Systematic Theology - Vol. 2

By Charles Hodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII.

SIN.

§ 1. The Nature of the Question to be Considered.

OUR first parents, we are told, fell from the estate wherein they were created by sinning against God. This presents the question, which is one of the most difficult and comprehensive whether in morals or in theology, What is sin ? The existence of sin is an undeniable fact. No man can examine his own nature, or observe the conduct of his fellow men, without having the conviction forced upon him that there is such an evil as sin. This is not a purely moral or theological question. It falls also within the province of philosophy, which assumes to explain all the phenomena of human nature as well as of the external world. Philosophers, therefore, of every age and of every school, have been compelled to discuss this subject. The philosophical theories, as to the nature of sin, are as numerous as the different schools of philosophy. This great question comes under the consideration of the Christian theologian with certain limitations. He assumes the existence of a personal God of infinite perfection, and lie assumes the responsibility of man. No theory of the nature or origin of sin which conflicts with either of these fundamental principles, can for him be true. Before entering upon the statement of any of the theories which have been more or less extensively adopted, it is important to ascertain the data on which the answer to the question, What is sin ? is to be determined; or the premises from which that answer is to be deduced. These are simply the declarations of the word of God and the facts of our own moral nature. Ignoring either wholly or in part these two sources of knowledge, many philosophers and even theologians, have recourse to the reason, or rather to the speculative understanding, for the decision of the question. This method, however, is unreasonable, and is sure to lead to false conclusions. In determining the nature of sensation we cannot adopt the à priori method, and argue from the nature of a thing how it ought to affect our organs of sense. We must assume the facts of sense consciousness as the phenomena to be explained. We can

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