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Systematic Theology - Volume II
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§ 14. The Seat of Original Sin.

Having considered the nature of original sin, the next question concerns its seat. According to one theory it is in the body. The only evil effect of Adam’s sin upon his posterity, which some theologians admit, is the disorder of his physical nature, whereby undue influence is secured to bodily appetites and passions. Scarcely distinguishable from this theory is the doctrine that the sensuous nature of man, as distinguished from the reason and conscience, is alone affected by our hereditary depravity. A third doctrine is, that the heart, considered as the seat of the affections as distinguished from the understanding, is the seat of natural depravity. This doctrine is connected with the idea that all sin and holiness are forms of feeling or states of the affections. And it is made the ground on which the nature of regeneration and conversion, the relation between repentance and faith, and other points of practical theology are explained. Everything is made to depend on the inclinations or state of the feelings. Instead of the affections following the understanding, the understanding it is said, follows the affections. A man understands and receives the truth only when he loves it. Regeneration is simply a change in time state of the affections, and the only inability under which sinners labour as to the things of God, is disinclination. In opposition to all these doctrines Augustinianism, as held by the Lutheran and Reformed Churches, teaches that the whole man, soul and body, the higher as well as the lower, the intellectual as well as the emotional faculties of the soul, is affected by the corruption of our nature derived from our first parents.

As the Scriptures speak of the body being sanctified in two senses, first, as being consecrated to the service of God; and secondly, as being in a normal condition in all its relations to our spiritual nature, so as to be a fit instrument unto righteousness; and also as a partaker of the benefits of redemption; so also they represent the body as affected by the apostasy of our race. It is not only employed in the service of sin or as an instrument to unrighteousness; but it is in every respect deteriorated. It is inordinate in its cravings, rebellious, and hard to restrain. It is as the Apostle says, the opposite of the glorious, spiritual body with which the believer is hereafter to be invested.

The Whole Soul the Seat of Original Sin.

The theory that the affections (or, the heart in the limited sense of that word), to the exclusion of the rational faculties, are alone affected by original sin, is unscriptural, and the opposite doctrine which makes the whole soul the subject of inherent corruption, is the doctrine of the Bible, as appears, —

1. Because the Scriptures do not make the broad distinction between the understanding and the heart, which is commonly made in our philosophy. They speak of “the thoughts of the heart,” of “the intents of the heart,” and of “the eyes of the heart,” as well as of its emotions and affections. The whole immaterial principle is in the Bible designated as the soul, the spirit, the mind, the heart. And therefore when it speaks of the heart, it means the man, the self, that in which personal individuality resides. If the heart be corrupt the whole soul in all its powers is corrupt.

2. The opposite doctrine assumes that there is nothing moral in our cognitions or judgments; that all knowledge is purely speculative. Whereas, according to the Scripture the chief sins of men consist in their wrong judgments, in thinking and believing evil to be good, and good to be evil. This in its highest form, as our Lord teaches us, is the unpardonable sin, or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It was because the Pharisees thought that Christ was evil, that his works were the works of Satan, that He declared that they could never be forgiven. It was because Paul could see no beauty in Christ that he should desire Him, and because he verily thought he was doing God service in persecuting believers, that he was, and declared himself to be, the chief of sinners. It is, as the Bible clearly reveals, because men are ignorant of God, and blind to the manifestation of his glory in the person of his Son, that they are lost. On the other hand the highest form of moral excellence consists in knowledge. To know God is eternal life. To know Christ is to be like Christ. The world, He says, hath not known me, but these (believers) have known me. True religion consists in the knowledge of the Lord, and its universal prevalence among men is predicted by saying, “All shall know Him from the least unto the greatest.” Throughout the Scriptures wisdom is piety, the wise are the good; folly is sin, and the foolish are the wicked. Nothing can be more repugnant to the philosophy of the Bible than the dissociation of moral character from knowledge; and nothing can be more at variance with our own consciousness. We know that every affection in a rational creature includes an exercise of the cognitive faculties; and every exercise of our cognitive faculties, in relation to moral and religious subjects, includes the exercise of our moral nature.

3. A third argument on this subject is drawn from the fact that the Bible represents the natural or unrenewed man as blind or ignorant as to the things of the Spirit. It declares that he cannot know them. And the fallen condition of human nature is represented as consisting primarily in this mental blindness. Men are corrupt, says the Apostle, through the ignorance that is in them.

4. Conversion is said to consist in a translation from darkness to light. God is said to open the eyes. The eyes of the understanding (or heart) are said to be enlightened. All believers are declared to be the subjects of a spiritual illumination. Paul describes his own conversion by saying that, “God revealed his Son in him.” He opened his eyes to enable him to see that Jesus was the Son of God, or God manifest in the flesh. He thereby became a new creature, and his whole life was thenceforth devoted to the service of Him, whom before he hated and persecuted.

5. Knowledge is said to be the effect of regeneration. Men are renewed so as to know. They are brought to the knowledge of the truth; and they are sanctified by the truth. From all these considerations it is evident that the whole man is the subject of original sin; that our cognitive, as well as our emotional nature is involved in the depravity consequent on our apostasy from God that in knowing as well as in loving or in willing, we are under the influence and dominion of sin.

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