A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume Two

Chapter 1

Origin of Sin in the Universe and on Earth




            the Original Sin


            the Fall of Man

            interpretation of the Narrative


            The Probation and Fall

            Fall Active and Passive


            Dualism or Necessary Principle of Evil

            Finite Limitation

            Sensuous Nature

            Free Personality

THE discussion of Providence has exhibited Sin, the destruction of which was the object of the redeeming counsel, as contemplated from eternity in connection with the origin, development, and destiny of mankind. It is therefore as a doctrine interwoven with all the subsequent stages of theology, being in fact one centre from which the whole may be viewed. But it has its own range of independent topics, making it a distinct study. We ascend first to the mystery of its Origin, in the universe and on earth, this leading of necessity to the consideration of its Nature in itself and of the Theories devised to account for it: then follows the relation between Sin and Redemption, or rather the mitigating effect that the coming redemption throws back upon the evolution of evil; thus introducing, finally, its universality in mankind, or Original Sin, the sin adhering to the race as such and to every member of it naturally born into the world

From hamartia, the general New-Testament denomination of sin as subjective or in the soul, has been derived the term HAMARHOLOGY, occasionally used for this entire department. It appears in some systems as PONEROLOGY, from ponhron or ponhria, which indicates rather the objective character of sin or evil in its manifold relations and consequences. It is useful to note these terms, though they are not much used in English theology


By a necessity of thought we commence with the origin of sin. The sacred record declares that it began in the universe with the fall of free intelligences, failing in their probation: and that it began on earth with the disobedience of our first parents, which brought them the knowledge of evil as guilt and as punishment uniting in death. The history of the first transgression, whether of angels or of men, is so presented in Scripture as to show that the origination of evil is with the creature itself. Whatever differences there are in the two Falls, and however much of mystery remains in both, they unite in one thing: they preclude every theory that seeks the principle of sin in any other source than the freedom of the spirit created in the Divine image


The Scriptural account of the origin of sin in the external universe is very brief, but very distinct; and what it lacks is supplied by the fuller history of the fall of mankind. One Original Sinner is indicated, who was the cause of sin to his fellows, and the instrument of its introduction into this world

1. The absolute beginning of evil, and of sin as the cause of evil, is directly traced to the fall of the Devil and those who are called his angels. Satan is the representative of evil as it had its beginning in him. There are passages of Scripture which in a marked manner make him the father of all iniquity. It is true that many of these refer to his connection with sin in this world: for instance, the testimony that he was a murderer from the beginning, 1 which sends us to the history of the human Fall. He was the instrumental cause of death to the first man; and therefore in one sense first in the transgression, 2 behind Eve who was first in another sense. But there are some which intimate darkly that the first spirit separated from God was his. Our Lord, who came into the world as the Antagonist of the evil one, gave His disciples on a memorable occasion a single hint of large meaning: I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven. 3 While we must understand these words as condensing into one flash of revelation the whole history of the conflict with the powers of darkness, so far as it concerns this earth, we must also regard them as giving testimony to the fact of the primal fall of one intelligence, so essentially the first and most prominent that he stands for the whole company who followed him. He was the head of those angels who kept not their first estate, 4 of those angels that sinned. 5 Of him our Lord, who knew what was in devils as well as what is in man, said: he abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. 6 This absolute negation of any element of truth in Satan is made more emphatically positive: when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. The lie is here essential evil, the denial of the truth of a creature's relation to God: he is the father of the universal lie, the father of evil and sin. And this is made more probable by the allusions to the Devil and his angels, 7 as comprising all the beings for whom final and irreversible judgment waits, having been prepared 8 for them alone. Always there is assigned to one Power a pre-eminence over a multitude of others who owed their sin to him: not, however, through the inheritance of a propagated bias to evil, but by each one independently yielding to his temptation or following his example. On this subject we can say but little; suffice, that the Devil is both directly and indirectly regarded as the Prince or archon of iniquity in the universe as well as in this world. His was the original sin; it was the misuse of freedom; it was the mysterious birth in his nature of an ambition to rival God, or the Son of God, an ambition which was transferred to this world after his exclusion from heaven; it was imitated by many others; it was irreparable, at least we hear of no redemption or hope; and, lastly, it was the fountain of temptation to our race

1 John 8:44; 2 1 Tim. 2:14; 3 Luke 10:18: 4 Jude 6; 5 2 Pet. 2:4; 6 John 8:44; 7 Mat. 25:41; 8 Jude 6

2. Of Satan's relation to other worlds we know nothing. But the introduction of evil into the world of mankind, and its history through all our generations, are in a special manner bound up with his first apostasy, the Original Sin. The link between the pride which caused his ruin and the transgression of our first parents, was this: ye shall be as gods!1 Our sin is, so to speak, a reflection or continuation of his. Hence he retains his empire and headship as the lord and representative of the principle of evil. He has set up a kingdom of which he and not Adam is the head. Of this more hereafter; for the present it will be enough to enumerate the names of the original sinner, whose relation to the lapse of mankind is his aggravated condemnation, but not the excuse of human depravity. (1) As the representative of evil or sin in itself he is called That Wicked One, 2 absolutely; and of the propagation of all the innumerable seeds of sin it is said: the enemy that sowed them is the Devil 3 (2) As the representative and lord of the empire of sin, he is the God of this world, 4 the Prince of this world,5 the Prince of the power of the air, 6 the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; 6 a collocation which places him in solemn antithesis to the Persons of the Holy Trinity respectively, the first with the Father, the second with the Son, and the third with the Holy Ghost; especially when his kingdom 7 is taken into the account. (3) As the representative of the spirit of enmity to goodness he is Satan, or the Adversary, the Devil, and the Tempter. 8 (4) The tenor of the New Testament makes him generally the embodiment of sin: its origin, lord, promoter, witness, and executioner. Always and everywhere he and his angels are real persons: the personality of no agents is more expressly revealed or spoken of in terms less liable to misapprehension

