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quent to the creation of man. Now, if the doctrine in question be true, God, from the first, knew that what is affirmed in the above text, would be the consequence of the first man and woman having eaten of the forbidden fruit. Therefore God could not have been angry at what He saw of the wickedness of man; nor have prepared to punish that which the doctrine assumes to have been itself a punishment inflicted by himself.
It appears to us a very strange idea, that God should first punish man by changing his nature, and then destroy him by a deluge, on account of the effects of that change. Hence we affirm, that the nature of man has not been changed since his creation; that his original nature made him prone to sin, that he did sin accordingly, and so has his posterity sinned, and will be punished, as heretofore punished, unless he sets himself to discover and obey the law of God.
Jeremiah xviii. 9.—“ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” This is Jeremiah's opinion, and he is not far wrong. Our inclinations are not always in the path of rectitude, if we may be permitted so to interpret the word heart. But what reference this opinion has to the effects of eating of the forbidden fruit we do not perceive. It is merely a general remark, occasioned by the low state of morality which seems to have obtained among the Jews at the time. The question is not are men wicked, but are they wicked in consequence of having eaten of the forbidden fruit ?
Then follows the quotation from Paul's Epistle to the Romans, from the tenth to the eighteenth verse of chapter third, beginning, “ As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one.” These verses describe the degraded state of morals in St. Paul's time, and the description is correct. He makes no reference to the cause of that state, directly or indirectly. Such a cause as that assigned by the doctrine of corruption is too remarkable not to have been pointedly referred to, if it were true. It would not have been left to future divines to invent such a doctrine. Another sentence of St. Paul, the twenty-second verse of the fifteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, has been advanced in favour of the doctrine, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." As one interpretation is as good as another, as soon as it is admitted there is need of interpretation, the meaning of these words seems to be, that as Adam and all his posterity have sinned, and do not deserve salvation on account of their sins, and have died in their sins, so shall all those who listen to the preaching of Christ, and act as he has prescribed, forsaking the indulgence
of their senses, and inferior faculties, and permitting themselves to be guided by their moral powers, live as the children of God, and be admitted into His presence.
In reference to the effect of Christ's appearance on the condition of man as a defiled and corrupted being, the Confession of Faith thus mysteriously and dogmatically speaks : “ The corruption of nature during this life doth remain in those that are regenerated : and although it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.” Here we are told that the corruption of nature is pardoned. We would ask, how can a state of being be pardoned ? Pardon implies an act requiring to be forgiven. It is said that corruption is sin, a proposition liable to a similar objection; because while sin implies an act, corruption is not an act. “ The motions thereof,” that is, evil desires, are doubtless sinful, when they lead us to act in a manner contrary to the dictates of moral sentiment; but there is no indication of the doctrine in the abuse of any of our faculties, which are all in themselves good when not abused. It would be foreign to our present purpose to enter into the consideration of the doctrine of regeneration. It is sufficient to have shown that the connection formed in the above quotation, between it and corruption, is utterly unintelligible.
It is needless to go further into the examination of the supposed proofs of this doctrine at present. We believe it to be very injurious to the best interests of man. Its tendency is to degrade him in his own eyes, and to retard his improvement and progress towards fitness for a future state of existence. It is in direct contradiction to the established laws of nature, if we believe man to have been created in conformity to the system in which he was placed. It is in contradiction to the attributes of God; and this we will now proceed to demonstrate, believing the arguments we are about to employ to be conclusive.
We are told that God created man, and placed him in a garden in which were planted two trees, of the fruit of one of which the man and his wife were forbidden to eat, under the penalty of death, which penalty is conceived by those who subscribe to the doctrine, to have been an entire change of nature. If the attributes of God be such as we assume them to be, He must have known that the prohibition would be neglected, and the penalty incurred. His omniscience and foreknowledge must have made him aware that such would be the event. God is an infinitely intelligent being, and infinitely just and merciful. But there is not only manifest injustice in giving a command, with the knowledge that it was to be disobeyed, and that unavoidably; but absolute and wanton cruelty, in determining beforehand to punish the man and woman for having acted as they were destined to act, and who could not be free agents under the circumstances in which they were placed, by rendering them corrupt and unfit to fulfil the law of their maker. If God did not know that they would disobey the command, then the attribute of omniscience is incorrect. We must therefore choose whether to believe in the attributes ascribed to God, or in a doctrine which ascribes to Him actions inconsistent with them.
