Australian Christadelphian Central Standing Committee
Unity In Australia

Reference to Pioneer Writings

Bro. Carter’s third and final article appeared in THE CHRISTADELPHIAN, November 1958, page 515. In this he quotes extensively from our pioneer writers in support of the doctrinal position he adopted in the first two articles on “THE TRUTH IN AUSTRALIA”.



Bro. Carter firstly refers to a letter of rejoinder from Bro. —— to his “comments” on citations from this brother’s writings. In this letter Bro. —— gave a series of quotations from THE CHRISTADELPHIAN and other works on the truth to support his views. Bro. Carter then proceeds as follows:

What then of his quotations from Dr. Thomas and Bro Roberts? The answer is that in every controversy for the last eighty years, both sides have quoted Dr. Thomas, and in the 1890’s Bro. Roberts’ earlier writings were quoted against himself despite his denial of the inferences which were drawn from his earlier writings.

We need not be disturbed at this. It may be admitted that occasionally Dr. Thomas used language that is technical in character and is therefore liable to misuse. We shall show this presently. But that he taught what has been deduced from some of his words we believe can be roundly denied. We all know how (he words of Scripture are cited to prove the immortality of the soul. We have known strange ideas to be expressed by brethren, based upon misused Scripture language. The sentence upon Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” has been used to show that the sweat glands (and other cleansing organs) did not function until Adam had sinned; it has also been cited to prove that Adam was appointed a change of diet after sinning—now he must eat bread.

There is real point in the Lord’s question, “How readest thou?” We propose, therefore, to give some quotations in which the very ideas that we understand Bro. —— to teach are controverted, but which, controversy apart, are helpful to a right apprehension of the teaching of Scripture.


The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners, and wickedness has at times been so bad that God has seen that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5).

The Lord witnesses to the fact that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). He can even interpolate the phrase as axiomatic, “If ye being evil”.

The works of the flesh are catalogued by Paul more than once (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5) and in Rom. 1 his description of the Roman world of his day shows to what depths human nature descends when free from any controlling influence of the Word of God. James says that every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust (1:14).

Paul gives a personal account of his own conflicts as a man who is “carnal, sold under sin”—not carnal in the sense of being guilty of base sins, but fleshly as all are fleshly. And “SIN” is personified as the owner of men, because they have yielded service to sin. Paul then speaks of these wayward impulses working contrary to his own better desires as “sin that dwelleth in me”.

Here Paul uses the word as a metonym for the impulses within, which are sinful and are opposed to God’s will. He uses a series of parallel expressions for these wayward impulses such as “a law—evil present with me,” “the law of sin in my members,” and these parallels make clear what he meant by “sin dwelling in me”. Bro. ——— scoffingly derides this insistence on the use of metonymy, referring to it as a “jingle”, and “the semi-enigmatic terms ‘metonym’, ‘metonymy’, and ‘metonymical’”; but the figure has always been recognised, as we shall see by the quotations to be given.

These being the characteristics of the flesh it can be described as “unclean”. Besides having the inherited tendencies to sin we all do one or other of the things which Jesus said “defiles a man”.


In addition to this inheritance of sinfulness man also inherits a dying nature. Paul traces both the sinfulness and the mortality to the fact that “by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

He proves that death is an inherited evil by recalling the fact that death reigned from Adam to Moses over men that had not sinned, as Adam had, under a penal code. The Edenic law carried a death penalty for disobedience, and some of the Mosaic laws involved death for disobedience; but we know of no such penal enactments throughout the patriarchal age. Yet death reigned—reigned because death passed through to all men. All men are mortal and all have sinned.


It is at this point where theories of Adamic condemnation and language such as “inherited condemnation” and “inherited wrath” start up confusion and misunderstanding. The phrase “Adamic condemnation” has been used in the Truth’s literature, not as expressive of any personal condemnation derived from our descent from Adam but as a useful description of the inherited mortality that came into the world by the condemnation upon Adam.

It will be sufficient to cite Bro. Roberts’ lecture given in reply to Edward Turney, entitled THE SLAIN LAMB (page 9-10):

“It is the person, the individual, the nature that is condemned, because it was the person, Adam, that was the sinner. Condemnation in Adam means, therefore, that we are mortal in Adam; mortal in the physical constitution—the organisation. Look at any of us when we are just newly born. Why are we mortal at that moment? We have not sinned. Oh, but we sinned in Adam says the same theory. Did we sin in the individual sense in him? How could we sin individually when we did not exist? Paul says No! He says death reigned over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.

