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Psalm 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

As we put the pieces together pertaining to the subject of sin, questions of vital importance need to be answered. Are we born sinners predestined to sin? Are infants sinners and are they living in sin? As we learned in one of our previous presentations, proponents of the doctrine of original sin teach that “we are not sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. We are all born totally imprisoned in original sin. There is no island of goodness left in us…original sin is something inherent in us–it is a morally ruined character.” According to the teaching of original sin, every human being, except for the Son of Man, was born a sinner because of what Adam did 6,000 years ago and the nature he passed onto us.
This, however, sounds contrary to everything we have established thus far in regard to sin, choice and probation. If sin and righteousness are choices set before us, how can we be born sinners? This idea was something that originated with Augustine and the Catholic Church. We learned from the Man of Sin, that “the authority of the church could not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures”. For this very reason, the teachings of the Antichrist have been contrary to Scripture. The Bible does not say in any one place that we are born sinners. There isn’t a single scriptural text in support of such a reasoning, but since Scripture is not the authority for Rome, the Antichrist has no difficulty with this. New and false doctrines can easily be implemented. However, this should not be the case for us. As we established in the previous presentation, condemnation is the result of the personal sins that an individual has committed. We were not born condemned because of the sin of Adam. Condemnation falls upon sinners because they have sinned. Therefore, if we are not born condemned, we, in like manner, cannot be born sinners as condemnation comes from sin alone.

What did the 1888 messengers believe in regard to infants? Were these messengers proponents of the doctrine of original sin? Were they presenting to the world that we are born sinners, and condemned and that we are all children of wrath because of what Adam did and the nature we inherited from him? Did they believe that we were born separated from God, or did they teach that Christ made it possible for infants to be under the shadow of the Almighty until they arrive at the age of accountability? These are all importance questions which merit clear answers.
But the first question that we’ll answer is: What did they mean by the term “born in sin”? Here is where we find it:

“Seth was a worthy character, and was to take the place of Abel in right doing. Yet he was a son of Adam like sinful Cain, and inherited from the nature of Adam no more natural goodness than did Cain. He was born in sin; but by the grace of God, in receiving the faithful instructions of his father Adam, he honored God in doing his will. He separated himself from the corrupt descendants of Cain, and labored, as Abel would have done had he lived, to turn the minds of sinful men to revere and obey God.” {Ellen White, 1SP 60.2}

In this paragraph the SOP uses a term which if not understood properly will be and has been used by many to teach that we are born sinners. But what did Ellen White mean when she used this term in her writings? Let us look at this identical passage as it was republished in Patriarchs and Prophets:

“While Adam was created sinless, in the likeness of God, Seth, like Cain, inherited the fallen nature of his parents. But he received also the knowledge of the Redeemer and instruction in righteousness. By divine grace he served and honored God; and he labored, as Abel would have done, had he lived, to turn the minds of sinful men to revere and obey their Creator. {Ellen White, PP 80.1}

We clearly see that to Ellen White, to be born in sin, simply meant to be born with a fallen human nature, a nature which Christ also took upon himself. Thus, if it is our nature that makes us sinners, then Christ Himself would have had to be born a sinner. Yet we very well know this is not true.

We find the exact same line of thinking with E. J. Waggoner as well. Here is how he puts it:

“The most discouraging and depressing thing that comes to our minds when we think of the possibility of overcoming sin is our heritage. We think ‘I was born with these crooked, perverse tendencies; I was born in sin, and it is a part of myself; how then can I escape from it?’” {E.J. Waggoner, PTUK 564.5, September 4, 1902,}

“But death came by sin, and as Satan is the author of sin, so he has the power of death. Since we are partakers of flesh and blood, born in sin, Christ also Himself took part of the same; “that through death He might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” {E. J. Waggoner, EVCO 117.2}

Waggoner, just like Ellen White, equates the term born in sin not with the doctrine of original sin but rather with our sinful human nature. To be born in sin, according to them, simply means to be born with a sinful human nature. As Waggoner mentioned in his commentary on Romans 5:

“Adam’s sin made it inevitable that all his descendants should be born with sinful natures. Sentence of death, however, does not pass on them for that, but because they have sinned”

We become sinners and thus condemned to death because of our choice to sin, not because of our inherited nature.

