Thomas Chalmers


ROMANS, v, 12 - 21.

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed npon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law sin was in the world: bnt sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence 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. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence 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. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."

We have now disserted at very great length on the tenet of original sin, both as it includes the two great articles of original depravity and original guilt - understanding by the one, that every individual of the human race brings a corrupt nature into the world with him, by which he is so inclined to what is sinful, that in fact all men are sinners: and understanding by the other, that he is justly responsible for sin thus emanated by his evil nature - even though that nature came down by inheritance from his first parents, who, without being corrupt originally, corrupted themselves and sent down their acquired propensities to evil among all their descendants. We are aware that the doctrine of a guilt transmitted by Adam, is commonly carried farther than this - affirming, not merely that all men are to blame for the sins they personally do, under the instigations of an evil nature transmitted by Adam; but that they are also to blame for the proper and individual act of transgression done by Adam himself in the garden of Eden.

We have not denied that this may be the doctrine of Scripture. We have only said that our own moral sense is altogether unable to apprehend it; and that while we can perceive how man is justly culpable, for every iniquitous deed of his history, caused by the iniquitous tendency of his heart, however that tendency may have been derived - Yet, we cannot perceive, how it is that he is justly culpable, for an iniquitous deed done, not by himself, but by another who lived nearly six thousand years ago. This, however, may be the real truth of the case - wliether we are able or not to comprehend it. The Bible tells us of many things, of which, without its informations, we should have been altogether ignorant; and of many things, the reason of which is still a mystery to our understanding - though the reality of them has, by the testimony of God's own mouth, been made perfectly good to our convictions: And, therefore, on this point of imputation too, we would lie open to the informations of the record - fully assured that there is nothing there, either at variance with absolute truth, or at variance with the character of that Being who is all goodness and justice and holiness and truth.

It is to the vindication of this character, that we mean to devote the last of these preliminary addresses, which we have thought fit to deliver, ere we come forward with a detailed exposition of the passage that we have so repeatedly read out to you. We have already attempted to reconcile the doctrine of original sin, as consisting of depravity, with the experience of man; and we have also attempted to show in how far this doctrine, as consisting of guilt and the imputation of guilt, is reconcilable with the moral sense of man. And let us now proceed to meet the charges and complaints that have been uttered because of it, against the dealings of God with His creatures - as if He had carried Himself with unjust and tyrannical severity against them - as if He had laid upon them an inevitable doom of wretchedness, against which all their struggles arc unavailing - as if He had brought them into the world, in a state of helpless captivity to the power of corruption, and then left them to perish under a load of necessity, that He Himself had inflicted - as if He had made that to be the fault of man, which in fact was the appointment of God, that no willing and no striving on the part of the creature could possibly overrule: And thus there is a very prevalent feeling of its being indeed a great hardship, that God should so have dealt with the rational species that He has planted in our world - permitting its tainted families to come into being at all; and to put forth their successive generations, in a state under which they behove to suffer, and so very many of them to suffer everlastingly.

We do not want to disguise this objection; but, after having presented it in all its strength, we want to dispose of it. And in our attempt to vindicate the dealings of God with the species, let us just begin with that portion of time species that are now within reach of our hearing. What is it that any one of you has to complain of? You speak of hardness - how or in what respect is it that you have been hardly dealt with? You say, that, without your consent, a corrupt nature has been given you; and so stuck on, as it were, that it cleaves and adheres and keeps by you wherever you go, and that with its presence so urging and so pursuing you, sin is unavoidable; and yet there is a law which denounces upon this sin the torments of a whole eternity. Well then, is this an honest complaint on your part? Do you really feel your corrupt nature to be a curse and a wretchedness, and are you accordingly most desirous to be rid of it? Would you like a purifying process to take effect upon you which shall at length transform that vitiated nature, that has so annoyed you, and so called forth your animadversions upon God? Do you sincerely feel it to be your provocation and your plague, that such an evil thing has been attached to your constitution - for if so, you would surely like of all things that it were again detached from you? No man really feels that to be a burden, which he does not feel a wish and a weariness to be delivered from; and is this your wish and your weariness respecting the depravity of heart, that has so germinated from very infancy, and so grown through all the successive years of your life in the world, as to have made all your imaginations in the sight of God to be only evil and that continually? Do you complain that God should thus rate you and reckon with you, for a sinfulness which you got by inheritance, and without your consent - instead of getting it, as Adam did before you, by his own deliberate choice and the voluntary surrender of himself to the power of temptation? Well then this is your complaint against God; and here is the way in which we meet it. God is at this moment holding out to you in offer, the very relief which you now tell us that your heart is set upon. He is in perfect readiness for the administration of an unfailing specific, against that moral disease of which you complain so heavily. If the complaint be just as honest in the feeling of it as severe in the terms of it - then are your desires and God's desires most thoroughly at one; I and you are not more willing for being emancipated from the power of corruption, than He is willing to set you at large and translate you into the pure element of holiness.

