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mean to praise the one, or blame the other; their merit or their demerit would still remain an unsettled question. While indeed we consider the case of him, who is born to a participation of Christian privileges, infinitely preferable to that of the other, we are also sure that of him to whom much is given much will be required, and that his guilt, if he neglect to profit by them, will be proportionably enhanced.
The passage derives further illustration from a careful inspection of the whole context. That the Apostle, in using this strong language, had all along in view a comparison of the state of the Ephesians while unconverted Jews or heathens with their state now that they had become avowed Christians, and had not the least reference to any inherited corruption of their nature, will thus appear very evident. In the succeeding verses, he speaks of them in their former state, as 'dead in sins,' but now, 'quickened together with Christ' -'raised up'-'made to sit together in heavenly places;' in their former state, as aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, far off, having no hope, and without God in the world,' --but now, in Christ Jesus, made nigh by the blood of Christ;' in their former state, 'strangers and foreigners,' but now, fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' So in the beginning of the chapter, he spoke of them in their former state, as 'being dead in trespasses and sins,' as 'having walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,' as having had their conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and by nature the
children of wrath,' but now, as being by God, who is rich in mercy, quickened,―saved by grace,' i. e. by his free favor, or good pleasure, raised,—created in Christ Jesus unto good works.' Here we perceive, that the Apostle has applied the most glowing figurative language to a change, not of their natural constitution, but of the state into which they had been born, and in which they had corrupted themselves. He even styles the change of their situation, a 'resurrection,' a 'new creation.' He seems to have thought that he could use no language sufficiently strong to express the inestimable advantages they now enjoyed, or the shocking bondage from which they had escaped.
There is one thing further to be remarked. This language is used in relation to the whole body of the Ephesian Christians, and not to the personal condition of any individuals among them. Those who advocate the doctrine of original sin will admit this position, so far as it applies to this passage and to all the context, which corresponds to it in sentiment; but when it comes to the other side of the comparison, they will insist that the apostle alludes only to the regenerate and elect Christians. But what color is there for this distinction? Not the least. St Paul gives not the most distant hint of such a thing. His language is as unqualified on the one side as on the other. Yet it would be going great lengths to say, that we must suppose every individual of the Ephesian church to have been in that state, which is called by the advocates of this doctrine, regenerate, elected, saved. If then we cannot believe this, and if, at the same time, we are convinced, that the language of the apostle is as unqualified as we have stated, there
will remain little doubt but that the view already taken of his meaning is the true one, namely, that he had reference solely to a comparison of their former situation as Jews or heathens, and their present situation as professed Christians—that it was a comparison of advantages, means, privileges alone; and that by a faithful, though eloquent delineation of the invaluable superiority of those which they now enjoyed, he might suggest the most powerful motives to them to walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith they were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.'
May we not now fairly conclude, that the doctrine of original sin is not to be found in the passage we have considered? And if so if the very strong language, which there occurs, does not teach it,- the probability that it is nowhere taught in scripture, is vastly strengthened.
In conclusion, let me remark, that the doctrine is wholly at variance with the moral perfections of God. If we are totally depraved at birth, God must have made us so. If we bring into this world an irresistible proneness to moral evil, or sin, that proneness is to be ascribed to the gift of God. Our nature, whatever it be, is the gift of God. Wherein, then, can consist human guilt in the sight of God? Will a just God punish his creature for being what he made him? Will a merciful God blame him because he does not overcome an irresistible propensity? You perceive at once to what monstrous consequences the doctrine would lead us. If, however, we are created innocent if we come into this world
alike destitute of holiness and sin, if we have light given us wherewith to distinguish right from wrong, and if we have the ability to choose and to practise the one or the other, then, and then alone are we accountable beings then, and then alone we are justly the subjects of a moral government - then we are deserving of applause or censure, of reward or punishment. And this we do believe. God made man upright, but he sought out many inventions.' We were created innocent; if we are depraved, it is our own fault, and we must justly receive the recompense of our depravity. How vastly more efficient this view of the subject is in restraining from sin, I trust, needs not be shown. Remember, then, that you have no apology for your guilt, in the inability and corruption of your nature; that was given you in unsullied purity, and nothing but your own, personal, individual sin, can stain it. You have never been, in the sense in which the Ephesians were, 'children of wrath,' for you have been born and bred under the sacred light and institutions of Christianity: but there is a worse sense, in which you may answer to the language of the text in which you may be 'children of wrath,' aliens,' 'strangers,'' without hope, without God in the world!' If you are, or become so, how much more aggravated will be your guilt! how much more awful your condemnation ! May God preserve us all from such corruption! the only kind of corruption which we need dread, as it is the only kind for which we could be blamed. a corruption, which would wither all that is lovely in human character, and elevated in human virtue, and which must inevitably bring shame and misery on the soul !