Of Original Sin
[Extracted from his The Poor Man's Catechism, or, The Christian Doctrine Explained: with short admonitions, 1762, pp. 327-30.]
Q. WHAT is original sin? A. It is the sin in which we are all born, by means of Adam's fall.
INSTRUCTION. Original sin was the first sin committed by man, and by the first man Adam; when, contrary to the express command of God, drawn away through the delusion of the Devil, and in compliance to his wife, he consented to eat of the forbidden fruit; and from thence ensued the fatal Curse on all Mankind: Dust thou art, and into dust than shalt return. This had been followed with an everlasting exclusion from heaven, and deprivation of the sight of God, had he not through pure mercy promised the coming of a Redeemer, to rescue us from this immense evil. This Redeemer was no other than God the Son, the second Person of the blessed Trinity, made man. None but an infinite Being could atone for an offence against an infinite Being; none but an infinite mercy could satisfy an infinite justice.
This is the sin in which we are all born, as sons of sinful Adam. Through his sin we lost original justice, and are born out of the grace and favour of God;—Children of wrath, with a corrupt nature, that carries us to all kind of sin: As by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin, death; so unto all men death did pass, in whom all have sinned. Rom. v. 12. The only remedy at present, to take off the guilt of this sin, is the means which our Redeemer has left in baptism; whereby we have the merits of his blood and passion applied to our souls; without which there can be no remission of any sin, according to that maxim, Without blood spilt, there is no remission. Heb. ix. 22. Therefore baptism is now commanded for all: Go teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. None of the children of Adam shall now enter heaven, without it; no, not even infants; for the Redeemer of the world has said it, Unless one be re-born of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God: these unbaptized infants will never enter heaven; but are carried to a part of hell, called the Limbus of children; where they endure the pain of loss, that is, will never see God.
Though our blessed Redeemer frees us from the eternal punishment, and guilt of original sin; yet the penalties of it, which were to afflict Adam and his posterity in this world, still remain; and these are the evils that will reign in us till death; our bodies subject to all kinds of infirmities and death; our souls subject to ignorance of what is right; to weakness, in doing good, and resisting evil; to concupiscence, which inclines us to sin; and to malice, or perverseness of will; hence proceed all our disorders. But still our remedy against these, is the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, whereby we can do all things, through him that strengthens us.
EXHORTATION. Let not this instruction on original sin pass, without some profit to your soul. Behold, in that first sin, the infinite perverseness of man; behold, in that instant, the infinite goodness of God: man sinning, and God forgiving, with the promise of a Redeemer, to crush, the head of the Serpent. As often then as you read this, reflect, with the greatest gratitude, on your redemption, and say. What shall I return to our Lord for all he has given me? Greater was the mercy of God to man, than to the very Angels; the Angels that sinned he did not spare, but left them without redemption; man sinned, and he cast an eye of pity upon him: So God loved the world. St. John, iii. 16.
Great blessing, to have original sin forgiven you in baptism through the merits of Christ's passion and death, and thereby to be restored to your primitive innocence; to become the children of God, intitled to glory!—Renounce the Devil, his Works and Pomps now, as you did then: you were made Christians for greater things than to make yourselves slaves again to Satan, to flesh and blood, and to the follies of the world. You were then, by grace, made partakers of the divine nature, beware how you degenerate; you were once children of darkness, now sons of light: once slaves of the devil, now servants of God, Christians and followers of Christ; with this character you were marked in baptism; if you live up to it, it will remain to your glory; if otherwise, to your confusion. Your were then entitled to glory, use now the means that may bring you to the enjoyment of it; Seek the things above, not these below. Col. ii, 12. Things that will make your soul happy, not those things that will render it again miserable. While your body is on earth, let your soul be in heaven, by prayer, reading, contemplation. O what is a soul without God, without the grace, the love of God! the most wretched of all creatures on earth. Preserve then, by all means, the love and grace of God in your heart: abhor whatever destroys or lessens it, as does all sin and iniquity. Reflect often on the sin of your first parents; and if so great miseries followed it, what must be the end of your manifold sins and offences? O my soul repent, and sin no more least worse thing befall you.