The Nestorians and their Rituals/Volume 2/Chapter 13

CHAPTER XIII.

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 ingendered 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 inflection 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."—Article IX.

§ 1. "The poison of the myrrh of death which Adam ate brought death to all his descendants to all generations." From the service in the Gezza appointed for the holy Nativity.

§ 2. "My enemy daily casts me into unprofitable lusts because he perceives that my mind is inclined to evil, and daily he wars against me by exciting my spirit within me, and by causing my eyes to look upon iniquity. Look Thou, therefore, upon me, O Lord, tainted as I am with every kind of wickedness through the instigation of the Wicked one, who in his malice has made me a derision. O eternal Lord, exert that power which formed me from the dust to repel the Rebel who has taken me captive, and have mercy upon me." Prayer appointed in the Khudhra for the third Sunday of the summer season.

§ 3. "In mercy, O Lord, set up Thy peace within my soul, that it may quench the fiery arrows of lust within me, wherewith mine enemy assaults me continually. … Set it up in my soul, and have mercy upon me." Prayer appointed in the Khudhra for the fourth Friday of the summer season.

§ 4. "All the works of sin which are begotten within us we are bound to avoid, and above all we must watch against the words of the tongue, for life and death are in its power, and therewith every one of us must give account unto God the righteous Judge for all that we do in this abode of our pilgrimage. … When I would open my lips to sing praises unto Thee, I find my mind accusing me and opposing to me day by day that my inward actions do not correspond to the words of my lips. I beseech Thee, therefore, to enlighten my mind through my tongue that I may sing Halleluia unto Thee." Prayer appointed in the Khudhra for the fourth Sunday of the summer season.

§ 5. "I am drawn by two thoughts, one of which calls me to repentance, and the other drives me to works of vanity. I do indeed desire to be worthy of forgiveness; but I am not willing to give up the works of iniquity. I would be set up in the eternal kingdom; but the fruits of the love of God are wanting in me. I wish to possess the perfect reward; but I am unwilling to plough and to work in Thy vineyard even at the eleventh hour. Therefore, O most merciful Lord, and Lover of mankind, do Thou have mercy upon me." From the Monday service for the Baootha d'Ninwâyé, in the Khudhra.

§ 6. "I know that I am a sinner, and that of myself I cannot repent, because I was born in iniquity, and in sin was I conceived … I am clothed with a frail nature, and endowed with an evil inclination. How can I be made clean who sin every hour? How can I free myself from the yoke of those passions whereto I am bound? These passions are woven in my veins, and these lusts abide in my members. If Thou dost not come near unto me, how can my actions be acceptable, for I am full of uncleanness? When I look upon a thing I lust after it, and when I hear I am captivated, and I become a sinner through the words of my mouth. I know how to do good, nevertheless I cannot do it. I moreover understand that sin is vile, yet I cannot escape from it. I know and am persuaded that I am far removed from goodness, and that sin is ever present with me, how then can I be justified? I love goodness and abhor sin, yet I let go that which I love, and do that which I hate. I do not accuse Thee, O Lord, for having created me with this inclination; but I confess before Thee my frailty, and open unto Thee my passions. I confess, and say, and cry out, and declare, that the man of dust cannot be justified but by Thy mercy, and through Thy compassion." From the Warda "on Repentance."

§ 7. "Thou knowest that in me there is no good thing, and that I do not merit grace. O Thou Righteous one, in whom there is no sin, bestow upon me Thy grace." From the Warda, as above.

See also Appendix B. Part II. c. 3.

REMARKS.

There is one passage in the Appendix referred to which taken alone seems to militate against the doctrine contained in this Article. It runs as follows: "And their [Adam and Eve's] children, also, because they walked in the self-same way of transgression, bound more tightly the yoke of the devil, and of death, on their necks; and these forgat their Creator, and walked after their own heart's lusts, and the desires of their own minds, and nourished iniquity, and strengthened rebellion,—who, being past feeling, gave themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.'" The phrase "their children, also, because they walked," &c. savours at first sight of Pelagianism, inasmuch as it represents the sin of the offspring of Adam to have consisted in following the disobedience of their father, not that they were born with a vicious inclination. But the whole tenour of the other extracts, (and many more such-like might be adduced,) enables us to put a very different construction upon the passage, and to understand it as conveying the idea, that by their own wilful transgression of the law of God the offspring of Adam "bound the yoke of the devil, and of death, more tightly on their necks."29

No language can more forcibly declare the utter corruption of human nature than the following, quoted under Article II. § 6, par. b. and p. "After the similitude of His hidden likeness had become corrupt, and the image of His mysterious Self had been utterly ruined, and after the model of His own Creation had been swallowed up in the gaping bowels of the insatiable sheol, the Good God deigned to renew and to restore it." And again: "The form which had been marred was again glorified; the piece of silver which had been lost was found; the sheep that had wandered was brought home safe; the hungry prodigal ate, and left of that which was placed before him; the leaven leavened the three measures of meal; the stranger in Jerusalem, who had fallen among thieves that robbed him in the descent to Jericho, and who was found plundered, wounded, and stricken, despised, and cast out, has been healed."