An expression probably borrowed from the Apocryphal Book of Wisdom, to express the fact of the revolt of our first parents from God, and the consequent sin and misery in which they and all their posterity were involved.
The history of the Fall is recorded in Gen. 2 and 3. That history is to be literally interpreted. It records facts which underlie the whole system of revealed truth. It is referred to by our Lord and his apostles not only as being true, but as furnishing the ground of all God's subsequent dispensations and dealings with the children of men. The record of Adam's temptation and fall must be taken as a true historical account, if we are to understand the Bible at all as a revelation of God's purpose of mercy.
The effects of this first sin upon our first parents themselves were (1) "shame, a sense of degradation and pollution; (2) dread of the displeasure of God, or a sense of guilt, and the consequent desire to hide from his presence. These effects were unavoidable. They prove the loss not only of innocence but of original righteousness, and, with it, of the favour and fellowship of God. The state therefore to which Adam was reduced by his disobedience, so far as his subjective condition is concerned, was analogous to that of the fallen angels. He was entirely and absolutely ruined" (Hodge's Theology).
But the unbelief and disobedience of our first parents brought not only on themselves this misery and ruin, it entailed also the same sad consequences on all their descendants. (1.) The guilt, i.e., liability to punishment, of that sin comes by imputation upon all men, because all were represented by Adam in the covenant of works (q.v.). (See IMPUTATION.)
(2.) Hence, also, all his descendants inherit a corrupt nature. In all by nature there is an inherent and prevailing tendency to sin. This universal depravity is taught by universal experience. All men sin as soon as they are capable of moral actions. The testimony of the Scriptures to the same effect is most abundant (Rom. 1; 2; 3:1-19, etc.).
(3.) This innate depravity is total: we are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins," and must be "born again" before we can enter into the kingdom (John 3:7, etc.).
(4.) Resulting from this "corruption of our whole nature" is our absolute moral inability to change our nature or to obey the law of God.
Commenting on John 9:3, Ryle well remarks: "A deep and instructive principle lies in these words. They surely throw some light on that great question, the origin of evil. God has thought fit to allow evil to exist in order that he may have a platform for showing his mercy, grace, and compassion. If man had never fallen there would have been no opportunity of showing divine mercy. But by permitting evil, mysterious as it seems, God's works of grace, mercy, and wisdom in saving sinners have been wonderfully manifested to all his creatures. The redeeming of the church of elect sinners is the means of `showing to principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God' (Eph. 3:10). Without the Fall we should have known nothing of the Cross and the Gospel."
On the monuments of Egypt are found representations of a deity in human form, piercing with a spear the head of a serpent. This is regarded as an illustration of the wide dissemination of the tradition of the Fall. The story of the "golden age," which gives place to the "iron age", the age of purity and innocence, which is followed by a time when man becomes a prey to sin and misery, as represented in the mythology of Greece and Rome, has also been regarded as a tradition of the Fall.
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