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Original Sin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lemuel Potter   


Taken from The Gospel Witness, Volume 1, Issue 11, which published it from an earlier uncited source.

We believe in the doctrine of original sin, and that all of Adam’s posterity are sinners by nature, and that they have neither will nor power to deliver themselves from their condemned state.

In this principle of faith is a clear and concise expression of the state and character of the fallen race of the family of Adam. It is an absolute truism that we who now dwell upon the earth are in actual possession of a sinful, depraved and corrupt nature, with which we were born into this world. It is not something that we have simply acquired by imitating others, but it is born in us. It is what we have received from our parents. The question propounded by Job, the good old servant of God, is certainly to the point here when he asks: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job 14:4). This agrees also with the doctrine of our adorable Savior in His simple metaphors, in which He so clearly teaches us that a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. It is universally conceded that in nature every seed produces after its own kind. ”That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” is a truth, and we only have to refer to the Scriptures to find that “God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Genesis 6:12). If we should start back up the long stream of time, through all the generations of men, from now until the date of Adam’s transgression, we would find not one single generation – no, not one nation or family or even one individual person – born so pure and holy as to live uprightly before God and not sin. The most favorable picture in the Bible of the moral condition of man is decidedly against him. “There is none that doeth good, no, not one,” (Romans 3:12) is about as good as we can find for poor sinful man, in the sacred writings. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”  (Romans 3:23),in the unerring decision of inspiration. Every nation that has existed in the whole world, and every generation, has recorded crime of almost every description – yea, and every family, almost, has had its dark page in its history; and even in our own day and country, our daily newspapers are largely devoted to the publication of almost everything that poor, corrupt nature can invent in the way of wickedness and nefarious abominations in the sight of God. This depravity and degeneracy are as extensive as our fallen race. This important truth was revealed to the ancient servant of God: “There is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

While man was in the Garden of Eden, he was good, innocent and harmless, and in that state he was not condemned for wrong doings, for he had done no wrong. Disease, pain, sorrow, disappointments, mental or physical afflictions, not even death could invade his premises. Everything around him was smiling, and the sunshine, in its most cheerful effulgence and glory, seemed to face him in every direction he might look; and, above all, he had free communion with God, his Creator. While in that innocent, he never dreaded to meet Him and hold sweet intercourse with Him. In the words “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31), man was embraced, he was very good, and God, who had created him found no fault with him until after he had transgressed God’s law, and then how suddenly matters changed and what a different aspect is opened up to our gaze. Man is sunken very low now, in comparison of what he once was; God made him but a “little lower than the angels” but now we find him likened to the beasts that perish. In his fallen and wicked state, he is represented as being a compound of evil qualities of the worst creatures – the fierceness of the lion, the cunningness of the fox, the unteachableness of the wild ass, the filthiness of the dog and the swine, the poison of the asp, and many other things. Can it be questioned for one moment that man’s nature is miserably corrupted? It is difficult for man to confess his own faults, and especially to confess himself to be as wretched and depraved as he really is. It is an easy matter to get a man to see a point in his own favor, but more difficult to get him to see a point against himself. In this respect, there is no species of the creation of God more selfish than man, the cap sheaf of all God’s creatures. We are all guilty in this particular. Even in the most modest and liberal Christian may be seen the outcroppings of some degree of preference for self. In fact, it would be quite unnatural to human nature to have as much care and solicitude for others in anything favorable, as for self, and precisely to the extent that a man is in favor of self he is opposed to others.

The Bible requires us to love our neighbor as ourself, and if it was not that we are selfish that would not be hard to do. Man is as much biased in favor of sin as he is against good. He is averse to good, but he is in favor of evil – so much so that he sins voluntarily, and to refrain from sinning requires greater effort on our part than we are able to put forth. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually“(Genesis 6:5). “An evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). “By one man sin entered into the world” (Romans 5:12). This man was the cause of all men being sinners. This does not mean, simply that Adam was the first sinner, or that sin simply began with him. The idea that sin entered into the world of mankind by one man, is, according to the apostle’s writings, by Adam’s transgression, all his posterity were made sinners. All his progeny were involved in his guilt, and they were condemned with him as a punishment inflicted on him for his sin.

“Death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12). That is the penalty of sin passed upon all that sinned. The penalty extends to all that sinned and no further. The words, “for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12) plainly assign the reason why all men are exposed to death. It is said that many older commentaries and theologians, both Calvinists and Arminians, translate it, “in whom all have sinned”, instead of “for that all have sinned.” I think there can be no doubt that the meaning of the whole verse is about this: By one man all men became sinners, and hence death passed upon all men, through that one man, in whom all sinned. It is very evident that the primary meaning of this Scripture is to illustrate the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, which had been established in the previous chapter. All mankind are subject to death, or penal evils; therefore all men are regarded as transgressors of the law.

It is too plain to admit of doubt that the language, “By one man sin entered into the world” (Romans 5:12), expresses the idea of all men’s becoming sinners. It seems clear to my mind that from the reading of Romans 5:12, 16, every person should bow down before God under the humiliating consciousness that he is a member of an apostate race; the son of a rebellious parent; born estranged from God, and exposed to His displeasure. The first description of man’s moral character, after the fall, is this: “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” (Genesis 6:5). What a dark picture! The truth of this text is established beyond the possibility of doubt, in the course and conduct of the poor ignorant, and hard-hearted rebel, when he would arraign the great God of his creation into his own court, and accuse Him of injustice, in His dealings with His creatures; he only evidences more clearly and truly, his native depravity.


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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.