John Hall

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by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. The sinfulness of that estate wherein man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Scripture References: Rom. 5:12,19; I Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:6; Eph. 2:1-3; James 1: 14-15.


1. What is original sin?

A better way of expressing this would be “inherited sin.” This sin is the guilt and pollution connected with our origin, in and through the first Adam.

2. Is there not another type of sin besides original sin?

Yes, there is actual sin. This is any breach of God’s law, whether it be by omission or commission, whether it be by thought, word or deed.

3. How are all men guilty because of Adam’s first sin?

All men are guilty of Adam’s first sin by imputation, (Ram. 5:19). This is so because Adam represented his posterity, as we learned in Question 16. As the righteousness of Christ, the second Adam, is imputed to all believers, so the sin of the first Adam is imputed to all the natural seed.

4. What is meant by the “guilt of Adam’s first sin”?

It means the debt, the punishment to which we are exposed because of that first sin, committed by our head and representative, Adam.

5. What is the teaching involved in “the want of original righteousness”?

The teaching here is that two things are involved:
(a) The lack of true spiritual understanding in the mind (I Cor. 2:14).
(b) The lack of the power and inclination toward good (Rom. 7: 18).

6. What is included in the statement “the corruption of his whole nature”?

Included in this statement is the universal depravity present in every part of man since the fall. Calvin states, “Therefore all of us, who have descended from impure seed, are born infected with the contagion of sin. In fact, before we saw the light of this life we were soiled and spotted in God’s sight.” (Calvin’s Institutes, II, 1,5).


The lack of belief in this doctrine is probably one of the greatest motivators of mankind toward their popular and many times stated position of: “Well, I do my best and we are all trying to get to the same place. I’ll simply take my chances on my best for a loving God would not condemn me.” This position is heard time and time again and it is hard to take offensive action against it when the person stating it does not believe in the Bible as the inspired, infallible Word of God.

The Presbyterian Standards are very clear about this matter of Original Sin and its effects on mankind. Of the “corrupted nature” the Standards tell us that “we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil” and from this corrupted nature “proceed all actual transgressions”. The Standards further teach that this condition is innate from birth and by nature. It is at this very place that so many modern thinkers disagree with the Standards and insist that there is an “inner goodness in man” and insist that man is rapidly making progress. It is from this position that they move to the natural result that if man does his best he will be taken care of by the loving God.

And yet if a person of the world is forced to be honest with himself, forced because of sickness, or impending death, or trouble of any great variety, he recognizes inward evidences of the corruption of his nature. He recognizes that naturally speaking he does not want to listen to the words that will keep him from erring. He recognizes that he puts all his hope in himself. He recognizes that his body is more important to him than his soul. It is significant that when the person of the world is saved by grace he does not have to be “forced” to be honest with himself in this way, he knows it!

What can all of us learn from this doctrine? The person not saved by grace will learn little from it until he comes to the realization of his sinful state. The person saved by grace can learn once again “Wonder of wonders, He saved even me!” He can thank and praise God once again for the teaching of Ephesians 2:1-10. He can witness to others of the pardon that comes through the merits of Jesus Christ.



Student Days at Princeton, 1822

James Waddel Alexander was the eldest son of the Rev. Archibald and Janetta (Waddel) Alexander, and he was born in Louisa county, Virginia on March 13, 1804. The young parents had wed in April of 1802 and a month later relocated to Hampden Sydney, where Rev. Alexander resumed his duties as the President of the College there. When James was about two years old, his father was called to serve as the pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Then another six years later, the family moved for the last time, relocating to Princeton, New Jersey, where in 1812 Archibald Alexander became the first professor at the newly organized Princeton Theological Seminary.

Growing up, James had every encouragement for learning, and while the youngest in his class at college, he made friends easily. Upon graduation from the College of New Jersey, he next entered upon his preparations for ministry at the Seminary, beginning those studies in 1822. By this time, Charles Hodge was already numbered among the faculty, joining Professors Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller.

For forty years, James Waddel Alexander kept up a correspondence with his friend John Hall (he later became pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City). Not long after J.W. Alexander died, in 1859, the surviving correspondent gathered up the letters for publication, and the resulting two volume set was issued in 1860 by Charles Scribner of New York. The set has been reprinted at least once in more recent times.

Among the many letters, there is this very interesting look at James as he settled into his time at the Seminary in 1822.

“I said I was happy,—never more so in my life. I enjoy good health, good spirits, and I have a most comfortable room, and a most delightful room mate. I never had so great a variety of excellent company before: Metaphysicians, Wits, Theologians, &c, &c. I have here dearly prized friends, who endear Princeton to me. Books in the greatest abundance, as I have access to six public libraries, as well as my father’s. Our studies are not burdensome, and far from being irksome. I saw a letter the other day from an alumnus of this institution to a member of it, in which he says: “My dear C________, you are now enjoying your happiest days, and whether you realize it now or not, you will feel it deeply when you are cast out upon the world.” These sentiments are not peculiar to this individual, I hear them from every one who has ever been here. Indeed, the greatest cares I experience, are such as arise from an oration to be spoken, or a tedious lecture. Will you not say with Virgil, O fortunati nimium sua si bona norint. I will now proceed to give you some account of my course of life. I rise at half after six. Public prayers in the Oratory at 7. Breakfast at 8. From 9 to 9:30, I devote to bodily exercise. From 9:30 to 12, Study. 12-1, Exercise. Dine at one. 2-3, I usually devote to works of taste, and to composing. 3-4:30 at Lecture. 4:30 Prayers. Until tea, at Exercise. After tea, until 12 (at which time I close my eyes) Societies, study, &c.

“Perhaps you think I exercise my body sufficiently. I find it absolutely necessary to my well-being, or almost to my being at all. You may think, too, that I do not study a great deal; true—and moreover that I need not complain of want of time for correspondence; true, at present I need not complain; I have plenty of time for writing, and general reading. At the beginning of the term, before I had fairly got into the harness, our business appeared too much to grasp; but it is now methodized, and I find that I am quite a gentleman of leisure. To proceed: we recite twice in the week on Hebrew, once on Greek, once on the Confession of Faith, once on Biblical History. Hear Lectures once on Theology, (preparatory to the full and regular theological Lectures,) twice on Biblical history, once on the Criticism of the Bible; President, Mr. Hodge. On Tuesday night, the Theological Society, where every student delivers once in six weeks an original oration. On Thursday night, I am at liberty to attend an evening lecture at the college. On Friday night, Theological Society, where questions in ethics and divinity are discussed. On Saturday night, a weekly prayer meeting. On Sunday, we have sermons from our three professors, and Prof. Lindsly, in rotation.” [Philip Lindsly, D.D., was the Vice President of the College of New Jersey at that time.]

Words to Live By:
We all live very busy schedules, but every Christian should spend regular, consistent time in prayer and in the Word of God. This is one reason why we present a daily reading plan in the margin column of this blog. Slowly, a little at a time, you will grow in your understanding of the Scriptures and in your ability to share your faith. Persistence and consistency pay off in their cumulative effect. James Alexander succeeded in his studies because within a short time he had his demanding schedule “methodized,” making an appropriate allowance of time for everything that needed to be done.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB)

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (1 Peter 3:15, NASB)

Last July 31st we paid an initial visit, looking at the life of J.W. Alexander. To view that post, click here.
[you’ll note in that post, his middle name was spelled “Waddell”, while in today’s post it is spelled “Waddel”. James’s mother’s maiden name was Waddel, and so I’m inclined to think that is the correct spelling, though both spellings are found.]

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