A time so different from anything we ourselves have known as is the primitive time of innocence in Eden, there is necessarily difficulty in realizing or interpreting aright. Innocence we have lost, and can never regain. Nor is there anything really like it to be found in such a state as that of childhood, which, speaking comparatively only, we call the age of innocence. Much of what we deem this, is in fact but immaturity; and Adam was not immature, but a man with all the faculties of manhood fresh and vigorous in him, as come, in a perfection nowhere to be seen, out of the hand of his Creator.
Indeed, theologians, realizing this, have imagined a moral or spiritual perfection in him for which Scripture gives no warrant. It is the "new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." On the other hand, it is said that "God made man upright," which is in contrast with the craft implied in the "many inventions" they have since "sought out."
Let us look briefly at the whole Scripture account (confined as it is to little more than one chapter of the book of Genesis) of man's creation, and of the condition in which he was placed in Eden, the "garden of delight."
The first words are, —
"And God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.'
"So God created man" — and here the words fall into a rhythmic measure, the first poetry of Scripture, as if God were rejoicing over the creature He had made — "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him: male and female created He them."
The second and briefer, yet more detailed, account is in Genesis 2.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul."
We must not expect to have man's inner nature, however, fully revealed in this initial revelation as to him. The language is pictorial and figurative largely, according to the usual character of the Old Testament. More is hidden than is openly declared. Plainly "of the earth, earthy," as the first man is, "the dust of the earth" is not all he is. Formed, as to his bodily frame, of this, God "breathes into his nostrils," communicating thus something from Himself, by virtue of which he becomes a living soul. Not even does this expression, "a living soul," give the full reality of what he is. The beast also is, and has, a living soul, — "everything wherein there is a living soul" is the description, in Genesis 1:30, of every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." "Likeness" to God cannot be affirmed of such an one as this, for God is not "soul," but "spirit," and the "Father of spirits." Man is thus alone in relationship to God, as possessing not only soul, but also spirit; that "spirit of man" which "knoweth the things of a man," and is his real distinction from the beasts that, as having no link with God or God's eternity, are "beasts that perish."
"Spirit," thus, in man, is linked with "soul." An intelligent and moral nature, which is implied in this, furnishes the affections of the heart (or soul) with objects suited to its own proper character, and lifts it thus, as it were, into its own sphere of being. Man is not a more developed beast, although he has an animal nature which resembles the beast's. He belongs to another and higher order of life; and to this the language of Genesis 1 will be found to correspond in a manner all the more significant that it is not interpreted to us there, but left for the general voice of Scripture to interpret.
It has been made a question of late whether the word used for "creation" necessarily means that. Yet in the first verse of the chapter, where we are told that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," the bringing out of nothing must be certainly intended. After this, (with the exceptions to be just now noticed,) the word "created" is exchanged for "made;" and the whole six days' work is characteristically a "making," as in the words of the fourth commandment; a making which is of such importance in the sight of God that it is said, in Genesis 2:3, that He "created to make" it. Thus it stands, rightly, in the margin of our Bibles and in the Latin Vulgate, although few ancient or modern interpreters seem to have understood it; "creation," or the bringing out of nothing, being thus distinguished from the "making" of existing materials. We find that there are but two distinct acts of creation in the six days' work; the first, where the "living creature," or "soul," is introduced; the second, where man is. Thus soul and spirit are distinguished from all modifications of previous existences. They are "creations" — the calling into being of that which before had none: creations successively of higher character until in man at last we find "the offspring of God."
But in man, spirit has its links with lower and preceding forms. He is a living soul, as the beast is and this soul is the seat, not only of those affections in which it corresponds to what we call ordinarily the "heart," but also of the instincts, senses, and appetites. The adjective of soul (for which in English we have no corresponding term) is, in the New Testament, in our Authorized Version, translated twice "sensual." The same word also, both in Hebrew and Greek, stands for "soul" and "life," thus marking the soul, in distinction from the spirit, as the source of this to the body. In man thus, as a "living soul," spirit, or mind, is made dependent upon the soul, or senses, for its proper furnishing; and thus the body also becomes, in this present condition of things, a necessity to the spirit, and, if it be not in a fit state, a drag upon it — at the best, a limit beyond which it cannot pass. Men "out of the body" are called "spirits," and not souls; and the body in resurrection is a spiritual body, henceforth imposing no limit.
