Letter on Original Sin

J. N. Darby.

<23024E> 371

My dear brother,

I find in general, that people do not know what they mean by original sin. Is it a taint, an evil in nature, or a relative state with God? For instance it is said, By one man's disobedience many were made sinners.

But it is never said, Christ has put away sin in any sense. He came once in the end of the world to put away sin. But the result is not yet produced. Faith knows it is effectual and rejoices. But the Holy Ghost convicts the world of sin because they believe not in Jesus; so that there they are, sin increased upon them by the death of Christ. But, I repeat, it is never said Christ has put away sin. He has done the work that does it, so that in the new heavens and new earth righteousness will dwell.

Hence my first answer must be the question, What do they mean by original sin? If it be the nature (as for instance in the thirty-nine Articles), it is not put away at all, but condemned in the cross. If it be the relationship and standing of the sinner, it is not changed till he believes. Only the cross is the adequate and glorious ground on which, God being glorified and the blood before His eyes, He can send to every sinner beseeching him to be reconciled; but this proves he is not till he answers to the call.

If it be meant that sins are put away (which is not original sin in any sense), and we remain guilty of unbelief, it is wholly anti-scriptural. The Lord says, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins"; and Paul, "Let no man deceive you; for because of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience." And men are judged according to their works for the deeds done in the body. Only remember with the vague word "original sin" we must know what they mean. The text generally, I suppose, applied to it is Romans 5:19. But this says nothing as to putting away. And it is never said Christ has put away sin at all.

Your affectionate brother in Christ, J.N.D.


I cannot answer for letters put in by those who have received them, because the inquiry to which they are an answer may be met most justly by that answer, but does not appear in the answer. But I have more to say. Original sin is theology, and not scripture, and the fruit of men's minds, which have not to be explained but refuted as not the expression of God's In this case it has no really ascertained meaning at all. My explanation of it would be merely my thought; and it is constantly used and said to be put away and used for children's salvation, entirely out of the bounds of scripture; and those who use it do not know what they say or whereof they affirm; and it is very useful for them to know this.

372 Such I judge is the case of your correspondent, though I have no wish or reason to complain of his note. If your correspondent uses the statements of scripture which he quotes and drops the theological expression of original sin, he will be all right. But his letters shew that he has everything to learn on the points he speaks of. He confounds, from the outset and all through, sin and sins, being born of God with forgiveness and divine favour. Speaking of sin in contrast with sins, scripture never speaks of its being forgiven at all, and carefully makes the difference between the two. It is just the vagueness and confusion which is on your correspondent's note which leaves so many souls in confusion and uncertainty, and hinders their progress. Many of your readers know that the Romans treats distinctly, and with diligent care, in two different well-defined parts the question of sins involving guilt, and sin, as the state which is the subject of deliverance, not of forgiveness, giving to each part a statement of resulting blessing. The last phrase of your correspondent's note I totally deny, as wholly erroneous.