THE immediate effects of Adam's sin, as indicated in the narrative
in Genesis, were (1) shame, or fear of God's presence, and (2)
making excuse for his sin and casting the blame upon the woman and
his maker. Gen. 3:7-13.
The immediate curse uttered against the woman was (1) danger to her
and her seed from the serpent and his seed, (2) multiplied pain and
sorrow in childbirth, and (3) a condition of subservience to her
husband. Gen. 3:15-16.
That against the man was (1) that thorns and thistles should hinder
the cultivation of the ground, (2) that by hard labour in the sweat
of his face should he eat his bread, and (3) a positive declaration
of the return of the man to the dust whence he had been taken. Gen.
The evils thus threatened have not been confined to Adam and Eve,
but have fallen also upon all their posterity. Whatever may be the
connection between Adam and that posterity, it is generally admitted
that the latter share with him all these evils.
In seeking then into the effects of Adam's sin we shall find them in
connection with the evil condition of his posterity, as well as of
The curses uttered in the garden are not to be taken as exhaustive
of the curse threatened. They are such only as were immediately
suggested by the peculiar attendant circumstances of Adam's sin, and
are to be regarded merely as examples of its evil effects. Still
even they have not been confined to Adam, but have come equally upon
the race at large.
All the evil effects of Adam's sin are comprised under the one word
"death." This was the threatened penalty. But what is meant by it?
I. Natural death is included. By this is meant the separation of the
soul and the body, and the consequent decay of the body.
1. It has been objected that this is not a result of Adam's sin
because the very nature of the body (dust) made it necessary that it
should return to dust.
To this it may be replied:
(1.) That it is not certain that there were in man's body before his
sin any elements of decay which would naturally lead to separation
from the soul and to corruption.
(2.) But even if we admit that the body is naturally mortal and
liable to corruption, it does not follow that had man not sinned, he
would have died. God might have continued forever to preserve his
powers unimpaired, either by direct preservation or by some remedial
means. Some think, not without reason that this would have been done
through the tree of life.
(3.) The objection overlooks the fact that, from the nature of God's
foreknowledge and purpose, things in themselves natural are made the
punishments of others with which they are associated. In like manner
also is it with his blessings. The whole narrative of the fall is
full of examples of this principle. Of this kind is the serpent's
curse, "upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all
the days of thy life," Gen. 3:14; of this also that connected with
the natural injuries which men and serpents would inflict on each
other, Gen. 3:15; that of the rule of the husband over the wife,
Gen. 3:17; and that of the thorns and thistles in the ground and the
sweat and the labour for the means of life, Gen. 3:18, 19.
2. A second objection against regarding natural death as part of the
penalty is that the threatened penalty was a death which should
occur on the very day the fruit should be eaten.
(1.) This might be an objection if it were claimed that the penalty
of natural death was the only penalty, or if it could be shown that
the death thus threatened was so exclusive as to forbid that natural
death should be in any way associated with it.
(2.) It is even doubtful whether the corrupt tendency to death and
its beginnings may not be ascribed to the very hour of Adam's sin.
If that sin removed all hope of God's counteracting the natural
mortality, this would be so; whether it was to be counteracted, as
Lange quotes Knobel as supposing [Comm. on Genesis, p. 239],
"through the tree of life," or by some other means. It would also be
true if; as Lange thinks, the threatened penalty, "death, here
corresponding to the biblical conception of death, must be taken
primarily to mean moral death, which goes out of the soul or heart,
and, through the soul-life, gradually fastens itself upon the
physical organism." Comm. on Gen., p.207. Under such circumstances
the moral death would be the eventual cause of the physical death,
and to the latter would be assigned the same time of beginning with
the former. This might also be done, even if the gradual decay were
a mere accompaniment of the moral death without being actually
caused by it.
In favour of the idea that natural death is included in the penalty,
1. The probability that while spiritual death does come upon man,
the outward event, the name of which is used to express this evil
result in the soul, would itself also constitute a part of that
which is indicated by its name.