But this question enters here indirectly

1Gen. 3:1; 21 John 3:12; 3 Mat. 8:39; 4 2 Cor. 4:4; 5 John 14:30; 6 Eph. 2:2; 7 Mat. 12:26; 8 Job 1:6


The Mosaic account of the Probation and Fall of the First Pair is an inspired narrative of the origin of sin in the human race; it is not a collection of early traditions or myths; nor an allegorical method of teaching the moral history of sin in man; nor a combination of history, allegory, and legend; but an historical narrative of facts, which, however, are bound up with symbols that must have their interpretation as such. In that interpretation the utmost caution is necessary. But no exposition can pretend to solve every difficulty, or obviate every objection; because in our estate of sin we have no experience of the original condition of our first parents, and therefore have not the key to the solution of the mystery of their temptation and subjection to evil. The brief account records that man was placed in a state of trial, with the consciousness of the possibility of sin or separation of his will from the Divine will; it describes the circumstances and the nature, external and internal, of the temptation from without; and it sets before us the preliminaries, the act, and the immediate consequences of the first transgression or what in our human annals is the Fall of Man


The Record gives its account of the ruin of mankind as history; that of a beginning which flows on without break into the subsequent course of redemption. As a narrative of simple facts it is seldom alluded to in either Testament; but such allusions as we find assume its historical reality. Our Lord gives His sanction to the account of the creation, quoting its very words, and indirectly including the Fall itself. St. Paul again and again refers to the incidents as recorded in Genesis. The history is tacitly recognized as history—primitive, fragmentary, Oriental, it may be, and deeply symbolical, but Divine—throughout the sacred oracles

I. The few references in Scripture are very explicit. The more carefully they are observed, in their context, the more obvious will it be that the account of the first transgression must be received in its simplicity, with its commingled facts and symbols, by all who hold sacred the authority of our Lord and His Apostles 1. In the Old Testament there are few undeniable allusions to the circumstances of the Fall. We read in Job: if I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom. 1 To conceal iniquity is after the manner of men, but there appears to be a marked reference to the colloquy between Adam and his Maker. A passage in Hosea has been often quoted in favor of the Paradisaical covenant of works: but they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant. 2 This however may be, and is, translated, like men

Throughout the older economy Adam is merged in his posterity; and the fall of mankind, like the sin which caused it, is everywhere assumed as a postulate. The Old Testament is not constantly laying again the foundation, rather it may be said to cease to speak of the first principles 3 of its doctrine. Hence, as in the two passages quoted above, man is Adam, and Adam is man

1 Job 31:33; 2 Hos. 6:7; 3 Heb. 6:1

2. In the Gospels there is literally not one express allusion to the narrative of the first catastrophe. It needed not our Lord's corroboration and therefore did not receive it. But if we weigh well His words, on the question of divorce, we must conclude that the whole record has His supreme sanction as historical. Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 1 They, who read this as history read as history what immediately follows; and the Redeemer's declarations, already quoted, concerning the murderer from the beginning, 2 refer obviously to the very narrative of Genesis

1 Mat. 19:4,5; 2 John 8:44

3. St. Paul, who inherited the later Jewish doctrine, and gave much of it Christian sanction, more than once confirms the literal texture of our narrative. So must we interpret his words, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety; 1 where he means Satan, who was and is transformed into an angel of light 2 instead of creeping on the earth. So also his prophecy and prayer, the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet, 3 which is an echo of the first promise given to man through the condemnation of the Devil. Here it may be observed, in passing, that the Apostle by the use of the term transformed gives us the only solution we need of the difficulty of temptation through the voice of a serpent. St. Paul, moreover, as we shall see, founds his argument of Original Sin on the literal narrative of the Fall

1 2 Cor. 9:3; 2 2 Cor. 9:14; 3 Rom. 16:20

4. The comparative reserve of the rest of Scripture as to the facts and symbols of the narrative is broken through in the last book. The Apocalypse returns back to Genesis, and quotes almost every particular in such a manner as at once to sanction the literalness of the account and to relieve it of some of its difficulties. The final promise to the first Church of the Seven is: to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. 1 Here the literal Eden of man, and the literal tree from which he was excluded, reappear in their heavenly significance; but the spiritual, which is afterward, implies the reality of the natural which was first. The doom upon Satan has also its spiritual and eternal meaning: and the great Dragon was cast down, the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. 2 His seduction of our first parents is merged in his universal temptation from the Fall downwards; but the tremendous reality of the conflict between him and the Seed of the Woman through all the ages of redemption is based upon, it flows from, the first literal triumph permitted of God. The light of the apocalyptic glory shines through all intervening ages up to the darkened paradise of the Fall, not relieving it of its impenetrable mystery, but confirming its literal truth. It bids us study the narrative in the spirit of simple faith: leaving to God Himself the vindication of His righteous judgments and unsearchable ways, and rejoicing only that the leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations, and that there shall be no more curse 3 to those who enter the heavenly Paradise

