Infant depravity

(Asahel Nettleton)

"They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one!" Psalm 14:1-3

"The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6:5

"Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood." Genesis 8:21

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51:5

Those who deny that infants are sinners, have the gigantic task of defending the justice of God in bringing suffering and death upon millions of beings who are perfectly innocent. Those who admit the doctrine of infant depravity, have no difficulty on this subject.

How old must a child be, before he can be said to belong to the human race? When a child dies, how old must he be, before it can be said of him, that his death was the result of sin? In other words, how old must he be, before he can be considered as included in the following declaration of the apostle: "By one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin—and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned." Romans 5:12

"Through one transgression, there resulted condemnation to all men." Romans 5:18

"Like the rest, we were by nature children of wrath." Ephesians 2:3

Arthur Pink
: "This verse speaks of not simply 'children of corruption,' but 'children of wrath'—obnoxious to God, criminals in His sight. Thus 'children of wrath' connotes those who are deserving of wrath, heirs of wrath, fit for it. They are born to wrath, and under it, as their heritage. They are not only defiled and corrupt creatures, but the objects of God's judicial indignation. In consequence of Adam's sin, all of his children are delinquents, warped from the beginning. Their very being is polluted, for evil is bred in them. Their nature is inclined to wickedness only; and if God leaves them to themselves they will never turn from it.
Many have insisted (contrary to the facts of common experience and observation) that children are corrupted by external contact with evil—that they acquire bad habits by imitation of others. We do not deny that environment has a measure of influence. Yet if any baby could be placed in a perfect setting and surrounded only by sinless beings, it would soon be evident that he was corrupt. Had Adam never sinned, neither he nor any of his descendants would have become subject to death. Had not the guilt of Adam's offense been charged to all of his posterity, none would die in infancy."

Thomas Goodwin
: "They are children of wrath in the very womb, before they commit any actual sin."

L. Boettner
: "In accordance with these verses, we find that even infants, who have no personal sin, nevertheless suffer pain and death. Now the Scriptures uniformly represent suffering and death as the wages of sin. God would be unjust if He executed the penalty of death, on those who are not guilty. Since the penalty falls on infants, they must be guilty; and since they have not personally committed sin, they must, as the Scripture says, be guilty of Adam's sin."

Louis Berkhof: "In virtue of their connection with Adam, all men are born in a sinful state and condition. This state is called original sin and is the inward root of all the actual sins that defile the life of man. This means that the guilt of Adam's sin is imputed to us. Since he sinned as our representative, we are guilty in him. This means that we are therefore by nature liable to sin's punishment—death. All of the descendants of Adam are not only burdened with his guilt, but also inherit moral pollution from him. They are not only deprived of original righteousness, but also have an inherent disposition toward sin. This inherent corruption extends to every part of man's nature. There is in him no spiritual good in relation to God at all, but only moral perversion."

The Belgic Confession
: We believe that by the disobedience of Adam, original sin has been spread through the whole human race. It is a corruption of all nature—an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their mother's womb, and the root which produces every sort of sin in man. It is therefore so vile and enormous in God's sight that it is enough to condemn the human race—seeing that sin constantly boils forth as though from a contaminated spring.

1689 Baptist Confession
: Our first parents, by sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. Our first parents being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind—the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil—do proceed all actual transgressions.

For those who desire further information on this topic, we suggest the following short article by John Piper's ministry: "What Is the Biblical Evidence for Original Sin?"