Hence it is that to one who does not carefully study the Scripture
statements, the most obvious idea is that the death threatened was
chiefly natural death.
2. This probability is rendered certain by the specific curse
uttered in the garden after the transgression: "Dust thou art, and
unto dust shalt thou return." Gen. 3:19.
3. It is confirmed by other passages of Scripture. Lange, Gen.,
p.239, thinks that the teaching of the 90th Psalm is undoubtedly
that death belongs solely to the punishment of sin. But whether so,
or not, it is unquestionably the teaching of Romans 5:12-14; also of
1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 55, 56. [See some valuable remarks on this point
in Edwards' Works, vol. 2, p.373.]
II. Spiritual death was also an effect of Adam a sin. Our inquiry
into natural death as a penalty leads us to look for some other and
higher evil as resulting from sin. It must be something which
occurred at the very time of eating, which affected that part of man
that was naturally immortal, and which was also connected with that
part with which conscious personality is inseparably associated.
1. It must therefore be the death of the soul.
The Scriptures present this in several aspects, showing it in each
case not only by statements of what it is, but by contrasting it
with the life of the soul. It is presented as (1) Alienation from
God. (2) Loss of God's favour. (3) Loss of acceptance with him.
It is contrasted with life in many passages, as Lev. 18:5; Deut.
8:3; 30:15-19; Ps. 119:17, 77, 116; Matt. 4:4; John 5:24.
That this death has come upon mankind is evident from the fact that
the Scriptures speak of man in his fallen state as being "without
God in the world," Eph. 2:12; as "alienated from the life of God,"
Eph. 4:18. It says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory
of God," Rom. 3:23. Also that "the wicked and him that loveth
violence his soul hateth," Ps. 11:5. "For the wrath of God is
revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of
men," Rom. 1:18. It is not only said that "he that believeth not
hath been judged already," but that "the wrath of God abideth on
him." John 3:18, 36.
It is also evident from the work of Christ, which was to reconcile
man to God, and to propitiate his good will. Hence Christ speaks of
himself as giving living water. We are said to live in Christ.
2. This spiritual death was not only the death of the soul,--as seen
in the various aspects of alienation, loss of God's favour and of
acceptance with him, referred to above,--but it also consisted in a
corrupt nature. The Scripture statements as to this corruption show:
(1.) Its universal extent. It is found in every man. "There is no
man that sinneth not," 1 Kings 8:46. "There is none that doeth
good," Ps. 14:1; and this is emphasized in v.3 by adding "no, not
one." See also Rom. 3:10 and the argument of the context. Also Ps.
53:1-3; 130:3; Prov. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20; Isa. 53:6; 64:6; Rom. 3:23;
5:12, 14; Gal. 3:22; 1 John 1:8-10; 5:19.
To the above passages might be added arguments for the universal
existence of sin from the declared necessity of regeneration in each
man; from the direction to preach the gospel to every creature; and
the assertion that there is no salvation for any man except in the
name of Christ.
(2.) Its early appearance in man's life is another proof that
corruption is the effect of Adam's sin. Certain passages of
Scripture are supposed to refer to young children as though innocent
of guilt. These are such as Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; and Luke
18:15-17, "Of such is the kingdom of God." Also Matt. 18:3: "Except
ye turn and become as little children." Also 1 Cor. 14:20: "Be not
children in mind: howbeit in malice be ye babes, but in mind be
men." [See Gill's Body of Divinity, I., 474.]
But these passages do not teach freedom from corruption. On the
other hand, corruption in early infancy is plainly taught. "The
wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they
be born, speaking lies," Ps. 58:3. "Behold I was shapen in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me," Ps. 51:5. "Foolishness
(wickedness) is bound up in the heart of a child," Prov. 22:15.
(3.) The fact of this corruption. Before the flood it is said: "And
God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that
every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually," Gen. 6:5. "Every one of them is gone back; they are
altogether become filthy," Ps. 53:3; see also Ecc. 8:11; Matt.
