There is a common conscience over and above the private conscience, and it controls individuals, as appears in great crises like those at which the fall of Fort Sumter summoned men to defend the Union and the Proclamation of Emancipation sounded the death-knell of slavery. Coleridge said that original sin is the one mystery that makes all things clear; see Fisher, Nature and Method of Revelation, 151-157. Bradford, Heredity, 34 quotes from Elam, A Physician?s Problems, 5 ? ?An acquired and habitual vice will rarely fail to leave its trace upon one or more of the offspring, either in its original form, or one closely allied. The habit of the parent becomes the all but irresistible impulse of the child. The organic tendency is excited to the uttermost and the power of will and of conscience is proportionally weakened. So it is that the sins of the parents are visited upon the children.?
Pascal: ?It is astonishing that the mystery which is furthest removed from out knowledge ? I mean the transmission of original sin ? should be that without which we have no true knowledge of ourselves. It is in this abyss that the clue to our condition takes its turnings and windings insomuch that man is more incomprehensible without the mystery than this mystery is incomprehensible to man.? Yet Pascal?s perplexity was largely due to his holding the Augustinian position that inherited sin is damning and brings eternal death, while not holding to the coordinate Augustinian position of a primary existence and act of the species in Adam; see Shedd, Dogm, Theol., 2:18. Atomism is egotistic. The purest and noblest feel most strongly that humanity is not like a heap of sand- grains or a row of bricks set on end but that it is an organic unity. So it is that the Christian feels for the family and for the church. So it is that Christ, in Gethsemane, felt for the race. If it be said that the tendency of the Augustinian view is to diminish the sense of guilt for personal sins, we reply that only those who recognize sins as rooted in sin can properly recognize the evil of them. To such they are symptoms of an apostasy from God so deep seated and universal that nothing but infinite grace can deliver us from it
I. A constitution by which the sin of one individual involves in guilt and condemnation the nature of all men who descend from him is contrary to God?s justice.
We acknowledge that no human theory can fully solve the mystery of imputation. But we prefer to attribute God?s dealings to justice rather than to sovereignty. The following considerations, though partly hypothetical, may throw light upon the subject.
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