Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. IV: Literature of the Republic, Part I., Constitutional period, 17881820
Lucifer and the Origin of Sin
By Hosea Ballou (17711852)
[Born in Richmond, N. H., 1771. Died in Boston, Mass., 1852. A Treatise on Atonement. 1804.Edition of 1832.]
THE ORIGIN of sin has, among Christians in general, been very easily accounted for; but in a way, I must confess, that never gave me any satisfaction since I came to think for myself on subjects of this nature. A short chimerical story of the bard, Milton, has given perfect satisfaction to millions, respecting the introduction of moral evil into the moral system which we occupy. The substance of the account is, some time before the creation of man, the Almighty created multitudes of spiritual beings, called angels. Some of these creatures of God were much higher in dignity and authority than others, but all perfectly destitute of sin, or moral turpitude. One dignified above all the rest, stood Prime-Minister of the Almighty, clothed with the highest missive power, and clad with garments of primeval light; obsequious to nothing but the high behests of his Creator, he discharged the functions of his office with a promptitude and dignity suited to the eminency of his station, and to the admiration of celestial millions, But when it pleased Jehovah to reveal the brightness of his glory and the image of the Godhead in humanity, he gave forth the command (see Psalm xcvii. 7), Worship him, all ye Gods. And Heb. i. 6, And again, when he bringeth the first begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him. Lucifer, Son of the Morning (as Christians have called him), surprised at the idea of worshipping any being but God himself, looked on the Son with ineffable disdain, and in a moment grew indignant, rebelled against God, challenged supremacy with the Almighty, and cast his eyes to the sides of the north as a suitable place to establish his empire. Legions of spirits followed this chief in rebellion, and formed a dangerous party in the kingdom of the Almighty. The Son of God was invested with full power as Generalissimo of Heaven, to command the remaining forces, against the common enemy. And in short, after many grievous battles between armies of contending spirits, where life could not in the least be exposed, Lucifer and his party were driven out of Heaven, leaving it in peace, though in a great measure depopulated!
God having created the Earth, and placed the first man and woman in a most happy situation of innocence and moral purity, without the smallest appetite for sin or propensity to evil, the arch Apostate enviously looked from his fiery prison, to which he was consigned by the command of the Almighty, and beholding man placed in so happy a situation, and in a capacity to increase to infinite multitudes, by which the kingdom of Heaven would be enlarged, was determined to crop this tree in the bud. He therefore turns into a serpent, goes to the woman and beguiles her, gets her to eat of a fruit which God had forbidden, by which means he introduced sin into our system.
I have not been particular in this sketch, but it contains the essence of the common idea. I shall now put it under examination, looking diligently for the propriety of accounting for the origin of moral evil in this way.
And first, of this memorable rebellion in heaven! It seems that this rebel angel was always obedient to the commands of his Maker, until the hour of his fall; that there was not the least spot of pollution in him, until he felt the emotions of pride which lifted him above submission to the Son of God. This being the case, I ask, was this angel ignorant of the real character of the Son, whom he was commanded to worship? If he were not, but knew it to be no other than the true Eternal, his Creator, manifested in a nature which Jehovah created; if he loved his Maker as he ought to do, which none will pretend to dispute; he would have worshipped him with due reverence, the moment he made the discovery and heard the command. This no person in his senses will dispute. If he did not know the real character whom he was commanded to worship, had he complied, he would have worshipped he knew not what. And nothing can be more absurd, than to suppose that infinite wisdom would command his creatures to worship ignorantly. I ask, further, could purity produce impurity; or moral holiness, unholiness? All answer, No. Was not the angel holy in every faculty? Was not the command for him to worship the Son, holy and just? All answer, Yes. Then from such causes, how was sin produced? The reader will easily see the question cannot be answered. Now, be so kind as to turn to the scripture, to which I have referred on this subject, and see if we have any authority for saying that either gods or angels refused to worship, when commanded. Again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, let all the angels of God worship him. That this first begotten is Christ, no doubt will be entertained. But when was he brought into the world? before or since the first transgression of man? Since, most certainly. Then, supposing millions of angels had sinned at that time, it could have had no consequence productive of mans transgression, as a cause cannot be posterior to its effects. Therefore, to suppose that those angels, who never sinned until long after man became a transgressor, were the instigators of what is called the fall, discovers a want of calculation .
Observe, the question is asked, How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, Son of the morning? How art thou cut down to the ground, who didst weaken the nations? This Lucifer weakened the nations before he fell, but was unable to weaken them afterwards. He said in his heart, he would ascend unto Heaven. Was this the sin of Satan, as is generally supposed? Was he not already in Heaven? How then could he say in his heart, I will ascend unto Heaven?
Again, this angel of light must have been very ignorant of the power and goodness of the Almighty, in order to have possessed a thought, that to rebel against him could be of any possible advantage, or that he could have carried and maintained a contest with him. If he were as ignorant as all this, the inhabitants of Heaven must have been extremely uncultivated, in that age of eternity, and no great ornament to a place so much famed for glory and grandeur. If Heaven, which is said to be Gods throne, be, or ever were inhabited by defectible beings, the place itself must be a defectible place; and why the Almighty should take up his special abode in a defectible place, surrounded by defectible beings, I cannot imagine. But I pass on
After Satan was turned out of Heaven, he saw no possible way to injure his adversary, only by contaminating his creatures, which he had just made, and placed in the happy situation before described. Here, observe, the matter appears strange. Did God not know the evil disposition of Satan? Had he forgotten the awful difficulty but just settled? Or would he leave an innocent lamb to the ferocity of a bear robbed of her whelps? God had driven Satan from heaven, from his own presence, but left him at loose ends to prey on his tender offspring, whom he had just left in a defenceless situation, on this ball of earth. What would appear more unnatural and shocking, than for a father to chase his enemy out at his door, but leave him to slay his defenceless children in the street? I shall, after what I have observed, beg liberty to say I am so far from believing any such story respecting the cause of sin, that I have not even the shadow of evidence, from Scripture or reason, to support the sentiment. But I have been told, that man, standing in a state of sinless purity, could not have fallen from that rectitude, unless there had been some sinful being to have tempted him. Admitting there is any force in this observation, it stands as directly against the fall of Satan, without a sinful temptation, as it does against mans transgression, without a tempter. Was man more pure, before he sinned, than that holy angel in Heaven? If not, how could that angel sin, without a temptation, easier than man, who was made in a lower grade?
But supposing we should admit that God commanded an angel to worship his Son Jesus, and the angel refused, and call that the first sin ever committed, it would not determine its origin or cause. A cause, or origin, must exist before an effect, or production. So, after all our journeying to heaven after a sinning angel, and after pursuing him to hell, and from hell to the earth, we have not yet answered the question, viz.: What is the origin of sin? We have only shown that the way in which this question has been generally solved, is without foundation.