Waggoner also did not spare the pen when it came to infants. He wanted to make sure his readers properly understood what his views were. Here are a few examples:

“Infants have no personal sins of which to repent, and are saved by virtue of the life of God poured out in Christ for all the race. As soon as people come to years of understanding and accountability, they must personally accept the Lord Jesus by faith, and show their faith in Him, not because God has arbitrarily decreed it, but because only so can they be kept from sin. Men can live only by faith; but the tender infant on its mother’s breast is the perfect picture of faith and trust. It is the farthest possible from rejecting God’s grace. It shows us how we should be related to the living Word. Of this Christ bears witness, through David, when He says to the Father: “Thou didst make me trust when I was upon my mother’s breast.” Ps. xxii. 9. {E. J. Waggoner, PTUK 790.12, December 12, 1901}

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
Acts ii. 38. Here we see that baptism is connected with repentance; but it is obvious that young infants cannot repent, and have nothing to repent of, having never committed sin. We find, in this instance, that “they that gladly received his word were baptized.” {E. J. Waggoner, PTUK 19.4, January 8, 1903}

“Again, while Philip was preaching Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, as they journeyed, the chariot passed by a pool or stream of water, and the eunuch proclaimed, “See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip replied, “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest.” Here we see that belief is a prerequisite to baptism. But an, infant can neither believe nor disbelieve; therefore it cannot be baptized. {E. J. Waggoner, PTUK 19.5, January 8, 1903}

“Now an infant has no conscience of sin, neither is it living in sin. It needs no exhortation not to continue in sin, nor to “live any longer therein,” for it is as completely dead to sin as it is possible for anybody to be. Indeed, it has never yet been alive to sin. Therefore baptism would be for it wholly a work of supererogation. {January 9, 1902 EJW, PTUK 20.9}

“That Christ should be born under the law was a necessary consequence of his being born of a woman, taking on him the nature of Abraham, being made of the seed of David, in the likeness of sinful flesh. Human nature is sinful, and the law of God condemns all sin. Not that men are born into the world directly condemned by the law, for in infancy they have no knowledge of right and wrong, and are incapable of doing either, but they are born with sinful tendencies, owing to the sins of their ancestors. And when Christ came into the world, he came subject to all the conditions to which other children are subject. {October 21, 1889 EJW, SITI 631.10}

Waggoner clearly outlines that infants are not sinners nor are they alive to sin in any form. In fact, they are “as completely dead to sin as it is possible for anybody to be”. Anyone who argues that he believed otherwise is simply going against what he has so clearly defined. His line of thinking falls perfectly in line with Scripture. We already discussed a passage from the book of Isaiah but it would be worth mentioning it here again.

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” Isaiah 7:14-16

Infants, have not the ability to exercise faith. This is not only Biblical but logical. The very mind of every infant is not fully developed at birth. Infants can’t speak, nor can they reason. They cry when they are hungry or in discomfort. Jesus was in this very state Himself. No infant knows what it means to die to self. We see the innocence of infancy presented even in nature amongst the most cruel and vicious predators. A lion cub in infancy only knows how to drink milk and play with the other baby cubs. You can even enjoy their company and pet them. Nevertheless, this innocent little cub will grow to be a vicious predator one day. People, on the other hand, have been given the opportunity to die to self, to exercise faith and become partakers of the divine nature and to be kept from sin. This however does not take place in infancy. As Waggoner stated “infant(s) can neither believe nor disbelieve”.

Despite the clarity of theses quotes, there are certain statements that many people cling to which unfortunately are used to contradict everything we have learnt about sin so far from the 1888 messengers. The problem, however, does not come from the statements themselves but from the fact that they are used in isolation from the totality of what Waggoner and Jones have written. So let us look at a couple of examples and discuss what is being presented. We’ll use E.J. Waggoner’s statements since he was the one whose views on infants we discussed so far.

“Man’s relation to God, then, is simply this: By nature all men are sinners,- servants of sin,- children of Satan,- under the law,- condemned to death.” {E.J. Waggoner, SITI 695.11, November 17, 1887}

“We were made sinners by birth; we are made righteous by the new birth.” {E.J. Waggoner, PTUK 434.4}

These statements, among few others, are often used to advocate the idea that we are born sinners, children of Satan by nature, and condemned because of Adam. This is the reality for every newborn baby. We can most certainly apply such logic to these statements if we have never read the rest of their writings. You can do the exact same thing with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. In fact, this is what most people do, especially when it comes to scripture. How else did we end up with thousands of different denominations? However, the purpose of this series was to allow the 1888 messenger speak for themselves. How can Waggoner say that we are born children of Satan and condemned to death, when we already learned from him that condemnation only comes after we choose to sin? How can he make such a claim when we just read from him that infants are not sinners, nor are they living in sin? Though these most recent statements may seem contradictory, they make perfect sense when we don’t isolate them and use them to contradict what this man has written. So let’s bring everything together.