Does not God wipe His hands of the foul charge that His sinful creatures would prefer against Him, when He says, and says honestly to us all - "Turn unto me, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you"? You are shapen in iniquity, and if in iniquity you descend to the grave, you will arise from it to an unrelenting judgment seat, and to a then unescapable condemnation. But, ere that happens, God meets you upon your way; and positively offers to make new creatures of you; and in the washing of regeneration ready to be poured forth, if you only want it, is He willing even now to sweep away the whole burden of the fancied injustice, which causes you to murmur. And, so near does He bring Himself to you, that He stands pledged to grant the clean heart and the right spirit, if you will only care so much about them as to enquire for them at His hand; and promises the Holy Ghost to all who ask it. Do you indeed feel it a hardship, that your heart is naturally so sinful? Come with the grievance, and come with an honest desire to be rid of it before God. Say to Him, and say it in good faith, take this heart of mine such as it is, and make it such as it should be; and if this be the honest aspira tion of a heart that is really desirous of what it pretends to be - there will be nothing wanting on God's part, to renew, and to purify, and at length to wash most thoroughly away that original taint, over which you appear to mourn, as if it were in deed so much the bane of your existence, that your existence is not worth the having. God bids you only put Him to the proof by your petitions, and then see whether He will not pour out a blessing upon you; and is it the Being who has descended so far, and testified His willingness to grant you a present deliverance from the power of sin, and a future everlasting translation from all its allurements - is it He, we ask, who in you would thus challenge and upbraid for the undoing of your eternity?

That the creature should complain of a corruption which he loves, and wilfully perseveres in - that he should reproach the Creator for it, who is pointing out to him the way by which lie can escape, and offers him all strength and aid to accomplish it - that he should lift an accusing voice against God, for having brought him within the limits of so foul a moral domain as the one he occupies; and at the same time turn away from the beseeching voice of the same God, stretching forth His hand for the purpose of taking him out of that domain if he will, and ushering him among the glories of a pure and spiritual region - that he should murmur because of a sinfulness in his nature, which he at the same time wilfully cherishes and retains, and obstinately refuses to let it go - that he should affect either to mourn or to be indignant on account of an inborn depravity, and that too at the moment when he spurns the proposition which God makes to him of an inborn grace, whereby he will cease to be that old creature, of whom he says it is hard that he should have been so formed, and become that new creature, respecting whom he taxes God for injustice, that He had not so made him - Who does not see that every possible objection, which can be raised against the Creator on account of what man is by nature, is most fully and fairly disarmed by what God offers to man in the gospel? And if he will persist in charging upon God, a depravity that He both asks and enables us to give up, did not we firmly retain it by the wilful grasp of our own inclinations - is it not plain that on the day of reckoning it will be clear to the intelligent morality of all the assembled witnesses, that the complaints of man, because of his corruption, have been those of a hypocrite, who secretly loved the very thing he so openly cornplained of; and that God who will be justified when He speaketh, and clear when He judgcth, has, by the offer of a Spirit, that would both quell the corruption and quicken man from his death in trespasses and sins unto holiness, has indeed manifested Himself a God both of love and of righteousness, and poured over all His ways to the world in which we live, the lustre of a most full and resistless vindication
We may conceive a human being to be born upon a territory, over which there is spread a foul and turbid atmosphere - charged with all the elements of discomfort and disease; at length in a given time, made known to all who breathe it, to be wrapped in some devouring flame which would burn up and destroy every creature that should abide within its vortex. And we may further conceive him to murmur against the God, who thus had placed him within the bounds of such a habitation. But let God point his way to another country, where freshness was in every breeze, and the whole air shed health and fertility and joy over the land that it encompassed - let Him offer all the means and facilities of conveyance, so as to make it turn simply upon the man's will, whether he should continue in the accursed region where he is, or be transported to another region which teems with all the enjoyments that he complains he has not: - And will not the worthless choice to abide rather than to move, acquit God of the severity wherewith He has been charged, and unmask the hypocrisy of all the reproaches which man has uttered against Him? Will it not lay the blood of the coming destruction upon his own head; and though while lie lives it be in disquietude, and when he dies it be in the volcanic whirl of the fierce and fiery element by which he is surrounded - is not the man the author of his own undoing; and can the blame or the execration of it be laid on that Being, who offered to bear him away from the territory of disease and danger, and securely put him down in the midst of a smiling and happy land?