“Why is it we are mortal, then? In what sense is the sentence of Adam upon us when we are born? Well, we are Adam’s organisation. It is in the organisation that the law of mortality resides. It is in the physical substance that the principle of death is at work. Hence the phrase ‘this corruptible’. If the substance were not corruptible ‘life’ would be ours for ever.”


“Suffering the Adamic condemnation is a question of physical constitution.” (1874, page 233), also again in the same year, “This mortality is our condemnation in Adam.”


But let us hear Dr. Thomas. Speaking of Adam and Eve, he says:

“But when they adopted the Serpent’s reasonings as their own, these being at variance with the truth, caused an enmity against it in their thinkings, which is equivalent to ‘enmity against God’. When their sin was perfected, the propensities, or lusts, having been inflamed, became ‘a law in their members’; and because it was implanted in their flesh by transgression, it is styled ‘the law of sin’; and death being the wages of sin, it is also termed, ‘the law of sin and death’; but by philosophy, ‘the law of nature’.”

Then in an oft-quoted passage he says:

“The word sin is used in two principal acceptations in the scriptures: It signifies in the first place ‘the transgression of law’; and in the next it represents that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh ‘which has the power of death’; and it is called sin because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh was the result of transgression.

“Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled ‘sinful flesh’, that is, flesh full of sin; so that sin, in the sacred style, came to stand for the substance called man. In human flesh ‘dwelleth no good thing’; and all the evil a man does is the result of this principle dwelling in him. Operating upon the brain, it excites the ‘propensities’ and sets the ‘intellect’ and ‘sentiments’ to work. The propensities are blind, and so are the intellect and sentiments in a purely natural state; when, therefore, the latter operate under the sole impulse of the propensities, ‘the understanding is darkened through ignorance, because of the blindness of the heart’. The nature of the lower animals is as full of this physical evil principle as the nature of man; though it cannot be styled sin with the same expressiveness; because it does not possess them as a result of their own transgression; the name, however, does not alter the nature of the thing.” (Elpis Israel.)


In the same section Dr. Thomas draws out the figure of “Constitution”—that men are born citizens of Satan’s kingdom, as a man is born a British or American citizen. In this context he makes a much abused remark that “Children are born sinners because they are born of sinful flesh” to which he adds: “This is a misfortune and not a crime.”

In the same section he speaks of “men not only being made or constituted sinners by the disobedience of Adam, but they become sinners even as he by actual transgression.” The last sentence of the quotation concerning the lower animals is usually quietly ignored.

This phrase “constituted sinners” was misused both in the controversies of the ‘70’s and also the ‘90’s. In June 1874, Bro. Roberts wrote:

“Only perversity would suppress the word ‘constitutional’, and allege that the Christadelphians teach Christ to have been a sinner,” and he added, “Finally, I do not teach that Christ was a sinner by birth or any other means: this is your misrepresentation. I believe he inherited in his flesh the result of Adam’s sin, as we do; not that he was a sinner himself... And here I add, for the sake of a few who are wondering what the phrase ‘constitutional sinner’ means, as once or twice employed by Dr. Thomas in reference to Christ; it means that he stood related to a sin-constitution of things—a state of things arising out of sin; without being himself a committer of sin. Sorrow arises out of sin; and he was a man of sorrow. Pain (among men) arises out of sin, and he suffered pain. Weakness arises from sin, and he was ‘crucified through weakness’. Mortality (among men) is the result of sin, and he was mortal, requiring to be saved from death (Heb. 5:7), and bringing life by his obedience (Rom. 5).

“Into this state of things he was introduced as we are introduced, in being born of a sinful woman. This is the sense of the phrase ‘a constitutional sinner’.”

In 1894 the following was written by Bro. F. G. Jannaway:

“An effort is then put forth to make Dr. Thomas endorse ‘the idea of imputing the sin of Adam to helpless babes’, by quoting the following remarks from THE REVEALED MYSTERY: ‘All mankind are born of corruptible parents into a state of sin. By this natural birth they become members of this sinful and evil state, and heirs of its disabilities. By virtue of this birth they are constituted sinners’.

“It would have been well if it had been noticed that Dr. Thomas uses this word constituted as Bro. Roberts uses it, as a verb, and not as an adjective. The doctor reveals his mind in further explaining the term thus—’that is, they were endowed with a nature like his (Adam’s), which had become unclean as the result of disobedience’, and he distinctly states, ‘not because they were responsible transgressors’.

