The Original State of Man

by A. A. Hodge

THEOLOGY, as a science, has to do with the great questions which concern God and man and their relations. Consequently, it has been the habit of theologians to group these together under different classes, in this order. First, we have the topics which come under the head of Theology proper, which concern the being of God, the thinking or willing of God, and the acting of God. The second great province is that of Anthropology, which concerns man, his origin, his nature, his original condition, his apostasy, and the consequences thereof to the race. The third great division is that of Soteriology, which concerns God's plan of redemption, the divine Saviour whom he has provided, and his gracious work as our Prophet, Priest and King. The fourth and last group is Eschatology, that which relates to the last things which remain still before the Church, such as the second coming of Christ, the millennium, the general judgment, the resurrection of the dead, the intermediate state and the rewards of happiness and of punishment which are to come after.

What we have had to say in the preceding seven lectures fell under the first great department of theology—Theology proper; to wit, God, his attributes, his relation to the universe, his providence, the method of it, and the plan of it and his constitution as a divine Person.

Now we begin the department of Anthropology, and of course the first question which emerges must be necessarily as to the original state of man. Those questions which concern man's origin and fall come under various heads, which might, if we had time, be discussed for many days, such as the origin of man, so called; second, the nature of man, what elements constitute man, what constitutes the soul and body, or spirit, soul and body, etc. Then as to the origin of the human soul itself: is it created by God? is it generated by the parent from the parent? or is it from God, created by God, in each individual case? And then the great question as to the unity of the human race, and whether all these great diversities, physical, intellectual and moral, have been generated from the same parents?—first from the original pair, Adam and Eve, and then from Noah and his family? And lastly, What was the original state of man? what was his condition—the man who had no yesterday, who had no father and mother, who came to consciousness as an adult individual, without previous infancy and without education?

The answer the Bible gives as to the origin of man is very explicit and very plain, and yet it does not satisfy all questions. And I want to say—and say it as a man who has devoted his life to systematic theology—if any class of men have ever erred in the direction which I am going to speak about to-day, systematic theologians have erred when they mapped it out so sharply. It is one thing to stand faithfully by what God says; it is another thing to draw inferences from what God says. Our principles as Protestants make us deal with the Bible alone, and not with systems of divinity and not with inferences from what the Bible says.

(1) Now, the Bible asserts, in the first place, that God made the body of man out of the dust of the earth. The questions which arise are, What do we mean by "made"? and what do we mean by "dust of the earth"? Obviously, we do not mean absolute creation. The only instance of this absolute creation that we find recorded in Scripture is in the first verse, "In the beginning—" in the absolute beginning, which marks the emergence of time out of eternity, which marks the first step in the order of creation under the conditions of time and space—"In the beginning God created," gave origin, being, to all the elements out of which the stellar universe is formed. First it is the great Eternal; afterward you have "chaos."

There is a wonderful accord between the general findings of modern science and the true meaning of revelation. You have first the creation of the elements out of nothing. You have then the abyss without form and void, the chaos; and then you have the Spirit of God, the informing spirit of life and thought and power, operating over the face of the abyss; and then you have, not the sudden, but the gradual movement of the elements; and from them the building up, through successive ages, by the power of God, of this wondrous Cosmos, this harmonious universe.

The immediate creation is the making all things out of nothing by the word of his power; but the mediate creation is the making of new things out of old things; that is, the building up of new things out of old elements—new entities, new species, the origination of new forms, new constitutions out of the elements of which they are composed. The Bible says God made man out of the dust of the earth. He first makes dust, and then he makes man out of it. So God is the entire maker of man. It would be very childish to put a literal meaning to this word "dust," which is translated from the Hebrew, another language. It does not mean simply "dust;" you could not make man out of common clay, because it does not contain all the elements which constitute man. When you analyze the body of man you find it consists of lime, phosphorus, iron, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and a great many other elements. These do not all exist in clay. What is meant is, that God made man out of pre-existing elements, which God had himself first created. These are everywhere: they are in the atmosphere; they are in the water; they are in the soil; and they were ever present from the time of the first creation, existing, possessing qualities with which God originally endowed them; and it is out of these pre-existing elements of the material universe that God formed, by his own power and will, the body of man.

