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CONCERNING SIN.

BROTHER JEWETT: - In reading certain communications on subjects which have been, for some time past, agitated in Old School periodicals, I have been struck with the diversity of opinion there appears to be on several general, leading principles. Hence the difference about sin, Satan &c. The principles to which I refer, and which it is my design to examine, may be embraced in the following heads: 1st Sin, 2nd Holiness, 3rd Election and Calling, 4th The ground of Christ’s glory as a Savior. These subjects would require, fully to illustrate them, the ample pages of a volume, instead of a few columns in a periodical; I shall of course but glance at them in these communications; though I may give a sketch of what I understand the Scriptures to reveal concerning them.

First: Sin. What is sin? Will the brethren allow the Scriptures to answer this enquiry? If so, the decision is made, that “sin is the transgression of the law.” I John 3:4. Not to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind; and not to love thy neighbor as thyself. Matt.22:37-39. The force of law must arise from obligation to obey. This obligation may arise spontaneously from the nature of things, or it may spring from either voluntary or forced subjection, as in different governments. Our obligation to obey God arises naturally from our relations to him as our Creator, and from what he is in himself. Thus God in giving the law from Sinai, declares his right to enforce it upon Israel, as resting on his having brought them out of the land of Egypt, &c. Exod.20:2. And in giving the covenant of circumcision to Abraham, he required subjection to it on the ground of what he is, “the Almighty God.” Gen.17:1. So the obligation of Adam and of all his posterity to obey whatever law God was pleased to prescribe, arose from God’s having brought them into existence, and is continued, by his still sustaining in existence, as well as from his being what he is. Hence in reference to the existence of sin in the world, it is evident, that to its existence there should be in existence creatures capable of intelligent obedience, having a law given them, founded upon their obligation to obey and prescribing the test of their subjection; “for where no law is, there is no transgression,” and “sin is not imputed, when there is no law.” See Rom.4:15 & 5:13. God’s creating such intellective beings, and giving them a good law with the certain knowledge that they would by transgressing it become sinners, no more makes God the Author of sin or the fountain, whence it flowed, than would his creating such beings with the knowledge that there existed a wicked spirit, his opposite, which would certainly lead them into transgression; nor that Christ’s setting up his kingdom in the world with the knowledge, that it would be the occasion of the enemy’s sowing tares, makes him the Author of those delusions and persecutions, with which Antichrist has deluged the world and is overflowing the church even to the neck.

Many seem to think, that sin could not have gotten into the world by the good creation of God, unless either God created it, or it had a previous self-existence. These suppositions are contradictory to the testimony of Scripture; they imply, that there may be transgression and sin be imputed, where there is no Law. This notion of sin’s being an existence by itself, though entertained by good and understanding brethren, is a manifest absurdity. Can we suppose the existence of theft or any other crime without supposing the existence of the perpetrator of such crime? This absurdity of supposing, that sin may exist independently of the existence of a sinner, is not confined to the system of Elder Parker; it is involved with equal fulness in the idea, that God created sin, or brought it into existence in his creation of intelligent beings. If God brought sin into existence, He must have been the first transgressor, as sin is a transgression of the law; an inference they would shudder at. The Fullerite notion of Christ’s having made an atonement for sin abstractly, implies its having an existence distinct from the sinner, equally with Elder Parker’s views; and therefore shows the two systems to be much nigher akin, than their respective advocates have supposed.

This notion of sin’s having an existence antecedent to the transgression of Adam, or of the first transgressor, whether angel or man, and its previous existence being necessary to account for the creatures of God becoming transgressors, implies that man was not, and that angels could not have been, voluntary actors in first transgressing; but must have been acted upon; according to one, man was subjected to it by the creating hand of God, according to others, he was acted upon by the self existent spirit of wickedness. If this had been the case, and man in his original transgression, was not in circumstances to choose his course, with a view to the consequences, and to act voluntarily, he could have been no more justly accountable for the act, than would be your flock of sheep for trespassing on your field of grain, being let in by an enemy or driven in by yourself. God in making man a living soul, must have given a mind, active in all those powers belonging to the soul, such as those of reflecting, judging, choosing and rejoicing. And I must confess, that for myself, whatever others may be able to do, I cannot conceive of man’s being thus brought into existence, as a distinct being, finding himself possessed of a mind to choose or reject for himself, and having individual feelings to gratify, without considering him liable, without any influence from without being exerted upon him, to prefer the gratification of his own will and choice even to that of his Maker’s will, unless God, who alone is the fountain of holiness, has been pleased to communicate to him such a holy influence, as would lead him to prefer subjection to the will of God, to living to and for himself, as we see manifested in the holy Jesus, when he said to his Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” Such communication of a principle of holiness, to man, God was under no obligation to make, in addition to having created him an intellectual, upright being. That man was thus liable to choose to live to himself and for himself, rather than live as the creature of God and the subject of his government, is evident from God having put him under the prohibition of a special command. On the other hand, without such prohibition there had been no transgression. The wise man evidently had so found the thing concerning man’s sin, when he said, “Lo, this only have I found that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Eccl.7:29. There is a reference here manifestly made to what is said in Gen.5:1,2, “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God created he them,” &c. So here God made man upright; but they have &c. God hath made man upright, of course he did not create in him any bias to sin; and they sought out many inventions, consequently it was their own act, the act of the male and female, in seeking out and doing what God had not commanded, but what they chose for themselves. So also says the apostle, “As by one man sin entered into the world.” Rom.5:12. The advocates of the existence of sin as God’s eternal opposite, have tried to make something out of the expression by one man, as though sin came into the world from some other source than man’s transgression. If, as I contend, it was man’s voluntary transgression that entailed sin upon the world of the human family, I know not what more definite expression to convey that idea the apostle could have used. But if sin was infused into the woman by the serpent, and she communicated it to the man as the cause of his transgressing, then it was by one serpent, not by one man, that sin entered into the world, whether that serpent was a created devil, or a self-existent devil.