“Yet some are now contending that we require forgiving for that for which we are not responsible. The word of God teaches that we need forgiving our own sins and redeeming from our vile bodies (both of which are traceable to Adam’s offence, but which is a different thing from our being held guilty of that offence).

“Then some speak ‘of “inherited wrath of God”, from which “we are at baptism delivered”.’ This has been correctly described as jargon. Speak as the oracles of God. Bible deliverance from Adamic inheritance is future. Thus Paul exclaimed, ‘Who shall deliver me?’ when speaking of the state into which he was born.

“‘By nature children of wrath.’ True! But what does Paul mean? Does he mean that- God is angry with us as soon as we are born? The very text in which the phrase occurs excludes such an unreasonable doctrine (Eph. 2:3). He speaks of ‘lusts of the flesh’, ‘desires of the flesh’, ‘desires of the mind’, ‘conversation in times past’, ‘wherein we walked’, ‘the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’, all of which have to do with nature, but which require action superadded.

“Of all sin it may truly be said, ‘it is our nature so to do’. We are truly ‘by nature children of wrath’, but it is wrath against evil-doing; any other wrath is inconceivable.”

On this Bro. Roberts commented: “Bro. Jannaway has sufficiently answered the suggestion that Dr. Thomas in his phrases ‘constituted sinners’, ‘state of sin’, etc., harmonises with the contention now raised, that God ‘imputes’ the sin of Adam to his descendants.

“It is pretty much a strife of words in the way the thing is argued. Test the thing by its commonsense application, and the true state of the case must appear. If you impute an offence to a man, of course you can charge him with it. Imagine yourself charged by God or man with eating the forbidden fruit in Eden. Would not your understanding be outraged? Is it necessary to say, ‘You never did eat of the fruit; that you weren’t there to eat’? Adam ate; Adam sinned; Adam was condemned to death; Adam was driven out into a state of evil because of sin; you have been born into that state, or constitution of things, sharing his very being in all its relations, and therefore may be described as constitutional members of a sinful state, alias constituted sinners, that is, men helplessly made subject to a state of sin, from which you cannot by your own will deliver yourself.

“This is intelligible enough, and all that Dr. Thomas meant, or could mean by his definitions. To talk of ‘imputing sin’, is to confuse our understanding with an unscriptural conception. ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,’ that is, to whom the Lord will not impute his own sin, but will forgive him his sins: the idea of imputing someone else’s sins to him is foreign alike to the Scriptures and commonsense.”


Our relationship to Adam is physical; we share the evil and mortality that belongs to him. But that physical inheritance is our misfortune; we cannot help it, and we are not to blame for it.

We are not alienated from God because we possess this flesh which is mortal, but because we sin and so become alienated by wicked works. Bro. —— pinpoints this as the issue: his own repeated phrase “sinner or no” fixes his view that the possession of the flesh alienates. (See quotations August CHRISTADELPHIAN, page 374). On that view Jesus was alienated and it is here where the falsity of the teaching becomes evident. This has been discerned in previous controversies.

For example in 1874 (page 526), Bro. Roberts wrote:

“Was Jesus born under condemnation? Answer: In the scriptural sense of hereditary condemnation, the answer is, yes; but this requires to be fenced against the misunderstanding natural to the terms employed. Condemnation, in its individual application, implies displeasure, which cannot be affirmed of Jesus, who was the beloved of the Father. But no one is born under condemnation in its individual application. That is, no one is condemned as an individual till his actions as an individual call for it.

“But hereditary condemnation is not a matter of displeasure, but of misfortune. The displeasure of wrath arises afterwards, when the men so born work unrighteousness. This unrighteousness they doubtless work ‘by nature’, and are, therefore, by nature, children of wrath—that is, by nature, they are such as evoke wrath by unrighteousness.

“It was here that Jesus differed from all men. Though born under the hereditary law of mortality, as his mission required, his relation to the Father, as the Son of God, exempted him from the uncontrolled subjection to unrighteousness.”

In the LAW OF MOSES, Bro. Roberts quotes the following from another brother:

“We are forgiven and shall be saved for Christ’s sake, he required no forgiveness... Christ was undefiled in mind, absolutely pure, therefore he required no cleansing as pertaining to the conscience at baptism, for there never was a moment in his life when God was displeased with him; he always did and said what pleased the Father. He only required cleansing in nature which was done after resurrection.”


