1799 Circular Warwick Asso. NY

Written by Levi Hall

CIRCULAR LETTER

The Warwick Baptist Association, convened at Clinton Town, Dutchess County, in the State of New-York, May 28, 1799.

To the Churches They Represent.

Beloved Brethren:

We have taken the liberty to call your attention from year to year, on several of the most important points in the sacred Scriptures. In our Minutes of October 15, 1793, you were addressed on that glorious and important doctrine: JUSTIFICATION, thro’ the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

We now solicit your attention on the doctrine of ORIGINAL SIN, or the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s first transgression to his posterity.

To impute, is to attribute, or to charge with; - see 2 Samuel, 19.19. to be held guilty; Lev. 17.4, Freely to account, or ascribe to a person, that which he himself hath not, or did not, Romans 4.22. This imputation of sin and guilt, and condemnation to the human family, is not to be considered in a moral sense, as a person is charged with an offence committed by himself, and therefore exposed to punishment; but in a judicial and law sense, as when on man’s debts are in a legal way charged to the account of another, though not personally and actually contracted by himself. Paul said to Philemon, concerning Onesimus, “If he hath wronged, or oweth thee any thing, put that on mine account,” let it be charged or imputed to me.

This is one sense, that the Scriptures represent the whole posterity descending from the first man, as well as their actual existence in Adam, in a state of condemnation; tho’ they have not actually eaten of the forbidden fruit; yet as guilty of the offence in the eye of the law, as if personally committed by them. Romans 4:14.

To illustrate this point, God in sovereign wisdom placed Adam the head and representative of the whole human race, for the whole was seminally in him, and constituted to act for himself, and them; and all the children of men being his physical and natural offspring, had an existence in him their father and head, and were originally made upright in him, “God made man upright,” and fell with and in him in his first transgression. 2 Cor. 15:22. “In Adam all die.”

Thus original sin is ascribed to Adam, and is expressed in the Scripture, by “one that sinned,” and more than once called “the offence of one;” and “one man’s disobedience,” and “by one man sin entered into the world.” Consult the 5th Chapter to the Romans, which holds up Adam as the head, and representative, not of Angels but the lapsed race, and Christ Jesus as the Covenant Head, of His church and people in Him.

From all which we learn, that our being made sinners, must be by imputation, legally; and actually by descent. For there are no other senses can be given, to render the apostle consistent with himself, for as we were not actually developed in being, consequently, did not actually commit the offence in any other way than by his acting for us, and we in him; who stood in his standing, and fell in this fall.

This subject is further assisted, by a circumstance similar in the epistle to the Hebrews, “9.10. And as I may so say, Levi also who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedec met him,” therefore as Levi was active in paying tithes, when in the loins of His fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so with equal propriety, we were active in transgressions, while in the representative loins, of our father Adam.

Our existence in our first parents, though not in actual development, was virtual, and representative; we were in him; both seemingly and federally; and sinned in him too, Romans 5:12. The first necessary to the last, and is the foundation of it; which may be illustrated, from the seed of an apple, having an existence in the body of the tree nourished and supported there, until extracted by a sufficient growth and development, this will produce a tree of like kind of the same nature, thus all mankind being formed in the first man in this manner, it is easy to account for it: (i.e.) how they came to have a share in the guilt of his first sin, and that to be imputed to them, and also to derive a corrupt nature from him, and if death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; it must have reigned by guilt being imputed, (or else they died being innocent,) which is repugnant to the character of an infinitely wise, holy, and just God, as we understand His holiness.

This act of imputation, does not make God the author of sin, as it those not infuse sin in any of His creatures, it brings no inherent corruption into them, but justly charges that to them, which was committed by their father and head while they were yet in him, and had they been in actual existence, it is more than probable, they with one voice, would have chosen  him to act for them; had it been left to their own election, and as God, whose existence is eternal, being infinitely holy, righteousness, and just, and [will by no means clear the guilty], had a sovereign right to place Adam the federal head and representative of all mankind; and upon his transgression, to impute his disobedience to his posterity as the natural members of that one head, and the condemnation of all men, for the offence of one is as just with God, as the Justification of many, by One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:18.