(2) The second point which is taught in Scripture clearly is that God breathed into man the breath of life, so that he became a living soul. Now the question is, of course, What is here meant by breathing, God's breathing, into man? There is a conception that God, as it is expressed, "breathed" into man a part of his own Spirit, and that the human soul, proceeding from God immediately, is a part or particle of God and of the divine Spirit. Now, I confess that seems to me metaphysically absurd, and also profane in its tendency. I do not like that idea. In the first place, God is a spirit and cannot be divided. It is of the very essence of matter that it has extension; that it has length and breadth and thickness; that it is composed of the union of elements, and that these elements can be united together or separated one from another, or that matter can be divided into its parts. It is not rational to believe that a spirit can be divided into parts; therefore, it is not rational to believe that God breathed a part of his own Spirit into man. And besides this, reason teaches that the attributes are the active powers of the substance of spirit and cannot be separated from it. Now, if God should give to me a part of his Spirit, I should have infinite attributes, the attributes of the Spirit of God. These are eternity, omniscience, omnipotence and absolutely perfect and undeviating righteousness; therefore, if the spirit of man were a part of the Spirit of God, the spirit of man would be eternal, unchangeable, omniscient, omnipotent, etc., which we know absolutely to be untrue, and the very thought of which we reject. Or, God might have created the spirit of man out of nothing: that is what we believe; but the difference between soul and body is just of course the essential difference between matter and spirit. Matter consists of its parts, its potency, its capability of position, its capability of division. The body can be built up part by part; the body can be dissolved part by part; but the soul of man is an absolute unit of consciousness. When my body acts, it acts by reason of the organs which are external to one another; my hand is in one place and my foot in another, my brain in one place and my stomach in another. But the whole soul of man, with its functions, is a single organ; the one soul thinks, feels, wills and acts, and therefore the soul in its particular essence is indivisible; therefore it cannot be made. I cannot conceive how the soul can be generated. The body is generated, but the soul is created. This is the doctrine of the Church. God, at the moment of conception, creates a new soul out of nothing by the word of his power; communicates to the germ new life, and this soul, existing in the germ, builds up the body; so the body comes to be the expression of the soul. That is the ground of physiology: that the body develops because of the soul, and that the soul ab initio is the building principle by which it is built up. Just as your tailor configures your coat to your body, so by the principles of growth your soul configures your body, so that your soul is expressed in your body as the soul's instrument. That is what is understood by God "breathing the breath of life"—that is, creating the soul within us. You may ask why use the word "breath"? That can easily be answered. God must speak to man, not philosophically, but according to the laws of humanity and the limits of human thought. Now, it is a remarkable fact that the word for "spirit" in all languages, so far as I know, was originally based upon the figure of breath. The Latin spiritus, the Greek pneuma, the Hebrew ruah and our word "spirit," all mean breath, and the reason for this is that men get their ideas from their conditions. Men originally were like children, and when they saw a man die the first thing they noticed was that he did not breathe. When they began to look around and to think, they found the only thing which indicated life or the absence of it was just the presence or absence of this fleeting breath. Thus men came very naturally, as the breath was invisible, to associate the thinking, feeling and willing principle with the breath. To think and to breathe was to have a soul; and to put the soul into man was therefore very naturally described as breathing into him the breath of life. Man is a living, breathing thing. But the points clearly taught are that God made the body by his power out of pre-existing material, and that he created the soul by his power and put it into the body.

(3) There is a third point we have to consider at this time: The Bible teaches that, seeing Adam needed a companion, it was necessary that God, having made him male, should complete his being by making for him a wife, and that this should not be a new creation, because from the nature of man we constitute a race: there is a solidarity in our race. When Jesus Christ became incarnate, it would not answer to make him a body like man, for then he would not have been a human being. The only way Almighty God can make a human being is by generation. In order that there should not be two absolutely independent creations united together, God put a deep sleep upon Adam, and, taking from him a rib, made out of it a woman. That is what the Bible says distinctly and clearly, and it cannot be got rid of. Therefore, I maintain that these three points are true: that the body of man was made out of pre-existing materials; that the soul of man was created by the mighty power of God; and that Eve was made from Adam by the miraculous power of God. And these are given here, not simply as so many facts, but they are inwrought into the whole subsequent scheme of redemption, and you cannot take them out. When I read the Bible I confess I am never absolutely convinced by one text. It is a habit of the mind perhaps, because the thought will arise, How do you know that text is sure? How do you know there is no error in the transcript? How do you know there is not some error in the interpretation? I do not believe God ever meant us to believe in a great doctrine upon a single text. But when the truth is interwoven and associated, as it is here, in the historical book as a condition of the history; when it is taken up and interwoven in the whole scheme of redemption, and afterward is the very basis of God's treatment of man under all conditions, under the covenant of works and man's apostasy, and the covenant of grace and its execution and application,—why, I say, you cannot touch this truth without destroying the whole scheme of redemption; and it is just because it has been interwoven into the whole scheme.