1 Rev. 2:7; 2 Rev. 12:9; 3 Rev. 22:2,3

II. The two theories of interpretation termed Mythical and Allegorical are really one; with this important difference, however, that the former denies the Divine authority which the latter admits or does not exclude

1. The Mythical theory appeals to the universal traditions of Paradise and the Golden Age, the unhistorical character of the Serpent, the trees, the walking of God in the evening, and other features of the detail, as all indicating a legendary origin. It is said that the Hebrew narrative is only one tribal version of an idea common among the early nations. We accept the truth that underlies this false theory. The traditions of many nations contain mythical accounts which have been woven out of the threads of a primitive tradition; but they declare their legendary character on the surface. There is no Myth in the Bible, as has been already shown; and the traditions of the early history of the world recorded in Genesis are in no way connected with any particular people. They profess to have been revealed to the first writer of the Biblical documents; and are incorporated into Scripture as such. They belong to the archives of the race, and not of any one family in it: Divine Tradition before all human traditions

2. The Allegorical method of explaining this first chapter of human history has been adopted by the mystical school, from Philo, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Origen downwards, through Maimonides, to modern times. It admits the Divine origin of the Mosaic account of the introduction of sin; and supposes that the whole scene is figurative, representing by a continuous allegory the facts of the Fall, but having no more connection with those facts than the allegory of the Vine brought out of Egypt had with the redemption of Israel. Now it is undeniable that the essential meaning of the whole narrative may be extracted from it on this principle, as may be seen in some of the best expositions of the Alexandrian school. But this canon of interpretation is repudiated, as will be seen, by the clear and unclouded testimony of later Scripture, as well as by the strict literality of the style of the opening chapter of Genesis in general. Fact and Parable are Divinely interwoven

3. The purely historical character of the narrative may be maintained in perfect consistency with a full acknowledgment of the large element of symbolism in it. It must be remembered that the scene of Paradise, though introduced into human history, belongs to an order of events very different from anything that human experience knows or can rightly appreciate

While the narrative is true, and every circumstance in it real, there is not a feature of the Paradisaical history of man that is purely natural, as we now understand the term. The process of human probation, whether longer or shorter, was supernaturally conducted by symbols, the deep meaning of which we know now only in part, though our first parents perhaps understood them by express teaching. The garden enclosed; the sacramental Tree of Life, the nourishment of conditional immortality; the mystical Tree of Knowledge, the fruit of which would reveal the profound secret of freedom; the one positive precept, representing the whole law; the symbolical serpent-form of the Tempter; the character of the threatenings and their fulfillment on all the parties; the exclusion from the garden, and the flaming defenses of the forfeited Eden; all were emblems as well as facts, which almost without exception recur at the close of revelation in their new and higher symbolic meaning. Both in Genesis and in Revelation they are symbols or signs with a deep spiritual significance. The remembrance of this serves two purposes. It suggests that our first parents were bound to their Creator by a religion which made all things around them sacramental, and some things more especially such. And it protects the simple details of the Garden from the contempt of unbelievers, who see in them nothing but what appears on the surface of the narrative. The water of baptism and the eucharistic bread and wine are slight and common things in relation to the amazing realities they signify. But the infidel spirit finds nothing in these symbols to object against as such. Then why should it be thought a thing incredible that the two trees of Paradise should have borne sacramental fruit? (2.) This leads to the consideration that the history of the Fall is described to us with constant reference to the coining redemption: it is the first chapter in the history of man, but of man as redeemed. The whole requires to be read in the light of the great salvation even then ready to be revealed. The penalty of death not at once executed; the expulsion from Eden with a prophecy of future deliverance; the Providential conditions under which the transgressors are sent forth into the world, all indicate that the narrative of the Fall and the end of the first probation is really the narrative of the beginning of the Gospel and the second probation of mankind

(3.) Once more, this record describes the Fall in terms taken, so to speak, from man's later history. What form commandment would assume to the mind of an unfallen creature, what the idea of the alternative in good and evil would be, how temptation would address itself to the will which had never yet been in a state of rebellion or vacillation, we cannot understand; for these things are not revealed. The posture of the pure spirit in a state of probation and on the verge of falling, but hitherto unconscious of sin, is a secret lost to us: no mortal has since the Fall been in such a posture; nor will ever be, since temptation will not belong to our future heaven. The same inability to apprehend and state the truth applies to the history of the scene in our Lord's temptation. With regard to the temptation of both the first and the second Adam the record adopts the language known to man as a sinner. In the case of the sinless and impeccable Redeemer, His indwelling Divinity, or rather His essential and not merely indwelling Divinity, was an infinite safeguard against His undergoing what is of the essence of probationary temptation. But the language used concerning His more than fiery trial adopts the terms with which our sin has made us familiar. He was tested, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, 1 thus to apply St. Paul's words. It was manifested through this ordeal that He was sinless and incapable of sin; just as it was proved in Gethsemane that no pressure upon His spirit could make it waver in the will of God. The hour of His highest honor on the Mount of Transfiguration was His temptation also, in the sense of trial. He was searched through and through by the glory of the Father and declared to be the Beloved Son, in whom, though He was that night anew consecrated to the cross, God was well pleased. But the temptation of our Lord is always spoken of in the same terms which would be used concerning a holy one among ourselves. Unless we bear the same thing in mind in reading the account of the first human trial all will be most perplexing. There was no evil concupiscence in man's nature; but the woman is addressed as if it were latent in her and might be excited. The meaning of God's words in the threatening is discussed by the Tempter before Eve as if she had been accustomed to compare truth and falsehood, and deduce the inferences of suspicion. The process of first admitting the possibility of the Divine word being untrue and His commandment not good, and then of consulting the appetite and its decision as to the desirableness of the tree, and then of actually taking the fruit, are all described after the manner of ordinary human temptation. So also is the immediate sense of guilt and shame. So also is the suggestion to Adam, and his yielding to the seduction of his temptress. The whole process could not be described as it actually took place in the minds of our sinless first parents: the phraseology is derived from our later guilty experience. We are taught in the only way in which we could be made to understand what it concerns us to know; and must submit to the limitations of our fallen faculties