Many may think this speculative; but we trust that there arc some here present who feel it most closely and urgently and immediately practieal. We stand with the offer of transporting you from the spiritual atmosphere of nature, charged as it is with all that is foul and turbulent and rebellious, and to bear you across the limits of conversion, to an atmosphere of peace and purity and holiness. We declare this gospel unto you. We preach that Jesus who is ready, even now, to bless every one of you by turning you from your iniquities; and through the channel of whose mediatorship it is, that the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the holy Chost are shed abundantly on all who believe. If you refuse to come, it is because you are not willing to come. God will make this clear on the great day of manifestation ; and when He passes the condemnatory sentence on those who reject the Saviour, lIe will prove to the satisfaction of all assembled, that those who did not pass from darkness to light, abode in the region of darkness, just because they loved the darkness; and persisted in the condition of evil, just because their deeds were evil.

It is thus that He will vindicate Himself, and carry the consent of an observing universe along with Him, when He rebukes away from His presence, all of you who have neglected the great salvation. And therefore it is a salvation which we bid your acceptance of at this moment. Open your hearts that Christ may enter in; and, under the power of his grace, their hardness and vileness and depravity will melt away. We do not promise an immediate transition from the spiritual element of earth, to the spiritual element of heaven. It is gradual. It is by a laborious ascent of fatigue and difficulty and strenuousness, that we at length attain those heights where all is serene and unspotted holiness. The portal of death must be passed, ere we reach the cloudless and ethereal expanse of that eternity, where freed from the last dregs of our vitiated nature, we can serve God without frailty and without a flaw. There is in these vile bodies of ours, some mysterious necessity for dying - There is an original taint which so embues the whole of our natural constitution, that the whole fabric must be taken down; and after its materials have been filtered and refined by the putrefaction of the grave, a new fabric will be made out of them ; and the believer will then arise in all the first innocence of Adam, and compassed about with a security that shall be everlasting.

Yet here the work must be begun, though there and there alone it is consummated. Here we must make head against the prevalence of sin, though there and there alone we shall be delivered from the presence of it. Here the struggle niust be made, and the victory be decided - though there and there alone we shall have the triumph and the repose of victory. Here the grace which calls upon you to accept, must enter into contest with the corruption that so burdens and distresses you; but there and there alone grace will reign without a rival, and the principle of corruption that now is only kept in check will there be utterly and conclusively extirpated.

What is true of the original corruption, is also true of the original guilt. Do you complain of that debt, under the weight and oppression of which you came into the world? What ground we ask is there for complaining, when tile offer is fairly put within your reach, of a most free and ample discharge - and that not merely for the guilt of original, but also for the whole guilt of your proper and personal sinfulness It is indeed a very heavy burden that has been entailed upon you by the first Adam; but here we stand with the offer of a deliverance both from it, and from all the additions von have made to it by actual transgression - wrought out and made good for you by the suretyship arid the ability of the second Adam. Your rescue from the corruption is not instantaneous, but your rescue from guilt is. The offer of a free and full forgiveness is even now unto you all; and why do you murmur at the grievousness of the reckoning which is out against you, when there is out along with it the loudly sounding proclamation of remission to all who will, and acceptance without money or without price to all who will? The relief granted in the gospel, is at least an adequate counterpart to all the wretchedness which nature has entailed upon you; and even now are you invited by union with Christ, to be freed from the whole weight of all the responsibility that may have been incurred by your descent from Adam. What you have lost because of Adam's Sin, is more than made up to you by Christ's righteousness; and we repeat it, that if there be any hardship in your suffering because of a fault which you did not commit - the hardship is greatly atoned for, by your enjoying favour and reward, because of an obedience that you did not render.

It is thus again that the gospel vindicates God from all the aspersions which have been cast upon His government; and there is not a man who honestly complains that favour hlas been lost because of another's demerits, that we cannot silence and even satisfy, by telling him that all this favour may be regained because of another's deservings. Wo interpose the gospel of Jesus Christ, as the decisive reply to all the murmurs of those who revolt at the apparent severity of the divine administration; and affirm, upon the strength of its blessed overtures, that it depends upon man's own choice whether the discharge is not at least equal to the debt, and tlto recovery of our nature is not at least equal to the ruin of it.