You have heard a great deal in recent times about the application or the so-called application of the scientific doctrine of Evolution to the question of the origin of man. This word "evolution," as used in the language of philosophers and scientists, does not mean necessarily to indicate always an opinion, but a certain tendency of thought, a way of looking at certain phenomena. But the word evolution has come to stay among us, no matter what we intend to do with it. It does represent a certain mode of thinking, which unquestionably you yourselves hold, and which men have always held more or less, and which is true. Now, the fundamental idea in the general experience of men in the present and past is just this: that the things which are have been produced by the things which were, and the things that are, are producing things that will be, and that this proceeds in lines of absolutely unbroken continuity and by stages almost imperceptible.

This is so, is it not? Remember, I am not advocating evolution, but I show to you what I believe: I want to put you in possession of the facts. The truth is just this: look around you; see the growing of the chicken out of the egg, the growing of the tree out of the acorn, the progress of the fœtus from the germ, the babe from the fœtus, the child from the babe, and the man from the child; the progress of the nation from the tribe, the progress of the tribe from the family, and the gradual movement everywhere, just as I have shown you in the Bible, through successive stages. Why the first book in the Bible is called Genesis. The Greek translation that gives us that title calls the work of creation "the genesis of the heavens and of the earth"—i. e. the gradual procedure along the lines of unbroken continuity and by changes of almost imperceptible degree, and this whole cosmos coming to be what it is from the original elements which God created by the word of his power.

And when you go out into the universe you see these things. You look up and you see, for instance, the sun growing old, and certainly growing colder. And you see the light coming from Jupiter; Jupiter is nothing more than an old sun. And the earth, growing older and colder, is nothing but an old Jupiter; and the moon, grown colder through successive ages, is nothing but an old earth. The moon an old earth, the earth an old Jupiter, and Jupiter an old sun, and these by imperceptible degrees. The earth has been growing colder through time which can be historically traced. The fauna and flora of every zone have been gradually changing, and continually adjusting themselves to constantly changing physical conditions, and that in absolutely unbroken continuity and by transitions almost imperceptible. The same thing has been going on in the human race. God created it; God made man, one man, and one woman out of the man, one simple family, like any other family; with this qualification, that they were made by an unbroken progress and by slight imperceptible changes, under the influence of climate and social and moral changes, into a human race which through ages has been differentiated into all the varieties of all the families, tribes and nations that exist upon the face of the earth. The word "evolution" applies to this phenomenon.

I am going to ask you this afternoon to make the distinction between evolution as a working hypothesis of science and evolution as a philosophy.

What is science? Science is something which is very sure, but very narrow. Science has to deal simply with facts, phenomena—things to be seen and heard, etc.—and with their qualities, their likeness, or unlikeness, whether they have a common existence, coexist or have a succession. That is the whole of it. The reason science speaks with such authority is this: science is verifiable, and what is verified you must believe: you cannot get around facts. Science is verifiable, and therefore has authority; but it is very narrow. Now, there are a great many things you may call science which have not any science in them. Remember, therefore, that science is to be confined to phenomena, their likeness and unlikeness, their coexistence or succession; and that science has nothing whatever to do with causes, has nothing whatever to do with ends or objects. Science is authoritative within its sphere, because it can determine qualitatively what a thing is and quantitatively how much a thing is, and such results can be expressed in numbers. In this way science has gained its wide dissemination and its great authority. I feel I have a right to say what I shall say now, because I have been associated with a good many men of science who were also devout Christians. This doctrine of evolution, when it is confined to science as a working hypothesis, you may let alone, Christian friends, all of you. You need not be afraid of it. It cannot affect any of the questions of religion; it cannot affect any questions of revelation; it cannot lead you wrong; it must in the end go right. It has a narrow track on grooves, but truth is eternal and must prevail; a lie cannot prevail.