15:19; Rom. 1st chapter at length, as to the heathen, in connection
with Paul's question, Rom. 3:9. Similar descriptions appear in Isa.
59:3-14; in Gal. 5:19-21; Titus 3:3; 2 Pet. 2:13-18.
(4.) This corruption extends to every affection of the heart and
mind. Mr. Goodwin, in the Lime Street Lectures, p. 128, says: "The
soul is corrupted with all its faculties; the mind with darkness and
ignorance, Eph. 5:3; being subject to the sensitive part, and
strongly prejudiced against the things of God, 1 Cor. 4:24; the
conscience with stupidity and insensibleness, Titus 1:15; the will
with stubbornness and rebellion, Rom. 8:7; the affections are become
carnal and placed either upon unlawful objects, or upon lawful in an
unlawful manner or degree, Col. 3:2; the thoughts and imaginations
are full of pride, and vanity, and disorder, Gen. 6:5. And as for
the body, that is become a clog, instead of being serviceable to the
soul, and all its members and senses instruments of unrighteousness
to sin, Rom. 7:19. It is, I say, in general a universal depravation
of every part in man since the fall; and more particularly it
consists in a privation of all good, in an enmity to God and the
things of God, and in a propensity to all evil." See also Hodge,
vol. 2, p. 255, and Gill's Divinity, vol. 1, p. 474. [Better proof
texts than those referred to in the above quotation are Eph. 4:18
and Rom. 1:21 instead of Eph. 5:3; and Rom. 6:12; 7:24 and 8:5-7
instead of 1 Cor. 4:24.]
(5.) This corruption has not been equally developed in all. The
doctrine of total depravity does not mean such equal development.
The Scriptures recognize degrees of wickedness as well as of
hardening of the heart, and even blinding of the minds of some. But
they also represent that the lack of this development is due to
differing circumstances and restraints by which some men are
(6.) This corruption does not destroy accountability or
responsibility for present sins.
(a) The Scriptures universally recognize man's liability to
punishment for all the thoughts of his mind, and the desires of his
heart or the emotions of his physical nature, as well as for his
acts. These are characterized by more or less of heinousness
according to their nature and the circumstances under which they are
committed. The more intense the corruption, the more guilty is the
(b) The conscience of mankind approves these teachings of Scripture.
We do not excuse men because of any state of moral corruption. The
evidence of this is seen in the immediate difference which is made
whenever physical compulsion or physical disease (insanity) leads to
an act which otherwise would be regarded as sinful and blameworthy.
(7.) This corruption does not destroy the freedom of the will. This
is the ground upon which men are held responsible by God and by
human law and conscience. The condition of man is indeed such "that
he cannot not sin," but this is due to his nature, which loves sin
and hates holiness, and which prefers self to God. When man sins, he
does so of his own choice, freely, without compulsion.
(8.) "The inability which is thus admitted," says Dr. Hodge, "is
asserted only in reference to the things of the spirit." It is
asserted in all the confession above quoted (he has been quoting
various Protestant confessions) that man since the fall has not only
the liberty of choice or power of self-determination, but also is
able to perform moral acts, good as well as evil. He can be kind and
just, and fulfil his social duties in a manner to secure the
approbation of his fellow-men. It is not meant that the states of
mind in which these acts are performed, or the motives by which they
are determined, are such as to meet the approbation of an infinitely
holy God, but simply that these acts, as to the matter of them, are
prescribed by moral law.
