Heredity And Depravity -- By: Stuart Phelps

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:162 (Apr 1884)
Article: Heredity And Depravity
Author: Stuart Phelps


Heredity And Depravity

Stuart Phelps

[Note. — It is due to the author of this article to state the fact that the undersigned has been accustomed for several years to interchange with him criticisms and revisions of work in preparation for the press, each editing the work of the other. The present article was found among his manuscripts, in a form adapted only to delivery in the lecture-room in the Theological Seminary at Andover. To adapt it to the pages of a Review, it needed some rhetorical changes, and the elimination of a few paragraphs chiefly of an illustrative character. In making the requisite alterations, no other liberty has been taken than that which he had been wont to authorize. The materials and the general structure of the article have not been disturbed; and it needs hardly to be said that the philosophical opinions advanced are his own. — Austin Phelps].

The churches teach,” so runs the Augsburg Confession, “that after the fall of Adam all men propagated according to ordinary generation are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease or original depravity is truly sin, damning and bringing eternal death upon those who are not regenerated by baptism and the Holy Spirit.”

“Christians,” teaches the Formula Concordiae, “ought to regard that hereditary disease by which the whole nature of man is corrupted as a specially dreadful sin; and, indeed, as the first principle and source of all other sin.”

“By this sin,” declares the Confession of English Protestantism, “they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of the soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.”

“All moral qualities,” writes a modern physician, “are transmissible from parent to child; with this important addition, that in the case of vicious tendencies or habits the simple practice of the parent becomes the passion, the mania, the all but irresistible impulse of the child.” Yet the professor of golden speech tells us that “moral chaos began with the idea of transmissible responsibility.”

These quotations from ecclesiastical authorities on the one side, and from medical authorities on the other, suggest the theme of the present article, viz. The Relation of Heredity as a Principle in Psychology to Depravity as a Doctrine in Theology...

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