Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose -- By: Joseph Haven

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 020:79 (Jul 1863)
Article: Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose
Author: Joseph Haven

Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose

Rev. Joseph Haven

There is, perhaps, no one topic in the whole province of theological investigation that presents to the philosophic and thoughtful inquirer more, or more formidable, problems than the doctrine of sin. It meets him in every direction, and always with a difficulty. Whether he turn his thoughts to the divine or human side of theology, Godward or manward, in either case he comes directly upon this strange and unaccountable phenomenon. It stands like some fearful spectre in his path, barring further progress; and he may well exclaim, with Milton’s angel:

“Whence and what art thou, execrable shape,
That darest oppose my way?”

There are two aspects in which this doctrine is of special moment to the theological inquirer: one is, the relation which it sustains to the nature of man; the other, its relation to the divine will and purpose. It is the object of the following pages, not to offer new opinions, or advance a new

theory, on these topics — that would be difficult to do, and of little use withal; but rather to gather up in a resume, at once historic and critical, the leading theories which have been already advanced in respect to these disputed points. It is in this direction, perhaps, that progress can best be made, if made at all, in the science of theology, as regards matters which have been so long and so widely under discussion, as those now indicated. And first:

The Relation Of Sin To Human Nature

That human nature is corrupt is too evident to admit of serious question. The universal prevalence of sin; its early manifestation and spontaneous development, under all possible varieties of condition and circumstance; the difficulty with which it is in any case resisted and overcome; the certainty with which it may be predicted in the future history of any human being just entering on a career of moral agency, all point in one direction, — all go to show that the evil is not accidental, but radical, and that its root is deep in our nature. The propensity to sin must be innate, else why these characteristics? What better evidence can we have that any propensity, disposition, or trait of character is native than that which is thus afforded?

The great problem is, not to establish the fact, for that is already clear; but to account for it. Two questions, in fact, demand solution. Its origin: whence comes this innate propensity to evil in man? Its morality: is such a propensity in itself culpable? These are questions which no thoughtful mind will lightly ask, or answer without careful reflection.

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