1 Rom. 1:4


Nothing is said concerning the degree of knowledge imparted to Adam and Eve as to the nature, terms, and limits of their probationary estate. The record is very simple: containing only such a bare outline as it pleased God to communicate to the infancy of the world. But the fact of PROBATION is as plain as words can make it. Placed in the garden to dress it and to keep it as the centre of cultivation that might overspread the world, Adam, and the human race in him, was on his trial. He represented his posterity; but not as a mediator between God and them; and therefore the ordinance of probation had not the nature of a covenant. The so-called COVENANT OF WORKS has no place in the history of Paradise. It cannot be thought that moral creatures introduced into existence are dealt with as parties to a covenant: the covenant idea belongs to a different order of things, and requires a mediator. Our first parents were simply placed under the law of their Creator, and the penalty of disobedience made known to them. The counterpart of this, the establishment in a fixed and consummate eternal life, may be regarded as reserved in the Divine counsel

The circumstances of the Probation were a positive commandment with its sanction, and temptation from without: both appealing to a will consciously free or unrestrained, and as yet under the direction of a reason on which the law or obligation of obedience was supernaturally written

1. The one absolute law had a negative and a positive form, as connected with the two symbolical trees of the garden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. The eating of the one was a positive condition of continued life and every benefit of creation; abstinence from the other was the negative condition. It must not be supposed that the trees had any inherent virtue: the one to sustain life for ever; the other to poison and corrupt the nature of man. The solemn eating of the fruit of the tree of life was only a sacrament of immortality; it was to the eating of every tree of the garden 1 what the Christian Supper is to all other food. The fatal eating of the tree of knowledge was only the outward and visible sign of a sin which, by the Divine law inwrought in human nature, would have been followed by shame and guilt and fear had no such tree existed

Through eating its fruit man came to the actual knowledge of good and evil, to the knowledge of his misery: a knowledge which made him acquainted with his own power over his destiny—as if he were his own god—and at the same time taught him that this power, independent of God, was his ruin

1 Gen. 2:16

2. Temptation from without was more than symbolized by the instrument—fallen now like the real tempter himself from its first estate—of that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. 1 The distinctness of this record is of great importance. It establishes a difference between the original sin of earth and the original sin of the universe. We need not, indeed, assume that the angels who fell were only tempted from within: there is every reason to think that, as through envy of the Devil came death into the world, so through the same envy, excited by another Object in heaven, death entered among the angels. It cannot be that sin should have its origin within the spirit of a creature of God independently of solicitation from without. But, in the case of man, the agency of Satan is made prominent from the beginning of Scripture to the end: not as reducing the guilt of the first transgression, but as mitigating its punishment, and suggesting at least a difference put between sinful angels arid the human race

1 Rev. 12:9

3. As to the conduct of the first assault we have a very clear account, so far as it was external: the internal element of the temptation is not referred to, nor is the mysterious beginning of sin, the point where temptation finds, because it creates, something to lay hold on. In other words, the origin of sin in the as yet uncorrupt nature of man, like the origin of evil in the as yet uncorrupt universe, finds no solution in the revelation of God

How the pure desire of knowledge became the lust of independent forbidden knowledge, how the natural sensibility of the soul to the enjoyment of the Tree could become evil concupiscence, is not told. We are shut up to the solemn fact


The Fall into sin was internal and external; the sin first of the human spirit and then of the human flesh. Hence it may be further viewed as a voluntary or active, and as a passive or judicial, degradation from the high estate in which man was created

I. The original lapse was at once both internal and external

1. Separation from the Supreme Will was consummated within before it was exhibited in act. The inmost principle of sin is the severance of the self from God: the entertainment, therefore, of the question Yea, hath God said? 1 was the beginning of human evil. This was the first Formal Sin, though not alluded to in Scripture as such. The outward act was the look of concupiscence towards the tree, which had in itself the guilt of partaking, and was followed by the partaking itself. Hence in all New-Testament references to the original sin its principle of disobedience is made prominent. The woman being beguiled fell into transgression: en parabásei. 2 And when Adam yielded to the enticement of Eve, he only proved that he had already consented to her act; he also fell into transgression

His sin was disobedience, paráptooma and parakoeés: for, Adam was not beguiled.3

1 Gen. 3:1; 2 1 Tim. 2:14; 3 Rom. 5:15,16

2. Hence the first offence was spiritual and sensuous: these being united inseparably, but, according to the Scriptural account, the sensuous temptation taking the lead in the transgression, though the more spiritual took the lead in the enticement. The Tempter's suggestion appealed to what was highest and to what was lowest in the elements of human nature: to its unbounded capacity of knowledge and to its sensibility of the pleasures of sense. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof. 1 It must not, however, be inferred from this that the Fall of man was simply a decline into the slavery of sense. There is no sin that does not begin in the spirit, though it may be made perfect in the flesh. The first sinners rejected the restraint of God's Holy Spirit, and made themselves independent in thought and will, before the fruit of the forbidden tree could become a real temptation. This hidden mystery of iniquity, behind the act of transgression, was only brought to light in the recorded Fall

