Original Sin: The Total Depravity of Man (Part 1) — Charles Hodge
Section I. All men are sinners. The nature of man, since the fall, is depraved.
Since then the Scriptures are undoubtedly the word of God, with what reverence should we receive their divine instructions; with what assiduity and humility should we study them; with what confidence should we rely upon the truth of all their declarations; and with what readiness should we obey all their directions! We are specially concerned to learn what they teach with regard to the character of men, the way of salvation, and the rule of duty.
With respect to the first of these points, (the character of men) the Bible very clearly teaches that all men are sinners. The apostle Paul not only asserts this truth, but proves it at length, in reference both to those who live under the light of nature, and those who enjoy the light of revelation. The former, he says, are justly chargeable with impiety and immorality, because the perfections of the divine Being, his eternal power and godhead, have, from the creation, been manifested by the things which are made. Yet men have not acknowledged their creator. They neither worshiped him as God, nor were thankful for his mercies, but served the creature more than the creator. In thus departing from the fountain of all excellence, they departed from excellence itself. Their foolish hearts were darkened and their corruption manifests itself not only by degrading idolatry, but by the various forms of moral evil both in heart and life. These sins are committed against the law which is written on every man’s heart; so that they know that those who do such things are worthy of death, and are therefore without excuse even in their own consciousness.
With regard to those who enjoy a supernatural revelation of the character and requirements of God, the case is still more plain. Instead of rendering to this God the inward and outward homage which are his due, they neglect his service, and really prefer his creatures to himself. Instead of regulating their conduct by the perfect rule of duty contained in the Scriptures, they constantly dishonour God, by breaking that law. It is thus the apostle shows that all classes of men, when judged by the light they have severally enjoyed, are found guilty before God. This universality of guilt moreover, he says, is confirmed by the clear testimony of the Scriptures, which declare, There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have altogether become unprofitable ; there is none that doeth good, no not one.
This language is not used by the Holy Spirit in reference to the men of any one age or country, but in reference to the human race. It is intended to describe the moral character of man. It is in this sense that it is quoted and applied by the apostle. And we accordingly find similar declarations in all parts of the Bible, in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, in the writings of one age, as well as in those of another. And there are no passages of an opposite character; there are none which represent the race as being what God requires, nor any which speak of any member of that race as being free from sin. On the contrary, it is expressly said, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) In many things we all offend. (James 3:2) There is no man that sinneth not. (1 Kings 8:46) All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Hence the Scriptures proceed upon the assumption of the universal sinfulness of men. To speak, to act, to walk after the manner of men, is, in the language of the Bible, to speak or act wickedly. The world are the wicked. This present evil world, is the description of mankind, from whose character and deserved punishment, it is said to be the design of Christ’s death to redeem his people. (Gal. 1:4) The world cannot hate you, said our Saviour to those who refused to be his disciples, but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil. (John 7:7) They are of the world, therefore they speak of the world and the world heareth them. (1 John 4:5) We are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (1 John 5:19)
This however is not a doctrine taught in isolated passages. It is one of those fundamental truths which are taken for granted in almost every page of the Bible. The whole scheme of redemption supposes that man is a fallen being. Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He was announced as the Saviour of sinners. His advent and work have no meaning or value but upon the assumption that we are guilty, for he came to save his people from their sins; to die the just for the unjust; to bear our sins in his own body on the tree. Those who have no sin, need no Saviour; those who do not deserve death, need no Redeemer. As the doctrine of redemption pervades the Scripture, so does the doctrine of the universal sinfulness of men.
This doctrine is also assumed in all the Scriptural representations of what is necessary for admission into heaven. All men, everywhere, are commanded to repent. But repentance supposes sin. Every man must be born again, in order to see the kingdom of God; he must become a new creature; he must be renewed after the image of God. Being dead in trespasses and in sins, he must
be quickened, or made partaker of a spiritual life. In short it is the uniform doctrine of the Bible, that all men need both pardon and sanctification in order to their admission to heaven. It therefore teaches that all men are sinners.
— taken from: The Way of Life, Charles Hodge, 1841
Charles Hodge (1797-1878) was a Presbyterian minister, theologian, and a seminary professor at Princeton Theological Seminary where he taught for most of his life. A man of God and staunchly orthodox, Hodge taught in the areas of Oriental and Biblical literature, exegetical, didactic and polemic theology. He was also Princeton’s principal from 1851–1878.
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