Heredity and Social Progress -- By: Edward M. Merrins

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:270 (Apr 1911)
Article: Heredity and Social Progress
Author: Edward M. Merrins


Heredity and Social Progress

Edward M. Merrins, M. D.

To ministers of the gospel and all others who work heartily for the spiritual welfare of mankind, the subject of heredity must necessarily be of great and permanent interest. It meets them in the Sacred Scriptures in the passages which declare that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation; in the question of the prophet Ezekiel, when he asked what the Israelites meant by their use of the proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2); in the genealogies, as shown by Fuller’s quaint comment, “Lord, I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations: (1) Rehoboam begat Abia, i.e., a bad father begat a bad son; (2) Abia begat Asa, i.e., a bad father begat a good son; (3) Asa begat Josaphat, i.e., a good father begat a good son; (4) Josaphat begat Joram, i.e., a good father begat a bad son. I see, Lord, from hence, that my father’s piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me. But I see, also, that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son.” Further, linked with heredity, is the doctrine of original sin, deduced by Calvinistic theologians from the writings of St. Paul, that as Adam and Eve were the root of all mankind, in consequence of their sin, they transmitted a radically corrupt nature to all descending from them by ordinary generation. Lastly, and

most important, there are the words of the Lord Jesus: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents” that he should be born blind (John 9:2–3).

But it is in the exercise of the pastoral side of the ministerial profession, in efforts to help those who have been defeated in the battle of life, that the problems of heredity are most keenly felt. What is it that makes moral and religious progress so slow and toilsome, that seems to hinder, almost to frustrate, the gracious purposes of God for mankind? Is life so confined within the meshes of heredity, function, and environment, as to afford no good escape when these are unfavorable? Or is it possible by observance of the rules of eugenics, the elimination of unhealthful occupations, the improvement and enrichment of the environment, and by educational, moral, and spiritual influences, so to elevate the character and condition of the individual, and eventually of society, as to justify the confident hope that the establishment of the ...

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