Regrettably, in today’s world where theology is downplayed and sin is watered down, the fact that both the unconverted and the people of God need to repent of Adam’s sin is downplayed. Very few sermons are preached on the imputation of Adam’s sin, and even fewer mention the need for men to repent of it. Despite this neglect, the fact mentioned is clearly taught in Scripture. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, the following excerpt from the works of David Clarkson expresses the point well. For further study of the Biblical need for repentance over original sin beyond the quotation reproduced from Clarkson below, see pgs. 267-285, Sermons to the Natural Man, William G. T. Shedd (New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1871); pgs. 39-42, The Works of David Clarkson, David Clarkson, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864) & pgs. 292-313, vol. 3, ibid; pgs. 324-376, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Goodwin, vol. 10 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1865).
In light of the Biblical fact that you ought to lament, hate, and repent of your original sin, when was the last time that you confessed it as sin to God?
Quest. Whether must we repent of original sin?
That this may be more clearly propounded and resolved, observe a distinction, the non-observance of which occasions much darkness, both in men’s apprehensions and discourses of this subject.
Original sin is, 1. Imputed, 2. Inherent.
1. Imputed, is Adam’s sin, that which he actually committed in eating the forbidden fruit. Called original, because it was the first sin, and committed at the beginning of the world, when the first foundations of man’s original were laid. Imputed, because Adam representing us and all mankind, what he did, we did in God’s account, he looks upon us as sinning by him, Rom. 5:19, 20.
2. Inherent, is that natural corruption which cleaves to us, dwells in us, consisting in the privation of original righteousness, and propensity to all unrighteousness; the sad issue and effect of the former sin. Adam receiving this original holiness for himself and his posterity, lost it for himself and them; and holiness being gone, a proneness to all sin necessarily followed. It is called sin, because it is a state opposite to the will and law of God; the absence of that which it requires, the presence of that which it forbids. Original, because we have it from our birth, from our original. Inherent, because it is not only accounted ours, but is really in us. Of this Gen. 6:5, and 8:21, Job 4:5, Ps. 51:7.
Quest. Whether must we repent of Adam’s sin, that which is but imputed to us, that which was committed so many years before we were born?
Ans. This must be repented of with such acts of repentance as it is capable of, confessed, bewailed, hated. As to avoiding, forsaking of it, we need not be solicitous, because there is no danger it should be recommitted. But we must acknowledge, aggravate, mourn for it, abhor it, hate the memory of it. So I conceive (though I meet not with any that determine this), on this ground.
1. We are bound to repent and mourn for the sins of others, much more for those that are any ways our own. This à fortiori. This has been the practice of holy men formerly: David, Ps. 119:158, so Jer. 13:17. Sins of fathers, Jer. 14:10, many hundred years committed before. It is prophesied of the Jews, that when the Lord shall convert them, they shall mourn for the sin of their forefathers who pierced him; so Dan. 9; and Moses’s ordinary practice. If repentance prevent judgment, then it might prevent those that are inflicted for sins of others, progenitors. The Lord often punishes for their sins; if we would not suffer for them, we should repent of them. And if of others’ sins, then of that which is ours; and this is ours by imputation. And justly is it imputed to us. For by all human laws, children are charged with their fathers’ debts, the father’s treason taints his posterity.
2. We are bound to rejoice in imputed righteousness, and therefore to mourn for imputed sin. Adam’s sin is ours, the same way as Christ’s righteousness, viz., by imputation, Rom. 5:19, and contrariorum contraria sunt consequentia. If we must rejoice in Christ’s righteousness, we should bewail Adam’s sin. And indeed great cause of joy in that it is the marrow, the quintessence of the gospel; the most gladsome part of those ἐυαγγέλια, those glad tidings which are published in the gospel; the sweetest strain of that message, which, the angel says, was ‘good tidings of great joy to all people,’ Luke 2:10. Imputed righteousness is that blessed design which the Father from eternity contrived, which Christ published and performed, into which the angels desire to pry, that lost man, who could not be saved without righteousness, who had no righteousness of his own to save him, should have a righteousness provided for him, whereby he is freed from wrath, and entitled to heaven. Sure this is, this will be, an occasion of eternal joy; and if so, imputed sin is a just ground of sorrow.
3. As long as the Lord manifests his displeasure against any sin, so long we are called to mourn for it The Lord is highly provoked, if, when his hand is stretched out against any place or person for sin, they will not see it, so as to repent of it, and be humbled under it. He interprets this to be a contempt, and this highly exasperates. It has been the practice of holy men, when wrath was either executed, or threatened, to mourn for the sins that occasioned it, though committed by others, and long before. See it in Josiah, 2 Chron. 34:31. There he takes notice of forefathers’ sins; and see how he is affected therewith: ver. 27, ‘his heart was tender, he humbled himself.’