On the other hand, what you have been accustomed to call evolution is not a science. Now, when Tyndall and Huxley go to a great scientific meeting they talk science, they confine themselves to science. When they write books for the public and to circulate about, they give themselves to speculation, and it is this doctrine of evolution run wild which is the evolution of the day, the general-talk of the people. You hear it talked about in the newspapers and find it discussed in all circles. It is only a philosophy. Philosophy is different from science. Science is applied to facts, philosophy has to do with causes. Now, I say, do not fear evolution in the department of science, but do fear and oppose evolution with all your might when it is given to you as a philosophy. As a philosophy it explains everything with one solvent; with one theory it would explain universal being.

These men begin, for instance, with a postulate, the simple inorganic atom. Then by this postulate, which they know nothing about, and which science knows nothing about, they postulate that the living is evolved from the non-living. From that they infer the doctrine of spontaneous generation; an inference, an hypothesis. Then this living thing is found to possess the property of heredity, the power of transmission, the power of variation, and so by constant transmission and constant variation it is held that from the original germ proceeded other germs, continually varying under the influence of habit; and thus they hold of all living things that they proceed from this original atom, self-generated out of non-living matter.

Now, this is not science, no matter what it teaches. It is nothing but speculation, and as a speculation it ought to be separated from science. Science confines itself to facts. This speculation in regard to evolution has no more authority than any other wild speculation that exists among men; it has no scientific facts to begin with. Science will tell you that there are absolutely no facts with regard to spontaneous generation. It will tell you, at the same time, that there is no missing link between the highest known order of creation and the lowest. You cannot, therefore, take this speculative evolution as a fact; the testimony of science thus far, with regard to the facts, is against it. It is a vain, vapid, pretentious philosophy of evolution, which has no scientific basis and is absolutely devoid of any scientific authority. You must oppose this, first, in the interest of the convictions of your own reason and of the fundamental principles of human thought and intuitions; secondly, in the interest of natural religion; thirdly, in the interest of revealed religion. It is to me intuitively certain that a thing cannot be evolved out of that which does not contain it. It is certain the chicken must be potentially in the egg before it can be hatched out of it, that the oak must be potentially in the acorn before it can be germinated out of it. You must have the thing that is to live in the seed or the germ. It would be a contradiction to the first principles of reason, an impossibility, to conceive of the living coming from the non-living (if it does come, God must be living in it), or of the conscious coming from the unconscious (if it does, God must be conscious in it), or of reason coming from the irrational (if it does, God must be the reason in it), or of the moral coming from that which is destitute of morality (if it does so come, it must have a moral sense in it). If it were found to be true that successive species have been produced by generation from existing species—if it could be proved, as it cannot be—it would follow that it was not the natural process, but there must have been a series of definite divine interventions all along the line. First, you would have life, then consciousness, then reason, then will, and last the conscience; and thus you will determine that God has at last "made man in his own image."

I am as sure as I am of my existence that there is nothing in the discoveries of science which can give Christians any ground for fear as to the utter integrity and truth of the declarations of God in the first chapter of Genesis. Now, what do the learned men of science say about this?

(1.) First, as to the antiquity of man. Undoubtedly, human remains have been discovered under conditions in which it is impossible to believe that God created man only six thousand years ago. I have no doubt of that. I have no doubt you will have to extend the time of creation back farther than six thousand years. But remember that God never said he created Adam six thousand years ago. Our chronology exists in two forms, that of Usher and that of Hales, and it differs by a thousand years. Two scholars taking up this chronology have made the difference simply by following out the genealogical tables.