1 Gen. 3:6

3. The immediate consequences of the lapse into sin are plainly disclosed, though still in a style partly symbolical and figurative. The first effect is described in language with which the inmost experience of men makes them familiar. It was the immediate knowledge of good and evil: 1 the birth of evil conscience, the moral consciousness disturbed by a sense of guilt; the beginning of shame, or the sense of degradation and vileness. This double consciousness was, as it were, a new birth unto unrighteousness: the first realization in experience of the distinction between good and evil, a distinction, however, which had been theoretically made known by revelation to our parents while yet untransgressing, Thus we see the external relations and the internal at once depicted: guilt before their Judge and pollution in His sight. These drove the transgressors from the presence of their Maker, which was the converse of the sentiment of one of their descendants: depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord! 2 They fled from God, because God had departed from them. They hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God: 3 not as if they had sunk so low as to think it possible that the trees should hide them, but from the sentiment of spiritual fear. They felt at once that they were, unless the Creator Himself should interpose, for ever separated from Him. Hence we have in the simple record of the effects of the first transgression all the elements of the doctrine of sin. It was the internal deviation of the will from the will of the Supreme; it was objective guilt, the Divine vindication of eternal law in the conscience; it was guilt subjectively, as the consciousness of personal fault and obligation to punishment; and it was the expression of a sense of separation, for the time of hopeless separation, from the presence of God: the supreme penalty of sin

1 Gen. 3:5; 2 Luke 5:8; 3 Gen. 3:8

II. The term FALL is probably derived from the sublime description of Wisdom and her works in an apocryphal book which contains some other references to the beginning of sin, showing how much the later Jewish theology was occupied with the subject. She preserved the first formed father of the world, that was created alone, and brought him out of his Fall. Here, indeed, the fall is that of the individual first father; but the true instinct of interpretation has always made Adam and mankind one, and therefore adopted the expression FALL OF MAN. It was the voluntary descent of the human will from its unity with the will of God; it was the consequent degradation of mankind from the high prerogatives belonging to the Divine image in which man was created. Both the active and the passive meaning of the word, as introduced into theological language, must be retained

1. As to the former, a superficial glance at the scene that begins human history in the garden has led many to the conclusion that our first parents were the victims of circumstance; that they were deceived, and unwittingly stumbled; that mighty temptation from without co-operated with the simplicity of their own unformed and undisciplined conscience to ruin them unawares. Bat it must be remembered that the beings whose free personality the Righteous God tested were created upright. Their liberty was perfect: that is, not merely they possessed the faculty of willing or choosing indeterminately, as unconstrained by necessary law from without; but their formal will was filled by its mi object, fixed upon God Himself. The very nature and the terms of the test show that they understood the alternative of good tad evil: they were taught that good was perfect obedience to the Divine will, and that evil—which they knew and yet knew not - was disobedience to that will. Though it was the Enemy who said, Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil, 1 it was not he who first introduced to the human mind the most tremendous of all alternatives. For God's warning was, in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 2 What other teaching they had we are not informed; but certainly we may conclude that they were not left in ignorance of the relation between the solitary positive precept and the more general unspoken law of their duty as creatures of God

Nor do we know what education they had received, nor how long they had received it, from communion with their Maker and the teaching of the Holy Ghost. We only know that on the part both of Eve and of Adam there was a willful revolt against the Almighty; that the act of their will was not simply the abuse of the liberty of indifference—which in their case could not exist—but the actual wresting of it from its determined and rightful Object; that never has human will been more absolute in its working than theirs; that it was, so to speak, the concentrated will of humanity turned from good to evil

1 Gen. 3:5; 2 Gen.2:17

2. The passive Fall was commensurate with so great an evil. Viewed apart from the Rising Again in Christ, it was a total descent of mankind from its high destination; involving the very earth in its consequences; and deepening the doom of the chief agent of temptation, not omitting the degradation of the subordinate agent which he had employed. Man was no longer the image and glory of God; 1 for, though he retained his human nature inviolate as created in the Divine image, the glory of that image was lost

His nature—using that term in its secondary sense as the moral quality of its disposition invariably appearing in every reproduction of the original type—became entirely perverted. Nor was woman any longer the glory of the man, 2 in the best sense of that word: the relation of woman to man was deprived thenceforward of its highest perfection

Man fell from his destination: that of an eternal progress from glory to glory in sinless fellowship with his Creator. He declined into a lower sphere: out of communion with heaven, into a life of external discord and internal misery. He lost his intuitive vision of God, no longer held discourse with his Maker through the symbols of nature, and had to begin, he and all that should be his, the very first principles of a spiritual world. But we know not how great was the Fall: after the first words of the Divine displeasure, not another comment is made on the subject. Its further influence on the race, and its mitigation through the universal Atonement is before us, but not immediately. If that Fall was not total, it was because the Redeemer's unseen Hand arrested it. The, Child Jesus, already the new Father and Head of mankind, was even then set for the falling 3 and RISING UP of the human race. More, however, on this brighter aspect of the subject must be reserved for the doctrine of Original Sin