But this link with the body is a matter of great interest in another connection. Before man was in being, a class of spiritual existences had been created — purely such; and of these, many had already fallen away from God. Hence the tender care and wisdom of God are seen in this hedging about the new spiritual creature with restrictions which manifestly tend to "hide pride from man" in this his probationary state. Probation seems to be the rule, and so (as we may infer) the necessity, for moral beings; but the goodness of God is shown in thus fencing man round, as far as possible, with witnesses to him of creature-imperfection, perpetual preachers of humility and self-distrust.
The necessities of this mysteriously compounded nature were another argument in the same direction. In Eden, man had his wants, as out of it. Hunger was his, and thirst, although no distress could result from these, but rather new sources of enjoyment — all the trees of the garden ministering to his need. Sleep he needed for the recruiting of a frame which would otherwise have been exhausted by the putting forth of its own energies — nay, the immortal life, which was his conditionally, another tree was made to minister. He was not taught that it was his by the mere fact of what he was. He had it not as what was essential to his being, but rather the opposite — a thing foreign to him naturally, communicated by the virtues of that wondrous tree which was perpetually to sustain the wasting bodily frame.
All this was thus to him constant witness of his creature-condition; on the other hand, the constant witness of divine goodness which met all this need with superabundant resources, so that appetite should be but the occasion of enjoyment, and no want be for a moment known. This was Eden, man's garden of delight — for us, type of a greater — where all was "good," as God Himself pronounced, and no evil at all existed, nor could exist, save as man introduced it; no hand but his own could mar this beauteous picture. To all but himself it was a citadel impregnably guarded from assault.
But this leads us on to consider what was the prohibition, and what the nature of the temptation to which man yielded.
One thing alone was prohibited to man, lord of all else, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As to this, the commandment was precise, and the penalty assured: "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." One prohibition thus served, or should have served, to keep in the mind of one who, as the image of God, was otherwise uncontrolled master of this fair domain, that he too had a Master. "Duty," as it is the thought of which man alone, and not the beast, is capable, must be necessary to his proper development as man. The moral faculties must have a field provided for their exercise, for man assuredly was from the first a moral being — that is, a being capable of discerning good and evil. I say capable; for the actual discernment plainly came afterward, when, and when alone, evil was there to be discerned. As yet, there was none, and therefore, while good was present everywhere, and its enjoyment not denied, the knowledge of even good was not as yet discriminative — was not discernment — when as yet that from which it had to be discerned was not within the field of vision. We are not to suppose a moral incapacity in innocent man which would have put him outside the pale of morality, and render a fall impossible, by leaving nothing from which to fall; neither must we suppose a mind into which the thought of evil had ever yet entered. When solicited by the fruit in the hand of his already fallen companion, "Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression." he, at least, with his eyes open thus far — although not yet having eaten of the tree of that fatal "knowledge" — became a transgressor. In whatever sense the eating of the forbidden fruit opened the eyes of both of them, it created no moral capacity which was not there before, implied in the very nature of a spiritual being, such as was Adam by the gift of his Creator.
Righteousness and holiness are another matter. Scripture does not affirm these of the first man. These, in the creature, represent a character which could only be the outcome of spontaneous rejection of the evil when in sight. This character was not and could not yet be found in Adam, when evil there was none in that garden of delight, planted by the hand of God Himself, for the object of His care and goodness. And herein the meaning of all that we call "probation" lies. Probation was permitted — nay, necessitated, not alone by the tree forbidden, or the tempter's assault, but by the very constitution of a moral being — a being who apprehends, and deliberates, and wills.
The Trial of Innocence.