I am sure that you will think with me that my colleague, Dr. Green of Princeton, as an interpreter of the Old Testament is conservative and as much to be relied upon in the interest of historic truth as any man living. I can remember when his book on the Pentateuch appeared. In a note with regard to two passages as to the time the Bible gives in certain utterances he said, "The time between the creation of Adam and ourselves might have been, for all we know from the Bible to the contrary, much longer than it seems." I was in Princeton, in my father's study: I was living then in Allegheny. I can well remember my father walking up and down, and saying, "What a relief it is to me that he should have said that!" Professor Guyot lived in Princeton then—a man of great genius, as highly educated a man of science as I ever saw. He was for many years professor of history in the University of Lausanne, before he gave himself up to material science. He was one of the most devout Christians who ever kindled the flame of holy love from the light of nature and revelation; he was absolutely a believer in the Bible as it stood in every way. He went to Europe about twelve years ago, and when he came back, after visiting the great museums, he said, "I was surprised at the amount of evidence I saw there of the antiquity of man; still, I think that thirteen thousand years instead of six thousand would cover it." Now, what difference does it make? Do you not know if you take history at all, with its chronology merely, that it is the most indifferent and utterly insignificant of all revelations? The only questions which can be of importance are, Did a thing occur first or last, before or after? Then of course it affects the question of cause and effect, and it becomes a question of great importance. Chronology in history is what perspective is in a great painting. When you stand before a great historical picture, a great painting—a battle-piece, for instance—you have the forefront of the picture presented to you in proportion, and you measure everything by the stature of men as they stand there, and so you form your judgment, as everything is in proportion; but when you cast your eye into the background—the great background with life behind it—it makes little difference to you whether it is one mile or two miles, ten or twenty miles. Now, the Bible was written not for the sake of satisfying curiosity, not for the sake of addressing the intellects of men, but it was written for the purpose of giving us a history of redemption.

The first thing we see in the history of redemption begins with Abraham, and if you will look back of that time and see what the Bible says, it is merely the putting of chronological events into position. But begin with the birth of Abraham: after that we have biography, we have appointed times, we have history—a history that goes back only to the birth of Abraham. All before that is the simple introduction crowded into some ten or twelve chapters, designed to teach us these tremendous facts: first, creation; second, the fall; thirdly, the general dealing of God with men in preparation for redemption to come; but these great facts are dropped in by the great artist of revelation as an introduction merely to the history beginning with Abraham. Everything back of this is piled up like the background in front of which the history stands. I say neither you nor I have any reason to know how long it is since Adam was created. There is no reason to believe it was more than fifteen or sixteen thousand years; but whether more or less, revelation has not informed us.

(2.) The second question is, What has science found to be the original condition of man?

It is found by the testimony of men of science that wherever man is found he is a perfect man. The most ancient and primitive of skulls and of skeletons indicate intelligence equal to any of the present barbarous races now existing upon the face of the earth. The whole testimony of history is therefore not that we were developed out of animals, but that when we began to exist it was in the fullness of our organization, in the fullness of our powers. On the other hand, it is true that these skeletons indicate that men lived, as far as they have been discovered, in a savage condition. Now, the reason Guyot gave was to me perfectly satisfactory: he wished me to think that God created Adam in his full capacity as a man, but not with habits matured and formed. Adam was created with faculties and powers very much in the state of a child, capable of development in the right direction, but without education. Adam was on trial of faith, and as soon as he fell his family are introduced in the narrative. Cain sinned and his family are abandoned; but the children of Seth were elected to salvation, and God introduced the covenant system into the family. Now, said Guyot, when you go out into the world and find in one of the old caves the fossil remains of primitive men, you will find, of course, barbarians; not because the children of Adam were created barbarians, but the children of Cain necessarily became barbarians because they had sinned and were abandoned of God; but the children of Seth,—you have their history in the Bible. The Bible is true, and it is given to be a simple history of the race. Therefore, as far as it alludes to primitive races it alludes to the history of those races who were subjects of redemption, who were the covenant people of God.

Now, what does the Bible teach as to the primitive condition? (1) First, the Bible teaches that Adam was brought into existence, not gradually, but suddenly and in a state of maturity. It is a very curious thing for you to consider: I never can understand it thoroughly, and it is because we have had no experience in it. You and I wake up men and women every morning—mature men and women. We wake up with a history—a history in which we can go back to years and years upon years with the assistance of the story of the generations which has come down to us. Then we came into existence as germs, we grew on our mother's breast until we became conscious, and then from early infancy we have been building up habits continuously. When Adam first waked he had no conscious destiny, for he had no history, he had no inheritance. You and I come into existence every morning, not only as men and women, but as Caucasians, and not only as Caucasians, but as Americans; not only as Americans, but as Philadelphians; and not only as Philadelphians, but as Smith or Jones,—and we have all the characteristics inherited from Adam. But when Adam waked he had no history, he had nothing behind him; he was just Adam, and he had no yesterday.