Another part of human misery, is not only the loss of original righteousness, but the corruption of our whole nature and being, with all actual transgressions which flow from it. David sensibly felt it in himself, saying, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” from the one fountain flows all our depravity, so that all nations by ordinary generation are tainted, and corrupted by this early apostasy from God. All experience testifies the truth of this; no man was ever born in the world without sin; no one has ever been exempt from this contagion, and defilement of nature, “there is none that doeth good; no, not one,” (Romans 3:10,) save our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, without regeneration no man can see or enter the kingdom of God. John 3:3.

The heart is not only at enmity, but is enmity itself. Romans 8:7. The understanding is darkness, Ephesians 5:8. The will is stubborn, John 5:40. I Sam 15:23. The affections have forsaken God, Romans 1:25. The judgment is defiled, “not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” And all the imaginations of the thought are evil, only evil, and that continually. The more refulgent light of the glorious Gospel shines into the heart, the greater the discoveries of wretched, and depravity. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

All actual transgressions, flow from this fountain of impurity, as the stream does from its head and ‘tis as natural for men in nature, to be sinful as a corrupt tree to bear corrupt fruit; or the sparks to ascend; hence out of the heart proceed all manner of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, and when the Spirit of God quickens the sinner by His irresistible operations; the heinousness of sin appears and condemnation is felt in the bosom, and God’s justice acknowledged, in their misery. Psalm 143.2.

“And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.”

This humbles the soul at the feet of Jesus in a flood of tears, Luke 7.38. “And stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hair of her head.” To conclude, dear brethren, you may at once perceive that the ground of the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity, does not come from him, as our natural parent, [this is the ground of corruption, but not of imputation,] for on this ground we might be charged with the sin of our immediate parents, as we are their offspring, for neither the offences of Adam, after the fall, nor the conduct of our ancestors are we guilty; but his first transgression, founded on the headship of Adam and that only. Hence there is a material difference, between guilt imputed, and corruption conveyed.

2d. Neither are we made sinners, as some will have it, by imitation; for though a man may learn to do evil, by bad examples, and so become more sinful, he does not first become sinful this way, for as we have shewn judgment went against, and still death cuts down those who have not actually sinned, (which is the case with all who die early in infancy,) it must be by imputation, if you would hope your offspring dying in infancy, to inherit life eternal, you must necessarily view them guilty, and depraved, as the only hopeful subject of divine mercy; for Jesus saves none but sinners, and as they are not sinners by actual transgressions, (though corrupt in sin,) yet death which is the punishment for actual sins, take place on them, which declares them guilty, for otherwise it would be unjust that should die; hence they must be sinners by imputation.

3d. Behold the wisdom of God in His dispensations with men, Romans 11.33. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His way past finding out.” Here a door of mercy opens. The Redeemer of Zion, displays the fullness of His Father’s grace, which was given us in Him before the world began; but is now made manifest by His appearing, who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light by the glorious Gospel, who through the obedience of His life, and the virtue of His death, hath acquitted us from the guilt of sin, being made (also by imputation) a sin for us, and bearing that wrath due to our crimes, in His own body on the tree.

4th. May you be led from a sensible sorrow for sin, to the exercise of your privilege, to mourn at the foot of the cross, and so take a view of the once crucified, but now exalted Jesus your Advocate with the Father, pleading the virtue of His obedience and death, as the ground of your admission in heaven, that as soon as His will shall be manifested, in the calling of Zion home to Himself. You may perfectly see that as sin hath reigned unto death, so grace hath reigned through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we hope to reign in the New Jerusalem, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.

Signed by order, and in behalf of the Association:
Ebenezer Ferris, Moderator
Thomas Montanye, Clerk

Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – March 2009