We now hold ourselves prepared for vindicating the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin, even in the farthest extent of it, when it goes beyond the apprehension and the acknowledgment of our moral sense altogether. We see how the blame lies upon us, of such personal sins as we commit - even though we have been led to the performance of these by a corrupt tendency of nature inherited from Adam. But we do not see how the blame lies upon us, of that proper and personal sin which rendered Adam an outcast from Paradise. It may be so though we see it not; and that it is so, is in beautiful and consenting harmony with what we are explicitly assured to be the effect of our union with the Saviour. From Him we derive, not merely a new nature which inclines us to righteousness and holiness, even as we derived from Adam our old nature which inclines us to all that is wicked and ungodly. But from him we also derive an imputed righteousness, so as that we are reckoned with by God as if we were positively deserving creatures. The merit of Christ's obedience is transferred to us, as well as His holy and uprigltt nature transferred to us; and from the very circumstance of His being called in Scripture the second Adam, from the very way in which He is there designed as a counterpart to the first Adam, would we be inclined to think that the guilt of Adam's disobedience was transferred to us, even as his corrupt and vitiated nature has also been transferred to us - In other words, that Adam is not merely the corrupt parent of a corrupt offspring, who sin because of the depravity wherewith lie has tainted all the faniilies of the earth ; but who have sinned in him, to use the language of our old divines, as their federal head - as the representative of a covenant which God made with him, and through him with all his posterity. Certain it is, that, to screen a believer from the vengeance of an immutable law, something more is necessary than the atonement of his past offences, and the derivation of a holy nature from the Saviour. Even after the principle of grace has been unplanted, there are the outbreakings of sin which serve to humble and to remind him, that never till death has pulverized his body into atoms, and the resurrection has again assembled them into a and holy structure - will he be wholly freed from that sore corruption, which so adheres, and so strives to obtain the victory over him. Still, and at any time after his conversion while he lives in the world, were he treated according to his own deservings would he be an outcast fronn the favour of that God whose justice is inflexible; and to meet this justice on tIne ground of acceptance, he must stand before it in another merit than his own, and be clothed upon with another righteousness than his own. Or, to be in favour with God, he stands in need of an imputed as well as of an infused righteousness; and the merit of Christ must be laid to his account, as well as the nature of Christ be laid upon his person. You have no title to cast out with the sin of Adam being imputed to you, if you do not cast out with the righteousness of Christ being imputed to you. The latter screens you from the former, and it screens out also from the guilt of your own positive offences.Without it, even the holiest man upon earth, would stand before a God of perfect holiness, on a basis of utter insecurity ; and with it the greatest sinner upon earth stands on a firmer and a higher vantageground, than even had all the innocence and virtue of Adaum been both transmitted and ascribed to him. And I willingly consent to have the guilt of Adam charged upon me, if, along with it, the overpassing righteousness of Christ shall be reckoned to me; and let the severities be what they may which lie upon me under the econonny of nature and of the law - I see in the corresponding privileges which are freely offered to me under the economy of the gospel, I see in them the fullest and the noblest compensation.

The question of original sin is allied with that of the origin of evil ; amid a very deep and unyielding obscurity hangs over it - how in a universe framed and upheld by a Being, of whom we are taught to believe that He has an arm of infinite power and a heart of infinite goodness - how under His administration, such a monster as evil, whether moral or physical, should ever be permitted to exist, is indeed a mystery, seated too far back among the depths of primeval creation and of the eternity behind it, for us the puny insects of a day to explore or to decide upon. One would think of God, that He would, if He could, banish all sin and wretchedness from that system of things over which we have always been in the habit of thinking that He has the entire and undivided ascendancy; nor can we at all imagine, how with both the will and the ability of Omnipotence leagued against it, sin should ever have found an entrance, or obtained a footing in any of those far worlds that surround the throne of the universal Father. Yet so it is ; and man with all the tone of an indignant sufferer is heard to lift his remonstranees against it - as if he bore the whole weight of an injury, laid upon him at the pleasure of an arbitrary tyrant, who has laid open his dominions to the cruel inroads of a spoiler, who but for Him would have neither had the power nor the liberty of mischief. But without making so much as an attempt to solve the difficulties of a topic so inscrutable, we may at least say, that one thought has occurred, which, more than any other, melts us into acquiescence; and disposes us to look on the rise and continuance of evil, as being indeed some dire though mysterious necessity which overhangs creation - and that is, that, after all, it is not man who bears the whole burden of this dark and awful visitation - Neither is it any other creature beside man. It is the Creator in fact who offers to take upon Himself, the whole burden of it; or at least to relieve our species of it altogether. It is at His cost, and not at ours, unless we so choose it, that sin has invaded the world we tread upon. It is He, the Eternal Son, who went forth to the battle against this Hydra; and who in the soreness of His conflict, bore what millions through eternity could not have borne; and who, though He had all the energies of the Godhead to sustain Him, yet well nigh gave way under the pressure of a deep and dreadful endurrauce; and who, by His tears and agonies and cries, gave proof to the might of that mysterious adversary over whom He triumphed. Yes we murmur because of the origin of evil. But Christ was the mighty sufferer who hath borne it away from us and let us hazard what reflections we may on those who die in ignorance, or who die in infancy - yet, in regard to you who are hearing us, every ground of complaint is annihilated. Christ is offered; and you by confidence in Him, and cleaving unto Him, will reach those happy shores of peace and light and joy, where all sin is for ever banished, and all evil is unknown.

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