without their volition or agency; so, without their volition or agency, they will be raised from death through the merits of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ; but not to life eternal: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” They will be judged, every man according to his works, not Adam’s works. They will be judged, not for his sin, because they are not, never have been, nor can they ever be, guilty of it, but for their own sins of which they are guilty. And having refused the terms of pardon offered them in the gospel, by which they might have been pardoned, they will be condemned: “The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” And how long will this awful inheritance be theirs? “They shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” O! friendly sinner, is this to be thy final doom?

“What could your redeemer do  
 More than he has done for you?
To procure your peace with God,
Could he more than shed his blood?
After all this flow of love,
All his drawings from above,
Why will you your Lord deny?
Why will you resolve to die?”


But there is yet another class. Infants, idiots, and other irresponsible persons, die as a consequence of Adam’s transgression, and will be raised from the dead by the same power and through the same means employed in the resurrection of others. We have seen that sin is the violation of law; and as they have never been subject to any law requiring any obedience of them, it follows that they have violated no law, and are hence without sins of their own. And as Adam’s sin was not committed by, and therefore never charged to them, there is no sin for which they need forgiveness, and, therefore, for which they may be condemned to endless punishment. Jesus said, “Of such is the kingdom of God,” and required others to be converted and become as they are, in order to enter it; therefore if their purity of heart and innocence of character were such as to constitute the standard of purity for those who would enter the kingdom of God on earth, we think they will scarcely be refused admittance into heaven by the same adorable Son of God, who pronounced blessings on them here. In coming from the dead however, they will exchange their natural, mortal bodies for spiritual, immortal bodies, and will be thus prepared to enter “Where the saints of all ages in harmony meet, their Saviour and brethren transported to greet; while the anthems of rapture unceasingly roll, and the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul.” 

[This if from The Gospel Plan of Salvation (1874).  A special thanks to Lindsay England for her hard work in formatting this sermon.]

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”