Q17: Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?

A: The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery (Rom. 5:12).

Q18: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A: The sinfulness of that state whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin (Rom. 5:19), the want of original righteousness (Rom. 3:10), and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called Original Sin (Gen. 6:5), together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it (Matt. 15:19).


I. Q17: The Fall plunged mankind into a state of sin and misery: original sin.

A. “Original Sin” pertains to the effects of the first sin that corrupted all humanity.

B. Man’s first sin was the spring of humanity’s every woe, and the poisonous fountain from which flows all misery. Natural man can do nothing but sin—every thought, word, and deed is tainted by sin.

I. Q18: Original sin consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the lack of original righteousness, and the corruption of the whole nature (total depravity).

A. Guilt is an obligation to punishment. For this sin—ours by imputation—we are liable to punishment (Rom. 5:18).

B. Lack of original righteousness: this pertains to the rectitude of all of the faculties of man’s soul (Tit. 1:15).

C. Total depravity: the soul in all of its faculties is leprous.


II. The nature of original sin is total depravity.

A. Four facts of depravity: great, inward, continual, universal (Gen. 6:5).

1. Great: “The wickedness of man was great.”

a. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9), or “incurably sick.”

2. Inward: “Every intent of the thoughts of his heart.”

a. The “heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11).

b. The “hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live….” (Ecc. 9:3).

c. From “the heart proceed evil thoughts.…” (Matt. 15:19; cf. Rom. 3:14-15).

3. Continual: “Was only evil continually.”

a. “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).

b. Man is prone to sin (Hos. 11:7).

4. Universal: “The wickedness of man.”

a. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10).

b. Man is born a sinner (Ps. 51:5).

c. “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3).

(1). “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.…” (Prov. 22:15).

B. “Total” is in extent, not in degree.

1. Analogy: Poison put into a glass of water corrupts all of the water, but more poison put in will make it worse.

a. Men are not worse due to God’s mercy and means of restraining grace.

(1). Wicked man’s conscience has a restraining effect (Rom. 2:15).

(2). Power of civil government restrains wickedness (Rom. 13:1-5).

(3). Fear of death has a restraining influence (Heb. 2:15).

(4). Influences of family, education, and society have a restraining effect.

(a). Man may do some kind of “good” in man’s eyes, but it does not result from faith (Rom. 14:23; cf. Heb. 11:6)


III. The nature of total depravity necessitates total inability.

A. Every constituent element of man is affected by sin: “the heart.…” (Gen. 6:5, etc.).

1. The “heart” in Scripture is the seat and center of human life.

B. The constituent elements of man are his mind, will, affections, and conscience.

1. Mind: darkened and unable to know God.

a. The “carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).

(1). “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8).

b. The “natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit…they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them…” (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. 1:18).

c. The “understanding is darkened” and ignorant and blind (Eph. 4:17-18).

(1). The mind’s thoughts are “futile” (v. 17; cf. Rom. 1: 21-22, 28).

2. Will: enslaved to sin and cannot come to God. [See Appendix I]

a. Jesus told the Jews they are not “will[ing]” to come to Him (Jn. 5:40).

(1). Thelo, “to will, wish, desire,” here implying active volition or purpose.

(a). Man is saved not by his own will but by the will of God (Jn. 1:13).

b. There is “none who seeks after God…. They have all turned aside…there is no one who does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:11-12).

c. The one “accustomed” to doing evil cannot do good (Jer. 13:23).

d. Man is prone to sin (Hos. 11:7).

3. Affections: man loves sin.

a. Light came into the world, but “men loved darkness rather than light” (Jn. 3:19).

b. Affections are disordered—set upon the creature—like an unruly horse (Jer. 2:23-24).

c. Hence, men say to God “depart…” (Job 21:14; cf. Lk. 19:14).

4. Conscience: defiled and in need of cleansing.

a. The heart needs to be “sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Heb. 10:22).

(1). Five times the author speaks of the conscience as defiled and in need of Christ’s atoning purification (9:9, 14; 10:2, 22; 13:18).

C. Total inability must result from the corruption of man’s faculties.

1. The intellect and will are mutually connected.

2. The will is the mind choosing (Jonathan Edwards).

a. The mind judges by understanding, and by willing, embraces what it judges to be good (Francis Turretin).

D. Total inability is often objected to.

1. Some claim that this teaching denies man his freedom.

a. This objection fails to distinguish between free agency and ability.

(1). Man is free if he is not externally coerced.

(2). Ability is defined as the power to effect moral change or bring himself to God.

(a). Man is free but not able. [See Q13]


IV. Both Jesus and Paul taught that man is enslaved to sin and born spiritually dead.

A. Jesus said that nobody could come to Him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6:44). [See Appendix J]

B. Jesus said that one must be born again before he could even see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3).

1. The need to be born again implies one is dead (cf. Matt. 8:22).

C. Jesus said that whoever commits sin is a slave to sin (Jn. 8:34).

D. Paul said man is born dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and is by nature a child of wrath (v. 3).

E. Paul said the man united to Christ has been freed from slavery to sin (Rom. 6).


V. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. Natural man is in a state that only divine grace can extricate him from. The Scottish theologian Thomas Boston (1676–1732) vividly illustrated man’s spiritual condition by comparing the unconverted person to a man in a pit. He can only get out of the pit in one of two ways: “he may through much toil and difficulty scale the sides of the pit to the top, which is the way of works; or he may grab hold of the rope of grace let down by Christ and be pulled out of his misery. Yes, he may decide to pull himself up by the rope of the gospel, ‘But, alas!’ The unconverted man is dead in the pit and cannot help himself either of these ways.”

2. All theology that does not adhere to the biblical doctrine of Original Sin will have a faulty framework.

B. Use, of testing.

1. What is our view of man’s ability resulting from the Fall? Does our evangelism manifest this?

2. Do we rest in a form of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5), or are we watchful against every motion and temptation of sin (Matt. 26:41).

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. See the absolute necessity of Christ as Savior, who alone is able to save from the guilt of sin by His blood, and from the filth and pollution of it by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5).

2. Saints. See the absolute necessity of mortification, of daily crucifying the flesh, for from it all actual sins proceed. Be indefatigable in your course of Christian-warfare. [See Appendix G]

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