Among all creation beside, there was found no helpmeet for Adam. God makes all the creatures pass before him that he may see this for himself, — a fact which we shall see has its significance for the after-history. Adam gives names to all, as their superior, and in the full intelligence of what they are; but for Adam himself there is found no helpmeet.
Yet that "it is not good for man to be alone" is the word of his Creator as to Him. Looking at the circumstances of the fall, he who has learned to suspect God everywhere may suspect Him here. He provides in the woman one whom Scripture itself pronounces inferior naturally in wisdom to the man, but on the other hand supplementing him otherwise. The rib out of which she is made is taken from the breast; and if man be the head of humanity, woman is its heart. Even spite of the fall, this still is clear and unmistakable; and man's heart is correspondingly drawn out and developed by her. The awful perversion of this now shows but the fact the more; and the perversion of the best thing commonly produces the worst. For Adam, where all was yet right, here was not only a spiritual being with whom was possible that interchange of thought and feeling which our whole being craves, but also an object for the heart. Pledge of his Creator's love was this fair gift, in whom love sensibly ministered to him and drew out his own, redeeming him from self occupation as from isolation: surely it was not, — "is not good for the man to be alone," and the help provided was a "help meet for him."
If unbelief still object that by the woman sin came in, and that inferiority of wisdom exposed her to the enemy: she was "beguiled," and ate; Adam too ate, though he was not beguiled. The woman's strength did not, and does not, lie in wisdom, but in heart: and the instincts of the true heart are as divine a safeguard as the highest wisdom. It was here — as it is easy to see by the record itself — the woman failed, not where she was weakest, but where she was strongest. And with her, as still and ever, the failing heart deceived the head. There is an immense assumption, growing more and more every day, of the power of the mind to keep and even to set right the man morally. It is a mistake most easy of exposure; for are the keenest intellects necessarily the most upright and trustworthy of men? or is there any ascertained proportion between the development of mind and heart? The skepticism that scoffs at divine things revealed to babes is but the pride of intellect, not knowledge. It is itself the fruit and evidence of the fall.
Enough of this for the present, then. Along with all other provision for his blessing we must rank this — too little thought of — that Adam was to be taught mastery also, even in a scene where moral evil was not. He was to "replenish the earth and subdue it" to "dress and keep" even the "garden of delight." The dominion over the lower creatures he was also evidently to maintain, making them to recognize habitually the place of lordship over them which was his. All this implies much in the way of moral education for one in whose perfect manhood the moral and mental faculties acted in harmony yet, with no breach or dislocation.
Surely we can see in all this a kindly and fruitful training of Adam himself, as in a scene where evil threatened, though it had not come. The full and harmonious play of every spiritual and bodily faculty was provided for, that the man himself, to use language antiquated now, might "play the man" language truer in its application to him than to any of his natural issue since the fall.
But to that fall itself we must now go on. Its brief but imperishable record is full of the deepest instruction for us, for every day of our life here; — nay, who shall forbid to say, for our life hereafter also? The lessons of time, we may be assured, will be the possession of eternity; of all that we gather here, no fragment will be lost forever. In this history we shall find, too, I doubt not, what we have been considering as to Adam abundantly confirmed.
First, then, as to the instrument in the temptation, Scripture leaves us in no possible doubt that the one who used in this case the actual serpent was the one whom we too familiarly recognize as the leader in a previous irremediable fall — the fall of the angels. Thus he is called "a liar from the beginning," and "a murderer" "that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan."
The use of the serpent here is noteworthy in another way from that in which it is generally taken. No doubt in the fact that it was "more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made" lay the secret of his selection of it. But why appear under such a form at all? For myself, I cannot but connect it with the fact that Adam had before named every creature, and found no helpmeet for him among them all. If evil, then, would approach, it was not permitted to do so save only under the form of one of these essentially inferior creatures, refused already as having help for man. It was a divine limit to the temptation itself. Man listening to the voice of a creature over whom he was to have dominion, and in whom there was recognized to be no help for him, was in fact man resigning his place of supremacy to the beast itself. In all this, not merely the coming of the enemy, but the mercy of God also, may be surely seen.