1 1 Cor. 11:7; 2 1 Cor. 11:7; 3 Luke 2:34

3. In this fact—the coming redemption, or rather that redemption which was revealed before Paradise, was shut on our first parents—we have the only answer that can be given to the protests which have been honestly or dishonestly urged against the narrative of the Fall. We are not indeed at a loss to vindicate the justice of the Holy God in His deep displeasure at the first offence. But we have not to do with the holiness of God apart from His love. From the beginning mercy glorieth against judgment. 1 The Mediator is already between the Judge and the sinner. And if God's justice turned the first transgressors to destruction 2 when He drove out the man 3 from the Paradise of His presence forfeited by his sin, His mercy is still heard, following hard upon His wrath, Return, ye children of men

1 James 2:13;2 Psa. 90:3; 3 Gen. 3:24


Philosophical speculation propounds various theories to account for the derivation of sin, which, as one of the most universal facts in experience, must have some common cause

These theories combine its origin and its nature in one, it being impossible perfectly to separate the two ideas. The most desperate of all expedients boldly assumes an eternal principle of evil, which in its creaturely workings becomes sin. The most specious solution makes what seems to be evil merely the creaturely limitation on its way to perfection. Between these and combining them is the less philosophical theory that makes sin the effect of the residence of the spirit in the flesh of concupiscence. A consideration of these hypotheses will lead to the true cause of sin as given by Scripture, and confirmed by man's common sense, the abuse of the gift of liberty


The first and most ancient speculations accounted for the existence of sin by assuming a necessary PRINCIPLE OF EVIL in the universe

1. Inherited from the remote east, this notion was held in the Gnostic sects of early Christianity, in Manichaeism, and in certain systems which sprang up in the mediaeval Western Church. Zoroaster (Zarathustra), the real or imaginary founder of the religion of Parsism, about the time of the later Jewish prophets, represented Ormuzd (Ahura-Mazda) as the author of all good and Ahriman (Anra-Mainyus) as the author of all evil in the nature of things. These were independent personal spirits, ruling absolutely each in his own dominion; yet not so absolutely as to be unrelated to each other, since they were in perpetual conflict, and all created beings are called to make choice between them. This ancient speculation struck deep roots in human thought, and reappeared in the Gnostic systems of early Christian times. But in these it was modified. The evil principle became the active agent in the creation of the material universe; he was the Demiurgus of a matter eternally existing as ulhe, Hyle, the substance of all evil; man was a product of the two kingdoms of light and of darkness: having affinity with the former in his spirit, with the latter in his soul and body. Human sin was the necessary defilement contracted by the spirit from its alliance with matter; and redemption was the deliverance from this bondage. Manes in the third century revived this dogma of Gnosticism, and from him it derived the name of Manichseism: he laid stress however upon this, that these were not two eternal gods, but two eternal principles. In the twelfth century it appeared in the Paulician heresy; and in all ages has had its supporters among those who have rejected Pantheism, and yet have refused to accept the personal God of the Scriptures

2. Whatever form this old theory has assumed, it has paid its unconscious tribute to the truth. If that principle of evil is a Person, as in Persian Dualism, there can be no infinite and eternal God. If it is Hyle or Matter, then its eternity as the material of evil involves a denial of every Divine attribute. The human mind has never found rest in this conception

Parsism itself betrayed a tendency to struggle upward to the thought of an eternal essence beyond and above Ormuzd and Ahriman, in which they had their unity and in the process of ages would find their reconciliation. Nor are there wanting traces of the teaching that Ahriman fell like Satan by an act of will. Though these latent protests did not affect the essential Dualism of the whole system, they were silent expressions of the deep conviction of reason, that there is and must be One absolute Being, and that evil, whatever its source may be, is essentially wrong and in conflict with what man surely knows to be right, or, in other words, that sin is the worse eternally opposed to the better

Hence, finally, it may be said that there was a certain nobility in this ancient error contrasting favorably with that to which we shall next turn. It admitted that there is an awful reality in sin; it represented man as passing through a tremendous probation; it had a dim and shadowy presentiment of guilt, thus making a great step towards the perfect doctrine of Scripture; and it aspired towards the still grander idea of a full and eternal redemption


The necessary LIMITATION OF FINITE NATURE is a popular philosophical expedient for the solution of the mystery. However stated and however limited, this theory must needs make the Author of finite nature the author of sin: either absolutely or as the necessary process of creaturely development towards the supreme good in Himself

1. As held by the various modifications of Pantheism this speculation abolishes sin altogether, and merges it in the general notion of the necessary development of the nature of things. But the nature of things is God Himself, who is at once the one eternal substance and an eternal development in two modes, thought and matter. There is no creature, for all things are the evolution of one substantial Being. What therefore seems to be the finite is only the infinite in phenomenal exhibition. During its transitory appearance it is subject to the metaphysical evil of limitation: the more of being is in the thing undergoing development the nearer it is to perfection; the less of being it has the more it is infected with evil, or what men call sin. But all things are only manifestations of the One; and what seems to us contrary to the will of God is only the process through which the end of return to the infinite essence is reached. Pantheism knows no sin, no moral obligation; it recognizes only an eternal necessity of accomplishing through phases of metaphysical evil the transitory destiny of what man calls the creature

2. But something like this theory has been, held by deep thinkers who are not Pantheists

These fall into two classes: such as make evil a necessary accident of the creature as limited, retaining its character as sin; and such as make it a necessary accident, but at the same time the Divinely appointed process through which by antagonism good is evolved

