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 The Principles of Theology - Article 9

by W.H.Griffith Thomas



Of Original or Birth Sin.
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk; but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam: whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

De Peccato Originali.
Peccatum originis non est, ut fabulantur Pelagiani, in imitatione Adami situm; sed est vitium et depravatio naturæ cujuslibet hominis ex Adamo naturaliter propagati; qua fit, ut ab originali justitia quam longissime distet, ad malum sua natura propendeat, et caro semper adversus spiritum concupiscat; unde in unoquoque nascentium, iram Dei atque damnationem meretur. Manet etiam in renatis hæc naturæ depravatio; qua fit, ut affectus carnis, Græce ϕρόνημα σαρκὸς, quod alii sapientiam, alii sensum, alii affectum, alii studium carnis interpretantur, legi Dei non subjiciatur. Et quanquam renatis et credentibus nulla propter Christum est condemnatio, peccati tamen in sese rationem habere concupiscentiam fatetur Apostolus.


Important Equivalents

Of Original (or Birth) Sin = De Peccato originali
Original sin = Peccatum originis
As the Pelagians do vainly talk = ut fabulantur Pelagiani
In the following of Adam = in imitatione Adam [1]
Standeth not = non est situm
Fault and corruption of the nature = vitium et depravatio naturæ
Very far gone = quam longissime distet
In every person born into this world = in unoquoque nascentium
Regenerated = renatis
Infection of nature = naturæ depravatio
The lust of the flesh = affectus carnis
In them that are regenerated = in renatis
For them that are baptized = renatis
[Omitted] = propter Christum [2]
Concupiscence and lust = concupiscentiam
The nature of sin = peccati rationem

The subject of Original Sin was at the forefront of the Reformation, and as the verbal alterations in the Article are very few it is clear that there was essential unity among the Reformers on this doctrine. It is thought by some that the Article, which dates from 1553, is based on the corresponding one in the Confession of Augsburg from the Concordat of 1583. [3] But others think that the resemblance is only slight, and that it indicates little else than the general agreement among all Reformed Confessions. [4] It is also likely, or at least possible, that the Article is so worded as to state the true doctrine on the relation of baptism to original sin. [5]

In 1553, after the words “Pelagians do vainly talk” were et hodie Anabaptistæ repetunt, “and the Anabaptists today repeat.” These words were omitted in 1563, probably because the error was not rife then, and also to leave the reference more general and avoid diverting attention from the Roman aspect. The Latin text is of particular importance in this Article.

“It is a link of connection with the scholastic phraseology of the Middle Ages, which must to some extent be understood by all who desire to appreciate the doctrinal position assumed by our Reformers. For they had been trained in the language, and now stood opposed to the system of the schoolmen.” [6]

In addition to the important equivalents noted above the following points should be specially observed:
(1) In 1553, “former righteousness which he had at creation” was altered in 1563 to the present phrase.
(2) In 1553 the word “baptized” was altered in 1563 to “regenerated.”
(3) In 1553 studium was altered in 1563 to studium carnis interpretantur.
(4) Nascentium, “born,” means at, not after birth (not natorum).
(5) Renatis et credentibus, “for them that believe and are baptized.”
(6) “And lust,” no equivalent in the Latin.
(7) Peccatum originale and Peccatum originis are equivalent terms.


>> Part 1. The Meaning of Original Sin



[1] The genitive of Adamus, Adami, m. 2. In Article 10 the word Adam is Latinised thus: Adam, Adæ, m. 1.

[2] For Christ’s sake.

[3] Hardwick, History of the Articles of Religion, p. 62; Harold Browne, Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, p.237.

[4] Gibson, The Thirty-nine Articles, p. 358; Boultbee, The Theology of the Church of England, p. 77.

[5] “In labe peccati ex ortu nostro contracta, quam vitium originis appellamus, primum quidem Pelagianorum, deinde etiam Anabaptistarum nobis vitandus et submovendus est error, quorum in eo consensus contra veritatem sacrarum Scripturarum est, quod peccatum originis in Adamo solo hæserit, et non ad posteros transierit, nec ullam afferat naturæ nostræ perversitatem, nisi quod ex Adami delicto propositum sit peccand, noxium exemplum, quod homines ad eandem pravitatem invitat imitandum et usurpandam” (Reformatio Legum, De Hæresibus, c. 7).

[6] Boultbee, ut supra, p. 76.




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The Principles of Theology

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Article 9

>> Introduction

>> The Meaning of Original Sin

>> The Extent of Original Sin

>> The Result of Original Sin

>> The Condemnation of Original Sin

>> The Permanence of Original Sin

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man




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