We are told that “the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which God had made.” This implies that among other beasts God created serpents, and made it the most subtile of them. That serpents were created is true; but that they are more subtile than other creatures is not true. To get rid of this difficulty, it has been supposed, in defence of the doctrine, that the serpent here spoken of was the devil in disguise. Had this been meant by the writer of the history, it is probable he would have been more explicit. But we shall take the supposition, and consider whether it be consistent with the attributes of God.
It is admitted that God is the great first cause of all existence. It is admitted that the devil is a dependent being, over whom God can exercise power. It is impossible to conceive that he could admit any rival in intelligence or power, or suffer himself to be overreached, and his designs to be thwarted by such rival intelligence. It has been said by some, that in the present case, God permitted the rival power to act, so as to deceive the woman, and thus bring about her disobedience. If this be the case, the Creator cannot be a dignified and moral being, but one governed by selfish cunning and deceit.
If the devil be not a dependent being, but one opposed to the Creator; and if this same devil assumed the form of a serpent, with the design of counteracting God's plans; and if, in the present case, he did succeed, as is supposed, in rendering abortive the primitive intentions of the Creator in forming man, how is it possible that God can have the attributes of ubiquity, omniscience, or infinite intelligence? If God possessed those attributes, He must have been aware of the serpent's design, and have counteracted it. At any rate His benevolence and justice would have given the first pair warning to be on their guard. But the doctrine in question will not admit of this, and therefore impugns the attributes of God. It is quite evident, according to the history, that, but for the interference of the serpent, the first pair had no thought of disobeying the command they had received. But it is also evident they could not have been perfect beings, because they were liable to be deceived. If, then, God permitted them to be deceived, and knew that they would be deceived, we must be very much mistaken indeed, in regard to His Moral Perfection. To say that it was God's intention to create a perfect being, knowing that he would almost immediately become corrupted in his nature, and that all his posterity were to act in opposition to His will in consequence of corruption, and so as to render it necessary that God should devise and execute a plan to satisfy scruples of his own, and to relieve man from the consequences of what He foresaw and might easily have prevented, is to exhibit the Creator as a weak and capricious being. Such is the effect of the doctrine of corruption.
Further; we are told that God, after man had multiplied on the earth, was dissatisfied with his conduct, that he destroyed the whole race, excepting one family. If God did not foresee that His own work was to become so bad as to provoke him to destroy it, this also reduces His attributes to a low level. But having destroyed His work, it is natural to suppose that He would have improved that small portion of it that remained, so as to be satisfied with it, and not have left it to return to the same state of imperfection a second time. But the doctrine of corruption will have us to believe that God destroyed mankind, all but one family, knowing that this could have no good effect, but would leave man in a state again to provoke him by wickedness, and to force Him, as divines speak, to devise a new plan to satisfy himself. The wickedness of man has been as great since the flood, and since the appearance of Christ, as it could ever by possibility have been before it, although God has not seen fit to punish mankind again in a summary manner. We thus find, on slight examination of the circumstances, that there is no foundation in scripture for the doctrine of corruption, whether we test it by moral considerations, or by matter of fact.
But we have yet a further assurance in Holy Writ, that the doctrine is false, because it is opposed to God's own word, the law He laid down for the government of His own people. It is utterly impossible that God could have rendered Adam's posterity liable to punishment for the sins of Adam, and yet free all parents from liability for the sins of their children, and all children from punishment on account of the sins of their parents. If God acknowledged this principle at any time He must have regarded it at all times. It is written in the book of Deuteronomy, xxiv. 16, “ The fathers shall not be put to death for the children; neither shall the children be put to death for their fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” This principle was clearly approved by God, when Abraham interceded for
Vol. III. No. 11.—New Series.
Sodom and Gomorrha that the innocent should not be destroyed with the guilty. Nothing can be more explicit in reference to this principle than the contents of the 18th chapter of the prophet Ezekiel. In all these enactments God exhibited His justice; in the doctrine of Corruption there is none of it.
It ought, perhaps, to be a sufficient reason for rejecting the doctrine of corruption, that the Jews, who understand their own books better than we, repudiate this doctrine.