We are called to mourn for sin, whenever wrath is manifested against it; but the wrath of God is still revealed from heaven against that first unrighteousness; his displeasure is still legible in the effects of this sin, the dreadfullest effects that ever any act produced, no less than all sin, and all misery. That threatening, Gen. 2:17, is still in execution, and the execution is terrible; every stroke is death, spiritual, personal, temporal, eternal, take it in the most extensive sense. Adam’s soul was struck dead immediately; and by virtue of that sentence, all his posterity are dead men, born dead in trespasses and sins. Personal death, death of afflictions; all the sorrows and sufferings of this woeful life, they flow from this cursed spring. Temporal, in Adam all died; it he had not sinned, all had been immortal. Eternal, all must die for ever that repent not. Great cause then to repent of this sin.
Quest. Whether must we repent of that original sin, which is inherent; that natural corruption, the loss of original holiness; and that innate propensity to evil? It may seem not to be any just occasion of sorrow, because it is not voluntary, but natural; having, without our consent, seized upon us unavoidably.
Ans. This is principally to be repented of, as that which is the mother sin, the cause of all actual sins. Nor should the supposed involuntariness of it hinder us from making it the object of our sorrow.
For, 1, every sin is to be repented of. But this is a sin exceeding sinful, indeed, all sins in one. For, what is sin, who can better determine than the Lord himself? And he in Scripture determines, that whatever is a transgression of the law is sin, whether it be voluntary or no; not only that which we actually consent to, but that which he peremptorily forbids. The apostle’s definition of sin is unquestionable, 1 John 3:4, ἁμαρτία ἐστιν ἡ ἀνομία; but no greater transgression than this, since it transgresses all at once. We are commanded to be holy; so the want of holiness is forbidden, which is the privative part of this sin. We are commanded to love the Lord with all our hearts; so the heart’s inclination to hate God is forbidden, which is the positive part. Was not the apostle Paul more able to judge what is sin, than any papist, Socinian, &c.? He calls it sin five times, Rom. 6, six times, Rom. 7, three times, Rom. 8, yea and his sin, though he then consented not to it.
2. Suppose (that which is false) no evil is to be repented of, but what is consented to, this should not hinder any from repenting of this sin; for all that are capable of repentance have actually consented to their natural corruption, have been pleased with it, have cherished it by occasions of sin, have strengthened it by acts of sin, have resisted the means whereby it should be mortified and subdued, which are all infallible evidences of actual consent. That which was only natural, is to us become voluntary; and so, by consent of all, sinful; and therefore necessarily to be repented of.
3. The necessity of it is grounded upon unquestionable examples of saints, both in the Old and New Testament. Instance in two of the holiest men that the Scripture mentions. David, in that psalm, which is left as a public testimony of his repentance, to the world, he bewails, acknowledges this, Ps. 51:5. Paul does acknowledge, aggravate, bewail it, as one heavily afflicted with it, Rom. 7. His description of it is very observable: as that which is not good, ver. 18; in me, i. e., in the unregenerate part, that which is not good, that which is evil, ver. 20, sin, six times; the greatest evil, a condemned forbidden evil, ver. 7; a sinful evil, ver. 13, καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἁμαρτωλὸς; a private evil, ver. 20, hinders him from doing good; a positive evil, ver. 17, no more I that do it, but sin; perverse evil, grows worse by that which should make it better, ver. 8; debasing evil, made and denominates him carnal, ver. 14; intimate, inherent evil, sin in him, ver. 17, in his members; a permanent evil, οἰκοῦσα ἐν ἐμοὶ, ver. 17; a fruitful evil, ver. 8, all manner of lust; a deceitful evil, ver. 11, ἐξηπάτησέ; an imperious evil, a law, ver. 23, gives law, commands as by authority; a tyrannical evil, αἰχμαλωτίζοντά, ver. 23; sold, ver. 14; a rebellious conflicting, war-like evil, ἀντιστρατευόμενον, ver. 23; an importunate, unreasonable evil, ver. 15, forces him to do that which he hates; a watchful evil, ver. 21, is present, παράκειται; a powerful evil, ver. 24, ‘who shall deliver?’ &c.; a complete evil, ver. 24, a body furnished with all members of unrighteousness; a deadly evil, ver. 24, body of death, θανατώδες, ver. 11; slew me, ver. 9, I died; a miserable evil, ver. 24, above all things made him wretched.
Paul suffered as many calamities in the world, as any we read of in it; see a catalogue, 2 Cor. 11:23–28. But all these sufferings could never extort such a passonate complaint from him, as this corruption. He could glory in those; but sighs, complains, exclaims, in the sense of this. You see how large he is in aggravating this. Here is above twenty aggravations of this. His sorrow was proportionable. No sin, no suffering, for which he expressed so much soul-affliction. And if he saw so much reason to bewail it, it is our blindness if we see it not. The more holy any man is, the more sensible of natural corruption. The more they get out of this corrupt element, the more heavy it is. Those who feel it not, are drowned in it. Elementum non gravitat in proprio loco. Sin is their proper element, who are not burdened with natural sinfulness.
If it was such an intolerable evil in him who was regenerate, how much more in the unregenerate! If it made him account himself wretched who was so happy, how much more miserable does it make those who have no title to happiness! If it was such an impetuous evil in him who had extraordinary powers of grace to weaken it, how prevailing in us, in whom grace is so weak! If he had cause to complain, bewail, repent of it, much more we! (David Clarkson, The Works of David Clarkson, vol. 1 [Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864], 39–42.)