We’ll now read from an article that was published in the Signs of the Times on June 16, 1887 entitled “Born of God”:

“In the first place we would say that being “born of God” is a change that takes place in this life, and not at the resurrection. John says in this same chapter (verses 1, 2): “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” Men are not by nature children of God. Paul says that the “children of disobedience,” who walk according to the lusts of the flesh, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” are “by nature the children of wrath.” Eph. 2:2, 3. To the unbelieving Jews, who sought to murder Christ because he reproved their wicked deeds, the Saviour said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” John 8:44. Now since “all have sinned” and are consequently by nature the “children of wrath,” children of the devil, it follows that those who are now the sons of God have become so by the new birth.”

Again, being born again is a prerequisite to obtaining the life to come. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. And he repeated the statement in these words: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Verse 5. These texts not only show that the new birth takes place before the resurrection, but they also set us on the track of what the new birth is.

We learn that in the new birth both water and the Spirit have a part. This reminds us of what Paul says in Rom. 8:14-16 : “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” The possession of the Spirit shows that we are sons of God, and that we are Christ’s. Rom. 8:9. It is called “the Spirit of adoption.” {E.J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, Vol. 13, No. 23, (June 16, 1887), pp. 358, 359}

He presented the same line of thinking in an article printed in February of the same year:

“But the plainest statement of all, that men are not by nature the children of God, was given by our Saviour himself. To the wicked Jews who said, “We have one Father, even God,” he said: “If God were your Father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me…. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” John 8:41-44. Putting these texts together, we learn that all who know not God are the children of wrath; they are the children, or recipients, of wrath, because they are children of disobedience because they are the children of the devil. Now a person cannot at the same time be a child of God and a child of Satan. Nor is it necessary that one should be as hardened as were the Jews to whom Christ spoke, in order that they may be called children of Satan. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” John 8:34. If a person is a child of disobedience and of darkness, he is not a child of God. “All have sinned;” and therefore none are by nature children of God.” {E.J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, February 24, 1887, p. 123.1}

Waggoner put it exactly as the Bible describes it. Why are we children of Satan, children of wrath and disobedience? Because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We all chose to sin, to transgress God’s law. Was this in infancy? Not according to Waggoner and most certainly not according to Scripture. Rather, this was the result of our personal choice to live according to the flesh and had nothing to do with Adam. Yes, the nature that Adam passed onto us is sinful and predisposed to sin, and if unaided by the Spirit of God we will end up sinning. However, becoming a sinner is determined only by the choice to live according to the flesh which we make later in life, for in infancy we are unable to believe or disbelieve. According to Scripture and the 1888 messengers, this is something that every one of us has done at least once at some point in our lives, and probably many more. As we already established on multiple occasions, White, Waggoner and Jones believed in a gospel of personal accountability. Since we have all chosen to sin, we all need to be born again, but this includes both water and the Spirit. Waggoner did not believe in infant baptism because he did not believe that infants are sinners nor can they be held accountable as they cannot yet reason or understand. They are neither condemned nor are they children of Satan. These are teachings that originated with Rome and the Bible and the 1888 Messengers had nothing to do with them.

In the second statement, Waggoner states that we are born sinners not because we sinned in Adam or because we are born separated from God, but rather because our nature is sinful and fallen and this has been demonstrated by the fact that we have all chosen to sin. We have no righteousness within us nor can we. Our only hope of righteousness is found in our unity with God, which again comes by choice. Let’s look at the quote again with a little more context this time:

“As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19. We were made sinners by birth; we are made righteous by the new birth. Just as by our natural birth we inherit evil dispositions, and all the tendencies to evil that dwell in the flesh, even so by the new birth we inherit the graces of the Spirit. To doubt this, would be to say that God is less powerful as Father than man is. {E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth, vol. 13 July 15, 1897, page 434 par. 4}

Now compare this statement with what we read in the beginning:

“The most discouraging and depressing thing that comes to our minds when we think of the possibility of overcoming sin is our heritage. We think ‘I was born with these crooked, perverse tendencies; I was born in sin, and it is a part of myself; how then can I escape from it?’” {E.J. Waggoner, PTUK 564.5, September 4, 1902,}

“But death came by sin, and as Satan is the author of sin, so he has the power of death. Since we are partakers of flesh and blood, born in sin, Christ also Himself took part of the same; “that through death He might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” {E. J. Waggoner, EVCO 117.2}

Waggoner is simply expressing the condition of our nature and the fact that we have all sinned and have chosen to live according to this nature. We must understand that there is no righteousness in us. Christ took upon himself the same nature, and we’ll discuss this at a later presentation, but for the sake of understanding this quote, was Jesus born a sinner? Of course not. You become a sinner only when you live according to the flesh and as we already established, this is not the case for infants. There is not a single verse in Scripture that states that we are born sinners, condemned and separated from God. Friends, we have a Mediator who stepped in so we can have access to the divine Spirit.