At the same time it was rightly insisted that Jesus shared our nature with its sorrows and temptations, but always overcame every trial. As Bro. Roberts wrote (1875, page 376):

“He was a sufferer from the hereditary effects of sin; for these effects are physical effects. Death is a physical law in our members implanted there through sin ages ago, and handed down from generation to generation. Consequently, partaking our physical nature, he partook of this, and his own deliverance (as ‘Christ the first fruits’) was as necessary as that of his brethren. In fact, if Christ had not first been saved from death (Heb. 5:7), if he had not first obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), there would have been no hope for us, for we obtain salvation only through what he has accomplished in himself, of which we become heirs by union with him. He overcomes and we share his victory, by uniting with him, if he at the judgment seat permit.”


Our next quotation concerns the phrase “In Adam all sinned”. This is based upon the A.V. translation of Rom. 5:12, “in whom all sinned”. A footnote to ELPIS ISRAEL for half a century has pointed out that this translation cannot be sustained. But if it is insisted upon, what does the phrase mean? Here Bro. Roberts answers (1873, page 409):

“The words ‘in him (Adam) all sinned’ (Rom. 5:12), only amount to ‘as I may so say’, as in the case of Levi said to have paid tithes (or more properly, ‘to have been tithed’) in the loins of his father Abraham (Heb. 7:10). He says (verse 9) ‘As I may so say, Levi did so and so’. That is, in an indirect sense, not to be practically pressed. Our sinning in Adam can be made to mean nothing more than that from him we were destined to be generated, and that his act affected our state when we should appear. But this is not the meaning of ‘sin’, when we come to discuss ‘sin’ as affecting individual destiny.

“Using the term in its correct sense, Paul expressly isolates Adam’s descendants from Adam’s sin. He says: ‘Death reigned from Adam to Moses even over them who had NOT SINNED AFTER THE SIMILITUDE OF ADAM’S TRANSGRESSION’ (Rom. 5:14). The point of his argument is that ‘through the offence of ONE many are dead’, who sinned not after the similitude of that offence being no ‘parties to the transaction’, and not being ‘in at the job’, to use phrases whose allusion will be understood; but that the glory of God’s grace is to release penitent and reforming offenders from many offences through the righteousness of ONE.

“The new argument destroys this beautiful fact by huddling the millions of Adam’s race all into one Edenic offender, and making them all ‘parties to the transaction’... Adam’s descendents have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; but are his companions only in the sense of being heirs of the consequences of his act; among whom was Jesus, who, however, being the begotten of God in the channel of those consequences, could annul them, in the bearing of them into a grave that God could open because of his holiness.”


The phrase “sin in the flesh” has always provoked contention. The argument of Edward Turney was that “the life” was condemned. This is really absurd, for it separates the life from the individual. It treats of something which is only an abstraction separated from the man.

It was Adam who sinned; it was Adam who was condemned; it was the dust formed organisation that was sentenced to return to the ground. It was the physical man that sustained such changes as brought shame and fear and a defiled conscience, a defilement which then became, in Dr. Thomas’ word, “corporeal”. But the opposite error is now being taught. “Sin” used by metonymy for the fleshly impulses, is now being separated from the individual and is being made of itself a reason for alienation and estrangement.

Man is an entity; a man sustains a relationship to God by his acts; he sins and is alienated; he is forgiven and is reconciled. Moral terms are wrongly given an application to the flesh when “the flesh” is considered as separable from the individual as a whole.

In 1874 (page 88) Bro. Roberts answered the question, “What do you mean by ‘sin in the flesh’, which some speak of as a fixed principle?”

“Answer: Job speaking of ‘man that is born of woman’, says ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?’ and David, by the Spirit, says, in Psalm 51:5: ‘Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.’ Furthermore, the annual atonement under the law (Lev. 16) was appointed ‘even for the holy place’, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, besides their ‘transgressions in all their sins’ (verse 16). ‘Sin in the flesh,’ which is Paul’s phrase, refers to the same thing. It is also what Paul calls ‘Sin that dwelleth in me’ (Rom. 7:17), adding, ‘I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing’.

“Now, what is this element called ‘uncleanness’, ‘sin’, ‘iniquity’, etc.? The difficulty experienced by some in the solution of this question, arises from a disregard of the secondary use of terms. Knowing that sin is the act of transgression, they read ‘act of transgression’ every time they see the term sin, ignoring the fact that there is a metonymy in the use of all words which apply even to sin.