What has been said of man’s liability to choose his own course, or according to the wise man, to seek out inventions, may with equal propriety be said of angelic spirits, such as were not elected to be holy, only that we know not decidedly what particular command they were placed under as a test of their subjection to God, nor what occasion was given them to show a preference for their own choice over a subjection to God’s will, or whether for this they needed such an occasion, as was presented to Adam in Eve’s having been deceived, which at once tested whether he loved God best, or his own flesh as manifested in Eve. We however know of the angels, that some of them “kept not their first estate,” the condition in which God created them, and which of course was that of uprightness; but left their own habitation, of course the one which God had especially assigned to them; for they could have had no claim to it, unless God had given it, unless we limit the Omnipresence of God! Hence we discover a choosing for themselves and a disobedience to God’s appointment and a consequent entailing upon themselves chains of darkness, instead of light; and this is all that is necessary, to show that angels sinned and what angels as well as men are, left to themselves.

But it may be said, that man is represented as being under the reign and power of sin, which does not comport with the idea of his bringing sin into the world by a free and voluntary act of his own. Herein is where I think brethren, losing sight of Scriptural testimony upon the point, have strangely confounded things which are importantly distinct; namely, the introduction of sin into the world, and the infliction of the penalty of a death in trespasses and sins upon Adam and his posterity, in consequence of his revolting against the government of God by eating the forbidden fruit. I have already showed, I think conclusively from the testimony of the Scriptures, that “Sin is the transgression of the law,” that sin could have no existence, had it not been that God pleased to create rational, or intellectual beings, &c., to prescribe to them a law or command, as a test of subjection. But the creating man and creating him in uprightness, unswerved, and prescribing to him, as a test of his subjection, a command that was holy, just and good, is one thing, and was an act of God’s goodness and holiness; and God’s inflicting upon Adam and his posterity in him the penalty, that was annexed to the command, the penalty of death, or total depravity, is another thing, it is an act of God’s righteous judgment. So man’s standing as he came from the hand of his Creator upright, in a state that was good is one thing; and his having fallen by voluntary transgression, and being justly condemned to a state of depravity, or subjection to the reign and power of sin, is another thing. And thus the scriptures, I think, clearly represent the case, that man’s being under the dominion of sin or in a state of depravity, banished from the tree of life, was not the act of God’s creating goodness, nor of Satan’s power to mar God’s good creation beyond himself; but was the act of God’s just sentence of condemnation for transgression. The apostle speaks of death’s reigning by one man’s offence and of judgment coming upon all men to condemnation. What was this condemnation? Certainly not to the state of the second death in everlasting punishment, for then all men had been in that state; but to a state of death in sin, of subjection to its power.

Thus the Apostle evidently explains it, in the following verse by the use of different words, when he says, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” thus clearly and plainly showing that it was not by God’s creating power, nor by Satan’s infusing himself into them, that the many were made sinners, but by “one man;” that is, Adam’s “disobedience,” being the infliction of the penalty of the command. See Rom.5:17-19.

Thus Adam was made, in the day that God created him, in the likeness of God; that is, a correct figure of Christ, with his bride in him and as the head of his posterity. If Adam’s act of disobedience, in which he represented the many, even all his posterity, had not been voluntary, the Law in justice could not have taken cognizance of it, and the many would not have been “made sinners;” neither would it have corresponded to Christ’s voluntary act of obedience by which many, even all his posterity, were made righteous.

Yours, &c., S. TROTT.
Dec. 21st, 1843.