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" Propterea sicut per unum hominem peccatum in hunc mundum intravit, et per peccatum mors, et ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit, in quo omnes peccaverunt.” Epist. ad Rom. cap. 5, v. 12.
“Wherefore as by one man Sin entered into this world, and by Sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.”
ON ORIGINAL SIN.
This important dissertation on Original Sin, may very properly be reduced to the following heads, which comprise all we have to say on this subject. In the first place, I shall givé a short historical sketch of those that, in former times, impugned Original Sin; next, I shall investigate how far the light of reason alone, unaided by Divine Revelation, concurs to the establishment of this fundamental Dogma of Religion, and what the ancient philosophers, guided by the dictates of reason alone, and men in general have, at all times, thought of Original Sin. Finally, I shall conclude by demonstrating the existence of Original Guilt from the highest authority upon earth, viz: the Divine Scriptures, and the exalted and irrefragable authority of the first ages of the Church.
Brief historical sketch of those ancient heresies, that impugned
Original Sin. XXIV. Pelagius, a Scottish Monk, was the first, who, aś early as the fourth century, dared openly to deny Original Sin.
It is from the rejection of original guilt, as from their poisonous source, all the other errors of this famous hieresiarch naturally flowed. Accordingly, he taught, ist. that the sin of Adam and Eve did damage to them only, but not to their descendants, and he thought, that he had sufficiently varnished over this absurdity, by saying that the sin of Adam had, indeed, caused damage to his posterity, but only by way of example, and that they had really become guilty, but only by way of imitation, and that it was only in this sense, it was written, that all men have sinned in Adam. 2dly. He, of course, maintained, that the death of all men, who draw their origin from Adam, is the natural condition of man, and that Adam, although he had not sinned, would have died. 3dly. That men are now born such as Adam was created; that is to say, as Pelagius contended, without virtue and without vice. 4thly. He asserted that Baptism was necessary for infants, not, indeed, in order that Original Sin, (whose existence he denied,) be remitted to them, but in order that by it the children may be consecrated to God, who makes those children, whom he had made good in their creation, still better, by their renovation in Baptism. 5thly and lastly. He asserted that those children, who die without Baptism, although excluded from the kingdom of Heaven, are, notwithstanding, on account of their original innocency, to enjoy a certain kind of a blessed and eternal life. And these were the chief heads of the Pelagian heresy, in regard to Original Sin. We learn from St. Augustin,* that the same sectarians, when pressed by the arguments of the Catholics, admitted, at last, that Adam would not have died, had he not sinned, and that, after his sin, he had become mortal, and had begotten children, like unto himself, mortal. And thus, in fine, they admitted, that the death of the body was drawn from Adam by the way of generation, but not the death of the soul or sin. This Pelagian error, long since crushed by St. Augustin, and by the authority of the Catholic Church, has been revived by some innovators of latter times, the Albigenses, Zuinglians, and, in the last ages, by
St. Aug. lib. 4, contra duas Epistolas Pelag. cap. 2, et 4.
the Socinians, whose system was the same with that of our Unitarians, so that in drawing the picture of Socinianism, you have, at once, the perfect resemblance of Unitarianism.
