Responsibility and Life.

H. C. Anstey.

Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 72.

In the garden of Eden were planted two trees - "the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Gen. 2:9.) Looked at separately, they bring before us those two of whom we read in 1 Cor. 15:47 - "The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven."

From the position in Paradise of the tree of life (for it distinctly states that it grew "in the midst of the garden") we learn that CHRIST has always been God's centre, although the six days of creation, with Adam as its head, were first developed. But along with the tree of life (and in the same place) is found the "tree of knowledge of good and evil;" for Eve says, speaking of this tree, that its place too is "in the midst of the garden." (Gen. 3:3.) As to the "tree of life," it is clear that it could only refer to Christ (Rev. 2:7); and in the fact that both are "in the midst of the garden" we see that both are united in Him. Our responsibility, as of Adam, has been taken up, and met in Him and by Him. He is thus God's centre, and life is His by acquired right. Around Him, as the tree of life in the eternal state, God will group, as He did in type in Eden, "every tree that is pleasant to the eye, and good for food." While for Adam (Christ) himself there will be found one (Eve) of himself too (type of the Church) to enter into, and to share with him in all that he has, as thus set in enjoyment over all things. For it was in the garden, before man fell, that Eve was brought to Adam. The creation in Genesis is God's picture, in type and shadow, of the purpose of His heart concerning CHRIST - a purpose hidden, in the past ages, but existing there from all eternity, long before the foundation of the world, and now made known to faith. (Eph. 1:9-10; Eph. 3:9-11.) God will presently act in power to bring out into full display His own original thought; and it is to this He refers when, in the view of all that sin, sorrow, and death have done in the first creation, we read, "And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." (Rev. 21:5.) And "for eternity" attaches to all, since all is based, not on the first man, but on the second.

It does not appear that the "tree of life" was forbidden to man before he fell. He was set up in Paradise in life, and with this word, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:16-17.) God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." The man lived. As long as he ate of every tree of the garden, save the one forbidden, he continued to live; i.e., in partaking of the tree of life, as well as of the other trees. He continued in that state in which God had at first created him. This does not seem to me to shut out his then eating of the "'tree of life." He was responsible to live (and the means to live were around him) in that state in which God had created him; that is, he was to know nothing more, neither good nor evil. It was innocence; for he was not to know anything in addition to that life in which he stood with God. But this was responsibility, and on this ground all was lost. Sin entered, and the law proved it, and only showed how complete the ruin was. Death was upon all.

For the first time then after the Fall it appears the "tree of life" was forbidden to man; a most gracious provision on the part of God. Man had acquired the knowledge of good (and God was its source), without power to act upon it or to please Him. (Rom. 7:18.) He had also acquired the knowledge of evil, and along with that a nature always prone to follow it. Now God speaks, and He says, "The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." To eat, and by thus eating to live for ever as long as he ate, in that state of innocence in which God had first created him, would have been right and simple obedience; but to eat, and live for ever in the garden, with the knowledge of good and evil (good to which he could never attain, and evil to which he was always prone), in misery therefore, God could not have; "so He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." This was grace, not judgment; the judgment was pronounced before, both on Adam and his wife, and on the serpent too. Life then is distinctly refused to a responsible but a fallen race in that condition.

But Jesus, standing in perfect grace in the place of the responsible man at the cross, glorifies God. Tried and tested in every way all through His life, which ended in the cross, all that man should have been for God HE WAS. It is true that all was over for the first man, for all the race of Adam, and that life is refused to every one on that ground. The "flaming sword" is the sword of judgment to any advancing to take of life. But now, with all my responsibilities met, with the first man ended in God's sight (even in the bringing in of a second Man, "the Lord from heaven," who has glorified God), He only - the second Man - now stands before God; and He who in Himself has met all the claims of justice for the responsible man, and who has also as man perfectly met the heart of God, has it as His right to take of the "tree of life" in the midst of the garden. Can the partaking of the "tree of life" (His by this acquired right to it) be withheld from Him who has thus, as Man, perfectly gauged and answered while under it, all the responsibility of the first man? No; and at the solemn moment of yielding up His life on earth, in Psalm 16, He thus speaks: "Thou wilt show me the path of life;" and again, "I lay down my life that I might take it again." (John 10:17.) Thus we see in this God's one central thought - to establish everything in heaven and earth upon CHRIST. God will have Him as the centre of all His ways of grace to man throughout eternity. All therein is for His enjoyment, and He in perfect grace hands these things to us, associating us with Himself; for Eve was co-sharer with Adam in it all.

Moreover, the duration of the life is, in Christianity, first unfolded as "eternal" (Titus 1:2); for it is the life of Christ Himself as the risen One out of death. Life, if it could have been continuously sustained in Eden by their eating of every tree in the garden (save the one forbidden), would have been endless, and therefore "eternal" in that sense. But it would have depended on man's continuous obedience; it would have been a dependent life. Now we have the obedience (His) absolutely perfect at the beginning, tested as He was in every possible way, and life as the result. (Rom. 5:19.) So it will be seen that it must necessarily be "eternal;" for the value of the work done always abides before God.

In Psalm 21 also Jesus is before us as the One who has acquired, as Man, the right to life: "Thou hast given Him His heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of His lips … He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it Him, even length of days for ever and ever." To this the apostle refers also in Heb. 5:7. But being heard (as in Psalm 22) "from the horns of the unicorns," He associates us in all that blessing into which He then enters as Man. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee" - fulfilled in John 20:17. In that song grace has given us the privilege to join; nor can we fail to do so if we see the perfect way in which all has been done, and the perfect place of rest, before God, into which HE has entered now, along with those for whom He has secured it.

It is a relief to the heart to expand, and thus to turn away from its little self, and to see God working for the glory of His beloved Son, to whom we are necessary, as a part of that glory into which God will bring Him. (Eph. 3:21.) To see thus everything established on an immutable basis, the first man no longer before God, but the second, to whom the name "The Eternal Life" now attaches in a twofold way; to know that, through grace, we are eternally united to Him, since (as the apostle says) "This is the testimony, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." " He that hath the Son, hath life." To look back along the dim vista of the ages, and to see this His purpose shining brightly in the "garden of delight," which sin spoilt, and to look forward to what it will yet be, when all shall be in divine order around Him who is, to all eternity, to be the centre in the midst of the "Paradise of God." (Rev. 2:7.) H. C. A.

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There is only one object the world will not have; namely, Christ, and the revelation of God in Him, though it be a revelation of love,