A.A. Hodge, Infants that pass, Imputed/Inherent sin...over my head

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Puritan Board Freshman
12. Why was this doctrine expressed technically as the imputa- tion o/tJie guilt of Adams apostatizing act? and state the meaning of the terms.
At the Council of Trent Albertus Pighius and Ambrosius Catherinus (F. Paul's " Hist. Con. Trent," Lib. ii., s., 65) main- tained that the imputed guilt of Adam's first sin constituted the only ground of the condemnation which rests upon men at birth. The Council did not allow this heresy, but neverthe- less maintained a rather negative than positive view of man's inherent guilty corruption. Consequently Calvin and all the first Reformers and Creeds were principally concerned in em- phasizing the fact that original sin inherent, as distinguished from original sin imputed, is intrinsically and justly, as moral corruption, worthy of God's wrath and curse. It is the reason why the salvation of infants is referred to the sovereign grace of God, and the expiatory merits of Christ, and it continues in adults the source of all actual sin and the main ground of condemnation to eternal death. Infants and adults suffer, and adults are damned on account of the guilt of inherent sin, but never on account of Adam's sin imputed.

But when the question is asked why God, either directly or indirectly, brings us into existence thus corrupt, the whole church answered as above shown, because God has thereby justly punished usfor Adams apostasy.
This is technically expressed as the " imputation to us of the guilt of Adam's act."
"Guilt" is just liability to punishment. The recognition of guilt is a judicial and not sovereign act of God.
"Imputation" (the Hebrew 2&n and the Greek Xoyi^onai frequently occurring and translated "to count," "to reckon," "to impute," etc.) is simply to lay to one's charge as a just ground of legal procedure, whether the thing imputed antecedently belonged to the person to whom it is charged, or for any other adequate reason he is justly responsible for it. Thus not to im- pute sin to the doer of it, is of course graciously to refrain from charging the guilt of his own act or state upon him as a ground of punishment; while to impute righteousness without works is graciously to credit the believer with a righteousness which
—Rom. iv. 6, 8; 2 Cor. v. 19; see Num. xxx. 15; xviii. 22-27, 30; Lev. v. 17, 18; vii. 18; xvi. 22;
is not personally his own.
Rom. ii. 26; 2 Tim. iv. 16, etc.

The imputation, i. e., judicial charging of Adam's sin to us,is rather to be considered as contemplating the race as a whole, as one moral body, than as a series of individuals. The race was condemned as a whole, and hence each individual comes into existence in a state of just antenatal forfeiture. Turretin calls it "commune peccatum, communis citljoa" L. 9, Q. 9. This and this alone is what the church has meant by this doctrine. Afterwards in our own persons God condemns us only and most justly because of our inherent moral corruption and our actual transgressions. The imputation of the guilt of Adam's aposta- tizing act to us in common leads judicially to spiritual desertion in particular, and spiritual desertion leads by necessary conse- quencetoinherentdepravity. Theimputationofoursinsin common to Christ leads to his desertion (Matt, xxvii. 46), but his temporary desertion leads to no tendency to inherent sin, becausehewastheGod-man. TheimputationofChrist'sright- eousness to us is the condition of the restoration of the Holy Ghost, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to regeneration and sanctification. " It is only when justificatio forensis maintains its Reformation position at the head of the process of salvation, that it has any firm or secure standing at all."—Dr. J. A. Dorner's " Hist. Prot. Theo.," Vol. II., p. 160.

Anyone have a clue what A.A. Hodge is talking about in "Outlines of Theology pg 357-358"?

Im asking because my understanding of infants that die is all the elect ones go to heaven, and all might not be elect. If they are elect, Jesus died for them on the cross and the Holy Spirit gives them the gifts (regeneration, faith, repentance, etc) of that before they die.

A lot of my friends believe that all infants that die, go to be with God, but i don't understand it. So, I'm thinking maybe this is the thing i don't understand that they do.

Any help will be greatly appreciated. thanks to anyone who even gave this a read to attempt to help me. And thanks to anyone who feels brave enough to write.