“Suppose a similar treatment of the word DEATH. Primarily, death means the state to which a living man is reduced— when his life ceases. Now we read of one of the sons of the prophets saying, ‘there is death in the pot’. Does this mean there was a corpse in the pot? No, but that which makes a corpse of any living man. ‘Death’ literally meant ‘that which : would lead to death’. Again ‘death hath passed upon all men’, means the condition that leads to death. So, ‘let the dead bury their dead’, means, ‘Let those who are destined to be numbered with the dead, bury those who are actually dead’. ‘Past from death unto life’, means ‘Passed from that relation that ends in death, to that which leads to life’.

“A disregard for metonymy and ellipsis in such statements, has led to most of the errors of the apostacy; and is leading some back to them who had escaped.

“There is a principle, element, or peculiarity in our constitution (it matters not how you word it) which leads to the decay of the strongest or the healthiest. Its implantation came by sin, for death came by sin; and the infliction of death and the implantation of this peculiarity are synonymous things.” In 1873 (page 447) he has also written:

“Adam was driven out of Eden because of disobedience; He was therefore thrown back upon himself, so to speak, and he soon found in himself and his progeny how weak and evil a thing the flesh is, for his first son was a murderer. And because disobedience or sin, was the cause of his expulsion, and that sin was the result of the desires of the flesh, and because all the desires that are natural to the flesh organisation are because of native ignorance, in directions forbidden, there is no exaggeration, no high figure in talking of sin in the flesh.

“It is Paul’s figure. He speaks of ‘sin that dwelleth in me’, and as he defines me to be ‘my flesh’, sin that dwelleth in me is ‘sin in the flesh’ — a metonym for those impulses which are native to the flesh, while knowledge of God and of duty is not native to the flesh.”


In 1875 (page 375) he says concerning Jesus:

“He was a sufferer from the effects of sin in all the items of weakness, labour, pain, sorrow, death; and in this sense (as a partaker with us of the effects of sin) has been described as a constitutional sinner, or one subject to a sin-constitution of things. But as this phrase gives occasion to disingenuous cavil, it is well to discard the phrase and look at the meaning, which has been stated.

“As a sufferer from the effects of sin, he had himself to be delivered from those effects; and as the mode of deliverance was by death on the cross, that death was for himself first, not for sins of his own committing, but for deliverance from the (effect of the) sin of Adam from which he suffered in common with his brethren, and from the sins of his brethren which were laid upon him.”


We come now to the phrase “by nature children of wrath” which is always called into service in connection with what is virtually the importing of responsibility for “original sin”.

The phrase has been mentioned in a previous quotation. It was discussed in the DEBATE as quoted in the August CHRISTADELPHIAN, page 375; in 1873 (page 554) Bro. Roberts wrote:

“The case of his brethren was much different. They were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1). It was not merely that they were mortal because descended from Adam, but they were ‘alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works’ (Col;1:21). They were among the children of DISOBEDIENCE; ‘Among whom,’ says Paul, ‘we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind’ (Eph. 2:3). It was this (to which they are prone by nature) that constituted them the children of wrath, even as others; for ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’ (Rom. 1:18). The wrath of God is not revealed toward us because Adam sinned (as the Apostacy and Renunciationism teach), but because we ourselves transgress. Believers were all at one time subject to this wrath, because as Paul further says, ‘We ourselves also were sometime foolish, DISOBEDIENT, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another’.” (Titus 3:3.)

“The most conspicuous feature of the goodness of God toward us in the gospel is in the forgiveness of these ‘many offences’ (Rom. 5:16). Our hereditary mortality would have been a trivial obstacle if we ourselves had been found righteous before God. It was our iniquities that separated us from God. Hence the glory of the gospel in the proclamation of the remission of these, in the belief and obedience of the gospel of His son.”

The battle of quotations could be continued indefinitely but although we could parallel those from the earlier controversy (1873-4) with others from the later disputes (1894-5-6) we do not propose to continue the discussion.

The extracts quoted above are clear: they were written to refute the very ideas now being imposed as the correct interpretation of the STATEMENT OF FAITH, and which it would appear are being endorsed by the ‘minority’ in Great Britain, who have separated with the cry of purity of doctrine, and now espouse old errors which have twice been overthrown.

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