A case occurred which is nearly analogous to this. There was a young lady in Western Pennsylvania. I knew her nephew. The history of the case has been written by Dr. Plumer, and was published in 1855 or 1856 in Harper's Monthly Magazine with great fullness and certainty, and I know it to be true. This lady when she got to be twenty years of age, while away from home, waked up one morning with her mind absolutely disconnected with the past; she absolutely remembered nothing—did not know her father or mother. Undoubtedly there were retained by her in her natural consciousness certain habits which she had formed. She did not wake up a babe, she waked up a woman; but she knew absolutely nothing; she had to learn the language again; she had to learn the names of things; she had to learn words; she had to begin again at the beginning of knowledge. Now, when she woke up on that day she was like Adam in this: that she had no yesterday; she knew nothing; everything was fresh to her, just as it was to him. Yet, do you not see, he did not wake up to the consciousness of a babe; he waked up as a man, he came to consciousness as a man, and as a man of maturity. It seems to me unquestionable that God must have communicated something to him, communicated some knowledge for him to work on. I cannot conceive of anything else. It would be like a grist-mill without grist. You could not run a grist-mill without grist in it. I cannot conceive of Adam's mind running without something in it. Adam waked up, and he began to speak to God. He had ideas about some things, just as I suppose this lady had. If Adam knew anything, God must have taught him; he could not have invented things himself; he could not have said, "This is so." If I understand it right, what knowledge he had God gave him. Then he gave to man a perfect body; he had a heart and a mind; he could talk and he could breathe. I do not know that he had higher qualities of a human body; I do not care. I do know that God gave Adam a good trial, and if he had not sinned he would not have died; and that is all the Bible says, and that is all that you and I have a right to make out of it.

(2) The second fact is, the Bible says God made Adam in his own image. Now the word "image" here means two things, which you can easily see. There is a good deal taught in that saying, "Let us make man in our own image." There is a constitutional image of God, and there is a moral or accidental image. Now, when God made man in his own image, he made the spirit rational and moral, and he made it capable of free will; in doing so God made man in his own image. That image of God was not lost. Why, the sinner is in the image of God. The devil is in the image of God, because he is an intelligent spirit. Sometimes there are certain sinners who are in this respect more in the image of God than certain saints; that is, there is more of them—more will, more strength, and in that respect they are more like God. This constitutional image of God never was lost and never will be lost. But besides this, God created Adam in the moral image of God; that is, "in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness;" so that the new-created man was in the image of God. And when we take on the new man in Christ Jesus we take on his image, as in the creation; that is, by regeneration. It was the moral image of God which was implanted in the will which made Adam holy and good. The last point is his "dominion over all creatures." Now, this dominion over God's creatures is founded on two grounds: First, because of the constitutionality of it; even bad men can govern on the earth. But it is founded on the higher spiritual likeness to God, of which we have spoken, real although differentiated from the Creator, and which will never be completely developed until man adds to his constitutional likeness the original spiritual moral image of God which he has lost; not until man becomes not only rational, but holy, can he regain this image.

I now wish to occupy your attention for a very short time in talking about free-will. It is a question of great interest. I do not assert, nor is it necessary that I should, what are the essential elements of free agency. Men may differ about that; but we know we have a conscience, and that a person is not a mere machine; for that a machine cannot have an obligation, cannot be subject to command, is certainly proved; but that a person is subject to command, is subject to obligations of conscience, is a matter of universal consciousness. This is very true, more so than any fact of science. The most certain things in the world are not the things you can prove. You say, "I have proved this, and therefore I believe it to be true." The fact that you have got to prove things shows that there is doubt, for it is only doubtful things you have to prove. The things which you cannot prove are the eternal verities.