Again, as to the form of the temptation itself. It was a question simply — apparently an innocent one — which, entertained in the woman's mind, wrought all the ruin. Here again, surely the mercy of God was limiting the needful trial. Evil was here also not permitted to show itself openly. The tempter is allowed to use neither force nor allurement, nor to put positive evil before the woman at all until she has first encouraged it. "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
Here was affected surprise — a suggestion of strangeness, no doubt, but no positive charge of wrong. Such an insinuation, if it were even that, a heart true to God need scarcely find much difficulty in repelling. This was in paradise, where all the wealth of blessing which the munificent hand of God had spread around her filled every sense with testimony of His love. Was reason demanded? or did intellect need to find the way through any difficult problem here? Assuredly not. A heart filled with divine goodness would be armor of proof in such a conflict as this. The effort of the enemy was just to make a question for the reason what ought to have been one of those clear perceptions not to be reasoned about, because the basis of all true reason. As a question for the mind the woman entertained it, and thus admitted a suspicion of the divine goodness which has been the key-note of man's condition ever since.
She thus, in fact, entered upon that forbidden path of discriminating between good and evil, which has resulted in a conscience of evil within, in the very heart of the fallen creature. Around was naught but goodness goodness which they were not forbidden but welcomed to enjoy. Everything here had but to be accepted no question raised, no suspicion to be entertained. To raise the question was to fall. And this was the meaning of the forbidden tree, as it was the point to which Satan's question led. In the midst of a scene where was naught but goodness, there could be no question entertained where there was no suspicion. By entertaining the question, the woman showed that she had allowed the suspicion. Thus she fell.
How differently now we are situated is most plain. In a mingled scene where indeed divine goodness is not lacking, but where also the fruit of the fall, and Satan's work, is everywhere, suspicion becomes continually a duty, and conscience a divine preservative. The knowledge of good and evil is no longer forbidden, but we have our "senses exercised to discern" these. Innocence is gone but, thank God, who is supreme to make all things serve His holy purposes, righteousness and holiness are things possible, and, in the new creature, things attained.
If we look at the woman's answer to the serpent, we shall easily find these workings of her soul. "And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."
Here is the wavering unsteadiness of a soul that has lost its balance, and flounders more in its endeavors to regain it. What tree had God put into "the midst" of the garden? According to the inspired account, it was the tree of life. Prohibition — was that at the very, heart of paradise? Did everything there radiate, so to speak, from the threatening of death? Alas! slight as the matter may seem, it tells where the woman's soul is. The first words we hear from her are words very intelligible to us, far gone as we are from innocency. For how easily with us does one prohibited thing blot out of our view a thousand blessings! Alas! we understand her but too well.
And her next words are even plainer. When had God said, "Neither shall ye touch it "? The prohibition has got possession of her mind, and to justify herself as to her conception of it, she adds words of her own to God's words. A mere "touch," she represents to the devil, might be fatal to them. They might perchance be the innocent victims of misfortune, as it would seem, according to her. Who can doubt how dark a shadow is now veiling God from her soul? All the more that her next words make doubtful the penalty, and as if it were the mere result of natural laws, as men now speak, rather than direct divine infliction, — "lest ye die."
God's love is here suspected; God's truth is tampered with; God's authority is out of sight: so far on the swift road to ruin the woman has descended. The devil can be bolder now. Not "ye shall not surely die" is what he says, but "certainly ye shall not die;" and closes with one of those sayings of his in which a half truth becomes a total lie, — "for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, [or perhaps, "as God,"] knowing good and evil."
And there is no more tarrying as to the woman: her ear and her heart are gained completely. She sees with the devil's eyes, and is in full accord and fellow ship with him, and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, come in at once. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat."
Thus was the fall consummated. Conscience at once awoke when the sin of the heart had been perfected in act. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons." But we are now in another scene from that with which we started, and a new age now begins, even before Genesis 3 is closed. We shall therefore look at this in its place separately when we consider, if the Lord will, the dealings of God with man under the next economy,