Nonetheless, another question needs to be addressed here. Why is it that we see a difference among children? Why do we see some children behaving properly while others don’t? Do parents have a role to play or are infants and young children to be left alone until they reach the age of accountability?

Let us consider the following statements:

“Children are the lawful prey of the enemy, because they are not subjects of grace, have not experienced the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, and the evil angels have access to these children; and some parents are careless and suffer them to work with but little restraint. Parents have a great work to do in this matter, by correcting and subduing their children and then by bringing them to God and claiming his blessing upon them. By the faithful and untiring efforts of the parents, and the blessing and grace entreated of God upon the children, the power of the evil angels will be broken, a sanctifying influence is shed upon the children, and the powers of darkness must give back.” {Ellen White, RH September 19, 1854, par. 11}

“Children that are much noticed and indulged, become selfish, exacting, and over-bearing. They expect to be favored, and to receive much from others, while they give nothing in return. Children with characters that are formed with these serious defects, cannot be happy. They carry from childhood to youth their characters warped by wrong discipline, and their religious experience is affected by their education and discipline in childhood. This defect is seen and deplorably felt in church capacity, and in the jealousies of old age. {Ellen White, YI March 1, 1873, par. 4}

“As the mother teaches her children to obey her because they love her, she is teaching them the first lessons in the Christian life. The mother’s love represents to the child the love of Christ, and the little ones who trust and obey their mother are learning to trust and obey the Saviour.” {Ellen White, DA 515.4}

“Parents can be ministers for Christ in the training of their children. From its babyhood the child is to be taught to obey. Those parents who allow their children to grow up wilful and disobedient are preparing them for a life of sorrow and disappointment. Parents, teach your children to obey. And from the grief you feel when they disregard your wishes, learn how you grieve and disappoint Christ when you disobey Him. The effort to train your children aright will teach you many lessons in regard to your duty to obey the Lord.” {Ellen White, ST November 11, 1903, par. 5}

“Let mothers come to Jesus with their perplexities. They will find grace sufficient to aid them in the management of their children. The gates are open for every mother who would lay her burdens at the Saviour’s feet. He who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not,” still invites the mothers to lead up their little ones to be blessed by Him. Even the babe in its mother’s arms may dwell as under the shadow of the Almighty through the faith of the praying mother. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. If we will live in communion with God, we too may expect the divine Spirit to mold our little ones, even from their earliest moments.” {DA 512.3}

We are living in a world where two powers are contending for our souls. Children are not immune from this. Parents are either used by Christ or by Satan in the shaping and moulding of their little ones. Children that are much noticed and indulged become selfish. We as parents are to heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in order to teach, train and protect our children from the enemy. They are indeed prey. Nevertheless, just as John, the infant of a praying mother may be molded by the Holy Spirit even from the womb. Parents have a most solemn responsibility. If they neglect it, then Satan will come in and take control over their children:

“When parents have the Word of God before them, defining what he approves and what he disapproves, they have no excuse for following a wrong course. But, notwithstanding this, there is a neglect to teach children in the way of the Lord,—a fearful, terrible neglect; and many children are lost to Jesus for want of careful training. Parents have neglected their God-given responsibilities and Satan has taken possession of their children. Under his direction, by their evil communication they corrupt other children. Thus Satan has the children, even of professed Christians, under his control.” {Ellen White, ST February 18, 1897, par. 10}

It is for this very reason that Sister White taught that children are the lawful prey of the enemy. The great controversy begins in our lives from the very beginning. Parents can be either instruments in the hands of Christ or in the hands of Satan. Mothers, never forget that through prayer and faith your child can dwell under the shadow of the Almighty and just like John, be filled and molded by the divine Spirit from the earliest moments. Satan hates this and he is trying to confuse God’s people so that their children be left under his dominion. May God help us to understand the innocence of our children rather than condemning them from birth.

“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:2