Item of the Day: Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695, 1777)

Full Title:

The Works of John Locke, in Four Volumes.  The Eighth Edition.  Volume the Third.  London:  Printed for W. Strahan, J. F. and C. Rivington, L. Davis, W. Owen, S. Baker and G. Leigh, T. Payne and Son, T. Caslon, S. Crowder, T. Longman, B. Law, C. Rivington, E. and C. Dilly, J. Wilkie, T. Cadell, N. Conant, T. Beecroft, T. Lowndes, G. Robinson, Jos. Johnson, J. Robson, J. Knox, T. Becket, and T. Evans. 1777.

The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures [originally, 1695]

It is obvious to any one, who reads the new testament, that the doctrine of redemption, and consequently of the gospel, is founded upon the supposition of Adam’s fall.  To understand therefore, what we are restored to by Jesus Christ, we must consider what the scriptures shew [sic] we lost by Adam.  This I thought worthy of a diligent and unbiassed [sic] search: since I found the two extremes, that men run into on this point, either on the one hand shook the foundations of all religion, or, on the other, made christianity almost nothing: for whilst some men would have all Adam’s posterity doomed to eternal, infinite punishment, of the transgression of Adam, whom millions had never heard of, and no one had authorised to transact for him, or be his representative; this seemed to others so little consistent with the justice or goodness of the great and infinite God, that they thought there was no redemption necessary, and consequently, that there was none; rather than admit of it upon a supposition so derogatory to the honour and attributes of that infinite Being; and so made Jesus Christ nothing but the restorer and preacher of pure natural religion; thereby doing violence to the whole tenor of the new testament.  And, indeed, both sides will be suspected to have trespassed this way, against the written word of God, by any one, who does but take it to be a collection of writings, designed by God, for the instruction of the illiterate bulk of mankind, in the way to salvation; and therefore, generally, and in necessary points, to be understood in the plain direct meaning of the words and phrases; such as they may be supposed to have had in the mouths of the speakers, who used them according to the language of that time and country wherein they lived; without such learned, artificial, and forced senses of them, as are fought out, and put upon them, in most of the systems of divinity, according to the notions that each one has been bred up in. 

To one that, thus unbiassed, reads the scriptures, what Adam fell from (is visible), was the state of perfect obedience, which is called justice in the new testament; though the word, which in the original signifies justice, be translated righteousness: and, by this fall, be lost paradise, wherein was tranquility and the tree of life; i.e. he lost bliss and immortality.  The penalty annexed to the breach of the law, with the sentence pronounced by God upon it, shew this. The penalty stands thus, Gen. ii. 17. “In the day, that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”  How was this executed?  He did eat: but, in the day he did eat, he did not actually die; but was turned out of paradise from the tree of life, and shut out for ever from it, lest he shoul take thereof, and live for ever.  This shews, that the state of paradise was a state of immortality, of life without end; which he lost that very day that he eat: his life began from thence to shorten, and waste, and to have an end; and from thence, to his actual death, was but like the time of a prisoner, between the sentence passed and the execution, which was in view and certain.  Death then entered, and shewed his face which before was shut out, and not known.  So St. Paul, Rom. v. 12. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” i.e. a state of death and mortality: and, 1 Cor. xv. 22.  In Adam all die; i.e. by reason of his transgression, all men are mortal, and come to die.    

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Filed under 1690's, 1770's, Church of England, Eighteenth century, Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams, Reason, Religion

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