How do you prove things? You prove things by deducing the unknown from the known, the uncertain from the certain, by referring particulars to general laws. That is, you prove through a medium, but how do you prove the medium? Now, logic is a great thing. How does logic work? Of course, step by step. You know that in logic you cannot separate the links; if you get hold of one end of the chain, you keep following it up. But what is the force of the chain? You have got a chain of logic hanging down, and you climb up that chain link by link: but what supports the chain at the other end? Logic is like a ladder; by means of it you go up step by step. But how are you going to prove that the bottom of it is all right? The ladder rests on the ground, but what supports the ground? You prove this by that; but what proves that? You must have a starting-point, an ultimate fact, and these ultimate principles are the most sure, because if the ground is not steady the ladder is not steady; the ground must be more steady than the ladder. The things which you start from, which are the means of bringing us results, are more sure than other things which are proved by them. You and I know that we are free. You and I know that we are responsible. You and I have that assurance of knowledge, which is before all science.

This matter of free-will underlies everything. If you bring it to question, it is infinitely more than Calvinism. I believe in Calvinism, and I say free-will stands before Calvinism. Everything is gone if free-will is gone; the moral system is gone if free-will is gone; you cannot escape, except by Materialism on the one hand or Pantheism on the other. Hold hard, therefore, to the doctrine of free-will. What is it? I say to my class, but I do not know whether it will do to say it here, "I have my will, but my will is not free; it is myself that is free." Now it makes a difference whether you have freedom of will or the freedom of man in willing. I am conscious that my will is free. But am I free when I will? That is what I mean to indicate. Consciousness tells me that I am free, therefore I am responsible. Then I have this freedom; it is not an abstract quality, it is not an abstract faculty—it has a whole meaning. It is the I that is free; the reason is free, as free as the consciousness. It is the I that is free and has got a will; it is the I that is free and has got a character.

Now, so understanding this freedom of the I, not of the will, but of the whole soul, what is freedom? I say it is just this, as far as I know anything about it, that it is just the self-originating, self-directing I, and that is the whole that it is. Let me illustrate. Suppose I should put upon your table, or you should see resting there, with nothing to interfere with it, a ball of something. It is a ball of yarn. Now suppose you begin to see the yarn moving; you would be sure to say, "Some one is moving it." It is yarn; nothing is more certain than that the thing cannot move itself; if it moves, it moves by reason of some life connected with it, and you settle that question right off. You look again and you say, "It is not a ball of yarn; it is a mouse." The thing started itself; it could not move unless it had life from within; that is self-originating motion. Now, has the mouse free-will? No, because the mouse has not reason and conscience; therefore I would amend my definition. The mouse has self-originated action; the mouse has self-electing action, but it has not reason and conscience. I say it is self-originated, self-elected action, with the illumination of reason and conscience, that makes free-will.

You are sitting in a summer house, you see something darting about. What is it? It is nothing but a speck of dust. That is not self-directed action; it is governed by the wind. Suppose that you look and see that it is motion directed from within, that this darting and stopping is self-moved. Why, that is not governed by the wind; it is governed by instinct, which is not reason or conscience. Suppose that you or I at sea should observe a great ship at a distance just carried about; we look at it; we take our glasses; and you say, "It has no life about it;" it is moved by the current; and you say that it is an abandoned thing that is carried about and swept along by controlling circumstances and outside causes. But instead of this object floating about, suppose we see a steamship; the steam is on, the wheels are revolving, the action that you see is controlled from within; and you have there self-originated action; the action comes from within the ship. A gale is blowing, and the waves are dashing against the vessel; but you see the royal mail steamship fully manned and equipped; the forces are all at work, and there is a man at the helm; and there you have free-will in its highest form, self-originated force, self-directed force, under the lead of reason and conscience; that I believe to be free-will.

Now, the second question is the influence of character on the will. A great many seem to think free-will a simple matter. I believe it is the greatest mystery of the world. Man has a fixed character which determines all in a certain track, and yet that man is free; whereas, you say a man to be free ought to be perfectly uninfluenced. Suppose I bring up before you to-day in illustration a child. It has no past, no history; it can do what it pleases of course; and if I say to it, "Will you do this?" it replies, "I will." The child does just what any one wishes it to do. Now, take a man of education and of character, a man of principle, a man of convictions, a man of purpose, a man of fixed habits, and you cannot make him do this or that. What he does is already determined by the character of the man, habits which have been crystallized into character. The child is unformed: he can do anything; but the character of the man is fixed, and he cannot do what is against his conscience, and he cannot do what is improper in his mind or view. It is uncertain what the child will do, but it is very certain what the man will do. Now, I ask you, Which is the more free? Is it the child or the man? Is the child free, or is the father free, who can stand up in the most trying times, determined from within by the forces of his character and by the good habits of his life? You take a man; take a father and compare him with God; concede the father to be a man of high character, such as General Grant, and sanctified by the Spirit of God, firm as a rock. Yet, after all, the strongest human being may be tempted, may be overcome by seduction. But when you look up at Jehovah, whose character is not uncertain, whose character is eternal, who cannot do that which is foolish, and who cannot do that which is wrong; which is the more free? Is Jehovah freer than man? Is the man freer than the child? Therefore, I hold that a man is free just in proportion to his convictions, just in proportion to his capability of determining his action from experience, just from his fixedness and crystallization of character. A man is free in proportion to the direction and development of his character. A holy character is the highest form of freedom.