(1.) The radical principle of the former class is that sin is merely a negation of being, a quantitative less of the strength of existence. The creature cannot be perfect: its knowledge is liable to error, its will is liable to deviation. And this very liability is metaphysical evil: it cannot be conceived to be protected from the possibility of sin, and the possibility in the severe logic of facts is the sin itself. But that sin is only a negative thing; it has no positive existence, and needs no EFFICIENT cause for its origination. If any cause is needed, a DEFICIENT cause may be invented for the purpose. This philosophical expedient, it may be observed, was much countenanced by Augustine and others of the earlier Fathers; it is the strength of the Theodicy of Leibnitz; and both in ancient and modern times has been resorted to for the vindication of the Divine character in the permission of evil

(2.) Many modern writers have dwelt much on a theory which accounts for sin on the principle of a necessary antagonism, or the operation of a universal law of action and reaction. As life and death, light and darkness, attraction and repulsion, the centripetal and centrifugal energies of the universe, are opposites which in their interaction make the perfection of things, so virtue and vice, evil and goodness are opposites which cannot be separated in our estimate of probation. The Eternal purposed that there should be a knowledge of good and evil: of good as the survival in the contest with evil. There is no virtue but as the victory over vice; no goodness but as the victory over evil. The pilgrim to this Jerusalem must needs go through Samaria: it is the order of Providence that all creatures shall find their way thus to Himself. This is a theory which simply adopts into the moral domain the physical principle of evolution. It is one which has much fascination for superficial speculatists who do not examine the eternal principles of religion in their own nature, and who are content to renounce the plain teaching of the Word of God. The sentimental notion that human development cannot be conceived save as a process through evil to perfection, is disproved outside of our race by the angels who fell not, and within it by the Sinless Redeemer of mankind

(3.) Whatever form these schemes assume they either abolish sin altogether as such, or they make God its Author. From this dilemma they cannot escape. It is true that many who have maintained these views have found in them a refuge for minds weary of the desperate struggle with the anomaly of evil in the universe of a holy and almighty Creator. But they have only given additional evidence that such a struggle was not appointed for the finite faculties of man. God does not sanction, nor does He bless, the attempt to pry into this mystery. It is true also that these theories—apart from their pretension to solve the mystery of evil—contain many elements of truth. The possibility of sin and error is most assuredly an attribute of the creature as such, and human freedom is the secret of human error; but metaphysical imperfection is not necessarily moral evil, and the negative evil of being imperfect is not the germ of sin. Undoubtedly, since the Fall, and presupposing that the antagonism of good and evil works out through the discipline of grace the highest perfection of the creature, it may be that the conflict with sin will issue in a kind of holiness and knowledge of God unknown to the unfallen. But the Father of spirits can never, by the Christian thinker, be supposed to have created intelligent creatures under the law of a necessary imperfection in which evil is bound up


Another theory combines the two former, at least in some of their elements; it derives human evil from the SENSUOUS NATURE of man, and makes it the antagonism between the flesh and the spirit, the ascendancy of the former over the latter explaining both the origin and the nature of all sin

1. This hypothesis has assumed many forms, and reigned very extensively in Christian speculation. It suggests a Gnostic origin, so far as it seems to regard matter as the seat and source of sin; but differs from Gnosticism in making the ascendancy of the flesh question of personal and free choice. It enters into all the systems which regard evil as a necessary stage of the development of a free intelligence; but differs from those already spoken of in this, that it makes the flesh only the accidental instrument through which the inherent weakness of the higher powers is shown. In the mediaeval doctrine, which took its final form in the Tridentine dogmas, the lower nature was regarded as being restrained by the supernatural gift of righteousness, the withdrawal of which released and set in operation the concupiscence of the flesh. The most elaborate exposition of this theory is that of Schleiermacher, who sets the God-consciousness in man over against the selfconsciousness as related to the world. In the Divine purpose the flesh, or the consciousness of self in the world, was by development to be brought into perfect submission to the God-consciousness. This development was hindered by the Fall; and the knowledge of failure in it is the sense of guilt or sin. In Christ, the Ideal Man, Who presents the reality of what human nature never reached apart from Him, the Godconsciousness is perfectly ascendant; and becomes so in us through communion with Him. It is obvious that in this nebulous system we may trace, beneath a cloud of words, the elements of all the errors already mentioned. The general theory takes a more rational form in those writers who speak of sin as simply the result of a surrender of the will at the first dawn of conscious responsibility to the dominion of the objects of sense which solicit it at the very threshold of life and thus have the advantage of the first appeal. All these modifications, however, agree in the fundamental principle that in some way or other the sensuous or fleshly nature of man is the source and occasion of evil

2. The refutation of this superficial solution involves the doc-trine of Original Sin, Postponing, therefore, any more full examination of it—which indeed that doctrine will render need-less—we may make a few remarks, especially on its appeal to the sanction of Scripture. An examination of the various forms which the contrast of flesh and spirit assumes will show that nowhere is sin, even by implication, assigned to the flesh as its seat, much less as the secret of its origin

(1.) The flesh is opposed to the spirit in man—the sarx to the pneuma—just as we distinguish the body as the organ of the soul! connected with the outer world, and the spirit which holds communion with invisible realities. In our present estate, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak; 1 but both the weakness of the flesh and the inability of the spirit to overcome its weakness are alike the result of sin. St. Paul speaks of that same weak spirit as itself in bondage to the law of sin which is in my members. 2 It is true that he lays emphasis on the sin that dwelleth in me, that is, in my flesh; 3 but the indwelling evil cannot be the same as the tabernacle in which it dwells. So the BODY of sin is the body of SIN; 4 not that the fleshly body is the sin, but its instrument only. There is no support in this class of passages for the notion that the flesh is only the prison house of a spirit, holy in itself, though fettered to a body of sin and death