Puritan Board Senior
A lot of my friends believe that all infants that die, go to be with God, but i don't understand it.

While I do need to read the quote you posted a few times in order to reply well, I will say that most people believe this (it seems to me, at least) because they have a deficient or nonexistent view of Original Sin. Nobody could possibly imagine that an infant child would be guilty of anything sinful because, in their minds, the only punishable sins are the so called "actual" sins—sins committed by the person themselves. Of course, this leads to the curious invention of the "age of accountability" and the doctrine here which you say a lot of your friends believe.

It is fine to believe that all infants who die go to be with the Lord, but only when it is believed on the basis of their election in God's sovereign purposes. Charles Hodge not only believed that all infants were elect, but asserted that this is the Protestant belief:

The conduct and language of our Lord in reference to children are not to be regarded as matters of sentiment, or simply expressive of kindly feeling. He evidently looked upon them as the lambs of the flock for which, as the good Shepherd, He laid down his life, and of whom He said they shall never perish, and no man could pluck them out of his hands. Of such He tells us is the kingdom of heaven, as though heaven was, in great measure, composed of the souls of redeemed infants. It is, therefore, the general belief of Protestants, contrary to the doctrine of Romanists and Romanizers, that all who die in infancy are saved.
—Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 27


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The WCF makes a very careful statement about the destiny of "elect infants dying in infancy." They are saved. It makes no commitment as to how many infants dying in infancy are elect. Therefore, you can find different Presbyterian opinions including the view that dying-in-infancy might be an indication of election, and that this generous regard is extended to the human race as a whole.

My own opinion is that this supposed world-wide generosity is too sentimental; at the very least it makes no observable distinction between what a Christian (especially, but not limited to, those who adhere to covenant theology) has the right to hope for his child in respect to the promise of God to believers; and what those "without hope" have any right to conclude.

That some Christians hold hope in their stead (for the unbelievers) toward their children, based on a believer's understanding of the love of God, is reconcilable with our theology. But, some of us have to allow that there probably are infants-dying-in-infancy which are not members of God's elect. Consequently they go to hell with the rest of the reprobate.

I think A.A.Hodge maintained (along with CH) the election of ALL infants-dying-in-infancy or not (his comment in bold does seem to indicate he did); but in any case, it is only belief in the doctrines of election and free justification for sinners that safely grounds any form of infant-redemption. Certainly, we have to deny what so many maintain: that is a suspension or modification of the doctrine of Original Sin, in order to allow for the salvation of infants and young children--which adjustment is the origin of the "age of accountability" view.

AAH contends with the latter notion along with Romish doctrine in teaching and defending Reformed theology. The bold part of the larger quote (above) says:
1) individual infants suffer because of the guilt of inherent sin
2) individual adults suffer and are damned because of the guilt of inherent sin.
3) neither suffering or damnation are because of the imputation of Adam's guilt (at least, not solely)
The main point is to acknowledge that man is corrupt from the womb, and not innocent.

In the subsequent paragraphs, he considers separately the question of the guilt of Adam's first sin as it has been imputed to the whole human race. As declared guilty (judicially), mankind is liable to penalty. The only thing necessary for this judgment is recognition of any "adequate reason" for his responsibility. Rather than an individual responsibility, this imputed guilt is assigned to the class, and only to particular parties subsidiary to his identification in that class.

The punishment for this guilt AAH describes as spiritual abandonment/desertion (not quite damnation). And being in this condition, inherent depravity leading to damnation takes over necessarily--unless that man is the theanthropos or God-man, in which that tendency under a spiritually deserted condition was resistible.

There's some fine parsing there (which is the nature of scholastic theology, fine as far as it is needed). I'm not sure it is so wrong to state baldly that men go to hell in the first place because (on account of) being condemned in Adam, for the imputation of the guilt of his first sin. It certainly gets the ball rolling.

Hopefully, this makes the passage clearer. I'm not sure I'll have any time to follow up myself this week. So someone else may have to chime in.
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