I believe a sinful character leaves man responsible, for the sinner is just as free as the saint; the devil is just as free as Gabriel. Now, what is freedom? It is self-originated, self-directed action under the law of reason and conscience. But the devil has all that, just as much as Gabriel. The sinful man has all that, just as much as the saint. The difference is here. I have the power of willing as I prefer, but I have no power of creating a holy character for myself. If I have a holy character, my character coincides with my views, my judgment, my reason, my conscience and my spontaneous affections; they all go in one direction; but if I am a sinner I have no right-directing heart. Reason says go one way, conscience says go the same way, the affections and the dispositions say go another way; and therefore the sinner, according to the language of the Bible, although really free and morally responsible, is in bondage to corruption; the impulses of his heart are in the wrong direction.

Apply that to the fourfold state of man. There are only four states, and there have been only two human beings who occupied all the four states—viz. Adam and Eve. There is the state of innocency, the state of sin, the state of grace and the state of glory.

Now, we know what it is to be sinners. But can we cease to be sinners? and can we obey the law of holiness? We know what it is to be Christians through divine grace. How was it with Adam? Adam was created, according to the Bible, with a perfectly holy nature, without sin; and yet he was able to sin, and he was able to do right. You have not had that experience. No one but Adam ever had that experience or ever can have it.

If you will read the ninth chapter of our Confession of Faith, on the "Freedom of the Will," you will find it one of the most wonderful treatises you have ever seen.

You are familiar with the fact that theologians always escape from difficulties by using the word "mystery," and that the mystery of mysteries is the origin of sin. The great mystery is a theological one. How is it possible that a God of infinite holiness, of infinite compassion, of infinite knowledge, of infinite power, ever allows sin to exist? Why, sin is the very thing he hates. This is an absolutely insoluble mystery. How did sin begin? Why did God permit it? If we are all free, if we are created by God, and there is nothing which exists which God did not create except himself, how did sin come? That is an insoluble mystery. St. Augustine attempted to account for it, and I believe his suggestion is the very nearest to it possible. It is that sin in its origin is not a positive entity, but it is a defect.

Take this for an illustration: Suppose you have a fiddle that has been out of tune; you hang it up on the wall, and a year after you come back and take it down, and the fiddle is all in tune. You know that the fiddle must have been put in tune; it could not have got into tune spontaneously. But suppose your fiddle is perfectly in tune when you hang it up, and you go away, and when you return you find that it is out of tune. It does not follow that somebody did it. You do not say that somebody did it, but that it got out of tune. Now, in the case of Adam I have no doubt sin began in that way; not as sin; but it began to be through inattention, it began to be through defect in love, through defect in faith; it was an omission, and it was thus through a rift in the lute, through a crack here and another there, with a want of harmony. And with this want of harmony came the awful discord that has sent the world into a bedlam and made a division between God and man. Adam sinned, and then we got into the condition with which we are familiar, with a will to sin, and with a power only to sin; and then, through the cross, we are lifted into a condition of grace, in which we have power to obey; and the power grows stronger and stronger, and the disposition and desire to sin grow weaker and weaker. That is before us; thank God we shall come at last to the stature of perfect manhood in Christ Jesus, when the character, amplified and regenerated, shall come to its full, divine crystalline beauty; and then we shall partake of the divine nature and have a perfect freedom of will, as free as Adam, yet certain as God.

From the Free eBook - Popular Lectures on Theological Themes by A. A. Hodge

By Topic


By Scripture

Old Testament









1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles








Song of Solomon


















New Testament







1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians





1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy





1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John



By Author

Latest Links