Original Sin examined by the light of reason alone, unassisted
by Divine Revelation. XXV. By Original Sin is meant a certain stain, which so defiles, at the moment of his origin, every man descending from Adam, through the natural way of generation, as to render him displeasing to God, subject to death, and the other miseries of this life, and which, if not washed off by Baptism, excludes man from eternal bliss; or, if you chose, in other words, it is the divine displeasure, in which all men are born, and which the sin of Adam, as the head and representative of all mankind, has brought down upon his children, the descendants of a guilty parent, and which chiefly consists in the privation of sanctifying grace, and in the subsequent exclusion from eternal life, (unless that grace be restored by Baptism, received, either in deed, or in desire,) and lastly in the subjection of mankind to death, rebellious concupiscence, and a long train of other calamities. Now, the question at issue between the Christians of all past ages, and the Unitarians of our days, is to know, whether men are actually born in such a privation of grace or not, and whether the sin of Adam has actually hurt not only him personally, but also his posterity. If we interrogate revelation, we may truly say with St. Augustin, the hammer of the Pelagians, “concerning this cause, two councils, (of Carthage and Milevis,) have been sent to the Apostolic See, from whence also the answers have been returned : The cause is at an end: would to God that at length an end were put to the error."* “De hac causa duo concilia, (Carthaginense et Milevitanum,) missa sunt ad Sedem Apostolicam, inde etiam rescripta venerunt: Causa finita est : utinam aliquando finiatur error.” But as we have to do with gentlemen, who are eternally boasting of having the whole
* Sermone, cxxxi. alias ü. de Verbis Apostoli.
strength of reason on their side, and who are in the habit of obtruding their erroneous opinions on the public, as so many ir refragable dictates of reason, it will not be amiss to see, what, upon the whole, reason says of Original Sin ; does it proclaim or at least insinuate, its existence, or does it contradict it? A moment's reflection will determine this interesting question.
XXVI. First. In entering into myself, and listening to the dictates of reason, I find, that we have duties to comply with towards God, towards ourselves, and towards our fellow ereatures : we know them, we understand them, we approve of them, and still we do not fulfil them, and not only do we not fulfil them, but we moreover feel a certain abhorrence, when there is question about putting the hand to the work to accomplish them, we experience a certain inclination of doing quite the reverse of what we ought to do, and of what we know and acknowledge, ought to be done: this is one of those truths, to know which, it is enough to enter into one's own heart and to analyze it. He that has studied his own heart, will, if candid, readily acknowledge, within his own nature, the truth of those lines of the poet.*
* “ Excute virgineo conceptas pectore flammas
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue. DAYDEN. The same bard graphically expresses the same melancholy truth in the following verse :
" Quod licet, ingratum est : quod non licet, acrius urit.”
“We hate what is lawful, and pursue with eagerness what is forbidden." Catullus perfectly agrees with Ovid in the following distich:
“ Odi et amo, quare id facio, fortasse requiris ?
· Let us exemplify this striking truth: It is an undoubted principle, that it is the essential duty of man, to seek the honour of God in all things, at all times, and in all its extent; and still it is a fact, that man aspires, in all things, at all times, and with every possible effort, to his own honour; and that he aims at it, without any relation whatever to the honour of God. And not only he strives to cause himself to shine above others, but he feels, moreover, a natural and uncommonly strong propensity and desire, that all around him may be darkened, in order that he only may be blazed forth into notice and esteem. Observe man attentively; observe him with a sharp eye, and you will find, that, in all his words, in all his actions, in all his qualifications, he betrays inadvertently, and, at times against his own will, a certain fund, a certain inclination and inward impulse, which tends unjustly to lessen his own known miseries, to make boast of himself, and to enhance those qualities, which make him appear great and praise-worthy. This is not all: you will discover, that he secretly plumes himself upon many things, and appropriates them almost entirely to himself, and wishes and does all he can underhandedly - to make men believe that they are, in some measure, the fruit of his own industry, although he be convinced in his mind, that he has received them entirely from God, and that, which seems to me I know not what to call it, either more foolish or more wicked, is, that this man puffs himself up with extravagant self-conceit, and despises and tramples upon those to whom the hand of the Creator has been less kind, and less liberal. Turn now over to some man of the class of those whom we call learned, that is to say, less ignorant than others, and tell him, “you, indeed, are a man of knowledge, you possess such information as raises you far above the greater part of your fellow-men: you are universally respected as a scholar, but recollect, that, had the sovereign dispenser of every good gift not bestowed on you that penetration of genius; if he had not placed you under such and such circumstances; if he had not afforded you, in your career, so many favourable opportunities, with the goods of fortune, and a proportionate state of health, you would be as ignorant as other men.” This cer