1 Mat. 26:41; 2 Rom. 7:23; 3 Rom. 7:17,18; 4 Rom. 6:6

(2.) But the flesh and the Spirit are also contrasted; and in this case the flesh signifies the nature of man, his entire nature, as fallen from God. Though the sins of the lower part of his constitution give the name, spiritual sins are included: the works of the flesh 1 include vices which are wholly independent of the body; and ally the human transgressor with the unclean spirits who can have no fleshly lusts. When therefore St. Paul distinguishes between the carnal man, as sarkinos, and the spiritual man, as pneumatikois, 2 he is referring respectively to him whose whole nature is under the sway of sin and to him whose whole nature is under the sway of the Holy Ghost. The Divine Spirit possesses the whole man, but inhabits his spirit especially; and through His sanctifying grace the whole spirit and soul and body 3 of the believer is made sinless, and preserved blameless. The superficial view of sin, therefore, which makes it the triumph of the lower portion of man over the higher, the sense over the reason, has no support in these passages. It is directly discountenanced and condemned by them

1 Gal. 5:19; 2 1 Cor. 3:1; 3 1 Thes. 5:23

(3.) Lastly, the flesh is the designation of mankind as subjected to vanity, weakness, and decay and death. He also is flesh 1 is the first testimony to this, and throughout the Scriptures the infirmity of man's whole estate is thus marked: all flesh is as grass. 2 But this is the effect and not the cause of human sin. The Lord Who received power over all flesh, 3 was first made flesh 4 Himself. And this very fact for ever disproves the notion that in this is the necessary seat and source of sin. Jesus Christ is come in the flesh 5 was St. John's witness against Gnosticism in every form; and in Him is no sin. 6 After this we need no further witnesses. It may be said, indeed, that the flesh, as assumed by our Lord, was preserved by His indwelling Deity from the uprising of its evil; emphasis being laid on His coming only in the likeness of sinful flesh. 7 But we must remember that He condemned sin in the flesh, and restored it to its original freedom from evil as our first father possessed' it. He was manifested in the flesh to take away our sins; 8 and to vindicate, for Himself and for us, the sanctity of the flesh as it was made the tabernacle of the human spirit

1 Gen. 6:3; 2 1 Pet. 1:24; 3 John 17:2; 4 John 1:14; 5 1 John 4:2; 6 1 John 3:5; 7 Rom. 8:3; 8 1 John 3:5


The only theory that remains—if it may be called a theory— is that which seeks the cause of evil in the abuse of the freedom of the will. Of every phenomenon we ask the cause; and it is impossible to avoid asking the cause of this the worst of all phenomena. But causes are variously defined as originating, efficient, formal, instrumental and final. Of evil we dare not ask the originating cause, save as it passes into the efficient; and that is the will of the created spirit. The formal cause, which makes evil to be evil, is the abuse of the freedom of that will separating itself from God. An instrumental cause there could not be, in the case of the original sin of the universe. As to the final cause we must not speak save to quote tremblingly our Savior’s words, spoken on the only occasion when the permission of evil was proposed to Him as a problem, that the works of God should be made manifest.1

1 John 9:3

1. The ORIGIN OF EVIL in its ultimate and final cause—its absolute beginning and its purposed end—can never be matter of theory, or even conjecture. It is a secret which is not revealed, not probably ever to be revealed. It has excited human speculation from age to age only to baffle it. The genesis or birth of evil, whether physical or moral, is a MYSTERY OF INIQUITY: of that there can be no question to any sound mind. But how the first little cloud in the holy universe arose which has covered the heavens and overspread the earth, and why evil was permitted to enter and go no more out for ever, we may ask, but there is none to answer. It is the dignity of our created nature that we may struggle with the problem; it is equally the necessary limitation of our created nature that we are overpowered by it

2. But when we study sin in ourselves as the subject of it we may at least arrange the elements of our ignorance, and analyze the mystery which we cannot solve. In our human participation of the great calamity we have an instrumental cause, the temptation introduced from without. But that temptation found no element of sin, though it found the possibility of it, in human nature. As yet Satan came and had nothing in man. The insoluble mystery remains among the secret things of the Divine counsel; like the general fact of probation itself, a mystery which underlies all the rest. The origin of all sin, and therefore of all evil, which in one sense includes sin and in another springs from it, is to be sought in the FREEDOM of the created will. Conscious freedom in the origination of action, and the choice of the end of action, whether ultimate or subordinate, belongs to the PERSONALITY of our spirit stamped with the image of God. The Divine law in the creation of intelligent moral beings seems to be that they must voluntarily make the supreme end of life their own by a free self-determination; that, after a longer or shorter test, this freedom should become a necessity of nature; and perfection be found—whether by the operation of some spiritual law within, or by the vision of God without—in the relative bondage to good which is perfect freedom: the highest idea we can form of resemblance to our Creator. Thus that likeness of God which is the note of our highest dignity involved the possibility of our deepest degradation. But when we are finally created anew in the image of the Son to which we are predestinated to be conformed, 1 probation will have ceased, and our freedom will be the necessity of goodness, like that of God. Himself

1 Rom. 8:29