"Theologians, as we have seen, designate the class of acts as to
which fallen man retains his ability, as 'justitia civilis,' 'things
external.' And the class as to which his inability is asserted is
designated as 'the things of God,' 'the things of the Spirit,'
'things connected with salvation.' The difference between these two
classes of acts, although it may not be easy to state it in words,
is universally recognized. There is an obvious difference between
morality and religion; and between those religious affections of
reverence and gratitude which all men more or less experience, and
true piety. The difference lies in the state of mind, the motives,
and the apprehension of the objects of these affections. It is the
difference between holiness and mere natural feeling. What the Bible
and all the Confessions of the churches of the Reformation assert
is, that man, since the fall, cannot change his own heart; he cannot
regenerate his soul; he cannot repent with godly sorrow or exercise
that faith which is unto salvation. He cannot, in short, put forth
any holy exercise, or perform any act in such a way as to merit the
approbation of God. Sin cleaves to all he does, and from this
dominion of sin he cannot free himself." [Hodge's Syst. Theol., vol.
2, pp. 263-4.]
(9.) This total corruption does not involve equality of sinfulness
in all men. On the contrary, sin is increased by cherishing sinful
thoughts; by indulgence in sinful habits; by throwing off the
restraints of society; and is affected by circumstances of birth,
education, &c. It is also true that by natural inheritance some are
more prone to sin than others.
III. Eternal death is also the consequence of Adam's sin.
1. Without any actual sentence to eternal death, it would follow
that the present alienated and corrupted condition of mankind would
(a) Condemnation can only be removed by proof of innocence; by legal
justification; or by voluntary pardon. But the justice of God
forbids him to pardon sin without atonement. By the deeds of the law
can no man be justified; and, above all, innocence can never be
proved. Hence the Scriptures represent all men, not pardoned and
justified through Christ, as condemned to everlasting death.
(b) Corruption can only be removed by a cleansing of human nature
sufficient to root out all taint of sin and to restore a holy
disposition and habits. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the
people of Christ. All not thus sanctified by him are left forever
corrupt. The Scriptures show such to be man's condition that he
cannot cleanse himself.
Dr. Dagg says: "The Scripture representations of men's inability are
exceedingly strong. They are said to be without strength, captives,
in bondage, asleep, dead, &c. The act, by which they are delivered
from their natural state, is called regeneration, quickening, or
giving life, renewing, resurrection, translation, creation; and it
is directly ascribed to the power of God, the power that called
light out of darkness, and raised up Christ from the dead." [Dagg's
Manual of Theology, p. 171.]
The following Scriptures distinctly assert this corruption and
inability: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his
spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil." Jer.
13:23. So also Jno. 1:13; 3:3; Rom. 5:6; 7:5, 21; 8:3; 9:16 and Eph.
2:1 ,5. Such being the condition of man, it is seen to be impossible
for him to be delivered by his own acts, even if he had the will to
perform them. But for God's action there would be no deliverance,
even if man had the will to deliver himself.
(c) But men have not the will to be released. This is evidenced by
the statements of Scripture about their love of sin, and the delight
they take therein, as specially leading to the rejection of the
gospel. Jno. 3:19-21.
If therefore, the doctrine of eternal death were no more than the
natural continuance of the alienation and corruption of men, we see
that in the absence of the means to remove these they must continue
2. But this doctrine goes farther and teaches (a) the confirmation
of men beyond future escape in this condition of sin and misery, and
(b) its aggravation, or at least a farther development of it, which
is restrained in this life, and only slightly and in a few instances
This is taught by showing: (1.) That the day of judgment has been
postponed, and that men during the present life are in an
intermediate state of probation. (2.) That at the appointed time the
wicked shall be judged and their final doom assigned to them. (3.)
That that doom shall be as eternal as the bliss of the righteous.
The strongest words of the Greek language are used to express the
eternity of that condition. (4.) That beyond that period there shall
be no change of state nor opportunity of redemption. (5.) That the
condition of punishment into which they will enter is that of the
devil and his angels, which is an entirely depraved and corrupted
state of bitter enmity to God, and to holy beings and things; a
state without restraints, in which the soul is wholly given up to
sin. The 1st chapter of Romans teaches us what the removal of such
restraints will produce. (6.) Some intimation of what that state
will be is given in the devil-blinded, self-hardened condition
attained even in this life by the worst of men, who, in their wilful,
blasphemous and high-handed opposition to God and holiness, show
that they are spiritually possessed by the devil.